(JTA) – British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn acknowledged that anti-Semitism has surfaced in the party and sincerely apologized for “the hurt that has been caused to many Jewish people.”
Corbyn made the statements in a three-minute video posted on social media on Sunday.
“Anyone who denies this has surfaced in our party is clearly actually wrong and contributing to the problem,” Corbyn said. “I acknowledge there is a real problem of anti-Semitism that Labour is working to overcome.”
“We have been too slow in processing disciplinary cases of, mostly online, anti-Semitic abuse by party members. We’re acting to speed this process up,” Corbyn also said, while pointing out that the number of offenders amounts to only 0.1 per cent of the half-million party members, while saying that even one is “too many.”
“Jewish people have been at the heart of our party and our movement throughout history. No one should dismiss the concerns they have expressed about what has been happening in the party,” he said.
The video comes on the heels of a Corbyn op-ed that appeared Friday afternoon on the website of the British daily The Guardian, in which Corbyn said he respects the affinity that many Jews feel for Israel and appealed to critics to resolve differences over his Labour Party’s policy on anti-Semitism that has drawn fire.
Corbyn in his op-ed referred to a new round of consultations he has launched to reconsider Labour’s anti-Semitism definition, which departs from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance one generally recognized by the world community, acknowledging that the party had not fully engaged the Jewish community in the past.
He defended the party’s decision not to use one of the examples – which warns against “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
He said this had “sometimes been used by those wanting to restrict criticism of Israel that is not anti-Semitic.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jewry and Jewish Leadership Council on Saturday night criticized Corbyn for the publishing of his op-ed in the Guardian shortly before the start of Shabbat, which meant that the Jewish community did not have a chance to immediately respond.
The joint statement called the op-ed “ill-timed and ill-conceived” and said, “Once again Mr. Corbyn, of all people, has chosen to lecture Jews on anti-Semitism.”