This week the former UK chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, gave his first ever public opinion on the issue of Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism within the Labour party.
Rabbi Lord Sacks is someone of great wisdom, intelligence and respect. He is not one to resort to hyperbole when talking about such important issues, so when he speaks, people need to pay attention.
Here are the powerful words he wrote:
“The recently disclosed remarks by Jeremy Corbyn are the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.
“We can only judge Jeremy Corbyn by his words and his actions. He has given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate who want to kill Jews and remove from Israel from the map. When he implies that, however long they have lived here, Jews are not fully British, he is using the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism. When challenged with such facts, the evidence for which is before our eyes, first he denies, then he equivocates, then he obfuscates. This is low, dishonest and dangerous. He has legitimised the public expression of hate, and where he leads, others will follow.
“Now, within living memory of the Holocaust, and while Jews are being murdered elsewhere in Europe for being Jews, we have an anti-Semite as the leader of the Labour Party and her majesty’s opposition. That is why Jews feel so threatened by Mr Corbyn and those who support him.
“For more than three and a half centuries, the Jews of Britain have contributed to every aspect of national life. We know our history better than Mr Corbyn, and we have learned that the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. Mr Corbyn’s embrace of hate defiles our politics and demeans the country we love.”
Jeremy Corbyn’s shortcomings in this area are many. He has rubbed shoulder with anti-Semites, shared platforms with Holocaust deniers and called terrorists and Jew haters “friends”. The truth, however, is not that Corbyn is just rubbing shoulders with anti-Semites. The problem is he’s speaking from the same script.
When Jeremy Corbyn spoke about “Zionists” in a resurfaced video from 2013, he was referring to Jews.
Corbyn was defending a speech made by Palestinian envoy Manuel Hassassian, saying: “This [Hassassian’s speech] was dutifully recorded by the thankfully silent Zionists who were in the audience on that occasion, and then came up and berated him afterwards for what he’d said.”
Mr Corbyn, who was a backbench MP at the time, went on to claim that the people concerned “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.”
Corbyn and Labour claim that he was using the term “Zionists” in the “correct political sense”, but this is not true. Corbyn was using the word “Zionists” as a thinly veiled attempt to hide the fact he was talking about Jews (because Corbyn is at least careful with his anti-Semitism).
He revealed he was talking about Jews because he referred to them as if they were immigrants into the country. He spoke about them as if they were not part of this country and therefore could not understand our ways and customs. He noted that Manuel Hassassian understood English customs despite only being in the country a short while, yet these Jews, sorry, we mean, “Zionists”, did not understand despite “having lived in this country for a very long time”.
If he was talking about Zionists in the political sense, he would not have referred to them as immigrants. Zionism has existed in Great Britain for Centuries. He was talking about Jews, he treated them as an “other”, and at the very least that makes his words xenophobic or bigoted. However, we all know that Corbyn’s words were anti-Semitic.