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Israeli Labor Party breaks off relations with Jeremy Corbyn

The move by the Israeli party comes after the British Labour leader has been accused of not doing enough to tackle anti-Semitism
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Reuters)

Israel's Labor Party said on Tuesday it had suspended relations with British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of sanctioning anti-Semitism and showing hatred towards Israeli policies.

"It is my responsibility to acknowledge the hostility you have shown to the Jewish community and the anti-Semitic statements and actions you have allowed as leader of the Labour Party UK," Israeli Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay wrote in a letter to Corbyn, which was released on social media.

It is my responsibility to acknowledge the hostility you have shown to the Jewish community and the anti-Semitic statements and actions you have allowed as leader of the Labour Party UK

- Avi Gabbay, Israeli Labor Party leader 

Corbyn, the British opposition leader who unexpectedly became party head in 2015, is a supporter of Palestinian rights and a critic of Israeli policy, and has repeatedly faced accusations of turning a blind eye to anti-Semitic comments in the party and among groups he supports.

Last month, British Jewish groups held a street protest outside Parliament against Corbyn, accusing him of failing to tackle anti-Semitism in party ranks because of a far-left world view hostile to Jews.

"As Israel approaches Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day this week, we are reminded of the horrors of anti-Semitism in Europe and our commitment to combating anti-Semitism of all forms and in all places," Gabbay's letter said.

"As such, I write to inform you of the temporary suspension of all formal relations between the Israel Labor Party and the leader of the Labour Party UK."

Gabbay said Corbyn had shown "very public hatred" towards Israeli government policies including those where the opposition and the ruling coalition are aligned.

During a visit in north London on Tuesday, Corbyn told journalists the Israeli party should read Baroness Chakrabarti's report into tackling racism and anti-Semitism.

He told reporters: "I wish they would read Shami Chakrabarti's report. I wish they would understand that we are utterly determined in every way to drive out anti-Semitism from our society. And, where it exists in any party, to drive it out, including my own.

"I would be very happy to have that discussion with them. I think they should have done me the courtesy of asking me first."

Corbyn has often cited the 2016 report by Shami Chakrabarti, who was made a Labour peer after its publication, as a sign that the Labour Party has taken anti-Jewish racism seriously.

But the report and its recommendations have been repeatedly dimissed as inadequate by his critics.

Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), a UK political grouping which has been critical of Corbyn, said: “We fully understand why the Israeli Labor Party has decided to suspend relations with Jeremy Corbyn.

"He has failed to respond to their repeated offers of dialogue, including invitations to host him at Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum. LFI’s relationship with the Israeli Labor Party remains unaffected and we will continue our close cooperation.”

James Sorene, CEO of Israel and Middle East think tank BICOM told The Huffington Post: “The Israeli Labour Party has been close to its UK sister party for decades. Today’s announcement is stark and unprecedented.

“A very powerful signal of the anger and deep unease felt by Israeli Labour politicians at increasing anti-Semitism in the UK Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn’s inability to understand his role allowing antisemitism to flourish and his unwillingness to properly tackle it.”

Corbyn has admitted there are "pockets of anti-Semitism" within the Labour Party, but critics say he has failed to reassure Jewish groups in the UK and he had yet to set a date for a meeting with the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which organised the protest last month.

Israeli Labor is part of the "Zionist Union" faction in Israel's Knesset that controls 24 of the legislature's 120 seats.

Corbyn faced criticism in September 2016 after it emerged he turned down an invitation from the sister party to visit Israel and visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.

He recieved a furious letter from the party's leader in April 2016, after Labour member and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone made contraversial remaks about Hitler and Zionism.

Middle East Eye has contacted Corbyn's office for comment. 

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