An anti-Israel campaigner who spray-painted a Warsaw Ghetto wall is a “highly inappropriate speaker” for a Momentum event, Tom Watson has said.
Ewa Jasiewicz, who is also reported to have called for a “bump-off” of Israeli politicians, will be part of a panel at an event by the pro-Jeremy Corbyn group organised alongside Labour conference later this month.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, the deputy leader of the Labour Party said “on the grounds of taste and decency” Jasiewicz – who claimed the spray-painting was “intended in the spirit of anti-fascist resistance” – should be excluded.
Watson added that his party’s new general secretary, Jennie Formby, should face questions about her future in the role if Labour continues to be dogged with allegations of anti-Semitism by Christmas.
The senior MP also defended the Jewish actress Tracy Ann Oberman, who revealed that she cried in her car when she became the target of a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse when she criticised Momentum’s decision to give Jasiewicz a platform.
“We’re not going to rebuild trust with the Jewish community in Britain very easily,” said Watson.
“Not for the first time I will say I wish we had dealt with it sooner rather than later. Because we didn’t deal it with it early, it’s going to be harder for us to rebuild trust with people like Lord Sugar and other friends of mine…”.
He added: “I don’t believe that [Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t care]. I think he does care about this and he understands it’s a big political problem for us, not least because it’s a distraction from dealing with these key issues like Brexit and the crisis in the NHS.”
Jasiewicz is scheduled to speak about the future of trade unions at the Momentum’s World Transformed arts and politics festival, which will run alongside Labour conference in Liverpool.
She caused offence in 2010 when she daubed a wall of the Warsaw Ghetto with pro-Palestine graffiti.
An estimated 92,000 Jews died and 300,000 more were held in the ghetto before being transported to death camps.
Jasiewicz said in a statement that the wall in question was used regularly by artists, whose contributions were later included in an exhibition and that her contribution was intended “in solidarity with all people facing ghettoisation”.
Responding to a question about Toast actress Oberman, who accused Momentum on Twitter of ‘normalising’ Jasiewicz’s graffiti act, Watson said: “I think [Oberman]’s very brave and she’s suffered anti-Semitic attacks on social media.
“I think just on the grounds of taste and decency and particularly the context of the fact that we’re dealing with anti-Semitism suggests to me she’s a highly inappropriate speaker for Momentum.”
Of Jeremy Corbyn’s actions as leader to tackle anti-Semitism he added: “We’ve had a very difficult summer. That’s your opinion [that Corbyn hasn’t been leading]. My view is we could have dealt with it earlier.”
Watson was also challenged on whether Labour would swing behind demands for a second referendum or ’People’s Vote on Brexit.
He said the direction of Brexit should sit with MPs in Westminster, but that a second vote was not off the table for the party.
It comes after the GMB union and the TUC indicated their support for the move.
Watson said: “If Parliament cannot come to a decision on any deal then it might be an option that has to be enacted.
“We’ve been very clear about it. No, we’re not [trying to be all things to all]. John McDonnell was very clear about this yesterday – our preferred option is Parliament takes a decision.
“If Parliament cannot come to a conclusion, our preferred option to that is let’s have a general election. You had 50 Tory MPs last night plotting the downfall of their prime minister.
“It seems to me that what’s actually the problem is that we’ve got a government that doesn’t have a working majority. In those circumstances the only way you deal with that is with a general election.”
He added: “We need to see what the deal is. You can’t blame me for not having a position on a deal that doesn’t exist yet. I think the Chequers plan, there are some good bits, there are some bad bits.
“There is a tiny option of putting the deal to the people. It’s not unreasonable to keep that in as an option in my view. We do need to keep that in the back pocket.”