Amid a spate of controversies over alleged anti-Semitism by party members, leaders of the UK’s Labour Party have admitted the party has a serious problem and called upon colleagues to confront this danger to Labour’s “soul.”
In recent months the Labour Party has been beset by a seemingly endless series of scandals relating to anti-Semitic comments by party members.
In March, Vicki Kirby, a party organizer banned for calling Hitler “a Zionist god” and ridiculing Jews for having “big noses,” was readmitted into the party.
Last week Bob Campbell, a party activist, was criticized for suggesting that Israel was behind the ISIS terror organization.
Even Labour Party chief Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire for comments in which he called the Hezbollah and Hamas organizations his “friends.”
Most recently a former mayor of Bradford and Labour member, Khadim Hussain, posted comments on Facebook decrying Holocaust education and alleging that Israel had armed ISIS.
In one of the offending posts, Hussain had complained that Holocaust education was biased, and “only tells you about Anne Frank and the six million Zionists that were killed by Hitler.”
Prime Minister David Cameron issued a strong rebuke, saying that Labour needed to “sort out” its growing problem with anti-Semitism.
On Sunday Labour leader and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer John McDonnell told his fellow party members that the time had come to take the problem of anti-Semitism within Labour seriously.
“As soon as Jewish people start telling us there is anti-Semitism in our party, we’ve got to sit up and listen,” McDonnell said during an interview on BBC.
McDonnell, who also spoke out last week about the problem of anti-Semitism, called for members expressing anti-Semitic views to be ousted from the party.
“[I]f there are people who have expressed anti-Semitic views, there is no role for them in our party and I would like them out of our party for life.”
Decrying the readmission of Kirby into the party as “unacceptable,” McDonnell acknowledged that criticism of Israel was at times used to provide cover for bigotry against Jews.
“You can be a critic of the Israeli state but you must not allow that in any way to be used by anti-Semites. You’ve got to root that out and we will.”
Chris Bryant, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, also called for a concerted effort to weed out anti-Semitism from the party, which he referred to as a battle for the party’s soul.
“If Labour gives into anti-Semitism,” he wrote, “it loses its soul.”