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  /  Politics   /  Jeremy Corbyn: Zionists in Britain just don’t grasp irony
Jeremy Corbyn as a younger man

Jeremy Corbyn: Zionists in Britain just don’t grasp irony


Jeremy Corbyn claimed that Zionists in Britain “don’t understand English irony” in a speech that appeared to portray Jews as an alien culture.

A leading Jewish charity accused the Labour leader of “unambiguous antisemitic hate” after he was caught on camera making his remarks at a pro-Palestinian event. Luciana Berger, a Jewish Labour MP, said his comments were “inexcusable” and made her feel unwelcome in the party.

Mr Corbyn has been fighting claims of antisemitism in his party for most of the three years of his leadership. The latest disclosure is the most damaging blow yet to his claims that he opposes prejudice against Jews. Jamie Susskind, a former speechwriter for Ed Miliband, called on the Labour leader to resign.

In the 2013 speech Mr Corbyn referred to a speech by Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority representative in Britain. Mr Corbyn said that the envoy’s words had been “dutifully recorded by the thankfully silent Zionists who were in the audience on that occasion and then came up and berated him afterwards for what he’d said.

“So clearly two problems. One is that they don’t want to study history and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either. Manuel does understand English irony and uses it very, very effectively so I think they need two lessons which we can help them with.”

Although Mr Corbyn referred to Zionists, his description was of an immigrant community of long standing in Britain, which he declined to name.

Baroness Chakrabarti, the Labour peer, said in her report on antisemitism in the party commissioned by Mr Corbyn two years ago that “Zionist” was a term of abuse for Jews. She said that she had “heard testimony and heard for myself first hand the way in which the word ‘Zionist’ has been used personally, abusively or as a euphemism for ‘Jew’.

“My advice to critics of the Israeli state and/or government is to use the term ‘Zionist’ advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse.”