Jeremy Corbyn is being sued by a pro-Israel blogger accused by the Labour leader of being “very abusive” towards the Palestinian ambassador.
The legal action by Richard Millett, reported by the Daily Mail, is seeking £100,000 in reputational damages from Corbyn over his now infamous 2013 remarks about Zionists not understanding “English irony” and subsequent comments on TV.
Corbyn was asked about his original comments on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, ahead of the party’s annual conference in Liverpool, and defended himself by pointing the finger at two “incredibly disruptive” Zionists in the 2013 audience to hear Palestinian Ambassador Professor Manuel Hassassian.
At the meeting, Corbyn said the “thankfully silent” Zionists in the audience during Hassassian’s presentation “then came up and berated him afterwards for what he’d said,” adding: “Clearly there are two problems: one is that they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either.”
On Sunday he told Marr: “They were very, very abusive to Manuel, very abusive, and I was upset on his behalf… at the way he was treated by them at the end of the meeting, so I felt I should say something in his support.” He added: “They were really, really strong on him afterwards and he was quite upset by it.”
Corbyn said the comments were “not intended to be anti-Semitic,” but it was the last straw for London-based veteran Israel activist Millett, who this week rejected Corbyn’s charges as “ridiculous,” adding: “He [Corbyn] knew that I was British and Jewish. He was targeting me.”
Millett told the Mail that Hassassian was “the last person I’d have a go at”. However, Millett wrote in his blog in October 2015 that the ambassador “enjoys his jibes about Jews” and posted a video of himself “confronting” Hassassian in December 2014.
If the case goes to court and Millett succeeds, Corbyn could face paying up to £100,000 in damages plus a further £100,000 in legal costs.