Senior European rabbi: Jews could flee UK if Corbyn elected PM

Senior European rabbi: Jews could flee UK if Corbyn elected PM

As accusations of anti-Semitism in Labour continue to swirl, novelist Howard Jacobson perceives ‘a profound depression’ growing among UK Jews

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers a speech to supporters at a party rally in Glasgow, Scotland, May 28, 2017. (AFP/Andy Buchanan)
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn delivers a speech to supporters at a party rally in Glasgow, Scotland, May 28, 2017. (AFP/Andy Buchanan)

A senior European rabbi has warned that, should UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn be elected prime minister, many Jews could flee the country.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, told The Times: “If the Jewish community feel they can only be assured of their future and feel safe if one party is in government, and the other party will make them feel less safe and secure, this is a problem and puts the Jewish community in a new situation where, before every election, everything is to be questioned.”

He said that if the leader of France’s far-right National Front were to become the leader of France, “thousands of Jews” would likely decide to leave the country. “I don’t want to make a parallel between British Labour and the French National Front, but if Jews feel there’s a certain party which they feel very concerned about, which does not respect its presence within Great Britain and does not seek its security and its future, then you might have something very similar.”

Corbyn has been accused of not doing enough to deal with what is seen as a serious problem of anti-Semitism in his party. He has himself faced questions about his own links to known anti-Semites, past comments on Israel, and associations with vehemently anti-Israel figures.

Pinchas Goldschmidt. (Flash90)

And this week he faced sharp criticism from some of his own lawmakers for attending a Passover event hosted by a Jewish far-left group that has dismissed claims of anti-Semitism in Labour as “faux-outrage” and called for Israel to be “disposed of.”

Goldschmidt said he didn’t know if Corbyn had crossed the “red line” of anti-Semitism, “but by deeds, by joining these groups and by not doing enough in terms of fighting those antisemitic pockets within his party, he is bound to cross this red line.”

Meanwhile, Jewish British novelist Howard Jacobson wrote in an opinion piece, published in the Guardian Saturday, that he increasingly feels he lives “in the shadow of an unseen enemy.” Though he stressed that Britain is still “a fine country to be a Jew” in, he noted a growing virulent hatred for Israel, “an enterprise to which I am only tenuously connected, but connected nonetheless.

“The atmosphere of which I speak is of a sort to which no group should be subjected,” he wrote.” “It manifests itself in habitual abuse on social media, the drowning out of any speech considered dissonant in universities, local councils, and debating chambers, that cold-eyed contempt of which Jeremy Corbyn is master, and the undisguised assumption, within leftist politics, that when a Jew complains of antisemitism, he is lying. Most Jews know what anti-Semitism is and what it isn’t.”

Booker Prize winning author and columnist Howard Jacobson. (Photo credit: Jenny Jacobson)

Jacobson added: “I cannot speak for all Jews, but a profound depression has taken hold of those I know.”

The Guardian reported Friday that Corbyn supporters in early March sought to block disciplinary action against members of Labour who faced complaints on anti-Semitism.

Minutes from a National Executive Committee panel chaired by Christine Shawcroft — herself since forced to resign over her defense of a Holocaust denier — showed that Corbyn allies tried to minimize fallout for a member who clashed with another member over anti-Semitism in the party, and who later blamed “Zionists” for his problems.

In another case the party leader’s supporters attempted to defend a woman accused of making anti-Semitic comments on social media.

In both cases such attempts at defense were overruled by other members.

In late March, after a rally of 1,500 people outside Parliament organized by British Jews in protest at anti-Semitism in the party, Corbyn promised to be “a militant opponent of anti-Semitism.”

On the issue of the Jewdas Seder, Corbyn said: “It was very interesting talking to a lot of young people about their experiences of modern Britain and I learned a lot. Isn’t that a good thing?”

In a recording obtained from the event, attendees can be heard booing the name of Jonathan Arkush, chairman of the Board of Deputies, the official body representing Britain’s Jewish community, the report said.

Labour MP John Woodcock said Corbyn was irresponsibly taunting British Jewry.

“This is deliberately baiting the mainstream Jewish community days after they pleaded with him to tackle antisemitism,” he tweeted. “And he must know that meeting them now will give his members the message that the group’s extreme views are ok. Irresponsible and dangerous.”

Fellow Labour MP Angela Smith tweeted that Corbyn’s attendance “reads as a blatant dismissal of the case made for tackling antisemitism in Labour.”

Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London on March 26, 2018. (AFP/Tolga Akmen)

Jewish Labour Movement said in a statement that Corbyn had “truly topped off the worst week on record of awful relations between the Labour Party and the Jewish community. When we called on the leader of our party to show moral leadership, and take decisive action to stamp out anti-Semitism, this is not what we had in mind.”

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism said Corbyn’s attendance at the Jewdas Seder was “a very clear two-fingered salute [the British version of the finger] at mainstream British Jewry.”

Karen Pollack, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, tweeted that Corbyn’s action “was clearly deliberate. No question of intent. Mocking. And disrespectful.”

A spokesman for Corbyn said the leader had attended the Seder in a personal capacity and not as head of the party.

The spokesman also noted that Corbyn “wrote to the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council last week to ask for an urgent formal meeting to discuss tackling anti-Semitism in the Labour party and in society.”

Jon Lansman, found of Momentum, a grassroots organization that backs Corbyn and the Labour party, in an interview with BBC Radio 4 played down the gravity of Corbyn’s attendance at the Seder.

“I don’t think this is as significant as it’s being made out,” he said, but he conceded that “it’s certainly not helpful to Jeremy or the cause of opposing anti-Semitism in the Labour Party as it happens… and I think the important thing is that Jeremy is seeking to meet with mainstream Jewish organizations.”

Lansman was cited in the Guardian report as one of the Corbyn allies who sought to limit disciplinary action over anti-Semitism accusations.

read more: