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Jeremy Corbyn's friends re-examined

He’s been under the microscope all week – but the issues are no clearer

    A week after the JC posed a series of questions to Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn about his association with Holocaust deniers and antisemites, the issue is now at the forefront of the campaign.

    Last week, this newspaper questioned Mr Corbyn's alleged ties to Shoah denier Paul Eisen, his defence of controversial Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer, and his support for blood libel cleric Raed Salah.

    The questions - and a further request to interview Mr Corbyn this week - initially received no direct response, but prompted other media outlets to push him on the issues raised. Then on Wednesday, eight days after the original request, Mr Corbyn's office supplied their answers .

    Leader: An evasive response

    Last Thursday, after one of the JC's questions highlighted Mr Corbyn's imminent appearance at a conference alongside Carlos Latuff, an antisemitic cartoonist, the Islington North MP pulled out of the event .

    The Community Security Trust welcomed Mr Corbyn's decision, but communications director Mark Gardner said the withdrawal had come over a month after CST first made the politician aware of the "highly objectionable speakers" he was due to appear alongside.

    By last Friday, Mr Corbyn's fellow MPs had started to speak out. Jewish ex-minister and current Shadow Cabinet member Ivan Lewis said his colleague's views were "a cause for serious concern".

    Dyab Abou Jahjah
    Dyab Abou Jahjah

    Jahjah: Jeremy Corbyn denied knowing him

    Mr Lewis wrote in the New Statesman that Mr Corbyn had "at the very least shown very poor judgment in expressing support for and failing to speak out against people who have engaged not in legitimate criticism of Israeli governments but in antisemitic rhetoric".

    Then at the weekend, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a series of thinly-veiled references to him, arguing: "If our global alliances are going to be alliances with Hizbollah and Hamas, and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela and Vladimir Putin's Russia, there is absolutely no chance of building a world-wide alliance that can deal with poverty and inequality and climate change and financial instability, and we've got to face up to that fact."

    Labour also said it would investigate after dozens of antisemitic messages were sent to non-Jewish MPs who had criticised Mr Corbyn's campaign.

    John Mann, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said he had received more than 40 abusive emails and tweets in the past six weeks, with many describing him as "utter filth", a "Zionist stooge" and suggesting he was under the influence of Israel.


    Members of Hamas and (below) Hizbollah. Mr Corbyn has called the terrorist groups “our friends”

    Mr Mann claimed the abuse was coming from Mr Corbyn's supporters and that Jewish party members had told him they had been accused of dual loyalty.

    "I have very serious concerns about Jeremy Corbyn's supporters," Mr Mann said. "This began six weeks ago when I challenged the membership system. I said it was crazy. It seems I was right. I have been described as a servant of the Israeli Prime Minister, a Nazi Zionist, a Zionist scumbag."

    Mr Mann claimed other non-Jewish MPs, including leadership candidate Liz Kendall and new Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan, were among those targeted for antisemitic abuse.

    After days of negative headlines Mr Corbyn broke cover on Monday and agreed to be interviewed on Channel 4 News.


    Raed Salah: convicted of the blood libel

    Pushed to answer in detail for the first time about his links to the charity run by Eisen, he said that while he had previously met the activist he could not recall putting his "chequebook on the table", as Mr Eisen had written, to support him.

    Mr Corbyn denied making substantial donations to Eisen or his Deir Yassin Remembered charity and said denying the Holocaust was "vile and wrong".

    He told Channel 4's Cathy Newman: "I have no contact whatsoever now with Paul Eisen and Deir Yassin Remembered. I did attend a number of events concerning DYR some years ago, I think two or three of them. The only donation would have been in a collection bucket going round the room, that's all.

    "Fifteen years ago he certainly was not a Holocaust denier. Had he been a Holocaust denier or stated he was, I would have had nothing to do with him. Obviously Holocaust denial is vile and wrong."

    Mr Corbyn added that he believed it was "reasonable we should remember all those people who have suffered in the Middle East on whatever side. Many of us are very concerned about the situation in Palestine."

    But this version of events was questioned the next morning. The DYR website carried a photograph of Mr Corbyn attending an event run by the group in April 2013, despite his claim not to have had any contact with the Shoah denier's organisation for "some years".

    Poll reveals 7 in 10 Jews fear Jeremy Corbyn leadership victory

    Eisen had written a blog four months before the event titled "How I became a Holocaust denier". In it he wrote: "I question that there ever existed homicidal gas-chambers. I question the figure of six million Jewish victims of the Nazi assault and I believe that the actual figure was significantly less."

    Mr Corbyn's fellow Labour MP Gerald Kaufman also attended the 2013 event.


    Paul Eisen: Holocaust denier

    Eisen is Jewish and grew up in north-west London. He was a market trader before becoming a teacher.

    A member of his family said Eisen's nonagenarian mother was due to make aliyah. She is expected to live with the Shoah denier's brother, who was a highly-regarded tank commander in the Six-Day War.

    The family member said: "I've met Paul a few times in Hendon. He was at his mother's 90th birthday party at the North Western Reform Synagogue."

    In his Channel 4 interview, Mr Corbyn also referred to the allegations relating to Raed Salah, who the Appeal Court found had used the blood libel in at least one speech. Referring to their meeting, he said Salah, an Israeli citizen, had travelled to Britain in a normal way.

    "We had quite a long conversation and I made my views very clear," Mr Corbyn said. "He did not at any stage utter any antisemitic remarks to me. Had he been convicted at that time then I'm surprised the Israeli government allowed him to travel."

    Pushed by the interviewer to admit he had made a series of "misjudgements", Mr Corbyn said: "You're putting a lot of words into my mouth about misjudgements. Any form of racism is wrong. The need to talk to people to bring about a peace process is absolutely right."

    On Tuesday, several anti-Israel activists signed an open letter attacking the JC .


    Stephen Sizer: disciplined by the Church

    Signatories to the letter included Tony Greenstein, Professor Haim Bresheeth, Abe Hayeem, Miriam Margolyes, Professor Ilan Pappe and Michael Rosen.

    It stated: "Your assertion that your attack on Jeremy Corbyn is supported by 'the vast majority of British Jews' is without foundation.

    "We do not accept that you speak on behalf of progressive Jews in this country. You speak only for Jews who support Israel, right or wrong.

    "There is something deeply unpleasant and dishonest about your McCarthyite guilt by association technique. Jeremy Corbyn's parliamentary record over 32 years has consistently opposed all racism including antisemitism."

    The signatories to the letter claimed Mr Corbyn had "nothing to apologise for" following his meetings with representatives of Hamas and Hizbollah.

    The letter continued: "Hamas was democratically elected in Palestinian elections generally accepted as fair, and Hizbollah also has strong electoral support in Lebanon."

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