(JTA) – Jeremy Corbyn said he respects the affinity that many Jews feel for Israel and appealed to critics to resolve differences over his Labour Party’s policy on anti-Semitism that has drawn fire.
Critics of the policy say it downplays hostility to Jews expressed as criticism of Israel.
“I fully understand and respect the strong affection and affinity most Jews in Britain feel for Israel, whatever their view of the current Israeli government,” Corbyn said Friday in an op-ed posted by The Guardian newspaper.
“Hostility to the Israeli state or its policies can be expressed in racist terms and that needs to be called out,” he said. “But there are also many non- or anti-Zionist Jews who should not be branded as anti-Semites simply because they are not part of the Zionist tradition.”
Similarly, Corbyn rejected the notion that Zionism is racism but added that he did not believe that anti-Zionism is racism.
Corbyn has been battered by criticism in recent years over what critics have said is the opposition party’s failure to address anti-Semitic expression in its ranks.
The crisis was exacerbated recently by the party’s decision to embrace a definition of anti-Semitism that downplays expressions of anti-Semitism disguised as Israel criticism, for instance likening Israel to Nazis.
Making matters more fraught, the party has launched disciplinary action against two of its members of Parliament who harshly criticized Corbyn in the wake of the decision.
Corbyn in his op-ed referred to a new round of consultations he has launched to reconsider Labour’s anti-Semitism definition, which departs from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance one generally recognized by the world community, acknowledging that the party had not fully engaged the Jewish community in the past.
“The community should have been consulted more extensively at an earlier stage – which is why our executive decided last month to reopen the development of the code in consultation with Jewish community organizations and others to address their concerns,” he said. “I feel confident that this outstanding issue can be resolved through dialogue with community organizations, including the Jewish Labour Movement, during this month’s consultation.”
The Jewish Labour Movement has been one of Corbyn’s sharpest critics within the party.
Corbyn described as “overheated” a front-page editorial published jointly last week by the three main Jewish newspapers in Britain that warned of an “existential” threat to British Jewry should Corbyn, whose popularity is rising, win election as prime minister.