Labour Friends of Israel: Corbyn's toughest crowd yet

Labour Friends of Israel: Corbyn's toughest crowd yet
Blog: UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed the pro-Israel party grouping on Tuesday night - and was heckled for not mentioning the word 'Israel'.
3 min read
30 Sep, 2015
Jeremy Corbyn has campaigned for better treatment of refugees [Anadolu]

He might not have mentioned "Palestine" in his first Labour Party conference speech as leader, but Jeremy Corbyn also drew ire for failing to use the word "Israel" during a Labour Friends of Israel event.

Corbyn followed Labour party convention by giving a speech at the Israeli lobby meeting shortly after his maiden conference address.

However, his appearance was criticised by Israel supporters on social media, for being big on peace, dialogue and helping refugees - but failing to mention Israel or the two-state solution.

At the end of his speech, Corbyn was heckled.

"Say the word 'Israel',"  shouted a member of the largely nonplussed crowd.

Altogether, his speech didn't generate any boos, but there was little excitement either.

"I want Labour to be the party for peace and progress in the Middle East - in the best way we can - by linking up with all of those groups in the Middle East that want peace and progress," he told the crowd.

Corbyn emphasised dialogue, and spoke of protecting the rights of all people in the region. He also managed to speak about the peace process without directly mentioning Israel.

He also set out that he was opposed to the siege of Gaza and had voted in favour of the UK parliament recognising the state of Palestine.

"I tried to set out in my speech today my passion and commitment for human rights around the world, and sometimes you have to be very critical of people for their abuse of human rights," he said.

"That is why I think we have to stand by international conventions, and we have to stand by the universal declaration for human rights… and the human rights act."

His platform of opposing racism of any kind - be that Islamophobia or anti-Semitism - might form the basis for better understanding and cooperation between Muslims and Jews in Britain, his supporters hope.

By mentioning the massive humanitarian crises engulfing the region - from wars in Syria and Iraq - he also reminded the crowd of the flights made by Jews to escape European racism and persecution.

This might win over some moderates in the Israeli lobby, but few will forget his obvious pro-Palestine leanings and clear sympathies for besieged Gaza.