Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn repeatedly declined to apologize to British Jewry for his handling of anti-Semitism in his party, during an interview with the BBC on Tuesday evening.
The BBC’s Andrew Neil pressed Corbyn several times to apologize to the Jewish community, in the wake of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s statement that Britain’s Jews were “gripped by anxiety” over the future of the community in the country, amid the prospect of a Labour win in the December 12 election.
“What I’ll say is this: I am determined that our society will be safe for people of all faiths,” Corbyn said.
“I don’t want anyone to be feeling insecure in our society and our government will protect every community against the abuse they receive…”
Without explicitly calling on people not to vote for Labour, or even mentioning Corbyn by name, Mirvis warned in an op-ed published in The Times on Monday that “a new poison – sanctioned from the top – has taken root in the Labour Party.”
In what was widely seen in Britain as a response to Mirvis’s comments, Corbyn subsequently told Labour members on Tuesday, “Anti-Semitism in any form is vile and wrong” and “an evil within our society.”
Asked by Neil about Mirvis’s assertion that his claim to have investigated all allegations of anti-Semitism by Labour members was a “mendacious fiction,” Corbyn dismissed the chief rabbi’s statement, answering that ““He’s not right. He would have to produce the evidence to say that’s mendacious.”
He said he looked “forward to having a discussion with him because I want to hear why he would say such a thing.”
Corbyn also boasted of his efforts to strengthen Labour’s “process” for handling anti-Semitism complaints and denied that anti-Semitism increased “after I became leader.”
In a widely viewed documentary aired by the BBC this summer, former Labour staff members recounted being subjected to anti-Semitic abuse, and alleged that senior party officials interfered in investigations of complaints.
Polls suggest that just six percent of UK Jews plan to vote Labour. Nearly half say they would “seriously consider” emigrating if Corbyn — a man 87% of those polled believe is an anti-Semite — gets to Downing Street.
Jewish groups have accused Corbyn, a far-left politician, of allowing a massive rise in anti-Semitism within the ranks of the party that was once considered the natural home of British Jewry. Thousands of cases of alleged hate speech against Jews have been recorded within Labour since 2015, when Corbyn was elected to lead the party.
Much of the fear of Corbyn is spurred by revelations about his past record that have emerged since he became Labour leader. These include him describing Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”; defending an anti-Semitic mural in East London; and a seeming willingness to associate with alleged anti-Semites, terrorists, and Holocaust-deniers. The party is currently being formally investigated by the UK’s anti-racism watchdog.