Labour MPs have reacted with fury after a member of the party’s ruling executive was recorded dismissing reports of anti-Semitism in the party as “made up” by “Jewish Trump fanatics”.
Peter Willsman, a long-standing supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, said he would not “be lectured to” by “people in the Jewish community” who he claimed support Donald Trump, according to a recording obtained by the Jewish Chronicle.
Willsman is one of the key Corbyn allies that sits on the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
The comments were made at a meeting which the NEC refused to adopt in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.
Willsman said: “Some of these people in the Jewish community support Trump. They’re Trump fanatics and all the rest of it.
“I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up duff information without any evidence at all.
“So I think we should ask the 70 rabbis: where is your evidence of severe and widespread anti-Semitism in this party?”
Earlier this month, a group of 68 British rabbis signed an unprecedented letter urging Labour “to listen to the Jewish community” and adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.
Labour deputy leader Tom Watson led the backlash among MPs.
The Labour MP Luciana Berger, who is the parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, responded to the recording by calling for the party to suspend Willsman and conduct a formal investigation.
She told the Jewish Chronicle: “Anyone listening to this recording will be appalled to hear the venom and fury directed by Mr Willsman at the British Jewish community.
“That he accuses the Jewish community of falsifying social media and being ‘Trump fanatics’ in order to deny the serious concerns of 68 rabbis beggars belief.”
The incident happened at the same NEC meeting that prompted a veteran Jewish MP to confront Corbyn and label him an “anti-Semite and racist”, as revealed by HuffPost UK.
Furious former minister Margaret Hodge confronted the Labour leader after a crunch Commons votes on Brexit, telling him he didn’t want people like her in the party any more. She now faces disciplinary action.
Willsman, who is secretary of the Campaign For Labour Democracy group which helped sweep Corbyn to the leadership, previously avoided punishment for his remarks at the July 17 meeting by apologising and suggesting he had been misquoted.