Jeremy Corbyn says concerns over anti-Semitism within Labour are “neither exaggerated nor overstated”.
Last month, a report from the UK’s human rights watchdog said Labour broke the law by failing to stamp out anti-Jewish racism in the party.
But in his response to the report, the former leader said the scale of anti-Semitism had been “dramatically overstated” by his opponents.
The party took the decision to suspend Mr Corbyn in light of the comments.
Sir Keir Starmer defended the move by Labour’s National Executive Committee, as he had said those who believed the issue of anti-Semitism in the party had been “exaggerated” should “be nowhere near the Labour Party”.
But Mr Corbyn – who has been a member of the party for 54 years – vowed to fight the suspension.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn – who led the party for almost five years – said he had given a statement to Labour to “clear up any confusion” about what he had meant after the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report was published.
He said the report’s release “should have been a moment for the Labour Party to come together in a determination to address the shortcomings of the past and work as one to root out anti-Semitism in our own ranks and wider society”.
Mr Corbyn, who is still an MP despite his suspension from the party, said it was “not his intention” to say anti-Jewish racism should be tolerated, and he “regrets the pain this issue has caused the Jewish community”.
His statement added: “To be clear, concerns about anti-Semitism are neither ‘exaggerated’ nor ‘overstated’.
“The point I wished to make was that the vast majority of Labour Party members were and remain committed anti-racists deeply opposed to anti-Semitism.”
Asked about the statement, a Labour Party spokesman said they would not “give a running commentary on an individual case”.
Labour has been plagued by allegations of anti-Jewish racism by some of its supporters since 2016, mostly on social media.
Anti-Semitic abuse is against the law and in May last year the EHRC – which polices human rights and equalities in the UK – launched an investigation into Labour’s handling of complaints about the behaviour of some of its supporters.
When it published its report in October, the Commission put some of the blame on “serious failings” under Mr Corbyn’s leadership of the party.
But Labour said it was his reaction to the report that led to his suspension, rather its findings.
Many Labour MPs stood by the decision to suspend Mr Corbyn, including Margaret Hodge, parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement.
But his allies in the Commons, including former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, called for the decision to be reversed.
An investigation is now being carried out by the Labour Party over Mr Corbyn’s comments and any further action that should be taken.
On his Facebook post, the former leader said: “I hope this matter is resolved as quickly as possible, so that the party can work together to root out anti-Semitism and unite to oppose and defeat this deeply damaging Conservative government.”