Rabbi Mendy Korer helped to organise unveiling of this commemorative plaque. He told the audience about inviting the local MP, Jeremy Corbyn, to Shabbat dinner after the MP suggested applying for a plaque to be fixed to the original site of North London Synagogue. See more on the United Synagogue’s website.
The four candidates standing for the Labour leadership participated in the public meeting co-hosted by the Jewish Chronicle, Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement at the JW3 community centre in north London.
Links to two accounts of this event, written from different perspectives are given at the foot of the post. The first, from Middle East Eye, sent by a reader, carries more conviction in the writer’s opinion, because of its use of directly quoted speech. It also offers a video of the whole debate so that readers can hear the discussion for themselves.
Three of the four MPs standing – Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall expressed their strong support for Israel during opening statements at the event moderated by journalist Jonathan Freedland, who writes a weekly column for The Guardian and a monthly piece for The Jewish Chronicle.
In his opening remarks Corbyn said that he had supported the establishment of the state of Israel – that was not reported in this account.
Corbyn is widely known for his peace activism and has been on nine visits to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza during his 32 years in parliament. He called for the UK to have “relationships with all sections of society in Israel” and stressed the need to have a nuanced view of the country: “We shouldn’t judge everything to do with Israel through the prism of whatever Benjamin Netanyahu is saying from one day to the next – Israel’s politics is much wider than that.” At that – and other points – there was applause from the audience – not reported.
He saw real grounds for hope in the ‘nuclear deal’ reached in Iran, but this was not reported by Haaretz or Middle East Eye.
Corbyn called for “robust discussion” on Israel’s siege of Gaza, the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and alleged mistreatment of Palestinian child detainees in Israeli prisons.
He said that following the Israeli assault on Gaza last summer both sides are now being investigated to see if they have committed war crimes, leading him to question whether it is wise for the UK to be continuing to sell arms to Israel. “Is it right that we are supplying arms [to Israel] in this situation? Is it right that we are importing goods from illegal settlements across the West Bank?”
An audience member asked the candidates whether it is appropriate for parliamentarians to host members of groups including the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah
The question was a reference to Corbyn hosting members of the two groups in parliament several years ago. In a clip that recently surfaced Corbyn referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” – a comment that has brought the leftwinger criticism due to the groups being viewed as terrorists by many Western nations. Corbyn defended his outreach to Hamas and Hezbollah: “You don’t achieve progress by only talking to those who you agree with,” he said. “You have to address the rights of everybody if peace is to be achieved across the whole region. Conflicts are settled politically, not necessarily militarily.”
Corbyn argued that criticism of Israel must not lead to anti-Semitism and that unity is key in the battle against prejudice of all forms. “Does questioning the behaviour of the Israeli state towards Palestinians lead to anti-Semitism? No, it mustn’t and shouldn’t,” he said. “Whether it’s a synagogue or a mosque under attack we must all come together to be as one in confronting it.”
Sources giving two different perspectives: