Corbyn insists: I'm not an anti-Semite

British Labour leader says he opposes racism in any form after British Jews take to the street over anti-Semitism in the party's ranks.

Elad Benari ,

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insisted on Wednesday he is not an anti-Semite “in any form”, two days after British Jews took to the streets to protest the anti-Semitism in his party.

“I’m not an anti-Semite in any way, never have been, never will be. I’ve opposed racism in any form all my life. It’s the way I was brought up, it’s the way I’ve lived my life,” he told the British Jewish News in an interview.

“I recognize the hurt that’s felt within the community and that’s why I responded immediately with an invitation to the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies to come and meet me,” he added.

“Let me say this very bluntly: anti-Semitism is a cancer in our society and it has resurfaced across Europe and in Britain in recent years. It has to be challenged at every single stage,” stressed Corbyn.

In addition to Monday’s protest against anti-Semitism, British Jewish leaders sent an open letter to the Labour party in which they wrote that Corbyn had “sided with anti-Semites rather than Jews” and stated that “enough is enough”.

Corbyn responded with a letter of his own in which he stressed to Jewish leaders and stressed that he is a “militant opponent” of anti-Semitism.

“I’m zero-tolerant of racism,” Corbyn stressed in Wednesday’s interview. “I want to see, as I’ve repeated, a peace process in the Middle East. I want to see a society free of the scourge of racism and our party conference last year passed a very strict and very clear rule on this. And that has been repeated to all party members. There is also an education process in place which we will develop even further, because we want people to understand what it is like to be accused of something because of your ethnicity, because of your faith, because of where you come from. It is very hurtful but also very dangerous and corrosive to our whole society. So today I say quite clearly, anti-Semitism is completely wrong, as is any other form of racism.”

Corbyn has been criticized in the past due to his calling Hamas and Hezbollah his "friends" and for refusing to condemn those two terrorist organizations despite being urged to do so by local Jewish groups.

Asked about those past comments, he replied, “The context was a discussion about a future peace in the Middle East. I used that language. I obviously realize this can be misinterpreted and indeed has been. I clearly do not support their views but recognize – and I’m sure everyone else does – that there has to be a peace process that involves all groups in the Middle East, and that indeed is what many people have attempted to bring about over past governments.”

“I’ve said my piece in parliament and here about Hezbollah and Hamas and I’ve made my position clear. That is, I do not support what their aims are. I do believe you have to engage in political discourse with people that you fundamentally disagree with. Any society that wants to embark on a peace process has to engage with people they disagree with,” argued Corbyn.

He stressed that “anti-Semitism is a poison and evil and wrong that brought about genocide of the Holocaust against the Jewish people. It’s what our parents’ generation fought to defeat. I think there has to be a process to bring about peace in the Middle East and that has to involve justice for the Palestinian people and, as I’ve consistently repeated, an end to the occupation and the settlement policy so that Palestinians can also grow up in peace and their own security. The best security is peace.”

Asked if he plans to visit Israel, Corbyn replied, “At some point, yes, I will be in the Middle East.” Then, asked if he would be happy to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during that visit, he answered, “Well, I will be visiting the state of Israel so yes, of course.”