UK Labour delegation in Israel after tensions over antisemitism

Delegation of British opposition party members visits Yad Vashem.

November 16, 2016 13:53
1 minute read.
Tom Watson

Tom Watson, Britain's opposition Labour Party's deputy leader, speaks during the third day of the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, September 27, 2016. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A delegation of representatives from the British Labour party arrived in Israel this week for a visit amid tensions over accusations of antisemitism within the party.

The UK party's deputy leader, Tom Watson, led the group of senior MPs who were invited by a group affiliated with both the British and Israeli branches of Labour, according to the Jewish Chronicle.

The visiting delegation, also consisting of MPs Dame Rosie Winterton, Michael Dugher, Ruth Smeeth and Gloria De Piero, toured the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum on Tuesday.

As part of the initiative, the high-ranking members of the British opposition party met Tuesday night with its Israeli sister party's leader, Isaac Herzog.

The delegation also met Wednesday with young Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs who study together in east Jerusalem.

“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," the Jewish Chronicle quoted Watson as saying.

"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," he added.

It is understood that British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had asked his number two, Watson, to lead the delegation to Israel.

This week's visit came after Corbyn in June declined an invitation on behalf of his Israeli counterpart, Herzog, to come to Israel.

On April 30, Herzog wrote Corbyn a letter inviting him to Jerusalem, to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and “better understand the scourge of anti-Semitism.”

The invitation, Herzog said, was issued after incidents within Corbyn’s party that “sicken all those of moral conscience to the core” and “must act as a red alert and prompt immediate action.”

Corbyn thanked Herzog for his letter and the invitation but said “my existing commitments make it impossible for me to take up your offer in the immediate future.”

At the time, he said that he had asked Watson and general secretary Iain McNicol to go instead.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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