Islington: senior member of Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency party resigns over ‘tolerance’ of antisemitism

by Dave Hill

A senior member of Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North Constituency Labour Party has resigned over what he describes as the Labour leader’s “often tolerant” attitude towards antisemitism, claiming that the party has become “somewhere where antisemites feel comfortable and many Jews feel uncomfortable.”

Russell Smith-Becker, who served for several years as Islington North CLP’s treasurer and as chair of Islington’s local campaign forum, describes leaving as “a wrench” after 28 years of membership, which began before he was old enough to vote.

Referring to an exchange of letters he instigated with Corbyn about the antisemitism issue  in March, Smith-Becker says that Corbyn “acknowledged the problem of antisemitism in the party” and that he had pledged to be its “militant opponent”.

But after listing a series of subsequent “antisemitic incidents” in the party, including the decision by its ruling national executive committee not to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, Smith-Becker writes:

Perhaps I was unclear in my previous letter to you on this topic. When I encouraged you to listen to the JLC [Jewish Leadership Council], BoD [Board of Deputies] and other community groups I meant with a view to doing as they ask rather than the opposite. When I encouraged you to take swift action on antisemitism I meant against it rather than to increase tolerance of it.

Smith-Becker also says he believes that Corbyn himself is not antisemitic but that “merely saying this is not enough”. He tells Corbyn he “should be providing leadership” on the issue and asks: “Would you fight antisemitism if you were Prime Minister or would you ask the numerous public bodies which use the IHRA definition of antisemitism to dilute it?”

The resignation follows a spokesman for Corbyn saying there would be “action” taken against Barking MP and former Islington Council leader Margaret Hodge after she confronted Corbyn in parliament over the NEC’s decision.

Labour-run Islington Council has adopted the IHRA definition without controversy, but Corbyn supporters heckled and demonstrated against Labour-run Haringey’s leadership when it did the same thing a year ago. A different Labour administration, dominated by members of the Corbyn-supporting pressure group Momentum, took power at May’s borough elections.

Smith-Becker has posted his resignation letter on Facebook. It is reproduced in full below:

A number of people have left comments on Smith-Becker’s Facebook page celebrating his departure from Labour and defending Corbyn.

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