(JTA) — A former Cabinet minister for Labour suggested that a British government watchdog’s inquiry into anti-Semitism in her party is meant to punish supporters of the Palestinian struggle.
Clare Short, who served under former prime minister Tony Blair, said Tuesday on the BBC that the inquiry by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, or EHRC, owes to how “anyone who is sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians is called anti-Semitic” and “a widening of the definition of antisemitism to include criticism of Israel.”
Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, responded to Short’s comments in a statement Wednesday saying the “staggeringly ignorant comments amply illustrate why the EHRC feels the need to open a full investigation into anti-Jewish racism in the Labour Party.”
Anti-Semitic rhetoric has proliferated through Labour’s ranks following the 2015 election of Jeremy Corbyn as party leader. Corbyn, a far-left politician, has called Hamas and Hezbollah his friends. Much of the rhetoric, which Jewish community leaders say means Labour has become institutionally anti-Semitic, revolves around Israel.
But many of the thousands of incidents documented by independent watchdog groups, including from within Labour, do not concern Israel.
Corbyn unsuccessfully fought the adoption by Labour of a definition of anti-Semitism that includes some forms of demonization of Jews over Israel.
In March, Siobhain McDonagh, a Labour lawmaker and key Corbyn ally, said of some party members: “It’s very much part of their politics, of hard left politics, to be against capitalists and to see Jewish people as the financiers of capital. Ergo, you are anti-Jewish people.”
Asked whether she meant to say that “to be anti-capitalist you have to be anti-Semitic,” McDonagh replied “Yes.”