LONDON — Britain’s main opposition party, Labour, suspended its former leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday after he tried to deflect blame for the party’s handling of anti-Semitism allegations.
Mr. Corbyn made his comments after a human rights watchdog in Britain said in the findings of a formal investigation that the party bore responsibility for “unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” against Jewish members, reinforcing complaints that long clouded Mr. Corbyn’s tenure as party leader from 2015 to 2020.
A few hours after Mr. Corbyn posted a statement on Facebook blaming “opponents inside and outside the party” and the media for overstating Labour’s failures on anti-Semitism, the party said that Mr. Corbyn had been suspended.
“In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation,” the party said.
Before the suspension was announced, Keir Starmer, Mr. Corbyn’s successor as leader of the party, responded to the watchdog report by apologizing.
“I found this report hard to read and it is a day of shame for the Labour Party,” he said, standing behind a lectern bearing the slogan “A New Leadership” — an unsubtle signal of his effort to turn the party away from the hard-left policies and the sometimes divisive leadership of Mr. Corbyn. “We have failed the Jewish people, our members, our supporters and the British public.”
The watchdog, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission — an independent official body whose recommendations are legally enforceable — said it had investigated complaints of anti-Semitism and found that Labour’s political leadership had interfered in the party’s own investigations of anti-Semitic incidents. Those included a complaint against Mr. Corbyn, who stepped down as party leader in April.
Mr. Starmer said that the party had already taken steps to combat anti-Semitism, including changes in how complaints were handled.
The commission’s report described the party as having created a culture that could, at times, be seen as tolerant of anti-Semitism and accused two former party officials of anti-Semitic comments that it said amounted to unlawful harassment.
Complaints of anti-Semitism prompted an exodus of Jewish lawmakers and members from the Labour Party during Mr. Corbyn’s leadership and contributed to a groundswell of public discontent that culminated in Labour’s devastating loss in a December general election.
That vote, won by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, put Britain on an irreversible path toward leaving the European Union and handed Mr. Johnson an overwhelming majority in Parliament.
Mr. Corbyn’s own response to the watchdog report acknowledged anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, but at the same time cast the yearslong scandal as a creation of its political opponents.
In the statement on Facebook that triggered his suspension from Labour, he said that he had tried to make it easier to expel anti-Semitic members and that his leadership team had involved itself only “to speed up, not hinder the process.”
“One anti-Semite is one too many, but 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 added. “That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated.”