Jeremy Corbyn ally suggests Israel 'created' Labour anti-Semitism row
A trade union boss and ally of Jeremy Corbyn has suggested Israel "created" the anti-Semitism storm in the Labour party to deflect from its actions in Palestine.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said he was "not a conspiracy theorist" but argued that creating "a story that does not exist" was the best way of "trying to hide from the atrocities you are committing".
He was condemned for the remarks. which he made at the TUC conference in Manchester, with the Labour Against Anti-Semitism campaign calling on him to resign.
The latest row comes after Labour spent the summer mired in controversy over its initial refusal to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism.
Speaking at a fringe event organised by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Mr Serwotka said Labour had “allowed a lot of this to drag on, in a way that actually didn't help anybody,” the Independent reported.
He said: "In a year when Donald Trump has moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a year when dozens of Palestinians including children were gunned down – unarmed innocent civilians – by the Israeli military, in a year when the Americans are cutting off aid ... isn’t it a vile world when, instead of being on the front foot, denouncing these atrocities, demanding an independent and sovereign state for the Palestinian people, we have had a summer of asking ourselves whether leading Labour movement people are in any way anti-Semitic?"
Mr Serwotka added: "Now I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I'll tell you what - one of the best forms of trying to hide from the atrocities that you are committing is to go on the offensive and to actually create a story that does not exist for people on this platform, the trade union movement or, I have to say, for the leader of the Labour party."
Euan Philipps, a spokesperson for Labour Against Anti-Semitism, said: “Mark Serwotka’s speech is a stark illustration of how deeply embedded anti-Semitism is within the Labour movement.
“To intimate that the Israeli government is somehow responsible for the anti-Semitism crisis that has torn across the Labour party this summer is a baseless lie.”
A PCS spokesperson said: “Mark spoke at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign fringe event at the TUC - an organisation PCS is affiliated to.
“He made the point at the start of the meeting, that we need to oppose anti-Semitism in society and within the Labour movement.
“But we should not allow the issue of anti-Semitism to be used by people who are attempting to silence Palestinian voices as they legitimately struggle for their rights and a sovereign state.”
Mr Serwotka rejoined Labour in 2016 after he was expelled in the 1990s for being a member of a separate left-wing group.
He was barred from re-joining to vote in the 2015 Labour leadership election but was allowed membership after Mr Corbyn - who has called Mr Serwotka a “friend” - became leader.