Labour must “rebuild the trust” with Jewish people and must ask “a more difficult question” if they are to address antisemitism in the party, MPs have heard.
Labour former minister Pat McFadden said antisemitism has no place in the Labour Party, but said tough questions need to be asked about what is driving the issue.
Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on the contribution of the Jewish community to the UK, Mr McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) said: “We have always prided ourselves on being a party for people of all faiths and none and that is in the best of the Labour tradition.
“So it is very very sad to see antisemitism in our party, and there is no denying it is there.”
Mr McFadden said some of the issues are “wrapped up in a debate about Palestine”, and said there is no place for it.
He added: “We have to ask ourselves a more difficult question, where does this really come from? What is really driving this?
“I believe that there is a further, wider problem here which, sometimes, is about an overall anti-Western sentiment which combines hostility to Israel with being anti-American, and which creates a fertile ground for these sentiments.
“I do not believe that that anti-Western sentiment is part of the Labour tradition.
“It has never been part of the policy or the outlook of any Labour government in the past, and I believe if we really want to deal with this issue in our party and on the left, we have to reject that anti-Western sentiment as well, because these sentiments don’t come from nowhere.”
MPs heard of the many contributions of the Jewish community to the UK, including to the arts, science, and in the introduction of fish and chips to British tables.
Shadow transport minister Rachael Maskell said Labour had benefited from new ideas brought to the party by Jewish members, but said recent incidences of antisemitism could have damaged the trust people have in the party.
Ms Maskell said: “Our Labour Party has been an important home to many from across the Jewish community over the years, with radical thought around change of how we want to shape and transform our society.
“We have supported struggles that discrimination has brought, and have stood in solidarity with the challenges faced.
“We are determined to rebuild that trust. It cannot be given, but must be demonstrated and earned.”
Communities minister Rishi Sunak said: “It is, of course, deeply disappointing this is an issue that still arises in our society and, where it occurs, it should be tackled unflinchingly.
“To those who face these displays of bigotry, they should know that the British Government and everybody in this room stands with them and supports them.”