Jeremy Corbyn expresses 'regret' for defending anti-Semitic mural
Jeremy Corbyn has said he "sincerely regrets" opposing the removal of an anti-Semitic mural.
The Labour leader has come in for a storm of criticism from campaigners and some of his own MPs after his actions on a Facebook group were revealed.
The mural, on a wall in London, featured a group of elderly men sitting around a table which is resting on the back of seemingly dead bodies.
Its creator wrote: “Tomorrow they want to buff my mural. Freedom of expression. London calling. Public art.”
Responding to the post, Mr Corbyn wrote: “Why? You are in good company. Rockerfeller destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”
Labour MP Luciana Berger highlighted the 2012 incident in a tweet.
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn initially issued a statement saying he had been "responding to concerns about the removal of public art on grounds of freedom of speech".
They added: "The mural was offensive, used antisemitic imagery, which has no place in our society, and it is right that it was removed."
Mr Corbyn then issued a lengthy statement of his own - but stopped short of apologising for his actions.
He said: "In 2012 I made a general comment about the removal of public art on grounds of freedom of speech. My comment referred to the destruction of the mural “Man at the Crossroads” by Diego Rivera on the Rockefeller Center.
"That is in no way comparable with the mural in the original post. I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic. I wholeheartedly support its removal.
"I am opposed to the production of anti-Semitic material of any kind, and the defence of free speech cannot be used as a justification for the promotion of anti-Semitism in any form. That is a view I’ve always held.
"The Tower Hamlets mural I celebrate is the one which commemorates the mobilization of East London’s Jewish community in the anti-fascist demonstrations against Mosley’s Blackshirts in Cable Street in 1936."
Labour MP Ian Austin said: "This is an appalling anti-Semitic image and I can't understand why anyone would have defended it. Jeremy would never have defended a racist image aimed at any other group, but his statement does not even include an apology.
"He clearly doesn't understand the offence this will cause not just to the Jewish community but to many other people as well and no one will be satisfied by his explanation."
Karen Pollock, cheif executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust - which has criticised anti-Semitism by other MPs in the past - said: "“The mural was blatantly anti-Semitic using images commonly found in anti-Semitic propaganda. Indefensible then and indefensible now.
"If against all forms of racism, why does Mr Corbyn’s stance on antisemitism always fall short? Enough is enough."