British Jewish groups call meeting with Labour leader ‘a disappointing missed opportunity’

Jeremy Corbyn at a Labour Party event in Stretford, England, March 22, 2018. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)


(JTA) — The two British Jewish umbrella groups called their long-anticipated meeting with Labour head Jeremy Corbyn “a disappointing missed opportunity regarding the problem of anti-Semitism” in the party.

The Board of Deputies of British Jewry and the Jewish Leadership Council said in a statement following Tuesday’s meeting that they “welcomed Mr. Corbyn’s personal involvement in the discussion and his new comments recognizing and apologizing for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, but he failed to agree to any of the concrete actions we asked for” in a letter last month.

The London-based Jewish Chronicle cited Labour sources as saying that the meeting was “positive and constructive, serious and good humored.”

The Jewish Chronicle cited unnamed sources as saying that the Jewish leaders at the meeting stressed that the expulsion of former London Mayor Ken Livingstone from the party and the misuse of the term Zionism were “key issues that needed to be resolved in order to start rebuilding relations with the community.” They also stressed to Corbyn the importance of the adopting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, or IHRA, definition of anti-Semitism.

“Following that demonstration [in Parliament Square on March 26] we wrote to Mr. Corbyn to set out six areas of concrete action he and the party could take to address the anti-Semitism that has grown under his leadership,” the Jewish groups’ statement read. “These represented the minimum level of action the community expected after more than two years of inactivity. Today we met Mr. Corbyn to convey in no uncertain terms the Jewish community’s feelings to him in person and to discuss his response to our proposals. It was a difficult yet important meeting.

JSU Gala Advertisement

“We are disappointed that Mr. Corbyn’s proposals fell short of the minimum level of action which our letter suggested.”

In an op-ed in the Evening Standard on Tuesday, Corbyn wrote that “We have a particular duty to lead the fight against anti-Semitism in and around our party and movement. Jews have found a natural home in the Labour Party since its foundation, and been central to our movement.”

He said in the article that in the past two weeks, more than 20 individuals have been suspended from party membership and others were being investigated for anti-Semitic actions.

“But we have not done enough to get to grips with the problem, and the Jewish community and our Jewish members deserve an apology. My party and I are sorry for the hurt and distress caused,” he wrote.

Corbyn also said that “Anti-Zionism is not in itself anti-Semitic and many Jews themselves are not Zionists. But there are also a very few who are drawn to the Palestinian question precisely because it affords an opportunity to express hostility to Jewish people in a ‘respectable’ setting. Our movement must not be a home for such individuals.”