Chakrabarti inquiry: Labour not overrun by anti-Semitism

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said there was no acceptable form of racism

The Labour Party is not overrun by anti-Semitism or other forms of racism but there is an "occasionally toxic atmosphere", an inquiry has found.

Shami Chakrabarti, the chairwoman of Labour's inquiry into anti-Semitism, said there was "too much clear evidence... of ignorant attitudes".

The inquiry followed the suspension of MP Naz Shah and ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone amid anti-Semitism claims.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn said there was no acceptable form of racism.

Meanwhile, former shadow cabinet minister Angela Eagle looks set to launch a bid for the Labour leadership after Mr Corbyn rejected pleas to stand down having lost the confidence of many in his frontbench team.

Ms Chakrabarti's inquiry has made 20 recommendations but she said she does not approve of lifetime bans for party membership.

Mr Corbyn said he put his weight behind the inquiry's "immediate implementation" but he faced criticism after he appeared to compare Israel to so-called Islamic State during the report's launch.

He said: "To assume that a Jewish friend or fellow member is wealthy, some kind of financial or media conspiracy, or takes a particular position on politics in general or on Israel and on Palestine in particular, is just wrong.

"Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those various self-styled Islamic states or organisations."

Sam Stopp, a Labour councillor in Brent, north-west London, tweeted: "@jeremycorbyn has compared Israel to ISIS today. For that alone, he should resign. I am red with fury #Corbyn"

But Mr Corbyn denied comparing the state of Israel to so-called Islamic State.

'Gold standard'

Mr Corbyn said: "Under my leadership the Labour Party will not allow hateful language or debate in person, online, or anywhere else.

"We will aim to set the gold standard, not just for anti-racism, but for a genuinely welcoming environment for all communities and for the right to disagree as well.

"Racism is racism is racism. There is no hierarchy, no acceptable form of it."

He called for an end to Hitler and Nazi metaphors and comparisons between different human rights atrocities.

"Diluting degrees of evil does no good," he said.


Image source, Reuters

By BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw

The phrase "toxic atmosphere" used in the inquiry report could well have described the mood towards the end of the press conference launching it.

Shami Chakrabarti had to intervene to stop the question-and-answer session becoming an inquisition on Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

There was a melee as the Labour leader was pursued out of the room by reporters and photographers.

And some of those attending were left bemused by Mr Corbyn's comments appearing to liken the actions of the Israeli government with those of so-called Islamic State.

The comparison was no doubt unintended but it was a reminder of the huge challenge facing the party if it's to encourage debate yet avoid causing unnecessary offence.

Recommendations made by the inquiry include:

  • Abusive references to any particular person or group based on actual or perceived physical characteristics and racial or religious tropes and stereotypes, should have no place in Labour Party discourse.
  • Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.
  • There should be procedural rule changes to improve the party's disciplinary process and the adoption and publication of a complaints procedure.
  • The appointment of a General Counsel to the Labour Party to give advice on issues including disciplinary matters and to take responsibility for instructing external lawyers.
  • The party should increase the ethnic diversity of its staff.

Ms Shah, the MP for Bradford West, was suspended after social media posts emerged in which she suggested Israel should be moved to the United States.

Mr Livingstone was then suspended after claiming Hitler supported Zionism, as he tried to defend Ms Shah.

No update on these cases were given as Ms Chakrabarti said due process must be followed.

Anti-Semitism and Zionism

  • Anti-Semitism is "hostility and prejudice directed against Jewish people" (OED)
  • Zionism refers to the movement to create a Jewish state in the Middle East, corresponding to the historic land of Israel - anti-Zionism opposes that
  • Some say "Zionist" can be used as a coded attack on Jews, while others say the Israeli government and its supporters are deliberately confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism to avoid criticism.
Image caption,
Shami Chakrabarti, the chairwoman of Labour's inquiry into anti-Semitism, said there was "too much clear evidence... of ignorant attitudes"

Mr Corbyn said that the "need for us to unite around our values is as great as it's ever been" and he criticised "fog horn" hateful language used in the EU referendum campaign.

He also said his call for a kinder, gentler politics was a "work in progress".

"We've all had a torrid few days, well at least I have," he said.

"Decency is no disqualification for leadership, in fact I think it should be a prerequisite."