Controversial Labour Party donor, Michael Foster, says he has “no regrets, none” about his attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership by making comparisons with the Nazis.
In a hard-hitting article for last weekend’s Mail On Sunday, Foster (pictured) who has given “thousands” to the Labour Party, described the leader’s inner circle as “Sturmabteilung”, or Stormtroopers, and condemned their behavior as those who had “no respect for others, and worse, no respect for the rule of law”.
But Foster, 58, told Jewish News: “Jon Lansman [the founder of the Corbyn-supporting group Momentum] is an academic, incredibly well-read, knows philosophy. But he knows Momentum was established to protect gains made by the leader – just look at its mission statement”.
He charged Momentum and Corbyn’s team with “intimidation” and added: “I have no problem with the use of Nazi terminology to describe what is happening here: what I said was historically true.”
Marie van der Zyl, vice president of the Board of Deputies, said: “We have often made the point that Nazi and Holocaust comparisons are inflammatory and should be avoided in political discourse. The same is true in this case.”
However, she added that “many in the community are deeply concerned at some of the language and behaviour being exhibited by some Labour members,” saying the party still had
“a very steep hill to climb”.
Foster, who stood unsuccessfully as Labour’s candidate for the Cornish constituency of Camborne and Redruth in the last General Election, said he was “not surprised” at the backlash directed at him as a result of the Mail On Sunday article. The fact that 11,000 people on social media had called for his removal from the party was, he believed, an illustration of the truth of what he was saying.
The businessman, who now runs two mentoring organisations aimed at helping young disadvantaged people in Britain, said he first became involved with Labour by canvassing for Harold Wilson in 1974.
Brought up in Neasden, Dollis Hill and Wembley Park, Foster also has long-standing ties with Israel. “My great grandfather represented Liverpool at the Zionist Congress in Basel,” he said. But he added: “I am not a Zionist. I am a British Jew who supports Israel. My problem is with the word Zionism, because it has been misappropriated by the Left.
“Zionism is a metaphysical longing. But the state of Israel, to my great joy, exists. A Zionist is someone who wants the establishment of the state of Israel.
“I think the Jewish community needs to take back ownership of the term and self-define its meaning. If we say, I am a supporter of the state of Israel, but I am against the policies of the Likud government and its attitude to Palestinians, then those who attack us will be exposed.”
Foster said that the “trigger” for his challenges to Corbyn had been “anger. I watched Jeremy Corbyn do nothing to alleviate the fears of the Jewish community, which had always been treated with respect by the wider community in the UK. And then he came to speak to Labour Friends of Israel, and effectively he was in our house, and he refused to shake hands with the Deputy Ambassador of Israel and he refused to say the word ‘Israel’.”
It was at this meeting, last autumn, that Foster came to national public attention, shouting at Corbyn: “Say the word ‘Israel’!”
Speaking this week, Foster reserved his greatest anger for Shami Chakrabarti, the author of the Labour inquiry into antiSemitism. He said: “It was one of the most shameful abuses of the Jewish community ever seen by both Chakrabarti and Corbyn.” Giving Chakrabarti a peerage had, he charged, “given her £1.5 million tax free over 40 years. Is that not corruption? He [Corbyn] bought her, she sold herself.”
Foster was confident Labour challenger Owen Smith would win the leadership election and said that owing to the latest High Court ruling, large numbers of people whose primary interests were the NHS, education and employment, would vote for him.