Jewish community organisations are to meet newly elected Labour MP for Peterborough, Lisa Forbes, who has apologised for alleged online anti-Semitism.
Ms Forbes contacted the Board of Deputies to request the meeting.
The Peterborough MP was heavily criticised in Jewish quarters before her triumph over a past Facebook post which she “liked” stating Theresa May has a “Zionist slave masters agenda”.
Ms Forbes had also signed a letter opposing the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, stating critics of Israel should be able to “speak freely” about its “system of apartheid and ongoing ethnic cleansing” just as Jewish members speak freely about the Holocaust.
The soon-to-be elected MP duly apologised for causing hurt to the Jewish community. And she has now taken further steps by requesting a meeting with Jewish leaders.
“I know that you are hurting and that you have had to endure the most appalling abuse and treatment as the scourge of anti-Semitism has risen across the UK and across Europe in recent years,” she acknowledged to the BoD. “And I understand that you will be furious and exhausted with people who make statements that further this abuse, or seek to normalise anti-Semitism.”
Ms Forbes wants to learn first hand about Jewish issues facing the community to deepen her awareness and to “act as an ally”.
“I would like to meet to apologise, in person, for engaging in these thoroughly unacceptable posts,” she explained. “I am aware that the kind of content I mistakenly engaged with online was deeply offensive and contained anti-Semitic language and tropes which harm the Jewish community.”
Ms Forbes added, “I know it is not good enough to simply say I am anti-racist, I know I need to demonstrate to you that I will take action to gain your trust.”
The Peterborough MP confirmed she would also attend relevant training to better understand the nature, extent and impact of anti-Semitism on the Jewish community.
Gillian Merron, BoD, accepted the request on behalf of Simon Johnson, Jewish Leadership Council, Dr Dave Rich, Community Security Trust and Danny Stone, Antisemitism Policy Trust for the private meeting.
“We will set out why the messages that you approved promote Jew-hatred and contain anti-Semitic conspiracy theories,” she noted to Ms Forbes. “We will also explain about anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, IHRA and the nature of modern anti-Semitism and set out the threat that the CST has to deal with on a regular basis.”
The media furore over Forbes saw Independent MP Ian Austin defend Dame Margaret Hodge after Lloyd Russell-Moyle questioned her motive for criticising the by-election winner over alleged anti-Semitism.
Former Labour MP Austin, who represents Dudley North, described Russell-Moyle’s comments as a “complete disgrace”, adding, “The Labour Party either did not check or did not care what (Forbes) said and it shows once again how racism against Jewish people has become normal under Jeremy Corbyn.”
“Hodge is out of touch (with) modern Britain,” Russell-Moyle noted on Twitter, adding, “(Dame Margaret) attacks newly elected colleagues for no reason (even after heartfelt apologies). Anti-Semitism is problem in (Labour), I’ve had vile anti-Semites rightly kicked out locally. But to call someone an anti-Semite on base of concern with IHRA or liking a photos/video with text and abuse them in public, after they say they sorry and want to learn, is wrong.”
Dame Margaret voiced her disdain to Corbyn over Forbes’ selection and failure to stamp down
“institutional anti-Semitism” in the party at a PLP meeting last week.
At the meeting, Stoke MP Ruth Smeeth accused Corbyn of allowing “institutional anti-Jewish racism” on his watch.
“Jeremy, what are you doing?” she noted.
Dame Margaret fought back on social media against Russell-Moyle.
“I have loudly & repeatedly called out Labour anti-Semitism because we have a serious problem &
leadership has failed to act,’ she noted.
Dame Margaret went on to call for Russell-Moyle to meet and talk through the issues.
Meantime, former Middle East minister Peter Hain together with Daniel Levy, adviser to Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin, have warned the Labour leader that ongoing anti-Semitism issues have hit the Israeli-Palestinian debate.
The duo have produced a detailed statement as a starting point for debate by the PLP.
“Denying the painful Jewish history that led to Israel’s establishment, or the attachment most Jews feel to the largest Jewish community in the world, Israel, does not advance the legitimate struggle of the Palestinians to achieve their full rights and freedoms in the face of Israel’s occupation and discriminatory policies,” they noted. “Labour must and can lead two struggles simultaneously, against anti-Semitism and for Middle East peace and justice.
Hain and Levy added, “Labour’s debilitating anti-Semitism crisis has so far focused upon process, are those charged with anti-Semitic behaviour being properly disciplined by the Party’s leadership or not?
But a procedural solution cannot resolve what is primarily a political problem. Unless the political roots of the problem, which have become a crisis, are honestly confronted, the Party will neither be able to regain nor will it be deserving of the broad support necessary to win general elections.
“Somehow the Party has managed both to alienate the vast majority of Jewish members and the
Jewish community while doing nothing to advance the debate on Israel/Palestine, let alone justice for Palestinians.
“Classic left-wing anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic tropes of global conspiratorial capitalist cabals and class enemies has further poisoned the debate. A new way is needed to both respect the Jewish community including the wellbeing of the world’s largest Jewish community (Israel), while at the same time supporting critical debate about both the abhorrent treatment of Palestinians by successive Israeli governments and future possible solutions for Israel/Palestine.
“We must eradicate the curse of anti-Semitism paralysing the Labour Party whilst allowing space for genuine argument about all legitimate options for the future of Israelis and Palestinians.”
By Natalie Ash