Former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has claimed that his support for the Palestinian cause contributed to accusations of antisemitism that eventually led to his downfall and his ongoing suspension as a member of parliament for the party.
In an interview with Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese network that is close to the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups, Corbyn said that ever since he ran to become Labour leader in 2015 he faced “powerful forces,” and named Israeli then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as one of them.
“I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that my clearly stated support for the right of Palestinian people to be able to live in peace free from occupation, free from being under siege as in Gaza, and for those living in refugee camps… played a factor in all this,” Corbyn said in the interview, broadcast Sunday.
“Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t wait to condemn me for my support of the Palestinian people,” he said.
“It was very clear to me since I was a candidate for the leadership of the Labour Party, that I was dealing with powerful forces that oppose me because I was proposing a different approach in dealing with foreign relations and international policies,” he said.
“I faced clear threats from some military figures when I was elected. First, there were statements against me from Benjamin Netanyahu, Donald Trump, and a group of other personalities, and it showed me how strong the forces opposed to me were,” Corbyn said.
Regarding his ejection from the Labour Party he said it was “disgraceful, and the allegations that have been made against me are disgraceful.”
Corbyn reiterated his position that “any form of racism has to be opposed,” including antisemitism.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge slammed Corbyn for his remarks which, she said, were inherently antisemitic.
“To suggest our fight against antisemitism on the left means that we are all part of a conspiracy to smear Corbyn is frankly absurd and of itself antisemitic,” Hodge told The Guardian.
“This consistent failure to understand and distinguish between our Jewish identity and the complex Middle East political issues is at the heart of why Jeremy continues to be outside the Labour party,” she said.
An unnamed Labour source told the newspaper: “There cannot be any ambiguity about the choice he’s making, and that is to put himself outside the Labour mainstream.”
During his time as Labour leader Corbyn vowed to punish any party member caught making racist statements, yet he defended a number of members who made virulently antisemitic remarks and barely expelled any members despite more than 850 formal complaints.
After Labour’s defeat in the 2019 elections, during which accusations of party antisemitism were a hot button topic, Corbyn stepped down as leader. Then in October 2020, a report by the UK’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission identified “serious failings in leadership and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints across the Labour Party.”
Labour immediately suspended Corbyn from the party, although a month later he was readmitted to the movement but denied the whip, meaning he may not be able to stand for parliament as a Labour candidate.
Corbyn himself drew widespread criticism for his own actions. In 2019, he expressed regret for having defended a 2012 antisemitic mural in London’s East End depicting a group of men — seemingly caricatures of Jewish bankers and businessmen — counting their money on a Monopoly board balanced on the backs of naked workers.
Also in 2019, he was found to have authored a glowing foreword to a book that claimed that Jews control global financial systems and described them as “men of a single and peculiar race.”
He has in the past been criticized for calling terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” when inviting members for a parliamentary meeting in 2009. He later downplayed the comment and said he regretted using the term.
It later emerged that in 2014 Corbyn attended a ceremony that honored the terrorists behind the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre. He later said, “I was present when [a wreath] was laid, I don’t think I was actually involved in it.” Photos later surfaced showing Corbyn holding a wreath.
In his interview with Al-Maydeen, Corbyn also condemned the West’s military backing of Ukraine against the Russian invasion launched in February that has since place large swaths in the east of the country under Moscow’s control.
Corbyn said supplying arms only fuels more fighting and that seeking a ceasefire agreement is a better goal.
“Pouring arms in isn’t going to bring about a solution; it’s only going to prolong and exaggerate this war,” he said. “We might be in for years and years of a war in Ukraine.”
“Putting more and more arms into Ukraine isn’t going to bring about” peace, he said.
He suggested that if the UN can’t negotiate “a ceasefire of some sort,” then other entities should be brought in to do so, such as the African Union or the League of Arab States, which he claimed have “no direct economic” interest in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Labour party leader Keir Starmer has supported the UK government’s position on Ukraine, including supplying Kyiv with weapons and military training.