PM: Labour leader allowed antisemitism to run rife
BY JERRY LEWIS
PRIME Minister Theresa May has accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of allowing antisemitism to “run rife” in his party.
During a heated Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, the PM also praised the “incredible bravery” of Labour MPs Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth, who spoke 24-hours earlier about their battles with antisemitism.
Mrs May said: “Theirs was a fine example of the best of this House of Commons and the best of Members of Parliament.
“It is incredibly important for us and for the political parties in this country to show a clear signal that we will not accept or tolerate antisemitism in any form.”
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said of the stories from Ms Berger and Ms Smeeth: “They were horrifying in the sense of the abuse that those members have faced, but also uplifting in the sense of the bravery that they have shown in tackling their abusers.”
Tuesday’s headline-making debate began with Communities Secretary Savid Javid outlining government action to tackle antisemitism, while issuing a message to the Jewish community to say “we do get it”.
He said: “Both sides of this House stand united in recognising the pernicious prejudice of antisemitism and in recognising the anxiety that is felt within the community here in Britain in 2018, and that we are listening to their concerns carefully, with humility and determination”.
“It will perhaps not be the most comfortable three hours of debate that Jeremy Corbyn has sat in on, but his effort is appreciated for attending.
“There has frankly been a deeply worrying lack of leadership and moral clarity on this issue from him.
“Being here to listen to what is being said by his concerned colleagues and others is an important step in showing the community that this issue is being taken seriously”.
Mr Javid also pointed out that antisemitism could be found in both extremes of the political spectrum, far right and far left, but he said that the British public has a “strong record of keeping those fringes out of major parties and out of this chamber”.
He added: “The easy thing to do is to displace responsibility by bashing the media or blaming Tory attacks, or worse, as some activists have been doing, intimidating those Labour MPs who have taken a clear stand against antisemitism.”
Former Labour Friends of Israel chairman Andrew Gwynne admitted that “recent events have shown that we in the Labour Party need to be better at policing our own borders”.
He said: “It is our responsibility to show that we have zero tolerance of antisemitism in the Labour Party.
“There is no place for antisemitism in the Labour party, on the left of British politics or in British society at all. End of.”
Labour MP Ian Austin pleaded emotionally to have Ken Livingstone removed from the party. To loud applause from the House, he said: “It happened more than two years ago and there has been ample time to deal with it, so it is a disgrace that it has not been dealt with. Kick him out immediately.
“It should have been enough when the Community Security Trust, Holocaust Educational Trust, Jewish Labour Movement and Jewish Leadership Council all said that it was enough, but we even had the Chief Rabbi speaking out and still nothing has happened.
“It is a disgrace. Boot him out!”
Jewish MP Robert Halfon said: “The people who hate the Jews do not even use those terms any more. Antisemitism is out in its naked viciousness for everyone to see . . .
“This is still a great country and a wonderful place for Jewish people, but things have changed.”
Liverpool Wavertree MP Luciana Berger, with tears in her eyes, said that nothing had prepared her for the “torrent of antisemitic abuse” she had received in recent times.
She said four people had been convicted since 2013 for antisemitic abuse and harassment directed towards her.
A far-right website in America initiated the #filthyjewbitch campaign against her, which the police said resulted in receiving more than 2,500 violent, pornographic and extreme antisemitic messages in just one day.
She said: “I am fortunate that I have a platform, as an MP, that affords me the opportunity to speak out, and I happen to be pretty resilient.”
She added: “One antisemitic member of the Labour Party is one member too many”
“I have no words for the people purporting to be both members and supporters of our party and using #JCforPM who have attacked me in recent weeks for my comments, for speaking at the rally against antisemitism and for questioning the remarks of those endorsing the antisemitic mural.
“There are people who have accused me of having two masters. They have said that I am Tel Aviv’s servant and called me a paid-up Israeli operative. This is antisemitism of the worst kind, suggesting that I am a traitor to our country.”
John Mann, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism, explained that when he took on the role 13 years ago, he did not expect his wife to be sent, by a Labour member, a dead bird through the post.
He said: “I did not expect my son, after an Islamist death threat, to open the door, when he was in the house on his own as a schoolboy, to the bomb squad.
“I did not expect my wife, in the last few weeks, from a leftist antisemite, to be threatened with rape.
“I did not expect my daughter similarly to have to be rung up in the last few weeks by special branch to check out her movements in this country.”
Ms Smeeth told the House: “I feel I must inform you that I am not a CIA spy. I am not a Mossad agent, nor am I an MI5 operative.
“I can assure people who are occasionally foolish enough to google me that I work not for the people of Tel Aviv, but for the people of Tunstall.
“Those are just some of the regular antisemitic tropes that have become normal in my world.”
Bury South’s Ivan Lewis reminded colleagues that antisemitism on the left was not new and it did not begin when Mr Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party.
He said: “Based on the evidence I have seen and my interactions with him, I do not believe he is antisemitic.
“However, his leadership has attracted new members whose antisemitism is pernicious and exposed long-standing members whose use of antisemitic language and imagery is shocking.
“It is also wrong that in the past he has failed to call out ideological allies when their antisemitism was clear for all to see.”
Louise Ellman said that the small British Jewish community was “increasingly disturbed” by the growth and normalisation of antisemitism.
n Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne has rejected calls for Labour to sign up to the BDS campaign against Israel.
He told the House magazine, published today, that boycotts are incredibly unhelpful.
“What we’ve got to do in the wider sphere of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict is re-engage international efforts at getting meaningful dialogue between the Israeli government and Palestinian representatives to get that two-state solution,” he said.
* Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson is planning to visit Israel later this year.