The United Kingdom's Labour Party broke the civil law on equalities when handling anti-Semitism accusations during the tenure of former leader Jeremy Corbyn, a British human rights body said in a report published Thursday.
The main UK opposition party was responsible for unlawful harassment and discrimination in its handling of the allegations, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said.
"The investigation has identified serious failings in the Labour Party leadership in addressing anti-Semitism and an inadequate process for handling anti-Semitism complaints," the EHRC said in a statement.
Corbyn's tenure was marred by persistent complaints of anti-Semitism in party ranks, with many of the country’s Jews saying they would consider emigrating should he be elected prime minister.
The EHRC, which launched its independent inquiry in May 2019, said the Labour Party under Corbyn was responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act: political interference in anti-Semitism complaints; failure to provide proper training to handle the complaints and harassment.
"Our investigation has highlighted multiple areas where its approach and leadership to tackling anti-Semitism was insufficient," Caroline Waters, interim chair of the EHRC, said.
"This is inexcusable and appeared to be a result of a lack of willingness to tackle anti-Semitism rather than an inability to do so."
After leading the party to a dismal performance in the December 2019 UK elections, Corbyn was replaced in April by the former head of the prosecution service, Keir Starmer, who has vowed to stamp out anti-Semitism in the party.
Speaking after the publication of the report, Starmer referred to a "day of shame for the Labour Party."
"We have failed Jewish people, our members and the British public. And so on behalf of the Labour Party, I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused," he said.
Starmer seemed to hint that the party would take permanent action against those who still insist Labour has no problem with anti-Semitism.
"If, after all the pain, all the grief, and all the evidence in this report, there are still those who think there's no problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour party, that it’s all exaggerated, or a factional attack, then frankly you are part of the problem too - and you should be nowhere near the Labour Party," he said.
Corbyn on Thursday rejected the EHRC findings, sticking to his years-long claim that "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."
He said: "I have campaigned in support of Jewish people and communities my entire life and I will continue to do so."
Seventy serving and former officials of the party made critical submissions to the inquiry, including one respondent who listed 22 examples of anti-Semitic abuse at party meetings where he was called a "child killer" and "Tory Jew." On one occasion, he said he was told: "Hitler was right."
Former Jewish Labor MPs Luciana Berger and Dame Louise Ellman say anti-Semitism drove them out of the party, with both now retired from politics.
"Difficult and emotional day ahead," wrote Berger on Twitter shortly before the publication of the report, while Ellman penned a piece in The Times of London Thursday recalling how she was "driven out by the ugly antisemitism that became normalized with the entry of the far-left following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader."
"I was called 'the Jewish Labour Movement’s bitch', accused of 'not having human blood' and being 'a racist supporter of Israeli child abuse," Ellman wrote of the abuse she received before she quit the party.
A July 2019 BBC expose on the party, titled "Is Labour Anti-Semitic?", also spoke to former Labour officials who said top party figures, including Corbyn’s communications director Seumas Milne and general secretary Jennie Formby, had minimized complaints of anti-Semitism against party members.
The program also quoted former Labour members who felt a hostile atmosphere toward Jews within the party in recent years, who were sometimes challenged over Israeli government actions by other party members.
Labour dismissed the accusations, calling them “deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public.”
In November 2019, Corbyn declined multiple times to apologize to the UK Jewish community, hours after British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis excoriated the party over its shoddy handling of anti-Semitic "poison" within its ranks.
Veteran BBC journalist Andrew Neil asked Corbyn four times whether he wanted to apologize for pain caused to British Jews.
Each time, Corbyn sidestepped the question, replying: "What I'll say is this I am determined that our society is safe for people of all faiths."