New Anti-Semitism Scandal Prompts U.K. Labour to Tighten Rules

  • Len McCluskey says people are trying to undermine Corbyn
  • Some delegates urged expulsion of Jewish Labour Movement

Jeremy Corbyn on the final day of the Labour Party conference on Sept. 26.

Photographer: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Britain’s Labour opposition voted to tighten rules governing anti-Semitic behavior, even as a key ally of leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party doesn’t have a problem.

Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite union that helps fund Labour, said party members who had complained about hostility toward Jews are seeking to undermine Corbyn’s leadership.

Len McCluskey in Brighton.

Photographer: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

“I believe it was mood music that was created by people who were trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn,” he told the BBC on Tuesday, adding that in his 47 years as a member of the party he had never heard any anti-Semitic language.

The specter of anti-Semitism has haunted Labour. Last year one of Corbyn’s closest allies, former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, described Adolf Hitler as a supporter of Zionism in a series of broadcast interviews. While Livingstone was later suspended, many felt Corbyn had to do more go to put the issue to rest.

An internal review last year found anti-Semitism wasn’t endemic to the party. Shortly afterward Corbyn appointed Shami Chakrabarti, who conducted the investigation, to become a lawmaker in the House of Lords and a member of his team of ministers in waiting.

The issue flared up again at the annual conference this week in the seaside town of Brighton. Delegates at a fringe event demanded the expulsion of the Jewish Labour Movement for supporting the state of Israel, with one comparing “Zionists” to the Nazis, saying it is part of free speech to be able to ask the question: “Holocaust: yes or no?”

On Tuesday, Labour members voted to back a tightening of the party’s rules against "racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or otherwise racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions, sexual harassment, bullying or any form of intimidation towards another person.”

During the debate lawmaker Alf Dubs, who escaped the Nazis from Prague aged six on the eve of World War II in 1939, said Corbyn’s initial slowness to act against anti-Semitism had allowed it to "fester.” The last census of 2011 found 263,346 Jews in Britain.

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