Corbyn 'sincerely sorry' for anti-Semitism 'in pockets of Labour'

Corbyn 'sincerely sorry' for anti-Semitism 'in pockets of Labour'

Corbyn 'sincerely sorry' for anti-Semitism 'in pockets of Labour'

Senior Labour figures have defended Jeremy Corbyn over his response to the antisemitism row within the party, after the Labour leader appeared to show his support for an antisemitic mural in 2012.

Mr Corbyn has since gone on to further strengthen his position, and take full control of nearly all aspects of his party, but doubts remain over his attitude towards arguably the most vital issue he faces, Brexit.

The British Jewish leaders' statement said: "When Jews complain about an obviously anti-Semitic mural in Tower Hamlets, Corbyn of course supports the artist".

They say the Labour leader has "sided with anti-Semites" either because of "the far left's obsessive hatred of Zionism" or " a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy".

Earlier this month, Corbyn was found to have been a member of a private Facebook group for two years until 2015 that featured many anti-Semitic statements.

The letter will be delivered to a meeting of Labour MPs and peers, although the Labour leader is not expected to attend.

"Labour is an anti-racist party and I utterly condemn antisemitism, which is why as leader of the Labour Party I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of antisemitism that exists in and around our movement".

He told ITV's Peston on Sunday: "The most important thing here is that the Labour Party keeps on saying that anti-Semitism has no place in our party, in our communities, or in our society, and we've got to have zero tolerance".

In a statement posted to Facebook, Corbyn condemned antisemitism and promised to "stamp out" any form of antisemitism in and around the labour movement.

People protest against anti Semitism in the Labour party in Parliament Square London
People protest against anti Semitism in the Labour party in Parliament Square London

He added: "I'm very, very sorry that people feel hurt by this and that's why I think it's right that Jeremy has expressed regret for it".

Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, told i: "For Jewish community organisations to be protesting to the Parliamentary Labour Party is unprecedented and should be a stain on the conscience of our party".

Labour MP Ian Austin said he was "ashamed" that "it has come to this" and one-time Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall said it was "a truly bad day" when the Jewish community felt the need to write "such a letter".

Many Labour critics trace the party's anti-Semitism problem to thousands of members joining from Corbyn's hard-left Momentum group.

Corbyn was criticised after an image of the exchange surfaced, and on Friday his office put out a statement saying he had reacted to 'concerns about the removal of public art on the grounds of freedom of speech.

Mr Corbyn replied: "Why?" Corbyn wrote: "Why? You are in good company". Rockerfeller (sic) destroyed Diego Viera's (sic) mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.

Luciana Berger, a Labour MP who had demanded an explanation from Corbyn, said his response was wholly inadequate.

Corbyn stressed he is "opposed to the production of anti-Semitic material of any kind, and the defense of free speech can not be used as a justification for the promotion of anti-Semitism in any form".

It comes as the Labour leader issued a "sincere" apology to Jewish communities for the prevalence of anti-semitism in "pockets" of the party.

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