Councillor 'horrified' at Hampstead and Kilburn Labour's 'refusal' to discuss anti-Semitism
PUBLISHED: 17:57 03 June 2016 | UPDATED: 17:57 03 June 2016
A councillor said he was "horrified" when the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency branch of the Labour Party refused to discuss the issue of anti-Semitism at a meeting last week.
Cllr Phil Rosenberg, who works at the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the Ham&High he believes there is a “culture of disbelief and denial” that anti-Semitism is a problem within the party, which lead to the dispute at last Thursday’s meeting.
Members in Hampstead and Kilburn – where Tulip Siddiq is the Labour MP - were asked to consider a resolution to change the party rule book to make it explicit that anti-Semitism and all forms of hate crime would not be tolerated.
Cllr Rosenberg said another member argued it should not be discussed because there is an ongoing party inquiry into the issue which they felt should be sufficient.
He said: “It was very sad to witness what was essentially a conspiracy of silence. I was horrified.
“I think a lot of party members just don’t want to admit there is a problem, as the Labour Party has always been the party of progress and tolerance.”
Cllr Rosenberg said he has personal experience of anti-Semitism, mostly from when he was younger.
He said: “I used to wear a kippah all the time, whereas now I just wear it occasionally, which means it happens less often.
“I used to go to school in the City of London and city workers in their pinstripe suits would shout racist abuse at me.”
He added: “These days, there’s sometimes a sense that you’re trusted less on the basis of your Jewish background.”
Cllr Rosenberg said he doesn’t believe that anti-Semitism is endemic within the Labour Party, but that more needs to be done to root it out where it does exist.
He said: “I know that people have been hunting instances out, sometimes for political reasons, but the fact is that these things are there to be found.”
He stressed he wasn’t aware of anyone at the meeting having said anything anti-Semitic, but said: “I think unfortunately for too many people there is a serious culture of disbelief and denial about the issue, and that’s what we saw at Hampstead and Kilburn.
“People are just dismissing the experience of minority groups. It’s very similar to ‘mansplaining’ where men tell women why sexism isn’t sexism.”
Ms Siddiq attended the meeting but left before the motion was proposed.
Secretary of Hampstead and Kilburn Labour, Peter Taheri, said the constituency party has now called a special meeting to discuss anti-Semitism and to agree any necessary action.
He said the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency party is “unequivocally and without reservation” opposed to anti-Semitism and to all forms of racism.
He said: “The Executive Committee of our constituency Labour Party appreciates the importance not just of holding this position, but of ensuring that there is no room for perception to the contrary.
“We have a large Jewish membership and wish all our members to feel welcome and able to contribute fully at all times.”
He said the general committee of the constituency party would now prepare a submission to Labour’s wider inquiry into allegations of anti-Semitism.
Mr Taheri said this submission could include a proposal for the kind of rule change which Cllr Rosenberg is calling for.