(JTA) — British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said he regrets supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, and that comments by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone asserting that Hitler supported Zionism were “wrong.”
Corbyn testified Monday before the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on rising anti-Semitism.
Corbyn, a harsh critic of Israel who in 2009 called Hezbollah and Hamas activists “friends” after inviting representatives from both terrorist groups to visit the British Parliament as his guests, is accused of encouraging vitriol against Israel and Jews by not distancing himself from groups such as Hamas.
“It was inclusive language I used which, with hindsight, I would rather not have used,” he said of using the term “friends” to describe Hezbollah and Hamas activists. “I regret using those words. I have done so on many occasions.”
Corbyn was asked about remarks that Livingstone made in April during a radio interview, in which he asserted that Hitler’s policy when he was elected in 1932 that Jews should be moved out of Europe and be moved to Israel was “supporting Zionism.” Livingstone was suspended from the party for the remark.
“Ken Livingstone made remarks that are wholly unacceptable and wrong,” Corbyn said.
Corbyn rejected a question about whether he was fostering an atmosphere of anti-Semitism in the Labor Party that he heads.
“That is unfair. I want a party that is open for all,” Corbyn asserted. “A long time ago there were sometimes anti-Semitic remarks made, when I first joined the party and later on. In recent years, no, and in my constituency not at all.”
He rejected reports saying that he compared Israel to the Islamic State in a speech against anti-Semitism delivered last week.
It is reported to be the first time that an opposition leader has given testimony to a select committee hearing.