The party’s ruling body approved a new code of conduct on anti-Semitism despite intense criticism from the party’s MPs and peers as well as Jewish leaders.
The move reportedly led senior MP Dame Margaret Hodge – who is Jewish – to launch an angry tirade against party leader Mr Corbyn in the Commons, calling him a ‘f****** anti-Semite’.
The document states explicitly that ‘anti-Semitism is racism’ and it is ‘unacceptable’, but stops short of signing up in full to the definition drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) signed off the code at a meeting on Tuesday but members agreed to reopen the development of the policy in recognition of the ‘serious concerns’ raised.
In the Commons, Dame Margaret challenged Mr Corbyn behind the Speaker’s chair after crunch votes on Brexit.
The Huffington Post reported that Dame Margaret told him: ‘You’re a f****** anti-Semite and a racist… You have proved you don’t want people like me in the party.’
Mr Corbyn reportedly told her: ‘I’m sorry you feel like that.’
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A senior Labour source confirmed a confrontation has occurred while Dame Margaret Dame confirmed to Sky News that she made the comments, but denied claims she swore during the confrontation.
A series of Labour MPs publicly vented their fury about the situation and former leader Ed Miliband said the party should adopt the full definition.
He said: ‘The argument that it is somehow incompatible with criticising the actions of the Israeli government is wrong.
‘The views of the vast majority of the Jewish community are very clear. I would urge the NEC to get on with this at speed.’
Labour MP Ian Austin said the move was ‘utterly shameful’.
He added: ‘I am ashamed to be a member of the Labour Party.’
MP Wes Streeting said: ‘The leadership were warned of the consequences of today’s NEC decision. They didn’t care.’
Labour officials drew up the code in the wake of protests by Jewish groups outside Parliament earlier this year.
It states that criticism of the state of Israel and its policies should not automatically be regarded as anti-Semitic, and makes clear that even ‘contentious’ comments on this issue ‘will not be treated as anti-Semitism unless accompanied by specific anti-Semitic content … or by other evidence of anti-Semitic intent’.
The code explicitly endorses the IHRA’s working definition of anti-Semitism and includes a list of behaviours likely to be regarded as anti-Semitic copied word-for-word from the international organisation’s own document.
But it omits four examples from the IHRA list:
- Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country
- Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour
- Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations
- Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis
Labour insisted that while the examples are not reproduced word for word, they are covered in the new code.
But Jewish community groups condemned the NEC’s decision and warned ‘on its current trajectory, Labour is failing British Jews and it is failing as an anti-racist party’.
I am ashamed to be a member of the Labour Party. https://t.co/yhrijiJ80a
— Ian Austin (@IanAustinMP) July 17, 2018
One of my brilliant Jewish members has already resigned from the Labour Party this afternoon. I’m so sorry to him and everyone else. The leadership were warned of the consequences of today’s NEC decision. They didn’t care. Here is my response @jeremycorbyn @JennieGenSec pic.twitter.com/7d5ajuZp2D
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) July 17, 2018
This is an unnecessary own goal that will only ensure that the issue of antisemitism continues to cast a cloud over our proud party. We should just accept the IHRA definition and accept that we don’t have the trust or goodwill to be seen as the people to create a new definition. https://t.co/9gBO7YrmKA
— Toby Perkins (@tobyperkinsmp) July 17, 2018
Labour should adopt the full IHRA definition. The argument that it is somehow incompatible with criticising the actions of the Israeli government is wrong. The views of the vast majority of the Jewish community are very clear. I would urge the NEC to get on with this at speed. https://t.co/cqsiyZE8wC
— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) July 17, 2018
So let’s get this straight: Margaret Hodge, whose relatives were murdered in the Holocaust, raises concerns about racism towards her community in our party. Instead of engaging with her concerns,supposed party supporters seek to tear her character apart.Are these people for real?
— Chuka Umunna (@ChukaUmunna) July 17, 2018
In a joint statement, the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust said: ‘The decision taken by the NEC today to adopt a watered-down definition of anti-Semitism will be regarded with a mixture of incredulity and outrage by the overwhelming majority of the UK’s Jews.’
In a statement, the Jewish Labour Movement added: ‘The Labour Party has acted in a deliberate and offensive reckless manner in believing it understands the needs of a minority community better than the community itself.’
Labour Against Antisemitism said it was looking at its legal options and would be making a formal complaint to the party.
A Labour Party spokesman said: ‘The NEC upheld the adoption of the code of conduct on anti-Semitism, but in recognition of the serious concerns expressed, agreed to reopen the development of the code, in consultation with Jewish community organisations and groups, in order to better reflect their views.’