British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Monday wrote to Jewish leaders that he is a “militant opponent” of anti-Semitism.
Corbyn’s letter to the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council came after British Jewish leaders sent an open letter to the Labour party in which they wrote that Corbyn had “sided with anti-Semites rather than Jews.”
The letter sent to Member of Parliament John Cryer, chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party, said, “Today, leaders of British Jewry tell Jeremy Corbyn that enough is enough. We have had enough of hearing that Jeremy Corbyn ‘opposes anti-Semitism,’ whilst the mainstream majority of British Jews, and their concerns, are ignored by him and those he leads.”
In his letter, which was posted to Twitter and also quoted by the British Jewish News, the Labour leader said there needed to be a deeper understanding of what constitutes anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
“Sometimes this evil takes familiar forms – the east London mural which has caused such understandable controversy is an example. The idea of Jewish bankers and capitalists exploiting the workers of the world is an old anti-Semitic conspiracy theory,” wrote Corbyn.
“This was long ago, and rightly, described as ‘the socialism of fools’. I am sorry for not having studied the content of the mural more closely before wrongly questioning its removal in 2012,” he added.
The Labour leader acknowledged the party had been to slow to acting in the past, reflecting on the need to improve disciplinary procedures.
“I acknowledge that anti-Semitic attitudes have surfaced more often in our ranks in recent years, and that the party has been too slow in processing some of the cases that have emerged. Early action has nevertheless been taken, and we will work to speed up procedures, to deal with cases of anti-Semitic abuse or attitudes,” wrote Corbyn.
He added, however, that criticism of Israel in relation to the “continuing dispossession of the Palestinian people” cannot be avoided, but also stressed, “Nevertheless, comparing Israel or the actions of Israeli governments to the Nazis, attributing criticisms of Israel to Jewish characteristics or to Jewish people in general and using abusive phraseology about supporters of Israel such as ‘Zio’ all constitute aspects of contemporary anti-Semitism.”
“I recognize that anti-Semitism has surfaced within the Labour Party, and has too often been dismissed as simply a matter of a few bad apples. This has caused pain and hurt to Jewish members of our party and to the wider Jewish community in Britain. I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused, and pledge to redouble my efforts to bring this anxiety to an end,” he stressed.
“I must make it clear that I will never be anything other than a militant opponent of anti-Semitism,” concluded Corbyn.
Even before Monday’s letter by the Jewish leadership and Corbyn’s response, the Labour leader has repeatedly come under fire for his failure to properly tackle the anti-Semitism in his party.
Over the last several years, dozens of Labour members have been suspended over their anti-Semitic statements.
Corbyn himself been criticized in the past due to his calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends" and for refusing to condemn those two terrorist organizations despite being urged to do so by local Jewish groups.
In 2016, however, the Labour leader said that he regretted making those comments.
Most recently it was revealed that Corbyn had temporarily been a member of a private Facebook group that spread anti-Semitic hate speech. Several other Labour members were a part of that group as well.