Labour members supportive of Jeremy Corbyn have launched an open letter apologising to the Jewish community for the party’s handling of antisemitism.
The expression of solidarity follows the suspension of backbench MP Chris Williamson, who is now being investigated by Labour for a “pattern of behaviour” relating to comments made about antisemitism.
The letter, signed by almost 500 Labour members so far, reads: “We are Labour members who support Jeremy Corbyn in his leadership and the progressive, socialist programme and anti-racist principles of the Labour Party.
“We have seen antisemitism from Labour members and supporters, online or offline. We recognise that as a movement we have been too slow to acknowledge this problem, too tolerant of the existence of antisemitic views within our ranks, too defensive and too eager to downplay it.
“We sincerely apologise to the Jewish community, and our Jewish comrades in the party, for our collective failure on this issue to date.”
It commits signatories to “proactively opposing antisemitism and antisemitic tropes” and encourages Jewish members to stay within the party.
The list of supporters so far includes commentator Ellie Mae O’Hagan, Crowdpac co-founder Paul Hilder, Open Labour activist Steve Lapsley and parliamentary candidate Rhea Wolfson.
Below is the full text of the letter.
We are Labour members who support Jeremy Corbyn in his leadership and the progressive, socialist programme and anti-racist principles of the Labour Party.
We have seen antisemitism from Labour members and supporters, online or offline. We recognise that as a movement we have been too slow to acknowledge this problem, too tolerant of the existence of antisemitic views within our ranks, too defensive and too eager to downplay it.
We sincerely apologise to the Jewish community, and our Jewish comrades in the party, for our collective failure on this issue to date.
We believe that a small minority of antisemites are wreaking havoc in the Labour movement, alienating Jewish people, and sabotaging the Labour project. Some of these people are already expelled or otherwise suspended by the party, but remain active on social media. Moreover, there is a much wider problem of denial about the problem, including shouting down those who raise it or take action.
We are acutely aware that confidence in the left is at an all time low within Jewish communities. It is our goal to rebuild trust and relationships with our Jewish compatriots.
In addition, we understand our obligation to be sensitive to the concerns that have already been widely expressed. A particular issue is that many people, due to a general lack of education about antisemitism, are not recognising antisemitic tropes, and as a result often react defensively. We recognise that rising antisemitism in society at large, and in other parties, isn’t a reason to fall short here in the Labour Party. It is our party that has always led the fight against racism, which is why our failures are bitterly disappointing for Jewish members, and as such we affirm that there is no space for anti-Jewish prejudice and bigotry in our movement. We must be at the forefront of eradicating antisemitism from our own spaces and movement, which is where we have the power to hold ourselves to the highest standard in order to make a real difference.
Part of the difficulty is that when speaking out about the injustices of the Israel-Palestine conflict, progressive and radical activists have faced allegations of antisemitism when they have either not been antisemitic or when they did not intend to be antisemitic and took care to ensure they were not using antisemitic tropes or rhetoric. At the same time, we acknowledge that we face real currents of unchallenged and somewhat normalised anti-Jewish oppression in our movements and society at large including at times alongside criticism of Israel. In order to resolve this we call on all members of the Labour movement to seek an end to bunker mentality, demonstrate maturity and prove why, as a party awaiting government, we can be trusted to face up to the challenges we encounter in bringing about significant change both within and outside of the movement.
It is our ambition to arrive at a place where we can hold ourselves accountable, continuing to address important challenges and having meaningful discussions about topics including the Israel-Palestine conflict. All of this whilst being true and committed allies to our Jewish compatriots in the fight against antisemitism.
We are committed to proactively opposing antisemitism and antisemitic tropes wherever they occur and countering efforts to downplay concerns raised. We want to work with the party to urgently assign resources, in consultation with the Jewish community, to expose and isolate antisemites active online purporting to support Labour; to create and develop political education materials to assist in educating those who are ignorant of this subject and unaware of the nuances of antisemitism; to publish a dedicated page on the Labour Party website addressing antisemitism; to address both new and outstanding cases in a timely manner; and to raise up Jewish voices speaking out about their experiences; and to reiterate publicly and privately that dismissive attitudes and denial are part of the problem.
We understand that many Jewish members feel uncertain and have reservations, but we hope that you will stay in the Labour Party, so we can work with you and together eradicate antisemitism from our movement and society as a whole.