Pressure grows on Jeremy Corbyn as dossier of anti-Semitism in Labour Party is revealed
Pressure grows on Jeremy Corbyn as dossier of anti-Semitism in Labour Party is revealed
Andrew Gilligan, london editor Patrick Sawer, senior reporter Tim Ross, senior political correspondent Robert Mendick, chief reporter
1 MAY 2016 • 8:39AM
Jeremy Corbyn has come under renewed pressure as new details emerged about Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism in its ranks.
A dossier compiled by The Telegraph includes a series of disturbing examples of anti-Semitic attitudes among party activists and leading members.
It follows the suspension from the party last week of Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, and of Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, for making anti-Semitic comments.
Labour has announced an independent inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism within the party.
But Mr Livingstone, who was suspended after saying that Hitler supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”, on Saturday refused to withdraw his statements and claimed the Israeli Prime Minister agreed with him.
Our dossier reveals that:
A London Labour council leader shared a Facebook post comparing the “terrorist state of Israel” to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil). He apologised and deleted it on Saturday;
Mr Corbyn questioned why an anti-Semitic mural in east London should be taken down;
The Labour leader also attended events run by self-confessed Holocaust denier Paul Eisen long after his views had become clear, and
A Labour council candidate used the derogatory term “Zios” to refer to Jews.
Muhammed Butt, leader of Brent Council and “equalities lead” on the body representing 32 London boroughs, shared a post calling Israel a terrorist state and compared it to Isil, on April 16. It showed a Palestinian girl in a skirmish with an Israeli soldier.
The author of the post, Zain Khan, wrote: “Why doesn’t this video start an outrage within Western media? You show videos of the Isis hitting women for leaving home (which is also disgusting) but you don’t condemn the terrorist state of Israel… Israel is a terrorist state like Isis.”
Mr Butt, who has recently been photographed campaigning in the London mayoral election with Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, said he had removed the post, adding: “I apologise for sharing this. I do not agree with these views.
“As leader of Brent Council I have championed diversity, tolerance and respect for all faith communities, and will continue to do so.”
In a particularly disturbing reflection of attitudes on the Labour left, Mr Corbyn is accused of having given his support to a controversial mural in Tower Hamlets of stereotypical Jewish figures counting money at a Monopoly-style board resting on the backs of the poor.
The controversial mural in Tower Hamlets CREDIT:
It was criticised as anti-Semitic even by the east London borough’s then mayor Luftur Rahman, who has himself been linked to extremists.
The mural was painted on a property near Brick Lane by graffiti artist Kalen Ockerman, known as Mear One, in 2012 and depicted six hook-nosed bankers counting money on a board resting on the backs of four crouching, naked or semi-naked brown-skinned figures.
Following complaints, Mr Rahman ordered the artwork to be removed, saying: “Whether intentional or otherwise, the images of the bankers perpetuate anti-Semitic propaganda about conspiratorial Jewish domination of financial and political institutions.”
But Mr Corbyn questioned its removal. When Mear One wrote on his Facebook page that the mural was to be taken down, a reply from Mr Corbyn’s account read: “Why? You are in good company. Rockefeller [American businessman] destroyed [radical artist] Diego Rivera’s mural [in his New York building, the Rockefeller Center] because it includes a picture of Lenin.”
“Had [Paul Eisen] been a Holocaust denier, or stated he was, I’d have had absolutely nothing to do with him”
Evidence has also emerged to undermine Mr Corbyn’s denials that he associated with a man who was a known denier of the Holocaust.
It was reported last year he had links early this century with a group named Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), run in the UK by Paul Eisen, who openly describes himself as a “Holocaust denier”.
Mr Corbyn admitted at the time attending “two or three” DYR events, but said: “Fifteen years ago, he [Eisen] was certainly not a Holocaust denier. Had he been a Holocaust denier, or stated he was, I’d have had absolutely nothing to do with him … At that time I had no evidence whatsoever that Paul Eisen was a Holocaust denier.”
However, Mr Corbyn attended a DYR event organised by Mr Eisen in St John’s Wood, London, on April 9 2013, by which time Mr Eisen had been an open Holocaust denier for at least eight years: in January 2008, he published an essay in which he stated that Holocaust “revisionists” are “amongst the bravest people on the planet”.
Mr Corbyn has previously called for a boycott of shops selling produce from Israeli settlements, telling a Justice for Palestine meeting in August 2014: “We should say to those supermarkets that stock goods that are produced from the settlements, ‘Sorry, you stock those goods, we ain’t shopping with you anymore.’”
In another example of the seemingly anti-Semitic attitude of some Labour activists, a candidate who stood in last year’s local elections, used the term ‘Zios’, an insult sometimes taken to refer to all Jews.
Ian Lowery tweeted “Zios claim they’re giving back the Occupied Territories but keeping New York”, where there is a large Jewish population.
“Jeremy Corbyn has legitimised and unleashed a strain of anti-Semitism that has been lurking in the shadows of the Left for quite some time”
Sir Eric Pickles
He then said in response to the Naz Shah scandal: “Zios’ behaviour is akin to beating a child and demanding that it doesn’t cry.”
Mr Lowery, a veteran Palestinian rights activist, has been a Labour candidate at least four times, most recently last year, at elections for Watford and Central Bedfordshire councils.
It can be also revealed that only four days before Ms Shah was suspended from the Labour Party after sharing a Facebook post backing the “relocation” of Israel to the US, she was the guest of honour at a fundraising dinner organised by Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend), an extremist group.
Sufyan Ismail, its chief executive, has repeatedly boasted at its events of how the group has “battered” the “Israeli lobby”.
Azad Ali, Mend’s head of engagement, is an extremist who has supported attacks on British troops.
One of the group’s other regular speakers at its events is Abu Eesa Niamatullah, who says that the “children of Israel” have “no humanity, no morality, no ethics”. He makes clear that the term refers to all Jews, not just modern-day Israelis,
Mark Drakeford, a Labour health minister in the Welsh government, spoke alongside Mr Niamatullah at a Mend event in Cardiff on November 22 last year.
At least five other Labour politicians have recently spoken, or are due to speak, at meetings organised by Mend, including Paddy Tipping, the police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Nottinghamshire; Clive Grunshaw, the Lancashire PCC, and Kate Hollern MP, a shadow defence minister.
While there is no suggestion that these Labour candidates and MPs are themselves anti-Semitic, their appearing on such platforms does call into question their judgment.
“There is a streak running through the Labour Party … where anti-Semitism of the most aggressive form has become normalised”
After being told of The Telegraph dossier Sir Eric Pickles, the government’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, said: “Jeremy Corbyn has legitimised and unleashed a strain of anti-Semitism that has been lurking in the shadows of the Left for quite some time.
“It is wrapped up in the hard Left’s hatred of the West and, for many, the Middle East’s only true democracy, Israel. Jeremy himself has spent years sharing platforms with objectionable Islamist extremists.”
Sir Eric called for Mr Butt to resign, saying: “For a person who is head of a council and meant to be leading London Councils’ equalities unit to share these views is just unacceptable.”
In a separate development, the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is calling on the Labour Party to investigate Gerald Kaufman MP, who is Jewish, for what it said were anti-Semitic remarks he made last year about the Conservative Party being influenced by “Jewish money”.
The turmoil within Labour over anti-Semitism comes on the eve of local council elections around the country, which are being seen as a crucial test of Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
The key battle is in London, where Mr Khan has been accused of having shared platforms with Islamist extremists, while his Conservative mayoral rival Zac Goldsmith has faced accusations of racism and Islamophobia.
Mr Goldsmith on Saturday said that an “aggressive” form of anti-Semitism has become “normalised” in parts of the Labour Party and that the problem was not restricted to Mr Livingstone.
“This is a Labour Party problem. There is a streak running through the Labour Party – I don’t think the Labour Party denies this – where anti-Semitism of the most aggressive form has become normalised,” he said. Mr Goldsmith claimed Mr Khan had been politically close to Mr Livingstone in the past.
Mr Khan has conceded that the row could hinder his chances of becoming London mayor.
“I accept that the comments that Ken Livingstone has made makes it more difficult for Londoners of Jewish faith to feel that the Labour party is a place for them,” he told the Observer.
In the meantime Mr Livingstone has again defended his remarks, saying they were a “statement of fact”.
Speaking on his LBC radio show he was asked 20 times to say he was sorry for mentioning Hitler and refused each time.
Instead, he blamed “embittered Blairite MPs” for stirring up the row in order to undermine Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
He said: “It’s caused offence because people have distorted it and said this is anti-Semitic to have said it. They’ve lied in doing that”.
Mr Livingstone went on cite Benjamin Netanyahu in his support, pointing out that the Israeli Prime Minister had recently said that Hitler did not want to exterminate the Jews but only to expel them.
Ken Livingstone stands by his Hitler commentsPlay! 00:59
A number of Labour donors have also expressed their concern over the extent of anti-Semitism in the party.
Tycoon John Mills, who has contributed to Mr Khan’s campaign, said: “Something has to be done to sort it out. You can have views about Israel without stepping over a line into anti-Semitism, but it is getting the line drawn that is so important.”
The Israeli ambassador to Britain is also reported to have added his voice to the criticism of anti-Semitic attitudes among some left-wingers.
Mark Regev told the Sunday Times that “part of the left is in-denial”.
He added: “They say ‘anti-semitism, that’s the right, that’s the fascists’. That’s a cop-out.”
Unions last night appeared to turn on Mr Corbyn and his leadership of the party.
A senior source at Unison, one of Labour Party’s biggest donors, said last night: “Anything that detracts from Labour being an effective party of opposition is not a good thing.
“Every time Ken Livingstone opens his mouth there is an issue. Lots of people are not big fans of Livingstone. This is a terrible distraction. Labour isn’t going to get into power if it’s running around in circles.”
In an interview in The Guardian, Mr Corbyn hinted that if a leadership challenge was mounted against him he might not stand.
There are rumours that John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, is preparing to take over from Mr Corbyn.
Senior Labour sources believe Mr McDonnell’s hardline stance against anti-Semitism last week added to pressure on Mr Corbyn.
In comments likely to fuel the row, Mr McDonnell said on Saturday: “I wish Ken Livingstone would have apologised today for the offence he’s caused.”
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said the Labour leader had not given his support to the Tower Hamlets mural, but had simply enquired why it was being removed and expressed concern about the destruction of art.
“He was not aware at the time of the reasons for its removal or what the image was,” said the spokesman.
Labour added that Mr Corbyn had attended the Deir Yassin Remembered memorial event in April 2013 to honour the memory of locals massacred at the village of Deir Yassin in 1948, an event which played a central role in the Palestinian tragedy.
The spokesman said: “Once he became aware that Paul Eisen was a Holocaust denier, Jeremy Corbyn ended any contact with him and has not attended any DYR events since.
“Jeremy Corbyn regards Holocaust denial as vile and wrong, and supported the expulsion of a Holocaust denier from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as a PSC patron in 2012.”
The aide added: “Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong campaigner against racism, including anti-Semitism. He is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism and has taken rapid action against members who have made anti-Semitic comments.
“Every one of the small number of reported cases, a significant proportion of which date from before his leadership, has led to suspension of membership within 48 hours.”
A spokesman on Saturday also said Mr Corbyn “supports a boycott of produce from Israeli-occupied territories”.