(JTA) – British Labour Party head Jeremy Corbyn holds “anti-Semitic views” that could drive Jewish Britons out of the country if he becomes prime minister, a senior Jewish leader said.
Jonathan Arkush, the outgoing president of the Board of Deputies of British Jewry, told the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph that British Jews are for the first time asking “do we have a future here?” which he blamed on the Labour leader’s failure to rid his party of anti-Semitism.
Arkush, who was one of two Jewish leaders to meet in April with Corbyn to discuss anti-Semitism in the party, said in the interview that Corbyn’s views on Israel are born out of anti-Semitism.
“Delegitimizing the State of Israel is anti-Semitic,” Arkush told the Telegraph. He “was a chairman of Stop the War, which is responsible for some of the worst anti-Israel discourse.”
The group protests what it calls unjust conflicts and often protests against Israel’s actions in Gaza and the West Bank.
“If he shares the prevalent discourse about Israel, then that view is unquestionably anti-Semitic,” Arkush said.
Arkush said Corbyn would need to tell Jews that he “will not accept a discourse which denies the existence of their own land to the Jewish people. … I think we are all entitled to some clarity on his real views about Israel.”
Corbyn’s spokesman told the Telegraph that Arkush’s comments were “personal attacks without any evidence to support them.”
The spokesman added that “Jeremy has been absolutely clear that he is a militant opponent of anti-Semitism and is committed to driving it out of our movement.”
The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council said in a statement following last month’s meeting with Corbyn that it was “a disappointing missed opportunity regarding the problem of anti-Semitism” in the party.
The Board of Deputies and other Jewish groups have accused Corbyn, a hard-left politician, of tolerating and at times encouraging expressions of anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism or anti-capitalism by thousands of supporters who joined the party under him.
Corbyn has vowed to fight racism. His party has kicked out some members caught engaging in anti-Semitic rhetoric. But under Corbyn – who in 2009 called Hamas and Hezbollah his “friends” whom he said he was “honoured” to host in parliament – Labour has also readmitted or refrained from punishing others who made statements perceived as anti-Semitic.
Arkush will turn over the presidency of the Board of Deputies this week to Marie van der Zyl, who said after her recent election that she wanted to continue dialogue with the Labour leader.