Theresa May: It ‘sickens’ me that nearly 40 per cent of Jews would consider emigrating if Corbyn got in
Theresa May has told of her horror and outrage after the JC revealed nearly 40 per cent of British Jews would seriously consider leaving the country if Jeremy Corbyn came to power.
In a passionate speech to more than 800 dignitaries at Monday’s United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) dinner in central London, the PM said: “I saw that poll on the front page of the Jewish Chronicle and it sickens me that anyone should feel like that in our country.
“I do not underestimate the threat posed by those who promote antisemitism, or hatred in any form. Nor the pernicious nature of what those people say and what they stand for.”
“But I do not believe those voices speak for the vast, overwhelming majority of people in our country…And most importantly, I do not believe that those voices will ever win. We will not let them win.”
In a clear reference to a recently unearthed speech Mr Corbyn gave on British “Zionists” in 2013, the PM said: “Nothing excuses antisemitism – not comedy, not satire – not even irony.”
Mrs May vowed to root out what she said was the “scourge of antisemitism” in the UK – and also emphasised her staunch support for the state of Israel.
She told the audience at the Grosvenor House Hotel: “I have come here tonight as Prime Minister of our country to say that I stand with you.
“I stand with the UJIA. I stand with Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. And I stand with the entire Jewish community in Britain.
“In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher shop attacks in Paris I came to a Board of Deputies meeting and joined you in defiance of that horror to say ‘Je suis Juif.’
“And in the face of any kind of hatred against the Jewish people – in any form and anywhere, whether overseas or right here in our own country – I say with that same defiance: ‘Je suis Juif.’
Returning to the repeated attacks by the Labour leader and his supporters on the Jewish community and their support for Zionism she said there was “no contradiction” between the two beliefs adding: “If we are to stand up for the values that we share – then one of the things we need to do is give young Jewish people the confidence to be proud of their identity – as British, Jewish and Zionist too.
“We must never let anyone try to suggest that there should be.”
She continued: “One of the most sickening aspects of the antisemitism that tries, abhorrently, to suggest Israel is a racist endeavour – is that those voices seek to separate the Jewish diaspora in our country from their connection with Israel.”
Calling Israel a racist endeavour is one of the examples of potential antisemitism given by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition.
In July, Labour insisted on omitting this from its code of conduct on antisemitism, prompting a huge row and standoff with its Jewish supporters and members that lasted through the summer.
The party relented earlier this month and adopted the full IHRA definition but only with a “free speech” clause about Israel.
Mrs May stressed her government’s adoption of the full IHRA definition, saying: “Criticising the actions of Israel is never – and can never be – an excuse for questioning Israel’s right to exist; any more than criticising Britain’s actions could be an excuse for questioning our right to exist.
“And criticising the government of Israel is never – and can never be – an excuse for hatred against the Jewish people – any more than criticising the British government would be an excuse for hatred against the British people.
“There are no excuses for any kind of hatred towards the Jewish people. We must never let that happen.”
She said her government wanted to boost trade with Israel, “deepening our links in particular in sectors like agriculture, health, science, technology and innovation”.
Mrs May said Britain would work with Israel towards “Balfour’s vision of a peaceful co-existence”, emphasised how Britain had condemned how the country was “unfairly treated” by the UN and said her government “will have no truck” with those who advocate boycotts of Israel.
She added: “Under my leadership the UK will always be a real and trusted partner for Israel, supporting Israel’s security and prosperity, not just through our words but also through our actions.”
Mrs May praised “the inspirational work of the Holocaust Educational Trust and their world-leading Lessons From Auschwitz programme” as a “sign of hope” in the face of prejudice and hate.
She also hailed the “vital” work of the UJIA in bringing together Jews and Arabs in Israel and deepening the connections between young Jews and the Jewish state.
Earlier Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador to Britain, spoke of the “strength” of the two countries’ ties.
Sir Mick Davis, Conservative Party chief executive, introduced the PM, saying: “We are blessed at a time like this to have Theresa May as Prime Minister.
“Mrs May is our friend and ally has demonstrated that time and time again.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was also among those to attend Monday’s event along with Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of Masorti, Rabbi Joseph Dweck of the Spanish & Portuguese communities, and Rabbi Danny Rich of Liberal Judaism.
In a video message for the event, President Reuven Rivlin hailed Israel’s triumphs against the odds. But, in a message that struck a particularly poignant note on light of the recent Nation State Law he has criticised, he said the country must face its challenges, including bringing together the “four tribes” of secular Jews, Arabs, charedim and the national religious.
UJIA chair Louise Jacobs warned that the engagement of some young people with Israel was low.
She said we “must accept” that some young people in the UK are struggling to combine their Jewish values with Zionist ideals around modern day Israel.