Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was questioned on Monday by the Home Affairs select committee about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
Here are 7 things we learned:
1. His pride in the inquiry was misplaced
Throughout the questioning, Mr Corbyn repeatedly told of his pride in his Party. “We’re the only party in Britain that has done this,” he said. “Labour deserves credit for it… I think we should be commended as a party… I think we’ve taken a great deal of responsibility.”
His party is the only one conducting an inquiry into anti-Semitism because Labour is the only party to be accused of being “rife with anti-Semitism”. Having to conduct an inquiry into anti-Semitism because of a genuine concern is not exactly a badge of honour.
2. His attempt at defending his Israel, ISIS slur does not hold up
In a speech where he said Jewish people were “no more responsible” for the Israeli government than Muslims are for “various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.”
At the hearing on Monday, Mr Corbyn was given an opportunity to clear up a comment where he said Jewish people were “no more responsible” for the Israeli government than Muslims are for “various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.”
As a result of these comments he was accused of comparing Israel to ISIS. He defended his comments by saying the following, “At no stage did I make that comparison,” he said. “I’m disappointed that reference was made by the Chief Rabbi or anybody else.”
“What Shami Chakrabarti says in her report and I endorse is that because somebody is Jewish, they shouldn’t be expected to have special knowledge or support or opposition to the state of Israel and its activities – any more than somebody who is a Muslim should be expected to have special knowledge, support or condemnation of the government of say Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan.
“I said Islamic states – lower case.”
That is all well and good, but he did not make reference to those countries in his speech. He clearly used the words, “self-style Islamic states”. To most people this would mean ISIS, but nevertheless, a ‘self-styled’ group is not a country.
Page 10 of the actual report written by Ms Chakrabarti, which Corbyn used and endorsed in his defence doesn’t say “Islamic states” or “Islamic countries” either, it clearly says “ISIS”.
3. He has “regrets” about his “friends”, but no apologies
Mr Corbyn said he regretted introducing Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” at a meeting he brokered to discuss peace.
“It was inclusive language I used which, with hindsight, I would rather not have used,” he said.
“I regret using those words. I have done so on many occasions.”
The problem here is that he may have said on many occasions that he regrets using those words, but he has never apologised… and no one knows why. He was given multiple opportunities at a debate in the commons (see the video below) and still failed to apologise.
Cameron and Corbyn clash at PMQs over anti-Semitism, Hamas and…Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn have clashed over anti-Semitism and Corbyn’s comments about Hamas and Hezbollah at today’s Prime Ministers Questions.
Posted by Christians United for Israel – UK on Wednesday, May 4, 2016
4. Shami Chakrabarti may not have been as “independent as we had hoped
During the hearing on Monday, Shami Chakrabarti was told off for passing notes and whispering to the Labour leader. Chairman Keith Vaz had to tell her to stop and said that Mr Corbyn could answer the questions himself without post-it notes being given to him, to which Ms Chakrabarti rolled her eyes.
It is rather strange that someone who described herself as being “independent” and “without fear or favour” when conducting the inquiry was working so hard to help Mr Corbyn defend himself. In fact, we think it calls into question the validity of the inquiry itself. See our opinion piece here.
5. The report into Anti-Semitism only scratched the surface
The report into anti-Semitism conducted by Shami Chakrabarti has been accused of lacking depth and simply scratched the surface of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. This is something we expected. Jeremy Corbyn himself appointed Ms Chakrabarti and he was unlikely to choose someone who would delve deep into this issue and cause more problems for the party.
The report’s conclusion was that the Labour Party did not have a problem with anti-Semitism. It also gave a directive on what words should not be used by Labour members anymore, such as “Zio” and “Paki” and also recommended that members should not receive life-time bans.
As Conservative MP Nus Ghani said, “It feels like a report that would have been written for some children to understand what is and isn’t anti-Semitic and racist”.
“Did you really need a report to tell you these words were offensive?” she said.
6. Mr Corbyn keeps being associated to people of ill-repute
The Labour leader has a recurring habit of associating with people who are accused of anti-Semitism. Now, we are not saying he is “guilty by association”, but he seems to stumble from one unfortunately anti-Semitic incident to another.
During the launch of the report Marc Wadsworth was filmed heckling Jewish Labour MP Rush Smeeth who eventually left walked out in tears.
Unfortunately for Mr Corbyn, he allegedly did not see this incident or know what had happened and was filmed shortly after chatting cheerfully to Ms Smeeth’s heckler. He was even recorded as saying he had texted him.
During the hearing the committee probed Mr Corbyn and he readily admitted he was in one-on-one contact with the Mr Wadsworth.
He said the conversation happened because Mr Wadsworth had tried to talk to him at a ‘Save Jeremy Corbyn ‘ rally last Monday but couldn’t get through a line of police.
“I felt quite bad about it,” Mr Corbyn said.
Asked why an activist had his personal mobile number he said: “Marc Wadsworth has been an anti-racism activist for 30 years in London.”
“I know him quite well. I’ve often disagreed with him. Sometimes I’ve agreed with him,” he said. “I didn’t think the remarks he made were right or appropriate or helpful.”
Marc Wadsworth has now been removed from the Labour Party following the incident.
7. He seems content with his Communications Director being a supporter of Hamas
In October 2015 Seumas Milne, a British journalist, was appointed the Labour Party’s Executive Director of Strategy and Communications.
Seumas Milne said at a rally, reportedly in 2009: “Hamas is not broken and will not be broken because of the spirit and resistance of the Palestinian people.”
Despite some high-profile media coverage of the speech after he became Labour’s communications director, Mr Corbyn claimed that he was “unaware of that incident” during the committee’s questioning. This led to committee chairman Keith Vaz offering to send Mr Corbyn the video to prove it.
Mr Corbyn responded by hitting out at the committee for asking about Mr Milne’s views.
“Mr Milne works extremely hard on behalf of the Labour party ,” he says. “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be quizzed on his individual views.” He added: “He’s a man of immense intellect and scholar – he’s written many books.”