The accusation that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic based on some of the people who have spoken at the same rallies as him or run charities he has backed is a serious one, but unfounded.
Corbyn did call members of Hamas and Hezbollah who came to a conference in Britain “our friends”. It’s fair enough to discuss whether that was a good choice of words. Corbyn argues he was being diplomatic and says he does not agree with many of Hamas or Hezbollah’s views or actions (1).
But it is not evidence that he is anti-Semitic just because some of them are and he favours peace negotiations between them and Israel
Corbyn did speak at Stop the War rallies in which some other speakers have at other times and places expressed anti-Semitic views. Again, that does not make Corbyn an anti-Semite (2).
The same goes for Shlomo Gazit , the former head of Israel’s Shin Bet military intelligence agency, who told the Jewish magazine Forward in 2007 that the Israeli government’s demands for full recognition of Israel by Hamas before negotiations even began was “ridiculous, or an excuse not to negotiate” (5).
Israeli professor Yossi Alpher also pointed out in 2006 that “Israel never demanded recognition from Egypt or Jordan as a precondition for negotiating with them; recognition is a logical way to conclude successful peace talks, not to begin them.” (6)
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami has made the same point (7).
Israeli historian Avi Shlaim pointed out in an interview with BBC Newsnight recently that Corbyn had backed the Deir Yassin Remembered charity long before it was taken over by a Holocaust denier. And Shlaim said he himself supports Deir Yassin Remembered because that massacre (of Arab civilians by Zionist militias during the 1948 war) should be remembered (see from 23.30 on in this BBC iplayer recording) (8).
As for associating with people involved in terrorism, the Israeli government has repeatedly overseen operations in which the Israeli military deliberately target and kill civilians in war crimes – most recently in Netanyahu’s last Gaza war, in which a British reporter witnessed Israeli forces targeting and killing civilians with artillery , tanks and small arms during a ceasefire. Amnesty International’s investigation found war crimes in the first day’s Israeli strikes alone which killed hundreds 135 civilians including 75 children (9) – (11).
Netanyahu and many of his government ministers have also made it clear that they will never allow a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza – and in some cases said that they will not allow any kind of a state at all.
How is this better than those Palestinian extremists who refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist on any borders – who incidentally, do not include all of the Hamas leadership, many of who have said they would consider a two state solution on roughly the pre-1967 war borders.
Yet current and former members of the British government – New Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative - are not condemned as anti-Semitic against Arabs (Arabs, like Jews, also being a Semitic people) for their associations with the Israeli government – which are far closer, involving providing arms to them. The current government has scrapped the last restrictions on arms sales to Israel despite its recent war crimes (12).
Gordon Brown, who criticises Corbyn for the people he talks to, oversaw a government which continued arms sales to Israel even after the war crimes committed by Israeli forces in the 2008/9 Gaza war – and to Sri Lanka while the Sri Lankan military were firing on field hospitals with heavy artillery and rounding up and massacring Tamils on suspicion or being Tamil Tiger fighters, before dumping their bodies in mass graves. (13) – (14).
Jeremy Corbyn has never armed Hamas or Hezbollah. Nor would he. He has done far more to promote peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians than most of his critics, many of who have actively facilitated war.
(1) = Channel 4 news 13 July 2015 ‘Jeremy Corbyn: 'I wanted Hamas to be part of the debate'’, http://www.channel4.com/news/jeremy-corbyn-i-wanted-hamas-to-be-part-of-the-debate
(2) = BBC News 19 Aug 2015 ‘Corbyn 'forgot' meeting banned pro-Palestinian activist’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33991920
(3) = Interview with Efraim Halevy in Mother Jones Magazine 10 Feb 2008 ‘Israel's Mossad, Out of the Shadows’, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2008/02/israels-mossad-out-shadows
(4) Independent 10 Jun 2015 ‘It's time for Israel to talk to Hamas, says former Mossad head’,
(5) = Forward 09 Feb 2007 ‘Experts Question Wisdom of Boycotting Hamas’, http://www.forward.com/articles/10055/
(6) = Forward 20 Oct 2006 ‘Preconditions for a Problematic Partner’,
(7) = Times 26 Feb 2009 ‘Peace will be achieved only by talking to Hamas’, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/letters/article5804266.ece
(8) = BBC Newsnight 18 Aug 2015 – watch on BBC Iplayer here from 23.30 on,
(9) = See the post on this link and sources in it
(10) = Channel 4 News Blogs – Paul Mason 01 Aug 2014 ‘In the midst of Gaza’s bloody ‘truce’’, http://blogs.channel4.com/paul-mason-blog/deadly-shelling-threatens-gaza-truce/1892
(11) = Amnesty International 29 Jul 2015 ‘Gaza 'Black Friday': Cutting edge investigation points to Israeli war crimes in Rafah’, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/07/gaza-cutting-edge-investigation-rafah/
(12) = Independent 16 Jul 2015 ‘Government lifts remaining restrictions on arms sales to Israel after year-long review’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/government-lifts-remaining-restrictions-on-arms-sales-to-israel-after-yearlong-review-10394143.html
(13) = theguardian.com 30 Mar 2010 ‘MPs call for review of arms exports after Israeli assault on Gaza’, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/mar/30/arms-british-gaza-assault
(14) = Times 02 Jun 2009 ‘Britain sold weapons to help Sri Lankan army defeat Tamil Tigers’, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/asia/article2610539.ece