TEL AVIV – The anti-Semitism sweeping Britain’s Labour party has “crossed a red line” and Britain’s leaders must condemn it, Israel’s ambassador to the UK Mark Regev said on Sunday to the BBC.
Speaking in his first televised interview since his appointment last month, Regev also said he hoped Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would take up the Israeli Labor party chief Isaac Herzog’s invitation to visit the Jewish state, adding that he’d “love to” meet Corbyn.
Regev said there is a clear distinction between legitimate criticism of Israel and hate speech, and the discourse dominating the Labour party is a manifestation of the latter.
“The comments of the past few weeks are demonizing, a vilification of my country and its very right to exist. There’s a difference between legitimate criticism and hate speech. Hating Jews is a red line that cannot be crossed,” Regev said.
He added that it was “naive” to think that anti-Semitism is only a problem of the far-Right.
Watch the interview below.
A series of scandals involving anti-Semitic slurs made by Labour MPs in recent weeks has rocked the country.
Former London mayor Ken Livingstone said on Thursday that Hitler was “supporting Zionism” in 1932 when he proposed Jews be moved to Israel. Livingstone was subsequently suspended from the Labour party.
His comments were prompted by the suspension of Labour MP Naz Shah after the latter called for Israel to be “relocated” to America.
Labour councilor Aysegul Gurbuz was suspended two weeks earlier after tweeting that Hitler was the “greatest man in history” and hoped Iran would “wipe Israel off the map.”
In March, Vicki Kirby, the vice chairwoman of Labour’s Woking Branch, tweeted that Jews have “big noses” and “slaughter the oppressed.”
Without referring to Corbyn by name, Regev criticized the Labour leadership for not confronting anti-Semitism head on.
“There has to be an unequivocal message from leadership saying there is no solidarity with anti-Semites. It is crucial leaders say this is unacceptable. Why can you share a platform with someone who is antisemitic?” Regev said.
Regev also attacked politicians who “embraced Hamas” – evidently referring to Corbyn, who in the past in the past has referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends.”
“I’ll give you an example,” he said.
You’ve had too many people on the progressive side of politics who have embraced Hamas and Hezbollah. Both of them are anti-Semitic organizations, you just have to read Hamas’s charter and it’s like chapters straight out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Yet some progressive politicians have embraced Hamas.
Now, I’d ask the following question: If you’re progressive, you’re embracing an organization which is homophobic, which is misogynistic, which is openly anti-Semitic, what’s progressive about that? I think there has to be an unequivocal message from leadership saying there is no solidarity with anti-Semites.
Regev said it was impossible to imagine someone from Labour sharing a platform with an anti-black racist or someone spouting hatred of homosexuals. Why then, he asked, “can you share a platform with someone who is openly anti-Semitic?”