Jewish Telegraph interview with Jeremy Newmark

LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn needs to be held accountable for the party’s problem with antisemitism, according to the chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement.

In an exclusive interview with the Jewish Telegraph, Jeremy Newmark said: “I don’t question his personal commitment to fighting racism and antisemitism as he understands it, but I question whether he understands it the way we do.

“There are very prominent cases which I have discussed with him, and I have no doubt he would remove certain people from the party if he could.”

Mr Newmark has been critical of Labour in recent months.

But, he urged for calm over the recent appointment of Christine Shawcroft, an ally of former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, to Labour’s disciplinary panel.

He explained: “One of the problems is that the structure of the party is not straightforward or simple, and people with all sorts of agendas often misunderstand and misreport things.

“The disputes panel is a sub committee of the National Executive Committee, which runs the party.

“The disputes panel is one of the mechanisms for dealing with complaints that reach the NEC.

“Christine Shawcroft has NOT been appointed to the National Constitutional Committee, as has been reported, and will have NO effect on cases such as Ken Livingstone’s.

“It’s the NCC that has the ultimate power to make expulsions and JLM member Peter Mason is a very valued member of that committee.”

Another member of the disputes panel is Yasmine Dar.

She recently appeared alongside anti-Zionist Professor Rodney Shakespeare at a rally to celebrate the 38th anniversary of the Iranian Islamic revolution.

Prof Shakespeare has been vocal in spreading the conspiracy theory that Zionists were behind the 9/11 terror attacks.

Mr Newmark said: “We wrote to Yasmine Dar to flag our concerns and she has publicly, over the past few days, expressed some form of contrition.

“She said that she came to the meeting at short notice and wasn’t aware who she would be sharing a platform with, but I don’t feel that’s a sufficient excuse.

“Anyone involved in political life should be on alert and partake in due diligence.

“I know that our North West branch of JLM, led by Jane Black, will be meeting with Yasmine to flag some of these issues with her.”

Mr Newmark added that he understands and is sensitive to those Labour supporters who have, or are considering, turning away from the party due to antisemitism.

“We occupy the space left by the activists from the Battle of Cable Street,” he said.

“We are not going to run away and leave this space for antisemites to fill.

“I understand if people have a different attitude, but it remains an important Jewish point to stay and fight antisemitism from within that institution.”

But what about those who say a new political party should be formed?

“I don’t believe the party is too far gone,” he said. “I believe it is retrievable and we have a lot of successes.

“People are being trained in how to deal with antisemitism every day.

“There are times where we have come perilously close to the ‘red line’, but I see fantastic, young Jewish Labour activists being elected into positions within the party around the country.

“There is no short-term fix, this is a long haul fight.

“I look at some of the allies of the Jewish community, which have emerged from the student groups and young Labour, who are standing with us on a daily basis.

“In generational terms, there certainly is a bright future for the party.

“These are people for whom fighting antisemitism is at the core of their politics.”

When the Chakrabarti report came out in 2016, it was meant to be an investigation into Labour’s issues with antisemitism and would detail ways of solving the issue.

But it was labelled a ‘whitewash’ by the majority of British Jews.

The JLM, however, said: “This is a sensible and firm platform which gives the party an opportunity to get off the back foot and on to the front foot in setting a new standard for tacking racism and antisemitism.”

Does Mr Newmark still stand by those comments today?

He said: “The report was a mixed bag. I do believe it provides a platform for significant improvement as the first recommendation sought to outlaw ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zio’ as an epithet of hate.

“But, since then there’s been a General Election, which has delayed an awful lot of process in the party.

“Everything’s a battle, but that doesn’t mean we write it off.”

The party’s connection with Muslim charity MEND has been questioned, as many of those within the organisation have expressed anti-Israel and anti-Zionist views.

Mr Newmark concurred that the party has “made a mistake” by connecting with MEND.

But, he said, it would be “incorrect” to say that Mr Corbyn has “close links” to the group.

He added: “It is worth noting that one of the actions that Corbyn has taken on antisemitism is ensuring the party adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

“That was a piece of leadership he has shown on this and it is an indication of how far we have moved forward.”