Jeremy Corbyn has urged western countries to stop arming Ukraine, and claimed he was criticised over antisemitism because of his stance on Palestine, in a TV interview likely to underscore Keir Starmer’s determination not to readmit him to the Labour party.
“Pouring arms in isn’t going to bring about a solution, it’s only going to prolong and exaggerate this war,” Corbyn said. “We might be in for years and years of a war in Ukraine.”
Corbyn gave the interview on Al Mayadeen, a Beirut-based TV channel that has carried pro-Russia reporting since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“What I find disappointing is that hardly any of the world’s leaders use the word peace; they always use the language of more war, and more bellicose war.”
He added: “This war is disastrous for the people of Ukraine, for the people of Russia, and for the safety and security of the whole world, and therefore there has to be much more effort put into peace.”
He called for the UN to be “much more centre stage”, and suggested involving other international bodies such as the African Union or the League of Arab States if the UN were unable to help negotiate a ceasefire.
Elsewhere in the interview, Corbyn condemned his expulsion from the parliamentary party, calling it “disgraceful”.
“I spent my life in the Labour party; I joined the Labour party even before England won the World Cup in 1966. I was proud to lead the Labour party,” he said, citing Labour’s strong performance in the 2017 general election and the surge in membership on his watch.
“I think the way I’ve been treated is disgraceful, and the allegations that have been made against me are disgraceful,” he said.
Corbyn also suggested that he had been criticised over antisemitism because of his stance on the Middle East.
“I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that my clearly stated support for the right of Palestinian people to be able to live in peace free from occupation, free from being under siege as in Gaza, and for those living in refugee camps … played a factor in all this. Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t wait to condemn me for my support for the Palestinian people.”
The Labour MP Margaret Hodge condemned his remarks. She said: “To suggest our fight against antisemitism on the left means that we are all part of a conspiracy to smear Corbyn is frankly absurd and of itself antisemitic. This consistent failure to understand and distinguish between our Jewish identity and the complex Middle East political issues is at the heart of why Jeremy continues to be outside the Labour party.”
A Labour source said of Corbyn’s comments: “There cannot be any ambiguity about the choice he’s making, and that is to put himself outside the Labour mainstream.”
Starmer has offered staunch support for the government’s stance on Ukraine, including the provision of weapons and military training to the country’s troops.
He has stressed Labour’s longstanding backing for Nato, which is preparing to expand significantly in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with Finland and Sweden poised to join.
Starmer has also criticised the Stop the War Coalition, of which Corbyn is the co-vice chair with his close ally Andrew Murray, and hinted Corbyn’s readmission to the party would require him to distance himself from the organisation.
In a Guardian article earlier this year, Starmer said of Stop the War: “At best they are naive, at worst they actively give succour to authoritarian leaders who directly threaten democracies. There is nothing progressive in showing solidarity with the aggressor when our allies need our solidarity and – crucially – our practical assistance now more than ever.”
Corbyn has had the whip suspended since November 2020, over his response to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s report into Labour’s handling of antisemitism under his leadership.
Unless he is readmitted, he will be unable to stand as a Labour candidate in his Islington North constituency at the next general election. Some allies have suggested Corbyn might opt to stand as an independent instead, drawing on historic local support.
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