Corbyn is a Zionist, says Emily Thornberry

Shadow Foreign Secretary tells Balfour conference that Labour leader backed party’s position on finding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict


Jeremy Corbyn is, in effect, a Zionist, it has been revealed.

Emily Thornberry, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, said the party leader believed in a two-state solution, and as such, he could be termed a Zionist.

She was responding to a question about Mr Corbyn at the Balfour centenary conference in Parliament on Thursday afternoon.

Ms Thornberry said Mr Corbyn backed the party’s position on finding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and told the audience “read from that”.

If Zionism was the belief in a Jewish state of Israel, she said, then “of course, it’s self-evident” that Mr Corbyn is a Zionist.

She had earlier given a balanced address in which she explained her comments earlier this week in which she said it was better to “mark” the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration rather than “celebrate” it.

Ms Thornberry said that if Lord Balfour were alive today he would see rising global antisemitism and the plight of the Palestinians and would not celebrate the situation. The terms of the British Foreign Secretary’s declaration a century ago today – promising a Jewish homeland and pledging to protect the rights of Palestinians – had not been carried out in full, making it a “job half done”, she said.

Re-stating Labour’s policies on Israel and the Palestinians, she added that there was “no place in the Labour Party for anyone holding the view that Israel should not exist”.

Labour would not “indulge those who deny Israel’s right to exist”, she said.

She repeated her pledge that a Labour government would immediately recognise Palestinian statehood.

Ms Thornberry will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories next week, spending time touring the area with Labour Friends of Israel and the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East group.

The conference, organised by Bicom and the Jewish News, featured a number of high-profile speakers and panel discussions, including an address by Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary.

Earlier, Sir Simon McDonald, Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign Office, told the audience: “The second half of Balfour’s Declaration remains unfinished business. 

“While we are proud of our role in helping to make a Jewish homeland a reality and fully support the modern State of Israel as a Jewish homeland, the UK wants to see a lasting peace that fulfils the full aspiration of the Balfour Declaration: A just and lasting resolution that ends occupation of the Palestinian territories and delivers security and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

“We believe the best way to achieve this is through a two-state solution, based on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps.”

Other attendees included Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition in Israel, and Daniel Taub, former Israeli ambassador to Britain. 

Malcolm Rifkind, former Foreign Secretary, spoke about Britain's involvement in the Middle East over the past 100 years.

Meanwhile in Whitehall, dozens of anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews protested against the Balfour Declaration.

Carrying placards with terms including “Israel, Holocaust for religion” and “Benjamin Netanyahu and the State of Israel do not represent world Jewry”, they chanted tehillim and gave speeches in Yiddish.

One representative of the group told the JC that the Satmar men had travelled on buses from Stamford Hill, Manchester and other parts of the country to attend.

Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had met Theresa May for talks at Downing Street.

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