Jeremy Corbyn has offered to meet Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and condemned antisemitism as “vile and wrong” after the senior Jewish leader warned “a new poison sanctioned from the very top” had taken root in the Labour Party.
Corbyn made the invitation at the launch of his party’s race and faith manifesto at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in London on Tuesday, where he was joined by shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler, David Lammy, and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.
The Labour leader offered to meet the Chief Rabbi in person alongside other faith leaders to “come around the table and discuss with us their issues, their concerns but above all how we create a society that is respectful of all faiths.”
But despite the invitation, Corbyn made no direct reference to Rabbi Mirvis’ scathing attack in The Times accusing him of being “complicit in prejudice.”
In his speech, Corbyn said: “Antisemitism in any form is vile and wrong. It is an evil within our society. It’s an evil that grew in Europe in the 1920s and onwards and ultimately led to the Holocaust.
“There is no place whatsoever for antisemitism in any shape or form or in any place whatsoever in modern Britain and under a Labour government, it would not be tolerated in any form whatsoever.”
He added: “An attack on a mosque, an attack on a synagogue, an attack on a temple, abuse of a Jewish woman on a train, abuse of a Muslim woman in the street, abuse of a black youngster happily walking home from school, is not acceptable in any way.”
But Corbyn insisted the party’s complaints process was a “rapid and effective system,” which was “constantly under review to make sure it is rapid and it is effective.”
He also praised Lord Alf Dubs, who addressed the launch after telling BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday morning that Rabbi Mirvis had “gone to far” in his rebuke.
“Thank you Alf for what you said this morning and for the work you’ve done all your life,” Corbyn told the Kindertransport refugee at the event. “You’ve made such an amazing contribution to the lives of all of us,” he added.
During Lord Dubs’ speech, which was greeted with rounds of applause, the Labour peer claimed Mirvis’ criticism had been “unjustified and unfair.”
“I am bitterly disappointed by what he [Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis] said. I don’t accept a lot of what he said, and in so far as the Labour Party is at fault, we should have acted a bit quicker,” he said.
“Today of all days for the Chief Rabbi to be attacking the Labour Party in this particular way, and attacking our leader is unjustified and unfair, and I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed that he’d done that,” he added, prompting a round of applause.
The manifesto promises to maintain funding in real terms for the Community Security Trust and includes a pledge to work with social media platforms to combat rising antisemitism online.
Other pledges include a review of a Government scheme to ensure smaller groups such as the neighbourhood watch group Shomrim receive adequate funding and a legislative change labelling attacks on places of worship a specific aggravated offence.
Meanwhile, Labour’s vow to scrap Universal Credit would see an end to the two-child limit on benefits, which the party claims “has disproportionately affected Jewish families, especially those in the Charedi community.”