UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn takes aim at top British Jewish journalist Jonathan Freedland in a new fly-on-the-wall documentary aired Wednesday, accusing the veteran Guardian columnist of “subliminal nastiness” in his coverage of the claims of widespread anti-Semitism in the party.
Corbyn said on film that Freedland is “kind of obsessed” with him, basing his claim on a column piece in which the journalist accuses Labour of having an anti-Semitism problem.
In a phone call with his director of strategy Seumas Milne, Corbyn accused Freeland of “utterly disgusting subliminal nastiness” over the March opinion piece entitled “Labour and the left have an anti-Semitism problem.”
“He’s not a good guy at all. He seems kind of obsessed with me,” Corbyn says of Freedland.
The dispute over anti-Semitism in Labour has been simmering for months — since Corbyn was elected party leader by grassroots supporters, despite opposition from many MPs — with a stream of party officials shown to have made anti-Semitic statements.
Corbyn has himself been criticized in the past for referring to Lebanon’s powerful Shiite terror group Hezbollah as “friends” and urging dialogue with the Palestinian terror group Hamas.
The Labour leader gave access to VICE journalist Ben Ferguson to film him over a period of two months in the period leading up to local council elections in early May. Ferguson, a Labour Party member who voted for Corbyn to become party leader in September last year, was given access to Corbyn and his staff as they prepared for local council elections in England while trying to parry accusations of deep-rooted anti-Semitism in the party.
The film, titled “Jeremy Corbyn: The Outsider” also included video of Corbyn claiming that the BBC was running a media campaign to undermine the Labour Party.
“There is not one story on any election anywhere in the UK that the BBC will not spin into a problem for me,” he said. “It is obsessive beyond belief. They are obsessed with trying to damage the leadership of the Labour Party and unfortunately there are people in the Labour Party that play into that.”
Corbyn’s view of the British press in general, since taking over the party leadership, was of “how shallow, facile and ill-informed many of the supposed well-informed major commentators are in our media.”
In late April, Corbyn announced an independent review into racism within the party.
“There is no place for anti-Semitism or any form of racism in the Labour Party, or anywhere in society,” Corbyn said at the time.
“We will make sure that our party is a welcoming home to members of all minority communities.”
The Telegraph reported in May that dozens of Labour members have been suspended because of anti-Semitic or racist remarks in the previous two months, though only 13 of the suspensions were announced publicly. Among those suspended was former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who said in April that Hitler had supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews.”
Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.