In unprecedented intervention, British chief rabbi warns against Labour victory

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — In an unprecedented move, Britain’s chief rabbi warned ahead of the country’s general elections that Labour’s anti-Semitism problem means that the “very soul of our nation is at stake.”

Ephraim Mirvis made his intervention, which is an unusual foray into partisan politics for someone bearing his title, on Tuesday in a column published in the online edition of The Times of London.

“It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote,” Mirvis wrote, adding: “I regret being in this situation at all.” But in the text, he listed anti-Semitism scandals involving only Labour and its leader since 2015, the far-left politician Jeremy Corbyn.

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“Many members of the Jewish community can hardly believe that this is the same party that they proudly called their political home for more than a century. It can no longer claim to be the party of diversity, equality and anti-racism. This is the Labour Party in name only,” he wrote.

Mirvis then wondered “how complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be in order to be considered unfit for high office,” asking: “Would associations with those who have openly incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would support for a racist mural, depicting powerful hook-nosed Jews supposedly getting rich at the expense of the weak and downtrodden be enough? Would describing as ‘friends’ those who endorse and even perpetrate the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.”

Come the December 12 election, “the very soul of our nation is at stake,” he wrote.

Corbyn in 2013 defended a mural depicting Jewish men playing monopoly on the backs of dark-skinned men. In 2014, he laid a wreath on a monument commemorating Palestinian terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. He called Hamas and Hezbollah his friends in 2009.

Under Corbyn, anti-Semitism and anti-Israel vitriol proliferated in Laour’s ranks, prompting the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a government watchdog, to launch its first inquiry into the handling of racism in any mainstream British party.

Corbyn has denied harboring or encouraging any anti-Semitic bias.

Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Mirvis’ call is unprecedented, adding that it is “sadly reflective of how many British Jews feel.” They are “fearful that if Labour has allowed antisemitism to take hold in this way while in opposition, that things will become worse if they are in government,” she wrote in a statement Tuesday.

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