Jewish groups in the UK have reacted angrily to Jeremy Corbyn’s message to pro-Palestinian protesters, in which he said the UK’s refusal to call for an independent investigation into killings at the Gaza border was “morally indefensible”.
In his most strident comments on the conflict since being elected Labour leader, Corbyn described Israel’s “outrageous and indiscriminate brutality” in a message ahead of a London demonstration supporting the Palestinian Right of Return.
It follows the killing on Friday of 21-year old Palestinian paramedic Razzan Najjar, who was shot by Israeli snipers while trying to help the wounded near the Gaza border. She was wearing the white medic’s uniform at the time.
An incensed Corbyn said Najjar’s killing was “the latest tragic reminder of the outrageous and indiscriminate brutality being meted out, under orders from the Netanyahu government”.
However the Board of Deputies and Yachad slammed Corbyn for “seriously misrepresenting” events at the border, arguing that he had not balanced his comments with criticism of Hamas.
Sheila Gewolb, the Board’s senior vice-president, said: “Jeremy Corbyn’s statement failed to show any appreciation for the threats that Israel faces, nor for the fact that terrorist organisations Hamas and Islamic Jihad have admitted that many of those on the front line were their own operatives, under order to breach the border fence and ‘tear out the hearts’ of Israeli civilians.”
She added: “If Mr Corbyn wants to be a credible peace broker he has got to show that he understands Israel’s security needs.”
A spokeswoman for Yachad said: “Corbyn’s failure to mention Hamas’s role in the demonstrations, or that there were armed protesters at the border fence, is a serious misrepresentation of what has been taking place at the Israeli-Gaza border. He entirely dismisses the legitimate security concerns that Israel faces.”
Paul Charney, Chairman of the Zionist Federation said, “The ZF is disappointed but sadly not surprised by Mr Corbyn’s statement on Gaza that was read at the small demonstration yesterday. To make a statement about Gaza on the day that acres and acres of Israeli land had been burnt by rioters launching firebombs attached to kites, with no mention of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Egypt or the continued attempt to breach Israel’s border from below ground and above is exactly as Mr Corbyn said, “morally indefensible”.
In his statement, Corbyn said the US Embassy move to Jerusalem had “in violation of international agreements” had demonstrated that “the US has no claim to be any kind of honest broker for a political settlement”.
However, the long-time Israel critic reserved his heaviest fire for the UK Government, after reiterating Labour’s policy of reviewing arms sales to Israel were he ever to get the keys to Number 10.
“The silence, or worse support, for this flagrant illegality, from many western governments, including our own, has been shameful,” he said.
“The UK Government’s decision not to support either a UN Commission of Inquiry into the shocking scale of killings of civilian protesters in Gaza, or the more recent UN resolution condemning indiscriminate Israeli use of force – and calling for the protection of Palestinians – is morally indefensible.”
As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, and with its historical role administrating Palestine, Corbyn said Britain “has a particular responsibility for a peaceful and just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict”.
He said the UK “should ensure a credible independent investigation, genuine accountability and effective international action to halt the killings – and bring Gaza’s ever-deepening humanitarian crisis to an end”.
Corbyn’s latest statement came just days ahead of the Al-Quds Day March through London on Sunday, and hours before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May on his quick European tour.
I have asked for this statement to be read out at this evening's Right of Return demonstration in London for justice for…
Listen to the Jewish Views Podcast: