Pro-PA group pays for Corbyn's Syria visit

Revealed: Pro-Palestinian Arab group Palestinian Return Center paid for British Labour leader's 2009 visit to Syria.

Elad Benari ,

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

A pro-Palestinian Arab, anti-Israel group paid for British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to travel to Syria to meet President Bashar Al-Assad, The Daily Mail has revealed.

The 2009 trip, which took place when Corbyn was a backbench MP, was hosted by the Palestinian Return Center (PRC), a London-based lobby group which campaigns on behalf of Palestinian Arabs.

According to The Daily Mail, Corbyn was one of several MPs from the three main parties to make the trip to Syria, in a delegation headed by Conservative Lord Sheikh, which thanked Assad for his country's housing of half a million “Palestinian refugees” since 1948.

In the Members' Register of Interests, Corbyn recording the trip as having been worth £1,300, according to the newspaper.

The PRC has been embroiled in controversy this week after holding a meeting at the House of Lords, where a speaker - who the group says was an audience member - claimed a “heretic” rabbi had “antagonized” Hitler “to then want to systematically kill Jews wherever he could find them as opposed to just make Germany a Jew-free land”.

That meeting was chaired by Jenny Tonge, a well-known anti-Israel politician who just last week was suspended from the Liberal Democrat party over her actions. Tonge was also on the 2009 trip, noted The Daily Mail.

Tonge told the newspaper that the delegation visited UN camps on the Iraq/Syria border, which she described as “full of refugees from the Iraqi government who did not like Sunni Palestinians”.

Of the delegation's meetings with Assad, she said, “Assad had been very good to Palestinian refugees in Syria, but was getting fed up with taking more because of the strain on his countries resources.

“We eventually got the people in the camp we visited relocated to various countries,” said Tonge.

The PRC-funded visit to Syria was held to the anniversary of the November 2, 1917, Balfour Declaration supporting a Jewish home in then-Palestine.

Writing about the 2009 trip in communist newspaper the Morning Star, Corbyn said he had met with a group of Palestinians on the anniversary of the “infamous” declaration, and hit out at the American government for not taking stronger action over Israeli “settlements”, revealed The Daily Mail.

“Once again the Israeli tail wags the US dog,” he wrote, “as [then-secretary of state] Hillary Clinton drops demands to even halt new settlements as the Netanyahu government pushes to continue its dismemberment of the West Bank”.

The revelation is the latest controversy for Corbyn, who is already under fire for pro-Palestinian politics and tolerance of radical anti-Semites.

He has come under fire himself due to his calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends" and for outright refusing to condemn those two terrorist organizations despite being urged to do so by local Jewish groups. He recently took back those comments.

In addition to Corbyn himself, dozens of Labour members have been suspended in recent months over their anti-Semitic statements.

The most senior was former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, whose membership was suspended after he suggested and later insisted that Adolf Hitler was a Zionist.

Livingstone has refused to apologize for his comments and has repeatedly stressed that he stands by them.

The PRC has been accused by the Israeli government of being linked to Hamas - an allegation it strongly denies, claiming it is an effort to damage its credibility.

Referring to the trip, Corbyn told the House of Commons, “I pay tribute to the fact that Syria has accommodated a very large number of refugees and ensured that they are able to live in that country in safety.”

He recorded the purpose of the visit, between October 31 and November 2, 2009 as “to visit Iraqi and Palestinian refugee camps in Syria”.

In January the following year Corbyn also visited Gaza in a trip funded by the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, the register of interest shows.

A statement from Corbyn's office this week said, “Jeremy has consistently spoken out against all forms of anti-Semitism.

“In his speech to Labour Party conference this year, he said: ‘Let me be absolutely clear: anti-Semitism is an evil,’” said the statement.