Jeremy Corbyn’s remarks on British Zionists ‘belong in 1930s Germany’, the CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council has said.
Speaking to James Max on the talkRADIO breakfast show, Simon Johnson said the Labour leader “cannot say that he wants to eliminate anti-semitism when he so lazily throws around the word Zionist when he means Jews”.
Footage of Corbyn giving a speech in 2013 has emerged, where he says British Zionists “don’t understand English irony”.
He was referring to a speech given by Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, which he says was recorded by “Zionists” who then “berated” Hassassian for what he said.
“They clearly have 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, don’t understand English irony,” he said.
Watch the clip below.
'He can't say he wants to eliminate anti-Semitism'
Max asked Johnson: “If Jeremy Corbyn was having a go at the policies of Israel, that is fine?”
Johnson signalled his agreement that criticising the policies of Israel would not present a problem.
“That type of language belongs in the 1930s in Germany, the fact that we are a separate group, we’re not British and we need teaching lessons,” he said.
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“I’m 51 years old, I’ve been British all my life, I’m very proud of my British heritage and my Jewish faith.
“What you’ve got here is a leader of a party who simply cannot say that he wants to eliminate anti-Semitism when he so lazily throws around the word Zionist when he means Jews.
“When he continues to accuse Jewish people of not being sufficiently loyal to the country, here he is saying they’re not sufficiently British.”
He added that Corbyn should have addressed the anti-Semitism scandal head-on.
“If he was a competent leader he would have dealt with this months and months ago, but he hasn’t, and that’s why throughout the summer we’ve had this drip drip of stories,” he said. “This incident happened less than five years ago when he was a member of parliament, not some wet-behind-the-ears novice MP. Two years after this, he was elected leader of the Labour party.
“When he says Zionist, he means Jews. When he says they need to be taught a lesson, that’s exactly what he means.”
Corbyn comments 'taken out of context'
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Shadow chancellor John McDonnell defended Corbyn, saying his comments had been “taken out of context”.
"I think this has all been taken out of context,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.
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“Whatever Jeremy has said throughout the years has always been about how to secure peace, particularly within the Middle East and also peace with justice for all concerned - both members of the Jewish community and also members of the Palestinian community.
"In that context Jeremy has devoted his life, so I think this would take expressions out of context in that way are not helping."
Corbyn has always maintained he opposes racism in all its forms, including anti-Semitism.