Guardian columnist and author Owen Jones has defended a leading member of Jewish Voice for Labour against allegations of antisemitism.
Glyn Secker, secretary of the pro-Corbyn fringe group, told pro-Palestine protesters last weekend that Labour MPs friendly with Israel are a “fifth column”.
He also claimed the Zionist Federation is “embracing” the neo-Nazi English Defence League, adding: “What on earth are Jews doing in the gutter with these rats?”
Following criticism of the remarks, Jones shared posts on Monday attacking coverage of the comments, echoing the position of Jewish Voice for Labour set out in a statement on its website.
Speaking to Jewish News, Jones condemned the remarks but rejected claims that the allegations were antisemitic.
He said: “Although I refute the idea he’s an antisemite, for example, I strongly oppose calling the JLM ‘a fifth column’ – who I regard as comrades and have been proud to speak at their events, and more broadly his language was inflammatory in a way that I can’t accept.”
In a statement on their website, Jewish Voice for Labour said: “Secker, a veteran Jewish trade unionist and antiracist activist, challenged community leaders for tolerating the far-right connections of some extreme Zionists.
“For this, he has been publicly abused in distorted reports on social media and in some mainstream publications.”
Peter Mason, national secretary of Jewish Labour Movement, said: “Pretty embarrassed to have given [Owen Jones] a platform, given how he’s turned, to be honest.
“You can’t in one breath defend 99 year affiliated @JewishLabour from an accusation of being a fifth column, whilst also defending the beer hall speech accuser. We’re not your fig leaf.”
Jones took part in a panel event with Sarah Sackman, vice-chair of the Jewish Labour Movement at Belsize Square Synagogue in 2017.