Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have been rocked by an explosive attack over antisemitism by the UK’s most senior Jewish leader, the Chief Rabbi.
In a scathing article in The Times, Ephraim Mirvis says the Labour leader’s claims to be tackling antisemitism in is party are a “mendacious fiction”.
He writes: “A new poison – sanctioned from the very top – has taken root in the Labour Party.”
While he stops short of telling the Jewish community not to vote Labour, he says: “When December 12th arrives, I ask very person to vote with their conscience.
“Be in no doubt – the very soul of our nation is at stake.”
Labour hit back rejecting the Chief Rabbi’s claims and insisting: “Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong campaigner against antisemitism and has made absolutely clear it has no place in our Party and society and that no one who engages in it does so in his name.”
Mr Mirvis’s attack coincides with Labour launching its Race and Faith Manifesto, which includes to teach children about colonialism, injustice and the role of the British Empire as part of the national curriculum.
The attack by the Chief Rabbi is potentially hugely damaging for Labour, which has already seen Jewish MPs quit the party and lost votes in local elections in areas with large Jewish communities.
The Chief Rabbi begins his article by declaring that just a few weeks before the election the overwhelming majority of British Jews are “gripped by anxiety”.
He says the question he is now most frequently asked is: “What will become of Jews and Judaism in Britain if the Labour Party forms the next government?” And he adds: “This anxiety is understandable and justified.”
He writes: “We sit powerless, watching with incredulity as supporters of the Labour leadership have hounded parliamentarians, party members and even staff out of the party for facing down anti-Jewish racism.
“Even as they received unspeakable threats against themselves and their families, the response of the Labour Leadership was utterly inadequate.
“The way in which the leadership of the Labour Party has dealt with anti-Jewish racism is incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud – of dignity and respect for all people. It has left many decent Labour members and parliamentarians, both Jewish and non-Jewish, ashamed of what has transpired.
“The claims by leadership figures in the Labour Party that it is ‘doing everything’ it reasonably can to tackle the scourge of anti-Jewish racism and that it has ‘investigated every single case’, are a mendacious fiction.”
He says that according to the Jewish Labour Movement, there are at least 130 outstanding cases currently before the party – some dating back years and thousands more have been reported but remain unresolved.
“The party leadership have never understood that their failure is not just one of procedure, which can be remedied with additional staff or new processes. It is a failure to see this as a human problem rather than a political one. It is a failure of culture. It is a failure of leadership.”
“Many members of the Jewish community can hardly believe that this is the same party that they proudly called their political home for more than a century. It can no longer claim to be the party of diversity, equality and anti-racism. This is the Labour Party in name only.
“How far is too far? How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be in order to be considered unfit for high office?
“Would associations with those who have openly incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would support for a racist mural, depicting powerful hook-nosed Jews supposedly getting rich at the expense of the weak and downtrodden be enough?
“Would describing as ‘friends’ those who endorse and even perpetrate the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not. What we do know from history is that what starts with the Jews, never ends with the Jews.”
He concludes: “It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote. I regret being in this situation at all. I simply pose the following question: What will the result of this election say about the moral compass of our country?”
Responding to the attack, a party spokesperson said: “A Labour government will guarantee the security of the Jewish community, defend and support the Jewish way of life, and combat rising antisemitism in our country and across Europe. Our race and faith manifesto, launched tomorrow, sets out our policies to achieve this.
“The 130 figure is inaccurate and it is categorically untrue to suggest there are thousands of outstanding cases. We are taking robust action to root out antisemitism in the Party, with swift suspensions, processes for rapid expulsions and an education programme for members.
“Antisemitism complaints account for about 0.1% of the Labour Party membership, while polls show antisemitism is more prevalent among Conservative than Labour supporters. In the past week it’s been revealed Conservative candidates said events in the Holocaust were ‘fabricated’ and called British Jews ‘extremists’.”
Labour has been engulfed in an antisemitism row since Mr Corbyn became leader in 2015.
At the launch of a report by lawyer Shami Chakrabarti a year later, a Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth stormed out after being heckled by a left-wing activist now expelled from the party.
In August this year the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched an inquiry into allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party.
And last week Jewish actress and Corbyn critic Maureen Lipman revived her TV adverts of the 1980s and 90s to attack the Labour leader.
In its Race and Faith Manifesto, Labour is vowing to tackle pay discrimination based on race, end what it calls rip-off charges for passports, visas and other documents, look to appoint more ethnic minority teachers and hold a review of far-right extremism.
“Labour is the party of equality and human rights,” said Mr Corbyn. “Our Race and Faith Manifesto presents our unshakable commitment to challenge the inequalities and discrimination that has faced to many communities.
“Whatever your background, wherever you are from, whatever your faith or religious belief, you should have the chance to use your talents to fulfil your potential. Labour will tackle head on the barriers that have unfairly held back so many people and communities.”
But Labour’s proposals have been condemned by the Conservative Home Secretary Priti Patel.
“It’s staggering that Corbyn’s Labour see fit to lecture people about race and faith while they are investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for the rampant antisemitism in their ranks,” she said.
“Not charging people who want to come to the country for visa and immigration services means UK taxpayers will have to pay instead.”