Police were called into Labour’s Party Conference on Monday after anti-Semitic material was distributed. A banner displayed a fighter plane, representing the “Israel lobby,” attacking Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Former Jewish Labour MP Ivan Lewis wrote on Facebook, “These disgusting anti-Semitic images are on display outside @UKLabour conference. The party of antiracism + equality is now the biggest enabler of Jew hatred of the most pernicious kind in the UK. It is no wonder the vast majority of Jews are terrified at the prospect of a Corbyn government.”
The conference overwhelmingly backed a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements as well as a breaking off trade agreements with Israel, including those relating to arm sales.
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, meanwhile, accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “trying to turn Israel into an apartheid state” and praised Corbyn as “the most anti-racist leader this party has ever had.”
The Labour Friends of Israel withdrew their stand from the conference for fear of anti-Semitic intimidation.
An LFI spokesperson said, “Our staff have faced incidents of anti-Semitism in previous years and, given that the situation appears to have further deteriorated, we do not feel that it is responsible for an employer to put them in this environment.”
Labour Debates on Anti-Semitism – On Shabbos
The Jewish Labour Movement is criticizing Labour’s National Executive Committee for scheduling a debate on anti-Semitism complaints on Shabbos.
A JLM spokesperson said the decision to hold the debate that day was made “without consulting us – its only Jewish affiliate – or any communal organization.”
JLM chairman Mike Katz attended the debate and opposed measures to fast-track anti-Semitism complaints to bypass the existing disciplinary body. These measures were approved by the conference.
Rabbi and Chazzan Booted From Congregation
Manchester’s Whitefield Hebrew Congregation voted last week to terminate the employment of their rabbi, Jonathan Guttentag, and chazan, Joseph Muller.
Rabbi Guttentag said, “I am hugely disappointed by the results of the vote. The result does not mirror the feedback I have received and I am extremely grateful to all those who have supported me over this difficult period.
“It is an honour and a privilege to be the rabbi of the Whitefield community and I am immensely proud of the contribution I have made and hope to continue to make. I am currently considering all my options and will reflect on how to go forward in the coming days.”
Before the meeting the rabbi threatened to sue the congregation for age and religious discrimination.
Chief Rabbi Criticizes Humanists, Secularists
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has spoken out against humanists and secularists who have had a strong influence on policies Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) vis-à-vis faith schools.
He said at a Peace Without Borders conference in Madrid last week, “Those humanists who campaign against the existence of faith schools are in effect campaigning against my freedom to raise my children in accordance with the tenets of my faith.”
To the National Secular Society, which as campaigned against brit milah, he said, “For Jewish men, it is an essential part of our existence. An attack against our right to perform circumcisions is an attack against a most fundamental element of our belief.”
MP Praised for Wearing Yarmulke
MP Ivan Lewis has received very positive feedback to his wearing a yarmulke in Parliament the other week.
The Bury South MP told the Jewish Press, “As my level of Jewish practice has grown, I have started to wear my yarmulke on a permanent basis in Manchester. Therefore, I decided I wanted to do the same in Westminster.
“I’m proud of my Jewish identity and belief. So I feel I shouldn’t feel inhibited about expressing this in any environment. So far the response I have experienced is positive,” he said.
Odds and Ends
* The co-founder of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, Omar Barghouti, was prevented from speaking at the Labour conference’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting after a delay in the renewal of his visa from the British government.
* Five Labour whistleblowers who appeared on the BBC Panorama programme on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party are expected to sue the party for libel.