London (AFP) – Jewish groups said on Tuesday a meeting with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over his handling of an ongoing anti-Semitism row within his party “was a disappointing missed opportunity”.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) issued the rebuke after two hours of talks with Corbyn, who has been dogged for weeks by allegations that Labour has a growing anti-Semitism problem under his leadership.
“We welcomed Mr Corbyn’s personal involvement in the discussion and his new comments recognising and apologising for anti-Semitism in the Labour Party but he failed to agree to any of the concrete actions we asked for,” the two groups said in a joint statement.
They had written to the Labour leader last month setting out six areas of “concrete action” to help address what they see as hostility to Jews within the party and indifference to the issue from its leadership.
The organisations also held a demonstration outside parliament last month attended by various lawmakers, including prominent Labour MPs.
Corbyn said he was “absolutely committed” to rooting out anti-Semitism in the party and had instructed new general secretary Jennie Formby to overhaul its disciplinary procedures to ensure complaints were dealt with “swiftly and fairly”.
“We will lay out the further steps we are taking in the coming weeks,” he added, pledging to “continue to engage and work with Jewish community organisations”.
“Our party will not fail our Jewish brothers and sisters.”
But the Jewish groups said they were not satisfied with what they had heard from Corbyn.
“We are disappointed that Mr Corbyn’s proposals fell short of the minimum level of action which our letter suggested,” their statement added.
It said he did not agree to proposals for a “fixed timetable” to deal with allegations of anti-Semitism in the party and to expedite long-standing cases — including that of former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who was previously suspended from Labour over anti-Semitism accusations.
The JLC and Board of Deputies added the Labour leader had also not agreed to adopt the full international Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism and to allow transparent oversight of the party’s disciplinary process.
“Words in letters and newspaper articles will never be enough,” the groups said, adding “it is action by which the Jewish community will judge him and the Labour Party”.
They said trust could not be rebuilt with Corbyn “unless he and the party turn their many strong words against anti-Semitism into equally strong actions”.