Leeds MP Richard Burgon urged to to make 'total withdrawal' of previous comments on Zionism ahead of Labour deputy leadership race

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Leeds MP and Labour deputy leadership hopeful Richard Burgon has been urged to apologise for saying “Zionism is the enemy of peace" before he begins campaigning to take one of his party’s top spots.

The Leeds East MP denied he had made the comments when asked during an interview in 2018, but a video filmed in 2014 later emerged in which he said: "The enemy of the Palestinian people is not the Jewish people. The enemy of the Palestinian people are Zionists, and Zionism is the enemy of peace and the enemy of the Palestinian people."

Leeds East Labour MP Richard Burgon. Photo: JPI Media

Leeds East Labour MP Richard Burgon. Photo: JPI Media

Afterwards he said: "As I have subsequently said on numerous occasions when asked about this, I do not agree with that phrase.

"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".

But now he has been urged to make a “total withdrawal” of his comments by Dame Louise Ellman and Dame Margaret Hodge.

Dame Louise, who quit Labour over anti-Semitism and was MP for Liverpool Riverside, told the Daily Telegraph Mr Burgon should "make an absolute apology and total withdrawal of those comments before he could be considered a credible candidate."

While Dame Margaret, MP for Barking, added it showed “a complete misunderstanding of the link between despising the Netanyahu government and welcoming and accepting the right of Jews to have their own country. The failure to distinguish is one of the issues which lies at the heart of antisemitism in the party. So he has to demonstrate it and for me he doesn’t pass that test.”

Mr Burgon did not respond to a request for comment but previously said: “I recognise that such a phrase fails to distinguish between those seeking a peaceful solution in line with international law, and those, such as the current Israeli government, which is undermining efforts towards peace."