Speaking at an event on presenting findings on the anti-Semitism rampant among the ranks of Britain’s Labour Party, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday kicked up a fury of backlash when he appeared to equate Israel to ISIS.
“Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations,” said Corbyn, seeming to imply that the decisions and actions of Israel’s government are comparable to those of the radical jihadist terror group ISIS.
His comment was immediately condemned by furious voices throughout the world, including within his own party. Labour councilor Sam Stopp called for Corbyn to resign at once.
— Cllr Sam Stopp (@CllrStopp) June 30, 2016
England’s former chief rabbi, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, also blasted Corbyn, saying the comparison was “an outrage and unacceptable,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
Yair Lapid, leader of Israel’s own Labor party, called the comment “pure anti-Semitism”.
“It is an infuriating comparison which is evidence of [Corbyn’s] ignorance. It is pure anti-Semitism. The state of Israel is governed by democratic values, morality and justice, and fights every day against terror organizations who are sworn to the murder of innocents,” Lapid fumed.
He also said that the remark was especially insensitive considering the timing.
“It is unacceptable that on such a difficult day for the state of Israel, when an innocent young girl was murdered in a terror attack by an evil terrorist just because she was a Jew, the leader of the opposition in the UK compares Israel and ISIS,” he continued.
He, too, called for Corbyn’s resignation, exhorting Israel’s Labor party to cut all ties with its UK counterpart until Corbyn was replaced.
The event, which was ironically called to investigate several troubling recent incidences of anti-Semitism within the party, was attended by pro-Corbyn activists whose yells and abuse caused Jewish member of Parliament MP Ruth Smeeth to leave in tears.
She later released a statement, saying, “It is beyond belief that someone could come to the launch of a report on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and espouse such vile conspiracy theories about Jewish people.” Smeeth also called for Corbyn to step down and yield to someone with the “backbone” to confront anti-Semitism within the party.
The Labour party has been dogged by accusations of anti-Semitism for months. In April, Labour MP Naz Shah resigned from her position after a number of anti-Semitic social media posts she had published came to light, including one suggesting that Israel be relocated to America and another which asserted that “everything Hitler did in Germany was legal”.
Soon after, former London mayor and Labour member Ken Livingstone went public defending Shah by arguing that Shah’s comments weren’t actually anti-Semitic because “a real anti-Semite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel.” He has also asserted repeatedly that Hitler was a Zionist, leading fellow Labour MP John Mann to label Livingstone a “Nazi apologist.”
Corbyn’s own extreme-left politics have also been the center of controversy a number of times. He famously referred to members of the terrorist organization Hezbollah as “friends” in 2009, and has invited Hamas representatives to speak in Parliament. Critics say that he is not sensitive or critical enough of his party’s tendencies towards anti-Semitism.
However, despite its storied history with Jews and Israel, the report presented on Wednesday concluded that the Labour party was not fundamentally anti-Semitic, despite an “occasionally toxic atmosphere”.
The report also included suggestions for fighting racism and anti-Semitism in the future. Among the suggestions for party members were avoiding terms like “Zio” and refraining from mentioning the Holocaust, Hitler, or Nazis in discussions relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.