Video emerges of Labour's Corbyn questioning 'BBC bias on Israel's right to exist'

Video emerges of Labour's Corbyn questioning 'BBC bias on Israel's right to exist'
The clip resurfaced online on Friday after being originally filmed when Corbyn was a backbench member of parliament in 2011.
4 min read
29 November, 2019
Britain's main opposition Labour party has been dogged by repeated claims of anti-Semitism. [Screenshot/PressTV]
A video has emerged of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn criticising the BBC for pro-Israel "bias" in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"I think there is a bias [in the BBC] towards saying that Israel has a democracy in the Middle East, that Israel has a right to exist, Israel has its security concerns," Corbyn told Press TV.

The clip resurfaced online on Friday after being originally filmed when Corbyn was a backbench member of parliament in 2011, according to the Daily Mail.

"[There is] pressure on the BBC from probably Mark Thompson, who seems to me to have an agenda in this respect," added Corbyn.

"There seems to be a great deal of pressure on the BBC from the Israeli government and the Israeli embassy and they are very assertive towards all journalists, they challenge every single thing on reporting the whole time."

This was not the first time Corbyn appeared on the Iranian television channel, which lost its right to broadcast in the UK in 2012 after running an interview which was allegedly obtained through torture.

The clip has resurfaced during a heated election race between Corbyn and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with British elections taking place on 12 December.

The Labour leader is an anti-war campaigner and has been a vocal critic of Israeli policies towards Palestinians.

He has promised to immediately recognise the state of Palestine if elected, while calling to suspend arms sales to Israel "used in violation of the human rights of Palestinian civilians".

Labour, Britain's main opposition party, has been dogged by repeated claims of anti-Semitism since Corbyn won a surprise victory to become leader in 2015.

The issue has flared up again ahead of next month's general election after Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis alleged it had been "sanctioned from the very top".

The issue gathered attention within months of Corbyn replacing Ed Miliband, who is Jewish, following a surge in new grassroots members.

Read more: Labour's 'anti-Semitism crisis' is a manufactured scare campaign

Corbyn, a veteran socialist and long-standing supporter of the Palestinian cause, drew criticism in 2016 for comparing Israel to "self-styled Islamic states or organisations".

Since then, the party has received hundreds of complaints of alleged anti-Semitism by members, most often about the sharing of anti-Semitic tropes on social media. Corbyn once said he did so himself by mistake.

Last year, leaders of Britain's 260,000-strong Jewish community - the fifth largest in the world - took the rare step of writing a joint letter claiming "enough is enough".

The party carried out a review into the issue in 2016, which found anti-Semitism was not endemic within Labour but said there was an "occasionally toxic atmosphere".

Despite the suspension or expulsion of some members including former London mayor Ken Livingstone, senior leaders have been repeatedly accused of failing to tackle the problem.

Corbyn has admitted Labour has a "real problem" with anti-Semitism but insisted its investigation and disciplinary procedures were "rapid and effective".

He has apologised to the Jewish community on several occasions for any "pain" caused by the row, although he drew fresh criticism Tuesday for failing to repeat the apology on TV.

Read more: Labour promises to halt UK arms sales to Israel and Saudi Arabia in election manifesto

In July, Labour drew up a new code of conduct on anti-Semitism but initially stopped short of endorsing the definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

That stoked further controversy and the party eventually adopted it in full.

The row has exposed deep divisions between Labour members who denounce Corbyn's complacency, and his hard-left supporters who defend him to the hilt.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission watchdog has opened a formal probe into whether Labour "unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish".

Such prejudice appears to be on the rise across Britain.

Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that works to protect British Jews, said in its latest semi-annual report it had recorded its highest-ever number of anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2019.

Read more: Britain's Muslims angry about 'rampant Islamophobia' in the Tory party as Boris Johnson issues 'apology'

The Muslim Council of Britain also noted this week that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's governing Conservatives had failed to deal with allegations of Islamophobia in their ranks.

"This is an issue that is particularly acute in the Conservative Party who have approached Islamophobia with denial, dismissal and deceit," it said.

The New Arab has contacted the Labour Party for a comment.

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