Fury as Labour executive member Pete Willsman says Israeli embassy 'whipped up' anti-semitism claims
Labour has been plunged into a fresh row after a member of its ruling body was recorded claiming Israel whipped up claims of anti-semitism against the party.
Pete Willsman, who sits on the party's National Executive Committee, was caught on tape saying the crisis was “all lies” and claiming party staffers were “linked” to the Israeli embassy.
He also said an article by 68 rabbis criticising Labour's handling of the scandal that has gripped the party was “obviously organised" by Israel.
MPs and Jewish groups condemned the comments as “grossly offensive and unarguably anti-semitic” and demanded Mr Willsman resign his seat on the NEC and be expelled from the party.
It comes after the Equalities and Human Rights Commission launched a full-scale investigation into the way Labour has handled the issue of anti-Jewish racism in its ranks.
The comments by Mr Willsman, made to American-Israeli author Tuvia Tenenbom and published by LBC radio, will be investigated by the Labour party.
He told the writer that critics of Mr Corbyn were using claims of anti-semitism to “whip people up,” adding: “They use anything. Any lies.”
He went on: “It’s almost certain who is behind all this anti-semitism against Jeremy... Almost certainly it was the Israeli embassy. Because they caught somebody in the Labour party - it turns out they were an agent in the embassy.
“The thing is that the people that are in the Labour party doing it are people who are linked… one of them works indirectly for the Israeli embassy.”
“I wouldn’t want to be bothered to find out anyway but my guess would be they are the ones whipping it up all the time.”
Labour MP Jess Phillips branded Mr Willsman an “anti-semite” and added: “While he remains on the NEC it will completely lack authority.”
Fellow MP Wes Streeting said on Twitter: “Willsman should resign from the NEC and subject to disciplinary action by the Labour party immediately.
“Is it any wonder that the Labour party is under investigation by the EHRC? His views have been known and tolerated by those at the top of the party for too long.”
'CONSISTENT PATTERN OF RACISM'
Mike Katz, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, said Mr Willsman had displayed “a consistent pattern of conspirational left-wing anti-Jewish racism” - after a similar incident last year.
“Willsman cannot continue to sit on the NEC for a moment longer,” he added. “If the party cares a jot for the Jewish community, Jeremy Corbyn will demand his resignation from the NEC and expulsion from the party now.”
Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber said: “It's utterly despicable for a member of Labour's governing body to blame the Jewish state for anti-semitism in the Labour party.”
And Fiona Sharpe, spokesperson for Labour Against Anti-semitism, said the comments were “grossly offensive and unarguably anti-semitic”.
She added: “There should be no place for him in mainstream British politics and he should be kicked off the Labour’s ruling body, the NEC, and out of the Labour party.”
Mr Willsman was previously handed a warning by Labour general secretary Jennie Formby after he accused rabbis speaking out over the anti-semitism crisis of being “Trump fanatics”.
A Labour spokesperson said: "The Labour party takes all complaints of anti-semitism extremely seriously and we are committed to challenging and campaigning against it in all its forms.
"All complaints about anti-semitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken."