W ill Britain’s next prime minister be an unrepentant anti-Semite?

Jeremy Corbyn, a far-left figure who unexpectedly nabbed the Labour Party leadership in 2015, has been nipping at the heels of incumbent Conservative prime minister Theresa May in recent election polls. Having aligned himself in the past with extreme Muslim and pro-Palestinian factions, Corbyn has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism.

Britain’s Jewish community leadership has voiced strong concerns about Corbyn’s positions but has largely kept its powder dry. The latest revelations, however — about Corbyn’s questionable social media activities, dating back six years — have finally triggered a massive response.

In the days leading up to Pesach, the traditionally low-profile Jewish establishment broke with precedent and called for a demonstration outside Parliament. Holding banners reading “Dayeinu” and “Enough Is Enough,” a crowd approximately a thousand strong protested the growing anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.

The immediate trigger of the protest was fresh controversy over a social media comment Jeremy Corbyn posted back in 2012. When a blatantly anti-Semitic mural in London’s East End was removed by the local council, Corbyn — then only a fringe figure on Labour’s far left — defended it on the grounds of free speech. But after Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger recently challenged her party leader over his statement, Corbyn responded with the far-fetched claim that he hadn’t noticed the mural’s anti-Semitic overtones.

In response, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, the Jewish community’s leading representative bodies, sent Corbyn a letter that the Times described as “incendiary.” It accused the Labour leader of possessing a “far-left worldview instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.”

In a conversation with Mishpacha, Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush explained that the issue came to the fore in light of Corbyn’s membership in social media groups peddling anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bigotry. “We’ve continuously complained to Jeremy Corbyn about the anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, but no serious action has been taken to stamp out this cancer. People like [former London mayor] Ken Livingstone have got away with a slap on the wrist.”

The high-profile nature of the protest generated a media storm, as Labour figures such as Tony Blair spoke out against the disturbing developments in the party. Under pressure, Jeremy Corbyn responded by calling anti-Semitism the “socialism of fools” and requesting to meet the Jewish leadership to discuss how to mend Labour’s relationship with the community.

In a follow-up letter, the Jewish groups told Corbyn that they would only meet if he was ready to take action against anti-Semitism. These steps would include appointing an independent ombudsman to monitor anti-Semitism within the party, as well as a thorough education program for Labour members.

But underscoring the gulf between Corbyn’s words and his actions, a few days later it emerged that Corbyn had attended a “Seder” organized by Jewdas, a radically anti-Israel left-wing Jewish group. Highlights of the program included a parody of the Haggadah denying the Jewish connection to Israel. As Jonathan Arkush put it, “either it was a catastrophic error of judgment, or he was trying to provoke the Jewish community.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 705)