Following a meeting with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday evening, Jonathan Arkush has released the following statement:
As many of you will be aware, I met Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn last night alongside Chief Executive Gillian Merron, Jonathan Goldstein and Simon Johnson from the JLC and Mark Gardner from CST.
I want to report to you the outcome of the meeting and the impression that it left with me and my colleagues.
While the tone of the meeting was cordial and friendly, I have to tell you that none of the actions we had asked for would be forthcoming. They were not a surprise to Mr Corbyn as his office had known about them for a month, which makes his response even more disappointing.
Following the meeting the Board and JLC issued the following statement which sets out our views:
“Our meeting with Jeremy Corbyn today was a disappointing missed opportunity regarding the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party. We welcomed Mr. Corbyn’s personal involvement in the discussion and his new comments recognising and apologising for antisemitism in the Labour Party but he failed to agree to any of the concrete actions we asked for in our letter to him of 28th March.
Last month the Jewish community held an unprecedented demonstration outside Parliament to express our hurt and anger about the level of antisemitism in the Labour Party, and Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to take strong action against it. Following that demonstration we wrote to Mr. Corbyn to set out six areas of concrete action he and the party could take to address the antisemitism that has grown under his leadership. These represented the minimum level of action the community expected after more than two years of inactivity. Today we met Mr. Corbyn to convey in no uncertain terms the Jewish community’s feelings to him in person and to discuss his response to our proposals. It was a difficult yet important meeting.
We are disappointed that Mr Corbyn’s proposals fell short of the minimum level of action which our letter suggested. In particular, they did not agree in the meeting with our proposals that there should be a fixed timetable to deal with antisemitism cases; that they should expedite the long-standing cases involving Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker; that no MP should share a platform with somebody expelled or suspended for antisemitism; that they adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism with all its examples and clauses; that there should be transparent oversight of their disciplinary process.
Words in letters and newspaper articles will never be enough. We welcome the fact that Mr Corbyn’s words have changed but it is action by which the Jewish community will judge him and the Labour Party. Our sole objective from this meeting was to build trust with Mr Corbyn, but this will not be possible until and unless he and the party turn their many strong words against antisemitism into equally strong actions in order to bring about a deep cultural change in his supporters’ attitude to Jews.
Thousands of British Jews did not demonstrate outside Parliament just for a few lawyers and another newspaper article; they demanded action and so do we. We will hold the Labour Party to account for any future failures and continue to represent the interests of British Jews with clarity and resolve. We also commit to do our utmost to work with all those within Labour who want to help make it a safe and equal space for all of its members.”
As many of you will have seen, the meeting has been reported very prominently in the media and the Board of Deputies’ role has been more public, I suspect, than at any time in its long history. It was a difficult and demanding occasion, but I have never been more proud of representing our community as I have in these challenging days.
With warm regards