Israeli diplomat wades into Labour anti-Semitism row

Israeli diplomat wades into Labour anti-Semitism row

Gideon Behar of Israeli foreign ministry hit out at Labour's leadership for failing to adequately deal with the crisis

Jeremy Corbyn surrounded by Labour MPs and supporters
Jeremy Corbyn surrounded by Labour MPs and supporters

A senior Israeli government official has waded into the debate about anti-Semitism in the Labour party, saying Britain’s opposition MPs had not yet done enough.

Gideon Behar, director of the Israeli foreign ministry’s Department for Combating Antisemitism, said Labour’s “internal probe is not yet complete,” in reference to the Chakrabarti Inquiry into anti-Semitism, which reported two months ago.

The inquiry, led by human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti, was intended to draw a line under the party’s problems, after a series of suspensions following racist comments, but Behar’s intervention will increase calls for a fresh look.

It comes after Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth was inundated with online threats and abuse, after her public criticism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s “catastrophic” failures, after she was accused of being in cahoots with right-wing media outlets.

Corbyn has been blamed for failing to act quickly or decisively enough to quash anti-Semitic rhetoric, despite ordering the inquiry and backing its recommendations, which received a lukewarm response from Jewish groups in the UK.

Describing the need for “long-term work,” Behar hinted that Corbyn’s pro-Palestinian views may be responsible, saying: “More work is necessary to understand how anti-Semitic speech by various party officials has become widespread and how to stop it.”

Community leaders joined Behar in taking aim at Corbyn, with Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council arguing that the threats against Smeeth showed that the problem had not yet been dealt with.

“The threats targeted at Ruth Smeeth MP have no place in society,” said Johnson on Sunday. “The Leader of the Labour Party seems to have no control over his ‘so-called’ supporters and his repeated condemnations have not begun to tackle anti-Semitism within his party.”

Johnson added: “Where individuals are known to Mr Corbyn, he must act to protect his MPs. His calls for a ‘kinder, gentler politics,’ are proving to be at best a cover-up for his lack of decisive action and at worse something far more sinister.”

Smeeth has suffered several online threats, including one post calling her a “Yid” and suggesting she be hanged. It comes after she said Corbyn was “not fit” to lead the Labour Party, in the immediate aftermath of the Inquiry’s report.

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