Emily Thornberry ‘battled’ Corbyn aides to condemn attacks on Israel in Labour manifesto
Leadership contender says party should ‘get on our knees and ask forgiveness’ from Jewish community for handling of antisemitism
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has said she had to “battle” an attempt by advisers of Jeremy Corbyn to remove a condemnation of rocket attacks on Israel from the Labour manifesto for last month’s election.
The claim came as the Labour leadership contender said the party needed to “get on our hands and knees and ask forgiveness” from the Jewish community for its handling of antisemitism.
As leader, Ms Thornberry said she would make driving “scumbag” antisemites out of the party “my most urgent and immediate priority”.
She accused Corbyn’s office of a “disgusting” readiness to dismiss attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinian groups while continuing to use the manifesto to condemn the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the blockade of Gaza by Israel.
She said the fight – which she won after arguing her case at a meeting to finalise the manifesto – left her “deeply disturbed at the mentality of advisers around Jeremy”, but insisted she did not believe Mr Corbyn himself was behind the row.
Ms Thornberry said that when she initially complained about the proposed change to the language used in the 2017 manifesto, she was told by members of Mr Corbyn’s office that the new text was “very balanced considering the considerable imbalance in the conflict”.
She wrote: ”Disgustingly, attacks on Israeli civilians were being deliberately dismissed in a way that would never have been tolerated of attacks on any civilians in any other country around the world.”
But she added: “As for Jeremy, based on his reaction at the meeting I think he knew nothing about the row, even though his advisers had invoked his name several times beforehand when pressuring me to drop my objections, something I believe they frequently did without his knowledge.
“If I was leader, I would simply not have that. Instead, driving antisemitism out of Labour would be my most urgent and immediate priority. No more suspensions, training sessions or forgiveness – I would just kick these scumbags out of our party, the way we should have done long before now.”
Ms Thornberry said she held back from resigning over the manifesto row because she wanted to ensure a shadow foreign secretary was in place “to fight and ultimately win these arguments”.
She said that as leader she would accept and act on all recommendations on dealing with antisemitism from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Jewish Labour Movement and Board of Deputies of British Jews.
She added that she would ask former Lord Chancellor Charlie Falconer to lead the drive to force through these changes as well as conducting a review of the party’s internal procedures.
“We … need Labour’s new leader to call this evil out whenever we see it, and lead from the front in taking it on,” wrote Ms Thornberry.
“I’ve done that myself, reporting many so-called Labour members who’ve repeated antisemitic tropes and standing up against the online hate mobs attacking Jewish people simply for standing up against prejudice.
“But ultimately we have a long, long road to rebuild trust with the Jewish community. We need to start by apologising to our Jewish brothers and sisters for the hurt and fear that they’ve been caused at the hands of the sickening, despicable people who call themselves part of the Labour movement but betray our party’s values and history with their every insidious remark.
“Then we need to get down on our hands and knees to the Jewish community and ask them for forgiveness and a fresh start. I know that this will be a long road, but we need to take the first step and prove that we mean it.
“I hope I can lead us on that path.”