Labour antisemitism row: Jeremy Corbyn apologises for hosting Holocaust memorial event where Israeli government compared to Nazis

'Views were expressed at the meeting which I do not accept or condone,' says Labour leader

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 01 August 2018 09:15
Comments
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has apologised amid a row over antisemitism
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has apologised amid a row over antisemitism

Jeremy Corbyn has issued a personal apology after hosting a Holocaust Memorial Day event where the Israeli government was compared to the Nazis.

The Labour leader admitted he had appeared alongside people "whose views I completely reject" when he was a backbench MP in 2010 and apologised for the "concerns and anxiety" caused to the Jewish community.

It comes as the row over antisemitism within Labour threatened to spill over, as Mr Corbyn was urged to intervene when a member of the party's ruling body claimed Jewish “Trump fanatics” were “making up” stories about abuse in its ranks.

The Labour leader has now apologised for speaking at an event where the main talk was delivered by Hajo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor, who repeatedly likened the Israelis to the Nazi regime, The Times reported.

In a statement, Mr Corbyn said: "The main speaker at this Holocaust Memorial Day meeting, part of a tour entitled 'Never Again - For Anyone', was a Jewish Auschwitz survivor.

"Views were expressed at the meeting which I do not accept or condone.

"In the past, in pursuit of justice for the Palestinian people and peace in Israel/Palestine, I have on occasion appeared on platforms with people whose views I completely reject.

"I apologise for the concerns and anxiety that this has caused."

Labour MP John Mann said the party leader went against "normal decency" when he hosted the event and said it was "extraordinary" that Mr Corbyn had held a "protest event" on Holocaust Memorial Day.

It comes after John McDonnell suggested that Labour has failed to get to grips with antisemitism among some of its members and vowed to “get this sorted out”.

The shadow chancellor, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, told The Independent that he was “cut to the core” by the bitter row, as he admitted allegations of anti-Jewish sentiment dogging the party were the lowest point of the past year.

Labour was committed to resolving the issue by September, he said, adding that the levels of protest from the Jewish community were “deeply, deeply upsetting”.

The party has been embroiled in fresh controversy in recent weeks over changes to its code of conduct on antisemitism, which have provoked a major backlash from Jewish leaders.

The row centres on the National Executive Committee's (NEC) decision not to adopt an internationally-recognised definition of antisemitism in full, which was condemned by nearly 70 rabbis and members of the wider Jewish community.

Labour says it has rewritten several examples of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition to "expand and contextualise" the code.

NEC member Ann Black urged Mr Corbyn to intervene and accept the IHRA working definition as a starting point for discussions.

The veteran party member told Today: "I'm calling on him to heed the advice of his shadow cabinet colleagues.

"Barry Gardiner [the shadow international trade secretary] has said that you take the IHRA working definition as a starting point.

"If it's necessary to add to it to make clear that it does not stop party members defending the rights of the Palestinians, or criticising certain sections of the Israeli government, then that is fine.

"But that is the starting point and I believe Jeremy Corbyn has the ability and the authority to do it and I hope he does so."

Meanwhile, NEC member Peter Willsman has apologised and referred himself for equalities training after claiming Jewish "Trump fanatics" where fabricating stories about antisemitism in Labour.

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