Jeremy Corbyn has described anti-Semitism as an “evil” as he used his conference speech to appeal to activists and members to end the “abuse and hate” in the Labour Party.
The Labour leader said the party would take “firm action” against intimidation and vowed to fight against “prejudice and hatred of Jewish people”.
Mr Corbyn’s speech to activists in Liverpool came after a survey indicated nine in 10 British Jews believe the Labour Party is too tolerant of anti-Semitism among its members and supporters and a high-profile activist reportedly criticised Holocaust Memorial Day.
In an attempt to end the abuse which has characterised the bitter feud within Labour ranks, Mr Corbyn insisted that the party must be a “safe and welcoming space for everybody”.
He said: “There is a responsibility on all of us to take care with our rhetoric, respect democratic decisions, respect our differences and respect each other.
“We know that robust debate has at times spilled over into abuse and hate around our party, including misogyny and anti-Semitism, especially on social media.
“That is utterly unacceptable. Our party must be a safe and welcoming space for everybody and we will continue to take firm action against abuse and intimidation.
“And let me be absolutely clear: anti-Semitism is an evil. It led to the worst crimes of the 20th century, every one of us has a responsibility to ensure that it is never allowed to fester in our society again.
“This party always has and always will fight against prejudice and hatred of Jewish people with every breath in our body.”
Jewish community figures cautiously welcomed his keynote speech, and his address to the Labour Friends of Israel meeting the previous night.
A spokesperson for the Jewish Labour Movement, whose proposed change to party rules on tackling anti-Semitism was not discussed at the conference, responded to the speech. Jeremy Newmark, chair of the JLM said: “We appreciate this tough commitment which will ultimately need to be judged on whether or not it is matched with firm action. ”
Gillian Merron, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, called both addresses “a marked improvement on previous interventions, and that must be noted.”
She added: “However, a number of anti-Semitic incidents at the conference itself show that there is still a problem in the party that needs to be tackled with determination. Going forward we need to see firmer action – not just firmer words – to ensure that this really is a new dawn rather than a false dawn.”
“As we approach Rosh Hashanah, we hope that the leadership will take the opportunity of a new mandate to turn over a new leaf in relations between the Jewish community and the Labour Party.”
A spokesperson Jewish Leadership Council said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s words in his main speech, and at the LFI Reception were certainly encouraging signs of progress. But progress will be judged by action and deeds, rather than words. There is still a lot to be done to ensure people from the Jewish community feel comfortable in the party.”
Mr Corbyn’s speech came after footage emerged of Jackie Walker, vice chair of the Momentum movement which supports the party leader, being criticised for comments about Holocaust Memorial Day.
Video footage of a fringe event obtained by Huffington Post showed Ms Walker being jeered as she said “wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all peoples who’ve experienced Holocaust?”
When told the day was indeed for all post-Second World War genocides, she said “in practice it is not circulated and advertised as such”.
She also said she had not heard a definition of anti-Semitism she could “work with”.
On Twitter she later said “all holocausts are unacceptable – of course – and of all peoples”.