UK Chief Rabbi hits out at far-left anti-Semites

British Chief Rabbi Efraim Mirvis decries leftists who presume to lecture Jews on supposed 'differences' between Judaism, Zionism.

Ari Soffer ,

Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Britain's Chief Rabbi Efraim Mirvis has weighed in on the growing anti-Semitism scandal within the UK Labour Party, in a stinging oped on Jew-hatred emanating from the far-left.

In his remarkably forceful article - entitled "Ken Livingstone and the hard Left are spreading the insidious virus of anti-Semitism" - Rabbi Mirvis takes to task in particular the "figures on the hard Left of the British political spectrum presuming to define the relationship between Judaism and Zionism despite themselves being neither Jews nor Zionists."

He described attempts to drive a wedge between the Jewish people and their movement for national self-determination - Zionism - as a "myth" which "has poisoned public discourse on anti-Semitism and Israel for decades."

Anti-Semites on the far-left, he noted, were making a concerted effort to lecture the Jewish community about their own ancient traditions - ironically, with the sole aim of undermining that very heritage.

Rabbi Mirvis singled out former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and the recently-appointed head of the UK National Union of Students Malia Boattia, as example of non-Jewish extremists on the Left who presume to "feel qualified to provide such an analysis of one of the axioms of Jewish belief."

"But let me be very clear. Their claims are a fiction," Mirvis insisted. "They are a wilful distortion of a noble and integral part of Judaism.

"Zionism is a belief in the right to Jewish self-determination in a land that has been at the centre of the Jewish world for more than 3,000 years. One can no more separate it from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain."

"Open a Jewish daily prayer book used in any part of the world and Zionism will leap out at you," he added. "The innumerable references to the land of Israel are inescapable and demonstrative.

"Throughout our collective history we have yearned for a chance to determine our own future, to revive an ancient language and return to rejoice in our love for this tiny sliver of land.

"But to those people who have nevertheless sought to redefine Zionism, who vilify and delegitimize it, I say: Be under no illusions – you are deeply insulting not only the Jewish community but countless others who instinctively reject the politics of distortion and demonisation."

Rabbi Mirvis also issued a frontal attack against Livingstone and others on the Left who purposely use Holocaust references in order to insult Jewish people. "To those who so eagerly reach for a vicious Holocaust reference in order to exact the maximum amount of pain and offence upon “Zionists”, I say: You are spreading that ancient and insidious virus of anti-Semitism."

The Chief Rabbi said he was encouraged by the decision by Labour to initiate a formal inquiry into racism and anti-Semitism within the party, but warned against party leader Jeremy Corbyn using such an inquiry merely as a way to brush the problem under the carpet or even deny it outright.

Voters - Jewish and non-Jewish alike - would not give Labour a free pass if it continued to tolerate anti-Semitism, he warned.

"All political parties share in the responsibility to rid our society of anti-Semitism but we cannot achieve that objective with political posturing or empty promises of action never to be fulfilled.

"Anti-Semitism is not just a problem for Jews; it is a problem for all of our society. I draw a great deal of comfort from the very strong response that this sorry affair has elicited. There must be no corner of Britain today in which anti-Semitism can lurk."