UK Labour leader pushed for bans, boycotts of Israel, letters show
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UK Labour leader pushed for bans, boycotts of Israel, letters show

In missives prior to his election as party chief, Corbyn sought ‘concrete action to penalize Israel,’ bar politicians from UK

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn joins steel workers following a protest march through central London, May 25, 2016. (AFP/Leon Neal)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn joins steel workers following a protest march through central London, May 25, 2016. (AFP/Leon Neal)

Before his election as UK Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn pressed for a boycott of Israel and called on the British foreign secretary at the time to ban Israeli politicians from entering the country, newly released letters from 2010-2015 show.

The letters, sent to then-foreign secretary William Hague, were published following a Freedom of Information request to the government.

Writing to Hague in February 2012 about East Jerusalem, in particular house demolitions in the Silwan neighborhood, Corbyn, who was a backbench MP for Islington North at the time, urged trade sanctions against Israel.

“Israel’s current actions and victimisation of the people of East Jerusalem is an abomination that is totally illegal,” he wrote. “Surely the only logical way forward here is to take concrete action to penalise Israel via the most obvious method.”

“There is clearly no time to lose to take actions via the EU-Israel Association Trade Agreement. Let the suffering of the Palestinian people no longer be so familiar to us that all we do is ‘make representations’ when there are tools at our disposal that our government and other governments are choosing to ignore,” he wrote.

In another missive to Hague from February 2013, Corbyn wrote that he had just returned from a visit to the Gaza Strip, during which he was asked if Britain “would stop allowing Israel’s criminal politicians to come to our country,” ensure that the BBC “portray Palestine fairly,” and work “to end the siege of Gaza.”

“Had I not been working on three of these goals I’d have hung my head in shame,” Corbyn wrote. “There was no possible explanation I could give as to why our governments had made no progress in support of such crucial aims.”

British Jewish journalist Jonathan Freedland in 2013 (Wikimedia Commons, Chatham House, CC BY 2.0)
British Jewish journalist Jonathan Freedland in 2013 (Wikimedia Commons, Chatham House, CC BY 2.0)

A 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-Jewish and anti-Israel statements.

In a documentary released Wednesday, Corbyn takes aim at top British Jewish journalist Jonathan Freedland, accusing the veteran Guardian columnist of “subliminal nastiness” in his coverage of the claims of anti-Semitism.

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.

He also drew criticism from lawmakers in his own party over a failure to reply to an invitation by Israel’s Labor Party to visit the country.

In April, Israel’s opposition and Labor leader Isaac Herzog responded furiously to the ongoing row over anti-Semitism in his sister British party, inviting its senior officials to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem for a reminder of the results of anti-Semitism.

According to the Guardian newspaper by late May, the Israeli party has “not had a reply” to Herzog’s letter.

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