“Enough is Enough” has been the outcry as British Jewry ramps up pressure on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to take action against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
Over 1,500 people demonstrated outside Westminster at a fervent rally condemning Corbyn’s failure to fight anti-Semitism on Monday.
Labour MPs joined members of the Jewish community just 24 hours after the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council called for action.
Board chief Jonathan Arkush, JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein together with Labour MPs Wes Streeting, Luciana Berger and John Mann addressed a fervent crowd.
Politicians across the divide showed solidarity including Secretary of State for Communities Sajid Javid, Chuka Umanna and Stephen Kinnock.
Mr Arkush outlined Corbyn’s failings in taking action over various issues involving London mayor Ken Livingstone, Chris Williamson MP and other Labour members.
He also noted such an unprecedented event to demonstrate anger towards a political party would not happen again.
Mr Goldstein called for “action rather than words”, Ms Berger said anti-Semitism was “commonplace, conspicuous and corrosive” while Mr Streeting noted it was time to drain the “cesspit” of anti-Semitism.
Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair told BBC’s Newsnight on Monday evening that whilst he did not believe Corbyn was anti-Semitic people around the Labour leader did not understand the seriousness of the problem.
“I would urge the Labour leadership to collectively recognise this is a real problem,” he said.
“He is going to have to show that he really understands the issue, that the people around him really understand it, and that he’s prepared to act on it.”
Former vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel, Louise Ellman, said Corbyn’s followers must not dismiss anti-Semitism as slurs against the Labour leader.
They could not turn a “blind eye” or fail to recognise anti-Semitism on the left or right she told Newsnight.
Labour Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey defended Corbyn’s stance on anti-Semitism stating the Party had a “zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism” on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme but accepted the Party must do more.
Describing the Jewish community losing faith with Labour’s approach to anti-Semitism as “devastating”, Ms Long-Bailey called for a “root-and-branch action” to tackle the issue.
She added that the Party would deliver a ‘political education programme’ to ensure everyone in the Labour Party is aware of all forms of anti-Semitism.
Prior to the meeting the Board and JLC heads delivered an open letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party chair John Cryer detailing loud and clear how Corbyn had repeatedly failed to address anti-Semitism.
Jewish leaders have cited concerns since Corbyn took the helm in 2015, and they offered examples of how he has failed to intervene in his own party and beyond.
The letter also noted that Corbyn is viewed as a “figurehead” for an anti-Semitic political culture; he has the power to demand it stops in his party and must refrain from “siding with anti-Semites rather than Jews.”
Responding to the letter Corbyn acknowledged anti-Semitsm had “surfaced” his party and would fight it.
Describing himself as a “militant opponent” of anti-Semitism he vowed to be an “ally” to British Jews.
Anti-Semitism has too often “been dismissed as simply a matter of a few bad apples,” hurting Jewish Labour members and the wider Jewish community in Britain, he noted.
Corbyn added: “I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused, and pledge to redouble my efforts to bring this anxiety to an end.”
The latest twist on the Labour leader came after an unacceptable response to an anti-Semitic mural in 2012 when he initially opposed its removal and appeared supportive to its artist, Mear One.
Though eventually supporting its removal, his slow stance was heavily criticised in Jewish quarters.
Corbyn has since apologised for questioning the mural’s removal.
After repeated calls for action from Corbyn, the Labour leader has now stated he urgently wants to meet Jewish leaders to hear their concerns.
The Labour leader has some distance to travel if he is to appease his detractors.
“Having been caught red-handed three times in the past two weeks, Jeremy Corbyn must take the public for fools if he thinks that he can now start talking about ‘stamping out’ antisemitism in the Labour Party and saying sorry,” said Gideon Falter, Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism.
“It is too late. He has squandered every opportunity to address this issue, including by commissioning a whitewash inquiry into antisemitism whose author he then made the only person he has ever elevated to the peerage.
“Mr Corbyn has spent his political life seeking out and actively defending vile anti-Semites as well as terrorists who seek the extermination of Jews worldwide.
“It is little wonder that contrary to his claims, we are not witnessing ‘pockets of antisemitism’ in the Labour Party, but instead a spreading racist rot is taking hold and it is coming from Mr Corbyn’s hard-left supporters.
“Mr Corbyn says that the solution is for him to pacify the Jewish community and that he will be meeting with us.
“The telephone has not rung and frankly nor do we want it to.
“Two years ago we proposed a transparent disciplinary process for Labour to implement.
“The adoption of that process is the only sign that we will accept that the Labour Party is serious about freeing itself from the grip of anti-Semites, and the first disciplinary case to be heard under that process should be the complaint we have made against Mr Corbyn himself.”
Mr Arkush noted Corbyn had made up some ground but is awating “actions and not words”.
“He (Corbyn) always declares himself to be an enemy of racism. The trouble is he still hasn’t confronted or taken effective action,” The Board’s chief said.
British Jewry’s action has received widespread support from many organisations including World Jewish Congress.
“We are appalled by the failure of Labour’s leadership to get a grip on the issue of anti-Semitism within the party,” said President Ronald S. Lauder.
“In a country where the Jewish community has long been so well integrated into public life, including Labour Party politics, it is deeply disconcerting to see examples of rabid anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism time and time again, with seemingly little consequence for the proponents.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with our British colleagues as they call for a zero-tolerance approach which is matched by actions and not just words.
“We simply ask Jeremy Corbyn to end his support of anti-Semites.”
The European Jewish Congress said the Labour leadership under Corbyn had at best a massive blind spot when it comes to anti-Semitism and at worst openly encourages hatred and double-standards against Jews.
“Enough apologies, enough insipid justifications, enough excuses,” a statement read.
“For too long ant-Semitism has been allowed to eat away at the values for which the Labour Party has historically stood for.”
EJC accused Corbyn of systematically failing to take a strong line on anti-Semitism, aligning himself with people and groups holding openly anti-Semitic views.
They added: “Anti-Semitism is not confined to the periphery of the party, but has poisoned its very core.
“The time has come for decisive action to root out this poison and, in doing so, send a powerful message that anti-Semitism has no place in our society and that the Labour party can still be a party of choice for Britain’s Jewish community.”
Time will tell if Labour Party promised will prevail.