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Corbyn in hot water over Israel 'IS' comment

The Labour Party leader has been accused of making "offensive" remarks comparing Israeli government actions to those of the self-styled "Islamic State." Corbyn, already under fire, says he was misunderstood.

Jeremy Corbyn, the embattled leader of Britain's Labour Party, found himself once more at the center of some serious backlash on Thursday. The 67-year-old politician has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks in a comment about the Israeli government and "Islamic State" (IS) extremists.

"Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations," said Corbyn.

The awkwardness of the statement, which some said directly compared Jerusalem to the terrorist organization, was compounded by the fact that Corbyn made his remarks while presenting the results of an inquiry into anti-Semitism within Labour ranks.

Corbyn has since denied that his message was meant to draw a link between the two.

UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was not convinced, however, saying: The comments by the leader of the Labour Party at the launch, however they were intended, are themselves offensive, and rather than rebuilding trust among the Jewish community, are likely to cause even greater concern."

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Lawmaker Ruth Smeeth added to the criticism of Corbyn, saying the party leader did nothing when she was harassed at one of his rallies by a participant bombarding her with anti-Semitic slurs.

"I call on Jeremy Corbyn to resign immediately and make way for someone with the backbone to confront racism and anti-Semitism in our party and in the country," she said.

Despite these critiques, the independent inquiry found that the Labour party "is not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism," but did call on lawmakers to refrain from using Nazi imagery when discussing current events, particularly in the West Bank and Gaza. It also stated that "an occasionally toxic atmosphere is in danger of shutting down free speech within the party."

Thursday's controversy added fuel to the fire for those who want Corbyn to resign. The Labour leader has already lost a no confidence vote earlier this week and suffered the defeat of the "Remain" campaign in Britain's EU referendum.

es/bw (AP, AFP)

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