A hard-left activist expelled from the Labour Party over his refusal to condemn the 9/11 hijackers and Islamic State has said he will appeal to be reinstated.
But Gerry Downing did not disown previous comments in which he said the Twin Towers attackers should be understood, rather than condemned. And his remarks about the influence of “Zionists” within American and European power elites, including a reference to “the Jewish question” led interviewer Andrew Neil to tell him he sounded “reminiscent of what the Nazis said in the 1920s”.
Downing’s tense encounter with veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil saw his rhetoric likened to the “Protocols [of the Elders] of Zion”.
The retired bus driver was also challenged for conflating the actions of the Israeli government with those of the Jewish people.
Asked to define the “Jewish question”, Downing said: “It is the fact that Israel can commit absolutely heinous crimes against the Palestinians – they can bomb them without let or hindrance and it is presented in the western media as an attack on terrorists.”
The Irishman added: “This is based on a material political fact of the overwhelming political authority of Zionist politicians within the ruling classes of America and Europe” and not their Jewish origins.”
A further intervention on the subject of “millionaires and billionaires of the Zionist persuasion” prompted Neil to ask: “Isn’t that very reminiscent of what the Nazis said in Germany in the 1930s – that there were these rich Jews controlling the German economy?”
Downing “rejected absolutely” the argument that his views could in any way be interpreted as anti-Semitic.
Mr Downing was stripped of his membership shortly after David Cameron went on the attack over his comments during his weekly Prime Minister’s Questions joust with Jeremy Corbyn.
The premier quoted a blog by Mr Downing in which he said the terrorists involved in the attacks on America “must never be condemned”.
Mr Downing was kicked out of the party last summer over views expressed on his Twitter feed and blog but was re-instated in November after an appeal.
After his case was highlighted by the Guido Fawkes website and referred to by the Prime Minister in the Commons, a party spokeswoman said: “Following further evidence that has come to light Gerry Downing has now been excluded from the Labour Party by the NEC panel.”
Speaking to BBC2’s Daily Politics, Mr Downing said he would appeal the decision.
Challenged over his previous comments, he said: “I don’t support politically ISIS, I don’t support the 9/11 attack in any way whatsoever. What I was doing was to explain the reasons for it. The reasons for the attack are basically what imperialism has done in the Middle East …
“It didn’t happen because they are madmen or because they are lunatics or because they are bad people, it happened because they were outraged at what had happened to their lands.”
Asked why he would not condemn the 9/11 terrorists, he replied: “I wouldn’t use the phrase `condemn’, because I think that – like old Baruch Spinoza said – I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, not to hate them, but to understand them. I would understand the motivation for people that did that.”
Mr Downing said he did not support IS “militarily or politically in any way”, but added: “Tactical support means that we are opposed to the US bombing of them, because if you analyse world imperialism as the main enemy, you always oppose its actions – that follows logically. We would always be for driving out US imperialism from the Middle East.
Asked about references to “the Jewish Question” in literature of his Marxist group Socialist Fight, Mr Downing said he did not believe in a “Zionist conspiracy”, but said he wanted to draw attention to “the number of millionaires and billionaires of Zionist persuasion within the American ruling class and the European ruling classes”.
Mr Neil asked: “Isn’t that very reminiscent of what the Nazis said in the 1920s?”, to which Mr Downing replied: “No.”
Mr Downing said he had been a member of Brent Central constituency party and wanted to be part of Labour because it was “the party of the working class in Britain”, adding: “It can’t actually get rid of capitalism itself but it can advance the cause of the working class seriously.”
He denied that he was “a personal friend” of shadow chancellor John McDonnell, saying that they had met when Mr McDonnell stepped in to help him