UK Labour Party party leader Jeremy Corbyn came under fire Friday after video emerged of him appearing to compare Israeli military rule in the West Bank to the Nazi occupation of European countries during World War II.
In the short clip, which was shared by Twitter user The Golem, Corbyn says Palestinians in the West Bank live “under occupation of the very sort that would be recognized by many people in Europe who suffered occupation during the Second World War, with the endless road blocks, imprisonment, irrational behavior by the military and the police.”
The video was said to have been filmed at a 2013 event held by the Palestine Return Centre, when Corbyn was a fairly unknown Labour MP.
He also said in the clip that Palestinians in Gaza are “virtually imprisoned within that very small area and facing environmental disaster and catastrophe.”
EXCLUSIVE – In 2013 @JeremyCorbyn spoke at an event hosted by the Palestinian Return Centre in which he made a direct comparison between Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Nazi occupation of Europe during WW2. Watch until the end… pic.twitter.com/POMfsX5APq
— The Golem (@TheGolem_) August 10, 2018
The release of the video came as Corbyn continues to be dogged by his handling of anti-Semitism allegations in Labour and just days after a 2011 interview emerged of him accusing the British Broadcasting Corporation of having a “bias” toward Israel’s right to exist.
A spokesperson for Labour pushed back at criticism Corbyn was comparing Israel to the Nazis.
“Jeremy was describing conditions of occupations in World War II in Europe, of which there are multiple examples, not comparing the Israeli state to Nazis,” Sky News quoted the spokesperson saying.
Labour Friends of Israel, a parliamentary group, accused Corbyn of comparing Israeli rule in the West Bank to the Nazi occupation of Europe and suggested the party’s recent adoption of a watered down version of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism was meant to shield the Labour leader.
“It is increasingly clear that this opposition to adopting the IHRA definition in full appears to be overwhelmingly driven by his own appalling past statements,” the group’s director Jennifer Gerber said in a statement.
“The Labour Party’s once proud record on fighting racism and the protection of British Jews from anti-Semitism is being sacrificed to protect Jeremy Corbyn’s reputation,” she added.
— LFI (@_LFI) August 10, 2018
The definition of anti-Semitism adopted by Labour last month leaves out four of the 11 examples included in the definition. All four relate to unfair singling out of Israel or questioning the loyalty of Jews who support Israel.
In the video released Friday, Corbyn also called for Middle East history to be taught in the UK “in a more accurate and more balance way, about the way in which the Palestinian people have been so demonized and so terrorized and so abused from the First World War onwards.”
If not, he said, “we will then end up with the endless presentation that somehow or other the conflict between Israel and Palestine is somehow a conflict of equal powers. It is not.”
The comments are only the latest round in a long-running crisis for the party, with a constant stream of members and prominent officials being forced out or chastised for making anti-Semitic and virulent anti-Israel comments, and Corbyn himself criticized for tolerating and/or being part of the problem. The fracas has seen excoriation from rabbis, including Britain’s chief rabbi, as well as from some of Labour’s own MPs, charging that the party and its leader seem unable or unwilling to decisively excise anti-Semitic members and sentiments from Labour’s ranks.
In a full-page advertisement published Friday in the Scottish edition of the Jewish Telegraph, a former leader of the Scottish Labour Party criticized Labour and Corbyn personally for their handling of anti-Semitism in the party.
“The Labour Party should have an important role in challenging anti-Semitism,” Jim Murphy wrote. “But instead, my Party now appears to have deliberately turned its back on British Jewry. It’s as inexplicable as it is destructive.”
“And when in a hole of its own making, rather than stopping digging, Labour’s leadership has asked for a bigger shovel,” he added, calling the party’s leaders “intellectually arrogant, emotionally inept and politically maladroit.”
I’ve paid for a full-page ad in this week’s Jewish Telegraph. It’s an apology to the Jewish Community about the actions of the Labour Party’s leadership. JM pic.twitter.com/DALswTYuWI
— Jim Murphy (@glasgowmurphy) August 10, 2018
Murphy took aim at Corbyn personally, accusing him of “not doing nearly enough to throw out the anti-Semites found within grassroots and online Labour.”
He also called for Labour to adopt the full IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, saying under the party’s current version, accusations of dual loyalty by British Jews likely will not be viewed as anti-Semitism.