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Jeremey Corbyn defends Hamas “friends” comments at Labour leadership hustings

PUBLISHED: 15:51 22 July 2015

Jeremy Corbyn MP faced criticism at a leadership hustings at JW3

Jeremy Corbyn MP faced criticism at a leadership hustings at JW3

Dieter Perry

Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn came under fire for describing Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” during a heated Labour leadership hustings with the Jewish Community on Monday evening.

Corbyn was joined by rival candidates and Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland who chaired the discussionCorbyn was joined by rival candidates and Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland who chaired the discussion

The MP for Islington North appeared alongside rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall at the packed event hosted by Labour friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour movement at the JW3 community centre in Finchley Road.

Challenged by audience members to clarify comments he made to Channel Four news relating to a parliamentary meeting where the Palestinian groups were welcomed as “friends”, Mr Corbyn said: “You don’t achieve progress by only talking to people you agree with.”

The leadership hopeful, whose responses to questions on West Bank settlements and the 1917 Balfour declaration of British support for Israel drew hissing and cries of “shame” from audience members, was rounded on by rival candidates during the hour-long session.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said under his leadership there would be “consequences” for Labour MPs who hosted meetings with controversial groups and pledged that his first foreign visit as leader would be to Israel.

Tackling her rival’s comments head-on Yvette Cooper said: “You cannot just describe people as friends, who support terrorist activities.”

Mr Corbyn, who is enjoying a surge in support from grassroots Labour members, criticized the “siege of Gaza” and responded to a question on trade boycotts saying he was “in favour of economic [restrictions] particularly relating to arms and particularly relating to the importation of settlement produce.”

Leadership hopeful Liz Kendall said she would fight boycotts “with every fibre in my body” while Yvette Cooper said the Labour party should be “very clear” about opposition to the boycott describing it as “counter-productive.”

The hustings, chaired by Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland, was cut short as the MPs had to attend a House of Commons vote on the Government’s Welfare Bill.

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