A top British lawyer and his partner said they will leave the United Kingdom due to growing anti-Semitism, which they blamed in large part on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.
In an interview with the BBC this week, Mark Lewis and Mandy Blumenthal said they intend to immigrate to Israel by the end of the year. They also said they know other people who are considering leaving the country because of anti-Semitism.
Lewis, one of the UK’s leading libel lawyers, said he had been increasingly subjected to hate speech and threats for being Jewish.
The couple blamed the leadership of Labour for creating an atmosphere that allows anti-Semitic feelings to bubble up and largely dismissed Corbyn’s assertion that anti-Semitism is not tolerated in the party.
“Jeremy Corbyn moved the rock, and the anti-Semites crawled out from underneath the rock. They’re not going back,” said Lewis.
“There’s been a total climate change. It’s become acceptable to be anti-Semitic. It’s brought out people feelings to the surface,” Blumenthal said.
She said though Corbyn and Labour are not solely responsible for the recent anti-Semitism, they have a “very loud part” in its rise.
“It’s not just Jeremy Corbyn and it’s not all of the Labour party. But it’s a very, very loud part of it that’s actually enabled this anti-Semitism to foster here in the UK and go throughout society,” she said.
Lewis said while anti-Semitism was a fringe phenomenon in the past, it is has become more prominent due to social media.
“Social media has caused so much harm,” he said.”Fifteen years ago there was still anti-Semitism but it was an obscure thing. Fifteen years ago somebody painted a swastika on my garage door in Manchester, that was a message. But it was a one-off, it was something you could almost laugh off. Now with the effect of social media, it’s almost every day.”
Lewis, who in an interview with the Times of Israel last year said he likes to take on anti-Semitic trolls on social media, said he has also faced anti-Semitism when trying to raise the issue.
“If you complain about anti-Semitism, the most anti-Semitic thing is said back to you: You’re making it up, it’s all a smear, you haven’t even got the right to complain,” he said.
He said he was bombarded with messages of hate from “people who claim to represent [grassroots Corbyn backing group] Momentum, who claim to represent the Labour Party.”
Explaining the couple’s decision to move to Israel, Lewis said “there is only so much you can take.”
“The online abuse might continue, the Israelis might not like me because I am too left, might not like me because they think I am too right, whatever their view. But they are not going to dislike me because I am Jewish. And there is only so much you can take – when you are getting threats to kill you.”
“When you are getting threats from people that they want you to be ill, etc. It’s a drip drip effect,” said Lewis, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. “And where do you say ‘actually, enough is enough.’”
In response to the couple’s interview, a Labour spokesperson said Corbyn is a “militant opponent” of anti-Semitism and committed to uprooting it from the the party.
“Jeremy Corbyn is a militant opponent of anti-Semitism he is determined to eradicate all forms of it from the Labour party and wider society,” the spokesperson said, according to the Daily Mail.
Blumenthal, however, said she did not believe Corbyn’s expressed commitment to addressing Labour’s anti-Semitism problems.
“Words are cheap. I honestly believe that when I hear Jeremy Corbyn’s words, they’re cheap, they’re excuses, they’re not actually expressing his true feelings. I don’t believe him,” she said.
Corbyn has faced renewed criticism over the past week, after the Daily Mail newspaper published photos of him holding a wreath during a 2014 ceremony at a Tunisian cemetery. It appeared from the snapshots that Corbyn was standing near the graves of Palestinian terrorists involved in the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
The scandal is only the latest round in a long-running crisis for the Labour Party, with a constant stream of members and prominent officials being forced out or chastised for making anti-Semitic and virulent anti-Israel comments, and Corbyn himself criticized for tolerating and/or being part of the problem. The fracas has seen excoriation from rabbis, including Britain’s chief rabbi, as well as from some of Labour’s own MPs, charging that the party and its leader seem unable or unwilling to decisively excise anti-Semitic members and sentiments from Labour’s ranks.
At the heart of Labour’s current anti-Semitism crisis is the party’s refusal to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, instead leaving out four of the 11 examples included in the definition. All four relate to unfair singling out of Israel or questioning the loyalty of Jews who support Israel.
At one point in the interview, BBC journalist Victoria Derbyshire brought up the couple’s political affiliations, saying they are members of the “UK Zionist Party.”
“Hold on. What is the UK Zionist Party,” Blumenthal asked. “Sorry to interrupt you, but you are saying I’m a member of a UK Zionist Party?”
Derbyshire apologized, saying “that was the information I was given.” No such political party exists.