British Labour Party MPs have expressed “shock” over the failure of the party to respond to an invitation by Israel’s Labor Party to visit the country, even as the UK party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn fends off accusations of anti-Semitism in his party’s senior ranks.
In April, Israel’s opposition leader Isaac Herzog responded furiously to the ongoing row over anti-Semitism in the British sister party, inviting its senior officials to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem for a reminder of the results of anti-Semitism.
In a lengthy Facebook post, Herzog, who heads the Zionist Union as well as its senior partner Labor, slammed the “repulsive” comments made that month by Labour’s former London mayor Ken Livingstone, a Corbyn ally, who said that Hitler supported Zionism “before he went mad.”
Herzog also castigated Livingstone’s “anti-Semitic colleague” MP Naz Shah, who posted a message on Facebook in 2014 calling for the dismantling of the State of Israel, pro-Hamas tweets and comparisons of Israelis to Hitler.
Both have been suspended by the party.
“Hitler was a Zionist?!” Herzog wrote at the start of his April post, which included a copy of a letter he sent to Corbyn and other Labour leaders inviting them to visit Yad Vashem. “There are no words to express how repulsive are this statement and others voiced in his party in recent days.”
According to the Guardian newspaper on Saturday, the Israeli party has “not had a reply” to Herzog’s letter.
The dispute over anti-Semitism in UK Labour has been simmering for months — since Corbyn was elected party leader in September 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 Hamas Islamist terror group.
On Saturday, the Guardian cited Labour MPs who said Corbyn’s failure to respond to Herzog bolstered the claim that he was responding inadequately to the anti-Semitism crisis.
The British daily quoted MP Wes Streeting, Labour lawmaker for Ilford North, who met with Corbyn last week over the ongoing anti-Semitism row, as saying, “It should be a matter of common courtesy to reply to a letter from the leader of one of our sister parties, particularly on an issue as important as tackling anti-Semitism. But this is fairly typical of the flat-footed and lackadaisical attitude that we’ve seen from the outset. It is simply unacceptable.”
MP Ian Austin, lawmaker for Dudley North, also criticized Corbyn’s lack of response.
Corbyn reportedly told concerned MPs last week that the issue was a priority.
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.”