Former UK PM urges Labour to clarify stance on anti-Semitism

Published September 3, 2018
Britain’s former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks during an interview.—Reuters
Britain’s former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks during an interview.—Reuters

LONDON: Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged his opposition Labour party Sunday to adopt the internationally agreed definition of anti-Semitism in order to resolve a bitter row that has engulfed the party for months.

The issue has opened up deep and bitter divisions within Britain’s main opposition party.

And its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has come under prolonged attack for refusing to adopt fully the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in Labour’s new code of conduct.

He has also been accused of allowing anti-Semitism to spread in the left-wing party.

The Labour leadership has argued that the definition, signed by 31 countries and used by many British institutions, does not allow for full criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Ahead of a meeting of its ruling executive committee on Tuesday, Brown — who was prime minister between June 2007 and May 2010 — said the issue touched on “the soul of the Labour Party”.

“This is a problem that is real and present and something that’s got to be dealt with now,” he told a Jewish Labour Movement conference.

“I want to say to you very clearly today that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is something we should support unanimously, unequivocally and immediately.” His comments came as Jewish leaders continued to attack Corbyn over the controversy.

Former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks said Sunday the majority of Jews were questioning whether Britain was a safe place to bring up their children.

He insisted the Labour leader must “recant and repent” and that he risked engulfing the country “in the flames of hatred”.

“Jews have been in Britain since 1656, I know of no other occasion in these 362 years when Jews... are asking ‘is this country safe to bring up our children’,” he told the BBC.

Israel’s Arab MPs back Corbyn

Arab members of the Israeli parliament meanwhile expressed “solidarity” with Corbyn, defending his position on the definition of anti-Semitism.

“When some try to force the Labour party into using as its litmus test a definition of anti-Semitism that goes far beyond anti-Jewish animus to include anti-Zionism, we must raise our voices and decry these efforts,” members of the opposition Joint List wrote in a letter to the Guardian.

The Israeli Labour party had suspended its ties with Corbyn ealier this year over the UK leader’s “hostility” to the Jewish community.

Veteran Labour lawmaker Frank Field, who has sat in the House of Commons for almost 40 years, quit the party’s group in parliament Thursday over the mounting anti-Semitism allegations.

In a letter to the party, he said that Corbyn’s leadership was overseeing an “erosion of our core values”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell defended the Labour leader Sunday, telling the BBC that critics had “got it wrong”.

“Jeremy has made it absolutely clear we will protect Jewish members of our party from any form of abuse and anti-Semitism,” he said.

McDonnell predicted all sides would be “satisfied” with the proposals agreed Tuesday.

“It will be resolved, and there will be a balance about acceptance,” he said.

Former chief rabbi warns of ‘existential threat’ to UK Jews

Britain’s former chief rabbi has warned that Jewish people are thinking about leaving the country because of anti-Semitism.

Jonathan Sacks told the BBC on Sunday that for the first time in the 362 years Jews have been in Britain many question whether it is safe to raise children here.

He singled out Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for failing to address anti-Semitic attitudes in the main opposition party, saying Corbyn would pose a danger as prime minister unless he expresses “clear remorse” for past statements.

Sacks said “when people hear the kind of language that has been coming out of Labour, that’s been brought to the surface among Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier speeches, they cannot but feel an existential threat.”

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2018



Sedition law
Updated 31 Mar, 2023

Sedition law

It is about time that our social contract is rewritten to reflect the primacy of the public’s right to democratic expression and dissent.
A step forward
31 Mar, 2023

A step forward

ALTHOUGH her post is temporary at the moment, Justice Musarrat Hilali has nevertheless made history by being...
Clipped wings
Updated 30 Mar, 2023

Clipped wings

The bill to clip CJP's suo motu powers will more likely complicate the SC's problems rather than solve them.
Water shortages
30 Mar, 2023

Water shortages

IT is that time of the year when Punjab and Sindh come face to face over the distribution of river water — or, ...
Democracy summit
30 Mar, 2023

Democracy summit

THE second US-sponsored Summit for Democracy, which is currently underway, offers a small glimpse of the tough...