The four Labour leader hopefuls all claimed to be Zionist – or sympathetic to the movement – at a special event held by a Jewish wing of the party, drawing outrage from party supporters on pro-Palestinian grounds.
When answering questions posed at the Jewish Labour Movement hustings on Thursday, Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey, and Emily Thornberry unequivocally called themselves Zionist. Their fellow Labour leader candidate Keir Starmer qualified his answer, saying “I don’t describe myself as a Zionist, but I understand, sympathize, and support Zionism.” The pronouncements quickly ignited the ire of many Labour members who took to Twitter to vent their anger – with some even threatening to leave the party altogether.
“Zionism is racism,” one wrote. “In good faith, I will be cancelling my membership. I am Jewish. I am anti-Zionist.” Meanwhile, former Labour MP Chris Williamson tweeted that previous party leaders had “condemned apartheid S. Africa,” but that “today’s would-be leaders condone apartheid Israel!”
Every single LABOUR Leader Candidate tonight said they were Zionist at Jewish Hustings. Zionism is racism. In good faith, I will be cancelling my membership. I am Jewish. I am anti Zionist. I refuse to take the rights away from my Palestinian brothers and sisters.
— NY JEW IN UK #NOTMEUS🌹🕎✊🏼 (@EnglandYankin) February 14, 2020
Whatever: all Zionism is racist. Palestine between the river and the sea is majority non-Jewish. Therefore attempts to impose a “Jewish state” are by definition racist, and inevitably violent.
— Asa Winstanley (@AsaWinstanley) February 14, 2020
Many highlighted the plight of the Palestinian people in their criticism of the remarks, with one commenter asking: “Is Labour a safe space for (meaningful) Palestine solidarity activism? The answer, shamefully, is no.” Others queried even asking the Zionism question of the leadership contenders in the first place.
What if standing up for something that is right is standing up for the people of Palestine. who are being murdered and displaced by the Israeli government?
— Fanxxxxtastic-Trada (@Fanxxxxtastic) February 14, 2020
Imagine if there was a Labour Leadership hustings for the British Hindu community and the final question was “Are you a Hindu Nationalist?”