Former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has said Jeremy Corbyn’s comparison of Jews and Israel’s current government to Muslims and Islamic State was “demonisation of the highest order”.
Sacks, who was chief rabbi for 22 years until he stepped down in 2013, was among those reacting furiously to the Labour leader’s response to Shami Chakrabarti’s inquiry into anti-Semitism in the party.
At the launch of Chakrabarti’s report, Corbyn said: “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.”
Sacks responded, saying: “Jeremy Corbyn’s comparison of the State of Israel to ISIS is demonisation of the highest order, an outrage and unacceptable. That this occurred at the launch of the report into the Labour Party’s recent troubles with antisemitism shows how deep the sickness is in parts of left of British politics today.”
He added: “Israel is a democratic state with an independent judiciary, a free press and a diverse population of many cultures, religions and creeds. ISIS is a terrorist entity whose barbarities have been condemned by all those who value our common humanity. In the current political climate, when hate crimes are rising and political rhetoric is increasingly divisive, this is all the more shocking.”
Board of Deputies’ president Jonathan Arkush said: “It is deeply regrettable that he went on to establish some sort of equivalence between Israel and terrorist groups such as ISIS. This is completely unacceptable.”
Criticism of Corbyn’s comments stretched to Jerusalem, where several Members of the Knesset jumped on the embattled leader, who has refused to stand down despite four in every five Labour parliamentarians expressing “no confidence” in him.
Israel’s left-wing Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, head of the Zionist Union, said: “Corbyn’s suggestion of moral equivalence between Israel and ISIS is outrageous, unacceptable, and a betrayal of global Labour values.
He added: “Corbyn respresents a consistent stance of hatred towards Israel, like the infamous Ernest Bevin, and like Bevin, who failed, Corbyn will fail, as well.”
Meanwhile, the right-wing Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter (Likud) referenced Corbyn having previously spoken of his “friends” in Hamas and Hezbollah.
“Only someone who is connected to such murderous terrorist organizations could speak in such an anti-Semitic way. Corbyn has learned nothing from the history of the British people, Israel or the Jewish people.”
John Mann MP, an outspoken critic of the Corbyn leadership and the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Anti-Semitism, declined to attack his party leader.
He instead told Jewish News that the remarks were simply a case of “clumsy language”.
A Labour Party Source agreed with Mann’s assessment – but added: “A good leader would have used better language”.