(JTA) — The leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, drew parallels between Israel and the Islamic State terrorist group in a speech condemning anti-Semitism.
“Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations,” Corbyn said Thursday in London, The Sun daily newspaper reported.
Corbyn, who has called Hezbollah and Hamas his friends, made his remarks in a speech about a newly published report on anti-Semitism within Labour. The report was written following dozens of anti-Israel statements by its lawmakers since Corbyn was elected to head the party last year.
It said the party is not overrun by anti-Semitism or other forms of racism, but there is an “occasionally toxic atmosphere.” The report’s 20 recommendations did not include permanently banning offenders.
On Tuesday, Corbyn lost a no-confidence vote within Labour over his perceived failure to lobby against a June 23 vote supporting a British exit from the European Union in a national referendum. But he said he will not resign.
Critics of his remarks Thursday took to Twitter to rebuke his comparison.
“Comparing Jews’ relationship to Israel with Muslims’ relationship to ISIS bizarrely insults both Jews and Muslims,” wrote Stewart Martin Wood, a Labour lawmaker in the House of Lords. He added: “I hope Corbyn apologizes as soon as possible.”
Tom Holland, a historian and well-known author, suggested that Corbyn’s mention of the terrorist group also known as ISIS undermines his own message.
“Good to see Corbyn decisively rebutting the charge of anti-Semitism by comparing Israel to Islamic State,” Holland wrote.
British Jewish groups, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, have said Labour has failed to address its anti-Semitism problem under Corbyn.
In the party’s report, which was compiled by lawmaker Shami Chakrabarti, the recommendations section reads: “Excuse for, denial, approval or minimization of the Holocaust and attempts to blur responsibility for it have no place in the Labour Party. Epithets such as ‘Paki, ‘Zio’ and others should have no place in Labour Party discourse going forward.”
Some British Jews said the report was insufficient.
“We regret that the inquiry has failed to recognize the dangerous, systematic demonization of Israel by those Labour Party members who cross the line into anti-Semitism and attempt to disguise it as anti-Zionism,” James Sorene, CEO of the British Israel Communications and Research Center, or BICOM, said in a statement Thursday. “The report is vague and indecisive on action against members who indulge in anti-Semitic anti-Zionism, and dismisses a culture of systematic demonization of Israel as a ‘series of unhappy incidents.’”
British Jewry’s main watchdog on anti-Semitism, the Community Security Trust, also expressed ambivalence about the report in a statement it published jointly with the Jewish Leadership Council.
“The final verdict on the Chakrabarti Report will depend upon its implementation,” the statement read. “We welcome the rejection of the use of the term Zio, the condemnation of manipulating the Holocaust and of the stereotyping of Jews. We are concerned that ruling out lifetime bans and automatic suspensions could send the wrong signal to the community.”