Balfour Declaration centenary: Theresa May attacks 'new anti-Semitism' ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu state visit

Israeli PM's arrival in Westminster marks 100th anniversary of British support for creation of Jewish homeland in Palestine

David Hughes
Thursday 02 November 2017 10:41 GMT
Centenary of the Balfour Declaration

Theresa May will hit out at a “new and pernicious” form of anti-Semitism as she welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UK.

The visit will mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which signalled British support for the creation of a Jewish homeland.

In a speech at a dinner to mark the centenary she will call for a “renewed resolve” to achieve a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will not be at the dinner, with the party represented by Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry - who will also go to an event held by the Palestinian side.

Labour has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism against some members despite Mr Corbyn's insistence that such views will not be tolerated.

Mrs May will tell the dinner: “There is today a new and pernicious form of anti-Semitism which uses criticism of the actions of the Israeli government as a despicable justification for questioning the very right of Israel to exist.

“This is abhorrent and we will not stand for it.”

Highlighting the UK's role in pressing for a new international definition of anti-Semitism, she will add: “Criticising the actions of Israel is never - and can never be - an excuse for questioning Israel's right to exist, any more than criticising the actions of Britain could be an excuse for questioning our right to exist.

“And criticising the government of Israel is never - and can never be - an excuse for hatred against the Jewish people - any more than criticising the British government would be an excuse for hatred against the British people.

“Put simply, there can be no excuses for any kind of hatred towards the Jewish people.

“There never have been - and there never will be.”

Mrs May will say the UK is proud of its “pioneering role in the creation of the state of Israel”.

“We are proud to stand here today together with Prime Minister Netanyahu and declare our support for Israel. And we are proud of the relationship we have built with Israel.”

She will call for a two-state peace deal “with a secure and prosperous Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian State”.

A senior Labour source said: “Jeremy Corbyn is unable to attend that particular dinner, but Emily Thornberry is going in his place. He had other engagements. That goes for many, many other events of that kind.

“There are events marking, commemorating, the Balfour Declaration by different groups and I think Emily Thornberry is also going to one event held by the Palestinian side on their perspective on the Balfour Declaration.”

Asked whether Mr Corbyn's failure to attend the dinner continued a pattern set when he sent Ms Thornberry in his place to attend a Labour Friends of Israel event at the party's annual conference, the source said: “Emily Thornberry is the shadow foreign secretary. Israel/Palestine is an international question.

“Jeremy did attend the Labour Friends of Israel event at the previous Labour Party conference.

“Sometimes he will attend some of these events and sometimes he won't, but Emily Thornberry leads on international issues.”


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