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Mon, 1 June 2020

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Tom Watson accuses Labour MP of spreading 'misinformation' over Israeli army tweet

Tom Watson accuses Labour MP of spreading 'misinformation' over Israeli army tweet
3 min read

Tom Watson has accused a fellow Labour MP of spreading "misinformation" after he shared a video which wrongly claimed to show Israeli soldiers beating up Palestinian children.

Labour's deputy leader said he had raised his concerns about Grahame Morris's behaviour with the party's general secretary, Jennie Formby, and chief whip, Nick Brown.

The offending video was originally tweeted by Corbynista account Rachael Swindon, but eventually removed after it was pointed out that the soldiers were in fact Guatemalan.

Mr Morris, the MP for Easington, shared that post with the message: "Marvellous, absolutely marvellous the Israeli Army, the best financed, best trained, best equipped army in the world caught on camera beating up Palestinian children for the fun of it. May God forgive them. What would Jim Royle say on an Easter Monday."

More than 1,000 people responded to point out that he was wrong, including the official Twitter account of the Israel Defense Forces.

In reply to one critic, the MP said: "You are right and many apologies for my honest mistake there are lots of verifiable documented examples of the IDF abusing Palestinian child prisoners I have seen for myself in Court in the West Bank - but am harvesting and documenting a few more of my trolls yet thanks."

Mr Morris eventually issued a full apology and deleted his tweet, but only more than 12 hours after it was posted.

He said: "I am sorry for sharing a post which purports to show the IDF hurting children but it was in fact the Guatemalan Army. My error demonstrates the dangers of fake news online and I will be more diligent in future in checking my sources."

In a statement responding to the row, Mr Watson said: "Following a number of complaints relating to the distribution of fake news by a Labour Party member, and the amplification of the misinformation by my colleague Grahame Morris MP, I shared the concerns with the chief whip and general secretary of the Labour Party. Disciplinary matters are in their hands but I am sure they are in no doubt of the offence caused.

"I understand after a couple of attempts, Mr Morris has now made a full apology.

"Once again, I advise all Labour Party members, no matter what their status, to observe the social media code in our rule book and to exercise tolerance and respect in their public discussions."

Grahame Morris MP’s tweet was highly offensive.

Euan Philipps, spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, said: "Grahame Morris MP’s tweet was highly offensive.

"Firstly, it wrongly claimed footage of Guatemalan soldiers physically abusing children was in fact the Israel Defence Force – then, despite having his error pointed out (including by the IDF itself), Mr Morris refused to delete the tweet. 

"Secondly, his tweet also included the retweet of Rachael Swindon, a twitter account that has been censured for promoting antisemitic Rothschild conspiracy theories.

"Thirdly, Mr Morris’s tweet also carried inaccuracies about the strength of the IDF, a blatant misrepresentation of the Israeli military and an exaggeration of its defensive capabilities.

"And fourthly, by saying “May God forgive them”, he appears to have invoked the Easter blood libel.

"We understand that Mr Morris has now apologised for sharing the footage – but he should have apologised and removed his tweet as soon as his error was pointed out. His delayed actions look insincere and forced."

Labour has been approached for a comment.

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