NEC slate: vote for Peter Willsman
Longstanding National Executive Committee member Peter Willsman has been targeted for allegedly antisemitic comments he made at the last NEC meeting in July. His remarks were secretly recorded and later published by the Jewish Chronicle. Who leaked them and why?
In a debate on antisemitism, Peter is reported as saying, “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 duff information without any evidence at all. I think we should ask the 70 rabbis ‘where is your evidence of severe and widespread antisemitism in this Party?’”
This is a factually true statement from Peter. The then-Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush welcomed Trump’s election, saying, “I would like to congratulate Donald Trump on his victory.” Arkush went on to praise Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a hugely provocative and controversial decision. He went on, “Why is it apparently so controversial that the United States is taking the decision to recognise what we already know, that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?” At exactly the same time Israeli soldiers killed at least 60 Palestinian protestors in Gaza and wounded thousands more.
We have to be careful with this ‘evidence’ against Peter as the tape could easily have been tampered with. Even so, there can be no justification for the way Luciana Berger MP jumped in. “Anyone listening to this recording will be appalled to hear the venom and fury directed by Mr Willsman at the British Jewish community.” Willsman makes it clear on the tape that not all Jewish people are Trump supporters. There is no venom and fury directed at the British Jewish community as a whole. There is not a trace of antisemitism.
Willsman has since apologised for his remarks. "I do not believe antisemitism is 'widespread' in the Labour Party, and that was what my comments were trying to refer to, but we do have a problem which needs stamping out. One antisemite is one too many.” "I recognise the offensive nature of my comments and that... I showed a lack of the sensitivity required for discussions around racism."
This, of course, is not an isolated instance of the campaign against alleged Labour Party antisemitism. Experienced Labour MP Margaret Hodge had a screaming row with Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons, calling him a, “F***ing antisemite and racist.” This is a preposterous allegation.
Whoever leaked the Willsman tape to the Jewish Chronicle was aware that the paper is no friend to Labour. It has recently described a Corbyn-led government as an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country. “ In plain English an ‘existential threat’ means a threat to the existence of Jewish people. This is completely hysterical abuse.
All of a sudden a meeting which Jeremy Corbyn attended in 2010 has become a lead news item in 2018. Clearly we are confronted with a systematic campaign afoot to smear Corbyn and the entire Labour movement with allegations of antisemitism. It is shameful that some Labour MPs are piling in and adding to the pressure. It is all the more shameful when Labour is ahead in the opinion polls and the Tory government is in apparently terminal crisis.
Peter Willsman is standing for a position on Labour’s NEC. He was one of the candidates on a left slate proposed by Momentum. The LRC has been critical of the arbitrary and undemocratic way the slate was drawn up. Now Willsman has been dropped from the slate in an equally arbitrary and undemocratic manner, without consultation. There has been no explanation for this sudden and secretive decision. Who took it?
The fact is that Momentum’s leadership, like too many on the left of the Party, is running scared. We don’t deny that there may be isolated instances of antisemitism within Labour. Where they exist that must be rooted out. We firmly reject the idea that, as the Jewish Chronicle asserted, “The stain and shame of antisemitism has coursed through her majesty’s opposition since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015.” Suddenly with Corbyn’s election a huge switch marked antisemitism was switched on inside Labour!
That quote gives the game away. Peter Willsman is not the target. If he is thrown to the wolves, as Momentum advocates, our enemies will be back for more concessions. Jeremy Corbyn is the target, not Peter Willsman. Corbyn has been a lifelong, stalwart supporter of the Palestinian cause. That is his ‘crime’ in the eyes of his opponents. They deliberately conflate support for the Palestinians and criticism of the actions of the Israeli state with antisemitism, hatred of Jews because they are Jewish.
The LRC was not party to the decision to compile the Momentum list of nine candidates for Labour’s NEC. We were not asked whether Peter Willsman should be on the slate. Neither have we been consulted on his removal.
We urge all Labour Party members who are currently deciding who to vote for: do not on any account withdraw your support for Peter Willsman. Don’t be cowed. To do so would be to appease Labour’s enemies. It would weaken Jeremy’s position, give aid and comfort to Labour’s right wing and encourage the Tories.
Vote Peter Willsman for the NEC
“I WILL BE VOTING FOR PETE WILLSMAN” –
STATEMENT FROM WALTER WOLFGANG
I came to Britain as a refugee from Nazi Germany, with a strong and continuing commitment to Judaism, and still attend my synagogue regularly. I have been a member of the Labour Party for 70 years. As a former member of Labour’s National Executive Committee myself, I have served with Pete Willsman and know him to be a committed anti-racist and a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. I am dismayed that Pete is under attack at the very time when the ballot for the NEC is taking place, and despite his deep and public apology. Pete Willsman is a staunch champion of party democracy. I will be voting for him, and urge Labour Party members to do likewise.