The Labour Party leader was accused of “fostering a period” of anti-Semitism in his party by Committee Chairman Keith Vaz MP, and was challenged by Committee members about comments he had made previously including his description of representatives from proscribed terror groups Hezbollah and Hamas as his “friends”.
Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani questioned Mr Corbyn about his appointment of Paul Flynn to the Shadow Cabinet, given that Flynn had claimed in 2011 that Britain’s then ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, had “dual loyalties” because he was Jewish.
Mr Corbyn said that Mr Flynn was not “in any way anti-Semitic or racist” and that he would remain in the Shadow Cabinet.
Along with other committee members, Conservative MPs Victoria Atkins and David Burrowes continued to press Mr Corbyn on his links with unsavoury characters and on his perception of anti-Semitism.
Asked by Conservative MP James Berry if he thinks Israel has the right to exist, Mr Corbyn replied: “Yes, the State of Israel exists, of course”.
The validity of Labour’s inquiry into anti-Semitism was called into question, with Mr Vaz suggesting that “it was hardly an independent report” as Shami Chakrabarti joined the Labour Party shortly after being appointed to lead the inquiry.
Mr Corbyn was asked to explain his relationship with Marc Wadsworth, the activist who accused Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth of “colluding” with the right-wing media at Labour’s press conference to launch the party’s anti-Semitism report last week, causing Ms Smeeth to leave the event in tears.
Conservative MP Victoria Atkins questioned the Labour leader about his relationships with a number of notorious activists accused of anti-Semitism, including Shane Raed Saleh, Stephen Sizer, and Paul Eisen.
Conservative MP David Burrowes asked Mr Corbyn: “Before you take action, does it have to be a trope, does it have to be a slur, does it have to be physical attack? When do you take action as a leader of the Labour Party?”
Tim Loughton MP asked Mr Corbyn: “So when you said ‘Tomorrow evening it will be pleasure to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking, I’ve also invited friends from Hamas to come and speak as well’, they aren’t your friends you’ve said, so you’ve misspoke?”
At the press conference, Mr Corbyn declared that Jews were “no more responsible for the actions of Israel” than Muslims were for the “various self-styled Islamic states or organisations”.
CFI’s Parliamentary Chairman, Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, condemned Jeremy Corbyn’s likening of Israel with the so-called Islamic State. Sir Eric said: “Jeremy Corbyn just does not get it. Even when he is trying to be helpful his mindset returns to the old hatred. His ill-considered comparison between Israel and ISIS is quite astonishing. I suggest the Labour leader reads his own report into anti-Semitism”.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis also condemned the remark as “offensive” and that rather than rebuilding trust with the Jewish community, the Labour leader caused “greater concern”.
Mr Vaz challenged Mr Corbyn on this yesterday, referring to the Chief Rabbi’s comments.
Mr Corbyn insisted that he had referred to “Islamic states”, meaning countries, rather than the terror group Islamic State.
He said: “At no stage did I make that comparison. I’m disappointed that reference was made by the Chief Rabbi”.
The Opposition leader was also asked about his connection to blood libel cleric Raed Salah and controversial anti-Zionist Church of England vicar Stephen Sizer, as well as Holocaust denier Paul Eisen.
Mr Corbyn admitted for the first time that he regretted describing Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends”. He described Ken Livingstone’s recent comments on Hitler and Zionism as “wholly unacceptable and wrong” and condemned the rise of anti-Semitism in Britain.
He also said that the comments made by Jackie Walker – who was suspended and readmitted to the Party after claiming that Jews were responsible for the slave trade – were “inappropriate”.