Top U.K. Rabbi Accuses Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn of Failing to Stem Anti-Semitism.

Political News and Analysis
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Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote in an opinion piece for the Times of London newspaper that what he called anti-Jewish racism was a new poison that had taken root in the Labour Party. 

LONDON—Britain’s chief rabbi accused Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn of failing to root out anti-Semitism in his party’s ranks, an unusual intervention from a religious leader weeks before a general election.

Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, wrote in an opinion piece for the Times of London newspaper that what he called anti-Jewish racism was a new poison that had taken root in the country’s main opposition party.

He wrote that he had “watched with incredulity” as Labour leadership “hounded” lawmakers, members and staff out of the party for challenging anti-Semitism.

“It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote,” he wrote. “I regret being in this situation at all. I simply pose the question: What will the result of this election say about the moral compass of our country?”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched the opposition party’s Race and Faith Manifesto in north London on Tuesday. 

Speaking at a campaign event on Tuesday to launch what the party called its Race and Faith manifesto, Mr. Corbyn said anti-Semitism “will not be tolerated in any form whatsoever” and said the party system to deal with these complaints was “constantly under review,” without elaborating.

The party has traditionally held deep ties with the Jewish community: Mr. Mirvis noted that Labour had been the political home for many Jews for more than a century.

But relations have frayed since Mr. Corbyn became the party’s leader in 2015. He is endorsed by the party’s extreme left, which supports Palestinian rights and opposes Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.

(Sound familiar to Left wing US Democrat Party?)  jsk

In 2013, Corbyn criticized a decision to paint over a mural depicting hook-nosed bankers that was deemed anti-Semitic, later apologizing. He also once referred to Hezbollah as friends during a meeting in Parliament, a comment he later apologized for as well.

Mr. Corbyn was filmed at a 2013 event saying British “Zionists” don’t understand “English irony,” following a pro-Palestinian speech by Manuel Hassassian, then the Palestinian envoy to Britain. Several Labour lawmakers have quit the party, with some joining the Liberal Democrats, over concerns that anti-Semitism is being allowed to flourish. A poll by the Jewish Chronicle newspaper in October found that 87% of Jews think Mr. Corbyn is anti-Semitic, something he and other party officials have repeatedly denied.

That newspaper published a front-page article this month urging voters to cast their ballot against him on Dec. 12. “His hatred of Israel runs so deep,” said Damon Lenszner, a pro-Israel activist, as he campaigned outside the Labour Party event on Tuesday.

There are around 300,000 Jews in the U.K., accounting for roughly 0.5% of the population. Still, the criticism poses a problem for Mr. Corbyn, who is trying to sell his party as the kinder alternative to the ruling Conservative Party, which itself has been criticized for failing to tackle anti-Muslim racism in its ranks. Labour currently trails the Conservatives in the polls by around 10 points.

The chief rabbi’s intervention sparked a response from other British religious leaders. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the Anglican Church, said “that the Chief Rabbi should be compelled to make such an unprecedented statement at this time ought to alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews.”

This summer, Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission launched an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism in the party, but hasn’t yet released its conclusions. Alf Dubs, a Labour member of the House of Lords, on Tuesday said Mr. Mirvis’s comments were “unjustified and unfair.”

Mr. Corbyn on Tuesday said “Labour is a party of equality and human rights,” and accused the Conservative Party of failing to tackle racism.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who once compared Muslim women in burqas to letter boxes, committed during his selection to become party leader to an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in his party. The review was expected to be published by the end of the year.

No such review has yet been published and the review has been expanded to include racism as a whole. The Muslim Council of Britain wrote on Tuesday that “it is abundantly clear to many Muslims that the Conservative Party [tolerates] Islamophobia and [allows] it to fester.”

Write to Max Colchester at max.colchester@wsj.co

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