An official with British Jewry's leading representative body sharply denounced last week's meeting in London between Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and the co-founder of an international anti-Israel student group, saying it amounted to "two steps back" in the battle against antisemitism.
Referring to Corbyn's attendance at an event celebrating the publication of a book by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) founder Dr. Hatem Bazian, Board of Deputies of British Jews Vice President Mari van der Zyl told The Algemeiner on Friday that the move marks a departure from recent actions Labour has taken to combat Jew-hatred among its members.
"In a week when the Labour Party has produced a discussion document on how to confront antisemitism within its ranks, and Corbyn visited the Nazi concentration camp at Terezin, it is profoundly disappointing that he also saw fit to attend a book launch hosted by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC)," she said.
The IHRC, Van der Zyl said, is responsible for organizing "Al Quds Day" in Britain, an annual display of hatred for Israel and support for terror movements, such as Hezbollah. The organization is also the same group that "gave its 'Islamophobe of the Year' award to the murdered staff of Charlie Hebdo — two months after they were butchered — and whose Genocide Memorial Day is deliberately timed to undermine Holocaust Memorial Day," she said.
"We call on Corbyn to immediately disavow this disgraceful organization," she added.
Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, said it was "strange" that Corbyn "would think it's appropriate to attend an event organized by a group that says the party he leads is 'indebted to Jewish financiers with Zionist leanings.' We hope in the future Corbyn will think more carefully about the organizations he associates himself with."
According to British watchdog the Campaign Against Antisemitism, "For a man who leads Her Majesty's Opposition to take time out of his onerous schedule to meet Hatem Bazian in public is unmistakable in its symbolism and signalling: the leopard not only does not change its spots, but is parading them for [Labour Deputy Leader] Tom Watson [who recently strongly denounced antisemitism] and the Jewish community to behold."
As reported by The Algemeiner, Corbyn met with Bazian on Tuesday evening, during a promotional lecture for the UC Berkeley professor's new anti-Israel book, Palestine...It Is Something Colonial. According to an IHRC summary of the event, Bazian spoke at length about the book, which calls for the re-framing of "the Palestine situation through the lens of settler colonialism."
Bazian's organization, SJP, has been at the center of numerous controversies on US college campuses. A Brandeis study published in October found that "one of the strongest predictors of perceiving a hostile climate towards Israel and Jews is the presence of an active SJP group on campus."
For his part, Corbyn has been embroiled in several scandals over the years regarding his own anti-Israel views and affiliation with terror-sympathizers. In May, as The Algemeiner reported, then-British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Corbyn to explicitly retract a statement in which he referred to terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah as "friends." Corbyn refused to comply.
Most recently, Corbyn has come under fire for his failure to properly address rampant Jew-hatred and antisemitic anti-Zionism within his own party. A Labour Party inquiry into these allegations was rejected by a leading UK antisemitism watchdog as a "meaningless whitewash."