Willsman witch-hunted: Can his accusers explain what he said that’s wrong – without lying?

Peter Willsman.

It’s a classic anti-Semitic trope, or stereotype – and actually falls foul of Labour’s code of conduct: “Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group.” And it is being weaponised against the innocent by people claiming to be fighting anti-Semitism.

Look at the witch-hunt that has broken out against Labour NEC member Pete Willsman.

He was recorded at an NEC meeting – an unethical act as NEC meetings must be held in private – reacting to reports that 68 rabbis had written to a newspaper claiming that Labour had “chosen to ignore the Jewish community” by amending the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism to make it more suitable for use by the party in investigating allegations of anti-Semitism.

But Labour has not ignored “the Jewish community”. British Jews are a diverse body of people with wide-ranging opinions and not all of them support the IHRA definition.

As Professor Annabelle Sreberny said: “There is a public debate happening amongst Jews, about these issues – that’s important. There isn’t one Jewish community; there isn’t the Jewish community – there are many. And we all need our voice.”

It is a voice that is being denied to them by the 68 rabbis who claimed to speak for them all. This falls foul of Labour’s code of conduct because it denies Jews the right to self-determination and self-definition.

Let’s examine what Mr Willsman said. First, he said, “They can falsify social media very easily.” It is not clear who “they” are in this context but I think it would be reasonable to suggest that he meant people who want to spread fake claims of anti-Semitism, rather than those reporting it in good conscience. And there is evidence to suggest he is correct:

Then he said: “And some of these people in the Jewish community support Trump. They’re Trump fanatics and all the rest of it. So I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up daft information without any evidence at all. So I think we should ask the 70 rabbis, ‘Where is your evidence of severe and widespread anti-Semitism in this party?”

Labour MP Luciana Berger was quick to alter Mr Willsman’s words for him: “Anyone listening to this recording will be appalled to hear the venom and fury directed by Mr Willsman at the British Jewish community. That he accuses the Jewish community of falsifying social media and being ‘Trump fanatics’ in order to deny the serious concerns of 68 rabbis beggars belief.”

Venom and fury at the British Jewish community? Where?

He said nothing at all about the British Jewish community.

He said he would not be lectured by supporters of Donald Trump within that community who are spreading lies. I would like to see his evidence for that, but I would certainly not wish to accuse him of anti-Semitism – as Ms Berger is clearly doing – without having done so and she clearly has not.

If she wanted to find evidence of Trump fanaticism within the Jewish community, she really wouldn’t have to look any further than Jonathan Arkush, former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as this Skwawkbox article demonstrates. But no. Ms Berger wanted to make a fuss without any evidence.

Furthermore, her claim that he was attacking the whole of British Jewry when he was in fact singling out only a tiny minority of it is anti-Semitic: “Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group.”

And, like the 68 rabbis, she is trying to deny a significant proportion of the British Jewish community the right to have their voices heard – in violation of Labour’s code of conduct.

Distortions like these form the basis of a series of anti-Semitism charges against This Writer – and are the reason I am crowdfunding to pay for legal action against my accusers. Please visit my JustGiving page for more information and to donate.

As for the demand by the current president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, for Mr Willsman to be expelled… Well. Isn’t she a Conservative?

Mr Willsman is currently up for re-election to Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee.

Is it beyond the realms of possibility that this scandal-in-a-teacup has been manufactured by Ms Berger, the Jewish Chronicle and the Board of Deputies purely to manipulate democracy to remove a Jeremy Corbyn-supporting left-winger from that organisation?

I don’t think so – but I would certainly recommend that all Labour Party members reading this should do the exact opposite and make sure you vote for Mr Willsman. His words show that he, at least, wants to see genuine evidence of anti-Semitism, rather than taking the fakers at face value.

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14 thoughts on “Willsman witch-hunted: Can his accusers explain what he said that’s wrong – without lying?

  1. Simon Cohen

    Oh Dear! it just won’t stop because it’s the last chance saloon to destroy the Left and the hope of change.

    Mr. Willsman is entirely fair in what he has said but the hysteria is now so (deliberately) pumped up that people are seizing on their own shadow and accusing it of anti-semitism.

    It is worth pointing out that that list of 68 Rabbis is largely dominated by Reform and Liberal representatives with only the most central and middle of the road of the orthodoxy. Many groups are not represented. They don’t speak for me for sure.

    This nonsense has to end but the media doesn’t really want us to get back to the real debate which is discussion of austerity and changing the barren economic ideology.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’m not convinced it’s worth making that much of a fuss about that one. They were at a party, yes – but did they know who else was going to be there? If not, I don’t think it’s fair to attack them over this.

      That being said, wasn’t it a party hosted by that right-wing toilet paper The Spectator? Oh dear…

      Now, Louise Ellman attacking Jeremy Corbyn for attending a Holocaust Memorial Day in which a Jewish Holocaust survivor compared the Israeli government with Nazis – when she attended the event herself and raised no complaint… That one has legs, I think.

  2. Zippi

    According to the B.B.C. The Jewish £abour Movement has “demanded his suspension and that he “faces disciplinary charges” and some “prominent Corbyn supporters and commentators” are “also calling for disciplinary action, suggesting that he should stand down.” He said that SOME members of the Jewish community are Trump supporters and Trump fanatics. Is that an untruth? I don’t know but I also don’t know the CONTEXT in which it was said. He said that he would not be lectured to by Trump supporters. What is wrong with that? He asked that the “70 Rabbis” should provide evidence. What is wrong with that? What is “disgusting’ about that? Surely, this is something that should have been addressed when the allegations were first made. The Party has been dragged through the mire on hearsay. People’s reputations have been damaged, on hearsay. I say, again, if crimes have been committed and that is the suggestion of these allegations, where are the police investigations? Where are the arrests? The charges? If this is a serious as we are expected to believe, why have the complaints been made to the media and not to the police? Or have they? Is there any evidence, or knowledge of this?

  3. Jim

    Saying that a lot of the Jewish people complaining about anti-Semitism were Donald Trump supporters without a shred of evidence was dumb as was most of the rest of the things that this blow-hard said. Labour is behaving very stupidly and should have just accepted the standard definition of anti-Semitism and examples used almost universally,.rather than to keep endlessly raking over the coals, and that take the club away from the media which has beaten the party senseless from Ken Livingstone’s outbursts onward.

    Labour failing to deal with this scandal in a prompt and sensible way might well cost the party the next general election, yes, it really is that serious. Corbyn should show some leadership and put a stop to insanity which has dragged on for far too long. All this hair-splitting twaddle about Labour’s definition of anti-Semitism is killing the party’s chance of being returned to office.

    Pull yourselves together for goodness sake, stop arguing, and move forward.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      There’s plenty of evidence of Jewish Trump supporters complaining about anti-Semitism. I hope by now you’ll have seen at least some of it.

      Labour was right to adapt the IHRA working definition – it’s a working definition, remember; it is intended to be debated and adapted. And it is accepted in 31 countries, last I heard – not universally.

      You’re right – Labour should have dealt with this scandal in a prompt and sensible way, by telling those trying to stir it up that they are undermining the fight against anti-Semitism, as a spokesman has now done.

    2. Zippi

      Firstly, he said “some” not a lot. Secondly and most importantly, we don’t know the context of what was said, unless, of course, we were there. Thirdly, if what was said was so bad, why wait to make it public? Fourthly, the definition and examples are accepted by 31 out of 195 countries; nowhere near universal. Fifthly, the definition was never intended to be used in this way. Sixthly, why are so many Jews opposed to the definition with associated examples? Seventhly, this is far bigger than the £abour Party and Jews. Eighthly, if the problem is indeed as severe and widespread as we are being led to believe, why have there been no arrests, police investigations, or charges, given that hate speech on the grounds of race and religion are crimes?
      Have you read the I.H.M.A.’s definition of anti-Semitism? If you have, you might see why some of the examples are problematic. How do you propose that £abour deals with this, given that anything that is said in opposition to those crying anti-Semitism is itself seen as anti-Semitic? This man asked for evidence and is being called disgusting and labelled anti-Semitic. Where is due process? Where is the presumption of innocence? This is like a witch hunt, in that one merely has to be accused to be deemed guilty. How can we get to the truth, when nobody seems to be concerned with it? This whole business is about perception.

    3. Kim

      The definition is far from universally accepted. And Liberty has called for public bodies not to accept it. Even it’s author has saud that it has been used to prevent freedom of speech especially in support of Palestine. From Liberty “that by blurring the previously clear understanding of the nature of antisemitism, the IHRA
      definition risks undermining the defences against it; and
      that the definition’s conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel and legitimate defence of
      the rights of Palestinians is a threat to freedom of expression. It regrets that some local
      authorities have already adopted it, calls on those that have done so to apply it with extreme
      caution, and calls on other public bodies not to adopt the definition.”

  4. John D. Ingleson

    Typo alert: “And it is being weaponised against the innocent by people claiming to >by< fighting anti-Semitism."

  5. Dave Rowlands

    Why are “They” (and they will make themselves heard so we will know who they are) so afraid of having a government installed that cares more about people than profit?

  6. Jo

    After reading the skwarkbox article it seems a little disingenuous of the Jewish Chronicle (one has to ask why they recorded the meeting in the first place) to release only part of Pete Willsman said. What was the first part of the sentence that ended with “…they can falsify social media very easily” What was the first part of the sentence, and why wasn’t it added?

    Not being Jewish myself so I have never been on the receiving end of antisemitism, but I do have empathy and am capable of putting myself in “the other persons shoes” and to be honest I see no generalisations in his rant and question.
    Has his question been answered yet? Or are people so wrapped up in being outraged that the question has got lost?

    His question was to the Rabbis…..where is the evidence? If there is such widespread antisemitism (and I’m not saying there isn’t any) why is it not forthcoming?

    Surely there needs to be some actual evidence of wrong doing, not just a “victims” word doesn’t there? Just saying Labour is antisemitic isn’t enough in my book….evidence HAS to be produced…surely?

    I have seen ample evidence on social media myself of right wingers proporting to be Labour members and spouting hatred of lots of minority groups, because they know it will do the Labour Party harm, there are enough people in the Labour movement itself who want to see the end of Corbyn as leader so there will always be those who’ll latch onto anything that can cause him harm.

    1. Zippi

      I worry that this will actually increase genuine incidents of anti-Semitism and racism as a whole. The other issue, of course, is what is considered to be anti-Semitic, because, from what we are seeing in the Media, almost anything can be considered to be anti-Semitic; with this in mind, is it any wonder that there appears, at least, to be “severe and widespread” anti-Semitism within the £abour Party?
      £uciana Berger stood up and said “If you replace the words ‘Jewish’ or ‘rabbis’ with any other community it wouldn’t be acceptable.” Poppycock! Why not? I’ll do it for you, as a man of Ghanaian heritage:
      “And some of these people in the Ghanaian community support Trump. They’re Trump fanatics and all the rest of it. So I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up daft information without any evidence at all. So I think we should ask the 70 elders, ‘Where is your evidence of severe and widespread anti-African racism in this party?”
      £ike I said, poppycock!

  7. Zippi

    So, Mr. Willsman has apologised and submitted himself for “Equalities Training!” What(!)

Comments are closed.