The Board of Deputies’ outgoing president Jonathan Arkush has accused Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn of holding “anti-Semitic views”, and that this makes British Jews question their future in the UK.
In comments derided as “unfounded and outrageous” by Labour, Arkush – in his last interview before stepping down – said Corbyn held senior positions in organisations that “delegitimised the State of Israel,” adding: “If he shares the prevalent discourse about Israel, then that view is unquestionably anti-Semitic.”
Speaking to The Telegraph, Arkush also ventured that British Jews were considering leaving the UK because of the prospect that Corbyn may become prime minister.
“There is an increasingly widespread question asked over the dinner table, which is, do we have a future here, and what’s that future going to look like,” he said.
It was Arkush’s most forthright criticism of the Labour leader, who he most recently met in April. It is not clear whether Arkush’s views are shared by Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, who also met Corbyn last month.
Arkush revealed that he challenged Corbyn for “his real views about Israel” at the meeting, asking the Labour leader: “Why is there nothing good you can say about Israel? He couldn’t answer. He was silent”.
He continued: “With the election of Jeremy Corbyn, it seemed people who had a habit of participating in anti-Semitic discourse thought some sort of space had opened up for them, when they could say things that previously they knew [they couldn’t].”
On Corbyn, Arkush this week said: “His associations are clear. He is a patron of Palestine Solidarity Campaign – if you look at its logo and language, it’s quite clear its world picture has no room for Israel.”
He added: “Delegitimising the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. He was a chairman of Stop the War, which is responsible for some of the worst anti-Israel discourse. He has never disavowed that sentiment. Is this double speak? What are we supposed to think?
“If he shares the prevalent discourse about Israel, then that view is unquestionably anti-Semitic.”
A spokesperson for the Labour Party said: “These are unfounded and outrageous personal attacks without any evidence to support them.
Jeremy has been absolutely clear that he is a militant opponent of antisemitism and is committed to driving it out of our movement. Our party has deep roots in the Jewish community and is campaigning to increase support and confidence in Labour among Jewish people in the UK.
Jonathan Arkush’s attempt to conflate strong criticism of Israeli state policies with antisemitism is wrong and undermines the fight both against antisemitism and for justice for the Palestinians. It should be rejected outright.”
Following Arkush’s claim, Labour-supporting journalist Owen Jones entered into an online spat with the Board president.Taking to Twitter, he accused Jonathan Arkush of “smearing Jeremy Corbyn as anti-Semitic – a smear he provides no evidence for except him being a critic of Israeli policies towards Palestinians, *which is not anti-Semitism* – is a disgrace, and undermines the struggle against actual anti-Semitism.”
Arkush responded to Jones by saying he “said v clearly that denying to the Jewish people uniquely the fundamental human right of self-determination was an antisemitic view. I highlighted Jeremy Corbyn & far left’s totally hostile view of Israel & inability to say anything good about it. So I evidenced my words with care and it was anything but the smear you accuse me of. I did not cite his criticism of Israeli policies and have said many times that it is not antisemitic to criticise Israel in just the same way as you might criticise any other country”
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