UK Labour to suspend Jeremy Corbyn following antisemitism report

Written by on October 29, 2020

Corbyn: “The scale [of antisemitism in the party] was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacts at a launch event for the Labour party's general election campaign in London, Britain October 31, 2019.  (photo credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS)

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacts at a launch event for the Labour party’s general election campaign in London, Britain October 31, 2019.

(photo credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS)

The UK Labour Party announced on Thursday that it had suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn in light of comments he made after a report said the party under his leadership was responsible for unlawful harassment and discrimination in its handling of allegations of antisemitism.

“In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation,” it said in a statement, according to Reuters.

“He has also had the whip removed from the Parliamentary Labour Party.”

Corbyn will retain his seat as the MP of Islington North, but not as part of the Labour Party.

Corbyn later said over Twitter that he would “strongly contest” his suspension.

“I will strongly contest the political intervention to suspend me,” he tweeted.

“I’ve made absolutely clear that those who deny there has been an antisemitism problem in the Labour Party are wrong.

“I will continue to support a zero tolerance policy towards all forms of racism.”

The report was published by the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission, and detailed the numerous failures of the party to act on allegations of antisemitism within its ranks during Corbyn’s leadership. In response, its current leader Sir Keir Starmer accepted the report in full, and after apologizing to the Jewish community, announced he would accept and implement each of the report’s recommendations, as shown in a video statement uploaded to social media.

CORBYN, HOWEVER, did not share the same sentiments. Taking to Facebook, he claimed that while he did not fully agree with the report’s findings, he trusts that “its recommendations will be swiftly implemented to help move on from this period.”

He explained that “anyone claiming there is no antisemitism in the Labour Party is wrong. Of course there is, as there is throughout society, and sometimes it is voiced by people who think of themselves as on the Left.

“Jewish members of our party and the wider community were right to expect us to deal with it, and I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should have.”

He added, however, that “the scale of the problem [of antisemitism in the party] was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.”

Following these statements, a complaint was filed to Starmer by the watchdog organization Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA). The NGO had filed complaints regarding Corbyn and 15 other Labour parliamentarians for their statements following the report, and had asked for Starmer to carry out his commitment of initiating an independent disciplinary process against them.

“That your party became institutionally racist against Jews, causing more than two in five British Jews to consider leaving the country and necessitating the investigation that has now concluded, is an indelible stain on Labour and on those within your party who stood by and let antisemitism take hold. The individuals responsible must at last be held to account,” they had written, giving Labour a six-month deadline.

In a statement, the organization welcomed Starmer’s move to suspend Corbyn.

“Shortly after submitting our complaint to Sir Keir regarding Jeremy Corbyn’s statement this morning and his past deeds, we have received confirmation that Mr. Corbyn has been suspended from the Labour Party and had the whip withdrawn,” wrote the CAA’s head of political and government investigations Joe Glasman.

“This is a hugely significant turning point and an indicator of real change and accountability at last. We referred Labour to the EHRC precisely because it was not taking our complaints against Mr. Corbyn seriously. Four years since our first complaint, Labour has finally begun to take action. Mr. Corbyn is part of the problem, and at last, our complaints against him and other sitting Labour MPs who seemed untouchable, are now being acted upon.”

THE DECISION was also welcomed by the Board of Deputies, the largest Jewish umbrella organization in the UK.

 “We welcome the decision of the Labour Party to suspend Jeremy Corbyn,” Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl said in a statement.

“Having presided over the descent of a proudly anti-racist party into a party that broke equalities law in its treatment of Jews, his shameless comments today showed that he remains part of the problem and is an obstruction to the resolution of the issue.”

Jewish Labour MP Dame Margeret Hodge took to Twitter to praise Starmer’s move to ban Corbyn.

“This is the right decision following Corbyn’s shameful reaction to the EHRC report,” she tweeted.

“Labour is finally saying enough is enough – antisemitism can never be tolerated in our party. Now we can finally move on.”

Responding to the news of Corbyn’s suspension, Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Isaac Herzog recalled inviting Corbyn to Yad Vashem during the former’s tenure as head of Israel’s Labor Party.

“During my tenure as chairman of the Israeli Labor Party and opposition leader, I turned to the then-Labour Party chairman Jeremy Corbyn and invited him to visit Yad Vashem in order to learn about the Holocaust and its lessons,” he recounted in a statement.

“I emphasized to him the importance of learning about the Holocaust, [and] the importance of such a visit for the chairman of such an important party in Britain.

“He never responded to my appeal, nor did he respond to my appeal to him as chairman of the Jewish Agency with the demand to eradicate antisemitism in his party. The disregard and opacity was evident.”

“Under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, the UK Labour Party became known for antisemitism and cynicism towards Jews,”  the World Jewish Congress tweeted.”Labour’s decision today to suspend him from its ranks is much needed and welcome step in ridding the British political system of his brand of hate.”

Much criticism was directed at Corbyn due to the climate of antisemitism that was allowed to flourish in the party.

“Jeremy Corbyn will rightly be blamed for what he has done to Jews and Labour, but the truth is more disturbing, as he was little more than a figurehead for old and new anti-Jewish attitudes. All of this was enabled by those who deliberately turned a blind eye,” the leaders of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust said in response to the report.

Jeremy Sharon and Reuters contributed to this report.

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