The chair of Labour Friends of Israel has urged party members not to back anti-war advocate Jeremy Corbyn in the leadership race because he previously called for Arab groups Hamas and Hezbollah to be involved in Middle East peace talks.
Joan Ryan said Monday there were “deep concerns” about Corbyn’s leadership campaign and in particular the positions he has taken on Israel.
The Labour Friends of Israel official asked supporters to back a candidate who could play a “constructive” role in negotiating peace between Israel and Palestine.
Corbyn has faced criticism during his leadership election campaign for previously calling Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” and insisting they be involved in regional peace discussions.
Ryan, who replaced Anne Mcguire as head of Labour Friends of Israel on Monday, told the Jewish Chronicle that Labour must be “steadfast” in its support for Tel Aviv.
She added that last month’s Jewish community hustings for the Labour leadership contenders had been a key step in the party’s efforts to “win back the trust and confidence of the Jewish community.”
Ryan, who nominated Blairite Liz Kendall in the leadership contest, went on to caution Labour voters that members should elect the candidate that is most likely to play a “constructive” role in the peace process.
“We hope that Labour party members and supporters will consider when they vote which candidate is best placed to ensure that the next Labour government can play a constructive and engaged role in the crucial search for a two-state solution,” she said.
“We recognize the deep concerns which exist about positions taken, and statements made, by Jeremy Corbyn in the past and recognize the serious questions which arise from these.”
Ryan, a former Home Office minister and party whip, said Labour Friends of Israel would “continue to work with progressives in both Israel and Palestine who share our commitment to peace and co-existence.
The stuff on Corbyn (IRA, Israel, energy nationalisation) is like seeing a cinema trailer for what the Tories will do in the autumn.
– Iain Martin (@iainmartin1) August 8, 2015
“At the same time, we remain adamantly opposed to boycotts and sanctions, which delegitimize Israel, do nothing to further these goals and have no place in the Labour Party.”
Corbyn was grilled by Channel 4 journalist Kristan Guru-Murthy in an interview in July for having previously called Hamas and Hezbollah “friends.”
During the interview the veteran left-winger rejected the idea that he agreed with the two organizations, which Israel considers to be terrorist groups.
Following intense questioning by Guru-Murthy, Corbyn explained his position.
“Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No,” the Labour MP said.
Corbyn added that even the former head of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad agreed that more comprehensive talks must be pursued. The Israeli intelligence chief argued at the time that any viable peace process would involve negotiations with people who hold opposing viewpoints.
The socialist candidate has faced intense criticism from Labour elites since announcing his candidacy, with a number of high-profile politicians urging voters to back other candidates.
Attacks on Corbyn’s campaign became even more heated after a YouGov poll, published by The Times newspaper on Monday night, found that Corbyn had doubled his lead over the past week and would now poll 53 percent, meaning he could secure a first-round victory without needing to count the second preferences of Labour supporters.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Blair-era PR guru Alistair Campbell have all urged Labour supporters to reject Corbyn, arguing he would make Labour “unelectable” in the 2020 general election.
This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.