I spent my early adulthood in Britain – from age 22 to 33 – and six of my nine children were born there. I feel a deep attachment to the country and continue to love visiting Oxford, where I served as rabbi to the students. Nothing can undermine my attachment to a country where the Lubavitcher Rebbe sent me and my wife just months after our marriage. But the country’s toleration of Jeremy Corbyn is deeply disconcerting. His antisemitism is a disgrace.
In March, thousands of Jews protested outside Parliament to protest Corbyn’s failure to address the problem of antisemitism within his party. More recently, the three leading Jewish newspapers published a joint editorial that said the election of the Labor Party under party leader Jeremy Corbyn would pose an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country.” The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph wrote, “The party that was, until recently, the natural home for our community has seen its values and integrity eroded by Corbynite contempt for Jews and Israel.” The papers added, “The stain and shame of antisemitism has coursed through Her Majesty’s Opposition since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.”
Having lived in England, I can tell you these public expressions of anger and alarm about antisemitism were unprecedented. British Jews have lived in the tradition of keeping a stiff upper lip and largely remaining publicly silent. The community has always had a feeling of insecurity that led its leaders to prefer to act quietly behind the scenes whenever an issue of concern arose. The fact that the leading publications and community officials have begun to openly express their views on Corbyn and his party is indicative of how rotten they have become.
Jews were especially angered when the party’s highest ranking body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), decided to adopt a selective version of the definition of antisemitism carefully worded and negotiated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and adopted by the European Parliament, 31 countries and the US Senate. The NEC decided to leave out the parts of the definition applying to types of criticism of Israel that crossed the line into antisemitism. The committee objected to the idea that it was antisemitic to compare Israeli policies to those of the Nazis or to claim that Israel’s existence is racist. Corbyn later said it was incorrect to say that “Zionism is racism,” but it is equally wrong “to assert that ‘anti-Zionism is racism.’”
As the Jewish papers noted, “Under its adapted guidelines, a Labor Party member is free to claim Israel’s existence is a racist endeavor and compare Israeli policies to those of Nazi Germany, unless ‘intent’ – whatever that means – can be proved.”
The NEC ignored a letter from 68 British rabbis urging them to accept the definition and criticizing Labor for ignoring “those who understand antisemitism the best, the Jewish community.” Subsequently, a tape from the meeting was leaked in which a Corbyn ally said, “I think we should ask the seventy rabbis, ‘Where is your evidence of severe and widespread antisemitism in this party?’” He also blamed the accusations on Trump-supporting Jews.
Despite the uproar over the decision, Corbyn and the party have refused to change their position. This was no surprise, given his refusal to enact any changes within the party or punish those who have made antisemitic remarks. Two years ago, a Corbyn-initiated inquiry whitewashed the party’s connection to antisemitism.
Corbyn has provoked consternation in the Jewish community for years by his words and deeds. He, for example, described it as an “honor and pleasure” to host “our friends” from Hamas and Hezbollah in Parliament, whom he said were committed to “bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region.”
Corbyn seems drawn like a moth to a flame to antisemites, terrorists, murderers and other unsavory characters and repeatedly made incendiary remarks. He has, for example:
• Addressed a pro-Palestinian rally in 2010 in which he compared Israel to the Nazis by suggesting the Israeli blockade of Gaza was similar to the sieges of Stalingrad and Leningrad in World War II.
• Written a complimentary post on Facebook regarding a mural depicting a group of bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of the poor that was considered antisemitic.
• Had tea in Parliament with Palestinian Sheikh Raed Salah, an “honored citizen” whom a British court ruled had used a “blood libel” in reference to Jews.
• Took money to host a show on the Iranian propaganda broadcaster Press TV.
• Met with the emir of Qatar, the principal funder of Hamas.
• Been a member of several social media groups used as platforms for antisemitic posts.
• Spoken at the wedding of Husam Zomlot, a PLO official who claimed that Israel had “fabricated” the Holocaust.
• Was forced to suspend a member of his Shadow Cabinet who suggested that Israelis should be relocated to the United States and the former mayor of London, who defended him and added Hitler “was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”
Most recently, a photograph was found showing Corbyn laying a wreath in 2014 in Tunisia at the memorial for Palestinian terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics and was present when a wreath was laid for one of the masterminds of the attack. Lamely, Corbyn said he “wanted to see a fitting memorial to everyone who has died in every terrorist incident everywhere.” If that were true, instead of standing by the graves of the culprits, he would be laying wreaths in cemeteries in Israel where the men, women and children killed by Palestinian terrorists he lauds are buried.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized Corbyn for honoring the perpetrators of the massacre, Corbyn’s response was to attack Israel for killing Gaza protesters. This, too, was an example of Corbyn’s antisemitic leanings, as he has repeatedly condemned Israeli reactions to terrorist attacks without ever acknowledging the provocations by his honored friends from Hamas.
After Corbyn penned an apology in The Guardian “for the hurt that has been caused to many Jewish people,” Labor’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said the party had “to take a long, hard look at ourselves, stand up for what is right and present the party as fit to lead the nation - or disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment.” Watson was then accused by another member of the party of receiving a large sum of money from Jewish donors. “At least Judas only got 30 pieces of silver,” said George McManus.
Corbyn’s attitude is so transparent that Dame Margaret Hodge, a fellow Labor MP, went up to him and called him “an antisemite and a racist.”
I agree. Corbyn is a disgrace.
Corbyn is an unabashed supporter of the Palestinians. He is entitled to that view, but he consistently takes the antisemitic position of applying a double-standard to Israel’s behavior, ignoring Palestinian provocations and obduracy. His record, as noted above, shows he personally is more at home with murderers than British Jewish citizens and that he tolerates a toxic environment within the Labor Party in which antisemitism is allowed to fester and then explode into public view.
Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to lead the great nation of Britain and should be removed as leader of the Labor Party and replaced by someone who respects the Jewish community and all minorities, understands Israel’s security dilemma, and is prepared to root out antisemitism from every corner of the Labor Party.The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America” is the international best-selling author of 32 books, including “Lust for Love”, co-authored with Pamela Anderson. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley
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