LONDON — Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour party, was an active member of a Facebook group which contained Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites, it has been revealed.
Corbyn appears to have been a member of the Palestine Live group for at least a year, and left it shortly after he became head of the opposition in September 2015.
In a 280-page report released Wednesday, David Collier, a researcher and blogger, details a slew of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel material shared by members of the group.
One member said they were reading “Mein Kampf,” and suggested: “Everybody should be forced to read it, especially Jews who have their own agenda as to why they were not liked.”
Others discussed the use of the terms “ZioNazi” and “JewNazi,” debated whether the BBC was controlled by Zionists, and shared conspiracy theories about the Rothschild family and Israel’s supposed involvement in the 9/11 and 2015 Paris attacks.
Members of the 3000-strong secret group — who include Holocaust denier Paul Eisen — are also said to have shared articles by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and links to neo-Nazi material.
In one post, Jackie Walker, a former vice-chair of the pro-Corbyn Momentum group who is suspended from the Labour party over allegations of anti-Semitism, is shown asking: “How safe is this group?”
One of the group’s three administrators responds: “Very… no one is allowed in who is not trusted… I am very very careful… and it is a secret group.”
The Labour party has launched an investigation and promised disciplinary action against any of its members found to have posted anti-Semitic material. A number of party members have reportedly been suspended.
Other members of the Palestine Live group are said to have included the Labour leader’s son, Seb, who is a senior aide to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, as well as a number of prominent pro-Corbyn members of parliament and activists. Two former Liberal Democratic parliamentarians are likewise alleged to have been members.
There is no suggestion that any of them, or the Labour leader, were aware of the nature of the material shared by some members of the site.
Corbyn is, though, shown by Collier to have posted on the site on a number of occasions. In one comment, he praised Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian physician and political activist who has claimed the 9/11 terror attacks could be blamed on “the politics the West has followed” and who has previously been barred from entering Israel.
Corbyn wrote of his “huge respect” for “my friend” Gilbert and said he would be “delighted to invite him to Westminster.” The Labour leader later suggested the Palestine Solidarity Campaign should issue the invite.
Corbyn also commented in a thread attacking Israel’s Hatnua party leader and former foreign minister, MK Tzipi Livni, where the abusive term “Zio” was used. On another occasion, he celebrated the UK Parliament’s 2014 vote to unilaterally recognize the state of Palestine in a thread in which another member referred to “wayward Jews who don’t deserve a homeland.”
A spokesman for Corbyn said: “Jeremy condemns anti-Semitism in all its forms in the strongest possible terms. He does not want the support of anti-Semites, who have no place whatsoever in the Labour movement.”
However, Jennifer Gerber, the director of Labour Friends of Israel, strongly condemned Corbyn’s former membership in the group:
“That Jeremy Corbyn was a member of a Facebook group frequented by anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and Israel-hating conspiracy theorists is both appalling and utterly unsurprising. We have long known about the kind of company that he keeps and this is simply further confirmation of a deeply disturbing pattern of behavior,” said Gerber.
“Mr. Corbyn has repeatedly failed to apologize to the Jewish community and to recognize the hurt caused by his past actions and associations. Now would be a good time for him to do so,” she said.
Corbyn also came under fire from Joseph D. Glasman, head of political and government investigations at the Campaign Against Antisemitism. “There is no conceivable justification for Jeremy Corbyn’s participation in this group. One of Mr. Corbyn’s slogans is ‘standing up, not standing by,’ but in this case he has not stood up but instead he actively joined in,” said Glasman.
A week of scan-dall
The Palestine Live revelations are the second controversy surrounding Corbyn’s attitude towards Israel in recent days.
Over the weekend it was reported that a member of the Labour leader’s staff had labeled Israel “an apartheid state,” accusing it of committing “genocide” during the 2014 Gaza war and suggesting its behavior was only tolerated “because of the Holocaust.”
Labour has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism throughout Corbyn’s leadership and accused by critics of failing to tackle the issue.
In an interview published Thursday, Britain’s former Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, said he would refuse to hold talks with Corbyn until the Labour party showed “clearer signs of resolute action” against anti-Semitism within its ranks.
Last week, the ongoing row over the former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, took another turn when it was confirmed that his suspension from the party has been extended.
Livingstone suggested in 2016 that Hitler supported Zionism and last year claimed there was “real collaboration” between the Nazis and Jews. The decision by the party in April 2017 not to expel him over the comments provoked anger in the Jewish community and among many Labour MPs.
Leading moderate activists within the party on Thursday questioned Labour’s commitment to act against any members found to have posted anti-Semitic material in the Palestine Live group.
Richard Angell, director of the centrist Progress group, warned, “It is time for Labour to get a grip. Too many times the Labour party has over-promised and under-delivered when it comes to tackling anti-Semitism. We are assured the party’s new definition of anti-Semitism and powers to act are in place, what is missing is a willingness to act. It is heartbreaking.”
At the same time, many in the Jewish community are concerned that Corbyn’s record does not appear to be fully understood by many voters.
Controversies over his past description of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” and his links to Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites were widely aired prior to his election as Labour leader.
Labour’s problems with anti-Semitism also received extensive media coverage prior to last year’s general election, when, in a major upset, Corbyn succeeded in preventing Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party maintaining its majority in parliament.
“This is a real challenge for the Jewish community,” suggested one senior community source. He speculated that voters may not be as aware of the problem as many in the “Westminster bubble” assume and may lack knowledge about the nature of some anti-Semitic discourse.
The writer is the author of “The Honorary Jew: How Britain’s Jews Helped Shape Margaret Thatcher and Her Beliefs.” He is the former editor of an independent centrist Labour magazine, Progress, and is now a contributing editor to it. His articles have appeared in The Jewish Chronicle, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Commentary and History Today. He previously served as a special adviser in the Northern Ireland Office and Cabinet Office.