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  1. ITV Report

Jeremy Corbyn defends meeting with 'radical' left group Jewdas as anti-Semitism controversy deepens

  • Video report: ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Jeremy Corbyn has defended his decision to meet with a radical Jewish left-wing group - describing the event as "very interesting".

His attendance is likely to anger Labour's mainstream Jewish community as he seeks to appease fears of alleged anti-Semitism within the party.

In recent weeks Labour has turned on itself over the issue, resulting in a protest outside of Parliament.

  • So who exactly has Jeremy Corbyn been meeting with?
Protesters against anti-Semitism at a rally in Parliament Square. Credit: PA

The Guido Fawkes website first reported that Mr Corbyn had met with Jewdas, a left-wing Jewish group describing itself as "radical".

On its website, Jewdas states that its members meet once a month to read "radical, Jewish, queer and feminist" books.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said that the Labour leader attended the event on Easter Monday to mark the ritual feast of Seder.

  • But why is the group controversial?
Mr Corbyn has vowed to root out anti-Semitism from the Labour Party. Credit: PA

His attendance is a particularly sensitive issue because of the ongoing allegations of anti-Semitism which the Labour Party finds itself at the centre of.

Jewdas been critical of more mainstream Jewish organisations which have called out Mr Corbyn over his handling of the matter.

It has accused people of playing up Labour's anti-Semitism problem and linked the allegations to party politics.

Last week, Jewdas said the Jewish Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Jewish Labour Movement were "playing a dangerous game with people's lives".

It also claimed allegations of anti-Semitism are "the work of cynical manipulations by people whose express loyalty is to the Conservative Party and the right wing of the Labour Party".

John Woodcock is among the Labour MPs critical of Mr Corbyn. Credit: PA

A number of Labour MPs and figures in the party have questioned Mr Corbyn's association with Jewdas.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism described his actions as "a very clear two fingered salute at mainstream British Jewry".

Campaign chairman Gideon Falter said: "Given the anti-Semitism crisis engulfing the Labour Party, there is absolutely no way that Mr Corbyn can claim that this too was an oversight.

"It is hard to imagine how this duplicitous man can claim to be remedying anti-Semitism within the Labour Party. The party must consider the message that is sent to British Jews and other minorities by him remaining as leader."

Labour MPs John Woodcock and Angela Smith were also among Mr Corbyn's detractors.

My Corbyn denied that the Seder feast had been a "meeting", adding that it was simply a celebration of Passover.

He described the event as "very interesting" and that it involved "talking to a lot of young people about their experiences of modern Britain".

  • Has anybody jumped in to support him?

Jon Lansman, chief of left-wing group Momentum, was among those to defend Mr Corbyn.

He said that there was nothing "not wise" about the Labour leader attending a meal with constituents who happened to be celebrating the Passover.

"This is not a problem and I think some of the Labour MPs who are suggesting that it is are really doing this to undermine Jeremy," he said.

"It's not something I think they should be getting involved in."

Comedian David Baddiel, who has been prominent in the anti-Semitism debate, rejected suggestions that Jewdas was "despised" by other Jewish groups.

"No it isn't," he said. "They are just Jews who disagree with other Jews. Which means: Jews... To make out that it's somehow anti-Semitic for him to spend Seder with them just because they're far left is balls."

Writer David Schneider was more clear in his support, tweeting: ""Boo! Corbyn needs to get out and meets some Jews!" (Corbyn spends Passover with some Jews at Jewdas) "Boo! Not those Jews!""

  • Why has this latest development come at such a bad time?
Labour has found itself embroiled in a growing controversy. Credit: PA

Both Mr Corbyn and other senior Labour figures have pledged to root out anti-Semitism from the party, if necessary by expelling members.

He has also instructed new general secretary Jennie Formby to make dealing with the issue a top priority.

ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand said that the matter was a concern of "timing".

"Question is why Corbyn would choose to meet with them when they’ve been openly critical in recent days of the claims of antisemitism in Labour," he tweeted.

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On Monday, Momentum conceded that anti-Semitism is more widespread than it thought.

Its National Coordinating Group released a statement acknowledging the anger of Britain's Jewish community at the "numerous" cases of anti-Semitism within Labour and the party's failure to deal with them "in a sufficiently decisive, swift and transparent manner". Mr Corbyn told Channel 4 the same day: "There is genuine concern and we are dealing with that concern... We are not tolerating anti-Semitism in any form in the Labour Party."