Labour anti-Semitism problems stem from Jeremy Corbyn's election, says Board of Deputies president
Labour's problems with anti-Semitism stem from Jeremy Corbyn's election as party leader, it has been claimed today.
Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, suggested that Mr Corbyn’s “hostile opposition” to Israel and support for Palestinian causes had encouraged an anti-Jewish strain in his party.
He also criticised the Labour leader's decision to call terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah "friends" in parliament - and said Mr Corbyn had refused repeated calls from him to withdraw the remarks.
The leading Jewish figure was appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee, which is conducting a review into anti-Semitism,.
Mr Corbyn has set up an internal Labour probe into the issue after the party was hit by a string of controversies.
But Mr Arkush said said the leader’s remarks on the issue had been “wrung” out of him through public outrage - and suggested the problem had emerged after Mr Corbyn's victory in the leadership election last September.
"I think it’s mainly, as I said, the election of the leader who is associated with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, with Stop the War, with a very, very hostile position on Israel, very well-known and well publicised," he said.
"And someone who has thought it appropriate to meet here in the democratic mother of parliaments with terrorist organisations who’s stated mission in life is to kill as many Christians and Jews as possible, has clearly sent the wrong sort of message to some people.”
He added: "We are concerned that leadership comes from the top. We are concerned that the leader of the Labour party has met Hamas and Hezbollah right here in the House of Commons, not in the guise of peace making but at a reception which was about celebrating the resistance and he’s called him friends.
“And that despite my many requests to him, both face-to-face when I had a very good meeting with him and he is very, very engaging man, but I wasn’t able to get him to accept that those meetings were inappropriate or to say that they would not be repeated. I really am waiting for him to say that.”
Labour has suspended a number of members over anti-Semitic remarks in recent months, the most high-profile being Ken Livingstone for his claim that Hitler was a Zionist “before he went mad and murdered six million Jews”.