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Peer claims Corbyn is anti-Semite over 2013 comments on UK Zionists

A former chief rabbi has branded Jeremy Corbyn an "anti-Semite" and claimed the Labour leader's remarks on Zionists are the most offensive by a senior politician since Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech.

Crossbench peer Lord Jonathan Sacks accused Mr Corbyn of giving support to "racists, terrorists and dealers of hate" as claims of anti-Semitism continued to rock Labour.

The comments came after footage from 2013 emerged of Mr Corbyn attacking a group of British Zionists who had criticised Palestinian ambassador Manuel Hassassian.

Mr Corbyn said: "They clearly have two problems.

"One is they don't want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all of their lives, they don't understand English irony either."

Lord Sacks told the New Statesman: "The recently disclosed remarks by Jeremy Corbyn are the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell's 1968 'rivers of blood' speech.

"It was divisive, hateful and like Powell's speech it undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.

"We can only judge Jeremy Corbyn by his words and his actions.

"He has given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate who want to kill Jews and remove Israel from the map.

"When he implies that, however long they have lived here, Jews are not fully British, he is using the language of classic pre-war European anti-Semitism."

Lord Sacks continued: "When challenged with such facts, the evidence for which is before our eyes, first he denies, then he equivocates, then he obfuscates.

"This is low, dishonest and dangerous.

"He has legitimised the public expression of hate, and where he leads, others will follow.

"Now, within living memory of the Holocaust, and while Jews are being murdered elsewhere in Europe for being Jews, we have an anti-Semite as the leader of the Labour Party and Her Majesty's Opposition.

"That is why Jews feel so threatened by Mr Corbyn and those who support him."

The Labour Party described Lord Sacks' comments as offensive. It said: "This comparison with the race-baiting Enoch Powell is absurd and offensive. Jeremy Corbyn described a particular group of pro-Israel activists as Zionists, in the accurate political sense, not as a synonym or code for Jewish people.

"Jeremy Corbyn is determined to tackle anti-Semitism both within the Labour Party and in wider society, and the Labour Party is committed to rebuilding trust with the Jewish community."

The Labour leader has previously said that his remarks had been defending the ambassador from "what I thought were deliberate misrepresentations" by people "for whom English was a first language, when it isn't for the ambassador".

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