Jewish leaders say Corbyn is failing to take 'concrete' action on anti-Semitism as they label crunch meeting a 'missed opportunity'

Harry Yorke
The Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council said that

Jeremy Corbyn is failing to take any "concrete" action over Ken Livingstone and anti-Semites in his party, Jewish leaders said last night as they claimed a face-to-face meeting with the Labour leader had been a "disappointing missed opportunity". 

The Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council said that "words in letters and newspaper articles will never be enough" after Mr Corbyn issued an apology just hours before the meeting.

They warned that the Jewish community will not be able to trust Mr Corbyn until he turns his "strong words against anti-Semitism into equally strong actions".

Following a meeting that lasted more than two hours, Jonathan Arkush and Jonathan Goldstein, the respective presidents of the Board and JLC, issued a damning statement in which they claimed they would hold Mr Corbyn to account for his alleged lack of action.

They added that despite claiming to be “open” to their agenda prior to the meeting, Mr Corbyn “did not agree” with their calls to speed up the disciplinary processes for members being investigated over complaints of anti-Semitism.

Speaking to The Telegraph, a source present said that Mr Corbyn had “failed to grasp” the “symbolic importance” of the investigations into Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker, both of whom have been suspended for more than a year over allegations of anti-Semitism.

The source added that Mr Corbyn’s team had “tried to throw procedure at them” as an explanation for the delay, while another said: "Every excuse given by Mr Corbyn and his team was wrapped up in process.

“Here we have a Labour leader who has undoubted strength and control over his party, so we feel these are just excuses for inactivity.”

In the statement, the Jewish leaders said: “We are disappointed that Mr Corbyn’s proposals fell short of the minimum level of action which our letter suggested.

“They did not agree in the meeting with our proposals...that they should expedite the long-standing cases involving Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker; that no MP should share a platform with somebody expelled or suspended for antisemitism; that they adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism with all its examples... that there should be transparent oversight of their disciplinary process.”

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It came after Mr Corbyn issued yet another apology for the handling of the anti-Semitism crisis gripping his party, as he used an article in the Evening Standard to point out what is and isn’t acceptable conduct for Labour party members.

He also admitted for the first time that some left-wing activists are drawn to the Palestinian cause - which he has championed throughout his political career- “precisely” because it allows them “an opportunity to express hostility to Jewish people”.

Mr Corbyn, who is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, warned that Labour activists who use criticism of Israel to espouse anti-Semitism would be crossing a red line and would have no “home” in the organisation.

Anti-Semitism row | What Ken Livingstone said

Reiterating plans to politically educate party members on what constitutes anti-Semitism, Mr Corbyn said: “When criticism of or opposition to the Israeli government uses anti-Semitic ideas — attributing its injustices to Jewish identity, demanding that Jews in Britain or elsewhere answer for its conduct, or comparing Israel to the Nazis — then a line must be drawn,” he said.

However, the Jewish leaders last night said that it wasn’t enough for Mr Corbyn to issue statements in “another newspaper article”.

“Words in letters and newspaper articles will never be enough,” they continued “We welcome the fact that Mr Corbyn’s words have changed but it is action by which the Jewish community will judge him and the Labour Party.

“Our sole objective from this meeting was to build trust with Mr Corbyn, but this will not be possible until and unless he and the party turn their many strong words against antisemitism into equally strong actions in order to bring about a deep cultural change in his supporters’ attitude to Jews.”

Representatives of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) arrive at the Houses of Parliament for talks with Jeremy Corbyn 

In a statement circulated soon after, Mr Corbyn appeared to ignore the disagreement between the two parties, describing it as a “positive and constructive meeting”.

"We will lay out the further steps we are taking in the coming weeks,” he added. “We will continue to engage and work with Jewish community organisations to deal with this issue. Our party will not fail our Jewish brothers and sisters."