BRITAIN’S Labour Party downgraded its representation at an event celebrating a milestone of Zionism, which Prime Minister Theresa May said she would attend “with pride”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause and a vociferous critic of Israel, declined an invitation to next week’s dinner commemorating 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attend in London as May’s guest, The Times of London reported Sunday.
In the 1917 declaration, named after then-foreign secretary Arthur Balfour and obtained on November 2 that year after long talks with Zionist leaders, the British government vowed to help establish a national home for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel without jeopardising the rights of other inhabitants of the area.
“We are proud of the role that we played in the creation of the State of Israel and we will certainly mark the centenary with pride,” May said in the British Parliament last week.
“I am also pleased that good trade relations and other relations that we have with Israel we are building on and enhancing.”
Corbyn has previously referred to Hezbollah and Hamas as his “friends” and has repeatedly come under fire for failing to crack down on anti-Semitism within his party.
Representing Labour at the event instead of Corbyn, who did not specify his reason for not attending, will be the party’s shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry.
Last month she represented Labour at a Friends of Israel function also in Corbyn’s stead.
The British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) and The Jewish News of London are organising a conference on the Balfour Declaration slated to take place at Westminster next week with senior British and Israeli politicians, including the head of Israel’s Labor party, Isaac Herzog.
Corbyn will not be attending the conference either, organisers told JTA.
Among those attending the conference will be Thornberry, International Development Secretary Priti Patel, former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, and former MK Einat Wilf.
Since his election to lead Labour in 2015, Corbyn has been fighting allegations that his hostility toward Israel and purported tolerance to vitriol against it was encouraging expressions of anti-Semitism in his party’s ranks and among his far-left supporters.
The main organisation of British Jewry, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, accused Corbyn of whitewashing what it called Labour’s anti-Semitism problem under Corbyn.
Corbyn has vowed to expel any Labour member caught making racist comments, including about Jews.
Dozens of Labour members were ejected from the party for this reason, but others have been readmitted, left in place or merely temporarily suspended.
Meanwhile, in a column in the daily British newspaper The Telegraph on Sunday, titled “My vision for Middle East peace between Israel and a new Palestinian state,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson praised the Balfour Declaration for its “incontestable moral goal: to provide a persecuted people with a safe and secure homeland”.
He also wrote, “I am proud of Britain’s part in creating Israel.” He added that the call for the rights of existing non-Jewish communities living on the land to be protected “has not been fully realised”.