Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Tuesday blasted Arab Israeli lawmakers over a letter they penned in support of the UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is facing accusations of anti-Semitism and of failure to properly address alleged anti-Jewish sentiment in his party.
Bennett, who leads the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party, called out MKs Ahmad Tibi, Yousef Jabareen, Jamal Zahalka and Masud Ganaim, for what he said was their hypocrisy in enjoying the benefits of living under Israeli democracy while encouraging “anti-Semites and supporters of terror.”
The MKs, writing on behalf of the 13 lawmakers in their Joint (Arab) List party, had thrown their support behind Corbyn, praising him as a “principled leftist leader” for his “unflinching” support of the Palestinians and backing the British party’s controversial decision not to adopt a widely accepted international definition of anti-Semitism. Their open letter was published Sunday in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
It came weeks after a series of reports surfaced underlining Corbyn’s ties to convicted Palestinian terrorists and days after a former British chief rabbi branded him a dangerous anti-Semite.
“There is no greater hypocrisy than that of Tibi, Zahalka, and their supporters,” Bennett said in a statement. “They sit in the comfort of Israel’s democracy, living off Israeli taxpayers, while they spend their time – not working to represent their constituents and improving the lives of Israel’s Arab community – but writing letters to the international media in support of anti-Semites and supporters of terror.”
“Indeed, they have shown their true colors by going out of their way to voice unanimous support for a man who has been labeled an existential threat to the British Jewish community,” he continued. “They have chosen to stand up for a man who honored the planners of the Munich massacre. So let’s be clear, today the Joint List members of Knesset have made clear they are supporters of anti-Semitism and terrorism.”
“I call on the Speaker of the Knesset to censure in the strongest terms the activity of these MKs, especially, Ahmad Tibi, who as deputy speaker of the Knesset chose to use his position of honor in Israeli democracy to give legitimacy to voices of hatred and racism,” Bennett said.
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.
Allegations of anti-Jewish prejudice within Labour have grown since Corbyn was elected leader in 2015. Some in the party allege that Corbyn, a longtime critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, has allowed anti-Semitic abuse to go unchecked.
The issue has split the party, with some Corbyn supporters accusing opponents and right-wing media outlets of misrepresenting the leader’s views.
The Labour Party’s ruling body was expected on Tuesday to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, but could also include a clarification that the discussion of Israeli policies is protected by the right to free speech.
Corbyn was sharply criticized after in July the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) refused to adopt fully the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in Labour’s new code of conduct. The four clauses rejected by the party relate to unfair singling out of Israel or questioning the loyalty of Jews who support Israel.
Corbyn was denounced last week by Britain’s former chief rabbi Lord (Jonathan) Sacks as a dangerous anti-Semite.