OTTAWA — Two prominent Jewish advocacy groups are voicing concerns about anti-Semitism ahead of a public conversation between NDP MP Niki Ashton and former U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The planned livestream talk risks pulling New Democrats in a direction “antithetical” to Canadian values, said Shimon Fogel, head of the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, in a joint statement with the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
“Jeremy Corbyn is toxic,” Fogel said, accusing a “small group” of New Democrats of undermining party leadership.
“It is staggering that given the litany of catastrophic, consequential issues before us, including the pandemic, that this is where some in the NDP want to spend the party’s capital.”
The British Labour party suspended Corbyn in October after he said the problem of anti-Semitism in the party had been “dramatically overstated” for political reasons.
He was readmitted as a party member in November after walking back those comments, but is remains an Independent MP after his successor Sir Keir Starmer refused to let him back into the fold.
The Labour party has been grappling with allegations anti-Semitism was allowed to fester under Corbyn, a longtime supporter of Palestinians and a critic of Israel who led the party for almost five years from 2015.
Ashton has been promoting on social media the March 20 chat, which will be hosted by Progressive International, an organization launched in 2018 by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Canadian author Naomi Klein and other progressive politicians and activists.
“This moment is all about building international solidarity,” Ashton said in a Twitter thread Tuesday.
“Here in Canada and around the world, we must find a way to work with movements and activists who share our values and put forward an unapologetically bold vision for our collective future.”
The event will focus on issues that range from growing inequality to the rise of the far right and the threat of climate change.
The NDP said in an email the party and its leader, Jagmeet Singh, are committed to fighting anti-Semitism amid a troubling rise in hateful ideologies.
“New Democrats have been working with organizations to dismantle hate and alt-right groups and proposing solutions to fight against online hate to keep communities safe,” the party said.
“Jagmeet and New Democrats are committed to fighting anti-Semitism and will continue to push the Liberals to take more concrete actions, like attacking online hate, to combat it.”
In October, a report from the U.K. Equality and Human Rights Commission found the Labour party had failed to properly handle anti-Semitism complaints under Corbyn’s tenure, citing examples of harassment — including anti-Semitic tropes — discrimination and political interference in anti-Semitism complaints.
“Equally of concern was a lack of leadership within the Labour party on these issues, which is hard to reconcile with its stated commitment to a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism,” the report stated.
“Our analysis points to a culture within the party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent anti-Semitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it.”