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Jeremy Corbyn's office denies removing Hebrew from Passover message 'to avoid looking Zionist', after claims by ex-aide

Corbyn camp dismiss claims as 'categorically untrue' allegations from 'a digruntled former member of staff'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 12 September 2016 09:32 BST
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(AFP)

An ex-aide’s damaging claim that he was told to remove a Hebrew greeting from Jeremy Corbyn's Passover message - in case it made him sound “Zionist” - was strongly denied today.

The Labour leader’s office insisted the allegation, made by Mr Corbyn’s own former policy adviser, was categorically untrue.

The controversy came as it also emerged that Mr Corbyn has turned down an invitation from Labour’s sister party in Israel to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and will send a party official instead.

Heavy commitments made it impossible to go, so deputy leader Tom Watson, or general secretary Iain McNicol, would be sent in November instead, he wrote in a letter.

Since winning the leadership election exactly one year ago, Mr Corbyn has been caught up in a series of rows about alleged anti-Semitism in the party.

In a newspaper article yesterday, Joshua Simons wrote: “After six months working as a policy adviser for Jeremy Corbyn, it was clear to me that the way Corbyn and those around him think about Jewish people is shaped by a frenetic anti-imperialism, focused on Israel and America.

“Without a hint of irony, one senior aide asked that I remove the greeting “Chag Kasher VeSameach” from Corbyn’s Passover message, for fear that Corbyn’s supporters might think the use of Hebrew “Zionist”.”

Mr Simons, who is Jewish, also said the Labour leader's office did not want Ken Livingstone disciplined after he claimed Adolf Hitler had once supported Zionism.

Ken Livingstone speaks about Antisemitism on radio

The former London mayor was suspended after the outburst in April and is still waiting for Labour officials to rule on his case.

But a spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “The allegation that Seumas Milne, or any other Jeremy Corbyn aide, asked for the Hebrew Passover greeting to be removed from the Labour leader's Passover message earlier this year is categorically untrue.

“’Chag Kasher Vesameach’ appeared in Jeremy Corbyn's Passover statement, published in Jewish News on 21st April.

“Far from being overruled on its contents, it was Seumas Milne who signed off the full statement, as confirmed by the documentary record.”

He described Mr Simons as “a disgruntled former member of staff” who now supported rival Owen Smith in the leadership race.

On the visit to Israel, the spokesman pointed out that Mr Corbyn’s letter to Mr Herzog, explaining he was too busy to visit at present, stated his wish to “meet and exchange views as soon as possible”.

It reads: “Every allegation of anti-Semitism within our party has led to immediate action, including exclusion or suspension, while investigations are carried out.”

In his article, Mr Simons said the Left saw Jews as “part of an elite of extractive capitalists”, adding: “That is why, despite what he said, senior members of Corbyn’s office did not wish to suspend Ken Livingstone.

“After all, he was taking on the establishment view, so why yield when the establishment gets upset?”

However, Mr Simons insisted that anti-Semitism “is not rife” in Labour and urged young Jews not to “give up” on the party.

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