Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, and Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, thought their two-hour meeting with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn Tuesday night was “a disappointing missed opportunity,” according to the London Times. Corbyn, for his part, called the meeting “positive and constructive.”
Speaking ahead of the much-anticipated meeting with the two Jewish leaders on Tuesday, Corbyn, for the first time, criticized the blatant anti-Semitism of the PLO, which the Times said was “one of the most significant breaks from his supporters.”
A month ago, Goldstein and Arkush sent the Labour leader a letter articulating six demands, including a swift conclusion to the disciplinary cases against former London mayor Ken Livingstone, former Momentum activist Jackie Walker, and others; and a ban on Labour MPs public appearances with known anti-Semites.
Speaking after the meeting, Goldstein said: “We are extremely disappointed that one month after we issued a very sensible and well-thought through series of proposals that not one of them have been given to the Jewish community.”
Corbyn issued a statement vowing that Labour “will not fail our Jewish brothers and sisters.”
Historically, British Jews have supported the Labour party, which, and the UK Poalei Zion, the Zionist-Socialist Jewish party, was even affiliated with the Labour party at some point. Anti-Semitic attitudes began to enter Labour politics in the 1970s, in response to Israeli policy in the disputed territories. In 1982, the Labour Committee on Palestine was formed, led by MPs like Ken Livingstone, who opposed the “Zionist state as racist, exclusivist, expansionist and a direct agency of imperialism.” Knight founded the Labour Herald newspaper with PLO funding. It was accused as being “blatantly anti-Semitic.”
Since then, anti-Semitism in the UK Labour Party has been the subject of an ongoing public controversy, to the point when, in 2015, when Jeremy Corbyn became the heir apparent to lead Labour, The Jewish Chronicle ran a front page article depicting his record on anti-Semitism, headlined: “The key questions Jeremy Corbyn must answer.” The paper fried Corbyn for his endorsements of anti-Semites in his party; his open friendship with Hezbollah and Hamas; and his failure to object to many anti-Semitic banners and posters dominating the London Quds Day rallies—which are supported by Corbyn’s Stop the War Coalition.
In 2016, as Labour chairman, Corbyn was forced to establish the Chakrabarti Inquiry, resulting in the expulsion or suspension of several party activists over their open anti-Semitism – only to be subsequently reinstated. Corbyn has since been the subject of controversy for defending an anti-Semitic mural, and for being a member of three Facebook groups that posted anti-Semitic content. Some in Corbyn’s circle have been exposed for supporting candidates espousing Holocaust denial.
On Wednesday, a Labour disciplinary committee will hear the case of left-wing activist Marc Wadsworth, who is accused of voicing anti-Semitic remarks at Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. Wadsworth has been suspended from the party since the incident, nearly two years ago.
Which is what the two Jewish leaders referred to in their demand for a swift conclusion to the disciplinary cases…