On an unknown date in 2013, Mr Corbyn addressed a meeting convened by the Palestinian Return Centre. Referring to a previous speech given by Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority’s representative in Britain, Mr Corbyn suggested that “the progressive Jewish element” in Britain at the time of the Balfour Declaration had been against it, and that these same Jewish progressives had been the leaders of the London trade unions and the Labour Party at the time. He continued: “It was Zionism that rose up and Zionism that drove them [Jewish progressive Trades Union and Labour Party leaders] into this sort of ludicrous position they have at the present time.”
He gave as an example of this supposedly “ludicrous position” the meeting in Parliament, at which, he said, the Palestinian envoy’s words had been “dutifully recorded by the thankfully silent Zionists who were in the audience on that occasion and then came up and berated him afterwards for what he’d said. So clearly two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either. Manuel does understand English irony and uses it very, very effectively so I think they need two lessons which we can help them with.”
A video of Mr Corbyn’s comments was shown on The Andrew Marr Show, and on 13th June 2019 it was reported that one of the activists who had been identified as being the subject of his comments to Andrew Marr, Mr Richard Millett, was seeking libel damages from Mr Corbyn on the basis of his accusation that “Zionists” had “berated” Manuel Hassassian.
Mr Corbyn’s lawyers were said to have argued on the basis that the statement was a ‘statement of opinion’. However, in the ruling, the Judge declared: “In my judgment, it is clear that Mr Corbyn was making factual allegations in the statement as to Mr Millett’s behaviour on more than one occasion.”
Mr Millet is being represented by Mark Lewis, who is also an honorary patron of Campaign Against Antisemitism.
Three judges were reportedly present to review the appeal case, all of whom concurred in its dismissal. This is only the first stage of the defamation case, which continues.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right.