In an interview on BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, Jeremy Corbyn declined the opportunity to apologise for antisemitism in the Labour Party, falling back instead on his oft-repeated claim that he is an anti-racist.
The Labour leader’s appearance on the show, which made for uncomfortable viewing, saw him confronted on several issues that have arisen as part of the antisemitism crisis that has engulfed the party under his leadership: his support for an antisemitic mural in 2012; his comments on Zionists in 2013; his attendance in 2014 at a wreath laying at a site honouring terrorists linked to the Munich Olympics massacre; complaints made by Labour MPs about antisemitism and bullying within the party, particularly over the course of this summer, and the contested adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism by the Labour Party.
Rather than apologise to the Jewish community, Mr Corbyn tried to explain away his involvement in the various incidents, claiming, for example, that the mural also contained allusions to the freemasons and that he was unaware of the connection of terrorists to the wreath laying site.
When he was shown a video of the former Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, expressing his fears about Mr Corbyn’s role in the antisemitism crisis, Mr Corbyn would only repeat that he had felt “hurt” by allegations that he was an antisemite.
The interview took place in the context of Labour’s annual party conference, where Luciana Berger, a Jewish backbench Labour MP, has been given police protection, an unusual step that was taken in response to the antisemitic threats she has received. At a fringe event at the conference, several Labour MPs reacted to the interview — and particularly Mr Corbyn’s refusal to apologise. Among them was Ian Austin, an honorary patron of Campaign Against Antisemitism, who disclosed that “the truth about Jeremy [Corbyn] is that he is much angrier with the people complaining about antisemitism than he is with the people responsible for it.”