Scores of serving and former Labour officials have given sworn statements about antisemitism in the party as part of evidence submitted to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s investigation into the issue.
The final submissions on behalf of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) to the inquiry, which were leaked to the media on Thursday, include 70 sworn testimonies from current and former staffers, and concludes that “the Labour party is no longer a safe space for Jewish people”.
“It is plain that the party does not consider the race and religion of Judaism to be a characteristic worthy of protection,” it says. “This is a very dangerous place to be.”
In the overarching submission from the JLM, there are detailed allegations of antisemitic abuse at party meetings and by members online, including:
One respondent who listed 22 examples of antisemitic abuse at party meetings where he was called “child killer”, “Zio scum”, and “Tory Jew” as well as being told “Hitler was right” and that he was “good with money”.
Another who witnessed a comment at a ward meeting that “the only reason we have prostitutes in Seven Sisters is because of the Jews”.
One member reported that other members defended an individual when they said it was “over-representation of Jews in the capitalist ruling class that gives the Israel-Zionist lobby its power”.
A parliamentary candidate who described a councillor being told by a fellow member to go home and count their money after being deselected.
A speaker at a fringe event at the 2017 Labour conference asserting the right to discuss whether the Holocaust happened.
One respondent reported that the membership secretary in South Tottenham, north London, objected to 25 applications for membership from the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, and required home visits to these prospective members’ houses.
The submission also alleges political interference in the disciplinary process by Jeremy Corbyn’s office, despite Labour’s insistence that the leadership has not got involved.
In particular, it claims that any separation between the leader’s office and the party’s complaints unit broke down in August 2018 and a staffer was instructed via WhatsApp to upload complaints on to USB sticks for leader’s office employees to examine and make recommendations for future action.
The submission says it was a “frequent occurrence” for leader’s office staff to ask to be copied in on complaints and make recommendations on sanctions.
It also claims that a former employee from Corbyn’s office said a narrative had taken hold among staffers that complaints about antisemitism were part of a “Jewish conspiracy” against the leadership.
A Labour party spokeswoman strongly disputed the allegations. She said: “Any former staff would not know how our procedures currently work, after significant reforms, and former MPs’ staff or others who have not worked on disciplinary procedures would not have knowledge of those procedures or the numbers of cases.
“This document includes baseless assumptions about current staff’s workload and the untrue allegations about outstanding cases. The Labour party is not institutionally antisemitic and complaints relate to a small minority of our members.
“We have significantly reformed our procedures over the past year, including recently adopting a proposal by Jeremy Corbyn for rapid expulsions, which allows individuals to be expelled within a matter of weeks in open and shut cases.”
The party stressed that antisemitism was an “evil” that it was committed to rooting out, and said it was fully cooperating with the EHRC.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday, James Libson, a lawyer representing the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and a partner at the law firm Mishcon de Reya, said interference in cases had become institutional.
“Institutional in the sense that people affiliated with the leader’s office – and now in the actual unit that are investigating – and that at a more basic level, information is passing between the leader’s office and investigating unit,” he said.
He added: “Passed by USB sticks, by WhatsApp groups, secret WhatsApp groups.”
When asked whether Corbyn’s assertion that every case of antisemitism had been dealt with was incorrect, Libson replied: “Very much so.”
He said: “There are many, many outstanding complaints, many examples of interference and many examples of double standards in the way in which complaints are processed.”
Labour denies there is a backlog of antisemitism complaints, but it has not released an updated figure for how many are ongoing.
Its case to the EHRC will be that no allegations amount to unlawful acts by the Labour party and there is therefore no basis for the claim that there could be a finding of institutional racism.
Speaking at a press conference organised to respond to the leak of the document, Sam Matthews, Labour’s former head of complaints, said there had first been an influx of reports of antisemitism in the party during Corbyn’s second leadership campaign.
Referring to the account of Jewish people’s membership applications being questioned in South Tottenham, he said: “Revelations about how Jeremy’s closest aides act are not surprising to me because I witnessed it first-hand for years, but the thing that stuck out to me and made me quite upset is the way in which that culture that we are talking about is empowering people across the country at a local level to think that that is OK inside the Labour party.”
He added: “There will inevitably be a concerted campaign to try and dismiss this as a politically motivated smear against Jeremy or against the current leadership or against a certain type pf politics, and I would implore anybody reading this document to come at it with fresh eyes and to engage with it with their conscience plugged in as they think about how they’re voting next week.”
The JLM source said the organisation did not know where the leak had come from and that a wide group of people had seen the document last week after it was submitted. “It could have come from EHRC, members of JLM or from the lawyers,” they said. “We just don’t know who.”
On Tuesday, Corbyn apologised for antisemitic incidents that involved Labour members and said he was dealing with the issue. “Obviously I’m very sorry for what has happened,” he said after being asked to apologise directly in an interview on ITV’s This Morning programme.
On Thursday, the shadow housing secretary, John Healey, insisted Labour had “toughened up” its approach to tackling antisemitism.
He told Today: “Having been too slow and too weak at the start, the action being taken now has been toughened up. An in-house lawyer, special appeal panels to deal with complaints, new fast-track expulsion powers that are being used. I’m confident that cases coming in are being dealt with and if they are coming in they will be dealt with.”
Healey apologised to the Jewish community, who he said “feel let down” by the way Labour had handled cases of antisemitism in the party.