Dan Verbin(Arutz Sheva)
UK Jewish community leaders and pro-Israel figures came to the defense of an ex-Labour MP who resigned from the party over its internal anti-Semitism problem who was accused this week of racism for posting a satirical Ben & Jerry’s image.
On Wednesday, Lord Austin tweeted a satirical image of Ben & Jerry’s “terror-misu” flavor of ice cream. The image was captioned: “Ben and Jerry’s have stopped selling ice cream in the West Bank, but they’ve introduced new flavours for Gaza.”
In response, left wing Jewish group Yachad tweeted, “Living in Gaza does not translate into being a Hamas terrorist. This is a reckless generalization that feeds into anti-Palestinian racist narratives.”
Responding to the post, Labour MP Alex Sobel, a Jewish supporter of Jeremy Corbyn when he was the leader of the Labour Party, tweeted, “It’s racist to say all Palestinians are supporters of Hamas. It’s the same racism that says all Jews are supporters of the Kahanists. I’m sure Ian didn’t create it, but he can’t spot racism and also fails to understand International Law which says settlements are illegal.”
Austin replied, “I did not and never would say ‘all Palestinians are supporters of Hamas.’ I said Hamas are terrorists. Their brutal dictatorship controls Gaza. I tried to call him (Mr Sobel) but he refused to speak. He prefers to wind up abuse on Twitter.”
He also defended himself against an accusation by the Labour Muslim Network that his post was Islamophobic.
“How is calling the racist terrorist group Hamas, who execute their opponents, make the lives of the citizens of Gaza a misery, treat women terribly, murder gay people and wage war on Israel, terrorists remotely racist?” he tweeted.
The charge against Austin, a member of Labour Friends of Israel who was also considered one of the leading fighters against racism as an MP, prompted outrage from Jewish community leaders and others supporters, reported the Jewish Chronicle.
“It is an over interpretation to claim that Lord Austin’s tweet does anything other than highlight that Gaza is under the de facto control of Hamas, a proscribed terrorist group,” Claudia Mendoza, co-chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, told the Chronicle. ”What doesn’t require interpretation is Lord Austin’s years of support for the Jewish community which eventually cost him his seat in the House of Commons. We are grateful that Lord Austin continues to be a valued supporter of our community.”
Ghanem Nuseibeh, the Palestinian chair of Muslims Against Antisemitism, also threw his support behind Austin, stating that he “has in no way shown Islamophohia in his comment.”
“Accusing him of Islamophobia sets a very dangerous precedent and undermines our collective fight against Islamist extremism in general. Whether or not one agrees with his sentiments about the Ben and Jerry affair, he is a key figure in fighting anti-Semitism and racism in general and we remain strong allies in this,” said Nuseibeh.
Former Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber weighed in to the controversy, defending Austin against the accusation.
“(Lord Austin) has done a huge amount over the years in supporting groups and projects that bring Israelis and Palestinians together. He’s also been at the forefront of anti-racism campaigning and took a stand when many others remained silent or did nothing. He’s not a racist,” she tweeted.