Corbyn on Defensive as U.K. Jews Protest Against Antisemitism

(Bloomberg) -- Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn was forced onto the defensive after Jewish groups called on supporters to gather in Parliament Square to protest against perceived antisemitism in the main U.K. opposition.

Labour has repeatedly failed to properly address Jewish concerns about antisemitism within the party, the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies of British Jews said in an open letter released late on Sunday entitled “Enough is Enough!” Members of the two groups will march on Parliament Square for a rally on Monday at 5:30 p.m., when they’ll deliver a letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party, which holds a meeting half an hour later.

“Jeremy Corbyn did not invent this form of politics, but he has had a lifetime within it and now personifies its problems and dangers,” the two groups wrote. “He issues empty statements about opposing antisemitism but does nothing to understand or address it.”

Corbyn’s party has faced repeated accusations of antisemitism under his leadership. On Friday, the leader said he had been wrong to offer support to an artist who had painted a mural in London’s East End that apparently depicted Jews playing Monopoly on the backs of naked people. Corbyn, a frequent critic of Israel, came out on the defensive on Sunday, condemning antisemitism and calling Labour an “anti-racist party.”

‘Pockets’ of Antisemitism

“We recognize that antisemitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour Party and the rest of the country,” Corbyn wrote on his Facebook page. “I will not tolerate any form of antisemitism that exists in and around our movement. We must stamp this out from our party and movement.”

The spat about the mural is the latest in a series of incidents within the party that’s raised the hackles of British Jews. Earlier in March, Corbyn said that he had been a member of a Facebook group where antisemitic views were expressed -- but that he had never seen them. And in 2016, former London Mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended from the party after describing Adolf Hitler as a supporter of zionism.

An internal review in 2016 found anti-Semitism wasn’t endemic to the party. Shortly afterward, Corbyn appointed Shami Chakrabarti, who conducted the investigation, to become a lawmaker in the House of Lords and a member of his team of ministers-in-waiting.

Unite union leader and key Corbyn ally, Len McCluskey, said in September that accusations of antisemitism within Labour were “mood music” by people seeking to undermine the leader.

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