UK Politics

A guide to Labour Party anti-Semitism claims

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Reuters

The row over claims of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is not going away. Here's a guide to what's been going on.

The latest developments

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire over his presence at a ceremony in Tunisia in 2014, which is said to have honoured the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich terror attack, during which 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and killed.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has said Mr Corbyn deserves "unequivocal condemnation" for laying a wreath on the grave of one of those behind the atrocity.

Mr Corbyn said he had attended the event in Tunis in 2014 as part of a wider event about the search for peace.

In response, the Labour leader said Mr Netanyahu's claims about his "actions and words are false".

Earlier this month, Jeremy Corbyn apologised over an event he hosted in 2010 where a Holocaust survivor compared Israel to Nazism.

After the Times published details of the event, the Labour leader said he had "on occasion appeared on platforms with people whose views I completely reject" and was sorry for the "concerns and anxiety that this has caused".

There were also calls for one of Mr Corbyn's allies, Peter Willsman, to quit the party's ruling body after he criticised "Trump fanatics" in the Jewish community.

In July, the UK's three main Jewish newspapers published the same front page, warning that a government led by Mr Corbyn would pose an "existential threat to Jewish life".

The recent backdrop to this is the new code of conduct Labour has adopted on anti-Semitism, which critics, including Jewish leaders and some Labour MPs, say it is not as comprehensive as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's guidelines.

Labour does not accept this, saying it has replicated the international definition word-for-word in its code of conduct.

The row centres on a list of "contemporary examples of anti-Semitism" cited by the IHRA. Labour has come up with its own list, "derived in part from the IHRA guidelines".

Labour says it has "expanded and contextualised" the IHRA examples to provide "legally sound guidelines that a political party can apply to disciplinary cases".

Critics say the Labour code leaves out examples of how criticism of Israel can be anti-Semitic. For example, it omits a line that warns against "claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour".

Labour says that "without contextualisation" this line "could curb legitimate criticism of the Israeli State", and could deny Palestinians the right to speak about the oppression and racism they feel they have suffered.

But the party says its code of conduct expressly prohibits criticism of the Israeli State that holds it to a higher standard than that expected of other democratic states, and which denies Jewish people the same right to self-determination as other peoples, in line with IHRA guidelines.

It's not the first time a debate about Labour and anti-Semitism has flared up in recent years.

What else has happened?

In 2016, Mr Corbyn announced an independent inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the Labour Party.

That was after his party suspended an MP, Naz Shah, and the Labour former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.

Ms Shah was suspended over historical social media posts, including one suggesting Israel should be moved to the United States. When she was reinstated, she blamed the posts on her "ignorance", admitting they were anti-Semitic.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ken Livingstone has now quit the Labour Party

Mr Livingstone - a long-term ally of Mr Corbyn - has been one of the key figures. He was suspended in 2016 over remarks he made as he defended Naz Shah.

His comments, linking Hitler and Zionism, led to calls for him to be thrown out of Labour. He said he had been misquoted and repeatedly insisted his version of events was historically accurate. But in May of this year, he quit the party, saying his long-running case had become a "distraction" for the party and its political ambitions.

The inquiry, carried out by human rights campaigner Shami Chakrabarti, concluded that while the Labour Party was not overrun by anti-Semitism, there was an "occasionally toxic atmosphere" and made a series of recommendations, not all of which have been implemented yet.

In March, Mr Corbyn was criticised for sending an apparently supportive message to the creator of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural in 2012.

In a message sent via Facebook, he had appeared to question a decision to remove the artist's controversial mural. He later said he had not looked at it properly, calling it "deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic".

The artist, called Mear One, denied this, saying the mural was about "class and privilege".

Also in March, the head of the Labour Party's disputes panel quit after it emerged she had opposed the suspension of a council candidate accused of Holocaust denial. Christine Shawcroft said she had not not been aware of the "abhorrent" Facebook post that had led to his suspension.

Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism

Debates about claims of anti-Semitism in Labour often involve Israel and another term, anti-Zionism.

Zionism is a political movement that supports the right of Jewish people to their own homeland in the land of their ancestors - modern-day Israel.

Some say "Zionist" can be used as a coded attack on Jewish people, while others say the Israeli government and its supporters are deliberately confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism to avoid criticism.

What does Mr Corbyn say?

Responding to the latest criticism of him, Mr Corbyn tweeted that Mr Netanyahu's claims about his "actions and words are false", adding: "What deserves unequivocal condemnation is the killing of over 160 Palestinian protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces since March, including dozens of children."

Earlier this month, the Labour leader responded to news stories about the event where a Holocaust survivor compared Israel to Nazism - which dated back to his time as a backbench MP - by saying: "In the past, in pursuit of justice for the Palestinian people and peace in Israel/Palestine, I have on occasion appeared on platforms with people whose views I completely reject.

"I apologise for the concerns and anxiety that this has caused."

In March, following the row over his mural remark, he said he would not tolerate anti-Semitism "in and around" Labour.

"We must stamp this out from our party and movement," he said.

"We recognise that anti-Semitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour Party and the rest of the country.

"I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused."

His critics say action is needed, including replicating all of the internationally accepted examples of anti-Semitism and dropping disciplinary action against critical MPs.