Jewish leaders label meeting with Corbyn a ‘disappointing missed opportunity’
They said: ‘We are disappointed that Mr Corbyn’s proposals fell short of the minimum level of action which our letter suggested.
‘In particular, they did not agree in the meeting with our proposals that there should be a fixed timetable to deal with antisemitism cases; that they should expedite the long-standing cases involving Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker; that no MP should share a platform with somebody expelled or suspended for antisemitism; that they adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism with all its examples and clauses; that there should be transparent oversight of their disciplinary process.’
The pair warned Mr Corbyn that ‘letter and words will never be enough’ and told him: ‘We welcome the fact that Mr Corbyn’s words have changed but it is action by which the Jewish community will judge him and the Labour Party.
‘Our sole objective from this meeting was to build trust with Mr Corbyn, but this will not be possible until and unless he and the party turn their many strong words against antisemitism into equally strong actions in order to bring about a deep cultural change in his supporters’ attitude to Jews.’
In his own statement, Mr Corbyn said it had been a ‘positive and constructive meeting’ and reiterated his commitment to ‘rooting out antisemitism from Labour.
He warned his own supporters the claims were not ‘smears’ and vowed not to fail the Jewish community.
But he laid no new measures to tackle the problem, adding: ‘I have charged our new General Secretary Jennie Formby with improving our disciplinary procedures as her top priority to ensure all complaints are dealt with swiftly and fairly. We are grateful for the input from Jewish community groups, who we will continue to listen to carefully.
‘We will lay out the further steps we are taking in the coming weeks. We will continue to engage and work with Jewish community organisations to deal with this issue.
‘Our party will not fail our Jewish brothers and sisters.’
However, Mr Arkush and Mr Goldstein said that after ‘two years of inactivity’ by the Labour leadership, such statements were no longer enough.
They said the proposals they had put forward – which included a fixed timetable for dealing with outstanding case of antisemitism, , expediting long-standing case like that of Ken Livingstone, and the ‘transparent oversight’ of the party’s disciplinary process – was the ‘minimum level of action’ they expected.
‘Words in letters and newspaper articles will never be enough. We welcome the fact that Mr Corbyn’s words have changed but it is action by which the Jewish community will judge him and the Labour Party,’ they said.
‘Thousands of British Jews did not demonstrate outside Parliament just for a few lawyers and another newspaper article; they demanded action and so do we.
‘We will hold the Labour Party to account for any future failures and continue to represent the interests of British Jews with clarity and resolve. We also commit to do our utmost to work with all those within Labour who want to help make it a safe and equal space for all of its members.’
This comes after Mr Corbyn said sorry to the Jewish community for Labour’s antisemitism problem today as he prepared for the showdown talks with community leaders.
The Labour leader admitted there is a ‘clear’ problem inside his party and apologised for the ‘hurt and distress’ caused by the failure to tackle it.
For the first time Mr Corbyn took aim at pro-Palestinian groups for blaming Jews for the actions of the Israeli government.
Mr Corbyn’s new intervention comes after he was urged by a Holocaust survivor to ‘show his leadership’ and root out the ‘vile evil’ of antisemitism.
Before tonight’s meeting, Susan Pollack, 87, a survivor of Auschwitz, said ‘kind words are not enough’ and Mr Corbyn must show he is a real leader.
Mr Corbyn hoped that today’s meeting would have stamped out any ongoing bitterness.
Ms Pollack, 87, a survivor of Auschwitz, told the BBC today Mr Corbyn’s ‘kind words are not enough’ and demanded he show he is a real leader.
Describing her message to the Labour leader, Ms Pollack said: ‘My message is clear to say – act. Do something.’
She added: ‘Kind words are not enough. Apologies accomplishes nothing, you have got to act and act as a leader and give an example – that in Britain or anywhere in the world antisemitism is a vile, evil kind of behaviour.
‘He has to act and show his leadership and I think that’s the only way he will have respect.’
Ms Pollack was sent to Auschwitz and was later forced on the infamous death march to Bergen-Belsen.
She was liberated by British troops in April 1945 but had lost all her family in the horrors of the Holocaust.
Jewish groups called an extraordinary protest on Parliament Square earlier this month to warn Mr Corbyn ‘enough is enough’.
In the aftermath of the meeting, Mr Corbyn sought face to face talks with mainstream community leaders.
And ahead of the meeting, Mr Corbyn wrote in the Standard: ‘We have not done enough fully to get to grips with the problem, and for that the Jewish community and our own Jewish members deserve an apology.
‘My party and I are sorry for the hurt and distress caused.’
He admitted the party’s internal checks have ‘been simply not fully fit for purpose’ and ‘we did not look closely enough at ourselves’
Labour has been dogged by accusations of antisemitism ever since Mr Corbyn became leader in 2015.
Jewish MPs have told how they have received hate mail, death and rape threats after daring to speak out against the abuse.
Jewish MPs Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth read out examples of the shocking barbs they have received from activists in a debate in Parliament last week.
MPs on all sides broke with convention to give the pair standing ovations in the Commons. Some MPs were reduced to tears by their harrowing stories.
Fellow backbencher John Mann revealed his wife had been sent a dead bird through the post, and that she had been threatened with rape.
Party veteran Margaret Hodge said she ‘didn’t feel at home’ and felt a ‘bit of fear’ about anti-Semitism in the party she has been a member for more than 50 years.
Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne today admitted the party has a problem with antisemitism.
He told the programme: ‘We have got an issue in the Labour Party … We have got to acknowledge that that problem exists and, for some, that is a challenge.
‘For me, the Labour Party was created to fight injustice, to fight against prejudice, to fight against hatred, and that we are where we are really hurts me, so we have got to act.’
He added: ‘We have to rebuild confidence in the Jewish community.
‘There are lots of Jewish people that share Labour’s values for social justice, that want a progressive government based on fairness, and that they currently don’t find a home in the Labour Party, I think, is troubling.
‘I think it’s my job as shadow communities secretary to try and rebuild some of that trust and it’s Jeremy’s job as the leader of the Labour Party to try and rebuild some of that trust.’
Jewish leaders took the unprecedented step of calling a demonstration outside Parliament last month to protest at Mr Corbyn’s lack of action on the issue.
The ‘enough is enough’ protest saw hundreds descend onto Parliament Square to demand tougher action to tackle the abuse.