Jeremy Corbynhas reiterated his belief that there is no place in Labor for antisemitism and vowed it would not be tolerated following claims from the chief rabbi that he has allowed the party to become poisoned with antisemitism.
Ephraim Mirvis on Tuesday accused the Labor leaderof allowing a “poison sanctioned from the top” to take root in Labor, saying Jews were justifiably anxious about the prospect of the party forming the next government.
At the launch of the party’s race and faith manifesto, Corbyn said: “Antisemitism in any form is vile and wrong. It is an evil within our society… there is no place for it and under aLaborgovernment it will not be tolerated in any form whatsoever.
“Labor is a party of equality and human rights.”
He added: “It was Labor also that passed [the] Human Rights Act, that set up the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It’s Labor that has to its very core the issues of justice and human rights within our society.
“And I want to lead a government where it’s absolutely central to everything that we do and that we will do indeed.”
Mirvis, the spiritual leader of the UK’s 62 orthodox synagogues, made a rare intervention in politics to argue that the “soul of the nation is at stake” as the country goes to the polls in just over two weeks’ time.
Writing for theTimes, he said it was not his place to tell people how to vote but argued that the way in which the Labor leadership had dealt with anti-Jewish racism was “incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud – of dignity and respect for all people”.
Labor has always strongly denied any suggestion that Corbyn has failed to get to grips with allegations of antisemitism in Labor, pointing to his record as an anti-racist campaigner and moves to overhaul the party’s complaints process.
The Labor leader said: “Sometimes, when people are challenged they say:‘ Are you tolerant of somebody else? Are you tolerant of somebody who has a different face to you or a different appearance to you? ’
“I don’t like that word tolerant. I don’t tolerate people. I respect people. So, let’s do it on the basis of respect and inclusion in our society. But let’s also be clear: abuse and racism in any form is not acceptable in any way in our society. ”
On the chief rabbi’s comments that antisemitism has been sanctioned from the top of Labor and that there is anxiety about him becoming prime minister, Corbyn said the party had taken measures to eradicate anti-Jewish hatred, as well as reach out to faith leaders.
He added: “Since I became leader of the party, the party has adopted processes that didn’t exist before… a disciplinary process that didn’t exist before.
“And where people have committed antisemitic acts they are brought to book or if necessary expelled from the party or suspended or asked to be educated better about it. I’ve also introduced an education system within the party. ”
Corbyn said if he got into government he would like to speak to all faith leaders and invited Mirvis to meet him.
He said: “I want to lead a government that has an open door to all of the faith leaders, so I invite the chief rabbi, I invite the archbishop of Canterbury, I invite all the other faith leaders to come talk to us about what their concerns are.
“But be absolutely clear of this assurance from me. No community will be at risk because of their identity, faith, their ethnicity, their language, I’m proud to represent a diverse community in parliament. ”
At the launch, the Labor peer Lord Dubs, who came to the UK as a child refugee in 1939, said Labor was “moving forward” on antisemitism and expressed disappointment at the rabbi’s words.
“I am bitterly disappointed by what he said. I don’t accept a lot of what he said, in so far as the Labor party should have acted a lot quicker. But today of all days, for the chief rabbi to be attacking our leader, it is unjustified, unfair and I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed that he has done it, ”he said.
If Labor achieves power, the party is planning a new body to oversee the legacy of colonialism, a race equality unit at the Treasury and reduced charges for Home Office documents and tests.
The policies, launched by Corbyn, Dawn Butler, the shadow equalities secretary, and Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, come after a consultation launched by Butler at the party conference in September.
Among the policies is the creation of what would be called an emancipation educational trust. Based around examining historical injustice, it would ensure that the role of the British empire is taught in schools.
Other ideas include a race equality unit at the Treasury to review spending commitments for their impact on black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, and to end what Labor calls “rip-off charges” for passports, visas and tests from the Home Office.
The plan, some elements of which appear in the main Labor manifesto, would also cover a review into the lack of BAME teachers in schools, and an outside review into the issue of far-right extremism.
Appearing on a stage at the Bernie Grant arts center, Tan Dhesi, who is hoping to be re-elected as MP for Slough, said the new race manifesto would also call for an independent inquiry into the storming of the golden temple and an official apology for the 1919 Amritsar massacre.
Abbott reminded Labor activists that they, like the late MP Grant, who entered parliament at the same time as her in 1987, should not back down on their beliefs if they were criticized by others.
“It is important to remember that just because you are vilified in the here and now does not mean that you are not right,” she said.
Afzal Khan, the shadow immigration minister, said Labor should not shy away from trying to tackle international issues while combatting antisemitism. “We need to heal this issue about Israel and Palestine as well. We need to do it in a fair and just manner, ”he said.
Responding to the chief rabbi’s comments during a campaign trip in Scotland,Boris Johnsonsaid Corbyn was guilty of a failure of leadership.
The prime minister added: “I do think it’s a very serious business when the chief rabbi speaks as he does. I have never known anything like it, and clearly it’s a failure of leadership on the part of the Labor leader that he has not been able to stamp out this virus in the Labor party.
“But I’m afraid it’s accompanied with a general failure of leadership we’re seeing at the moment on Brexit.”