Thousands of Christians stand with British Jewry amid Labour antisemitism row

August 12, 2018 by Jackson Richman - JNS
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Thousands of Christians have voiced solidarity with British Jewry amid ongoing allegations of antisemitism by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, May 12, 2017.
Credit: Chatham House, London/Wikimedia Commons

The U.K. branch of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) launched a “Christians Against Anti-Semitism Declaration” last week to provide Christians with a chance to pledge to lead by example in calling “for tougher action against antisemitism and addresses the current crisis within the Labour Party,” according to the organisation. The declaration has been signed by almost 5500 people as of Aug. 10.

The declaration by CUFI comes amid three Jewish newspapers in the U.K. accusing Jeremy Corbyn of being an “existential threat” to British Jewry.

CUFI was founded in 2006 and currently has more than 4 million members whose mission, according to its website, is “to provide a national association through which every pro-Israel church, parachurch organisation, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues.”

The declaration condemns antisemitism “in the strongest possible terms,” stands “with the Jewish people in the fight against antisemitism,” and sides with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by Parliament and over 130 local councils, and endorsed by the Jewish community.

CUFI U.K. executive director Des Starritt told JNS his organisation is working with the U.K.’s Anglican Church to “encourage them to adopt the IHRA definition on antisemitism.”

“Archbishop Justin Welby has affirmed to us his personal commitment to countering antisemitism, but as yet the organization has not adopted the IHRA definition themselves,” Starritt added.

The IHRA defines antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

However, Labour chose to accept only part of the IHRA definition and create its own protocol on antisemitism, which many say prevent criticism of the state of Israel. Specifically, the party refused to adopt some of the 11 examples of the IHRA definition, including “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

That move was coldly received by the Jewish community, including 68 rabbis from multiple denominations in signing an open letter, calling on Labour to accept the IHRA definition entirely.

“Had the full IHRA definition with examples relating to Israel been approved, hundreds, if not thousands, of Labour and Momentum members would need to be expelled,” read the editorial from the Jewish News, Jewish Chronicle and Jewish Telegraph – Great Britain’s leading Jewish newspapers.

“With the government in Brexit disarray, there is a clear and present danger that a man with a default blindness to the Jewish community’s fears, a man who has a problem seeing that hateful rhetoric aimed at Israel can easily step into antisemitism, could be our next prime minister,” the editorial added.

Starritt said, “One of the problems with Labour adopting only part of the IHRA definition on antisemitism is that this definition, including all its examples, is the one accepted and supported by the majority of the Jewish community.”

“In most instances, the victim of racism is able to determine what they perceive as racism against them,” Starritt continued. “In this case, however, Labour is putting itself as knowing better than the Jewish community on antisemitism and silencing the voice of the victims of this hate crime.”

“There is also argument that Jeremy Corbyn is refusing to adopt the full definition with all its examples because Corbyn himself would be judged against these examples and labelled antisemitic based on his past statements,” Starritt added.

The concern over Corbyn stems from his refusal to condemn antisemitism and his sympathy toward Israel’s enemies, including Hamas and Hezbollah.

Last week, Corbyn promised to eliminate antisemitism from his party. He wrote in The Guardian that “any government I lead will take whatever measures are necessary to guarantee the security of Jewish communities, Jewish schools, Jewish places of worship, Jewish social care, Jewish culture and Jewish life as a whole in this country.”

Corbyn added, “I want Jewish people to feel at home in the Labour party and be able to play their full part in our work to take our country forward.”

Additionally, Corbyn labeled the Holocaust as “the greatest crime of the 20th century” and that the “Jewish people who are feeling concerned must be listened to. And we would not be socialists if we were not prepared to go the extra mile and beyond to address Jewish concerns.”

Moreover, Corbyn minimized how anti-Zionism can be antisemitism. “In the 1970s some on the left mistakenly argued that ‘Zionism is racism,’” Corbyn wrote. “That was wrong, but to assert that ‘anti-Zionism is racism’ now is wrong too.”

“Hostility to the Israeli state or its policies can be expressed in racist terms and that needs to be called out,” he added. “But there are also many non- or anti-Zionist Jews who should not be branded as anti-Semites simply because they are not part of the Zionist tradition. Both traditions have always had honorable proponents in our movement.”

Corbyn’s appeal was slammed by British Jewry, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which accused the party leader of publishing his “ill-timed and ill-conceived” message just before sundown on Friday, which commences the Jewish Sabbath and its prohibition of using electronics, preventing Orthodox Jews from responding until after the Sabbath’s 25 hours.

Corbyn released a video last Sunday, again pledging to root out antisemitism in his party and apologizing for “the hurt that has been caused to many Jewish people.”

“We have been too slow in processing disciplinary cases of, mostly, online antisemitic abuse by party members,” Corbyn said. “We are acting to speed this process up.”

Starritt said, “Anti-Semitism is a serious problem in the U.K. and it is beholden upon all organisations to stand up against this crime and speak out on behalf of the Jewish community.

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