Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to root out “pockets of anti-semitism” within Labour, as Jewish leaders plan a demonstration outside parliament over his apparent defence of an anti-semitic mural.
The Labour leader said he was “sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused” and recognised “anti-semitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party.
He said this as he became embroiled in a row over a 2012 Facebook comment, in which he questioned why the mural was to be removed.
His pledge on Sunday came hours after the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council called for a protest outside parliament, saying “enough is enough”.
They plan to protest on 5.30pm on Monday and deliver a letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party’s weekly meeting, which starts half an hour later.
The mural depicts a group of Jewish men playing Monopoly on the backs of a group of emaciated people.
The east London mural was painted over as Tower Hamlets Council had ruled it was anti-semitic, but Corbyn’s post asked “Why?” and told the artist he was “in good company”.
Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger highlighted it on Friday. She and other Labour MPs tore into Corbyn over his response, in which he expressed “regret” at not inspecting the image more closely but stopped short of apologising.
I asked the Leader’s Office for an explanation about this Facebook post first thing this morning. I’m still waiting for a response. pic.twitter.com/DL8ynBtES4— Luciana Berger (@lucianaberger) March 23, 2018
“Day in day out we the Jewish community face increasing anti-semitism. Enough is enough,” The Jewish Leadership Council wrote on its Facebook page.
“The leadership of the Jewish community will be delivering a letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party in advance of its meeting at 6pm.
“We call on members of our community and all those who oppose anti-semitism to join us in Parliament Square at 5:30pm to show solidarity.”
Labour MP Wes Streeting said: “We should be ashamed it’s come to this.”
To those who say that there's no problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party, or that's it's being handled well, please ask why Britain's leading Jewish organisations are demonstrating to the Parliamentary Labour Party. We should be ashamed that it's come to this. https://t.co/6cs4H5PCxV— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) March 25, 2018
Corbyn said he would meet with “representatives of the Jewish community in the coming days.
“Labour is an anti-racist party and I utterly condemn anti-semitism, which is why as Leader of the Labour Party I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of anti-semitism that exists in and around our movement,” he said.
“We must stamp this out from our party and movement.”
He added: “I know that to do so, we must demonstrate our total commitment to excising pockets of anti-semitism that exist in and around our party.
“I will be meeting representatives from the Jewish community over the coming days, weeks and months to rebuild that confidence in Labour.”
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Earlier on Sunday, Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Labour had to show its “zero tolerance” approach to anti-semitism was more than just words.
He told ITV’s Peston on Sunday: “It is grotesque and disgusting and should have been taken down. It’s anti-semitic and we need to be absolutely clear about that.
“Jeremy Corbyn has now given his explanation and regretted that.
“The most important thing here is that the Labour Party keeps on saying that anti-semitism has no place in our party, in our communities, or in our society, and we’ve got to have zero tolerance, and zero tolerance has got to be more than two words, it’s got to dictate everything the Labour Party does in relation to anti-semitism.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald claimed Corbyn “does not have an anti-semitic bone in his body” while deputy leader Tom Watson said “very, very sorry that people feel hurt” over how the leader’s office handled the row.