Jewish shadow minister says people are ‘hysterical and angry’ about Labour’s antisemitism row
The only Jewish MP on Jeremy Corbyn’s front bench has angered constituents by telling them to be “less hysterical and angry” when they asked why he has kept silent on Labour’s antisemitism crisis, the JC has learned.
Fabian Hamilton also criticised party colleague Dame Margaret Hodge, when he was asked why he had not defended her for confronting Jeremy Corbyn and calling him “antisemitic and a racist” to his face amid a growing standoff between the party and Jewish communal groups.
Jewish voters in Mr Hamilton’s North East Leeds constituency were left shocked when he responded to their frustration at how he had not publically condemned Labour’s refusal to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of Jew-hate, instead opting for its own code of conduct that omits key examples of how criticising Israel can by antisemitic.
“I think we all need to be a little less hysterical and angry if we cannot resolve this dispute properly then there’s little hope for the more violent and urgent disputes around the world, not least in Israel,” he wrote to them.
One member of his constituency, where one in 20 voters is Jewish, told the JC: “Fabian has shown over the past couple of years that he doesn’t seem to care what our community thinks.
“He described our hustings in 2017 as hostile, when people just wanted to know what he is doing to counter the antisemitism in the Labour Party.
“We haven’t heard a single word out of him about antisemitism, Corbyn or IHRA – no matter how much we ask.
“He doesn’t seem to understand that our community is under threat and we are worried. We want his support or at least to know which camp he is sitting in, though it appears to not be a position we will be happy with.”
Mr Hamilton also stunned constituents by railing against Dame Margaret’s confrontation with Mr Corbyn, accusing her of not being “calm or dignified” and claiming she had shouted at him.
When a constituent specifically asked why he had not supported her, Mr Hamilton said: “As for Margaret Hodge, shortly after she allegedly lost her temper with Jeremy Corbyn, I got the next blast in the Lobby when she shouted at me for still remaining on the Front Bench and it wasn’t very calm or dignified.
“In fact, even as a hardened politician with 21 years’ experience in Parliament, I came away slightly upset and a little angry at being the butt of her frustration with Jeremy Corbyn.
“I recalled that when she was a Minister during the Iraq war, I didn’t shout at her for staying in the Government even though I had voted against the war.”
Responding to Mr Hamilton’s allegations, Dame Margaret told the JC: “It’s wonderful how people take negative criticism as shouting. I challenged him but didn’t shout at him.”
Mr Hamilton – who was an Honorary Patron of the Campaign Against Antisemitism group until this article was published – also responded to claims that he had not offered public support to Jewish MPs such as Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth who are leading the fight against the Party’s new antisemitism code.
He said he backed the party adopting the IHRA definition but added he was “at a loss to understand the extreme reaction to the Party’s adoption of all but a small part of the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism.”
Mr Hamilton – who represents Alwoodley, Moortown and Roundhay, home to most of Leeds’ 8,000 Jews – also suggested it was an “overreaction” to suggest Labour now “condones” antisemitism.
The voters of North East Leeds handed Mr Hamilton, who has been an MP since 1997, a 16,991 majority at the 2017 general election.
Mr Hamilton told the JC on Tuesday: “There is no doubt that allegations of antisemitism have been a weight on the back of the Labour Party over the last year. I would much rather the NEC adopt the unamended version, but it is now time for the Labour Party to work fully with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) to put this damaging issue to rest, once and for all.
“Just one allegation of antisemitism in the Labour Party, and indeed across the whole movement, not only causes me as a Jewish man so much distress, but also everyone of my colleagues, all of whom are committed to fighting antisemitism across the whole of society.
“I am now looking forward to working with Jewish communities, from all sides of the political spectrum, and Jewish colleagues to finally stamp out this hatred.
“So whilst I feel that the NEC should adopt the full definition as per Luciana and Ruth’s motion, I think we all need to be a little less hysterical and angry. If we cannot resolve this dispute properly then there’s little hope for the more violent and urgent disputes around the world, not least in Israel, which has escalated in recent months.”
CAA chairman Gideon Falter decided to remove Mr Hamilton as the group’s Honorary Patron following the JC’s revelations.
Mr Falter wrote to the Labour MP saying: “Regrettably, our views on antisemitism seem to have diverged to the extent that we do not think that our views are compatible anymore.
“In particular, the antisemitism crisis in the Labour Party is extremely alarming and dangerous for our community and we do not feel that your recent remarks, as quoted in the Jewish Chronicle, are in any way appropriate.
“We will therefore be removing you as an honorary patron.”