Holocaust survivor urges Corbyn to show leadership on antisemitism in speech
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Labour ConferenceKaren Pollack's warning

Holocaust survivor urges Corbyn to show leadership on antisemitism in speech

Susan Pollack told an emotionally-charged fringe meeting at Labour conference that the leader Corbyn should say "unfounded" attacks against Israel are "not acceptable".

Susan Pollack addressing the HET fringe event at Labour conference, flanked by chief Executive Karen Pollock and MP Luciana Berger
Susan Pollack addressing the HET fringe event at Labour conference, flanked by chief Executive Karen Pollock and MP Luciana Berger

A Holocaust survivor called on Jeremy Corbyn to use his closing speech at the Labour conference to demonstrate his leadership in tackling anti-Semitism.

Susan Pollack told an emotionally-charged fringe meeting at the conference in Liverpool that Mr Corbyn should say “unfounded” attacks against Israel are “not acceptable”.

Her comments came as Mr Corbyn said he had done “everything I can” to tackle all forms of racism.

There was tight security at the event organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) where Mrs Pollack was asked what she would like Mr Corbyn to say on Wednesday.

She called for him to speak out against the constant attacks on Israel and indicated that it should face justifiable criticism in the same way as any other country.

“I would like him to say it honestly, openly, resolutely that any comment, any attack which is unfounded and any with selected emphasis on Israel, I’m not saying, yes, justifiable like any other country, but particularly this constant emphasis on Israel is not acceptable,” the survivor of the Nazi camps at both Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen told the meeting.

One of the incidents that has triggered the storm around Mr Corbyn was his apparent defence of a mural by street artist Mear One which was viewed as anti-Semitic.

Mr Corbyn later admitted he had not properly looked at the image before raising concerns about plans to paint over it.

Mrs Pollack said: “His reply ‘I didn’t see that graffiti, I didn’t see that caricature about the Jews’, what, as a leader? That’s his responsibility.

“I have to witness this? That’s leadership, he has to prove his right to be a leader of a party which has got a very good past, yes, but one has to be constantly vigilant.”

Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock said if Mr Corbyn had done all he can to tackle anti-Semitism in Labour “then we have got a real problem”.

“It is about taking this seriously and it is about taking responsibility and it is telling people who associate with him and people around him they should not be doing it in his name.

“But also recognising the hurt and anxiety and concern that is really, genuinely felt not only by Jewish people in this country but any decent person who believes in tolerance.”

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Corbyn set out the steps the party had taken to address concerns about anti-Semitism.

“We’ve adopted a definition. We’ve adopted a principle, we are opposed to anti-Semitism in any form,” he said.

“I have ensured that we have procedures that can deal with it quickly and that we will take action against people that are behaving in any kind of anti-Semitic way.

“I’ve spent my life as an anti-racist campaigner against all forms of racism.

“And that’s what I’ll spend the rest of my life doing as well.”

He added: “I’ve done everything I can, within this party to make sure we have a process.

“I’ve done everything I can in my life to oppose racism in any form, and I will continue to do so.”

Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger, who has faced threats and abuse in the wake of her criticisms of the Labour leadership’s handling of the anti-Semitism row, said: “I unfortunately don’t share Jeremy Corbyn’s view that everything has been done.”

At the HET event she said: “I think we are only going in the wrong direction and it is incumbent on all of us in this room, whether you are Jewish or not, to stand up very loudly and say this is not OK and we need to do something very urgently about it.”

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