Dutch Labor Party ‘worried’ by British counterpart’s anti-Semitism scandals

Dutch Labor Party ‘worried’ by British counterpart’s anti-Semitism scandals

Spokeswoman voices concern over Jeremy Corbyn’s attendance at wreath-laying ceremony for planners of Munich massacre, as well as his statements against ‘Zionists’

Dutch Labor leader Lodewijk Asscher (YouTube screenshot)
Dutch Labor leader Lodewijk Asscher (YouTube screenshot)

AMSTERSDAM (JTA) — The Labor Party of the Netherlands labeled as “worrisome” some of the actions of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of its British counterpart who is accused of fanning anti-Semitic hatred.

A statement to JTA on Wednesday by the senior-most spokeswoman of Dutch Labor, or PvdA, is the sharpest rebuke to date by a European sister movement of the British party over its anti-Semitism problem.

Femke van Zijst, the spokeswoman for Dutch Labor’s parliamentary faction, said her party found “recent reports worrisome” about Corbyn.

She was reacting specifically to his attendance in 2015 at a wreath-laying ceremony in Tunisia for planners of the Munich Massacre of 1972, in which Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Olympics, some after severe torture and mutilation. Pictures showing Corbyn holding a wreath over the grave of one of the attack’s masterminds surfaced last month.

Jeremy Corbyn (second from left) holding a wreath during a visit to the Martyrs of Palestine, in Tunisia, in October 2014. (Facebook page of the Palestinian embassy in Tunisia)

Another point of concern was the revelation last month of a recording in which Corbyn said that Zionists had “no sense of irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time” or all their lives. Critics, including a former chief rabbi of Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks, who called Corbyn an “anti-Semite” over the recording, charged that Corbyn’s use of the word Zionists was a euphemism for Jews. But Corbyn denied the claim, insisting he meant those who subscribe to the ideology.

On Wednesday, Gidi Markuszower, a Dutch senator for the right-wing populist Party for Freedom, criticized Dutch Labor during a parliamentary debate about anti-Semitism for “inviting the known anti-Semite” Corbyn to the Netherlands. Dutch Labor hosted Corbyn for a speech in July amid protests by some Dutch Jews and supporters of Israel.

Markuszower, who is Jewish, asked during the debate with Ron van der Wieken, chairman of the Dutch Central Jewish Board, “what effect the visit has on Dutch Jews’ confidence in Dutch Labor as a partner in the fight against anti-Semitism.”

Dutch Senator Gidi Markuszower (YouTube screenshot)

Van der Wieken, who also called Corbyn “an old-school anti-Semite,” said Dutch Jews do trust the local Labor Party as a partner. But “it was highly unfortunate” for that party’s leader, Lodewijk Asscher, to “associate with Corbyn,” van der Wieken said. But, he added, “as far as I can estimate, there is a decrease in trust in [Dutch] Labor as a party for which Jews can vote and it is directly connected to the contacts with [British] Labour.”

Corbyn, a far-left populist leader, was elected to head Labour in 2015, leading many thousands of his supporters to join the party. Anti-Semitic discourse, including harassment of Jewish lawmakers and members, exploded following his election. Corbyn has vowed to address the problem and kick out anti-Semites, but his critics, including leaders of British Jewry, argue that he has failed to act resolutely and that he is in fact part of the problem he purports to treat.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn faces the media after delivering the Alternative MacTaggart lecture exploring the role of the media, at the Edinburgh Television Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, on August 23, 2018. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

Israel’s Labor Party has suspended all contact with its British counterpart. But prior to the Dutch statement, Labour’s sister movements in Europe have remained largely silent on this issue.

Dutch Labor’s statement of apparent dissatisfaction with Corbyn’s explanations comes two months after the Dutch party’s hosting of Corbyn in The Hague. In July, Asscher defended the invitation to Corbyn after it was criticized by the pro-Israel CIDI group. Asscher, who has Jewish roots and who has suffered anti-Semitic abuse, wrote to CIDI to say that Corbyn pledged to fight the problem, and that he would raise the issue with the British politician during meetings.

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