Dame Margaret Hodge MP is one of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s most vocal critics. She is also now the subject of a formal complaint in which the Right Honourable Member for Barking is accused of anti-Semitism and treating a Jewish supporter of Corbyn as a “second class” Jew.
The formal complaint against Hodge was made by Shraga Stern, a member of the Orthodox Jewish community, one of many Jews to back Corbyn. Hodge, it seems, was irritated by a meeting between Stern and Corbyn at Portcullis House in Westminster earlier this month and commented on a photo of them together while denouncing Stern on Twitter for his beliefs.
“Having lunch & wondering why Corbyn wants to be seen talking to an anti-LGBT activist who doesn’t represent the mainstream Jewish community yet chooses to sideline groups like @JewishLabour…” wrote Hodge in response to news about the meeting attended by Stern, the Labour leader and his wife Laura Alvarez, and the shadow international development secretary, Dan Carden.
Stern has taken exception to Hodge’s description of him as a non-“mainstream” Jew, and has made a formal complaint both directly to her and to the Labour Party.
In a letter sent on Sunday to Hodge, Stern asked if it’s “ok to be hurt and assaulted for simply living in the UK as a Charedi Jew.” In his condemnation of Hodge he went on to ask, “Is it acceptable for a party member to suffer from stress due to anti-Semitic assaults for being a Charedi Jew? Is it ok for a Member of Parliament to assault a fellow Jew for the reason that his external appearances are different? Last but not least, why is it wrong for Jeremy Corbyn to speak to a second-class Jew?” That is a description of Jews which Stern claims was made by Hodge herself about members of her community of whom she disapproves.
In his letter to the Labour Party, Stern says that Hodge had defamed him as being an anti-LGBT activist. He insisted that was not true. “My campaign stood against all sex teachings in the classroom and that they should be taught by parents at home as is the Charedi custom,” he explained. In what seems to be a further rebuke to Hodge for misrepresenting him, Stern claims that his position on the matter was clear all along. What’s more, he accused Hodge of continuously “attacking” his “religious Jewish tradition.” Such attacks would appear to match the universally accepted definition of anti-Semitism.
To support his case, Stern provided the Labour Party with a list of attacks directed by Hodge against the Orthodox Jewish community and said that her behaviour was “pure religious anti-Semitism against me, my religion and my Rabbis.”
It is not clear how the Labour Party will handle the complaint against Hodge who has been one of the main spearheads of the campaign against Corbyn. She was once disciplined by Labour for calling the Party leader a “f***ing anti-Semite and a racist” during a heated exchange. So far, the Labour Party is reported to have said only that it does not comment on individual cases but insists that it takes all complaints of anti-Semitism extremely seriously.
Hodge has continued her campaign against Corbyn and used every opportunity to undermine the Labour leader. Writing in the Guardian following the BBC Panorama programme about alleged anti-Semitism in Labour, she said, “I won’t walk away from the fight to root out anti-Semitism in the party. But the leadership remains in denial.”
Orthodox Jews make up around one quarter of Britain’s Jewish community, numbering 67,000 in total. With a higher than average birth rate, it is predicted to become one half of all Jews in the country. Clearly, then, it is not an insignificant group, as Hodge’s tweet implied. The MPs comments will raise further questions about her motives in continuing her ongoing attack on Corbyn over the anti-Semitism row within the Labour Party. Many will also ask if she is actually part of the problem, and guilty of fuelling hatred against Jews of whom she disapproves.