The Labour Party has a long history of troubling behavior, according to Jewish leaders in Britain.
In 2016, former London mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended from the party after he said Adolf Hitler had been a supporter of Zionism in the 1930s. An internal review, conducted soon after, found that there was “much clear evidence” of “ignorant attitudes” toward the country's Jewish population.
Current Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn is a fierce critic of Israel. Since his nomination as the party leader, he has been forced to defend himself against accusations that some of his supporters are anti-Semitic. Earlier this month, Corbyn acknowledged that he had been a member of a Facebook group that has posted anti-Semitic views, though he said he had never seen the messages.
Then, on Friday, Labour lawmaker Luciana Berger, who is Jewish, challenged Corbyn’s office to explain something he had posted on Facebook in 2012. In the post, he was responding to Los Angeles-based artist Kalen Ockerman, who had complained that one of her London street murals was being painted over in response to criticism that it was anti-Semitic.
“You are in good company,” Corbyn wrote. “Rockerfeller [sic] destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”
The mural apparently depicted a group of Jewish bankers and financiers playing Monopoly on the backs of naked people. (Ockerman denied that the painting was anti-Semitic. In an email to Bloomberg News, she wrote that “though historically several of the characters may be of Jewish [descent] or ideology, my intention was to illustrate the privileged elite upper-ruling class.”)
In response to the resurfaced Corbyn post, an array of Jewish groups gathered outside Parliament on Monday. The Labour Party, they said, has shown a “repeated institutional failure” to address prejudice against Jews.
“We have had enough of hearing that Jeremy Corbyn ‘opposes anti-Semitism,’ whilst the mainstream majority of British Jews, and their concerns, are ignored by him and those he leads,” they wrote in an open letter.
“Jeremy Corbyn did not invent this form of politics, but he has had a lifetime within it, and now personifies its problems and dangers. He issues empty statements about opposing anti-Semitism, but does nothing to understand or address it. We conclude that he cannot seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.”
Corbyn has since apologized for his 2012 message and said he regrets not looking more closely at the “deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic” mural. Labour must show “total commitment to excising pockets of anti-Semitism that exist in and around our party,” he said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
Corbyn also has said that he will meet with Jewish leaders in the coming days.