Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn acknowledges his audience prior to giving his keynote speech at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Britain, September 27, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The reaction of Britain’s Labour Party leadership to “widespread” antisemitism within the party has been “derisory,” said three of Britain’s most celebrated Jewish writers on Monday.
Prominent British authors Howard Jacobson, Simon Sebag Montefiore and Simon Schama penned an open letter to The Times expressing their alarm due to “the tone and direction of debate about Israel and Zionism within the Labour Party” under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
“We are alarmed that during the past few years, constructive criticism of Israeli governments has morphed into something closer to antisemitism under the cloak of so-called anti-Zionism,” wrote the authors.
“Although anti-Zionists claim innocence of any antisemitic intent, anti-Zionism frequently borrows the libels of classical Jew-hating,” the letter continued.
“Accusations of international Jewish conspiracy and control of the media have resurfaced to support false equations of Zionism with colonialism and imperialism, and the promotion of vicious, fictitious parallels with genocide and Nazism. How, in such instances, is anti-Zionism distinguishable from antisemitism?” the writers added.
Corbyn’s Labour Party has been repeatedly rocked by antisemitism
scandals since he assumed the party’s leadership in September 2015.
“Such themes and language have become widespread in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party,” accused the writers. “So far the Labour leadership’s reaction has been derisory. It is not enough to denounce all racisms in general when this specific strain rages unchecked.”
The writers also expressed their hope to see the establishment of a Palestinian state existing peacefully alongside the State of Israel.
“We do not forget nor deny that the Palestinian people have an equally legitimate, ancient history and culture in Palestine nor that they have suffered wrongs that must be healed,” they said.
In September, Corbyn rejected claims of institutional tolerance for antisemitism within the Labour Party at the party’s annual conference following new scandals arising from conference fringe events.
“This is not a nasty party... Anyone using antisemitic language, anyone using any form of racist language, is completely at odds with the beliefs of this party.”
A poll commissioned by British charity Campaign Against Antisemitism in August, however, saw 83% of Jewish respondents state that Labour is “too tolerant of antisemitism among their MPs, members and supporters.” Only 4% felt that no UK political parties tolerate antisemitism.
An internal Labour report commissioned by Corbyn cleared the party of antisemitism claims in June 2016. The investigation, carried out by Labour politician Shami Chakrabarti, did find an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” in the party but concluded that it “is not overrun by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism.”
Chakrabarti was nominated for a peerage only weeks later leading to claims that the report was a “whitewash” in return for the honor.
Corbyn faced further criticism last month when he refused to attend a joint British-Israeli dinner marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, responded to Corbyn’s refusal, saying: “Those who oppose the Balfour Declaration are exposing themselves for the extremists they are.”
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