Liberal Judaism’s chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich has said he still stands by the idea that the Labour Party is a safe space for Jews – for now.
Appearing on BBC’s Newsnight programme, Rich was speaking as a serving Labour councillor in Barnet, and was first asked about comments from Pete Willsman, who sits on Labour’s National Executive Committee.
Willsman appeared to accuse 68 rabbis – Rich being one – of peddling “duff” information about a widespread anti-Semitism problem in Labour, and said some Jews were “Trump fanatics” who he would take no lectures from.
“He’s either ignorant, or he’s ideologically blind, or he’s an anti-Semite, to dismiss 68 rabbis who represent a wide range of the Jewish community, never mind political views, of being Trump’s Jewish supporters,” said Rich. “It’s offensive to say the least, and inaccurate if one were being generous.”
Asked if the saga made Rich question whether Jews still had a home in the party, he said: “Not yet… The Labour Party seems to me to be the only alternative to a Conservative government, and most Labour MPs, councillors, volunteers and staff are not ant-Semitic.”
However, he added: “There has been, in my view, a tolerance of some things that ought not to be said, or at least a perception that they’re not dealt with robustly.”
Rich further added that if senior Labour Party figures were at the meeting in which Willsman made the angry outburst, he was “surprised” they did not speak up at the time.
Later in the programme, Louise Ellman MP said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “will make a full statement” on his hosting of an event in 2010 in which speakers likened Israeli policies to the actions of the Nazis.
“Further than making a statement, I hope he’s going to tell us what he’s actually going to do,” she said. “It needs action not just words.”