Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn defended “salient points” made in an infamous speech by a former Iranian president calling for the destruction of Israel.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to students in Tehran in 2005 elicited immediate backlash.
“As the [late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] said, Israel must be wiped off the map,” Ahmadinejad told the World without Zionism conference.
Writing for the Morning Star shortly after, Corbyn noted the public outrage prompted by the speech with suspicion.
“Kofi Annan pointed out that what had been said was wrong and condemned it. However the alacrity which which Bush and Blair led the chorus makes one suspicious,” Corbyn wrote.
The article, one of many written by the Labour leader for the left-wing daily was discovered by investigative reporter Iggy Ostanin.
“The opportunity provided by Ahmadinejad’s speech should be used to build dialogue with and within Iran, and […] on the issue of Palestine,” Corbyn wrote.
“The context overlooked by sensationalist headlines was that his speech also pointed out what Israel is doing to Palestine.
“All the righteous indignation never mentioned a few salient points. Israel has illegal and undeclared nuclear weapons, has not signed the non-proliferation treaty and continues to develop them,” he added.
Corbyn went on to condemn Israel for its “apartheid wall” and “systematic depopulation of Palestinians from Jerusalem”.
But he also said the speech “clearly departs from the two state solution that the Palestinian leadership has been pursuing for the past 20 years, and, in any event, would be illegal under the UN charter.”
A Labour Party spokesperson said: “While the translation of Ahmadinejad’s words in 2005 was disputed at the time, Jeremy Corbyn makes clear three times in this article that, however the speech is translated, Ahmadinejad was wrong.
“He said it would be illegal under international law, it departs from the two-state policy pursued by the Palestinian leadership, and that Kofi Annan had pointed out the speech was wrong and condemned it.
“Coming just two years after the disastrous Iraq War, Jeremy Corbyn warned against another rush to war in the Middle East, which many saw as being by driven by George Bush and Tony Blair, and opposed the Israeli government’s continuing occupation of Palestinian territory and human rights abuses. Those were the right calls and arguments to make.”
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was among those to condemn Ahmadinejad’s speech.
Speaking to a crowd of protesters on the 67th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Wiesel said: “When a leader of a nation violates all standards of morality and decency by announcing to the whole world his wish to see a nation member of the international community wiped off the map, our immediate response cannot be anything but anger and outrage.”