Jewish Labour MPs have reacted angrily to claims that allegations of anti-Semitism in the party are “exaggerated” and have been selectively “weaponised” in an attempt to undermine leader Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.
Jackie Walker (pictured), vice chair of pressure group Momentum who was briefly suspended from Labour for saying Jews were the “chief financiers of the slave trade”, started the debate when she claimed anti-Semitism had “become a weapon of political mass destruction” and there was “little if any” evidence it was a major problem within the Labour ranks.
Speaking at a festival organised by Momentum on the fringes of the Labour conference in Liverpool, she said: “The most fundamental aim of such allegations is to undermine Jeremy, silence his supporters… It is the silencing of any criticism or potential criticism of the Israeli state, attacking and undermining anyone who supports Palestinian rights.”
Many activists in the room applauded the comments.
Ms Walker was supported by Jonathan Rosenhead from Free Speech on Israel, who said: “There is an elephant in the room. How has this monstrous soufflé of moral panic whipped up? Where did this come from?”
To laughter in the room he added: “We need to ask this soufflé who are the cooks? Where is the kitchen? What are the implements?”
The allegations are no laughing matter to Jewish members of the Labour Party.
Jewish MP Luciana Berger responded to comments from the Momentum meeting, saying: “Those of us at the sharp end of abuse and attacks will be the judge of whether anti-Semitism has been exaggerated or not.”
Ms Berger also suggested that former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who was caught up in an anti-Semitism row earlier this year, should be expelled from the party.
She said: “That’s why there is no place for Ken Livingstone in the Labour Party, not only for his own views which he has continued to espouse unapologetically, but because of the views of some of the people with whom he has associated over the last 30 years.”
On Sunday Labour peer Lord Mitchell resigned from the party in protest at the anti-Semitism he found in sections of the membership. The Daily Express reports he was leaving largely because Mr. Corbyn was “lukewarm” about tackling the issue.
Lord Mitchell said:
“I’m Jewish and I’m very strongly Jewish and I make no bones about it, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Jeremy himself is very lukewarm on this subject.
“He’s never been as vociferous in condemning anti-Semitism as he should be, and when he does make a mention of it he combines it with other forms of racism, so he will never say specifically as far as anti-Semitism is concerned.”
Claims of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party are nothing new, however they have been so virulent since Mr. Corbyn took over the leadership 12 months ago that an independent inquiry was launched to examine the matter in April. It was sparked by the suspension of Bradford MP Naz Shah for her suggestion, posted to Facebook, that Israelis be deported to America, and former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s defence of Ms. Shah, in which he asserted that “Hitler was a Zionist”.
Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: Follow @SunSimonKent or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org