Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog sent a letter on Thursday to U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in which he accused him and his party of crossing the line into anti-Semitism through what he described as their demonization of Israel.
The letter was prompted by a BBC Panorama investigation into anti-Semitism in the British party – titled “Is Labor Anti-Semitic?” – which was aired last week.
“It is legitimate to criticize any government. I have done so myself as leader of the opposition, from within the Knesset – as vibrant and as vivid a democratic parliament as you may find in any liberal democracy,” wrote Herzog, who served as chairman of the Israeli Labor Party from 2013 to 2018.
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“But it is racist to attribute to a whole ethnic or religious group negative characteristics, which are supposedly innate,” he added. “It is anti-Semitic to demonize Israel and Israelis in general as inherently evil. It is anti-Semitic to apply double standards to Israel, that is: To hold it to standards to which no other nation is held. And it is anti-Semitic to delegitimize the Jewish people's right to a sovereign state of its own – and to apply this denial exclusively to Jews and to no other people. All of this relies heavily on ages-old anti-Jewish prejudice, stereotypes and bigotry. The new mask of this old hatred fools no one.”
Herzog described the treatment of anti-Semitic incidents within the ranks of the British Labor party, as exposed in the BBC documentary, as “outrageous,” and the leniency displayed by the party's institutions toward members who spread anti-Semitic tropes as “mind-boggling.”
The Jewish Agency chairman noted that when he served as head of Labor (“your sister party”), he had invited Corbyn to pay a visit to Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based Holocaust memorial and museum. “It is a shame that you did not respond to this invitation as many other leaders did,” he wrote.
Herzog urged Corbyn to establish an independent commission of inquiry into anti-Semitism within the Labour party and to publish its recommendations. Such measures, he wrote, “will allow British Jews to feel safe and wanted once again within Labour, as they have in the past.”
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