US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a group of British Jewish leaders that Washington would “push back” against UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and do its “level best” to keep him from taking any steps that would make life difficult for Jews in the United Kingdom, a report said Saturday.
The comments drew outrage in Britain, with some accusing America of interfering in its internal affairs for the second time this month, after US President Donald Trump endorsed Boris Johnson for the leadership of the Conservative Party and prime minister.
Jewish groups and others have accused Corbyn, a far-left politician, of allowing a massive surge in anti-Semitism within the ranks of a 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.
Citing a leaked recording of a private meeting, the Washington Post said that Pompeo was asked: If Corbyn is elected “would you be willing to work with us to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the UK?”
Pompeo responded: “It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gantlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”
His comments drew “fervent applause from attendees,” according to the report.
Pompeo also said the ruling Conservative Party’s failure in the recent European Parliament election had demonstrated “an absolute failure of leadership,” the report said.
Labour reacted by saying that “President Trump and his officials’ attempts to decide who will be Britain’s next prime minister are an entirely unacceptable interference in the UK’s democracy.”
The party is “fully committed to the support, defense and celebration of the Jewish community and is implacably opposed to anti-Semitism in any form,” it added.
Last week, during his state visit to Britain, Trump told The Sun: “I think Boris would do a very good job. I think he would be excellent. I like him. I have always liked him. I don’t know that he is going to be chosen, but I think he is a very good guy, a very talented person.”
Corbyn reacted at the time, calling the remark “unacceptable” and adding that “the next prime minister should be chosen not by the US president, nor by 100,000 unrepresentative Conservative Party members, but by the British people in a general election.”
Trump last week turned down a meeting with Corbyn — who delivered a fiery speech against Trump’s policies despite having requested one-on-one talks — referring to him a “somewhat negative force.”
Also last week, former UK prime minister and long-time Labour leader Tony Blair said that Corbyn was an anti-Semite who doesn’t know that he is one. Blair, who was visiting Israel, said he no longer recognized the party he led from 1994 until 2007.
“To be frank, this anti-Semitism row, it’s a shameful thing,” said Blair, who was interviewed at a panel event at Bar Ilan University just outside Tel Aviv. “If you told me, not merely back in May 1997, but at any point in the next 10 years, that the party I led for 13 years would have a problem with anti-Semitism, I would literally not have credited it, or believed it, and yet it is, and it’s there today,” said Blair.
The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, a racism watchdog, announced last month it had launched a formal investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has accused Corbyn of encouraging anti-Semitic rhetoric and at times engaging in it, though he disputes the claim.
Corbyn has vowed to punish any party member caught making racist statements, yet he has defended a number of members who made vitriolic anti-Semitic remarks, and has expelled hardly any members despite more than 850 formal complaints. Last month he admitted in a secret recording that evidence of racism against Jews in his party may have been “mislaid, ignored or not used.”
Corbyn himself has drawn criticism for his actions. Last year he expressed regret for having defended a 2012 anti-Semitic mural in London’s East End. The mural, named Freedom of Humanity, was painted on a property near Brick Lane by the Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Kalen Ockerman. It depicted a group of men — seemingly caricatures of Jewish bankers and businessmen — counting their money on a Monopoly board balanced on the backs of naked workers.
In April, Corbyn was found to have authored a glowing foreword to a book that claims that Jews control global financial systems and describes them as “men of a single and peculiar race.”
In addition, the Hamas terror group has thanked Corbyn for his solidarity in recognizing Palestinian mourning over the 71st anniversary of the formation of the State of Israel.
The Labour leader has in the past been criticized for calling terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” when inviting members for a parliamentary meeting in 2009. He later downplayed the comment and said he regretted using the term.
Last year it emerged that in 2014 Corbyn attended a ceremony that honored the terrorists behind the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre. He later said, “I was present when [a wreath] was laid, I don’t think I was actually involved in it.”