Richard Burgon: Labour MP 'regrets' making Zionism remark

Aubrey Allegretti, political reporter

A senior Labour frontbencher has been caught on film claiming Zionists are "the enemy of peace", after previously denying making the comment.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon was recorded giving a speech in 2014 that declared: "The enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionists."

He continued: "Zionism is the enemy of peace and the enemy of the Palestinian people.

"And we need to be loud, we need to be proud in support of a free Palestine.

"I make no apologies - I'm proud to say not only wouldn't I be a member of Labour Friends of Israel I've never been a member of Labour Friends of Israel.

"I'm all for everyone's opinions being out there and everyone having their opinion being treated with respect."

Zionism refers to the movement for a Jewish state to be created on roughly the same area Israel stands now.

Last year, he was quizzed on the comments in a TV interview.

He said it was an "allegation" made by a newspaper and they refused to tell him when he had made the comment.

Mr Burgon said: "I didn't make those comments, I asked when I was meant to have made those comments - no-one could tell me."

He continued: "It's not my view. So if it's not my view, I wouldn't have made those comments."

But confronted with the uncovered video footage, the Leeds East MP said when a newspaper did not remind him when he made the comment "I believed it was inaccurate to have claimed that I had used that phrase".

He confirmed: "It is now clear that I did and I regret doing so."

Mr Burgon added that "I do not agree with that phrase" because it "fails" to distinguish between a peaceful solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict and those undermining it.

He pointed out the comment was made a year before he joined the House of Commons, and explained: "The terminology has different meanings to different people and the simplistic language used does not reflect how I now think about this complex issue and I would not use it again today."

Earlier, Jennifer Gerber from Labour Friends of Israel said that for nearly two years Mr Burgon had deployed "half-denials and weasel words to escape responsibility for his appalling suggestion that Zionism is the enemy of peace".

She added: "Somebody who aspires to be one of the country's leading legal figures simply cannot behave in this fashion."