Jewish leaders accuse Labor party leader of anti-Semitism
WASHINGTON — Jewish leaders in Britain said Monday that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor Party has shown a ‘‘repeated institutional failure’’ to address anti-Jewish prejudice.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council made the allegation in an open letter, saying ‘‘again and again, Jeremy Corbyn has sided with anti-Semites rather than Jews.’’
Corbyn, Britain’s main opposition leader, has been a fierce critic of Israel, but he vowed Monday that the party would have ‘‘zero tolerance’’ for hatred. Labor must show ‘‘total commitment to excising pockets of anti-Semitism that exist in and around our party,’’ he said.
In 2016, former London mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended from the Labor Party after he said Adolf Hitler had been a supporter of Zionism in the 1930s. An internal review, conducted soon after, found that there was ‘‘much clear evidence’’ of ‘‘ignorant attitudes’’ toward the country’s Jewish population.
Since his nomination as the party leader, Corbyn has been forced to defend himself against accusations that some of his supporters are anti-Semitic.
Earlier this month, Corbyn acknowledged that he had been a member of a Facebook group that has posted anti-Semitic views, though he said he had never seen the messages.
Then, on Friday, Labor lawmaker Luciana Berger, who is Jewish, challenged Corbyn’s office to explain something he had posted on Facebook five years ago.
In the post, he was responding to Los Angeles-based artist Kalen Ockerman, who had complained that one of her London street murals was being painted over in response to criticism that it was anti-Semitic.
‘‘You are in good company,’’ Corbyn wrote. ‘‘Rockerfeller [sic] destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.’’
Luciana Berger tweeted ‘‘I asked the leader’s office for an explanation about this Facebook post first thing this morning. I’m still waiting for a response.’’
Ockerman’s mural apparently depicted a group of Jewish bankers and financiers playing Monopoly on the backs of naked people.
Ockerman denied that the painting was anti-Semitic. In an e-mail to Bloomberg, she wrote that ‘‘though historically several of the characters may be of Jewish [descent] or ideology, my intention was to illustrate the privileged elite upper-ruling class.”
In response to the resurfaced Corbyn post, an array of Jewish groups gathered outside Parliament on Monday to call on Labor to address prejudice against Jews.
‘‘We have had enough of hearing that Jeremy Corbyn ‘opposes anti-Semitism,’ whilst the mainstream majority of British Jews, and their concerns, are ignored by him and those he leads,’’ they wrote in the open letter.
‘‘Jeremy Corbyn did not invent this form of politics, but he has had a lifetime within it, and now personifies its problems and dangers. He issues empty statements about opposing anti-Semitism, but does nothing to understand or address it,’’ the letter said.
“We conclude that he cannot seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.’’
Corbyn has since apologized for his 2012 message and said he regrets not looking more closely at the ‘‘deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic’’ mural. He said Monday that he plans to meet with Jewish leaders in the coming days.
In a separate development Monday, French authorities said the killing of an elderly Jewish woman in Paris is being investigated as an anti-Semitic murder.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said two suspects have been put in custody. It said it is asking investigating judges to charge the pair with premeditated murder of a vulnerable person for anti-Semitic motives.
The office also asked for the suspects to be jailed pending trial.
Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, an umbrella group of French Jewish organizations, said the 85-year-old woman was slain last week in Paris’ eastern 11th district. The victim had reportedly escaped a round-up of Jews in Paris during World War II.
CRIF asked for ‘‘utmost transparency in the ongoing investigation so that the reasons for this barbaric crime are known to everyone as soon as possible.’’