Jeremy Corbyn defends visit to ‘radical’ group Jewdas amid fresh anti-Semitism row

The Labour leader has been criticised after it emerged he joined a gathering of a group called “Jewdas” in his north London constituency, in order to celebrate the Jewish feast of Seder during Passover.

Mr Corbyn was accused of “deliberately provoking the Jewish community” with his visit, which attracted a backlash from Jewish leaders, anti-Semitism campaigners and Labour MPs.

Jewdas have claimed continuing concerns of anti-Semitism within Labour – as highlighted by mainstream Jewish organisations – are “a malicious ploy” to topple Mr Corbyn.

They have also criticised a “narrow Conservative clique” at the head of the Jewish community’s major bodies.

:: Labour’s anti-Semitism row: Who are all the different groups?

Speaking on a campaign visit to Swindon on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn insisted he had “learnt a lot” from the Jewdas gathering.

He told reporters: “It wasn’t a meeting last night, it was a Seder event, which is a celebration of Passover, which I celebrate with young Jewish people from my own community and my own constituency.

“It was very interesting talking to a lot of young people about their experiences in modern Britain and I learnt a lot. Isn’t that a good thing?”

Mr Corbyn described anti-Semitism as a “vile and evil thing” that “has got to be eradicated wherever it arises”.

He added: “If it arises in my party then we have a process for dealing with it.

“We examine each case and, if someone has committed any anti-Semitic act, then they are suspended and ultimately could be expelled as a result of it.

“We are very clear about that and very clear in the whole of our society we cannot accept anti-Semitism in any form or indeed any other form of racism in our society.

“Communities working together achieve things together, communities divided don’t.”

The latest row comes as the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) wait to arrange a meeting with Mr Corbyn.

The Labour leader offered urgent talks with the two groups after they arranged last week’s protest outside Parliament against his handling of anti-Semitism cases.

Jewdas are critics of the two groups and recently accused them of “playing a dangerous game with people’s lives”.

Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies, demanded answers from Mr Corbyn over his decision to attend the Seder event.

He told Sky News: “I just heard him [Mr Corbyn] describe anti-Semitism as vile and evil.

“So why did he go to a group that is itself the source of virulent anti-Semitism and has dismissed the current news about anti-Semitism on the left of the Labour Party as a right-wing smear?

“It doesn’t make sense to me. Either Jeremy Corbyn was deliberately provoking the Jewish community or he was guilty of a catastrophic error of judgment. I don’t know which of those is true.

“But, he went to a group whose stated output and views are completely hostile to the mainstream Jewish community in our country.”

Mr Arkush also claimed Jewdas are “not all Jewish” and branded the group “lifelong campaigners against the Jewish community to whom they show the upmost disregard and contempt”.

He added: “He [Mr Corbyn] went to their event and we want to know why.”

However, Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle newspaper who has been described as a “non-Jew” by Jewdas, told Mr Arkush his comments were “awful”.

He posted on Twitter: “I’ve no time for Jewdas and their disgraceful accusations that Labour anti-Semitism is all a smear.

“But to call them anti-Semites is just appalling.”

Property developer Sir David Garrard, who donated close to £2m to Labour leading up to the 2015 General Election, was revealed at the weekend to have left the party.

He told Sky News: “I take the strongest exception to Jeremy Corbyn’s philosophy, his conduct as leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition and, from what I have witnessed, both his direct and indirect anti-Semitic behaviour.

“Yes, he may well have met Jewdas last night. But in my view, Jewdas does not represent the Jewish community in the country.

“They are a fringe group, motivated by their hatred of the State of Israel.”

In an insouciant statement on Facebook, Jewdas highlighted their previous efforts in combating anti-Semitism, including their distribution of advice on how to criticise Israel without being anti-Semitic.

They said: “We are not happy with the Jewish Establishment, but we remain deeply involved in many synagogues and communal organisations (although this is mostly for the free food).

“We are unhappy with the pervasive anti-Semitism that still remains on the Left but continue to remain very much involved because we are committed to a better world and a better Left, and believe that the only way to tackle anti-Semitism is to keep fighting for our rights in the diaspora.”

Amid the row, Labour’s new general secretary Jennie Formby emailed party members to say she will use this week to “ensure the full implementation” of the recommendations of Shami Chakrabarti’s 2016 report into anti-Semitism within Labour.

Ms Formby, an ally of Mr Corbyn, also vowed to introduce “new procedures to deal with complaints and disciplinary cases”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *