Labour is facing calls to suspend a member of its ruling body after he was recorded calling some members of the Jewish community “Trump fanatics”.
Peter Willsman was described as a “loud-mouthed bully” by Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson, while Jewish Labour Movement chairwoman Luciana Berger said the recording was “sickening”.
The veteran left-winger said he “deeply apologised” for any offence caused by the comments, but said that not all of what he said had been “accurately reported”.
The recording’s emergence comes amid a flare-up of a row over Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of anti-Semitism by some members of the party.
In the clip acquired by the Jewish Chronicle, Mr Willsman can be heard saying with a raised voice: “Some of these people in the Jewish community support Trump – they are Trump fanatics and all the rest of it.
“So I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up 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?'”
In an open letter earlier this month, 68 rabbis called on Labour to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, including its examples.
They said anti-Semitism within “sections of the Labour party” had become “so severe and widespread that we must speak out with one Jewish voice”.
Labour’s governing body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), did not include within its new code of conduct the full definition of anti-Semitism – including illustrative examples – set out by the IHRA.
Ms Berger told the Jewish Chronicle that Labour should suspend Mr Willsman and conduct a “formal investigation”.
She wrote on Twitter: “The fact that it took place in a meeting of @UKLabour’s sovereign body the other week after all that’s happened is a disgrace.
“Blaming any other minority group wldn’t be tolerated – why is the Jewish community treated this way?”
Mr Watson tweeted: “For the avoidance of doubt: Peter Willsman is and always has been a loud mouthed bully. He disgusts me.”
Mr Willsman, who sits on the NEC, said: “I deeply apologise for any offence caused to those present and those to whom my remarks were reported.”
“Not all of what I said has been accurately reported,” he told the BBC.
“But I accept that what I did say, and the way I said it, fell short of the requirement, which I accept, for discussions of contentious issues to be conducted in a fully civil and respectful way.”
The row comes after Mr Corbyn’s suitability to lead the party was questioned by Labour MP Ian Austin, who accused him of “supporting and defending” extremists.
The Dudley North MP, the son of adoptive Jewish parents, said he was “deeply ashamed” of Labour for not fully adopting a widely backed definition of anti-Semitism set out by the IHRA.
His intervention came after Dame Margaret Hodge admitted confronting Mr Corbyn over the controversy over its rules on racism targeted at Jews.
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Mr Corbyn was “leading the Labour Party into a dark place of ugly conspiracy theories” which had become a “home for overt anti-Semites and anti-Semitism”.
Karen Pollock , Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “This tirade did not happen in some stuffy room of a fringe gathering in the back of beyond, this happened at a meeting of the ruling body of a mainstream political party with its Leader present. It is horrifying – not only for its content, but by the fact that the Labour Leader and General Secretary sat by, witnessed these disgusting, indefensible comments and said nothing.
“It is impossible not to recognise Mr Willsman’s contempt for the Jewish community, but even when it is staring him in the face, Mr Corbyn seems unphased. Our political leaders should be leading the charge against racism. To remain silent is complicit. This is unacceptable and terrifying.
“If our political leaders will not act, it is up to all of us to speak out against this hatred. I call on other like-minded people to join us and challenge racism, hatred and prejudice wherever they see it. This cannot continue.”