Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of anti-Semitic hate speech after video emerged of him seemingly telling a group of Palestinian activists that Zionists “don’t understand English irony” even if they’ve lived in the UK for years.
Critics have even called for the Labour Party leader to step down amid allegations he portrayed Jews as alien to British culture while addressing the meeting at the Palestinian Return Center in 2013.
In his speech, Corbyn had been referring to a previous speech made by Manuel Hassassian, a Palestinian Authority representative. In the video published by The Daily Mail, the opposition leader said that Hassassian was “dutifully recorded by the thankfully silent Zionists who were in the audience on that occasion and then came up and berated him afterwards for what he’d said.”
“So, clearly two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either. Manuel does understand English irony and uses it very, very effectively so I think they need two lessons which we can help them with.”
Supporters of Corbyn claim his remarks were taken out of context, with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell telling BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “Whatever Jeremy has said throughout the years has always been about how to secure peace, particularly within the Middle East and also peace with justice for all concerned – both members of the Jewish community and also members of the Palestinian community.”
The video could still prove problematic for Corbyn who has come under fire for his perceived failure to root out anti-Semitism within the party in recent times. Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger, a longtime Corbyn critic on this issue, said his comments were “inexcusable” while Jamie Susskind, a former speechwriter for former Labour leader Ed Miliband, called on Corbyn to resign.
The video released today of the leader of @UKLabour making inexcusable comments – defended by a party spokesman – makes me as a proud British Jew feel unwelcome in my own party. I’ve lived in Britain all my life and I don’t need any lessons in history/irony.
— Luciana Berger (@lucianaberger) August 23, 2018
Just to be clear, in the Daily Mail clip Corbyn is not criticising Israel or supporting Palestinians. He is saying that Zionists (read Jews) who have lived in England their whole lives are somehow not fully English in their sensibilities. He has to go.
— Jamie Susskind (@jamiesusskind) August 23, 2018
Prominent Jewish activists have rounded on Corbyn over the comments. Gideon Falter, chair of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, told the Jewish Chronicle that Corbyn’s portrayal of Zionists was “utterly shameful” while the Head of External Affairs at Jewish education and training organisation World ORT tweeted that Corbyn’s remarks constituted “unambiguous hate.”
Unambiguous antisemitic hate from Corbyn, a terrorist-sympathising, purge-orchestrating, fear-mongering, unaccountable, piece of work who should never have been allowed to lead a once-great party. Is it any wonder British Jews despair as this saga drags on?
— Marcus Dysch (@MarcusDysch) August 23, 2018
Corbyn may also have contradicted recommendations made in a report into anti-semitism in the Labour Party in 2016. Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti claimed that “Zionist” is used as a term of abuse for Jews. Chakrabarti wrote: “My advice to critics of the Israeli state and/or government is to use the term ‘Zionist’ advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically.”
Critics also point out that Corbyn appeared at the 2013 meeting alongside Daud Abdullah, former deputy general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, who has been accused of meeting with senior Hamas officials to plot a jihad centered on Gaza, according to the BBC.
The comments have sparked outrage online as social media users accused Corbyn of failing to live up to values he has long espoused. However, others were quick to give the opposition leader the benefit of the doubt.
If that’s still not working for you, try replacing “Zionists” with any other ethnic group of your choosing, and think what it would mean to suggest that, despite being born in Britain, they are unBritish. Jeremy Corbyn would be outraged!
— Daniel Harris (@DanielHarris) August 23, 2018
The problem is not the people around Corbyn. its not him being making the odd slip or mixing with anti-Semites in the name of support for the Palestinians. The problem IS Corbyn. If you dont want to see that you dont. But dont talk to me about racism ever again.
— suzanne moore (@suzanne_moore) August 23, 2018
For anyone not understanding why the footage in which Jeremy Corbyn revealed to have stated that “Zionists” have “no sense of English irony despite having lived here all their lives” is so offensive please review a history of anti-Semitism and the treating of Jews as ‘others’.
— Gary Spedding (@GarySpedding) August 23, 2018
Today a video was released of Jeremy Corbyn stating clearly that despite Jews (he used the term Zionist as cover: 90% of UK Jews ID as Zionist) living here all of their lives, they don’t understand British irony. He then offered to help them do that. 90% of Jews were born here. https://t.co/Lgut6F2D7h
— Angus Ferguson 🏴 (@angferg) August 23, 2018
Confused. As a non-Labour voting Jew (Green Party) I watched the video twice. Corbyn refers to a specific group of zionists at this meeting who berated a speaker. He isn’t referring to me – a Jew and a non-Zionist. Another of those smears aimed not at anti-semitism, but socialism
— (((Brian Capaloff))) #FBPE (@cocteau8) August 23, 2018
Shameful ‘journalism’. He was referring to a small group of pro-Israeli agitators in the audience not ‘British Zionists’ in general & certainly not ‘Jews’. Your readers are seeing through the desparate politically motivated distortions & gross abuse of the term antisemitism
— HarryPie (@HarrisonAziz) August 24, 2018
A spokesman for the Labour leader told The Times: “Jeremy is totally opposed to all forms of antisemitism and is determined to drive it out from society. At this event, he was referring to a group of pro-Israel activists misunderstanding and then criticizing the Palestinian ambassador for a speech at a separate event about the occupation of the West Bank.”
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