DATE IMPORTED:September 28, 2016Britain's Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gestures after delivering his keynote speech at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, Britain, September 28, 2016. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn must visit Israel following multiple incidents of antisemitism in his party, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said on Wednesday, amid a visit by members of Parliament from the party to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The group, led by Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, was set to return to the UK on Thursday, at the end of a four-day visit which included a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, an encounter with the coexistence project MEET in east Jerusalem and a meeting with Herzog, the chairman of Labour’s Israeli sister party.
“I enjoyed meeting with the UK Labour delegation headed by Tom Watson, and representatives of Labour Friends of Israel,” Herzog said. “I believe it’s very important that Labour parliamentarians will visit Israel and learn about the challenges we face and Israel’s perspective in the region. I expressed hope during this meeting that Jeremy Corbyn will respond to my invitation to visit Israel, and most especially Yad Vashem, so that he will be in a position to better understand the danger of antisemitism, and indeed the entire story of the Jewish people, and the State of Israel.”
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The visit was organized by the Labour Friends of Israel group, which seeks to strengthen relations between Britain and Israel. The delegation included MPs Michael Dugher, Dame Rosie Winterton, Ruth Smeeth and Gloria De Piero.
“I wanted to come back to Israel and the Palestinian territories and to pay respects on behalf of the UK Labour Party at Yad Vashem,” said Watson. "We remembered those who died in the Holocaust and renewed our determination to fight racism and antisemitism – whatever form it takes and wherever it exists.”
Herzog had originally invited Corbyn to visit the museum in April and to “better understand the scourge of antisemitism.”
The invitation was issued after incidents within Corbyn’s party that Herzog said “sicken all those of moral conscience to the core” and “must act as a red alert and prompt immediate action.”
Corbyn, however, turned down the invitation citing prior commitments and instead asked his deputy, Watson, to go in his place.
“We traveled to east Jerusalem to meet inspiring young entrepreneurs from both the Israeli and Palestinian communities studying together,” Watson said in a statement issued from Israel.
He referred to the meeting with Herzog and other Israeli Labor Party members as an opportunity “to build on our friendships and our determination to work for peace in the Middle East.”
Labour Friends of Israel Director Jennifer Gerber said, “LFI is delighted to take Tom [Watson] to Israel along with the other MPs. It’s vital that at a time of growing antisemitism, Tom has joined us to visit Yad Vashem as well as meeting a coexistence project that brings Israelis and Palestinians together.”
The group described the meeting with the Israeli Labor Party as a “brilliant evening of discussion and solidarity.”
Gerber said the delegation was “honored to meet Isaac Herzog to discuss how we can strengthen the bonds of friendship between our parties.”