In an attack on opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday said there was no excuse for anti-Semitism and pledged her commitment to Israel’s security.
Speaking at the United Jewish Israel Appeal charity dinner, the prime minister at no point mentioned Corbyn by name but said it “sickens” her that some British Jews were weighing their future in the country, referring to a recent poll which found that almost 40 percent of British Jews would seriously consider emigrating if Corbyn became prime minister.
“If we are to stand up for the values that we share then one of the things we need to do is give young Jewish people the confidence to be proud of their identity, as British, Jewish and Zionist too,” May said.
“There is no contradiction between these identities – and we must never let anyone try to suggest that there should be.”
May seemed to make reference to the stream of allegedly anti-Semitic utterances and activities by Corbyn and other Labour Party members, saying that “nothing excuses anti-Semitism – not comedy, not satire, not even irony.”
Last month video emerged of Corbyn saying that “Zionists” do not grasp “English irony” despite often having lived in Britain for years. The Labour leader denied he was referring generally to Jewish people.
May also referred to the recent storm over the Labour Party’s belated approval of an international definition of anti-Semitism, despite Corbyn’s attempt to get his party to declare that it should not be considered anti-Semitic to describe Israel and/or the circumstances of Israel’s establishment as racist.
“Let me be clear: you cannot claim to be tackling racism, if you are not tackling anti-Semitism,” said May, before noting that the British government was the first in the world to adopt the definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
“Criticizing the actions of Israel is never — and can never be — an excuse for questioning Israel’s right to exist,” she said.
The prime minister also stressed her longstanding commitment to the British Jewish community, explaining how in the wake of the January 2015 terror attacks in Paris, she attended a communal meeting in her capacity as then-home secretary.
“In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher shop attacks in Paris I came to a Board of Deputies meeting and joined you in defiance of that horror to say ‘Je suis Juif,'” said May.
“And in the face of any kind of hatred against the Jewish people – in any form and anywhere, whether overseas or right here in our own country – I say with that same defiance: ‘Je suis Juif.'”
“I want to thank the United Jewish Israel Appeal for the service they have given to our Jewish community in Britain over many, many years. Your work here is absolutely vital." – PM @Theresa_May at the United Jewish Israel Appeal dinner. pic.twitter.com/iVYJHYiyXz
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) September 17, 2018
May also pledged her commitment to Israel’s right to self-defense.
“You can also count on my commitment to Israel’s security,” she said. “I am clear that we will always support Israel’s right to defend itself.
“Under my leadership the UK will always be a real and trusted partner for Israel, supporting Israel’s security and prosperity, not just through our words but also through our actions.”