Jeremy Corbyn told Labour members in his 75-minute keynote Party Conference speech they are the “government in waiting” but he crucially failed to note an anti-Semitism row that has raged throughout proceedings in Brighton.
The Labour leader stated that his party stands “on the threshold of power” but also referred to the “oppression” of Palestine.
“Let’s give real support to end the oppression of the Palestinian people, the 50-year occupation and illegal settlement expansion and move to a genuine two-state solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict,” he noted.
A Conservative spokesman said the omission of anti-Semitic concerns illustrated how split Labour is on the issue.
Board of Deputies Chief Executive Gillian Merron lambasted Mr Corbyn’s speech.
“After disgraceful anti-Jewish incidents at the conference, and the opportunity provided by Labour’s adoption of more specific rules on anti-Semitism, Jeremy Corbyn’s speech was a missed opportunity to address specifically the issue of anti-Semitism,” she said.
“It was also troubling that Jeremy Corbyn made reference to what he called the ‘oppression of the Palestinian people’ without mentioning terrorist attacks, like the cold blooded murder of three Israelis earlier this week.”
The anti-Semitic row at the conference began after a fringe meeting on Monday night when a speaker who contrasted Israeli supporters to Nazis, drew loud applause.
An activist suggested Labour should be able to debate whether the Holocaust happened.
There was also a call for the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and Labour Friends of Israel to be “kicked out” of the party.
Mr Corbyn denied that Labour was “the nasty party” during media interviews.
Twenty-four hours later there was guarded optimism from the Board of Deputies, who welcomed a ruling of taking a stronger stance on anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice.
But it had followed a heated debate on Tuesday, and the Board noted it would “closely monitor” whether the vote brought concrete action in practice.
Delegates had voted unanimously for a stronger line.
The JLM, backed by Mr Corbyn and Labour’s national executive committee, had proposed the motion.
JLM tweeted that over 90 percent of delegates had backed the proposal.
“This is a decisive political victory,” the group noted. “Thanks to those across the Labour movement who supported us – from leadership to grassroots.”
Labour members faced expulsion and other sanctions if guilty of Jewish-hate comments.
The Board leader noted, “We are pleased to hear that Labour National Executive Committee’s proposed rule change, modelled on what was proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement, has been adopted by conference delegates.
“This is particularly important after the ugly scenes we have witnessed during this conference and shows the need for resolute and robust action. However, in order to judge the success or otherwise of the new rules, we will be watching for the results.
“Will those who have maliciously questioned the historical record of the Holocaust, those who have engaged in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories or called for Jews to be purged from Labour still be welcome in Labour, or will they be thrown out as they so obviously should be?”
Crediting the Jewish Labour Movement for its “hard and patient work”, she added, “The fight for anti-racism and justice in Labour is not over, but today is a step in the right direction.”
During the debate, delegates had rowed over anti-Semitism, Israel and Jewish advocates for the rule change.
A number of activists condemned the national executive committee for working with the JLM to bring about change. And there were cheers when pro-Palestinian campaigners vowed they would still speak out against Israel.
Whilst some Jewish delegates voiced concerns over their safety, JLM stood firm.
Mike Katz, vice-chair, told Labour delegates not to use anti-Semitic stereotypes when criticising Israel. He also noted that members should be “kicked out” if they engaged in anti-Semitism, bigotry, racism or any other form of hate.
The fiery atmosphere at the debate resulted in National Union of Students vice-chair, Izzy Lenga, tweeting she had felt more unsafe, uncomfortable and upset on the conference floor that at the NUS.
Brighton and Hove City Council leader Councillor Warren Morgan, made clear his feelings to Labour Party General Secretary, stating the viability of future party conferences would now be under consideration in the south coast city.
“Anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in our city,” he noted in writing.
“As a city we very much appreciate the business that Conference brings to our hotels, restaurants and shops. I am however very concerned at the anti-Semitism being aired publicly in fringe meetings and on the floor of Conference.
“We have a significant Jewish community in Brighton and Hove, and I met with them only last week to discuss the anti-Semitism that already exists on our streets, causing them unnecessary fear and alarm.
“We have the prominent activist and suspended Labour Party member Tony Greenstein here, who indeed was present at the fringe meeting where it was suggested that Holocaust denial should be allowed. His expulsion, in my view, is long overdue.”
Councillor Morgan added, “As Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, I will undoubtedly face questions as to why we allow any event where anti-Semitic views are freely expressed to happen in the city, particularly on council premises.
“As a Labour Party member I expect the enquiry announced today to take firm action; as Leader I will need reassurances that there will be no repeat of the behaviour and actions we have seen this week before any further bookings from the Party are taken.
“I must apply the same standards to Labour that I would apply to any other Party Conference or political event; whilst none of us can control what is said at meetings which we don’t run, I have to make the strongest possible representation on behalf of the residents of the city who are Jewish.
“We are a City of Sanctuary and I have to speak up against any form of racism as and when it is given a platform in the city.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission called for a “zero-tolerance” on anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism is racism and the Labour Party needs to do more to establish that it is not a racist party,” commented Rebecca Hilsenrath, EHRC chief executive.
“A zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism should mean just that.
“When senior party figures are saying there is a problem then the leadership should take swift action. It is not acceptable to simply say they oppose these views.
“These comments by party members show that more needs to be done to root out anti-Semitic views that clearly exist in the party.
“Any suggestion of kicking people out of any political party on the grounds of race or religion should be condemned.”
Leading into the conference there were signs of progress on the anti-Semitic theme within Labour. A spokesman for Mr Corbyn stated the party leader was “delighted” with the plan to tackle discrimination.
The JLM noted on its website Mr Corbyn backed a tough line on anti-Semitism.
“We are heartened that the NEC has adopted our rule change proposals,” stated Jeremy Newmark, National Chair of the JLM.
“This is another step forward, however our campaign will not end until these proposals are adopted in full by Conference itself – this is not a given and will require the firm support of the Leadership.
“These constitutional amendments, if passed, will simply bring the Labour’s rules to the place that should have been expected from a political party rooted in values of equality and anti-racism.”
He continued, “The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. That means that if passed at Conference the new rules will need to be firmly implemented to create a zero-tolerance environment for anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination. The Party will then need to take steps to rebuild trust.”
Times move quickly in politics and this is one story that is set to continue.