Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “leading Labour into a dark place of ugly conspiracy theories” after footage emerged of him suggesting Israel could be behind a 2012 terror attack on Egyptian police.
Sixteen policemen and border guards were killed and seven injured in the jihadi attack. But interviewed on Iran’s Press TV that year, Corbyn said: “I’m very concerned about it [the massacre] and you have to look at the big picture: in whose interests is it to destabilise the new government in Egypt? In whose interest is it to kill Egyptians, other than Israel, concerned at the growing closeness of relationship between Palestine and the new Egyptian government?”
The then backbencher was then asked by presenter Lauren Booth if “a Muslim go against his Egyptian brother and open fire?”. He responded: “It seems a bit unlikely that would happen during Ramadan, to put it mildly, and I suspect the hand of Israel in this whole process of destabilisation.”
The year before Israel said three Egyptian officers may have been killed accidentally by Israel during a breach of the border by Palestinian terrorists, who had reached Israel from Egypt after using tunnels from Gaza. Ehud Barak, then defence minister, issued an apology at the time. It was this incident, according to a Labour Party spokesperson, on which Corbyn’s “speculation” was based.
In the same programme he sits in silence as a Hamas terrorist – convicted for his role in a Jerusalem cafe bombing which claimed seven lives – recounts his experiences in an Israeli jail without the audience being told about the nature of his crimes. He was said by Israel to have provided the apartment for the bomber to prepare and kept guard as he did so – for which he was given seven life sentences.
As uncovered by the CST’s Dave Rich, Corbyn told Booth he had met the featured “brother” and others freed under the deal to release Gilad Shalit. He also said: “If there was a serious case against the individual prisoners that Israel clams there would be then there wouldn’t be an appeal, they wouldn’t get out, they wouldn’t be released.” He adds he’s “glad” they have been released. However, the Labour leader was accused by the JLC’s Jonathan Goldstein of being “disingenuous” in referring to an appeal when there was none involved in the prisoner swap.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism said it is also preparing a complaint against Corbyn over his comments on Press TV blaming Israel for the incident.
A Labour spokesman said: “In 2012 Jeremy was commenting on the prison conditions of Palestinian prisoners, including elected representatives. He was of course in no way supporting or endorsing the actions of the prisoners, but defending their rights under international law.”
The latest controversy comes after a fortnight that has seen a councillor suspended for suggesting Jews drink blood and two Labour MPs warned of disciplinary action for speaking out in forceful terms against the party’s new code of conduct on anti-Semitism while a pledge to tackle the vast majority of outstanding cases by the end of this month has not been met.
Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies, said: “Even by Labour’s low standards, the last few days have been utterly shameful.
“Jeremy Corbyn is leading the Labour Party into a dark place of ugly conspiracy theories and it has become a home for overt antisemites and antisemitism. In 2018, Labour is not only a Party with extravagant levels of tolerance for antisemitism but one which deliberately obstructs measures to counter hatred and punishes those who speak out against it. Jeremy Corbyn needs to lead Labour out of this deep abyss and urgently demonstrate to the world Labour can return to being an anti-racist party.”
Goldstein said it was time for Corbyn to be “more honest with us and his party about his views on the Middle East. When Corbyn says he believes in a two state solution does he mean that in good faith and as it is recognised by others who promote it? Does he believe in a Palestinian state living side by side with a Jewish state or does he believe in something else all together? His endorsement of Hamas as evidenced by his appearance on Press TV does leave us wondering what his position on the existence of Israel as a Jewish state is”.
The Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council has also not been asked to attend any further meetings with Corbyn, despite plans for follow-up talks this month.