Saturday 21 September 2019

Labour in new racism storm

Official accused of blaming Israel for 'whipping up' anti-Semitism

'A Labour Party spokeswoman said:
'A Labour Party spokeswoman said: "Peter Willsman has been suspended from the Labour Party, pending investigation."' Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Jennifer McKiernan

Britain's Labour Party has suspended a senior official after a tape emerged of him saying anti-Semitism has been "whipped up" by the Israeli embassy working within the party.

The move to suspend Peter Willsman, who sits on the party's National Executive Committee (NEC), had been demanded by Labour deputy leader Tom Watson.

A Labour Party spokeswoman said: "Peter Willsman has been suspended from the Labour Party, pending investigation."

Mr Watson said: "The fact that a member of Labour's governing body feels he can continue to make such offensive remarks after being warned for similar outbursts previously shows how serious the problem of anti-Semitism is in our party.

"The general secretary must make good on the promise that was made following Mr Willsman's previous outburst, that he would face disciplinary action if he engaged in similar conduct again."

The suspension means Mr Willsman cannot attend NEC meetings or perform any other functions as a member of the committee.

In a recording obtained by LBC, a man said to be Mr Willsman talks about how people will "move heaven and earth" to "avoid paying taxes", before claiming Israeli agents are at work within the party.

He said: "One of these things about anti-Semitism is they will use anything to whip people up - they will use anything, any lies, it's all total lies, they just whip it up.

"This is off the record, it's almost certain who is behind all this anti-Semitism against Jeremy [Corbyn], almost certainly it's the Israeli embassy.

"Yeah, because they caught somebody in the Labour Party and it turns out they were an agent of the embassy."

Mr Willsman then apparently claims 68 rabbis who complained of "widespread and severe" anti-Semitism in Labour were organised by the Israeli embassy.

He asked: "Is 70 out of 600,000 widespread and severe?"

Labour MPs, including Stella Creasy, condemned the remarks and said Mr Willsman should go.

She tweeted: "Anyone who supported Willsman for the NEC after the first revelations needs to hang their head in shame they indulged this hatred *eyeballs WF momentum*.

"He must now surely be gone from Labour and we have to have an independent complaints system now."

Labour MP Liz Kendall said Mr Willsman's alleged views have "no place in our party".

She tweeted: "Appalling and totally unacceptable. These views have no place in our party, let alone on our ruling body."

Jewish groups joined forces to call for the expulsion of Mr Willsman for the "anti-Semitic slur" in a letter signed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust.

"It is racist by any measure," they said.

"It is also, ironically, one of the behaviours described as anti-Semitic in the definition of anti-Semitism that Labour's leadership very grudgingly adopted last year, but have still failed to include anywhere on the Party's website.

"Pete Willsman must be immediately dismissed from Labour's National Executive Committee and expelled from the Labour Party."

Fiona Sharpe, spokeswoman for the Labour Against Anti-Semitism group, said the alleged comments were "grossly offensive and unarguably anti-Semitic".

She demanded there should be zero tolerance after figures like shadow chancellor John McDonnell said Mr Willsman should be "given the benefit of the doubt".

Ms Sharpe added: "There should be no place for him in mainstream British politics and he should be kicked off Labour's ruling body, the NEC, and out of the Labour Party.

"This is not the first time Mr Willsman has reportedly made anti-Jewish remarks.

"There can be no such latitude given now."

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News