Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is an “anti-Semite” who has “given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate,” the former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said in an exclusive interview with the New Statesman on Tuesday.
According to Sacks, Corbyn’s recently reported 2013 remarks about British Zionists were “the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician” since Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968, who alleged immigration to the UK would mean “the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”
Sacks, who was chief rabbi in Britian from 1991 until 2013, added: “It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.”
The latest anti-Semitic row to engulf Corbyn centers on comments by the Labour leader that Zionists “don’t understand English irony” despite having “lived in [the UK] for a very long time.” Corbyn made the comment in a speech at a Hamas-advertised conference in 2013, a video of which has been released last week.
In his first remarks since Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis reached a crisis point this summer, Sacks said: “Now, within living memory of the Holocaust, and while Jews are being murdered elsewhere in Europe for being Jews, we have an antisemite as the leader of the Labour party and Her Majesty’s opposition. That is why Jews feel so threatened by Mr Corbyn and those who support him.”
The former chief rabbi charged that the Labour leader was “using the language of classic pre-war European antisemitism,” and added, “We can only judge Jeremy Corbyn by his words and his actions. He has given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate who want to kill Jews and remove Israel from the map.”
“When challenged with such facts, the evidence for which is before our eyes, first he denies, then he equivocates, then he obfuscates,” Sacks continued.
Sacks further observed that Jews had contributed to every aspect of British life for more than three and a half centuries. “We know our history better than Mr Corbyn, and we have learned that the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. Mr Corbyn’s embrace of hate defiles our politics and demeans the country we love.”
The Labour Party responded by describing Rabbi Lord Sacks’ comments as “absurd and offensive,” insisting Mr Corbyn did not use “Zionist” as a synonym for Jews. “Jeremy Corbyn is determined to tackle anti-Semitism both within the Labour Party and in wider society, and the Labour Party is committed to rebuilding trust with the Jewish community.”