Allegations of anti-Semitism within Labour have been exaggerated and “weaponised” in an attempt to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, the vice chair of Momentum claimed.
Jackie Walker said there was “little if any” hard evidence that there was a major problem of anti-Semitism within the Labour ranks. But she claimed the allegations had been used to silence Mr Corbyn’s supporters and critics of the Israeli state.
Ms Walker, who was suspended from Labour for claiming that Jews were the “chief financiers of the slave trade” but later readmitted, blamed opponents of Mr Corbyn for the row.
Speaking at a festival organised by Momentum on the fringes of the Labour conference in Liverpool, she said: “Let me make it clear: all racism is abhorrent and I am not saying that anti-Semitism does not exist in the Labour Party.
“The Labour Party, after all, is simply a reflection of society. But I am saying that claims of its significance are being exaggerated for political purposes.
“This has been done at huge cost to our movement, to our communities and to many individual people in and outside of our party.
“Anti-Semitism is no more special than any other form of racism. All racisms have their own characteristics and histories.
“All genocides have their own concepts, all holocaust denial – whether it the denial of the Jewish or African holocaust – is a blasphemy against humanity.”
The issue was examined in a report by Baroness Chakrabarti and Ms Walker said: “It seems to me that there is little if any hard evidence that the Labour Party has a major problem with anti-Semitism though there is, as Chakrabarti said, an occasionally toxic atmosphere.
“The most fundamental aim of such allegations is to undermine Jeremy, silence his supporters and ensure any chance of an alternative to the neoliberal diet of cutting services and taxes that had been dished up to us as politics until Jeremy got the leadership, never actually gets to our table as voters.
“It is the silencing of any criticism or potential criticism of the Israeli state, attacking and undermining anyone who supports Palestinian rights.”
She added: “This political use of accusations has not only weaponised anti-Semitism, it has become a weapon of political mass destruction and like all nuclear options has entailed a high degree of collateral damage, not just to the Labour movement as a whole.”
Ms Walker, who is Jewish, dismissed the idea that Momentum was anti-Semitic.
She said: “We have been told that Jews are terrified – note the word – terrified to go to Labour Party meetings, that women are terrified, that Momentum is anti-Semitic.
“Now let’s just forget that both the chair and the vice chair of Momentum are Jewish and many of the leading figures of Momentum are also Jewish.
“I also keep reading that the cause of this terror is Jeremy Corbyn.”
She added: “The irony is we have never had a leader so involved in anti-racism, not just in theory but in the practice of his life.
“It is part of his personal and political DNA.”
Her comments came on the day Labour peer Lord Mitchell resigned from the party in protest at anti-Semitism.
Jeremy Newmark, chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, said one councillor in London had been told by a Labour activist “you are responsible for the slave trade” just days after Ms Walker had tweeted the claim.
Mr Newmark said this myth had been perpetuated by the KKK and other Far Right groups.
“I don’t say the intent was there to create hate… But the use of that anti-Semitic myth had a very real impact on the life of one Jewish Labour Party member.”
He also pointed to the hounding of a Labour member after it emerged she had worked for the Israeli embassy. The bullying had reduced her to tears.
“That to me as a British Jew is anti-Semitic impact.”
He added:”There are too many straw men that have to be knocked down.
“There is no conspiracy to silence lengthy critique of the state of Israel.”
He added there was “concern about demonisation and delegitimisation” and that it was “paranoia rooted in concern of the post-Holocaust Jewish community”.
Ms Walker said she was “really disappointed” by Mr Newmark’s comments about her. She added that a “witch hunt” was not the way to defeat racism.