October 25, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘acid test’ meeting with leaders of Britain’s Jewish community

JEREMY CORBYN is to meet leaders of Britain’s Jewish community in what is regarded as an “acid test” of relations with the Labour Party.

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which represents the Jewish community in the UK, said he and chief executive Gillian Merron had accepted an invitation for a face-to-face meeting with the Labour leader in the second week of February.

Mr Corbyn has been accused of hostility towards Israel and of links with “anti-Semites”.

He was heckled at a Labour Friends of Israel event in September after failing to use the name Israel once in his 1,300-word speech.

Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn has ended a three day visit to Israel and the West Bank

Mr Arkush told the Jewish Chronicle the meeting would be “an acid test of how relations will be between the Labour Party and the Jewish community. He knows it and I know it”.

Mr Arkush told the meeting of the Board of Deputies he would raise matters of concern.

He added: “If I have concerns with his answers I will have no hesitation in speaking up for our community.”

Earlier this year Mr Arkush promised he would seek a meeting with Mr Corbyn if he became Labour leader.

He said comments Mr Corbyn had reportedly made about Hamas and Hizbollah had rung alarm bells.

The move came as Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn ended a three-day visit to Israel and the West Bank during which he met officials from the United Nations’ refugee agency, toured East Jerusalem and visited a Bedouin community.

In the West Bank he met Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and his education minister before touring Hebron with campaign group Breaking the Silence.

A Labour spokesman said: “It shows the level of priority he places on Israel. It was primarily a listening trip.

“He met a wide range of experts, politicians, journalists, negotiators and officials with differing views to learn about events on the ground and to get a good understanding of the situation.”

Earlier this month Mr Benn led the calls for Parliament to back air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, north of Israel’s border.

He was widely praised for his speech in the Commons which put him at odds with Mr Corbyn, who opposed RAF bombing missions.

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