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'Anti-Israel' Corbyn wins UK Labour leadership in landslide

Sept. 12, 2015 8:03 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 20, 2015 4:31 P.M.)
Jeremy Corbyn smiles after winning the Labour leadership contest with 59.5 percent of the vote, during a meeting in London, on September 12, 2015. (AFP/Ben Stansall)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party on Saturday quickly led to condemnation from the Israeli press who branded the veteran left-winger "anti-Israeli" and raised allegations of antisemitism.

The 66-year-old socialist was named leader after clinching a landslide 59.5 percent of the votes cast by Labour members.

The newly-elected chief -- the nation's most left-wing political leader for over 30 years -- ran on an anti-austerity platform, slamming the incumbent Conservative party for presiding over "grotesque levels of inequality" and "an unfair welfare system."

He said during his victory speech that Labour was "united and absolutely determined in our quest for a decent and better society that is possible for all."

Foreign policy played an important role in Corbyn's campaign, with the left-winger opposing British air strikes in Syria, pledging to apologize for Britain's part in the Iraq war, and demanding that Britain take in more Middle East refugees.

He has called for scrapping Britain's nuclear weapons and expressed commitment to Middle East peace talks.

He has also been a staunch critic of Israeli policies considered illegal under international law, and has suggested involving Hamas and Hezbollah in negotiations.

"Peace in the Middle East can only be achieved through justice for the people of Palestine," he has previously written on his website. "The occupation, wall and assassinations are no solution."

'Fierce, direct criticism'

Israeli media quickly responded to Corbyn's victory by highlighting and condemning the Labour leader's criticisms of Israel.

Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post reported that Corbyn has specialized in "fierce and often very direct criticism of Israeli policies," claiming that "his contribution to foreign affairs debates include diatribes about the behavior of Israeli troops or abuses of Palestinian human rights."

The Times of Israel labelled him "one of the British MPs most hostile to Israel."

Both newspapers drew attention to Corbyn's meetings with Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement's northern branch in Israel who has been accused of antisemitism, as well as with a pro-Palestinian activist who later denied the Holocaust.

However, Corbyn has said that the activist had not denied the Holocaust when they met 15 years ago, while Salah did not espouse any antisemitic views during their meeting.

Corbyn has also repeatedly said that Holocaust denial is "vile and wrong," while a group of Jewish critics of Israel in Britain has argued that "Corbyn's parliamentary record over 32 years has consistently opposed all racism including antisemitism."

A Jeremy Corbyn supporter holds a placard as she awaits the start of the leadership result in London, on September 12, 2015. (AFP/Ben Stansall)

'Fashionable cause'

Meanwhile, Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that Corbyn's election indicates "how questions of foreign policy have rapidly become irrelevant in British politics."

The newspaper said: "At heart, he is a full-paid member of every fashionable cause of the radical-left, including his unquestioning support for Holocaust deniers and blood libelers -- as long as they're 'pro-Palestinian.'"

The newspaper accused Corbyn of holding vague and ambiguous foreign policy positions, adding that his victory either suggested Labour members "agree with him on this, or more likely, the majority of them simply don't care."

Corbyn has long criticized Israel policy and "the running sore of the illegal occupation of Palestine."

He has condemned Israel's separation wall, military incursions into occupied territory, targeted assassinations, and mass detentions, writing: "A policy that has failed, and will fail, cannot bring peace or security to Israel or justice for the Palestinian people."

"Recent reports show just how devastating Israel’s policy has been for the Palestinian people -- terrifying levels of poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and lack of health and education are the lot of the Palestinian people."

According to Palestinian news blog, Electronic Intifada, Corbyn supports key elements of the Boycott, Divestment and Solidarity (BDS) campaign, and would seek to impose a two-way arms embargo on Israel if he were to become prime minister in 2020.

Call for 'compassion'

The new Labour leader's first public engagement following his victory Saturday was to take part in a pro-refugee demonstration in central London that was attended by thousands.

He called on British Prime Minister David Cameron to show more "compassion" in dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis.

"Let's deal with the refugee crisis with humanity," he told supporters in the British capital, amid mounting international concern over those fleeing war-torn Syria and risking their lives to escape.

Tony Blair -- Labour's most electorally successful leader who is now deeply unpopular over the Iraq war -- has warned that Corbyn's victory would split Labour and consign the party to electoral oblivion.

Corbyn, however, won the Labour crown by a more impressive margin than Tony Blair, who won 57 percent support at his leadership contest in 1994.

Corbyn drew strong support from students who had never voted before to older people disillusioned with Labour since it moved to the center-ground of British politics under Blair in the 1990s and led the country into the controversial 2003 Iraq war.

Speaking at Saturday's pro-refugee demonstration, Corbyn told the crowds: "Surely, our objective ought to be peaceful solutions to the problems of this world. To spend our resources on helping people not injuring people.

"To try to bring back that world of decency, human rights and justice."

AFP contributed to this report.

Jeremy Corbyn acknowledges the applause of the crowd as he stands on stage after being announced as the new leader of Britain's Labour party after a meeting in London, on September 12, 2015. (AFP/Ben Stansall)
Joe Fattal / USA
"Peace in the Middle-East can only be achieved through justice for the Palestinian people" Very true statement from Mr. Jeremy. And it also can be said that war in the Middle-East will be for the Palestinian people. If Israel thinks that Iran wants to instinct Israel from the region
12/09/2015 20:18
Joe Fattal / USA
Cont......because of personal reason, they are wrong. It's because of the Israel violent dealing with the Palestinians. And not only Iran but who knows maybe few European countries want to see at least Netanyahu go from any kind of leadership.
12/09/2015 20:21
bandora etrog / palestine
one of the most ardent supporters of justice for palestinians specifically, and social and justice movements globally, has been elected leader of the opposition in the UK. instead of writing an article that recognises the significance of this and the seismic shift in british politics, you go with a headline from the occupiers' media. seriously?
12/09/2015 21:13
Tibi / Tubas
-1- Corbyn is only "a big fish in a small pond" (20% of UK parliament), whose policies will harm the UK, without helping Palestine, and
-2- His expression of "commitment to Middle East peace talks" means nothing at all, since Palestinians rejects talks at every opportunity !!
12/09/2015 21:42
Rabiah / Gaza, Ps
Congratulations Mr Corbyn.
12/09/2015 22:19
Avril Wooster / UK
At last a politician with MORALS. That's what the UK needs, that's what the world needs.
12/09/2015 22:54
David / Canada
Israel: 67 years of trying to pound a square peg into a round hole.

Zionists: Short term smart, long term stupid, real stupid.
13/09/2015 04:38
@ Avril / USA
-1- There is no such thing as "politician with morals," and
-2- Corbyn is one of the worst, who sold his soul to Arab/Muslim interests a long time ago, and even tried to free Jawad Botmeh and Samar Alami, convicted of the 1994 bombing of a London Embassy.
13/09/2015 05:00
Legal eagle / Australia
If pro-justice and pro-international law equals anti-Israel then Israel has the answer in its own hands - OBSERVE THE LAW: end illegal occupation, settlements, siege of Gaza and remove the apartheid wall.
13/09/2015 12:03
Colin Wright / USA
To Tibi: '-1- Corbyn is only "a big fish in a small pond"...' That's right. You hang tough. That light at the end of the tunnel is NOT an oncoming train. Full speed ahead!
14/09/2015 10:35
Olga / N.J.
Turns the tide etrog. To be sure. As for the occupiers headline, seriously? Does it matter? Somebody with cojones for this to end just took the next step on his way to PMship. Nobody else is gonna help me forge change but..?pres O won't talk to Ben much. Pissed off.
14/09/2015 13:08
Mel / UK
As long as Zionism keeps Israel an oppressive, fascist occupation, belligerent state, all good people of conscience are "anti-Israel", Jews or not.
14/09/2015 14:07
Carlos / usa
Thanks Jeremy Corbyn for bringing sanity to the leadership of one western country.
16/09/2015 21:26
Carlos / usa
I wish I could vote for Jeremy Corbyn. However I will be able to vote for Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders is not going to be as friendly to israel as President Obama. I know Bernie is Jewish and spent time in a kibbutz in israel but he is a socialist first. I will vote for him.
17/09/2015 19:25
Lucy / UK
Come on, Ma'an - Corbyn is anti-occupation, not anti-Israel. Even put in quote marks, it's the wrong headline. Do better.
18/09/2015 20:55
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