UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn with supporters. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn with supporters. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is refusing to attend the Jewish state’s Balfour Declaration celebration in London, which will be attended by prime ministers from Israel and the UK.

Without giving his reasons for doing so, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition British Labour party, announced that he would not be attending a high-profile dinner celebrating the centenary anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. He will also boycott an official dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has already flown to London for the series of events.

Considering that Corbyn considers Hamas and Hezbollah officials his “friends,” has gone public many times with harsh criticism for the Israeli state, and declined to crack down on openly anti-Semitic members of his party, his refusal is not particularly startling.  He also did not attend the annual Labour Friends of Israel reception held last month – the first time in living memory that a Labour leader did not attend. Just as on that occasion, he is sending Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry in his stead to the dinner.

In reaction to the Labour leader’s rebuff, but without mentioning him by name, Israeli ambassador to the UK Mark Regev was quoted in The Sunday Times as saying, “Those who oppose the historic declaration are extremists who do not recognize Israel’s right to exist and are very similar to terrorist groups such as Hamas.”

In stark contrast, Prime Minister Theresa May and hundreds of other British officials will be attending the festivities marking the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. May, it should be recalled, rejected outright the demand of Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas and other pro-Palestinian groups (including local ones) for the British government to apologize for – and even renounce — the Declaration, stating that she was “proud“ of Britain’s role in the creation of the State of Israel.

The Balfour Declaration, which was issued on November 2, 1917, was originally a letter sent by then-UK foreign secretary Arthur Balfour to British Jewish leader Lord Walter Rothschild that His Majesty’s government “view[ed] with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

Netanyahu had been invited by May to attend the centenary celebration during his official February visit to the United Kingdom. At the time, he said that the invitation “speaks volumes” about the closeness of the two countries.

By: Batya Jerenberg, United with Israel

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