Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK’s opposition Labour Party, has come under fire after it emerged that he wrote a foreword to a century-old book that has been branded anti-Semitic.
The 1902 book, written by the English economist and critic of imperialism John A. Hobson, claimed that Europe’s financial and political institutions were controlled by “men of a single and peculiar race” who were in a “unique position to control the policy of nations.”
“There is not a war, a revolution, an anarchist assassination, or any other public shock, which is not gainful to these men; they are harpies who suck their gains from every new forced expenditure and every sudden disturbance of public credit,” he wrote in “Imperialism: A Study.”
Hobson also referred to the Rothschilds, a wealthy Jewish family who established a banking empire in the 1700s, and questioned whether a “great war could be undertaken by any European State” if the family or its connections “set their face against it?”
He added that every “great political act involving a new flow of capital” requires the “sanction and the practical aid” of these men, whom he described as a “little group of financial kings.”
In his foreword to a 2011 edition of the book, Corbyn – who was then a backbench Member of Parliament – described the work as a “great tome” and noted that Hobson’s analysis of the pressures pushing for the expansion of the British Empire was “brilliant and very controversial at the time.”
Eight years later, the Labour leader is facing sharp criticism from politicians and Jewish groups alike for his perceived endorsement of the work and its anti-Semitic statements.
The Jewish Labour Movement, an affiliate of the Labour Party since 1920, expressed shock at the revelation and said Labour members had once again found that their leader “has endorsed antisemitic propaganda.”
“Given how much he says he abhors anti-Jewish racism, Jeremy Corbyn must be the unluckiest anti-racist in history,” a spokesman wrote in a statement posted on the organization’s Twitter account.
“But in truth, it’s no accident that he’s praised an author who peddled what we would recognize today as left antisemitic tropes.
“Any other Labour member would have been suspended after this. He should consider his position.”
Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, has written to Corbyn expressing “grave concern” over the foreword, according to a statement on the board’s website. She said segments of the work are “pure and unequivocal racism” and noted that “there can be no apology for it.”
The Labour Party defended Corbyn, telling CNN in a statement that the foreword “praised the Liberal Hobson’s century-old classic study of imperialism in Africa and Asia.”
“Similarly to other books of its era, Hobson’s work contains outdated and offensive references and observations, and Jeremy completely rejects the anti-Semitic elements of his analysis,” the party said.
Corbyn indeed praises Hobson within his foreword for “railing against the commercial interests that fuel the role of the popular press with tales of imperial might,” which in turn led to “racist caricatures of African and Asian peoples.”
In recent years, Labour has been accused of turning a blind eye to the resurgence of anti-Semitism within British politics and the party itself.
Corbyn himself has faced sharp criticism as an outspoken critic of Israel and campaigner for Palestinian rights.
He also drew condemnation for being present at a 2014 wreath-laying ceremony in Tunisia at the grave of the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich attack, in which 11 Israeli Olympians were killed by Palestinian militants.
Numerous Labour politicians have since turned against Corbyn, including Member of Parliament Wes Streeting, who called on other Labour parliamentarians to “refuse to defend” him over the foreword. “If he wants to defend the indefensible, he should go on the airwaves and defend himself,” he wrote on Twitter. “He has a responsibility to explain himself.”
Ian Austin, an independent MP who quit Labour in part over its failure to tackle anti-Semitism, added that Corbyn was “completely unfit to lead the Labour Party.”