Hold the front page. Jeremy Corbyn has finally admitted his party’s anti-Semitism problem.
On Sunday evening, after news broke he’d endorsed an anti-Semitic painting, the Labour leader issued an unprecedented apology for “pockets of anti-Semitism” in his party.
Like the Jewish bankers in his favourite racist street art, Corbyn’s Labour Party has very deep pockets.
At the Jewish News we’re more attuned than most to the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition’s dodgy rap-sheet, from taking tea with a blood libel sheikh to calling Hamas his ‘friends’; from cashingpay checks from Iranian TV to his membership of virulently anti-Semitic Facebook groups.
Since becoming leader we’ve witnessed the woeful shortcomings of the Chakrabarti report into Labour anti-Semitism, the suppression of a report into anti-Semitism at Oxford University Labour Club, the refusal to expel Ken Livingstone for saying Hitler supported Zionism, endless abuse directed at the party’s Jewish MPs and councillors and belated suspensions galore.
The only person with the antidote to this epidemic is the MP for Islington North.
Corbyn is a principled chap who has been at the forefront of tackling racism for decades. He says what he means and means what he says. But in this case he’s said nothing at all.
He must finally use his position to tackle the scourge in his midst head-on. This starts by publicly acknowledging that far from a smear campaign – as many of his supporters claim – concern over his defence of extremists and anti-Semites is entirely legitimate.
He needs to make clear he will no longer invite, share platforms or associate with those who express Jew hate and belittle the Holocaust.
He might also unequivocally denounce the psychopaths of Hamas.
Claiming, as he likes to do, that these nauseating groups and individuals weren’t anti-Semitic in front of him is not an excuse when a Google search reveals their true nature.
That simply doesn’t wash for a leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition.
Today, thousands of members of Britain’s Jewish community are taking to the streets outside Parliament to declare, ‘Enough is enough’.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council are delivering an uncompromising and unprecedented letter to John Cryer, chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party. It states: “Jeremy Corbyn has sided with anti-Semites rather than Jews… He issues empty statements about opposing anti-Semitism, but does nothing to understand or address it… When Jeremy Corbyn was elected, Jews expressed sincere and profound fears as to how such politics would impact upon their wellbeing. Our concerns were never taken seriously. Three years on, the party and British Jews are reaping the consequences.”
British Jews will wait to see what impact this has. We’re not holding our breath.
For now, it’s fitting to reflect on how a piece of so-called street art in Brick Lane has put Labour anti-Semitism back on the front pages. After all, talking to Jeremy Corbyn about anti-Semitism is very much like talking to a brick wall.
* First published in the Daily Telegraph.
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