Archbishop of Canterbury hits back at accusation he has not done enough to fight antisemitism

Church says he has spoken out 'numerous times' after Jonathan Arkush said he hadn't done enough


Lambeth Palace has hit back at claims from a senior Jewish leader that the Archbishop of Canterbury has not done enough to speak up for Jews in the face of antisemitism.

Jonathan Arkush, the outgoing president of the Board of Deputies, criticised Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby for not doing enough to support British Jews.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he said Archbishop Welby should have had a “stronger, clearer voice”.

But a spokesperson for Archbishop Welby told the JC the Archbishop had spoken out “numerous times”.


“The Archbishop has always been committed to combatting antisemitism wherever it exists and his public record on the issue reflects this,” she said.

The Chief Rabbi has also rejected the claim that the Archbishop has not done enough for the Jewish community.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury is unquestionably an outstanding and genuine friend of the Jewish people," Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said. 

"He has consistently and passionately spoken out against antisemitism and for that he deserves the fulsome gratitude and appreciation of our entire community.”

Howevevr Mr Arkush said he was not suggesting the Archbishop “is not a strong and sincere friend of the Jewish people.

“My statement in the Telegraph interview was very specific, and referred only to the EnoughIsEnough protest against the antisemitism in the Labour Party.

“I affirm that nothing I said could, or should, be taken to detract from my admiration for Archbishop Justin’s record of support for the Jewish people and his defence of Israel.”

The Archbishop's spokesperson highlighted how, speaking at an event this year to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, Archbishop Welby demanded that internet companies do more to clamp down on antisemitism.

He said at the time: “If we do not act [on antisemitism], then we are complicit.

“We are called by God not to accept false witness, but to disrupt conversations and discourse. Whoever it is, we should assume collective responsibility.

“As we remember that antisemitism continues to flourish in this country and across Europe, let us not hold back in our disruption.”

The Archbishop’s spokesperson also said that he visited Yad Vashem with the Chief Rabbi in 2017, where he said Christians must unite with Jews to halt rise of antisemitism.

Speaking at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, he said: “Within European culture, the root of all racism, I think, is found in antisemitism.

“It goes back more than 1,000 years in Europe. Within our Christian tradition, there has been century upon century of these terrible, terrible hatreds in which one people … [are] hated more specifically, more violently, more determinedly, more systematically than any other people.”

He called on people to “dedicate ourselves afresh … to building and maintaining bridges and friendships, understanding, tolerance, unity and peace.”


In 2016 he also wrote an essay for the Holocaust Educational Trust titled "We must stand together against antisemitism", in which he addressed the Church’s historic role in spreading hatred of Jews.

He wrote: “Antisemitism is an insidious evil. The habits of antisemitism have been burrowing into European and British culture for as long as we can remember.

“In England, during the late mediaeval period, the Jewish community faced constant persecution: Shylock, the great villain of the Merchant of Venice, was a cliché of his time.

“By the time Cromwell reopened England to Jewish settlement under the Commonwealth in the 1650s, antisemitism had mutated within common parlance and culture.

“It is a shameful truth that, through its theological teachings, the church, which should have offered an antidote, compounded the spread of this virus.

“The fact that antisemitism has infected the body of the Church is something of which we as Christians must be deeply repentant.

“We live with the consequences of our history of denial and complicity.”

Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko, director of the Council of Christians and Jews said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury is a consistently strong and leading voice in challenging antisemitism in contemporary Britain.

“As president of the CCJ, Archbishop Welby supports our work in building bridges between Christians and Jews throughout the UK through our national programmes."

Mr Arkush made the comments as part of an interview criticising Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for his "antisemitic and ... problematic views."

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