Jeremy Corbyn has set his sights on winning the three Barnet seats with a large Jewish electorate at the next General Election.
The Labour leader also insisted party members using anti-Semitic language must be called out – but failed to delve deeper into the threat of contemporary anti-Semitism – during his first address to the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) as Labour leader.
The party chief was branded a “liar” and reminded of the case of Ken Livingstone by two hecklers during a 10-minute speech at JLM’s Chanukah party at Labour’s headquarters, attended by activists and politicians including Shami Chakrabarti and general secretary Iain McNicol.
In introducing Corbyn, JLM chair Jeremy Newmark challenge the leadership to offer reassurance that “people like us” have a place in the party and that it understands “anti-Semitism the same way we do”.
Corbyn – who pointed to the role of east end Jews in founding the party – told the gathering: “I am here because I want the party to be strong in all areas. I want JLM to be part of and involved in the party at all levels.”
He said: “The issue of racism in our society are serious. The issues of anti-Semitism are very serious indeed. There is zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and that is how it should remain. It means we have to call out people who use racist language or anti-Semitic language or any other kind of intolerance within our party.
“Because fascism arose in Europe we had the Holocaust, the greatest tragedy in history against any one peoples. The lesson from that has to be you don’t compromise with fascism , you don’t compromise with racism, you don’t compromise with the far right.”
He praised the contribution of those in the room and said that Newmark – who stood as the labour candidate in Finchley and Golders Green at the last election – came close to “becoming the MP to represent my allotment”. And he insisted the three Barnet constituencies of Hendon, Finchley and Golders Green and Chipping Barnet were “within our reach”.
You can watch Jeremy Corbyn’s full speech to the Jewish Labour Movement’s Chanukah reception here:
In an impassioned speech, Newmark spoke of how JLM was “pilloried and attacked as traitors” from the party and similarly from within the Jewish community “because the relationship between our community and party is broken”. He said: “We are the people who live in the complexity of all this. Whose lives are rooted in our party and in our community. And we are the people who refuse to run away from this struggle. Or to let it define us.”
A challenge was also issued by Reform Movement senior Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, who said the Maccabees taught us that “we must fight for our right to our identity and to speak truth to power.
Referring to the relations between Labour and the community, she said: “People around the world are fascinated about what’s being done, what’s not been done, what’s been glossed over. We are obligated to resistance. But we don’t want to have to resist in our party – our ideological home – where we want to and deserve to feel safe.” Welcoming Corbyn’s presence, she asked him what “we could do together to strengthen actions”.
But several of those in the room were left disappointed, claiming Corbyn had missed a “golden opportunity” to address specific issues of concern in a more “targeted” way.
In a speech read out by JLM director Ella Rose, MP Luciana Berger reflected on a year that has seen the overwhelming backing of a rule change initiated by JLM to make it easier to crack down on anti-Semitism. “No matter what they throw at us we are going nowhere,” she said. McNicol praise the organistion’s “amazing”activism.
After the lighting of the menorah, the event saw six supporters of the organisation honoured. Activist of the year was jointly awarded to former Holocaust Memorial Day Trust chair Cathy Ashley OBE and Richard Gold, the organisation’s membership and education officer. Nathan Boroda, who has played a key role in campaigning in the north west, and London Young Labour chair Miriam Mirwitch were recognised in the young activist category.
An ally of the year award was presented to former Labour Students chair Kate Dearden after she ensured anti-Semitism training was offered to all university Labour Clubs and that events were ‘Shabbat friendly’. Also honoured was Jasmin Beckett, the youth rep on the party’s ruling body, whose backing for the party’s rule change was one example of her support in the battle against hate.
Newmark said: “JLM is a grassroots membership -led organisation; we are nothing without our activists. Tidat ha once again proven the quality, not just the quantity, of of JLM activists around the country. Mazeltov to the winners and to the many dozens of others who were nominated.”