Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has turned up the heat on Jeremy Corbyn to a new level.
In a damning indictment of the Labour leader during an interview with The New Statesman, Lord Sacks likened Corbyn’s recent comments on “Zionists” not understanding British irony despite living in the UK for years as “the most offensive” statement by a senior British politician since the notorious ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech by Enoch Powell five decades ago.
Corbyn’s damning words came at the Palestinian Return Centre in London in 2013 and are set to haunt him.
In his first comments on Labour’s escalating anti-Semitism Lord Sacks described Corbyn as “an anti-Semite” who has “given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate” crisis.
“It was divisive, hateful and like Powell’s speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien,” he said.
“We can only judge Jeremy Corbyn by his words and his actions.
“He has given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate who want to kill Jews and remove from Israel from the map.
“When he implies that, however long they have lived here, Jews are not fully British, he is using the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism.
“When challenged with such facts, the evidence for which is before our eyes, first he denies, then he equivocates, then he obfuscates. This is low, dishonest and dangerous. He has legitimised the public expression of hate, and where he leads, others will follow.
“Now, within living memory of the Holocaust, and while Jews are being murdered elsewhere in Europe for being Jews, we have an anti-Semite as the leader of the Labour Party and her majesty’s opposition. That is why Jews feel so threatened by Mr Corbyn and those who support him.
“For more than three and a half centuries, the Jews of Britain have contributed to every aspect of national life.
“We know our history better than Mr Corbyn, and we have learned that the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. Mr Corbyn’s embrace of hate defiles our politics and demeans the country we love.”
A Labour spokesman said in response to Lord Sacks’ comments, “This comparison with the race-baiting Enoch Powell is absurd and offensive.
“Jeremy Corbyn described a particular group of pro-Israel activists as Zionists, in the accurate political sense – not as a synonym or code for Jewish people.
“Jeremy Corbyn is determined to tackle anti-Semitism both within the Labour Party and in wider society, and the Labour Party is committed to rebuilding trust with the Jewish community.”
Corbyn tried to defend his comments in a statement to the Guardian last Friday.
Noting he used the term Zionists in the “accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people”, he added, “I am now more careful with how I might use the term ‘Zionist’ because a once self-identifying political term has been increasingly hijacked by anti-Semites as code for Jews.”
Labour’s under-fire leader has plenty to ponder in the coming days and weeks ahead.
His problems are arguably only just beginning.
Lord Sacks was interviewed by the New Statesman for his Radio 4 series Morality in the 21st Century broadcast September 3-7.
The five-episode program sees him interview global thinkers.