Senior Labour figure Pete Willsman has been suspended from the party after a recording emerged in which he claimed the party had been infiltrated by an Israeli agent.
Willsman was dropped by the Momentum group in the summer of 2018 after ranting about Jewish "Trump fanatics", but still re-elected to Labour's National Executive Committee — however, his future with the party is now definitively in doubt.
In a secret recording made by Israeli-American author Tuvia Tenenbom after he bumped into Willsman in Oxford, Willsman says the open letter attacking Labour antisemitism, signed by 68 rabbis across the UK, was "obviously organised by the Israeli embassy", and Labour staffers were working "indirectly" for the embassy.
NEW: Labour's Pete Willsman recorded saying:— Theo Usherwood (@theousherwood) May 31, 2019
— Israeli embassy whipping up anti-Semitism claims to attack Labour.
— Party staffers work "indirectly" for embassy.
— 68 rabbis "organised" by embassy to complain about "severe" anti-Semitism within Labour.https://t.co/MxNzCtOFkZ
"The rich control the papers. The rich control everything else and they know [Corbyn] going to make them pay taxes. One of the things about antisemitsm is that they're using that to whip people up. They use anything. It's all total lies," he says.
He goes on to state "off the record" it's "almost certain" who's behind "all this antisemitism against Jeremy…the Israeli embassy".
"They caught somebody in the Labour Party. It turns out they were an agent in the Israeli Embassy. My guess would be they are the ones whipping it all up," he continues.
I was one of the 68 rabbis. Disgusted that NEC Labour official Pete Wilsman would again push antisemitic conspiracy theories. I expect immediate action from @UKLabour, especially when being investigated on #antisemitism by the EHRC. @LBC https://t.co/yiN39BS51D— Senior Rabbi Janner-Klausner (@LauraJanklaus) May 31, 2019
He was suspended the morning of 31st May — in response, Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, one of the 68 who signed the open letter, said she was "disgusted" Willsman "would again push antisemitic conspiracy theories" and expected "immediate action" from the party.
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said Willsman — "a man who should have been suspended for anti-Jewish statements last year" — should be expelled by Labour.
Pete Willsman is not fit to be on Labour's NEC. @jeremycorbyn must demand his resignation today and expulsion proceedings should begin. He has repeatedly brought the Labour Party into disrepute.— Jewish Labour Movement (@JewishLabour) May 31, 2019
See JLM National Chair @mikekatz comment below. pic.twitter.com/uyakDrRED3
"He has not only denied antisemitism in the Labour Party but has resorted to a well-known antisemitic trope to make his point…We call on Jeremy Corbyn and General Secretary Jennie Formby, who were present at Willsman's first outburst and have repeatedly indulged his bigotry, ensure he is expelled with the speed and efficiency we have seen in other recent disciplinary cases," she fulminated.
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 https://t.co/sitITLB9MS— Ruth Smeeth MP (@RuthSmeeth) May 31, 2019
Jewish Labour Movement chair Mike Katz said the recording showed last year's rant was "not an aberration but part of a consistent pattern of conspiratorial left-wing anti-Jewish racism", in reference to his previous "Trump fanatics" speech.
In that rant, Willsman spoke at an NEC meeting as it debated whether to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-semitism in full, claiming some members of the Jewish community supported the US President and he wasn't going to be "lectured" by them, and claimed the dissenting rabbis had no evidence of "severe and widespread anti-semitism" in Labour. He avoided punishment for his actions by apologising to party General Secretary Jennie Formby.