TUC dodges row over president Mark Serwotka's suggestion Israel behind Labour anti-Semitism
The TUC has refused to be drawn on a suggestion by its president that Israel may be behind the anti-Semitism row which continues to dog the Labour party.
Mark Serwotka, who is an ally of Jeremy Corbyn, said he was "not a conspiracy theorist", but believed the world's only Jewish state could be using the controversy to deflect attention from its own "atrocities" in Palestine.
Speaking at a TUC fringe event, the PCS general secretary 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?"
He 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."
Mr Serwotka was elected TUC president at the umbrella body's annual congress in Manchester last week, and will hold the title for a year.
Asked to comment on his remarks, a TUC spokesperson said: "The TUC opposes anti-Semitism and discrimination of all kinds, as do our member unions. All TUC unions have a commitment to tackling racism and promoting equality in their rules.
"If anyone experiences anti-Semitism or any form of discrimination in the union movement, they should be confident that they can raise it with their union, and their union will take their concerns seriously."
However, they refused to comment specifically on his remarks about Israel.
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.”
Labour refused to comment.
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.