By Lianne Kolirin
The Jewish community has reacted with anger to the decision to readmit Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour Party, only19 days after he was suspended over comments made over antisemitism within Labour.
The response was followed by decisive action from the current Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, not to restore the whip to Jeremy Corbyn, which means he must sit as an independent and not a Labour MP. On Twitter, Starmer said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s actions in response to the EHRC report undermined and set back our work in restoring trust and confidence in the Labour Party’s ability to tackle antisemitism”.
The decision was welcomed by the Board of Deputies, who said zero tolerance must mean precisely that, whether for antisemites or their apologists.
The former opposition leader was suspended from the party last month because of his response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report that found the party had broken the law in its handling of antisemitism complaints.
Responding to the verdict, Mr Corbyn said the scale of antisemitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by opponents both inside and outside Labour, along with the media.
He later issued a clarification, which was made public yesterday, in which he said concerns about antisemitism were “neither exaggerated nor overstated”. Hours later he was reinstated after a panel of the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) lifted the suspension.
The decision was described as an “absolute sham” by Mari van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s case has been rushed through and judged by a politicised panel stuffed with his own supporters after he conveniently issued a non-apology,” she said.
“The decision to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn is an absolute sham and the Labour Party, having been ordered to implement an independent process by the EHRC report, clearly shows that they at the present time have not learnt anything at all.”
Mr Corbyn’s clarification did not amount to an apology, according to Ms Van der Zyl, who said it “should be confined to the dustbin of history”.
She said the move “goes against everything that’s in the EHRC report, and called on Sir Keir Starmer not to restore the whip.
Commenting on the decision to welcome him back into the party, Mr Corbyn tweeted yesterday: “I am pleased to have been reinstated in the Labour Party and would like to thank party members, trade unionists and all who have offered solidarity. Our movement must now come together to oppose and defeat this deeply damaging Conservative government.”
Earlier, Sir Keir issued a message of support for the Jewish community on Twitter acknowledging that it had been “another painful day for the Jewish community and those Labour members who have fought so hard to tackle antisemitism”.
Among those criticising the NEC’s decision was veteran Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who tweeted: “I simply cannot comprehend why it is acceptable for Corbyn to be a Labour MP if he thinks antisemitism is exaggerated and a political attack, refuses to apologise, never takes responsibility for his actions & rejects the findings of the EHRC report. Ridiculous.”
Luciana Berger, who left the Labour Party over its mishandling of antisemitism, said: “When someone a) says “The scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons” in response to a statutory body’s findings, and b) doesn’t retract that statement, c) doesn’t issue a proper apology, and d) doesn’t take responsibility for the events that took place under their leadership — for which the@EHRC found@UKLabour had BROKEN THE LAW and was guilty of discrimination and harassment — then there’s a problem.
Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, claimed Mr Corbyn’s suspension had been “nothing more than a media stunt to blunt the blow” of the EHRC report.
The Jewish Labour Movement said it appeared Mr Corbyn’s case had been “expedited” by a “factionally aligned political committee”.
Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue wrote: “Another twist in the Corbyn saga, but it distracts from the real issue of Labour needing to implement EHRC & eradicate antisemitism at all levels of the party if it is to regain public trust. I don’t care whether he’s in/out, what counts is making Labour prejudice-free.”