All four Labour leadership candidates declare themselves zionists or supporters of zionism
By Lamiat Sabin
LABOUR leadership candidates declared themselves zionists or supporters of zionism at a husting jointly held by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and Labour Friends of Israel.
All hopefuls were asked if they considered themselves zionists at the event last night.
Lisa Nandy — who received JLM’s formal backing today after winning 50.9 per cent of a vote by the membership — said: “I believe that Jewish people have the right to national self-determination. That makes me a zionist.”
Emily Thornberry said: “I believe in the state of Israel and therefore I’m a zionist.”
Sir Keir Starmer said: “I don’t describe myself as a zionist but I understand, sympathise and support zionism.”
Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “I agree with a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state … I suppose that makes me a zionist because I agree with Israel’s right to exist and right to self determine.”
Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) co-chair Leah Levane told the Star that criticism of Israel has been conflated with “anti-semitism,” and used to smear outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
She added: “Candidates clearly knew that if they admitted to doubts about zionism there was likely to be a wholesale onslaught accusing them of being apologists for anti-semitism or worse.”
She stressed that it is possible and “extremely common” to criticise Israel without “harbouring prejudice, hostility or hatred towards Jews.”
Ms Levane continued: “The problem for candidates is that saying that you are a zionist can make you look as if you subscribe to the whole internal racism and settlement project of Israel.
“But saying that you are not zionist unleashes those looking for a political advantage, from the internet trolls through to the Board of Deputies, to smear you as a closet anti-semite.
“This is no way to conduct our politics.”