Labour apologise to Israeli ambassador for Corbyn’s ‘offensive’ comments

Labour apologise to Israeli ambassador for Corbyn’s ‘offensive’ comments

Corbyn denied he was drawing a parallel between Israel and the Islamic State, before apologising to the envoy in the UK Mark Regev

Jeremy Corbyn with Shami Chakrabarti
Jeremy Corbyn with Shami Chakrabarti

Labour has apologised to the Israeli ambassador for any offence caused by comments made by leader Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of a party report into anti-Semitism.

Mr Corbyn was forced to deny drawing a parallel between Israel and the Islamic State terror group after telling the event that Jews were “no more responsible for the actions of Israel” than Muslims were for the “various self-styled Islamic states or organisations”.

A spokesman for ambassador Mark Regev said shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry had made an “unequivocal apology” for the remark, which he denounced as “unacceptable”.

The spokesman also denied media reports that Mr Regev “had no problem” with Mr Corbyn’s speech.

“Ambassador Mark Regev welcomed Emily Thornberry’s unequivocal apology following Jeremy Corbyn’s unacceptable remarks,” said Yiftah Curiel.

“Reports that Ambassador Mark Regev ‘had no problem’ with Jeremy Corbyn’s speech are erroneous.”

Ms Thornberry is understood to have rung the ambassador to apologise for any offence caused and to assure him that reports circulating on social media that Mr Corbyn had saidIsrael was the same as IS were inaccurate.

Mark Regev
Mark Regev

The Labour leader’s comment, at the launch of a report by Shami Chakrabarti on allegations of anti-Semitism within the party, was branded “offensive” by Britain’s most prominent Jewish leader, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

Ms Chakrabarti found that the party was “not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism”. She recommended that party members cease using the term “Zio” to refer to supporters of the state of Israel and steer clear of invoking Hitler, particularly in debates about Israel and Palestine.

The Chief Rabbi welcomed the report’s acknowledgement that some within Labour ranks had “peddled the prejudice of anti-Semitism” and said there was much in the document that could “herald an important step forward”.

But he added: “The comments by the leader of the Labour Party at the launch, however they were intended, are themselves offensive, and rather than rebuilding trust among the Jewish community, are likely to cause even greater concern.”

Labour MP Ruth Smeeth claimed the party “cannot be a safe space” for British Jews after Mr Corbyn failed to intervene when she was verbally abused by one of his grassroots supporters at the event.


Meanwhile, footage emerged of a smiling Mr Corbyn chatting at the end of the anti-Semitism event with activist Marc Wadsworth who had accused Ms Smeeth – who is Jewish – of “working hand-in-hand” with the Daily Telegraph.

Mr Wadsworth told the Labour leader: “I outed Smeeth for bloody talking to the Torygraph.”

Ms Chakrabarti defended Mr Corbyn, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It was my report. It was my press conference. So I take responsibility, for, I have to say, what felt like the deliberate misrepresentation of the leader’s speech by people who are very, very quick to misunderstand and condemn.

“And I take responsibility also for the gentleman who behaved frankly incredibly rudely at my press conference and probably made the point I was trying to make in my report.”

Ms Chakrabarti, who has apologised to Ms Smeeth, defended Mr Corbyn against charges he failed to stand up for his MP, saying: “I probably didn’t give him a chance to jump in because I was so quick to jump in. (Mr Corbyn) concurred with me and backed me up.”

Mr Corbyn’s comments about Jews and Muslims were a direct reference to her report, she said: “He was making no comparison whatsoever between Israel and Isis or anybody else, he was making the comparison which I make in my report.”

She said her report referenced the prejudice that minority groups in Britain experience in light of events that happen elsewhere, including pressure faced by Jewish and Muslim communities to defend, condemn or explain events “which are nothing to do with them”.

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