EXCL Jeremy Corbyn criticised for failing to show at Labour Friends of Israel event
Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised for snubbing a Labour Friends of Israel conference reception for the first time since he became party leader.
Supporters of the group shouted "where is he" and "why isn't he here" when LFI chair Joan Ryan announced that Mr Corbyn had instead sent a statement to be read out at the event.
Ms Ryan said: "We're disappointed he couldn't be with us this evening."
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who did attend last night's gathering, claimed Mr Corbyn was not going to any receptions because he was preparing for his keynote speech to the Labour conference in Brighton today.
She said: "Just so that there's no misunderstanding, Jeremy is not attending any of these receptions this evening because he has a big speech tomorrow ... but I also know there's been a great deal of wrestling with Jeremy and Jeremy's diary to ensure he doesn't spend a whole evening going from one event to another."
However, footage emerged on Twitter of Mr Corbyn delivering a speech at a party thrown last night by Labour-supporting newspaper the Daily Mirror.
In his statement to the LFI reception, Mr Corbyn said: "The next Labour government will ensure Britain leads the way in promoting dialogue between countries and peoples so that we see real advances towards peace, security and justice in the Middle East and across the world.
"Labour will continue to campaign for peace through a two-state solution, a secure Israel alongside a secure and viable Palestinian state. I look forward to working with you all to achieve that together, enjoy the rest of the reception and conference."
The latest row came against a backdrop of a fresh Labour anti-Semitism controversy.
At a fringe meeting, some delegates demanded the expulsion of the Jewish Labour Movement from the party, while one compared Zionists to the Nazis and said members should be free to ask the question "Holocaust: yes or no?"
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn, told the BBC's Newsnight that accusations of anti-Semitism were being used as a way of attacking the Labour leader.
But Emily Thornberry told the LFI reception it was "completely inappropriate for those on the fringes of the Labour party and the fringes of this conference to try to stifle that debate" on Israel's future.
Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev, who faced a protest outside the event, said: "To those who called for the expulsion of Zionists from the Labour party on Sunday, I ask: would you have expelled some of Labour's greatest luminaries too? Would you have expelled Harold Wilson? Michael Foot?
"The truth is Labour has historically stood in solidarity with the Jewish people in our struggle for freedom and security, just as Labour has stood in solidarity with the Jewish people in fighting anti-Semitism. So when some talked about the Jews being the chief financiers of the slave trade, we all here tonight know that this is not criticism of the Israeli government. This is not even about the Palestinians. This is clearly just an anti-Jewish bigotry.
"Calling out anti-Semitism is not a dirty low down trick. Nor is it a smear. Calling out anti-Semitism is a fundamental duty of all of those who profess to oppose racism, intolerance and bigotry."
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