The line in Jeremy Corbyn’s letter to Jewish leaders that some of his supporters ignore

The Labour leader meets the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council to discuss cracking down on anti-Semitism.

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It was almost exactly a month ago when two UK Jewish community groups condemned Jeremy Corbyn’s attitude to anti-Semitism in an extraordinary open letter to the Labour party.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council accused the Labour leader of “again and again” siding “with anti-Semites rather than Jews” – calling him “the figurehead for an anti-Semitic political culture, based on obsessive hatred of Israel, conspiracy theories and fake news”.

After three days of grappling with this intervention, which came after a 2012 Facebook comment by Corbyn apparently defending an anti-Semitic mural resurfaced, Corbyn sent an apology to the Jewish leaders.

A protest outside Parliament against anti-Semitism in the Labour party followed, as did a general debate in the House of Commons; and Corbyn is today meeting the two groups after his initial request for a meeting was rejected (they first wanted him to agree to discuss their plan of action).

The demands they wish to discuss with Corbyn include him taking “personal responsibility” for Labour’s work tackling anti-Semitism, with a “fixed timescale” for resolving cases, an independent body to oversee this process in the party, and a commitment to publicly back MPs who attended the rally last month.

The latter comes after some left-wing activists called for Labour MPs who protested against anti-Semitism in the party to be deselected. This stems from a strand of thinking by some activists and supporters that the anti-Semitism accusations are a “smear” designed by Corbyn’s opponents to undermine his leadership.

I met some at the counter-protest outside Parliament who felt this way. It surprised me, because in the letter Corbyn sent to the Jewish groups, he admitted that instances of anti-Semitism had been increasing under his watch – and that his response had been inadequate.

Sent ahead of the protest, in the afternoon of Monday 26 March, the letter noted: “I acknowledge that anti-Semitic attitudes have surfaced more often in our ranks in recent years, and that the Party has been too slow in processing some of the cases that have emerged.”

Two problems he’ll have to prove he’ll tackle in his meeting today – but also two admissions some of his outriders refuse to accept, which may present an even tougher challenge.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

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