UK Politics

Corbyn 'forgot' meeting banned pro-Palestinian activist

Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn has said he forgot meeting a controversial Lebanese activist.

He initially said he had no idea who Dyab Abou Jahjah was, but later said he must have forgotten meeting him in 2009.

Mr Abou Jahjah is banned from the UK over his views on the Middle East.

Mr Corbyn said he met "many thousands of people" and that "doesn't mean that I share their views". He also rejected "disgusting" claims he is anti-Semitic.

Leadership rival Liz Kendall said Mr Corbyn had "questions to answer" about his approach to achieving peace in the Middle East.

It comes as the Labour Party said it had made legal checks to ensure its leadership contest was complying with the law, and to try to avoid challenges to the result.

'Political friend'

Responding on Twitter to Mr Corbyn's claim not to know him, pro-Palestinian activist Mr Abou Jahjah said it was "beyond any doubt" the pair had shared a platform.

"But maybe he forgot all about it," added Mr Abou Jahjah. "Who knows?"

Mr Abou Jahjah told LBC radio he had also been present at meals with the MP during the 2009 visit.

"We had, I think two times, lunch or breakfast together, so I cannot say that Mr Corbyn is a personal friend, but he is absolutely a political friend."

Who is Dyab Abou Jahjah?

The Lebanese-born activist, who is based in Belgium, founded the Arab European League and is now president of Movement X, which works "for a society of radical equality".

Mr Abou Jahjah reportedly told a Flemish magazine in 2004 that he considered "every dead American, British and Dutch soldier a victory".

Writing on his blog, Mr Abou Jahjah said this was a misrepresentation of his long-held belief that "every soldier taking part in an illegal occupation is a legitimate target for resistance".

He also denied being anti-Semitic, adding: "I am indeed a supporter of a one-state solution in Palestine in the line of the South African dismantling of the apartheid state."

Mr Corbyn addressed the same anti-war meeting as Mr Abou Jahjah on 3 March 2009.

Asked whether he had met Mr Abou Jahjah, Mr Corbyn initially told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "No. I saw the name this morning and I asked somebody, 'Who is he?"'

He added: "I'm sorry, I don't know who this person is."

But Mr Corbyn later issued a statement saying: "My staff have researched this and tell me that I did meet this man in 2009, but I have no recollection of him."

He was also questioned about alleged anti-Semitic comments by his supporters on social media.

Image caption Mr Corbyn was speaking on BBC Radio 4's World at One programme

He said the idea he was racist or anti-Semitic was "disgusting" and "deeply offensive".

"Until my dying day, I will be opposed to racism in any form," he said.

Pressed to explain why he had called Palestinian militant group Hamas "friends" during a meeting in Parliament, Mr Corbyn said he had been trying to start a dialogue to help bring about peace in the Middle East.

He said the remark had been "taken quite seriously out of context by a lot of people".

He added that he had used the word as "diplomatic language in a meeting".

Mr Corbyn is one of four candidates standing to be Labour leader in a party vote, the results of which will be announced on 12 September.

The other contenders are Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Ms Kendall.

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