The Green Party of England and Wales said it is taking steps after a video emerged recently showing a leading candidate for the party leadership apparently comparing an Israeli military operation in Gaza to the Holocaust.
In an angry rant at a rally in 2009, Shahrar Ali said then-prime minister Ehud Olmert would face a war crimes tribunal and called for a boycott of Israel.
“Just because you observe the niceties of Holocaust Memorial Day, does not mean that you have learned the lessons of history,” Ali said, to cheers from a crowd off-camera.
The speech took place during Operation Cast Lead in early 2009, a three-week Israeli offensive in Gaza meant to stop incessant rocket fire emanating from the Strip. Over 1,000 Palestinians were killed during the fighting, many of them members of terror groups. Nine Israelis were killed, including six soldiers.
A Green Party spokesperson told the Jewish Chronicle last week that the faction had “inadequately” dealt with the issue at the time, but was now in contact with the Campaign for Antisemitism, a leading British anti-Semitism watchdog.
“Tackling anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism wherever they exist and by whomever they are perpetrated is core to the Green Party’s aims,” the spokesperson said. “Having been contacted about this today, we believe it is absolutely critical that we discuss it openly and quickly, and we are doing so.”
Ali, a former deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, is one of three candidates running to head the left-wing party. He is facing off against a joint ticket of Jonathan Bartley and Siân Berry, considered the frontrunners, and Leslie Rowe.
The party has just one lawmaker in Britain’s House of Commons.
Ali has appeared to stand by his comments. On August 3, he tweeted that some in his party had engaged in a “cynical and hostile campaign against me for calling out unconscionable actions of Israel in 2009.”
We @TheGreenParty will defend the oppressed against all forms of racism & brutality and will confront their perpetrators. Today with regret I witness some in my party engage in cynical and hostile campaign against me for calling out unconscionable actions of Israel in 2009. (1/2)
— Shahrar Ali (@ShahrarAli) August 3, 2018
The row comes as Britain’s Labour Party has been embroiled in its own scandal over criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of comparing Israel to Nazis and complaining that the British Broadcasting Corporation has a “bias” toward Israel’s right to exist.
Corbyn’s comments are only the latest round in a long-running crisis for the Labour 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.