Following Labour’s decision not to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism last month, a further wave of reports concerning antisemitic and anti-Zionist incidents in Labour have rocked the party.
In response to Mr Corbyn’s role in many of these incidents, Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan has called for an investigation into whether the Labour leader has brought the party into disrepute. In a letter to Jennie Formby, general secretary of the Labour party, Ms Ryan highlighted “ludicrous” and “grotesque” comments Mr Corbyn made alleging Israel was behind an Islamist terror attack in 2012.
“The hand of Israel”
The Observer reported that in an August 2012 interview on Iran’s state-owned Press TV, Jeremy Corbyn said he suspected “the hand of Israel” was behind a jihadist attack against Egyptian policemen in the Sinai peninsula.
Responding to the false claim, which a Labour spokesperson said was made due to Israeli involvement in an entirely separate 2011 event,
The president of the Board of Deputies, Marie Van der Zyl, accused Mr Corbyn of “leading the Labour Party into a dark place of ugly conspiracy theories”.
“I’m glad that those were released, were released”
Further investigation into Mr Corbyn’s 2012 appearance on Press TV – which previously had been banned from broadcasting in the UK due to its airing of a forced confession of a tortured journalist – revealed other unsavoury elements.
As reported by the CST’s Dave Rich and The Times, Mr Corbyn expressed support for the release of Hamas terrorists in the Gilad Shalit swap deal. Referring to prisoners who collectively were responsible for the murder of nearly 600 Israelis, Mr Corbyn said: “I’m glad that those that were released, were released, and I hope they’re now in safe places.”
Mr Corbyn also revealed a personal connection with one of the Hamas militants released in the deal, Abdul Aziz Umar, who was also interviewed on the programme. “I met many of the brothers including the brother who has been speaking here when they came out of prison”, Mr Corbyn said. Umar was given seven life sentences for his role in the preparation of a suicide vest detonated at a café in Jerusalem in 2003, killing seven.
“Nazism has won because it has finally managed to Nazify the consciousness of its own victims”
It was also revealed last week that Mr Corbyn hosted an event on Holocaust Memorial Day likening Israel to Nazi Germany.
The 2010 event was part of a UK tour called ‘Never Again for Anyone — Auschwitz to Gaza’ run by a fringe radical group, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN). It featured a talk from Hajo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor and anti-Zionist, and Palestinian activist Haidar Eid.
Eid, addressing the meeting via video-link from Gaza, said: “Nazism has won because it has finally managed to Nazify the consciousness of its own victims.”
Another Holocaust survivor, Rubin Katz, attended the meeting in protest at its message. He told The Telegraph the event had an “antisemitic and anti-Israel atmosphere” and that Mr Corbyn was “ordering people out” if they sought to challenge the speaker.
Mr Corbyn issued an apology for the event. “Views were expressed at the meeting which I do not accept or condone. In the past, in pursuit of justice for the Palestinian people and peace in Israel/Palestine, I have on occasion appeared on platforms with people whose views I completely reject. I apologise for the concerns and anxiety that this has caused.”
“It is not Auschwitz that stops the ship that carries hope and messages, but those that might have died there”
Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell then supported a 2011 campaign to rename Holocaust Memorial Day to “Genocide Memorial Day – Never Again For Anyone”, in recognition of other groups who were also persecuted by the Nazis.
In response, Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “Holocaust Memorial Day remembers all victims of the Nazis and subsequent genocides, while also recognising the unique characteristics of the Holocaust and the centrality of anti-Semitism to the Nazi attempt to exterminate European Jewry.
“This Parliamentary motion and the campaign it supported appear to be politically-motivated and attempts to undermine a national day of remembrance that involves communities and educators of all backgrounds.”
Mr Corbyn was also criticised for likening Israel’s treatment of Gaza to Nazi sieges of the second world war at a 2010 protest, and for reportedly applauding a poem at a 2012 event that made the same Israel-Nazi analogy. The poem includes the lines: “It is not now the Nazi state but Israel that blocks the seas./It is not Auschwitz that stops the ship that carries hope and messages,/But those that might have died there…./The victims are now the torturers.”
“We should ask the 70 rabbis where is your evidence of severe and widespread antisemitism in this Party?”
The Jewish Chronicle also obtained a tape recording of Mr Corbyn’s ally, Pete Willsman, angrily ranting against Jewish “Trump fanatics” at the National Executive Committee meeting where the controversial antisemitism definition decision was made. The NEC is Labour’s governing body.
He says on the recording: “We should ask the 70 rabbis ‘where is your evidence of severe and widespread antisemitism in this Party?’… I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up duff information without any evidence at all.” As an NEC member, Willsman attended disciplinary meetings where multiple cases of antisemitism were brought forwards for disciplinary proceedings.
Luciana Berger, parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said: “Anyone listening to this recording will be appalled to hear the venom and fury directed by Mr Willsman at the British Jewish community.” No disciplinary proceedings have been brought against Willsman.
Some of the Rabbis who wrote to the NEC asking for the committee to endorse the full IHRA definition responded to Willsman in the Jewish Chronicle, condemning him as a “bigot” with “utter disdain for the Jewish community”.
“Talmud Jews are parasites!” “All Talmuds need executing!”
Investigations against three Labour councillors were also launched last week for suspected antisemitism.
Damien Enticott, a councillor in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, posted multiple antisemitic comments referring to “Talmud Jews”. He also claimed drinking blood was a Jewish ritual and wrote that Hitler “would have had a solution to the Israel problem”. He has since resigned from the Labour party.
Ioan Joans, councillor and former mayor of Shrewsbury, shared an image online of investment banker Jacob Rothschild, claiming that his family had “financed both sides of every war since Napoleon”. He also posted an image comparing Adolf Hitler with Benjamin Netanyahu and shared articles claiming the “Israel lobby” was behind a “manufactured” Labour antisemitism crisis.
Mary Bain Lockhart, a councillor in Fife, Scotland, suggested that headlines in the Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News, and Jewish Telegraph were the product of a “Mossad assisted campaign to prevent the election of a Labour government”.
Meanwhile Michelle Harris was allowed back into the party, having been suspended for sharing posts from conspiracy theorist David Icke on “Rothschild Zionist Israel”. Harris was previously shortlisted for a parliamentary seat in Hastings and Rye. In a Facebook post, Ms Harris claimed the Labour Party had told her she had no case to answer.
“Israeli foot soldiers… are trying to take our democracy away from us”
A Jewish Chronicle reporter went undercover at a Liverpool Momentum meeting, where the loudest cheer of the night was given to a Labour party member referring to Corbyn’s critics as “Israeli foot soldiers”.
The main speaker at the event was hard left MP Chris Williamson, who failed to reproach the speaker. He then attacked the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, saying “They don’t speak for all Jews in the country”. Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, told the JC: “It is absolutely disgraceful that a Labour party member would accuse fellow members of having dual loyalty, indulging in the language of antisemitic conspiracy theories.” The Jewish Labour Movement wrote to the Labour whips calling for Williamson’s suspension.
Meanwhile, in a Momentum meeting in Barnet, North London, activists said security guards were stationed outside synagogues to “generate an atmosphere of insecurity” because “Zionists” want to “exploit and generate the fear of antisemitism”. One activist said there were people in the Labour Party “whose allegiances lie with a foreign government”, and suggestions of a “conspiracy” were legitimate.
Several other members defended a suspended member who wrote about the “over-representation of Jews in the capitalist ruling class”.
“At least Judas only got 30 pieces of silver”
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said on Sunday that Labour will “disappear into a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment” unless it gets a grip on its antisemitism crisis. Mr Watson called on the party to adopt the IHRA definition in full and to drop disciplinary proceedings into Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin, both of whom had confronted the party leadership over its worsening relations with the Jewish community.
The case against Ms Hodge has since been dropped, but the inquiry into Mr Austin is ongoing. Lawyers for the Dudley North MP said party action was meant to “silence our client for his legitimate, honestly-held criticisms of Mr Corbyn’s failure to address the scourge of antisemitism”.
Corbyn supporters on Twitter then attacked Watson for his comments using the hashtag #ResignWatson. George McManus, a hard-left member of Labour’s National Policy Forum, also attacked Mr Watson for receiving “£50,000+ from Jewish donors”. He added “At least Judas only got 30 pieces of silver.” Mr McManus was then suspended by the Labour party.
“The honourable member for Tel Aviv”
A former aide to Jeremy Corbyn claimed that Jewish MP Louise Ellman was frequently referred to as the “honourable member for Tel Aviv” in the leader’s office, and on occasion by Mr Corbyn himself. Ms Ellman is the President of the Jewish Labour Movement and a vice-chair of LFI.
Another source told the Mail on Sunday: “If her name crops up, or she appears on the office TV, they’ll say, ‘There she goes again, the Honourable member for Tel Aviv.’ They can’t stand her.”
Dame Louise said: “If this is correct, I am appalled that a potential Prime Minister would use language of this sort against one of his own MPs. To refer to me as the ‘MP for Tel Aviv’ is to challenge my loyalty to this country.” A spokesperson for the Labour leader called the accusation “a fabrication”.
Mr Corbyn sought to defuse the row by writing an article on Friday in the Guardian, saying antisemites “do not speak for me”. However, by releasing the article shortly before Shabbat, most Jewish organisations were unable to respond – a decision the Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl called “an act of tremendous bad faith”. Sections of the article were also copied and pasted from a previous piece.