British Labour Party Leader Embroiled in Anti-Semitic Witch Hunt

Published August 1st, 2018 - 12:52 GMT
Jeremy Corbyn (Twitter)
Jeremy Corbyn (Twitter)

Labour's anti-Semitism scandal deepened last night after it emerged Jeremy Corbyn had hosted an event comparing the Israeli government to the Nazis.

On Holocaust Memorial Day in 2010, the Labour leader spoke at the meeting at the House of Commons.

The disclosure that Mr Corbyn attended the event led him to issue an extraordinary apology last night - despite his refusal to comment yesterday on the storm over his friend Peter Willsman, secretly recorded ranting about 'Jewish Trump fanatics' last month.

During the event a speech was delivered by Hajo Meyer, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz who became a passionate anti-Zionist.

Mr Meyer, who died in 2014, repeatedly made the comparison between the Nazi regime and Israeli policy, the Times reported.

The event was part of a UK tour called Never Again for Anyone - Auschwitz to Gaza.

Last night Mr Corbyn issued an apology for in the past attending events attended by people whose views he now rejects.

Mr Meyer's talk was entitled 'The Misuse of the Holocaust for Political Purposes'. The ability to make that comparison has become one of the most heated elements of the row over Labour's decision to rewrite an internationally accepted definition of anti-Semitism.

At the event Mr Meyer said that Elie Wiesel, the Jewish author and Nobel peace prizewinner, was the 'high priest' of what he called the Holocaust religion.

Mr Meyer said: 'Judaism in Israel has been substituted by the Holocaust religion, whose high priest is Elie Wiesel.'

On the Scottish leg of his tour days earlier, Mr Meyer said that the definition of antisemitism had changed: 'Formerly an antisemite was somebody who hated Jews because they were Jews and had a Jewish soul. But nowadays an antisemite is somebody who is hated by Jews.'



The meeting was also addressed by phone from Gaza by Haidar Eid, a Palestinian activist, who was reported to have told them: 'The world was absolutely wrong to think that Nazism was defeated in 1945. Nazism has won because it has finally managed to Nazify the consciousness of its own victims.'

At the time, when Mr Corbyn was condemned by Jewish community groups before the meeting, he responded by praising Mr Meyer.

'He has spoken out against the dehumanising effects of occupation very forcefully,' Mr Corbyn said.

'Sadly for much of this he has been condemned, which I regret.'

Last night the Labour leader issued an extraordinary apology for 'the concerns and anxiety' caused by some of his associations in the pro-Palestinian cause.

He told The Times: 'The main speaker at this Holocaust Memorial Day meeting, part of a tour entitled Never Again - for Anyone, was a Jewish Auschwitz survivor. 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.'

The event is recorded in a 2010 report into antisemitic discourse in Britain by the Community Security Trust, which monitors antisemitism in Britain.

Dave Rich, head of policy at the trust, said: 'Using Holocaust Memorial Day as a platform for comparing Gaza to Auschwitz looks very much like a deliberate provocation, and comments about Judaism being replaced by a 'Holocaust religion' are grotesque.'

Mr Corbyn spoke out despite maintaining his silence on the case of Mr Willsman.

There are mounting calls for his key ally to be thrown out of the Labour Party over 'disgusting' comments about Jews.

Peter Willsman was caught on tape calling some members of the Jewish community 'Trump fanatics' and suggesting they were 'making up' problems about anti-Semitism in the party.

Jewish leaders joined Labour MPs to demand the party expels him for the 'sickening' remarks.

They also asked why Mr Corbyn and Labour general secretary Jennie Formby, who were at the meeting of Labour's ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) where Mr Willsman spoke, didn't intervene.

Last night, Mr Willsman, one of Momentum's candidates in this month's NEC elections, apologised and said he had put himself forward for 'equalities training'.

But he defiantly insisted anti-Semitism was not widespread in Labour.

Party leaders refused to take action against him last night as Mr Corbyn's office declined to comment.

Labour former cabinet minister Yvette Cooper yesterday said Mr Willsman's remarks were 'appalling' and urged Mr Corbyn to ask him to stand down as a candidate for the NEC.

She told BBC Radio 4's The World At One: 'We do need action. It would be very helpful if Jeremy Corbyn could ask Pete Willsman to stand down from those elections because that would help us make clear that the Labour Party is going to take seriously anti-Semitism in future.'

Fellow Labour MP Luciana Berger, chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, said the comments were 'sickening'.

Labour MP Ian Austin – who faces disciplinary action for criticising the party's leadership over its failure to tackle anti-Semitism – said: 'What Pete Willsman said is just disgusting. He obviously shouldn't be on the NEC.

'The key point is Jeremy Corbyn promised to be a militant opponent of anti-Semitism, but sat in a room whilst these awful things were said and didn't say a word.'

Karen Pollock, of the Holocaust Educational Trust, added: 'It is horrifying – not only for its content, but by the fact that the Labour leader and general secretary witnessed these disgusting, indefensible comments and said nothing. It is impossible not to recognise Mr Willsman's contempt for the Jewish community, but even when it is staring him in the face, Mr Corbyn seems unfazed. To remain silent is complicit. This is unacceptable and terrifying.'

The Board of Deputies of British Jews – made up of almost 300 deputies directly elected by synagogues and community organisations – said Labour had let Mr Willsman off lightly by not taking disciplinary action against him.

President Marie van der Zyl wrote: 'Now Peter Willsman's disgusting rant against Jewish community and rabbis has been made public... he should be expelled. Was Jeremy Corbyn there? If so, what form did his professed 'militant opposition' to anti-Semitism take when he heard it?'

In the audio clip, acquired by the Jewish Chronicle, Mr Willsman can be heard criticising 68 rabbis who wrote to The Guardian saying anti-Semitism within 'sections of the Labour Party' had become 'severe and widespread'.


This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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