Jeremy Corbyn has sought to address the concerns of Britain’s Jewish community by insisting that he will root out anti-Semites from Labour.
The Labour leader acknowledged mistakes in the way the party had handled complaints and drawn up a code of conduct that failed to fully reproduce an internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism and its examples.
But he insisted that it was his priority to drive anti-Semitism out of the party for good and rebuild trust between Labour and Jewish voters.
At the end of a bruising week which has seen complaints about his behaviour and a request for the human rights watchdog to investigate the Labour Party, Mr Corbyn said: “No one can, or should, try to dismiss or belittle the concerns expressed by so many Jewish people and organisations about what has been happening in the party I am proud to lead.”
After three leading Jewish newspapers jointly published a scathing leader column about Mr Corbyn’s party, the Labour leader rejected their “overheated rhetoric”.
But he acknowledged there was a “real problem that Labour is working to overcome” and stressed that if he became prime minister he would “take whatever measures necessary” to guarantee the security of the Jewish community.
Mr Corbyn acknowledged Labour had been “too slow in processing disciplinary cases of anti-Semitic abuse” but insisted that was changing.
Writing in the Guardian, he said: “Labour staff have seen examples of Holocaust denial, crude stereotypes of Jewish bankers, conspiracy theories blaming 9/11 on Israel, and even one individual who appeared to believe that Hitler had been misunderstood.”
“People holding those views have no place in the Labour Party.”
While the number of cases was “few”, Mr Corbyn said “one is too many” and stressed that it was not done in his name.
“Our party must never be a home for such people, and never will be. People who dish out anti-Semitic poison need to understand: You do not do it in my name.
“You are not my supporters and have no place in our movement.”
The latest flare-up in the long-running difficulties over anti-Semitism was sparked by the party’s new code of conduct.
Mr Corbyn defended the code, although he accepted that the Jewish community should have been consulted at an earlier stage.
In the document, Labour failed to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and all its examples.
Mr Corbyn said: “We embraced the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition in 2016.
“Many Jewish organisations and others believe the Labour Party should also reproduce in our code all 11 examples appended to it.
“Our code is a good faith attempt to contextualise those examples and make them legally watertight for use as part of our disciplinary procedures, as well as to draw on additional instances of anti-Semitism.”
Seven were incorporated entirely along with “the essence” of the other four, he said.
“But I acknowledge that most of the Jewish community, including many Labour supporters, take a different view.
“The community should have been consulted more extensively at an earlier stage – which is why our executive decided last month to reopen the development of the code in consultation with Jewish community organisations and others to address their concerns.”
The differences were “very small” and amount to “half of one example out of 11” in relation to Israel.
Mr Corbyn said: “It is unfortunately the case that this particular example, dealing with Israel and racism, has sometimes been used by those wanting to restrict criticism of Israel that is not anti-Semitic.”
The Labour leader, a long-standing supporter of the rights of Palestinians, said: “Hostility to the Israeli state or its policies can be expressed in racist terms and that needs to be called out.
“But there are also many non- or anti-Zionist Jews who should not be branded as anti-Semites simply because they are not part of the Zionist tradition.”
Mr Corbyn’s article failed to win over his critics at the Campaign Against Antisemtism.
The group’s chairman Gideon Falter said: “There is no acknowledgement of his own role in this crisis. There is no apology for his anti-Semitic activity in the past, but he has hypocritically condemned as anti-Semitic behaviour that he himself has been guilty of.
“He has again preached to Jews that he is right to have rewritten the international definition of anti-Semitism.
“By his action over the years as well as by failing even now to take on board the full concerns of the Jewish community, we remain convinced that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite and under his leadership the once anti-racist Labour Party has become institutionally anti-Semitic and an existential threat to British Jewry.”
The Jewish Labour Movement also rejected Mr Corbyn’s article.
A spokesman said: “Today, other than another article bemoaning a situation of the party’s own making, nothing has changed.
“There is no trust left. We find ourselves asking once again for action, not words.”
Photo: John Linton/PA Wire