UK Prime Ministerial Candidate Boris Johnson: Labour Leader Corbyn’s Indulgence of Antisemitism ‘Reprehensible’
British prime ministerial hopeful Boris Johnson slammed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in an interview published Wednesday, saying Corbyn’s indulgence of antisemitism was “reprehensible.”
Since the far-left Corbyn, a strong opponent of Israel, took control of the party in 2015, Labour has been wracked by antisemitism scandals, several touching Corbyn himself. Polls show that the overwhelming majority of British Jews consider him personally antisemitic.
Johnson, a former mayor of London, is a candidate for the leadership of the ruling Conservative party. If he wins, he would replace outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street.
Asked by Jewish News whether he considers Corbyn an antisemite, Johnson said, “I can’t make a window into his soul, and discover exactly where his feelings lie on this.”
“I think there is no question that he is indulging and condoning antisemitism in the Labour Party; that is quite extraordinary and reprehensible,” he added. “It would never have been tolerated 20 years ago.”
Asked about his relationship with minorities, given that he once got into hot water by criticizing Muslim women who wear veils, Johnson replied, “I remain frank and unexpurgated in my language. But I am always sensitive in the concerns of the Jewish community and other minority groups and will continue to be true to that.”
On the subject of Israel, Johnson was asked about his criticism of the country during the 2014 Gaza war, in which he accused the IDF of using disproportionate force.
Johnson said that he was a “passionate Zionist,” but “those of us who support Israel always want Israel to show the greatest possible restraint in all its actions and to do everything it can to minimize civilian casualties.”
“It’s totally unacceptable that innocent Israeli civilians should face the threat of rocket fire and bombardment from Gaza,” he added. “I understand why Israel reacted in the way that it did and I understand the provocation and the outrageous behavior that occasioned that response.”
“All I’m saying is that you know in any such response it’s always right to be proportionate,” he said.
“Israel has a right to respond, Israel has a right to defend itself,” Johnson asserted. “Israel has a right to meet force with force. I absolutely agree with that, but all I was saying is I believe in Israel. I support Israel. I will always support Israel. I just joined with those who say, ‘I want the Israeli response to be proportionate.’”
Asked about whether he considered boycotts of Israel antisemitic, Johnson answered, “I think it often stems from that syndrome, definitely.”
“Anybody who knows anything about it knows that actually the boycott and disinvestment movement will probably hit hardest Palestinian community people who are in jobs, are benefiting from Israeli investment, Israeli farming, whatever,” he added. “It just makes no sense at all.”
Regarding whether the UK would follow the lead of the US and move its embassy to Jerusalem, Johnson was cautious, saying he could “see the logic” of such a move, but “the moment for us to play that card is when we make further progress.”
The candidate leveled strong criticism against the Palestinian Authority (PA) for paying generous stipends to terrorists and their families, saying, “There are funds that are made available to the Palestinian Authority that end up in the pockets of terrorist families, and that is indeed a point I raised with [PA President] Mahmoud Abbas, and will continue to raise.”
“I think it’s ludicrous that there should be any kind of financial incentive or compensation for terrorist activities,” he added.
Johnson also said that Palestinian terrorist groups currently proscribed by the European Union would also be banned in Britain after the country left the EU.
Asked whether he would “snap back” sanctions on Iran after the news that it has broken limits on uranium enrichment set by the 2015 nuclear deal, Johnson said, “I don’t want people to think I’m in any way soft on Iran. We face a very difficult situation and I am certainly prepared to go down that route if they have breached the nuclear deal.”
“My strong, strong advice to the Iranians would be to cease this madness, not to take any further steps that would break the terms of the agreement, and not to acquire a nuclear weapon,” he added.
“I think that there are enough tensions in that region without triggering a nuclear arms race, whose consequences would be very hard to foresee, and which would certainly pose very difficult choices for any Israeli government,” Johnson noted.
“I certainly think you could not fault the UK government for being tough on Iran’s sanction busting,” he asserted. “As prime minister, I’d make sure we continue to do everything we can to constrain Iran’s disruptive behavior in the region.”