Jeremy Corbyn’s declaration that anti-Semites have “no place” in the Labour movement has been condemned as “vague and meaningless” by the Jewish community.
The Labour leader acknowledged that there had been mistakes in the way the party had handled complaints and drawn up a code of conduct that failed to reproduce an internationally accepted definition of ant-Semitism.
But he said that the party was tackling the problem and that the number of cases of anti-Semitic abuse was less than 0.1% of Labour’s membership of more than 500,000 people.
Corbyn’s comments come after a fresh barrage of anti-Semitism claims engulfed the Labour party this week.
The Labour leader has apologised for sharing a platform with people who allegedly compared Israel to the Nazis and it was reported on Friday that a speech by Corbyn to the Jewish community in North London had been called off.
The Labour leader has received complaints about his behaviour and there have been requests for the human rights watchdog to investigate the party.
After three leading Jewish newspapers jointly published a scathing column about Corbyn’s party, the Labour leader rejected their “overheated rhetoric”.
But he acknowledged there was a “real problem that Labour is working to overcome” and stressed that if he became prime minister he would “take whatever measures necessary” to guarantee the security of the Jewish community.
He acknowledged Labour had been “too slow in processing disciplinary cases of anti-Semitic abuse” but insisted that was changing.
Writing in the Guardian on Friday, Corbyn said: “Labour staff have seen examples of Holocaust denial, crude stereotypes of Jewish bankers, conspiracy theories blaming 9/11 on Israel, and even one individual who appeared to believe that Hitler had been misunderstood.
“People holding those views have no place in the Labour Party.”
He continued: “Our party must never be a home for such people, and never will be. People who dish out anti-Semitic poison need to understand: You do not do it in my name.
“You are not my supporters and have no place in our movement.”
In Labour’s code of conduct, the party failed to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and all its examples.
Corbyn said: “We embraced the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition in 2016.
“Many Jewish organisations and others believe the Labour Party should also reproduce in our code all 11 examples appended to it.
“Our code is a good faith attempt to contextualise those examples and make them legally watertight for use as part of our disciplinary procedures, as well as to draw on additional instances of anti-Semitism.”
Seven were incorporated entirely along with “the essence” of the other four, he said.
He acknowledged that the majority of the Jewish community, in addition to supporters of the party, “take a different view”.
Corbyn, who is a long-standing supporter of the rights of Palestinians, added: “Hostility to the Israeli state or its policies can be expressed in racist terms and that needs to be called out.
“But there are also many non- or anti-Zionist Jews who should not be branded as anti-Semites simply because they are not part of the Zionist tradition.”
But Corbyn was unsuccessful in winning over his critics at the Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Chairman Gideon Falter said the article was “vague and meaningless”.
He added: “There is no acknowledgement of his own role in this crisis. There is no apology for his anti-Semitic activity in the past, but he has hypocritically condemned as anti-Semitic behaviour that he himself has been guilty of.
“He has again preached to Jews that he is right to have rewritten the International Definition of anti-Semitism.
“By his action over the years as well as by failing even now to take on board the full concerns of the Jewish community, we remain convinced that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite and under his leadership the once anti-racist Labour Party has become institutionally anti-Semitic and an existential threat to British Jewry.”