Rayner: root out Jew-hate

STAMP OUT ABUSE: Angela Rayner

But will shadow minister confront Corbyn about it?

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner insists that "those who distort history by likening Hitler to Zionism are no longer welcome" in the Labour Party.

Speaking at a Board of Deputies Chanucah reception in the House of Lords, Mrs Rayner admitted: "I know the invitation wasn't universally popular, so straight off let me deal with the elephant in the room."

Her presence had angered many in the community following an article she wrote quoting The Holocaust Industry, a book by anti-Israel activist Norman Finkelstein, which claimed that American Jewish leaders had exploited the Shoah for political gain.

She told the gathering: "Some years ago, I wrote an article reflecting on my visit to Auschwitz, in which I intended to show my solidarity with the Jewish community over the Holocaust and modern antisemitism.

"I included a reference that now I deeply regret. I would certainly not use it again, and I can only repeat how sorry I am."

She added that, as shadow home secretary, she often reflected that she and others had much to learn.

She continued: "I know this all goes wider and deeper. You don't have to go far to find views that are rooted not in a lack of education or engagement, but in simple bigotry.

"This year we have seen the horrifying consequences of the culture of conspiracy theories and outright bigotry about Israel and Jewish people generally.

"That must be confronted in the wider society, but we cannot rest as a party until we have also rooted out antisemitism in our own ranks."

She said that it had "taken far too long and I have seen the appalling abuse" that fellow Labour MPs Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth, Dame Louise Ellman and Dame Margaret Hodge and others had suffered.

"I have no doubt the fact they are Jewish women has been a big part in that abuse and it must be stamped out for good," said Mrs Rayner.

She hoped Labour's internal procedures would be accelerated and expressed delight that "the likes of Tony Greenstein have been expelled. And I want it to be clear that those who distort history with likening Hitler to Zionism are no longer welcome".

Mrs Rayner said that changes passed at the party conference should make that easier and she was confident that there would be much progress with outstanding cases dealt with "quickly and appropriately without further delay".

She insisted that it was perfectly possible to criticise any government, including Israel's, without being racist, but "there is simply no excuse for antisemitic tropes".

She wished the party had made progress more rapidly in accepting the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

"We cannot be content until the Jewish community is satisfied we are making progress," said Mrs Rayner.

"Above all, I am conscious that it's actions that matter and not just words.

Paying tribute to the "great work" of Manchester's King David School, which she visited recently, she pledged: "We will not stop faith schools, including Jewish schools, retaining their character and their ethos, nor admissions' systems that don't preserve this."

Challenged by the Jewish Telegraph whether she would criticise Corbyn on his own handling of antisemitism within Labour and his part in failing to eradicate it, Mrs Rayner responded: "Today was about me acknowledging what I needed to do and taking ownership for that, so I was raising what made people offended."

Pushed as to whether she would be raising with Corbyn the same concerns, she was rescued by a minor Labour Party official who declared: She's not here to do interviews. She was ambushed."

Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said that Corbyn "must apologise for the hurt he has personally caused, whether by calling antisemitic terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah his friends, defending an antisemitic mural, laying wreaths by the graves of terrorists, or allowing so many racists and their apologists to remain as Labour members.

"Labour must kick out the racists from the party, no ifs, no buts. And it must do so without further delay. Enough is enough".

Later, during a Chanucah reception at Downing Street, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said that every time prime minister Theresa May speaks about antisemitism or the State of Israel, "we know it comes straight from the heart".

She had pulled out of the event at the last minute as the Commons debate on Brexit continued.

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