LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn risked further souring his relationship with the Jewish community by attending a Passover event with a left-wing Jewish group that has called for the destruction of Israel.
Corbyn spent Monday evening at a ritual feast hosted by Jewdas, a group which described Israel in December as a “steaming pile of sewage which needs to be properly disposed of”.
The group also said that protests against Corbyn for failing to tackle anti-Semitism are “faux-outrage greased with hypocrisy and opportunism”.
A spokesman for Corbyn, a supporter of Palestinian rights and a critic of Israel, said he attended an event in his constituency in a personal capacity and not in his official role as Labour leader.
“He wrote to the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council last week to ask for an urgent formal meeting to discuss tackling anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and in society,” the spokesman said.
Jewdas did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some opinions polls put Corbyn’s Labour Party ahead or level with Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives, meaning he is being taken seriously as a potential next British leader, although the next election is not due until 2022.
Since unexpectedly becoming Labour leader in 2015 after decades spent on the left-wing fringes of the party, Corbyn has repeatedly faced accusations of turning a blind eye to anti-Semitic comments in the party and among groups he supports.
Corbyn has said there is no place for anti-Semitism in the party and that Labour will investigate any cases of suspected racism.
Last week, British Jewish groups protested against Corbyn outside parliament accusing the Labour leader for failing to tackle anti-Semitism within Labour ranks.
The issue flared up again two weeks ago after it came to light that in 2012 Corbyn questioned a decision by London local authorities to remove a street mural depicting men in suits with big noses playing Monopoly on the backs of naked people.
Some Labour lawmakers criticised Corbyn’s decision to attend the event on Monday.
John Woodcock, a Labour member of parliament who has criticised Corbyn in the past, said his attendance was “irresponsible and dangerous” and said it was “deliberately baiting the mainstream Jewish community days after they pleaded with him to tackle anti-Semitism”.
Jon Lansman, the leader of Momentum, a Corbyn-supporting grassroots movement which says it wants to ensure Labour implements socialist policies such as wealth distribution, said the party needs to do more to tackle anti-Semitism.
“Jeremy is a lifelong anti-racist and I think it came as a something of a shock to him to be described as being some kind of racist, of harbouring anti-Semitic people in the party that he now leads,” Lansman told BBC radio.
“We need a widespread program of education and training within the Labour party about anti-Semitism in order to help people recognise the dangers of using certain words, language can be very sensitive and words often mean to other people something different from what they mean to you
But in a piece for the pro-Labour website LabourList, Charlotte Nichols, one of the attendees of the Jewdas event, said Corbyn was right to attend the gathering.
“Many of last night’s attendees are absolutely part of the ‘mainstream community,’” she wrote.
“It is untrue to say that there is any one narrative, political or otherwise, within Jewdas. It is a collective space where we can have uncomfortable conversations – what unites us all is the fact that we are Jewish.”
Editing by Guy Faulconbridge