March 26, 2019 / 12:45 AM / a month ago

Pompeo condemns rise of anti-Semitism, blasts Britain's Labour Party

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday condemned the rise of anti-Semitism as a “cancer metastasizing” in the Middle East, Europe and in the United States, where he said the Trump administration would vigorously oppose it.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, U.S., March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

In a speech to a major pro-Israel U.S. lobby group in Washington, Pompeo accused Britain’s opposition Labour Party of tolerating anti-Semitism, calling it a “national disgrace”.

He said attacks against Jews were increasing in France and Germany and hate crimes against Jews in the United States were up by one third in 2017. He slammed the “multiple attacks” on the Orthodox Jewish community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, Pompeo said anti-Zionism - opposition to the existence of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people - was a form of anti-Semitism that was on the rise.

“The Trump administration opposes it unequivocally and we will fight it relentlessly,” he said, “Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”

Earlier on Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights in a boost for Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu, who faces an election on April 9.

Some political analysts say that Republicans hope support for Israel will attract Jewish voters and note Republicans in Congress were outspoken in condemning comments by Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar that some viewed as anti-Semitic.

At the same time, critics have credited Trump’s confrontational, nationalistic rhetoric with encouraging right-wing extremists and feeding a surge in activity by hate groups in the United States. The administration has flatly rejected that charge.

After a counter-protester was killed in 2017 at a white supremacist rally in Virginia where demonstrators chanted “Jews will not replace us,” Trump said there was blame on “both sides.”

In Britain, Labour has been battling accusations of anti-Semitism for over two years. Nine lawmakers have quit the party, citing the leadership’s handling of anti-Semitism in the ranks as well as its Brexit stance as their reason for leaving.

In France, home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, anti-Semitic attacks increased 74 percent in 2018 to 500, according to figures released in February.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and David Alexander; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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