BBC host Andrew Neil quizzed Richard Burgon over alleged comments he made at a Labour Party meeting. The shadow justice secretary denied saying that “Zionism is the enemy of peace” when put on the spot by the presenter. The host said: “You told a Labour Party meeting, did you not in 2016 that Zionism is the enemy of peace?”
The Labour MP said that was an allegation and that he “didn’t say that”.
Neil said: “It is very important because you may well be correcting the record here.
“Which is important. You didn’t say that?”
Mr Burgon replied: “No, and it is not my view.
The enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionists and Zionism is the enemy of peace
“I believe that on occasions, the government of Israel like the governments of other countries has been an enemy of peace.
“We have got to see that as a separate subject.”
Mr Neil continued questioning the Labour frontbencher who insisted he did not make the remarks.
But, in footage unearthed by Iggy Ostanin, believed to be from 2014, Mr Burgon says that “Zionism is the enemy of peace”.
He said: “And the enemy of the Palestinian people, is not the Jewish people.
“The enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionists and Zionism is the enemy of peace and the enemy of the Palestinian people.
“And we need to be loud we need to be proud in support of a free Palestine.
“I make no apologies. I am proud to say not only wouldn’t I be a member of Labour Friends of Israel, I’ve never been a member of Labour Friends of Israel.
“And I’m all for everyone’s opinions being out there and everyone having their opinion treated with respect.
“But, look upon the internet, because it’s there to see on the Labour Friends of Israel website which MPs are members of Labour Friends of Israel. Which Labour MPs are officers of Labour Friends of Israel.
“And ask them, in support of the Palestinian people, in protest of what’s happening in Gaza now, to resign from Labour Friends of Israel, to show support for all humanity.”
Richard Burgon MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, said: “When it was put to me in August 2016 that I had made these remarks I did not recall doing so and therefore asked for the full quotes to be provided to me, and asked when and where I had said it.
“I received no reply, so I believed it was inaccurate to have claimed that I had used that phrase. It is now clear that I did and I regret doing so.
“As I have subsequently said on numerous occasions when asked about this, I do not agree with that phrase. I recognise that such a phrase fails to distinguish between those seeking a peaceful solution in line with international law, and those, such as the current Israeli government, which is undermining efforts towards peace.
“The terminology has different meanings to different people and the simplistic language used does not reflect how I now think about this complex issue and I would not use it again today. It is being reported that I made those remarks in 2014, which was before I was elected as an MP.
“In the meeting, I was criticising Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and its aggressive expansionist policies. In the video, I made it explicitly clear that I was of course not speaking about Jewish people.
“As I believed then and believe now, when discussing the issue of Israel and Palestine, you must clearly distinguish between the actions of a particular Israeli government and Jewish people as a whole.
“I have always stood in solidarity with the Palestinian people and in opposition to illegal occupation and discrimination and I will continue to do so in the search for a peaceful solution to decades of conflict.
“It is essential that the Labour movement work with Israeli and Palestinian people towards achieving a secure Israel and a viable and secure Palestine. I have myself, when I was in Israel, met with Israeli peace and human rights groups and Members of the Israeli Parliament to this effect.”
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