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Israeli politicians berate Palestinian-Israeli legislators for supporting Corbyn

Israeli legislator submits official complaint against Palestinian parliament members to Knesset ethics committee
The legislators thanked Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for his 'unflinching support' for Palestinians (AFP/File photo)

Israeli government ministers and legislators have slammed Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament for expressing support for UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and for condemning efforts to conflate anti-Jewish hatred with criticism of the State of Israel.

"They have shown their true colours by going out of their way to voice unanimous support for a man who has been labelled an existential threat to the British Jewish community," far-right Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.

"Today the Joint List members of Knesset have made clear they are supporters of anti-Semitism and terrorism," Bennett added, calling for the legislators to be censured by the speaker of the parliament.

In a letter published by the Guardian on Sunday, Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament – Masud Ganaim, Yousef Jabareen, Jamal Zahalka and deputy speaker of the parliament Ahmad Tibi – thanked Corbyn for "his unflinching support for the Palestinian people," lauding him "as a principled leftist leader who aspires for peace and justice and is opposed to all forms of racism, whether directed at Jews, Palestinians, or any other group".

"As long as efforts to curb anti-Jewish sentiment in the UK are focused on combating the disparagement of Jews merely for their membership in a minority group, they have our full support," the MPs wrote.

"But when some try to force the Labour party into using as its litmus test a definition of anti-Semitism that goes far beyond anti-Jewish animus to include anti-Zionism, we must raise our voices and decry these efforts."

The Joint List legislators are currently in Brussels for meetings with European Union officials, including EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, hoping to receive promises of support for their political struggle.

Bennett’s colleague in the Jewish Home Party, Moti Yogev, joined him in blasting the Joint List legislators, accusing them of putting the lives of British Jews in jeopardy, and submitting an official complaint against them to the Knesset Ethics Committee, demanding that they be disciplined.

"The Arab Members of Knesset have allowed the British Jewish community’s blood to be spilled," Yogev said in a statement, according to Israeli newspaper Maariv. "As a Jewish state, we cannot ignore the possibility of an attack on our brothers in the Diaspora," he wrote.

Yogev added that "support for Jeremy Corbyn undermines the fundamental values of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state". He accused his Palestinian colleagues of "working outside the country against the democratic decision of the Knesset," saying that they are "whitewashing Corbyn’s support for anti-Semitism".

Critics of Corbyn have accused him of downplaying incidents of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, while his supporters say that he is being targeted for his long-standing support for Palestinian rights.

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Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren from the Kulanu party also heaped scorn upon the Palestinian parliamentarians, calling for all Joint List MPs to be expelled from the Knesset.

In a tweet posted on Sunday, Oren called Corbyn an anti-Semite and described the Joint List MPs as a "pack of racists".

He also accused the Palestinian legislators of being "Kahanists" – a reference to the far-right Israeli legislator barred in 1988 from returning to parliament due to his anti-Arab racism.

The Labour party’s National Executive Committee adopted on Tuesday a controversial definition of anti-Semitism that critics say suppresses legitimate criticism of Israel.

The "working definition" of anti-Semitism adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) considers calling Israel a "racist endeavour" anti-Semitic.

Palestinian advocacy groups, UK ethnic and minority organisations and Jewish groups from around the world had rejected IHRA's definition, arguing that it aims to silence the discourse around Palestine and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

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Palestinian appeals to the international community have increased since the Israeli parliament passed a constitutional law in July enshrining a superior set of rights for Jewish citizens of the state.

The so-called nation-state law was passed without any complementary provision ensuring equal rights for all citizens, regardless of race or religion.

Arriving at Ben Gurion Airport on Monday to board flights to Brussels, the Joint List legislators were confronted by Yogev, who told them that Israel "is not your country".

"This land will always be the Land of Israel and all the traitors should leave," Yogev said.