Last week, a photograph was posted on social media. It showed the scene at a meeting between the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) and the Leader of HM Opposition in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn.
Ms Pelosi was speaking animatedly. Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand was slumped in his Chair, arms folded in a classic defensive posture, with a look on his face of weary resignation and defiance.
I looked at that picture and thought “Where have we seen that before”? And then I remembered. That was the posture that Jeremy Corbyn adopted with us in the Jewish community’s meeting with him, exactly one year ago this week.
He was defensive, slumping back in his chair, shrugging his shoulders and folding his arms whenever the conversation turned to something he did not want to hear. In fact, the phrase “Corbyn Shrugged”, used as a headline for an Op Ed we wrote earlier, has been widely adopted in political commentary. Comedian Matt Forde had a whole routine about it in his Edinburgh Festival show.
As meetings go, our meeting with Jeremy Corbyn was amongst our least successful. We had asked for six straightforward, concrete actions to be taken by the Labour Party Leader to rebuild trust amongst the Jewish community that the party was prepared to stand up to anti-Jewish racism. Of the six requests, Jeremy Corbyn, accompanied by Seumas Milne, Jennie Formby and Andrew Gwynne, agreed to not a single one.
That unsuccessful meeting, at which Mr Corbyn failed to live up to his promise to be a militant opponent of antisemitism, has been the start of a year of frustration for the Jewish community.
There was a summer of near constant revelations about Mr Corbyn, including the famous “wreath laying” saga. There was the drawn out battle within the NEC to adopt the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism, something that Mr Corbyn even at the last moment tried to water down to protect the right of his supporters to call Israel a “racist endeavour”.
In recent weeks, there have been revelations in the Sunday Times of the Leader’s office intervening in disciplinary cases. The Labour Party is now facing the possibility of an investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. He appears not to have been willing to confront the fact that, of the nine MP’s who have resigned the whip and left the Party, four cited antisemitism as their reason to do so.
The Jewish community is immensely frustrated that, despite Mr Corbyn’s promise to fight against “all sorts of racism”, antisemitism within the Labour Party appears to have got worse. Mr Corbyn has not taken the action necessary to stamp it out.
That prompted the JLC to mark the anniversary of the meeting by issuing our new short film “Dear Jeremy Corbyn”. This film illustrates how, despite his promises, the community remains frustrated at how the situation has become worse. It questions how much Jeremy Corbyn really cares about the issue and wonders if he is actually indifferent to the fact that there is anti-Jewish racism within the Party.
The film questions whether Jeremy Corbyn has responded fast enough, been firm enough, transparent enough, empathetic enough and active enough to address the anti-Jewish racism within the Party.
This film reminds the community that, one year ago, Jeremy Corbyn refused to agree to any of the actions that we had proposed. He seems not to want to take the necessary action to rebuild trust with the wider community.
It seems that we are close to the point of no return. Jeremy Corbyn needs to take the firm and visible action to counter the widely held perception that the Party, which he leads, is now institutionally racist towards Jews.