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17 March 2016updated 27 Jul 2021 7:17am

“A party that attracts antisemites like flies to a cesspit”: the Jewish Chronicle condemns Labour

In a damning leader, the newspaper calls on Jeremy Corbyn to address the “cancer” of antisemitism in his party.

By Anoosh Chakelian

In its strongest condemnation of the new Labour leadership yet, the Jewish Chronicle newspaper has warned Jeremy Corbyn to stop the “cancer” of antisemitism setting in to his party.

The leader article, which is also the paper’s frontpage story, argues that Labour is becoming “a party that attracts antisemites like flies to a cesspit”.

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It describes antisemitism as “a cancer in their party and it is getting worse by the day”, and calls on Labour “not to lose the last residue of trust from our community, it must recognise and deal with that cancer”.

Although the piece states “Corbyn appears to be genuine in his rejection of antisemitism”, it expresses concern that antisemites are beginning to believe the party is their “natural home” under the new leadership.

It cites the cases of (since suspended) members Gerry Downing and Vicki Kirby, and the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC).

Downing, a revolutionary socialist with controversial views on 9/11, has been excluded from the party – following media scrutiny and criticism from David Cameron during PMQs. Among multiple incendiary statements, Downing had published an article on his website Socialist Fight entitled: “Why Marxists must address the Jewish question concretely today”.

Kirby, the vice-chair of Labour’s Woking branch, has been suspended for the second time following antisemitic comments on social media in which she reportedly suggested Adolf Hitler might be a “Zionist God” and that Jews had “big noses”. After an investigation into those comments in 2014, she was readmitted into the party. But Labour was compelled to suspend her again following her appointment as vice-chair – this time under pressure from Labour MPs at a PLP meeting earlier this week.

Both scandals follow events at the OULC, where allegations of antisemitic slurs and views voiced by members are being investigated.

While the Jewish Chronicle welcomes such action being taken, it argues that the party moved too slowly – and didn’t seem to see it as a priority:

“It is true that both Downing and Kirby have had their memberships suspended, and an inquiry set up to probe OULC. But when these were first identified, party officers appeared to have almost no interest — as if the very mention of antisemitism was worthy of little more than a yawn.

“It was only when the media tumult — and the uproar from some Labour MPs who have no wish to represent a party that tolerates Jew-haters — became too great to ignore that the party acted.”

The party won’t comment specifically on this piece, and is launching an investigation run by Labour peer and former Leader of the Lords, Jan Royall.

A spokesperson comments:

“The Labour Party takes all allegations of antisemitism, racism, bullying, intimidation and candidate misconduct very seriously.  Baroness Jan Royall is currently leading an investigation into the conduct of individual Young Labour Party members. Baroness Royall will consider all allegations and all relevant evidence.”

The focus of the investigation is on antisemitism allegations in the case of youth members, rather than problems with antisemitism in the party as whole. Something that may further concern the Jewish community, and others who see the leadership as slow on the uptake when it comes to condemning antisemitism.

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