Momentum drop support for Peter Willsman over 'deeply insensitive' comments about Jews
Momentum has dropped its support for a close ally of Jeremy Corbyn after he made a series of "deeply insensitive" remarks about Jews.
The campaign group said it could no longer back Peter Willsman's bid to be re-elected to Labour's ruling national executive committee.
Mr Willsman has come under increasing pressure to withdraw from the election after he was secretly recorded dismissing Jewish critics of the Labour leader as “Trump fanatics” and demanded to know if anyone had witnessed anti-Semitism in the Labour party.
He has since apologised for the remarks and agreed to take part in equalities training.
The veteran activist is part of a nine-strong left-wing slate standing in the NEC dubbed the '#JC9' because of their support for Mr Corbyn.
But in a statement released on social media, Momentum - which is led by Corbyn ally Jon Lansman - said that they expected their representatives to be held to a higher standard than ordinary Labour members.
"While it is welcome that (Peter Willsman) has made a full apology and will attend equalities training, his comments were deeply insensitive and inappropriate for a Momentum backed NEC candidate," they said.
The statement added: "We must also acknowledge the anger and upset felt within the British Jewish community and reaffirm our commitment to rooting out anti-Semitism both in the party and across society."
But the move threatened to spark a fresh left-wing split, with other supporters of Mr Corbyn condemning it.
Richard Angell, director of the centrist pressure group, Progress, said that Momentum’s decision to withdraw their support for Mr Willsman’s candidacy was a “half measure.”
“Pete Willsman should not just be off their slate but off the whole NEC and facing disciplinary action”, he said.
“It is time that zero tolerance on anti-Semitism meant something, not warm words for PR purposes. Momentum should really demand he resign his NEC seat and no longer have a say at Labour’s top table.
“Having lost the support of those who put him there, it is time he considers his position.”
Momentum’s decision comes as it was revealed that Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell signed an early day motion in parliament in 2008 which welcomed the creation of a controversial anti-Zionist group, the International Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN).
The group’s founding charter calls for the destruction of the state of Israel and frequently compares the actions of Zionism to Nazi Germany.
In his motion, Mr McDonnell praised the group for their decision to “discredit Israel’s attempts to suppress criticism with false accusations of anti-Semitism.”
A Labour spokesperson said that Mr McDonnell did not support all of the views held by the group.
“John was welcoming the creation of an organisation that represented an important strand of radical Jewish political campaigning. Of course, he didn’t and doesn’t endorse all of the language and views expressed in their charter", they said.
PoliticsHome also revealed how Mr McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn also backed a separate motion in 2011 calling for Holocaust Memorial Day to be renamed to recognise other acts of genocide.
The motion proposed that the name to be changed to “Genocide Awareness Day – Never Again For Anyone” to better recognise the persecution of working class activists, disabled people and the LGBT community under Nazi rule.
It said the name change “supports the call for international awareness of all communities and countries who have suffered and resisted mass extermination by renaming Holocaust Memorial Day as Genocide Memorial Day - Never Again For Anyone".
Mr Corbyn was also forced to apologise earlier this week for hosting a debate entitled 'Never Again For Anyone', organised by IJAN, in the House of Commons in 2010 at which Israel was compared to Nazi Germany by Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer.