London's New Muslim Mayor Signs Pledge to Fight anti-Semitism

Calling anti-Semitism a 'very present problem' in London, Sadiq Khan joins 150 mayors in 30 European countries in endorsing the mission.

London's Mayor Sadiq Khan speaks with Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis at a Holocaust commemoration ceremony in north London, May 8, 2016.
Peter Nicholls, Reuters

London’s newly-elected mayor, Sadiq Khan, endorsed a pledge co-signed by dozens of American and European mayors to fight anti-Semitism.

Khan, a Muslim Labour politician who won the May 5 mayoral election by a broad majority, recently informed the Board of Deputies of British Jews of his decision to join the Mayors United Against Antisemitism initiative, the Board said in a statement published Thursday.

The Board and two other Jewish groups approached Khan to sign the pledge, which has been endorsed by more than 90 mayors from more than 20 countries in Europe, the statement said.

“I am proud to sign the Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism pledge and I will encourage other mayors across the country and Europe to do the same, to help send the message far and wide that anti-Semitism is totally unacceptable and can never be justified,” Khan said in the statement sent out by the Board. “Sadly, for many Londoners, anti-Semitism is a very present problem. As a British Muslim, I am no stranger to discrimination and prejudice.”

Developed by the American Jewish Committee, or AJC, in July 2015 and launched in Europe later that year, the initiative received its first European cosignatory in Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, followed by her counterparts in Frankfurt, Madrid, Milan and Copenhagen. In all, 150 mayors from 30 countries have signed in Europe and more than 300 mayors from 50 American states also supported the project.

Khan has condemned members of his own party who engaged in hateful rhetoric against Jews and Israel. This vitriol within Labour has exposed the party to close scrutiny in local media, and by Labour members who blame party leader Jeremy Corbyn of either failing to stop it or encouraging it with his endorsement in the past of Hamas and Hezbollah and perceived reluctance to admit Labour has an anti-Semitism problem.

“Anti-Semitism is one of the greatest challenges facing Jews in London and across the country,” Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Jewish board, said in a statement about Khan’s pledge. Arkush added that “this sets a very positive tone that we hope will be replicated throughout Khan’s mayoralty.”

With recent concerns “expressed about currents within Britain’s Labour Party regarding anti-Semitism, this is a particularly welcome and important development, since he is such a prominent member of the Labour Party,” AJC Chief Executive Officer David Harris said of Khan.