Video footage has emerged of John Rees, a co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition and an long-standing ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, declaring his support for terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
Rees declared the two proscribed organisations, which aim to wipe Israel from the map, as “a legitimate part of our movement.”
In a video filmed in 2009, Mr Rees is seen telling activists at the “Meet The Resistance” conference, held at a Quakers Friends House: “It’s also been our policy that the resistance is a legitimate part of the movement.
“They are part of the movement in the Middle East, they are the central part of the movement in the middle east. And it’s not surprising that if you are under military occupation one of the forms of resistance is a military resistance.
“That’s what happens. It’s what happened in France, it’s what happened in Italy in the Second World War, it’s would have happened in this country had it been invaded in the second world war.”
He continued: “I personally am a supporter of the resistance, but even if I weren’t I hope that I’d be open minded enough to listen to what they have to say, especially if I came from a country where the government and the media are working 24/7 to dissuade you from even listening to what they have to say.”
Hamas have also been accused of using civilians as human shields during armed conflicts with Israel, in order to win a propaganda war. In 2014, a former Hamas ministry officer known only as T said “Hamas wanted us butchered so it could win the media war against Israel showing our dead children on TV and then get money from Qatar.”
The emergence of the video is acutely embarrassing for Mr Corbyn, as not only does it highlight his links to anti-Israeli extremists, it was also filmed during the same conference at which Mr Corbyn called Hamas and Hezbollah “friends”.
He later backtracked on that comment, explaining: “I’m saying that people I talk to, I use it in a collective way, saying our friends are prepared to talk.
“Does it mean I agree with Hamas and what it does? No. Does it mean I agree with Hezbollah and what they do? No. What it means is that I think to bring about a peace process, you have to talk to people with whom you may profoundly disagree.”
Pressure is mounting on Mr Corbyn to distance himself from Stop the War, both for comments such as these, and for a number of questionable blog posts which the group has posted and then retracted within the last few weeks. His own front bench has called on him to “step back” from the “disreputable” campaign group after it called for Labour MPs who voted in favour of airstrikes in Syria in a free vote to be sacked.
They have also asked him not to attend the Coalition’s Christmas fundraiser this evening. So far he has not publicly pulled out.
When contacted by The Telegraph, Mr Rees did not retract his comments from 2009.
“David Cameron was right when he recently said that the right to resist aggression is enshrined by the UN in international law,” he said.
“Those peoples, like the Palestinians and the Lebanese in 2006, who face invasion and the forcible seizure of their territory therefore have the right to resist.”
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: “The anti-war movement has been a vital democratic campaign which organised the biggest demonstrations in British history and has repeatedly called it right over 14 years of disastrous wars in the wider Middle East.”