AMSTERSDAM (JTA) – The Labour Party of the Netherlands labelled as “worrisome” some of the actions of Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of its British counterpart who is accused of fanning anti-Semitic hatred.
A statement to JTA on Wednesday by the senior-most spokesperson of Dutch Labour, or PvdA, is the sharpest rebuke to date by a European sister movement of the British party over its anti-Semitism problem.
Femke van Zijst, the spokesperson for Dutch Labour’s parliamentary faction, said her party found “recent reports worrisome” about Corbyn.
She was reacting specifically to his attendance in 2015 at a wreath-laying ceremony in Tunisia for planners of the Munich Massacre of 1972, in which Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Olympics, some after severe torture and mutilation. Pictures showing Corbyn holding a wreath over the grave of one of the attack’s masterminds surfaced last month.
Another point of concern was the revelation last month of a recording in which Corbyn said that Zionists had “no sense of irony” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time” or all their lives. Critics, including a former chief rabbi of Britain, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who called Corbyn an “anti-Semite” over the recording, charged that Corbyn’s use of the word Zionists was a euphemism for Jews. But Corbyn denied the claim, insisting he meant those who subscribe to the ideology.
On Wednesday, Gidi Markuszower, a Dutch senator for the right-wing populist Party for Freedom, criticized Dutch Labour during a parliamentary debate about anti-Semitism for “inviting the known anti-Semite” Corbyn to the Netherlands. Dutch Labour hosted Corbyn for a speech in July amid protests by some Dutch Jews and supporters of Israel.
Markuszower, who is Jewish, asked during the debate with Ron van der Wieken, chair of the Dutch Central Jewish Board, “what effect the visit has on Dutch Jews’ confidence in Dutch Labour as a partner in the fight against anti-Semitism.”
Van der Wieken, who also called Corbyn “an old-school anti-Semite,” said Dutch Jews do trust the local Labour Party as a partner. But “it was highly unfortunate” for that party’s leader, Lodewijk Asscher, to “associate with Corbyn,” van der Wieken said. But, he added, “as far as I can estimate, there is a decrease in trust in [Dutch] Labour as a party for which Jews can vote and it is directly connected to the contacts with [British] Labour.”
Corbyn, a far-left populist, was elected to head Labour in 2015, leading many thousands of his supporters to join the party. Anti-Semitic discourse, including harassment of Jewish lawmakers and members, exploded following his election. Corbyn has vowed to address the problem and kick out anti-Semites, but his critics, including leaders of British Jewry, argue that he has failed to act resolutely and that he is in fact part of the problem he purports to treat.
Israel’s Labor Party has suspended all contact with its British counterpart. But prior to the Dutch statement, Labour’s sister movements in Europe have remained largely silent on this issue.
Dutch Labour’s statement of apparent dissatisfaction with Corbyn’s explanations comes two months after the Dutch party’s hosting of Corbyn in The Hague. In July, Asscher defended the invitation to Corbyn after it was criticized by the pro-Israel CiJo group. Asscher, who has Jewish roots and who has suffered anti-Semitic abuse, wrote to CiJo to say that Corbyn pledged to fight the problem, and that he would raise the issue with the British politician during meetings.