An ally of Jeremy Corbyn who attacked some Jews as “Trump fanatics” in a heated meeting has been re-elected to the Labour Party’s ruling body, despite left-wing grassroots group Momentum withdrawing its support.
Pete Willsman, who was recorded questioning 68 rabbis and right-wing Jews when discussing anti-Semitism earlier this summer, retained his place on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) in voting on Monday.
The Jewish Labour Movement criticised the outcome, tweeting: “We note the election of Willsman to the ruling body of the Labour Party. It does appear to be one rule for friends of Jeremy & one rule for others. Others remain under investigation whilst Willsman faces no further action for insulting community Rabbis representing British Jews.”
Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Isarael, said: “It is deplorable that Pete Willsman has been re-elected to the NEC and a terrible reflection on Labour’s commitment to tackling antisemitism. Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum should immediately call upon him not to take his seat, so his shameful remarks do not further taint the party’s already tattered reputation.”
Board of Deputies Vice President Amanda Bowman said: “The election of Peter Willsman to Labour’s NEC following his reprehensible comments about Jews is deeply concerning.
“This has not been helped by Labour’s appalling attitude to tackling prejudice, as evidenced by Jeremy Corbyn failing to rebuke Peter Willsman during his antisemitic tirade and General Secretary Jennie Formby letting him off the hook. This has all taken place during a summer of equivocation and denial emanating from the Labour leadership.
“To get anywhere near turning the tide and proving that it can return to being an anti-racist party, Labour’s NEC must adopt the full IHRA definition with all its examples tomorrow and then begin taking firm disciplinary action against all those who commit antisemitic acts and bring the party in to disrepute by denying the problem.”
“I believe we must accept and address the hurt felt by our Jewish neighbours. I have therefore called our Party to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including all its accompanying examples, into Labour’s rule book. I am urging Jeremy Corbyn to apologise for the pain and anguish he has caused the Jewish community for comments he has made and the company he has kept. And I will continue to urge our Party to take further, immediate measures to root out the antisemitism in our midst.”
In the days leading up to the NEC vote, Willsman had appealed to Party members to support his candidacy because he would defend Corbyn against “appalling and unjust attacks and smears”.
Momentum withdrew its support for Willsman in August. The group said his comments, which were seen as denying the problem of anti-Semitism in Labour, were “insensitive” to the Jewish community.
At a one-day conference organised by the Jewish Labour Movement on Sunday, Lansman said he was “very unhappy with what Pete Willsman said at the NEC on that occasion and on previous occasions,” adding that other NEC members had grown used to Willsman’s outbursts.
Among the other NEC members re-elected to the influential body were Momentum founder Jon Lansman. Both are Jewish and both have defended Labour’s code of conduct on anti-Semitism, unveiled at the last NEC meeting.
The code attracted criticism from Jewish community representatives for not replicating all 11 working examples from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism and is due to be revisited on Tuesday.