Jeremy Corbyn has acknowledged that concerns around anti-Semitism in Labour were not “exaggerated” just weeks after being suspended for saying the problem was “dramatically overstated”.
The former Labour leader had the whip withdrawn and was suspended from the party over his response to a damning Equality and Human Rights Commission which found that the party had broken the law in its handling of anti-Semitism complaints.
Ahead of a meeting of the party’s disputes committee, Mr Corbyn revealed he had given a statement to Labour in an attempt to “clear up any confusion” over his initial response and a broadcast interview given in the wake of the report.
The former leader had claimed that while “one anti-Semite is one too many” the “scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media”.
His suspension came after his successor as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that people who believed it was “exaggerated, or a factional attack” were “part of the problem” and “should be nowhere near the Labour Party either”.
Mr Corbyn revealed what he had said to Labour in a statement aimed at clarifying his comments.
“We must never tolerate anti-Semitism or belittle concerns about it,” he said.
“And that was not my intention in anything I said this week. I regret the pain this issue has caused the Jewish community and would wish to do nothing that would exacerbate or prolong it.
“To be clear, concerns about anti-Semitism are neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated’.
“The point I wished to make was that the vast majority of Labour Party members were and remain committed anti-racists deeply opposed to anti-Semitism.”
Labour’s disputes panel was understood to be meeting on Tuesday, but it was not clear whether Mr Corbyn’s case was due to be heard and Labour declined to comment, with a spokeswoman saying the party could not give “a running commentary on an individual case”.
Board of Deputies of British Jews president Marie van der Zyl called on the Labour Party to reject Mr Corbyn’s “pathetic non-apology”.
She said: “If the party wants to show it is serious about tackling anti-Jewish racism, it will consign this statement, just like the culture which led to the EHRC’s damning findings, to the dustbin of history.
“To do otherwise would be a failure of leadership which would risk the party slipping backwards.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism chief executive Gideon Falter said: “Mr Corbyn’s statement today seeks to recast his comments gaslighting the Jewish community when the EHRC’s report into Labour anti-Semitism was released.
“This is a desperate attempt to have his suspension lifted and reveals that he still believes that suspensions are something that happen on the whim of the leader as it did during his tenure, and not as a result of any due process.”