In an in-depth and candid interview with Declassified UK, he was asked if he thought that the antisemitism scandal that engulfed him “was the result of his pro-Palestinian political position,” and replied: “Very largely that is the case.”
He insisted: “I have spent my life fighting racism in any form, in any place whatsoever. My parents spent their formative years fighting the rise of Nazism in Britain, and that is what I’ve been brought up doing. And when in the 1970s the National Front were on the march in Britain, I was one of the organisers of the big Wood Green demonstration to try to stop the National Front marching through.
“And somehow or other I was accused of being antisemitic. The allegations against me were foul, dishonest and utterly disgusting and appalling from people who should know better and do know better. People that have known me for 40 years, never once complained about anything I’d ever said or done in terms of anti-racism, until I became leader of the Labour Party. Interesting coincidence of timing. Disgusting allegations which obviously we sought to rebut at all times. And I’ll be forever grateful for the support given by Jewish socialists, the many Jewish members of the Labour Party all over the country, and of course the local Jewish community in my constituency.”
He said of the allegations against him: “It was personal, it was vile, it was disgusting, and it remains so.”
Declassified UK characterised the antisemitism allegations against Mr Corbyn variously as “an extreme example of a tried-and-tested tactic used by pro-Israel groups across the world”, as a “slur” and as a tactic “instrumentalised to destroy critics of the Israeli state”, which is an example of the antisemitic Livingstone Formulation.
Mr Corbyn replied: “The tactic is you say that somebody is intrinsically antisemitic and it sticks and then the media parrot it and repeat it the whole time. Then the abuse appears on social media, the abusive letters appear, the abusive phone calls appear, and all of that. And it’s very horrible and very nasty and is designed to be very isolating and designed to also take up all of your energies in rebutting these vile allegations, which obviously we did. But it tends to distract away from the fundamental message about peace, about justice, about social justice, about economy and all of that.”
Other portions of the interview also strayed close to tropes about outsized Israeli influence and control over British politics and the Labour Party.
With regard to Labour Friends of Israel, for instance, Declassified UK suggested that it is a front for the Israeli Embassy and Mr Corbyn questioned the funding of the faction: “I’m not opposed to there being friends of particular countries or places all around the world within the party, I think that’s a fair part of the mosaic of democratic politics. What I am concerned about is the funding that goes with it — and the apparently very generous funding that Labour Friends of Israel gets from, I presume, the Israeli Government.” Despite his ostensible tolerance for the faction even as he has suspicions about its funding, he also questioned why Labour never took action against the group and tellingly listed some of the senior Labour MPs who have been involved with it.
He also claimed that then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “also weighed in on this and said that I must not become Prime Minister. Sorry, who is Benjamin Netanyahu to decide who the British Prime Minister should be? It’s not for me to decide who the Israeli prime minister should be…so who is he to make that kind of comment?”
There is no evidence that Mr Netanyahu ever made such a comment. Declassified UK itself could only assume that Mr Corbyn was referring to a 2019 report in a British newspaper in which Mr Netanyahu had reportedly said that “Israel may halt its intelligence co-operation with the UK if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister,” which is merely a change in Israeli policy that doubtless would have mirrored changes in British policy had Mr Corbyn been elected. What Mr Netanyahu actually said is therefore entirely different from the impression of attempted Israeli domination of British democracy that Mr Corbyn tried to give.
Mr Corbyn, who has repeatedly played down Labour antisemitism, is indefinitely suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party but remains a member of the Labour Party after his brief suspension was overturned.
Campaign Against Antisemitism has lodged a complaint against Mr Corbyn, holding him responsible for conduct that is prejudicial or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party, as the leader during the period of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) shameful findings. Given the serious detriment that this conduct has caused, we are seeking Mr Corbyn’s immediate resuspension and, if the complaint is upheld, we will be requesting his expulsion. On the day of the publication of the EHRC’s report, we also submitted a major complaint against Mr Corbyn and other sitting MPs. These complaints are yet to be acknowledged by the Party, and they must be investigated by an independent disciplinary process that the EHRC has demanded.
The Labour Party was found by the EHRC to have engaged in unlawful discrimination and harassment of Jews. The report followed the EHRC’s investigation of the Labour Party in which Campaign Against Antisemitism was the complainant, submitting hundreds of pages of evidence and legal argument. Sir Keir Starmer called the publication of the report a “day of shame” for the Labour Party.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right.
Campaign Against Antisemitism advocates for zero tolerance of antisemitism in public life. To that end we monitor all political parties and strive to ensure that any cases of concern are properly addressed.