LONDON – Britain’s Labour Party adopted an internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism on Tuesday, trying to defuse a dispute that has deepened rifts and heaped pressure on its leader at a time when the government is struggling over Brexit.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights, has been criticized by members, lawmakers and Jewish leaders for not fully adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.
He has promised to drive anti-Semitism out of Labour, but the pledges have done little to quieten his critics, with some suggesting he step down for what they describe as his failure to tackle anti-Semitism in the party because of his leftist views.
But Tuesday’s move may still not satisfy all his critics after Labour said it also backed a statement that this “will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.”
The row has dominated local media, prompting even some of Corbyn’s allies to question why their leader had failed to stem the row quickly and allow the party to channel its energies in opposing the government, which is deeply divided over how to leave the European Union next year.
Corbyn was unexpectedly elected leader in 2015, riding a wave of enthusiasm for change that has spread across Europe with voters flocking to anti-establishment movements that have emerged since the 2008 global financial crisis.
Since then, he has cemented his control over the party’s structures, able to entrench his move to the left after leading Labour to a surprising success in last year’s election by depriving Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives of a parliamentary majority.
But his leadership of the party has also angered many of his lawmakers in parliament, where many want the Labour Party to adopt a softer position on Brexit and better represent those who voted to remain in the EU in a 2016 referendum.