World / Politics

'Poison' of anti-Semitism has taken root in U.K.'s Labour: Chief Rabbi

Reuters

The poison of anti-Semitism “sanctioned from the top” has taken root in Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said in an article published on Monday, warning the “soul of our nation is at stake” in next month’s election.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights, has been dogged by criticism from members, lawmakers and Jewish leaders that he has failed to tackle anti-Semitism in the party despite a promise to do so.

“The question I am now most frequently asked is: What will become of Jews and Judaism in Britain if the Labour Party forms the next government? This anxiety is justified,” Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, wrote in an article for Tuesday’s edition of the Times newspaper.

He said the response of the party’s leadership as their supporters drove lawmakers, members and staff out of the party for challenging anti-Jewish racism had been “utterly inadequate” and claims the party was doing everything it could and had investigated every case were “mendacious fiction.”

“It is a failure to see this as a human problem rather than a political one. It is a failure of culture. It is a failure of leadership. A new poison — sanctioned from the top — has taken root in the Labour Party,” he wrote.

A spokesman for Labour, who are trailing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in the polls ahead of the Dec. 12 election, said Corbyn was a lifelong campaigner against anti-Semitism.

“A Labour government will guarantee the security of the Jewish community, defend and support the Jewish way of life, and combat rising anti-Semitism in our country and across Europe,” the spokesman said.

“We are taking robust action to root out anti-Semitism in the party, with swift suspensions, processes for rapid expulsions and an education program for members,” he said.

Mirvis said that, while convention dictates that the chief rabbi stays away from party politics, challenging racism went beyond politics.

“How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office? Would associations with those who have incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would describing as ‘friends’ those who endorse the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not,” he said.

“When December 12 arrives, I ask every person to vote with their conscience. Be in no doubt, the very soul of our nation is at stake.”