Britain’s former chief rabbi has doubled down on his scathing criticism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, warning that Jewish people are thinking about leaving the United Kingdom because of the “existential threat” of anti-Semitism.
Jonathan Sacks told the BBC in an interview broadcast Sunday that for the first time in the 362 years Jews have lived in Britain, many question whether it is safe to raise children there.
Interviewer Andrew Marr asked Sacks if he knew Jewish people who were beginning to think about leaving Britain because of the “existential threat” of a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour government. The former chief rabbi answered, “Of course.”
He singled out Corbyn for failing to address anti-Semitic attitudes in the main opposition party, saying the Labour leader would pose a danger as prime minister unless he expressed “clear remorse” for past statements.
Sacks said “when people hear the kind of language that has been coming out of Labour, that has been brought to the surface among Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier speeches, they cannot but feel an existential threat.”
Last week, Sacks branded Corbyn a dangerous anti-Semite, and accused him of giving “support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate, who want to kill Jews and remove Israel from the map.” The Labour leader, Sacks said, uses “the language of classic prewar European anti-Semitism.”
Asked Sunday morning if his criticism of Corbyn went too far, Sacks said “absolutely not.”
“I had to issue a warning: Anti-Semitism has returned to mainland Europe within living memory of the Holocaust,” he added.
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“Anyone who befriends Hamas and Hezbollah, anyone who uses the term ‘Zionist’ loosely and without great care is in danger of engulfing Britain in the kind of flames of hatred that has reappeared throughout Europe, and is massively responsible,” Sacks said.
Corbyn has been under mounting attack for his own allegedly anti-Semitic positions and has been accused of failing to root anti-Semitism out of Labour, Britain’s main opposition party.
A group of 15 Labour MPs are on the verge of breaking away and forming a new party out of frustration with his handling of the widespread scandal surrounding the issue, The Times reported Sunday, after veteran Labour MP Frank Field quit the Party on Thursday, saying the opposition party had become a “force for anti-Semitism.”
The latest firestorm to engulf the party followed the revelation last month of comments made by Corbyn in a 2013 speech at the Palestinian Return Centre in London, where he said of a group of British “Zionists”: “They clearly have two problems. One is they don’t want to study history and, secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either.”
Labour castigated Sacks for branding Corbyn an anti-Semite, calling the former chief rabbi’s comments absurd and offensive. Corbyn, a potential prime minister as head of the UK’s main opposition party, defended his 2013 remarks, insisting that his reference to “Zionists” was not a euphemism for the Jewish people.
Two weeks ago, footage surfaced of Corbyn accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians during a 2014 rally, as a Hamas flag waved behind him. Corbyn called the terror group “friends” prior to his election as Labour leader two years ago, a statement he has since walked back.
One of the photos published recently showed Corbyn hosting a panel featuring senior Hamas officials in 2012, including members convicted of murdering Israelis in terror attacks.
Earlier in August, the Daily Mail published photos of Corbyn holding a wreath during a 2014 ceremony at a Tunisian cemetery in which he appeared to be standing near the graves of Palestinian terrorists involved in the slaying of 11 Israeli athletes and team members at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The photos appeared to show Corbyn in front of a plaque honoring members of the Black September terrorist organization, 15 yards (approximately 13 meters) away from the graves of those killed in a 1985 airstrike. The photos of Corbyn at the cemetery were condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Allegations of anti-Jewish prejudice within Labour have grown since Corbyn was elected leader in 2015. Some in the party allege that Corbyn, a longtime critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, has allowed anti-Semitic abuse to go unchecked.
The issue has split the party, with some Corbyn supporters accusing opponents and right-wing media outlets of misrepresenting the leader’s views.
The dispute recently boiled over after the party proposed adopting a definition of anti-Semitism that differed from the one approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a move that was met with anger from Jewish groups and the country’s current chief rabbi.