A senior Union leader has compared the Labour antisemitism row to a fight on ‘our enemy’s territory’, as he levelled criticism at adversaries of Jeremy Corbyn during a pro-Palestine meeting.
Unite boss Len McCluskey addressed a Justice for Palestine fringe event during the party conference this week, where he took aim at MPs who’ve been critical of the Labour leader.
He said the party had been sucked into arguing on enemy turf “like the Charge of the Light Brigade” over the IHRA definition, which Labour’s NEC backed in full last month, with a caveat to allow criticism of Israel.
McCluskey said of the antisemitism row: “The truth is we were, like the Charge of the Light Brigade – cannons to the left, right and in front of us – sucked into a debate on our enemy’s territory.”
But he predicted “the time will come when people will say Jeremy Corbyn was right” that the definitions were aimed at preventing criticism of the Israeli government.
He went on to attack the MPs – many of them Jewish – who said failure to sign up to the IHRA guidelines in full was anti-Semitic.
Mr McCluskey said: “How shameful it was those MPs, quick to run to the right-wing media to have a go at Jeremy Corbyn, never raised one word against the Israeli government’s crimes. So, comrades, shame on them. Shame on them.”
This comes after the Jewish Labour Movement’s rally at the conference on Sunday, where Rabbi Arieh Abel, who is on the executive of Unite, said it was “haemorrhaging” rabbi members due to stance on the issue. He said a letter had been sent to McCluskey on behalf of 1700 “faith members” of Unite.
It was not only the Unite leader’s comments which came in for heavy criticism at the JLM rally however, with MPs such as Dame Louise Ellman attacking remarks made by incoming Trade Union Congress president Mark Serwotka, who had said that Israel had fomented the antisemitism row to distract attention from its treatment of the Palestinians.
Mr Serwotka said during the pro-Palestine meeting: “It is disappointing that some Labour MPs have repeated things that I have never said or believe. I am a lifelong anti-racist and I have repeatedly stated there is no place for anti-Semitism in the Labour movement and that it must be rooted out.
“I have never said that anti-Semitism was a problem made up by Israel. I have condemned the Israeli state for its treatment of the Palestinians including the massacre of children in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.
“This was the context of my speech at the TUC.”
Among the eight topics selected for debate at Labour Party conference was Palestine – with discussions to take place to decide the final text of each motion.