The new chairman of Labour Friends of Israel has acknowledged the “deep concerns” around Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign and urged supporters to instead back a figure who could play a key role in the Middle East peace process.
Joan Ryan was appointed to lead LFI in Parliament on Monday, replacing Anne McGuire who stood down at the general election.
Ms Ryan, a former Home Office minister and party whip, was re-elected as an MP in May in the Enfield North constituency.
She pledged to tackle pro-boycott voices within Labour and said she would oppose delegitimisation of Israel. She travelled to the country with LFI last December.
Ms Ryan, who nominated Liz Kendall in the party’s leadership contest, said last month’s Jewish community hustings for the contenders had been a key step in the party’s efforts to “win back the trust and confidence of the Jewish community”.
She added: “We hope that Labour party members and supporters will consider when they vote which candidate is best placed to ensure that the next Labour government can play a constructive and engaged role in the crucial search for a two-state solution.
“We recognise the deep concerns which exist about positions taken, and statements made, by Jeremy Corbyn in the past and recognise the serious questions which arise from these.”
The new chair said Labour must be “steadfast” in its support for Israel.
LFI would “continue to work with progressives in both Israel and Palestine who share our commitment to peace and co-existence.
“At the same time, we remain adamantly opposed to boycotts and sanctions, which delegitimise Israel, do nothing to further these goals and have no place in the Labour party.”
Ms Ryan was ousted from Parliament in 2010 following the expenses scandal but returned with a majority of more than 1,000 in May.
● A self-confessed Holocaust denier has claimed that Mr Corbyn has funded an anti-Israel group he set up and attended its meetings.
According to the Daily Mail, Paul Eisen blogged that the Labour leadership frontrunner was a regular at Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) gatherings and “opened his chequebook” for the group.
DYR holds an annual event commemorating the killing by Jewish soldiers of 100 Arabs before the 1948 War of Independence.
In a blog written in 2012 and titled “Why I call myself a Holocaust denier”, Mr Eisen questioned the existence of the Nazi gas chambers, and whether Hitler planned to exterminate Europe’s Jews.
A spokesperson for Mr Corbyn’s office is quoted by the Mail as saying that it had had no dealings with Mr Eisen.
The spokesperson added that Mr Corbyn “totally opposes and disassociates himself” from extreme views held by Mr Eisen.
But the spokesperson declined to comment when asked if Mr Corbyn had “opened his chequebook” for DYR and attended commemoration events.
Mr Corbyn was also caught up in a controversy over Stephen Sizer, the vicar disciplined by the Church of England in February over using his website to link to conspiracy theories that Israel was responsible for 9/11.
Media reports focused on a letter he had written in 2012 defending Rev Sizer.
As the JC reported at the time, Mr Corbyn claimed the use of the link had been "a technical oversight".
He added: "The internet is a complicated piece of technology and with the best will in the world, imperfect links are made."
Mr Corbyn wrote that Rev Sizer "seems to have come under attack by certain individuals intent on discrediting the excellent work that Stephen does in highlighting the injustices of the Palestinian Israeli situation".
He claimed the criticism was "part of a wider pattern of demonising those who dare to stand up and speak out against Zionism".
NB: The word 'alleged' appeared in an earlier version of this piece in relation to Deir Yassin.