Arab Israeli lawmakers from the Joint (Arab) List on Sunday threw their support behind UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, praising the Labour party leader for his “unflinching” support for the Palestinians and backing the British party’s controversial decision not to adopt a widely accepted international definition of anti-Semitism.
The open letter, published in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, saw Joint (Arab) List MKs commend Corbyn as a “principled leftist leader,” weeks after a series of reports surfaced underlining his ties to convicted Palestinian terrorists and days after a former British chief rabbi branded him a dangerous anti-Semite.
“We commend Jeremy Corbyn… for his longstanding solidarity with all oppressed peoples around the world, including his unflinching support for the Palestinian people,” wrote MKs Ahmad Tibi, Yousef Jabareen, Jamal Zahalka, and Masud Ganaim, on behalf of the 13 lawmakers in the Joint List party.
“We stand in solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn and we recognize him as a principled leftist leader who aspires for peace and justice and is opposed to all forms of racism, whether directed at Jews, Palestinians, or any other group.”
Two weeks ago, footage surfaced of Corbyn accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians during a 2014 rally, as a Hamas flag waved behind him. Corbyn called the terror group “friends” prior to his election as Labour leader two years ago, a statement he has since walked back.
One of the photos published recently showed Corbyn hosting a panel featuring senior Hamas officials in 2012, including members convicted of murdering Israelis in terror attacks.
Earlier in August, the Daily Mail published photos of Corbyn holding a wreath during a 2014 ceremony at a Tunisian cemetery in which he appeared to be standing near the graves of Palestinian terrorists involved in the slaying of 11 Israeli athletes and team members at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The photos appeared to show Corbyn in front of a plaque honoring members of the Black September terrorist organization, 15 yards (approximately 13 meters) away from the graves of those killed in a 1985 airstrike. The photos of Corbyn at the cemetery were condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Corbyn for years supported and was active on behalf of the Labour Movement Campaign for Palestine, which opposed Israel’s existence and called for the eradication of Zionism. And in 2011, in an interview with Iran’s PressTV, Corbyn lamented what he claimed was the BBC’s “bias towards saying that… Israel has a right to exist.”
The Arab MKs’ letter to The Guardian also raised the issue of the so-called nation-state bill advanced in July, with the elected Arab parliamentarians accusing the Israeli government of discrimination against its Arab citizens since 1948.
“Palestinian citizens of Israel have yet to experience a single day of equality, de jure or de facto – to say nothing of the millions of Palestinians under military occupation in the West Bank, under siege in the Gaza Strip, and the six million in exile abroad, prevented from returning to their homeland simply because they are not Jews,” the letter said.
“As part of the Palestinian people, this has been our lived experience of the Zionist movement since day one.”
Corbyn has also been under fire for his own allegedly anti-Semitic positions and has been accused of failing to root anti-Semitism out of the Labour party.
He and his party have so far refused to adopt fully the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in Labour’s new code of conduct. The Labour leadership has argued the definition, signed by 31 countries and used by many British institutions, does not allow for full criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
The four clauses rejected by the party relate to unfair singling out of Israel or questioning the loyalty of Jews who support Israel.
The Joint List MKs said they fully supported the Labour party’s decision to reject those clauses.
“As long as efforts to curb anti-Jewish sentiment in the UK are focused on combating the disparagement of Jews merely for their membership in a minority group, they have our full support. But when some try to force the Labour party into using as its litmus test a definition of anti-Semitism that goes far beyond anti-Jewish animus to include anti-Zionism, we must raise our voices and decry these efforts,” the Arab lawmakers wrote.
The National Executive Committee of the Labour party is due to meet on Tuesday and is expected to belatedly accept the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in full following pressure from the British Jewish community and many current and past Labour members and lawmakers. However, it is anticipated that the party may add certain caveats to ensure that Corbyn himself, among others in Labour, will not be deemed to have breached the definition.
The latest firestorm to engulf the Labour Party followed the revelation last month of comments made by Corbyn in a 2013 speech at the Palestinian Return Centre in London, where he said of a group of British “Zionists”: “They clearly have two problems. One is 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.”
Former chief rabbi Lord Sacks, responding to those remarks, accused Corbyn of giving “support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate, who want to kill Jews and remove Israel from the map.” The Labour leader, Sacks said, uses “the language of classic prewar European antisemitism.” Labour rejected Sacks’ denunciation, calling the rabbi’s critique absurd and offensive.
Israel’s Arab lawmakers recently drew widespread condemnation over a TV report claiming they had joined forces with the Palestinians in an attempt to convince the UN to advance a resolution next month at the UN General Assembly that likens the quasi-constitutional nation-state legislation — which enshrines Israel’s status as a Jewish state — to apartheid. That report, which was denied by all parties ostensibly involved, drew widespread condemnation in Israel, with one minister calling for the MKs involved to be tried for treason.