Hundreds of people rallied in Parliament Square on Monday evening, to express their revulsion at anti-Semitism, particularly in the Labour Party. The protest was triggered by what is perceived as the “systematic failure” of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to condemn anti-Semitism within his party.
The demonstration was organized by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the U.K.’s democratically elected representative body, and the Jewish Leadership Council, which brings together major British Jewish organizations to work for the good of the Jewish community. Attended by Jewish people from across the religious spectrum as well as non-Jewish people of many other faiths, the rally took place against the historic backdrop of the Houses of Parliament, surrounded by statues of great British politicians. A less pleasant backdrop was a small but vocal counter-demonstration, insisting that Mr. Corbyn has done nothing wrong and that accusations of anti-Semitism are just right-wing “smears.”
The rally was organized at short notice to coincide with the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Prior to going to the protest, leaders of the JLC and Board of Deputies delivered a letter to the meeting in which they accused Mr. Corbyn of ignoring the concerns of the majority of British Jews and “institutional failure” to tackle anti-Semitism. A significant number of MPs and members of the House of Lords, from all major parties, attended the event. Hamodia spoke to Dr. Matthew Offord, MP for Hendon in NW London. Dr Offord said, “I’m here expressing solidarity with many of my constituents who are Jewish, and those who are not Jewish, who are very unhappy with a culture of anti-Semitism within British politics. I will certainly continue to play my part to root out anti-Semitism wherever we can find it, and indeed to speak out against it, whenever I find evidence of it.”
Jonathan Goldstein, Chair of the JLC, chaired the rally, introducing the speakers and thanking notable attendees, including Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, for supporting the event. Speakers included Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, and Claire Kober, outgoing leader of Haringey Council, in North London, who said that she is sick and tired of the ongoing anti-Semitism she has encountered, the victim-blaming and the toll it has taken on her Jewish friends and neighbors. She said that she is “aghast” that former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone is still a member of the Labour Party, following ongoing allegations of anti-Semitism over many years.
John Mann MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, spoke in his usual forceful style, apologizing on behalf of Labor MPs that the protest was necessary at all. He said, “We stand against racism. We stand against anti-Semitism. We will not accept anyone in our party who is a racist.”
Whilst there were some shouts of “Corbyn out!”, the rally was mostly good-humored, with chants of “Enough is enough!” and some seasonal singing of “Dayenu.”
A non-Jewish attendee told Hamodia, “I think it’s appalling what’s happened within the Labor Party in the last two and a half years.” He said that whilst not a member of the Labor Party, he had voted Labor in every recent General Election except for last year, “I wouldn’t vote for Labor as it’s currently constituted. It’s important that something is being done about it.”