A senior lawmaker in the British Labour party has come under fire after a 2012 video surfaced that saw him claiming Israel was attempting to commit “genocide” against the Palestinians.
The opposition party, which has been mired in an ongoing anti-Semitism scandal, defended John McDonnell after the clip was published by the Daily Telegraph.
McDonnell is the UK’s shadow chancellor of the exchequer, having been appointed to the post in 2015 by Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been repeatedly been accused of being soft on anti-Semitism among his party members.
In the video, taken in November 2012 during a round of violence between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip known as Operation Pillar of Defense, McDonnell said: “Nobody can speak without expressing some form of solidarity with the people of Gaza … as the children are murdered and the bombs are flying from Israel.”
“I think it’s absolutely critical now that we use every platform we can to expose what’s going on, which is effectively an attempt at genocide against the Palestinians,” he charged at a far-left rally organized by the Unite the Resistance organization.
The comments are only the latest round in a long-running crisis for the 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 or being part of the problem. The uproar has seen excoriation from rabbis, including Britain’s chief rabbi, as well as from some of Labour’s own MPs, who charged that the party and its leader seemed unable or unwilling to decisively oust anti-Semitic members and sentiments from its ranks.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews was quick to demand an apology from McDonnell for his “wild claims.”
But the Labour party released a statement backing the lawmaker and quoting him as saying he “takes pride in and stands by his track record of forcefully and justifiably condemning the brutal attacks on the Palestinian men, women and children of Gaza and will always stand up for the victims of such disproportionate violence.”
McDonnell himself tweeted the same response, accusing the Telegraph of “doing a number” on him.
The Board of Deputies responded to the tweet, saying: “Come on John, you’ve got this one wrong.”
Quite a difference between 'genocide' and what you now call 'disproportionate violence'. On the latter, what would be a proportionate response to eg. 180 rockets being fired indiscriminately at the innocent people of Hayes & Harlington? Come on John, you've got this one wrong. https://t.co/JVjnXza3Ee
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) August 9, 2018
Karen Pollock, the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, tweeted that the remarks were “not only inaccurate, but irresponsible and deeply offensive.”
it seems he insisted on sharing a platform with her, despite calls for him not to.
Meanwhile, his use of the term genocide is not only inaccurate, but irresponsible and deeply offensive, as Mr McDonnell should know
— Karen Pollock (@KarenPollock100) August 8, 2018
At the heart of Labour’s current anti-Semitism crisis is the party’s refusal to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, instead leaving out four of the 11 examples included in the definition. All four relate to unfair singling out of Israel or questioning the loyalty of Jews who support Israel.
The Guardian said Monday that the party was preparing to accept three of the four examples from the IHRA that had been excluded. However, it reportedly did not want to endorse the example that states “claiming that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist endeavor,” over concerns that it would stifle legitimate criticism of the Jewish state.
On Tuesday, footage emerged of Corbyn telling Iranian state media that the BBC “has a bias towards saying that… Israel has a right to exist.”
In the 2011 interview with Iran’s PressTV, posted on Twitter Tuesday by the British political blogger The Golem, Corbyn explains that “there’s pressure on the BBC from, probably, [then-BBC director general] Mark Thompson, who seems to me to have an agenda in this respect. There seems to be a great deal of pressure on the BBC from the Israeli government, from the Israeli embassy, and they are very assertive towards all journalists and toward the BBC itself. They challenge every single thing on reporting the whole time.”