John Prescott: I refuse to accept that Labour is racist and anti-Semitic

It’s the 20th anniversary of Labour bringing in the minimum wage.

And it’s 70 years since we introduced our proudest ­achievement – the National Health Service.

But this week, and like the last few months before it, Labour has been ­dominated by claims and counter claims about anti-Semitism.

Before the Houses of Parliament broke for summer, I attended one of the bitterest Labour parliamentary meetings in my 48 years there.

It stemmed from Margaret Hodge calling Jeremy Corbyn a “f***ing anti-Semite” and a “racist” .

I felt compelled to say I utterly rejected her view that Labour is perceived by most Jews, thousands of party members, and millions of members of the public as anti-Semitic and racist.

Then we heard anti-Corbyn MP Ian Austin verbally abuse the party chairman Ian Lavery.

And pro-Corbyn supporter Peter Willsman on Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee stupidly referred to some Jewish people complaining about anti-Semitism as “Trump fanatics” .

Now we discover that Corbyn spoke at a meeting in 2010 where someone compared the Israeli government to Nazis – even though it was barely reported that the person was Jewish and a Holocaust survivor.

This latest bout of bloodletting over anti-Semitism stems from claims that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism has not been accepted in full by Labour.

Wrong. It was actually accepted in 2016 and has now been replicated word for word in Labour’s code of conduct.

And of the 11 working examples given by the IHRA of statements that could be seen as anti-Semitic, Labour has cut and pasted eight of them, and expanded on two-and-a-half of them. Only one half has not been accepted.

That could have stopped people accusing the state of Israel of being racist.

But only last week the right-wing Israeli government narrowly passed an appalling Nation State Law that decreed Israel was a Jewish State, effectively making non-Jewish people second-class citizens.

It has divided Israeli MPs. And the move, which many described as racist, was condemned around the world.

Even the Board of Deputies of British Jews – who have heavily criticised Corbyn – agreed the move was “regressive” and have lodged concerns with the Israeli ambassador.

I remember being criticised by the Board of Deputies for claiming Israel’s attacks on Gaza, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinian civilians, were war crimes .

I don’t regret doing that. It’s vital we are able to speak out against any country that contravenes international human rights and discriminates against part of its population.

There’s no denying Labour has badly handled anti-Semitism.

But the only way we’ll sort it out is to engage with Jewish groups to ensure we have a code of conduct everyone can back.

This is happening, but both sides need to do this with cool heads.

There are Labour people who have practised anti-Semitism, and they should be kicked out.

But I refuse to accept Labour is institutionally racist and anti-Semitic.

This hopeless Tory government could fall in the autumn over Brexit and we could be months away from an election.

So it’s time Corbyn, Labour and Jewish campaigners came together and agreed on a way forward. Let’s sort this so we can deliver the Labour government this country needs.

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