GCCFDM Durham, UK. 9th July, 2016. Richard Burgon, East Leeds Labour Member of Parliament, speaking at the Durham Miners' Gala in Durham, England. The 2016 event was the 132nd 'Big Meeting'. Credit: Stuart Forster/Alamy Live News
Richard Burgon, shadow justice secretary and Labour MP for Leeds East © Stuart Forster/Alamy

A Labour shadow cabinet member said he regretted saying “Zionism is the enemy of peace” after a video emerged of him using the phrase despite previous denials.

Richard Burgon had claimed he did not make the comments but on Tuesday he acknowledged it was “now clear that I did and I regret doing so”.

Questioned by the BBC’s Andrew Neil in 2018 about earlier media reports that he had made the remarks, the shadow justice secretary had said: “No and it’s not my view”.

“I didn’t make those comments, I asked when I was meant to have made those comments. No one could tell me and it’s not my view . . . So if it’s not my view, I wouldn’t have made those comments.”

But in the video, obtained by an investigative journalist, the MP for Leeds East is seen saying: “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.”

Iggy Ostanin, the journalist, said the footage dated back to 2014, before Mr Burgon was a member of parliament. On Tuesday, the MP’s words were described as “shameful” by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

“Richard Burgon’s denial and the subsequent revelation of his 2014 incitement against Zionists encapsulate the total sham of Labour’s approach to anti-Semitism,” said Amanda Bowman, vice-president of the Board.

“At the very least he should apologise for his comments and for his denial of them. The Jewish community has been consistently gaslighted by the Labour party and they continue to abdicate their responsibility to deal with anti-Semitism in their ranks.”

The Labour party has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism by hundreds of Labour members since 2015.

Nine Labour MPs quit the party in February, citing the leadership’s handling of the issue.

Following the release of the video, Mr Burgon said in a statement released by the Labour party that he did not “recall” making the remark when he was questioned by the BBC.

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

“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.”

There was no indication from Labour that it would take the matter any further.

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