Jewish community reacts to ‘damning’ Labour antisemitism probe launch

Jewish community reacts to ‘damning’ Labour antisemitism probe launch

The equalities watchdog will probe Labour antisemitism claims - making it the second party it has probed after the British National Party. 

Jeremy Corbyn  (Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)
Jeremy Corbyn (Photo credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

The equalities watchdog has launched a full investigation into antisemitism in Labour – making it the second party it has probed after the British National Party.

The announcement prompted strong reactions from Jewish Labour MPs and communal groups.

Among them, Luciana Berger, the former Labour MP who defected to Change UK over antisemitism, reacted to the news on social media.

“For anyone who might look to play this down, the threshold to initiate this process is extremely high,” she wrote. “That the Labour Party has even met the evidenciary threshold is damning.”

Read: Equalities watchdog launches full probe into Labour antisemitism claims

Meanwhile Labour MP Margaret Hodge said it was “unforgivable” for Jeremy Corbyn to have “led [the party] down this path.”

She drew comparisons between the investigation against the British National Party and Labour in a tweet.

“Nine years ago [sic] I defeated fascist Nick Griffin at the ballot box,” she wrote on Twitter. “His racist party was investigated by the EHRC that same year. Now, after 4 years calling out Labour antisemitism, the EHRC will investigate Labour as well. For Corbyn to have led us down this path is unforgivable.”

Mike Katz, national chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, wrote on Twitter: “For years we have been warning that the Labour Party’s response to antisemitism within our ranks has been woeful at best, and institutionally racist at worst

“Last year we took the unprecedented step to refer the Party to the @EHRC, and we welcome their decision today to launch a full statutory inquiry.”

Jewish representative bodies also reacted to the announcement in separate statements.

Simon Johnson, CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council, said the probe should be a “matter of shame” for the party.

“We have drawn public attention over the last year to the leadership of the Party’s failure to address the anti-Jewish racism in the party,” he said.

“The fact that they have obfuscated, denied the problem and we have been accused of smears should be countered by today’s announcement by the EHRC. This is a very serious development.”

Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl said the Board “welcomed” the decision.

“We note that the last party to face a racism probe from the EHRC was the British National Party, which is a truly shameful indictment.

“In the past four years we have seen a large number of cases of antisemitism throughout the party from bottom to top.

“Despite the Jewish community demonstrating in their thousands outside Parliament, this has still not been addressed seriously by the party leadership. We will await with interest the EHRC report into racism at the heart of the UK’s official opposition.”

In a statement, the anti-racism advocacy group Hope Not Hate, said: “The scale of the antisemitism problem within the Labour party cannot, and should not, be underestimated.

“Several Labour councillors, and a Labour MP, are currently suspended for antisemitic behaviour, as well as many other party activists under investigation.

“Labour’s response to this investigation shows how much work is yet to be done. To deflect from the issue by talking about the funding levels of the EHRC undermines the vital work they are about to do.”

Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, added: “Time and again we have seen and heard evidence of racism against Jews being ignored, belittled and obfuscated.

For a party that claims to be anti-racist this investigation puts their belief of being the “Party of Equality” firmly into question.”

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