Honour ‘stinks’

Shami Chakrabarti Shami Chakrabarti

UK – The British Labour Party has come under fire for rewarding the author of a “whitewashed” report about the party’s anti-Semitism problem with a seat in the House of Lords.

Shami Chakrabarti, a human rights activist, was recommended for a peerage last Thursday, less than two months after she submitted a report asserting that, while there is an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” against Jews in Labour, anti-Semitism is not prevalent in the party’s ranks.

The report was commissioned in the wake of a series of revelations earlier this year of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish comments made by Labour activists. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, a vehement critic of Israel who called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends” in 2009, was accused of fostering an atmosphere in which anti-Semitism was allowed to flourish, and not doing enough to tackle the scourge.

Under mounting pressure, he appointed Chakrabarti to conduct the inquiry and last week put her forward for the seat in the House of Lords.

Responding to the announcement that Chakrabarti had been nominated for a peerage, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis noted her “proud record of public service”, but added that in accepting the position, “the credibility of her report lies in tatters and the Labour Party’s stated intention, to unequivocally tackle anti-Semitism, remains woefully unrealised.”

Labour MP Wes Streeting said that while she would bring great experience to the House of Lords, “let’s not pretend a peerage under these circumstances doesn’t stink”.

Marie van der Zyl, vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “It is beyond -disappointing that Shami Chakrabarti has been offered, and accepted, a peerage from Labour following her so-called ‘independent’ inquiry. The report, which was weak in several areas, now seems to have been rewarded with an honour.

“This ‘whitewash for peerages’ is a scandal that surely raises serious questions about the integrity of Ms Chakrabarti, her inquiry and the Labour leadership.”

The sentiment was echoed by communal security group, the Community Security Trust, which tweeted: “Shami Chakrabarti peerage is shameless kick in the teeth for all who put hope in her now wholly compromised Inquiry into Labour anti-Semitism.”

Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber said the nomination “clearly undermines the independence of her inquiry and raises further questions about the seriousness of his commitment to ridding the Lab Party of the scourge of anti-Semitism”.

A spokesperson for Corbyn’s office defended the nomination in a statement made to The Guardian: “Shami Chakrabarti shares Jeremy’s ambition for reform of the House of Lords. Her career has been one of public service and human rights advocacy. Her legal and campaigning skills, and the trust that she has gained from many ordinary Britons, will be a considerable asset to the House of Lords.”