UK's Labour Party Spars With BBC Over Charges of anti-Semitism

Reuters
Reuters
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Reuters
Reuters

LONDON, July 10 (Reuters) - British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn's office interfered in independent party discipline processes aimed at rooting out anti-Semitism, the BBC said on Wednesday, a claim that the Labour Party sharply rejected.

A BBC investigation spoke to former Labour officials who said top party figures, including Corbyn's communications director Seumas Milne and general secretary Jennie Formby, had minimised complaints of anti-Semitism against party members.

Labour said the accusations were "deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public".

Labour has battled accusations of anti-Semitism since 2016 and Corbyn - a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights - as well as other senior party officials have been criticised for failing to take decisive action to deal with it.

British Jewish groups have accused Labour of becoming institutionally anti-Semitic, and the issue has played a part in Labour's failure to take electoral advantage of the Conservative government's turmoil over Brexit.

The BBC quoted an email from Milne telling Labour's internal complaints team that "something's going wrong, and we're muddling up political disputes with racism".

Labour said this misrepresented Milne's email, which referred to a dispute between Jewish Labour members with Zionist and anti-Zionist views. A fuller extract of the email read: "If we're more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for anti-Semitism, something's going wrong, and we're muddling up political disputes with racism."

The BBC investigation also quoted former party members who felt a hostile atmosphere towards Jews within the party in recent years, who were sometimes challenged over Israeli government actions by other party members.

Nine lawmakers quit the party this year, citing the leadership's handling of anti-Semitism as well as its stance on Brexit as reasons for leaving.

British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said the BBC investigation showed that Corbyn was either "wilfully blind to anti-Semitism or anti-Semitic himself".

Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson, who is frequently critical of Corbyn, said he was "shocked, chilled and appalled" by the allegations in the BBC report.

Labour's press office said the party was "implacably opposed to anti-Semitism," and that some of the former officials quoted by the BBC had "personal and political axes to grind" against Corbyn.

Britain's Conservatives face regular accusations of hostility towards Muslims. On Monday broadcaster Channel 4 published a survey of 892 Conservative Party members by pollsters YouGov which showed that 56% believed Islam was a general threat to Britain's way of life.

(Reporting by David Milliken Editing by Leslie Adler)

Credit: REUTERS2

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Palestinians search through the rubble of a building in which Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, on Sunday.

Gazans Are Tired of Pointless Wars and Destruction, and Hamas Listens to Them

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage