Top rabbi warns Corbyn over ‘unchallenged’ Labour anti-Semitism in Hackney

Top rabbi warns Corbyn over ‘unchallenged’ Labour anti-Semitism in Hackney

Former Labour councillor Rabbi Avrohom Pinter writes to party leader and general secretary Jennie Formby to protest unpunished hatred in Hackney going back two years.

Joe Millis is a journalist

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn laughs next to delegate Jennie Formby at the party's 2016 conference in Brighton.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn laughs next to delegate Jennie Formby at the party's 2016 conference in Brighton.

One of the 68 rabbis who urged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism has written to him and general secretary Jennie Formby detailing specific instances of anti-Semitism that he has suffered.

Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, a former Labour councillor in Hackney, wrote that the incidents happened at meetings in the Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency, which caused him “to suffer pain and anguish”. 

He also resigned from the constituency party’s General Committee in protest, noting that the anti-Semitic comments “went unchallenged”.

Rabbi Pinter added that he had “held back from making a complaint due to my loyalty to my local party. However now, given the continued failure of the party to adopt in full the IHRA examples, and the comments of [NEC member] Peter Willsman [who said there was no antisemitism in the party], I feel compelled to formally write to you and request that this correspondence is circulate to the NEC”.

Rabbi Avrohom Pinter

Both the two incidents he detailed, in May 2016 and November 2017, involved one member and Rabbi Pinter reported them to his MP, Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbott.

In the May 2016 meeting, at a Labour Party branch meeting of Cazenove and Springfield wards, a motion was put forward, declaring that opposition to the Jewish state is not the same as anti-Semitism.

The motion’s proposer was said to have then drawn a comparison between Zionism and Nazism and was accused of conflating the two.

Rabbi Pinter said that after a heated row between himself and the proposer, the branch chair “chose to berate me and apologise” to the proposer “for my behaviour rather than sanctioning [him] for making anti-Semitic comments”. 

“Despite the attempts of the local party to resolve the matter, not resulting in any solution that reflected the seriousness of what had occurred, I decided, as reported in the press, not to make a formal complaint to the national party,” Rabbi Pinter noted.

Corbyn meets Rabbi Pinter at the launch of the Chakrabarti report

The second incident involved a row over the reinstatement to the Labour Party of Israeli anti-Zionist Moshe Machover, where the same person again made allegedly anti-Semitic comments, referring back to the Cazenove/Springfield branch meeting.

Rabbi Pinter said the proposer used “language about an organised ‘conspiracy’, designed to silence Israel’s critics and that the trail could be traced ‘to the door of the Israeli embassy’.”

Rabbi Pinter said it was clear that the comments were directed at him.

In response, Ms Formby wrote that Rabbi Pinter inviting him to participate in a party consultation on the contentious Code of Conduct, which Jewish organisations say does not go far enough in tackling party anti-Semitism.

The Labour Party has been contacted for a comment.

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