Britain's leader of the opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn faced criticism on Thursday after comments he made were construed as having compared support of Israel to those who support the Islamic State terrorist organization.
In a recent poll, 93 percent of British Jews said Israel forms a "central," or "important" part of their identity.
Speaking at an event presenting Labour's inquiry into anti-Semitism within its ranks, Corbyn said, "Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel than our Muslim friends are for the self-styled Islamic State."
Also at the event, pro-Corbyn activists from the Momentum organization hurled abuse at Jewish Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent North Ruth Smeeth, causing her to leave the event in tears. Corbyn failed to intervene, to the outrage of many of his fellow MPs.
After the incident, Smeeth released a statement calling for Corbyn to resign. Describing the abuse she faced as “traditional antisemitic slurs," she said the pro-Corbyn heckler accused her of being part of a ‘"media conspiracy."
"It is beyond belief that someone could come to the launch of a report on antisemitism in the Labour Party and espouse such vile conspiracy theories about Jewish people," she said, before calling for Corbyn to make way for someone with the "backbone" to confront anti-Semitism in the party.
Former UK and Commonwealth Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said the comparison was "demonization of the highest order, an outrage and unacceptable."
Corbyn's reign atop the Labour Party has been tumultuous, with multiple party officials being suspended for allegedly anti-Semitic comments and social media posts.
The hard left politician is under immense pressure to resign. Over 170 fellow Labour MPs, who passed a non-binding no-confidence motion against their leader just this week, were joined by Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday, when the Conservative leader urged Corbyn to step down "for the good of the nation."
The rash of anti-Semitic incidents which sparked the inquiry, chaired by Shami Chakrabarti, included the suspension of MP Naz Shah, who posted on Facebook that Israel should be relocated to America
, and former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who suggested multiple times that Adolf Hitler was a Zionist
Chakrabarti's survey noted an "occasionally toxic atmosphere" in the party, but found that it was not fundamentally anti-Semitic. One of the recommendations of the inquiry was to not serve any guilty individual with a lifetime ban from the party.
Referring to the leader's controversial remarks, Labour councillor Sam Stropp, from Wembley, said on Twitter that Corbyn had compared Israel to ISIS and called on him to resign.
Corbyn denied having meant to compare Israel to ISIS. A Corbyn spokesman told the Independent
, "He is explicitly stating that people should not be held responsible for the actions of states or organizations around the world on the basis of religion or ethnicity."
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