Jewish Labour MPs condemn claims anti-Semitism ‘weaponized’ to undermine Corbyn

The Leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn (L) leads the applause in a tribute to murdered Labour MP Jo Cox  on the first day of the Labour Party conference, in Liverpool, Britain September 25, 2016. © Peter Nicholls
A number of Jewish Labour MPs have denounced claims by members of the grassroots pro-Corbyn Momentum movement that the persistent accusations of anti-Semitism within the party are being “weaponized” to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.

During a debate on the issue, Jackie Walker, vice chair of Momentum, said the anti-Semitism controversy had "become a weapon of political mass destruction."

Walker, who was briefly suspended from the party over remarks that Jews were the “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade” earlier this year, claimed there was “little, if any evidence” to support allegations of anti-Semitism.

"The most fundamental aim of such allegations is to undermine Jeremy, silence his supporters… It is the silencing of any criticism or potential criticism of the Israeli state, attacking and undermining anyone who supports Palestinian rights," she said at a Momentum event on the fringes of Labour’s Liverpool conference.

Jeremy Newmark, the head of the Jewish Labour Movement, who also spoke at the debate on Sunday, said that such comments suggest a crisis between the party and the Jewish community.

Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger also condemned Walker’s remarks.

“There are too many examples of where my Jewish parliamentary colleagues, where my Jewish council colleagues, where Jewish members have been attacked because they’re Jewish,” she told the BBC.

“We need to stamp it out.”

Wes Streeting, a Labour MP who chairs the all-party group on British Jews, called on Corbyn to show “real leadership” in tackling anti-Semitism within the party’s ranks.

“And as someone who has a track record of tackling racism and discrimination, he has in the past year had a golden opportunity he hasn’t yet taken up to show real leadership on this and to help navigate through some of the problems that we face in terms of anti-Semitism,” he told the BBC on Monday.

Sunday’s debate follows the publication of Shami Chakrabarti’s report in June about claims of anti-Semitism in Labour. The report, commissioned by Corbyn, failed to find evidence of rampant anti-Semitism but warned of an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” within the party and cautioned against using offensive abusive language, particularly to “resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine.”

The two-month inquiry came after a slew of high-profile Labour politicians, including former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, were suspended over anti-Semitism allegations.