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AntiSemitismWatch was one of the first to cover the trigger behind the anti-Semitism storm that has come to engulf the UK Labour Party. It began with the resignation of Alex Chalmers, the former co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC).
In his resignation statement Chalmers highlighted his concerns over issues related the group’s endorsement of the systemically anti-Semitic BDS movement and its acolytes like Israeli Apartheid Week , alleging there were growing anti-Semitic tendencies within the OULC, “The decision of the club to endorse a movement with a history of targetting (sic.) and harassing Jewish students and inviting anti-Semitic speakers to campuses, despite the concerns of Jewish students, illustrates how uneven and insincere much of the active membership is when it comes to liberation.”
The move led the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to appoint Baroness Royall as head of an inquiry into the OULC.
Considering the complete furor that has landed at his table since over anti-Semitism, you would imagine that Corbyn would have wanted to handle Baroness Royall’s report with complete openness and transparency? How else could he hope to try to restore the trust that has been completely eroded away for Jewish supporters of Labour and the Jewish community in general?
Unfortunately, that is not how this Labour leader thinks. Consequently, Labour is now facing a fresh row over anti-Semitism after the party failed to publish the full report. Details may not now emerge until the wider Chakrabarti Inquiry into party racism is completed in late June.
Indeed, it is now apparent that Baroness Royall wanted to publish her full report but was specifically prevented from doing so by the party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).
Instead, only the executive summary of her report was released. Frustratingly, the summary does not make clear whether the allegations made by Chalmers about the OULC were unfounded or true.
But she recommends that Oxford University Labour Club, and all student Labour clubs, should “examine the culture of their club and take action to ensure that all those who wish to participate in meetings feel that there is a safe space in order to discuss and debate without discrimination”.
The peer made 11 formal recommendations for “immediate and sustained action”, while advising the Chakrabarti Inquiry of a further seven recommendations.
Chief among the 11 is that party expulsion for anti-Semitism should not automatically be for life – because “people may change their views” and those who have demonstrated they have reformed should be allowed to seek readmission.
The peer also urged the party to consider adopting “a definition of anti-Semitic discourse”, rule changes to allow “swifter action” to deal with allegations and a new independent disciplinary panel on Jew-hate.
A further recommendation is a new power that ensures no ‘statute of limitations’ to enable the party to expel anyone for anti-Semitic conduct committed at any time.
Training for officers of all Labour clubs in dealing with anti-Semitism, led by the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Students, is also recommended by Baroness Royall.
A “clear line of reporting” of incidents is suggested, as well as the ability for individual students to report allegations directly to the party’s national Executive Director of Governance.
Moreover, the party’s national complaints unit must also be “properly resourced so that it may deal effectively with complaints of anti-Semitism”, Baroness Royall said.
Labour should also consider adopting the ‘Macpherson Principle’ – drafted by the inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s racist murder – that an ‘anti-Semitic incident’ is any incident ‘perceived’ to be so by ‘the victim or any other person’.
As if to reinforce the lack of openness and transparency, there was an acute difference in the inquiry slant focused upon by the Labour leadership and the subsequent comments by the Baroness herself.
The party chose to concentrate on the headline that the inquiry found no evidence of ‘institutional anti-Semitism’ within the OULC.
In a hint that her own conclusions had been misrepresented by the party, Baroness Royal told the Jewish Labour Movement that she shared its ‘disappointment and frustration’ that her findings of incidents of anti-Semitism were not getting enough attention.
“I am clear that in the OULC there is a cultural problem which means that Jewish students do not always feel welcome. And we have to take action to change this situation.
“Many students reported that should a Jewish student preface a remark “as a Jew …” they are likely to face ridicule and behaviour that would not be acceptable for someone saying “as a woman …” or “as an Afro-Caribbean”. This should not be tolerated. ”
Baroness Royall also made clear in a blog that “there is too often a culture of intolerance where Jews are concerned and there are clear incidents of anti-Semitism”.
Indeed, the peer stressed that any documented evidence of misconduct within the Oxford student body would be passed to party General Secretary Iain McNicol and investigated “in line with normal procedures” for disciplinary action.
Jeremy Newmark, a former spokesman for the Chief Rabbi and chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, claimed the peer had been frustrated by the NEC’s decision.
Newmark said, “There is a problem of denial of anti-Semitism in the party. Failure to publish Royall’s full findings risks contributing to that.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews and Simon Johnson, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, similarly added:
“We would like to express our appreciation to Baroness Royall for her efforts. However, we regard them as incomplete and are disappointed with the NEC’s decision to suppress the release of the full inquiry.
“Organisations that do not publish full reports, particularly when they may be critical, tend to lose legitimacy in the eyes of the general public, as was the case when the media were rightly critical when FIFA tried to publish a very sanitised version of the report into the World Cup bidding procedure.”