By Justin Cohen
Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to work with Jewish leaders in the fight against anti-Semitism, as fresh concerns were raised about his links to extremists.
The man hoping to lead Labour after next month’s election moved to address mounting concerns over his hosting of terrorists and those who have expressed anti-Semitic sentiment.
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- OPINION: The Labour Party is in danger of getting infected with a terrible virus
- Corbyn hosted extremist cleric who attacked Europe for “Jew worshipping”
- Corbyn admits meeting Lebanese extremist
It emerged this week that he had hosted one extremist, Dayab Abou Jahjah, who had written in 2006 that Europe had made “the cult of the Holocaust and Jew-worship” an alternative religion. The Arab European League he headed at the time also published a cartoon featuring Anne Frank in bed with Hitler.
A few hours after Corbyn claimed in a radio interview to not know the Lebanese activist, the MP said his office had discovered he in fact had met him. A spokesperson for his campaign described a series of offensive remarks alleged to have been made by Abou Jahjah as “abhorrent” but insisted “there’s no suggestion he made them in Jeremy’s hearing” and described linking the pair as an attempt to “smear Jeremy by association”.
In an emailed message to Jewish News entitled ‘Corbyn pledge to the Jewish community’, he wrote: “Throughout my entire life I’ve been committed to opposing racism, prejudice and intolerance.
“In a 20th century notable for most awful atrocities, the systematic attempt to eradicate the Jewish people from all corners of Europe stands out for the depravity of intent and scale of the horrors inflicted. There can be no place for seeking to deny that reality.”
The MP – who spoke of his pride at his parents standing against fascists at Cable Street and of “following in their footsteps” by opposing the National Front and BNP – added: “If elected leader of the Labour Party I will work with Jewish community organisations to combat anti-Semitism and recognise the contribution of Jewish people to British society.”
It came after he distanced himself from self-confessed Holocaust denier Paul Eisen, who boasted of a long association with the Islington North MP that included the politician putting “his chequebook on the table” in support of his Deir Yasin Remembered charity – the political roundly rejected the claim
Corbyn told Channel 4: “I have no contact now whatsoever with Paul Eisen. I did attend a number of events concerning Deir Yasin Remembered a number of years ago. I think it’s reasonable we should remember all those people who have suffered in the Middle East on whatever side.”
He also claimed Eisen was not a denier when they first came into contact. “If he had been I would have had nothing to do with him.”
A photograph of Corbyn on the Deir Yassin Remembered website purports to show him attending an event just two years ago. It came a few months after Eisen had made public his views on the Shoah.
Corbyn also spoke about a meeting with Raed Salah, who he had defended as an “honoured citizen” despite him having been accused of invoking the blood libel.
His office said those words were “a term of diplomacy as an aid to dialogue rather than a description of a relationship or an endorsement of a set of views”. They said he “wholly condemned” the blood libel. They also said he had spoken up for Church of England Rev Stephen Sizer two years before he posted a link to an article suggesting Israel was behind 9/11.
Abou Jahjah – who also reportedly referred to the death of each British soldier in the Iraq war as a “victory” – said the offending article that referred to “Jew worship” was “political satire”.
He wrote yesterday in a blog: “The reason I am accused of anti-Semitism is that the AEL launched a campaign of satirical cartoons and articles in response to the Danish cartoons that stereotyped Muslims via their prophet. Our campaign tried to demonstrate the double standards dominating the freedom of speech discourse. AEL published a disclaimer with each cartoon stating we do not endorse the message.”
Last week Corbyn said he wouldn’t be attending a conference organised by Middle East Monitor at which Carlos Latuff, who finished second in Iran’s Holocaust cartoon contest in 2006, was also due to appear.