Britain's Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks speaks during an interview at his home in London, April 17, 2002.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Former UK Chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks has called on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to “repent and recant” his comments about Zionists failing to understand irony, and for his and his party’s treatment of the Jewish community.
The highly respected rabbi said the Jewish community in the United Kingdom sees the possibility of Corbyn becoming prime minister as an existential threat to Jewish life in the country, and that his attitude to terrorist groups and his past rhetoric could ignite “the flames of hatred.”
Corbyn and the Labour Party have been caught up in a maelstrom of antisemitism accusations, following its refusal to adopt in full the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), along with several revelations of comments and actions made by Corbyn himself.
Most recently, a video surfaced of the Labour leader saying about British Zionists that “having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony.”
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Sacks said Corbyn’s leadership of Labour and the possibility it could win the next general election has generated serious anxiety within the local Jewish community.
“When people hear the kind of language coming out of Labour that’s been brought to the surface among Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier speeches, they cannot but feel an existential threat,” he said.
“Anyone who befriends Hamas and Hezbollah, [and] anyone who uses the term ‘Zionist’ loosely without great care is in danger of engulfing Britain in the kind of flames of hatred that have reappeared throughout Europe and is massively irresponsible.
“Until he expresses clear remorse for what he has said and what his party has done to its Jewish sympathizers and MPs, he is as great a danger as Enoch Powell was then.”
Sacks’s remarks came after an interview he gave to the New Statesman
last week in which he labeled Corbyn “an antisemite” and said his reference to Zionists had been the most racially divisive speech in a generation.
Corbyn’s comments and the row over Labour’s refusal to adopt in full the IHRA antisemitism definition has led to significant backlash from party moderates, especially serving MPs and former senior Labour government officials.
In a speech in London on Sunday, former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown called on the party to immediately adopt the full IHRA antisemitism definition and decried its failure to consult with the Jewish community before adopting parts of the IHRA document.
“The IHRA definition is something we must support unanimously, unequivocally and immediately,” said Brown. “This is not [about] changing a policy or a procedure – It’s about what we stand for... It’s about the soul of the Labour Party.
“Listen to the people who have experienced and suffered the discrimination. Would you, as any party, [produce] a document on sexism and sexual violence produced by men without consulting women – the women of the party – about what they really feel and getting their advice? Would you produce a document on racism without consulting the black community? Would you produce a document on homophobia without consulting with the LG[T]B community?”
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, who is Jewish and has been embroiled in the antisemitism furor, also hit out at Corbyn on Sunday, and also pointed at Labour’s failure to consult with the Jewish community over the definition issue as a central grievance.
“He treated mainstream Jewish organizations with disdain,” she told The Sunday Times
“Just imagine treating any BAME [black and minority ethnic] group like this, or if they had discussed sexual harassment without any women – we’d have gone ballistic.”
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