Pete Willsman suspended over Israel embassy ‘whipping up’ antisemitism claim
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Pete Willsman suspended over Israel embassy ‘whipping up’ antisemitism claim

National Executive Committee member also claimed Labour party staffers work for the Israeli embassy

Peter Willsman arriving for a meeting of the Labour National Executive Committee in London. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Peter Willsman arriving for a meeting of the Labour National Executive Committee in London. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

A senior Labour official has been suspended after he was recorded accusing the Israeli embassy of “whipping up” antisemitism claims against Jeremy Corbyn.

It is understood Peter Willsman was informed in a letter sent earlier this morning, barring him from NEC meetings or performing functions while he is suspended.

National Executive Committee member Pete Willsman made the comments in January at a meeting in Oxford with the American-Israeli author Tuvia Tenenbom.

Recording of the remarks was released by LBC political editor Theo Usherwood.

In the recording, Willsman can be heard asserting that Labour party staffers work indirectly for the Israeli embassy.

“The people that are in the Labour Party doing it are people who are linked. One of them works indirectly for the Israeli embassy,” he said.

“So obviously, I wouldn’t want to be bothered to find out, but my guess is that they’re the ones that are whipping [it up].”

Willsman also extended his claims of Israeli interference to the letter written by 68 rabbis last year, saying Labour has chosen to ignore the Jewish community.

“In the Guardian not long ago, we had 68 rabbis obviously organised by the Israeli embassy, 68 rabbis saying ‘antisemitism in the Labour Party is widespread and severe,'” he said.

Read more: Jewish groups urge Jennie Formby to expel Pete Willsman over ‘antisemitic slur’

The comments drew criticism from Jewish leaders. Among the critics, senior rabbi Janner-Klausner called for Labour to investigate the comments.

“I was one of the 68 rabbis. Disgusted that NEC Labour official Pete Willsman would again push antisemitic conspiracy theories,” she wrote.

“I expect immediate action from @UKLabour⁩, especially when being investigated on #antisemitism by the EHRC. ”

Labour MP Ruth Smeeth said: “This man shouldn’t be in the Labour Party, never mind a member of our ruling body.

“He should be immediately removed from the NEC. Appalling views like this are precisely why the EHRC are investigating the Labour Party for anti-Jewish hate.”

Simon Johnson, CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council, said the remarks are a “classic accusation of dual loyalty,” one of the examples of antisemitism cited by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

He called for Willsman’s removal from the NEC and added that he “encapsulates the blindness to antisemitism in Labour.”

Fiona Sharpe, spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, said: “Pete Willsman’s alleged comments that Israel is responsible for Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitism crisis are, if as reported on LBC this morning, grossly offensive and unarguably antisemitic.

“There should be no place for him in mainstream British politics and he should be kicked off the Labour’s ruling body, the NEC, and out of the Labour Party.”

The Community Security Trust condemned “the disgraceful antisemitic slur by Pete Willsman” and called on Labour to “act immediately.”

Jewish Labour Movement National Chair Mike Katz added: “He is on the NEC, the party’s main governing body. He rules on cases of antisemitism.

“This is what we mean when we say that the party has a deep-seated institutional racism against Jews.

“If the party cares a jot for the Jewish community, Jeremy Corbyn will demand his resignation from the NEC and expulsion from the party now.”

President Marie van der Zyl said: “Peter Willsman – a man who should have been suspended for anti-Jewish statements last year – has not only denied antisemitism in the Labour Party but has resorted to a well-known antisemitic trope to make his point.”

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