Jeremy Corbyn responds to scathing report by Home Affairs Select Committee
The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee today publishes its report following its inquiry into the rise of antisemitism in Britain. Campaign Against Antisemitism has already responded.
The report is extremely critical of Jeremy Corbyn, saying: “While the Labour Leader has a proud record of campaigning against many types of racism, based on the evidence we have received, we are not persuaded that he fully appreciates the distinct nature of post-Second World War antisemitism.” The report then attacked Corbyn’s “lack of consistent leadership on this issue, and his reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism” which it said “has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.”
In some of the report’s bluntest comments, it says “This situation has been further exacerbated by the Party’s demonstrable incompetence at dealing with members accused of antisemitism, as illustrated by the saga involving the suspension, re-admittance and re-suspension of Jackie Walker. The ongoing membership of Ken Livingstone, following his outbursts about Hitler and Zionism, should also have been dealt with more effectively. The result is that the Labour Party, with its proud history of fighting racism and promoting equal rights, is seen by some as an unwelcoming place for Jewish members and activists.”
The report also issues a biting verdict on the contribution of Shami Chakrabarti to Labour’s antisemitism crisis. During Corbyn’s testimony, Chakrabarti had to be repeatedly told to stop passing Corbyn notes. The report says: “The Chakrabarti report makes recommendations about creating a more robust disciplinary process within the Labour Party, but it is clearly lacking in many areas; particularly in its failure to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism. The fact that the report describes occurrences of antisemitism merely as ‘unhappy incidents’ also suggests that it fails to appreciate the full gravity of the comments that prompted the inquiry in the first place. These shortfalls, combined with Ms Chakrabarti’s decision to join the Labour Party in April and accept a peerage as a nominee of the Leader of that Party, and her subsequent appointment as Shadow Attorney General, have thrown into question her claims (and those of Mr Corbyn) that her inquiry was truly independent. Ms Chakrabarti has not been sufficiently open with the Committee about when she was offered her peerage, despite several attempts to clarify this issue with her. It is disappointing that she did not foresee that the timing of her elevation to the House of Lords, alongside a report absolving the Labour Leader of any responsibility for allegations of increased antisemitism within his Party, would completely undermine her efforts to address this issue. It is equally concerning that Mr Corbyn did not consider the damaging impression likely to be created by this sequence of events.”
Attacking specific recommendations made by Chakrabarti, the report echoes our call that “The Labour Party, and all other political parties in the same circumstances, should publish a clear public statement alongside every reinstatement or expulsion of a member after any investigation into suspected antisemitism.” The report continues: “We see no good reason for the Chakrabarti report’s proposed statute of limitations on antisemitic misdemeanours. Antisemitism is not a new concept: an abusive, antisemitic tweet sent in 2013 is no more defensible than one sent in 2016. If the Labour Party or any other organisation is to demonstrate that it is serious about antisemitism, it should investigate all allegations with equal seriousness, regardless of when the behaviour is alleged to have taken place…The Chakrabarti Report is ultimately compromised by its failure to deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations, to provide a definition of antisemitism, or to suggest effective ways of dealing with antisemitism. The failure of the Labour Party to deal consistently and effectively with antisemitic incidents in recent years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic.”
Taking aim at Labour figures’ constant references to “antisemitism and all forms of racism”, the report warns “If antisemitism is subsumed into a generic approach to racism, its distinctive and dangerous characteristics will be overlooked. In addition, the Labour Party’s disciplinary process must acknowledge the fact that an individual’s demonstrated opposition to other forms of racism does not negate the possibility that they hold antisemitic beliefs; nor does it neutralise any expression of these beliefs.”
In a statement seen by Campaign Against Antisemitism, Jeremy Corbyn has responded. His statement shows that he is still determined to fight the antisemitism of the Holocaust and workplace discrimination whilst ignoring Labour’s abject failure to tackle antisemitism in its midst. He shows that he has learned nothing at all by brazenly holding up the discredited Chakrabarti whitewash as a model approach to fighting antisemitism in political parties.
Jeremy Corbyn’s full statement full is as follows:
“Antisemitism is an evil, which led to the worst crimes of the 20th century. Every one of us has a responsibility to ensure that it is never allowed to fester in our society again. So we must all be concerned when we hear that antisemitic incidents are on the rise again. Last week I spoke at the 80th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Cable Street and was privileged to meet some veterans of it. And I had hoped that the Home Affairs Committee report ‘Antisemitism in the UK’ would offer all of us some guidance on how we can take forward the fight against antisemitism.
“I welcome some recommendations in the report, such as strengthening anti-hate crime systems, demanding Twitter take stronger action against antisemitic trolling and allow users to block keywords, and support for Jewish communal security. I will be writing to both Twitter and Facebook to request urgent meetings to discuss tackling online abuse.
“The report in fact echoes much of Labour’s own Chakrabarti Inquiry report, including recommendations on language, stereotyping and training. However, there are some important opportunities lost. The committee chose not to look in any detail at – or come up with proposals for – combatting antisemitism in other parties, our major civic institutions, in the workplace, in schools, in all those places where Jewish people’s life chances might be at risk through antisemitism. In the Labour Party, which has been at the forefront of those struggles for equality, we remain committed to doing so. We continue to work with Jewish and other organisations in that endeavor, and are saddened that those on the Committee have chosen not to contribute to it.
“The report unfairly criticises Shami Chakrabarti for not being sufficiently independent. This fails to acknowledge public statements that the offer to appoint Chakrabarti to the House of Lords came after completion of her report, and was based on her extensive legal and campaigning experience. Commissioning Chakrabarti was an unprecedented step for a political party, demonstrating Labour’s commitment to fight against antisemitism. Labour is already acting on her recommendations, including reform of our internal procedures, changes to the Party’s rule book and expansion of training to tackle antisemitism.
“The Inquiry, which included Baroness Jan Royall, former leader of the House of Lords, and David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism on its panel, was praised by a number of bodies, including the Jewish Labour Movement, and by John Mann, the Chair of the All Parliamentary Party Group against Antisemitism. I am proud that Labour is the only party that has specific protections in place to ensure a zero tolerance approach to antisemitism.
“I am also concerned by some other aspects of the Committee’s report. The Committee heard evidence from too narrow a pool of opinion, and its then-chair rejected both Chakrabarti’s and the Jewish Labour Movement’s requests to appear and give evidence before it. Not a single woman was called to give oral evidence in public, and the report violates natural justice by criticising individuals without giving them a right to be heard. The report’s political framing and disproportionate emphasis on Labour risks undermining the positive and welcome recommendations made in it. Although the Committee heard evidence that 75 per cent of antisemitic incidents come from far right sources, and the report states there is no reliable evidence to suggest antisemitism is greater in Labour than other parties, much of the report focuses on the Labour party.
“As the report rightly acknowledges, politicising antisemitism — or using it as a weapon in controversies between and within political parties — does the struggle against it a disservice. Under my leadership, Labour has taken greater action against anti-Semitism than any other party, and will implement the measures recommended by the Chakrabarti report to ensure Labour is a welcoming environment for members of all our communities.”