Jewish history reached a remarkable yet tragic milestone this week. In a unprecedented move the British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote an article in the Times of London on Monday morning directly attacking the continuingly, unrepentant anti-Semitic rants of the leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Speaking as the religious leader of a community of fewer than 300,000 Jews, Rabbi Mirvis addressed the British public as well as the Jews of Great Britain. Joining many other Jewish communal figures, the Chief Rabbi entered a political world that rabbis, let alone the Chief Rabbi, rarely enter.
In direct and unambiguous terms, Mirvis urged the public to think long and hard if they were considering voting on December 12th for an avowed anti-Semitic who is fooling no one in trying to disguise his anti-Semitism in a veneer of generic anti-racism. The possibility of Corbyn potentially becoming the next Prime Minister ought to be inconceivable for British Jews.
The clarity of Rabbi Mirvis’ remarks were matched by the urgency of his explanation. The Labour Party, which had been the political home for many British Jews for generations, has been taken over by Corbyn and its left-wing extremist cohort. The Party has inherited many of the extreme views which were part of the Trotskyite faction of the left wing of the Labour Party. While anti-Semitism was the decisive reason for Mirvis statement, he remained concerned that many Jews in Britain remained sympathetic with parts of the overall Labour agenda. He urged voters not to deceive themselves regarding the possible consequences for the Jewish community of a Corbyn victory.
Historically, significant portions of British Jews have felt more at home within Labour than they have within the Conservative Party. The historical, elitist anti-Semitism among the Tories as well as their questionable support for Israel, had kept many Jews closely aligned with the Labour Party. This was solidified even more so during the Blair-Brown period of the New Labour Party during the final decade of the 20th Century. The Party’s swing to the extreme left over the past years as Corbyn gained control, erupted in the expansion of Labour’s historical anti-racism platform into clear, tolerance for anti-Semitism. This represented a far more serious attack on Jews than that reflected by the anti-colonial, anti-Israel wing of the Party.
As if this attack was not sufficiently compelling in its own right, Corbyn’s actions on television on Tuesday night sealed the matter. During a BBC interview with correspondent Andrew Neil, Corbyn refused four opportunities given to him by Neil, to apologize to Rabbi Mirvis and the Jewish community for his hateful attitude and remarks towards Jews. His total refusal to back down or modify his views—regardless of the fact that he recognized it would have only a minimum effect on his supporters–confirmed to all except the most blind viewers or rabid supporters the depth of Corbyn’s commitment to this racist agenda.
For the courage of his outspoken attack on Corbyn, Rabbi Mirvis was joined by religious leaders of all faiths in Great Britain; including Muslim clerics. The decision by Rabbi Mirvis broke with a long-held tradition that rabbis do not engage in political elections directly. Rabbi Mirvis, who is recognized by most British Jews as their religious leader, held nothing back in his frontal attack against an enemy of the Jewish people; regardless of what might ultimately be the consequences. Unlike during the Nazi period, Mirvis was not afraid of the consequences of being proactive. He was speaking out now.