2018-08-29 / Editorial

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s views threaten Jewish life in Britain

In July, all three of Great Britain’s major Jewish community newspapers took an unusual stance by jointly publishing a front-page editorial warning of “an existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government.”

Corbyn, a longtime leftist member of British Parliament, is the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, historically considered the natural home for Britain’s 270,000 Jews. Since his rise to power in 2015, allegations of anti-Semitism have stuck to him and other members of the party. Although Labour is currently the minority party, Corbyn and his party have a credible chance to take over Parliament as a result of the chaos caused by Brexit.

As the editorial put it: “With the government in Brexit disarray, there is a clear and present danger that a man with a default blindness to the Jewish community’s fears, a man who has a problem seeing that hateful rhetoric aimed at Israel can easily step into anti-Semitism, could be our next prime minister.”

The dire warning came after the party’s refusal to fully adopt widely accepted examples of anti-Semitism as suggested by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. For example, Labour has rejected the notion that it is anti-Semitic to compare contemporary Israeli policies to those of the Nazis or that Israel’s very existence is a racist endeavor. Corbyn, who has been a staunch supporter of Palestinians over his 30-plus years in government, maintains that, as a matter of free speech, people should be able to condemn Israel without fear of being branded anti-Jewish.

Amid the controversy, new revelations of Corbyn’s stances are being examined, including his hosting of a 2010 panel where Israelis were compared to Nazis. Moreover, in 2012, he defended an artist’s freedom of speech but failed to condemn the artist’s London mural depicting bankers using Jewish tropes. Corbyn has also been criticized for paid appearances on Iranian state TV and his support for Hezbollah and Hamas, both sworn enemies of Israel, which Corbyn once called “friends.” (He has since disavowed that stance.)

In recent days, a film of the Labour leader has circulated in which he claims Zionists in Britain “don’t understand English irony.” Although Corbyn’s supporters say the film of his remarks at the pro-Palestinian event in 2012 was taken out of context.

Luciana Berger, a prominent Labour MP, condemned “inexcusable comments” which made her feel “unwelcome in my own party,” adding: “I’ve lived in Britain all my life and I don’t need any lessons in history [or] irony.”

It is to the detriment of British Jewry that Jeremy Corbyn does need those lessons—and more. 

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