Labor MK Michal Biran at UK Labour Conferenc.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Labor MKs spoke out against UK Labor’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his professed friendship with Hamas and Hezbollah at the UK Labor conference in Brighton on Tuesday and at an adjacent Labor Friends of Israel event.
Speaking on a panel, MK Michal Biran (Zionist Union), who attends numerous international Labor events, spoke of the awkwardness of a sister party being led by someone who is “friends” with Hamas and Hezbollah, calling it a “weird situation.”
Biran said she thinks Corbyn does not realize “that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where you can see a gay parade. It is the only place in the Middle East where you have freedom of speech, equality for women.”
Corbyn has said that he considers Hamas and Hezbollah to be friends. Earlier this year, he accused a UK Channel 4 News reporter of “tabloid journalism” for asking about the statement, before clarifying that he meant it in a “collective way” and that making peace requires talking to “people with whom you profoundly disagree.” He has also accepted funds from organizations that contribute to Hamas, including to pay for a trip to Gaza in 2013, according to The Telegraph.
The Labor leader has met with Hamas leaders such as Ismail Haniyeh, among other Palestinian terrorists. He also co-sponsored a visit to Britain by Islamic Movement Northern Branch leader Sheikh Raed Salah, who has been convicted of funding Hamas and having contact with an Iranian agent, and was found by a British court to have spread blood libels against Jews.
Corbyn also came under fire for having donating to Deir Yassin Remembered, an organization run by Paul Eisen, a Holocaust denier.
The Zionist Union MKs encouraged Labor MPs to speak out against Corbyn’s positions, saying that if the new party leader thinks that his lawmakers are fine with what he says and with whom he associates, then he will continue.
The result of such apathy will be “a disaster for Israel and I think – though it may not be my place to say so – also a disaster for the UK Labor Party,” she said. “I ask you for your help – not to be quiet, but to stand up and say what you think.
We need your backing in this fight.”
At the Labor Friends of Israel Conference, at which Corbyn spoke, MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) called on the Labor leader “to be loud and clear in condemning Hamas, condemning Hezbollah and condemning the extreme forces in the Middle East – and support Israel and the moderate forces who are willing to fight the extremists together.”
“Jordan is an ally in fighting the extremists, but ISIS is an enemy. Egypt is an ally, but al-Qaida is an enemy. The Palestinian Authority is an ally, as they are struggling with the extreme militants of Hamas that are undermining the very chance of a peace settlement.
And so, Mr. Corbyn, Hamas is not a friend, but a bitter enemy of Israel and a bitter enemy of the peace process,” Margalit stated.
In a speech obtained in advance, which Margalit gave after press time, he said that proactive support by UK Labor for Israel and for bilateral action with the Palestinians will contribute to stability and peace.
On Sunday, Biran published an op-ed in The Guardian, in which she said “a man is judged by the company he keeps,” referring to Corbyn’s “friends” in terrorist organizations.
“It seemed that the UK Labor Party, our ideological counterpart, has now turned its back on us,” she wrote. “Calling Corbyn a ‘harsh critic [of Israel]’ is an understatement in light of some of his statements. The Israeli Labor Party is itself a harsh critic of the Israeli government’s policy. We fiercely object to the current government’s settlement policy; we oppose its social and economic policy; we speak loudly and clearly as to its short-sightedness when it comes to re-initiating talks with the Palestinian Authority. However, there is a clear line that one must draw.”
Biran said Corbyn’s words delegitimize Israel and Israeli Labor members who fight for social democratic values and the welfare state.
“Our common social-democratic values stand in complete contrast to those of Hamas and Hezbollah. They choose violence over peace and oppression over freedom… These are terrorist organizations that have vowed to destroy the State of Israel. It is one thing to criticize the Israeli government; it is something else to befriend terrorist organizations as a means of opposition,” she added.
Still, Biran wrote, she is certain that Corbyn wasn’t elected because of his views on the Middle East, and as such, she is confident that “the values we share are greater than the ones that set us apart… and while leaders are re-elected periodically, the members and the broad foundation of the parties remain.”
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