From ‘hugely significant’ to ‘vague’: mixed reactions to Labour anti-Semitism report

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From ‘hugely significant’ to ‘vague’: mixed reactions to Labour anti-Semitism report

Inquiry offers 20 recommendations to Corbyn's party – but there will be no lifetime bans for anti-Semites

Patrick Maguire is a reporter at the Jewish News.

Jewish community leaders have welcomed many of the recommendations of Labour’s inquiry into anti-Semitism – but also expressed some reservations – after the publication of twenty recommendations.

Shami Chakrabarti, who led the two-month investigation, insisted epithets like ‘Zio’ have no place in party discourse and called for members to avoid the use of Nazi “metaphors, distortions and comparisons” in discussions about Israel.

Although she advised against lifetime bans as John McDonnell had urged, she said expulsions should be an options for the most persistent and unrepentant offenders. A greater range of powers “short of suspension and expulsion” should also be considered.

The 30-page document is the culmination of two months of work by Chakrabarti, the former head of human rights pressure group Liberty, and vice-chairs Labour peer Baroness Royall and Pears Institute of Anti-Semitism director Professor David Feldman. The report maintains: “The Labour Party is not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism.”

Corbyn – who told the launch that “racism is racism is racism” – said Jews should never feel vulnerable or threatened in labour “by accident or design. Modern anti-Semitism may not always be about overt violence and persecution, though there is too much of that even to this day. We must also be vigilant against subtler and invidious manifestations of this nasty ancient hatred and avoid slipping into its traps by accident or intent”.

He described ‘Zio’ as a “vile epithet” and added: “To assume that a Jewish friend or fellow member is wealthy, part of some kind of financial or media conspiracy, or takes a particular position on politics in general, or on Israel and Palestine in particular, is just wrong.” And in a remark that comes a week before a decision is expected on Ken Livingstone’s future in the Labour party, he demanded: “Can we please leave Hitler and Nazi metaphors alone.”

While he will continue to “pursue the causes of peace and justice” as Labour leader, he told those who used “hateful” language “do no service” to the Palestinians.

But he was also criticised for not speaking out when a Momentum activist accused the Jewish MP of collusion with the media and forced to deny likening Israel to Islamic State in developments. that threatened to overshadow the launch.

In stressing that the Jewish community should not be held responsible for the policies of the Israeli government, he said: “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu Government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.”

The report – available in full here – is prefaced with a quote from murdered MP Jo Cox’s maiden speech, in which she celebrated the diversity of her constituency.

Community organisations and MPs have welcomed many of the recommendations but stressed it was now all about the implementation.

Jeremy Newmark, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said: “It’s a strong platform for the party to get off back foot and on to the front foot in setting a gold standard in tacking racism and anti-Semitism. But all the talk about high standards will need to be borne out by implementation.

“One of the very first tests will be how the party deals with the ongoing disciplinary case against Ken Livingstone. There can be no future for a politician with his track record in a post Chakrabarti report labour party. We at JLM will be meeting the leader’s office in next few days to begin discussions around implementation.”

The report was lauded by John Mann, chair of the APPG against anti-Semitism and a strong critic of Corbyn, as “hugely significant”. He pointed to the recommendation to appoint a legal panel to assist the party’s constitutional committee in cases of suspension or expulsion. It also calls for the creation of a working group into education and training across the party “with a view to partnership with trade unions and higher education providers”.

“This is now the equivalent of the legal handbook and in there is everything any lawyer needs to take action. When people transgress there’s no argument about it. It means there’s a system in place that’s far, far more robust than anything else. The party leader has endorsed it so the national executive committee will endorse it.”

The man who famously confronted Ken Livingstone said the report included everything he had recommended and added: “This will not be pleasant reading for Ken Livingstone. If he is ever reinstated and sticks to everything in here, he’s going to be a very different Ken Livingstone.”

Despite welcoming “the rejection of the use of the term Zio”, the Jewish Leadership Council questioned the decision to rule out the implementation of lifetime bans for anti-Semites.

It said in a joint statement with the CST: “The final verdict on the Chakrabarti Report will depend upon its implementation. We welcome the rejection of the use of the term Zio, the condemnation of manipulating the Holocaust and of the stereotyping of Jews.

“We are concerned that ruling out lifetime bans and automatic suspensions could send the wrong signal to the community and we are disappointed that the Royall Report into antisemitism at Oxford University was not included and has still not been published.

“It is for the Labour Party to guarantee full, effective and detailed implementation of the report’s recommendations. The party must ensure that as a result of this report, antisemitism is pushed out of the party and Jewish members and supporters feel welcome and protected. We thank Shami Chakrabarti for her efforts and for her engagement with the Jewish community.”

The reference to outlawing ‘zio’ was also welcomed by Board o0f Deputies President Jonathan Arkush but he added: “The report was weak on the demonisation of Israel and omitted any mention of party figures who have displayed friendship towards terrorists.”

BICOM CEO James Sorene said: “We regret that the inquiry has failed to recognise the dangerous, systematic demonisation of Israel by those Labour Party members who cross the line into antisemitism and attempt to disguise it as anti-Zionism. There are sadly no recommendations for new measures to allow them to be removed as members and the inquiry effectively offers an amnesty, which it calls a moratorium, to those who have used anti-Semitic language in the past.”

It described the report is “vague and indecisive on action against members who indulge in anti-Semitic anti-Zionism, and dismisses a culture of systematic demonisation of Israel as a ‘series of unhappy incidents’”

However, they add, that BICOM are ” encouraged that the inquiry recommends references to Hitler and Nazism should be resisted in this context. We acknowledge recommendations that the use of anti-Semitic language by some Labour Party members towards Jews, namely the word ‘Zio’ is ugly and hurtful and hope that, as and when they are implemented, students supporting Zionism involved in Labour societies in universities across the country will feel emboldened to publicly express their views without being bullied or harassed.”

Chakrabarti told the Jewish News she was “optimistic” the report would be implemented in full. “I hope the recommendations will be implemented in full. I take heart from the ringing endorsement and support we heard from he Labour leader and also from it’s publishing in full – that will make it hard for anyone to attempt to implement its implementation.”

Chakrabarti praised Corbyn’s decision to create the inquiry and said it had not been subject to “a shred of interference”.

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