All four Labour leadership candidates declared themselves either Zionists or supporters of Zionism at a hustings jointly held by the pro-Israel groups the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel.
All hopefuls were asked if they considered themselves Zionists at the event on Thursday evening.
Right-wing candidate Lisa Nandy said: “I believe that Jewish people have the right to national self-determination. That makes me a Zionist.”
Shadow Foreign Minister Emily Thornberry said: “I believe in the state of Israel and therefore I’m a Zionist.”
The leadership frontrunner Sir Keir Starmer said: “I believe in the State of Israel, a secure Israel. I also believe in an independent Palestinian state.”
When pressed a second time, Starmer replied that he wouldn’t describe himself as a Zionist, but said that he had extended family in Israel.
“My parents’ family are Jewish, and we’ve got extended family in Israel,” he said. “I don’t describe myself as as Zionist, but I understand and I sympathise and I support Zionism. So I wouldn’t describe myself in that way. But, of course, you know, we have family in Israel. That is part of my family.”
And second-favourite Rebecca Long-Bailey said: “I agree with a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state … I suppose that makes me a Zionist because I agree with Israel’s right to exist and right to self determine.”
Zionism is the movement which led to the creation of Israel in 1948 which dispossessed the Palestinian people. In total, Israel expelled around 800,000 Palestinians from their homeland.
Long-Bailey, the supposedly left-wing candidate to replace Jeremy Corbyn, agreed it was “anti-Semitic” to “describe Israel, its policies, or the circumstances around its foundation as racist.”
In 2018, Corbyn stated that it should not be “regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact” on Palestinians.
He had been attempting unsuccessfully to make it Labour Party policy to protect people who make valid criticisms of Israel, or state historical facts, from allegations of anti-Semitism.
All of the candidates apologised to the Jewish community for the Labour Party’s handling of the antisemitism crisis.
The 90-minute hustings saw all candidates vow to implement recommendations made by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission following their investigation into allegations of antisemitism in the party.
And all candidates pledged to offer an apology and financial settlement to former staffers who spoke out against the party’s handling of antisemitism cases in the BBC’s Panorama programme, broadcast last year.
While most of the 750-strong audience identified as Labour Party members, a majority indicated in a show of hands they had not backed the party at the 2019 election. Many suggested they would consider backing the party again following the hustings.
The next Labour leader will be announced on April 4.