Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan MP has condemned party leader Jeremy Corbyn for honouring terrorists at the organisation’s annual lunch.
In a passionate address to guests including deputy Labour leader Tom Watson, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, around 70 MPs and 30 peers, Ms Ryan made it abundantly clear that Corbyn’s action in laying a wreath at the grave of those who order the torture and murder of people because they are Israelis is not morally right and unacceptable.
She added, “It is neither principled nor brave to campaign for the right of people to call Israel a ‘racist endeavour’ or to spin absurd anti-Semitic conspiracy theories blaming it for terror attacks.
“And, no, it does not advance the cause of peace to snub our party’s comrades in Israel while calling Hamas terrorists friends and brothers.”
Turning her attentions to the “shameful” battle against antisemitism in the Labour party, she noted, “It’s a battle in which we stand by the Jewish community in this country.
“We oppose those who claim they know better than Jews how to define antisemitism. We challenge those who insult the memory of the six million by equating the actions of Israel with those of Nazi Germany and we reject vicious smear that charges of antisemitism are all about silencing legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies.”
Ms Ryan added, “In this fight against anti-Semitism, I will never cower in the face of hatred and abuse. However long it takes. Whatever the personal cost. I am with you, on your side.”
Jewish Agency chair Isaac Herzog was guest of honour.
The former Israel Labour Party leader told a packed audience, “Anti-Semitism cannot be dismissed as legitimate criticism of Israel.
“What we’ve seen from several leaders and activists in the Labour party is not a foreign policy debate, it is a campaign of hate, using the Israel-Palestine conflict as camouflage.
“Wherever BDS goes, anti-Semitism follows. The fight against anti-Semitism is one part of a wider fight for truth, liberalism, progress and against the politics of fear, fake news, hatred and division.
“It is the fight for sanity and common sense.”
Noting his belief in a two-state solution,” he commented, “Our Palestinian brothers deserve dignity, but they must come to negotiations.”
Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev addressed two 70thanniversaries this year – the birth of the State of Israel, which Labour supported from 1917, and celebration of the National Health Service.
Recalling that Nye Bevan created the NHS, he noted that Bevan was a proud socialist and proud Zionist who held a viewpoint of direct negotiations.
“We should call out those who are undermining direct negotiations now whether it be a Palestinian leadership that refuses to sit down to talk with Israel or those in the party of Nye Bevan who today tell the Palestinians that they can have a state without negotiating with Israel,” said Ambassador Regev
Dame Louise Ellman MP received Labour Friends of Israel ‘Lifetime Achievement’ Award.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl were among Jewish community leaders at the event.