Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has called Jeremy Corbyn “an anti-Semite” whose recently-unearthed comments about Zionists were on a par with the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech by Enoch Powell.
In an interview with the New Statesman, Sacks lays into the Labour leader, who in 2013 was shown saying Zionists didn’t understand British irony despite having lived in the UK for many years.
Sacks said the comments were “the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.”
He added: “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.”
Conservative MP Powell made his infamous speech 50 years ago, in which he warned of the effects of mass migration to the UK. It was widely deemed racist and incendiary. He was swiftly sacked from his shadow cabinet position.
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In a rare and extraordinary political attack from a religious leader, Sacks says Corbyn “has given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate who want to kill Jews and remove from Israel from the map”.
Sacks continues: “When [Corbyn] 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.”
Sacks added: “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.”
The long-serving former chief rabbi, who is an internationally renowned ethicist, has recently presented a five-part series on morality, due to be aired on BBC Radio 4, and was being interviewed about the series, but he was clearly riled when asked about Corbyn and his 2013 comments.
“For more than three and a half centuries, the Jews of Britain have contributed to every aspect of national life,” said Sacks.
“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.”
- Rabbi Lord Sacks’ series on morality will be transmitted between Monday 3 September – Friday 7 September, 9am – 9.45am on BBC R4.