Diane Abbott walked away when a Tube passenger grilled the Labour MP over her comment that Orthodox Jews were targets of hate crime because of the ‘costumes’ they wear.
The Shadow Home Secretary appeared on BBC Question Time earlier this year and commented that her constituency has a community of charedi Jews that are ‘actually subject to hate crime more than other Jews, because they wear that costume’.
Ms Abbott was grilled last week over her remark by 18-year-old London Tube passenger Alex Rose, but the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP ignored the question and walked away.
Diane Abbott was asked ‘why did you tell us that we wear costumes?’ by Alex Rose on the Tube
Teenager Alex Rose spoke to Ms Abbott on the tube about her comments on Question Time
Mr Rose, from Cockfosters, north London, asked Ms Abbott: ‘The Jewish people – why did you tell us that we wear costumes?
‘You said the costumes they wear in Stamford Hill – because I watched Question Time that day when you said about the costumes you wear.’
‘In my constituency, I have a community of charedi Jews that are actually subject to hate crime more than other Jews, because they wear that costume, they walk to synagogue
Abbott’s comments on Question Time
The Labour MP looked up from her phone, glanced at the teenager for a moment and walked away to find another seat.
As she left Mr Rose said: ‘Because it’s not called a costume, love. It’s called a religious piece of clothing.’
During her Question Time appearance Ms Abbott, 64, was answering an audience question about why her party has ‘such a problem with antisemitism’.
She said: ‘In my constituency, I have a community of charedi Jews that are actually subject to hate crime more than other Jews, because they wear that costume, they walk to synagogue.
The Labour MP did not respond to Mr Rose, from Cockfosters, north London when questioned
‘But because I take it seriously I’m not going to make it some sort of party political gain.’
After the Tube incident Mr Rose told the Jewish Chronicle: ‘I looked up from my seat and I saw it was Diane Abbott sitting in front of me on the Tube.
‘Whilst I recognise that Diane was basically trying to speak out on Question Time about the problem of hate crime against Jews, I found her description of the charedi dress as being something akin to wearing a ‘costume’ a bit troubling.
Mr Rose asked Ms Abbott: ‘The Jewish people – why did you tell us that we wear costumes?
‘I’ve heard a lot of talk amongst left-wing figures about the need for politicians to be more accountable to voters, and not just allowing themselves to be stuck in the Westminster bubble.
‘But it was clear that Diane Abbott didn’t want to speak to me – which is a shame.’
Rabbi Avraham Pinter, a leading charedi Rabbi and former Labour councillor, defended Ms Abbott, saying: ‘The trouble is most people don’t know what is going on in our community.’
The incident occurred the same week the Labour Party adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism in full.
Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) agreed to all 11 examples accompanying the IHRA definition of antisemitism on September 4, but added a clarifying statement adding that the right to criticise the Israeli government should be protected.
Meanwhile, Jewish peer Lord Sugar today said Jews mean nothing to Jeremy Corbyn and if he became prime minister it ‘would be the day Britain died’.
The Apprentice star was joined in his scathing criticism by one the Labour leader’s own peers who accused Mr Corbyn of being ‘a perpetrator of anti-Semitism’.
They made their hard-hitting remarks during a debate on anti-Semitism in the House of Lords.
Diane Abbott’s constituency has a 30,000-strong community of Charedi Jews, the largest in Europe
Stamford Hill, in the London Borough of Hackney in north-east London, England, is known for its Jewish Chasidic community, the largest concentration of Charedi Chasidic Jews in Europe.
It is referred to as a ‘square mile of piety’, reflecting the many Jewish men seen walking in their distinctive clothes on their way to and from worship.
Stamford Hill, in the London Borough of Hackney in north-east London, England, is known for its Jewish Chasidic community, the largest concentration of Charedi Chasidic Jews in Europe
The congregations often represent historical links with particular areas of Eastern Europe in their dress and their worship.
The standard mode of dress for males is a black suit and a white shirt.
Headgear includes black fedora or Homburg hats, with black skull caps under their hats.
The congregations often represent historical links with particular areas of Eastern Europe in their dress and their worship
Lord Sugar, a former Labour peer who now sits as an independent crossbencher, said: ‘The Labour leader allowed the issue of alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party to ramble on for months.
‘What kind of leader is he not to take his party by the scruff of the neck and make them see sense and kill the matter off once and for all.
‘Terminate the obsession of the hard left with Israel and Palestine and focus on far more pressing matters like Brexit and jobs.’
While Labour had eventually accepted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, he highlighted Mr Corbyn’s unsuccessful bid to secure a clarification that said it should not be considered anti-Semitic to describe Israel as racist.
His questions were in reference to a Question Time appearance in which Ms Abbott said charedi Jews were subject to hate crime ‘because they wear that costume’
Ms Abbott was today laying out Labour’s immigration policy at the House Of Commons
Lord Sugar also branded as an ‘utter clown’ the Labour activist Peter Willsman, recently re-elected to the party’s ruling body, who suggested Jewish ‘Trump fanatics’ were behind accusations of anti-Semitism in Labour ranks.
‘Anyone would know no Jew in the UK in their right mind would be a Trump fanatic,’ he said.
We Jews mean nothing to him. The day he becomes PM is the day Britain dies
Lord Sugar added: ‘I think Mr Corbyn allowed matters to ramble on because he frankly does not give two hoots about what Jews in the UK think. He simply does not care. We mean nothing to him.
‘Perhaps Mr Corbyn is taking a leaf out of Mr Trump’s book in alluding to supporting issues which he believes a lot of the voting population are also thinking.’
Urging efforts to ensure Mr Corbyn did not become the next prime minister, he said: ‘That would be the day Britain died.’
Labour former frontbencher Lord Mendelsohn accused Mr Corbyn of failing to get a grip on the party’s anti-Semitism crisis.
Timeline of anti-Semitic scandals which have erupted under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership
The anti-Semitism scandal has dogged Labour since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader in 2015.
Here is a timeline of the controversies:
Labour MP Naz Shah is suspended for anti-Semitic posts – including one in which she appeared to endorse calls for Israelis to be deported to the US.
She apologised and was given a formal warning.
Ken Livingstone goes on the radio to defend Ms Shah – but sparks fresh controversy by claiming that Hitler supported Zionism.
He is suspended by Labour but refuses to apologise and has repeated the claim many times.
He eventually quits Labour two years later, saying his suspension has become a distraction.
A two-month inquiry by civil liberties campaigner Shami Chakrabarti finds that Labour is not overrun by anti-Semitism.
But the launch is overshadowed when Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth flees it in tears after being accused by Corbyn supporter Marc Wadsworth of colluding with the press.
Critics accuse the report of being a whitewash and Ms Chakrabarti is widely criticised for accepting a peerage from Jeremy Corbyn shortly afterwards.
The Home Affairs Select Committee says Labour is guilty of incompetence over its handling of anti-Semitism and of creating a safe space for people with ‘vile attitudes towards Jewish people’.
It is revealed that Jeremy Corbyn defended an artist who painted an anti-Semitic mural and said the offensive art should be removed.
He apologises saying he did not properly look at the picture before he made the post.
Jewish leaders take the unprecedented step of holding a demonstration outside Parliament protesting Mr Corbyn’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism.
Several Labour MPs address the crowds.
Marc Wadsworth is expelled from Labour after being accused of anti-Semitism.
Meanwhile, Labour Jewish MPs tell of the anti-Semitic abuse they have suffered in a powerful parliamentary debate – and round on their leader for failing to tackle it.
The Labour leadership sparks fresh anger by failing to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism
Peter Willsman, a strong ally of Jeremy Corbyn, is secretly taped ranting that Jewish ‘Trump fanatics’ invented the anti-Semitism storm engulfing Labour.
In an angry diatribe at a meeting of Labour’s ruling executive committee, he said he was ‘amazed’ there was evidence party members hated Jews.
He claimed ‘some of these people in the Jewish community support Trump – they are Trump fanatics’ before shouting: ‘So I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up duff information without any evidence at all.’
Jeremy Corbyn issues a video insisting he is committed to tackling the racism – but it is panned by Jewish leaders.
Corbynistas mount a social media campaign to get deputy Labour leader Tom Watson to quit after he criticises the party’s handling of anti-Semitism.
The Daily Mail exclusively publishes photos of Jeremy Corbyn holding a wreath at a ceremony where a terrorist linked to the Munich massacre was honoured.
The Labour leader insists he was there to honour others killed – but faces fresh calls to quit over the scandal.
He said: ‘It is a revelation, no longer worthy of questioning, that I too believe that the leader of my party Jeremy Corbyn has been a perpetrator of anti-Semitism.’
Former chief rabbi and independent crossbencher Lord Sacks, who had been strongly critical of Mr Corbyn, argued that anti-Semitism was ‘the hardest of all hatreds to defeat because like a virus it mutates’.
He told peers: ‘One of the enduring facts of history is that most anti-Semities is that they do not think of themselves as anti-Semites.
‘We don’t hate Jews, they said in the middle ages, just their religion. We don’t hate Jews they said in the 19th Century, just their race. We don’t hate Jews, they say now, just their nation state.’
In a clear reference to the Labour anti-Semitism controversy, Lord Sacks added: ‘Anti-Semitism or any hate becomes dangerous when three things happen.
‘First, when it moves from the fringes of politics to a main stream party and its leadership.
‘Second, when the party sees its popularity with the general public is not harmed thereby, and three when those who stand up and protest are vilified and abused for doing so.
‘All three factors exist in Britain now. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime.’
Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Pickles said anti-Semitism had been ‘repackaged and reworked for a modern audience’.
‘It’s all designed to make Jewish citizens feel uncomfortable,’ he said.
In an apparent reference to recently-emerged 2013 footage of Mr Corbyn criticising some British Zionists, Lord Pickles said: ‘It might be we suggest they lack irony, they are not capable of understanding the culture of their own country.
‘It might be that we suggest the Jews somehow have an alliance to another country outside the United Kingdom.’
Tory former minister Baroness Altmann said she had blindly believed the Holocaust could not happen again, until the last couple of years and she had never felt any threat to her ‘chosen religious beliefs’ until now.
Lady Altmann said the Government had done much to support the Jewish community and warned: ‘The hatred that seems to have spread through political discourse much more recently is truly frightening.’
Labour’s Lord Parekh condemned the polarisation of views between the Jewish community and the Labour party, insisting it was time for both sides to come together in a ‘spirit of mutual understanding’ and seek reconciliation.
Leading lawyer and independent crossbencher Lord Pannick said it was alarming that ‘in this great country… the leadership of one of our major political parties is incubating anti-Semitism’.
Lord Pannick said Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘shameful conduct encourages the release into the political atmosphere of a poison that is polluting our civil society’, adding: ‘No politician who tolerates, far less encourages, such a virus is fit for public office.’
For the Opposition, Lord Beecham said: ‘It’s especially troubling that there are people who are in denial about the problem, with some people in the party I joined 58 years ago refusing to accept it exists even when Jeremy Corbyn has, belatedly, recognised it and pledged to eliminate it.’
Lord Beecham said it wasn’t just a matter for Labour as all three major parties had encountered the problem to some degree.
There had been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and ‘latterly a tidal wave of vile abuse and threats through social media,’ to which Jewish MPs had been subjected.
Communities and local government minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth paid tribute to Labour peers for showing ‘considerable courage’ in ‘rightly’ criticising the party’s leadership.
Lord Bourne said it was impossible to think the Labour party of Harold Wilson, Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair ‘would be where the Labour party is today’.
He said his criticism was not of the party itself but of the leadership, adding: ‘It is a problem that needs addressing quickly.’
Winding-up the time limited debate, the minister promised another debate on the issue in government time before Christmas.
Why is Labour’s new code of conduct on anti-Semitism so controversial?
The Labour anti-Semitism row erupted again after the party leadership refused to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition.
The party’s code explicitly endorses the IHRA definition, but it omits four examples from the IHRA list:
– Accusing Jewish people of being more loyal to Israel than their home country;
– Claiming that Israel’s existence as a state is a racist endeavour;
– Requiring higher standards of behaviour from Israel than other nations; and
– Comparing contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis.
Labour insisted that while the examples are not reproduced word-for-word, they are covered in the new code.
But critics say the decision allows anti-Semitism to continue to fester.