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Former British prime minister urges Labour to act on anti-Semitism

Gordon Brown says the issue touches ‘the soul of the Labour Party’ and implores Corbyn to fully adopt widely accepted definition

Gordon Brown, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, holds a news conference, September 16, 2016 at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Gordon Brown, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, holds a news conference, September 16, 2016 at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

LONDON, United Kingdom — Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged his opposition Labour party Sunday to adopt the internationally agreed definition of anti-Semitism in order to resolve a bitter row that has engulfed the party for months.

The issue has opened up deep and bitter divisions within Britain’s main opposition party.

And its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has come under prolonged attack for refusing to adopt fully the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in Labour’s new code of conduct.

He has also been accused of allowing anti-Semitism to spread in the left-wing party.

The Labour leadership has argued the definition, signed by 31 countries and used by many British institutions, does not allow for full criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The four clauses rejected by the party relate to unfair singling out of Israel or questioning the loyalty of Jews who support Israel.

Ahead of a meeting of its ruling executive committee on Tuesday, Brown — who was prime minister between June 2007 and May 2010 — said the issue touched at “the soul of the Labour Party.”

“This is a problem that is real and present and something that’s got to be dealt with now,” he told a Jewish Labour Movement conference.

“I want to say to you very clearly today that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is something we should support unanimously, unequivocally and immediately.”

His comments came as Jewish leaders continue to lambaste Corbyn over the controversy.

Former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks said Sunday the majority of Jews are questioning whether Britain is a safe place to bring up their children.

The peer, who is not affiliated with any party, insisted the Labour leader must “recant and repent” and that he risked engulfing the country “in the flames of hatred.”

“Jews have been in Britain since 1656, I know of no other occasion in these 362 years when Jews… are asking ‘is this country safe to bring up our children,'” he told the BBC.

Veteran Labour lawmaker Frank Field, who has sat in the House of Commons for almost 40 years, quit the party’s group in parliament Thursday over the mounting anti-Semitism allegations.

In a letter to the party, he said that Corbyn’s leadership was overseeing an “erosion of our core values.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell defended the Labour leader Sunday, telling the BBC that critics had “got it wrong.”

“Jeremy has made it absolutely clear we will protect Jewish members of our party from any form of abuse and anti-Semitism,” he said.

McDonnell predicted all sides would be “satisfied” with the proposals agreed Tuesday.

“It will be resolved, and there will be a balance about acceptance,” he said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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