One of the most senior figures in the British Jewish community warned on Thursday that the country’s Jews “can’t trust Labour”, dealing a blow to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The President of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush, told the British Evening Standard that the party’s growing anti-Semitism scandal is poisoning relations and now damaging Sadiq Khan’s hopes of winning support from London’s 180,000 Jews in mayoral campaign.
Last week, it was revealed that Khan, the Labour party's candidate for Mayor of London, pushed for sanctions against the State of Israel in the past despite his claims that he opposes the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
In the interview with the Evening Standard, Arkush demanded that Labour expel a local official who tweeted that Jews had “big noses” and “slaughter the oppressed” and pointed a finger squarely at Corbyn, saying he is “greatly concerned” by the leader’s own links to extremist groups Hezbollah and Hamas.
Corbyn has previously stirred up controversy due to his anti-Israel comments and by calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends", and British Jews have voiced deep concern over his disturbing links to a wide range of extremists, spanning far-right holocaust deniers, an anti-Semitic Christian minister and Islamist terrorist groups.
Arkush lamented in the interview how one-time parliamentary candidate Vicki Kirby was suspended in 2014 over offensive tweets, only to later to be reinstated and become her local party’s vice chair.
The party is still reeling from claims of anti-Semitism among its youth wing, which has led to a broadening internal inquiry.
“It confirms the belief we have had for a long time that there is a real problem of anti-Semitism on the far left, which now eclipses the anti-Semitism that we have always seen coming from the far-right,” he told the Standard.
Arkush pointed out that the relationship between the Jewish community and Labour was once very strong, and that “Jews overwhelmingly voted Labour for many, many years.”
But he said since Corbyn’s leadership it had been under “deep strain”, in part because of the “excess” of the leadership.
“Frankly most people in the Jewish community can’t trust Labour,” he told the Standard, adding, “I think it is inevitable that that will have an impact on the mayoral election despite the fact that Sadiq Khan, I say straight away, is a good candidate, who has done everything he could to distance himself from the far Left, which includes distancing himself from the Leader of the Labour Party.”
“Even if you really like a candidate and you believe that he rejects some of the excess of the leadership, in the end, no candidate can entirely free himself or herself from what the party is saying at the top level,” he continued.
“That must hamper Sadiq Khan’s votes among sections of the Jewish community. Even though I repeat, he is clearly a decent candidate, but he’s stuck with his leader [and] stuck with the stories of anti-Semitism in Labour circles. However much he tries to disavow them and criticize them, he is stuck with them,” said Arkush.
Khan, for his part, replied by calling directly on Corbyn to take action against the anti-Semitism.
Khan told the Standard he is “truly disgusted with the growing problems of anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.”
“Allegations of anti-Semitism, racism, bullying, intimidation, candidate misconduct - there should be no place for any of that in the Labour Party,” he added.
“The leadership of the party, and that goes right to the top, to Jeremy Corbyn, must be clear that anti-Semitism has no place in the party that he leads.”
Earlier on Thursday, the UK's Campaign Against Antisemitism released a video in which it directly asked the following question: Does the Labour Party have an anti-Semitism problem?