Corbyn Rejects Concerns That Labour Poses Existential Threat to U.K. Jews as 'Overheated Rhetoric'

In piece written for The Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn admits Labour has been too slow in tackling anti-Semitism, but refrains from apologizing for any of the recent scandals

U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, April 2018.
Matt Dunham/AP

U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded to the anti-Semitism controversy currently engulfing his party, writing in the Guardian that his party poses no threat to the British-Jewish community despite the "real problem" within Labour.

Corbyn, however, did not apologize for any of the recent scandals that have elicited unpredecented outrage among Britain's Jewish community.

"I want to make it absolutely clear that any government I lead will take whatever measures are necessary to guarantee the security of Jewish communities, Jewish schools, Jewish places of worship, Jewish social care, Jewish culture and Jewish life as a whole in this country," Corbyn wrote.

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Corbyn, however, rejected criticism expressd by a recent joint publication by the three leading British-Jewish newspapers warning that a Labour-led government with Corbyn at its helm would pose an "existential threat" to British-Jewish life, calling it "the kind of overheated rhetoric that can surface during emotional political debates."

Corbyn addressed the scandal that erupted after Labour refused to accept the full definition of anti-Semitism as formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and which has been accepted by a wide range of organizations, political parties and government agencies in Britain and other countries. "The community should have been consulted more extensively at an earlier stage," Corbyn wrote, adding that "I feel confident that this outstanding issue can be resolved through dialogue with community organisations, including the Jewish Labour Movement, during this month’s consultation." Corbyn, however, did not signal that the party would revisit the policy.

A spokesperson for the Jewish Labour Movement was unenthused by Corbyn's piece, writing: "Today, other than another article bemoaning a situation of the party’s own making, nothing has changed. There is no trust left. We find ourselves asking once again for action, not words.”

Corbyn also addressed the critics who conflate his critical views of Israel with alleged anti-Semitism, writing that "In the 1970s some on the left mistakenly argued that 'Zionism is racism.' That was wrong, but to assert that 'anti-Zionism is racism' now is wrong too."

"Hostility to the Israeli state or its policies can be expressed in racist terms and that needs to be called out. But there are also many non- or anti-Zionist Jews who should not be branded as anti-Semites simply because they are not part of the Zionist tradition. Both traditions have always had honorable proponents in our movement."

Corbyn also criticized Israel's behavior over the past year, citing "the killing of many unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, and Israel’s new nation-state law relegating Palestinian citizens of Israel to second-class status. I know that many within the Jewish community, including the Board of Deputies, share our concerns."

On Wednesday, the Politics Home website reported that the U.K. Labour Party leader (at the time a backbencher) signed a parliamentary motion in 2011 calling for Holocaust Memorial Day to be renamed. It also emerged Wednesday that Corbyn attended a protest rally outside the Israeli Embassy in London in 2010, during which he compared Israel's blockade of Gaza to the Siege of Leningrad during World War II, when the Nazis killed more than a million Russians. Corbyn apologized Tuesday for the "concerns and anxiety" his hosting of an event on Holocaust Memorial Day in 2010 that compared the Israeli government to the Nazis may have caused.