LONDON: Embattled British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn came under fire Thursday for allegedly comparing the state of Israel to “self-styled Islamic states.”
Britain’s chief rabbi condemned the comments, made at the launch of a report on anti-Semitism in the party, as “offensive” and said they were likely to cause more concern about Labour’s stance.
Veteran socialist Corbyn is clinging to office despite a huge revolt by Labour lawmakers who say he did not campaign hard enough to keep Britain in the EU in last week’s vote for Brexit.
“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,” said Corbyn.
Amid a barrage of criticism, Corbyn denied comparing Israel with the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.
But Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “The comments by the leader of the Labour party at the launch, however they were intended, are themselves offensive, and rather than rebuilding trust among the Jewish community, are likely to cause even greater concern.”
Labour commissioned the report in response to multiple allegations of anti-Semitism among its members.
In the most high-profile case, former London mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended from the party after saying that Adolf Hitler “was supporting Zionism” before he “went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.
Livingstone’s comments were in defence of a Labour MP who was suspended for sharing posts on social media two years ago suggesting that the solution to the Palestinian conflict was to move Israel to the United States.
While criticising Corbyn’s comments in a statement posted on his Twitter account, the chief rabbi welcomed the report itself.
Its recommendations included that Labour members should “resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors” and avoid terms such as “Paki” and “Zio”.
“There is much in the (report) that can herald an important step forward – in particular its acknowledgement that some within the Labour Party have peddled the prejudice of anti-Semitism, using language, innuendo and accusations that are deeply offensive and which should be universally condemned,” Mirvis said.