The Peter Willsman debate is a parade of ignorance

Peter Willsman.

It’s amazing, the number of people and organisations willing to disgrace themselves over the allegations of anti-Semitism against Peter Willsman.

First to do so, it seems to This Writer, is American-Israeli writer Tuvia Tenenbom, who is responsible for making the “off-the-record” recording that has been used against Mr Willsman, and for releasing this confidential information to the public in an astonishing display of bad faith.

We are told that Mr Tenenbom approached Mr Willsman in a hotel in Oxford during January.

According to the BBC, “The author said he had spotted Mr Willsman dining on his own and approached him and they ended up talking for some time, during which time the remarks were made.

“He said he was unaware it was being recorded by the sound man from his crew, until after the conversation was over.”

Oh really?

Mr Tenenbom has admitted that Mr Willsman was covertly recorded – that he was not made aware his words were being recorded. This is a standard tactic of the bad-faith fake-anti-Semitism witch-hunters. The Jewish Labour Movement used it to entrap Jackie Walker, to quote a well-known example. She was unaware that her words were being recorded, too.

We must ask what kind of author sits around hotels with a sound recordist on the off-chance that he’ll happen to run into a Labour activist who has already fallen foul of anti-Semitism accusations in the recent past.

And, even if the recording had been made without his knowledge, what kind of author not only holds on to it, but waits until a moment when it would be damaging to the Labour Party to release it – and then releases it? That constitutes several breaches of the Data Protection Act.

In such circumstances, we must suspect that an attempt is being made to misrepresent Mr Willsman.

Let’s consider the actual recorded words, shall we?

Referring to “the rich”, he said: “One of the things about anti-Semitism is that they’re using that to whip people up. They use anything, you know – any lies. It’s all total lies and they just whip it up.

“Off the record: It’s almost certain who is behind all this anti-Semitism against Jeremy [Corbyn]. Almost certainly, it was the Israeli embassy.

“Yeah, because they caught somebody in the Labour Party. It turns out that they were an agent in the embassy.

“The thing is that the people that are in the Labour Party doing it are people who are linked. One of them works indirectly for the Israeli embassy… My guess would be, they’re the ones working it up all the time.”

It seems clear that there’s a break in the recording at this point. What was said during that break?

The Mr Willsman’s voice resumes: “In The Guardian, not long ago, we had 68 rabbis, obviously organised by the Israeli embassy. 68 rabbis saying anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is “widespread and severe”. “Widespread and severe”. Is 70 out of 600,000 “widespread and severe”?” He expands on the difference between 70 and 600,000 for a moment, then says: “That is the … rubbish they’re coming out with.”

There is a wealth of evidence to show that Israel has been interfering in UK politics – and manufacturing false claims of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn. Here‘s some.

It would be legitimate to question whether Mr Tenenbom uses this “Act.IL” app – wouldn’t it?

Here‘s some more evidence.

I am not sure who Mr Willsman means when he refers to somebody in the Labour Party who was an agent in the Israeli embassy. This may be a reference to an issue mentioned to him in his capacity as an NEC member, of which the general public is not aware. If anybody can shine light on it, please let me know.

The person who “works indirectly” for the Israeli embassy seems certain to be Joan Ryan. We have the video evidence of her being offered £1 million by the conspirator Shai Masot.

In the reference to the letter by 68 rabbis, “obviously organised by the Israeli embassy” is clearly Mr Willsman’s opinion, based on the evidence of embassy interference in other matters. He rightly points out that the letter relies on no evidence at all to claim “widespread and severe” anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and he is right to say that the claim is false. Anti-Semitism on the left wing of politics is lower than anywhere else in British politics, and among the public generally. I’m sure I don’t have to point educated Vox Political readers to the evidence for that.

Yet the media commentary on this matter has been highly condemnatory of Mr Willsman.

According to the BBC (again), “The Board of Deputies of British Jews president Marie van der Zyl called for Mr Willsman’s expulsion from the party, saying he had ‘not only denied anti-Semitism in the Labour Party but has resorted to a well-known anti-Semitic trope to make his point’.” Firstly, he didn’t deny that any anti-Semitism exists in the Labour Party. Can you see any such claim in his words? As for “a well-known anti-Semitic trope” – which one? We cannot assume she means – for example – the “Jewish conspiracy” trope because she might deny it later on. Therefore her reference to such a thing is pointless and immaterial.

And the BBC said: “[Tom] Watson condemned Mr Willsman’s remarks and said they illustrated ‘how serious the problem of anti-Semitism is in our party’.” And ITV News stated: “Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said Mr Willsman must be suspended immediately: ‘The fact that a member of Labour’s governing body feels he can continue to make such offensive remarks after being warned for similar outbursts previously shows how serious the problem of anti-Semitism is in our party,’ he said.” This only illustrates how serious the problem of Tom Watson is in the Labour Party. Mr Willsman’s remarks were about false claims of anti-Semitism against Jeremy Corbyn, remember – not about the wider issue of anti-Semitism in Labour as a whole. His remarks were not offensive; they were honest statements of opinion. And they were also private expressions of opinion, not meant for public consumption.

Labour MP Jess Phillips tweeted as follows:

This shows she doesn’t know what an anti-Semite is. For clarity: An anti-Semite hates – hates – Jews for the simple reason that they are Jews. It is not anti-Semitic to raise concerns about Israeli political interference with the UK. Thank goodness she isn’t in the party’s National Executive Committee!

In fairness: Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild, one of the 68 who signed the letter in The Guardian, tweeted: “As one of the rabbis who signed the letter I can categorically tell you we noticed and abhorred the anti Semitism in the Labour party, we think for ourselves and the Israeli embassy were not involved at any point. This continued slur on our motives is unacceptable.” There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of her words. But if you read the letter, where is the evidence on which these rabbis based their claims? There isn’t any.

I was going to mention some of the comments on Twitter, but I’d need another article to address the silliness in that snake pit.

It is certainly true that Mr Willsman spoke unwisely. He referred to a highly-sensitive matter in vague, easily-reinterpretable terms that laid him open to the criticisms we have heard.

But there is clear evidence of malice here. The motives of Mr Tenenbom and all those who have condemned Mr Willsman on the basis of his recording are questionable – you’ll notice none of them have said a single word about the use of confidential words that were recorded covertly and then publicised in clear breach of the Data Protection Act.

Now Labour has suspended Mr Willsman’s membership of the party’s National Executive Committee while it investigates.

The nature of that investigation is a matter of public interest and should be made as open as possible. We must judge the party and its procedures on the basis of what is done here.

It may be that the party’s disciplinary procedure will be proved unfit for purpose – again. Perhaps Stella Creasy is right to demand an independent investigations procedure. If so, This Writer would not trust any system endorsed by Ms Creasy and any of her friends on the right of the Labour Party.

My own opinion? Labour should submit its decisions on anti-Semitism and related matters to the courts. If they don’t stand up to judicial scrutiny, they shouldn’t stand.

6 thoughts on “The Peter Willsman debate is a parade of ignorance

  1. jill Phillips

    I don’t see how an NEC, if – being itself uncontaminated by anti-semite-purveyors – can come up with such dramatically wayward scenarios – where far too often innocent, very valuable and good people are accused of being guilty, destructive and evil, by guilty, very destructive and evil people.
    On the one hand, for example – the dramatically innocent Jackie Walker, Chris Williamson, Mike Sivier and others – and on the other – the fake accusers who get away with it time after time, when it is they who should be being suspended – or, preferably, totally thrown out of the party . for ever.

    The last sentence in this Voxpolitical article suggests:
    ‘Labour should submit its decisions on anti-Semitism and related matters to the courts. If they don’t stand up to judicial scrutiny, they shouldn’t stand’.

    Since so many innocent people are being witch-hunted and attacked in this manner, it would save them all the costs of going to court if Labour made judicial scrutiny such a condition. That should see this most valuable of time-wasting, evil nonsense off for good.

  2. Florence

    While I agree with the entire contents of the article, if there is to be an investigation, what is actually going to be investigated? The veracity of the matters Peter covered – in the light of the Al Jezzera films – must be the main focus. Then the circumstances are relevant (entrapment? Data protection?) ie context.

    We must all suspect that it will simply be a typical witch hunt of Peter’s remarks without any context.

    It would IMHO also be preferable for the investigation to not be public, (unless all such investigations are also held in public?). It’s a party matter first, but also the rules state that they are confidential. I

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I think the details of the findings should be made public, so we can ascertain whether the investigation covered all the important points that you and I have mentioned, or simply sought to condemn him using his remarks without context, as you say.

      1. Florence

        Findings, yes. It has been cited that some of the AS panels have rejected context. That is the worrying part.

        It is yet another ruse to tilt the NEC balance back to the right agai , imho

  3. Tony

    Willsman should certainly have been more careful.

    But if what he said is really anti-Semitic, then why not publish it immediately rather than wait for over 4 months?

    David Blunkett has also weighed in, not, you understand, to investigate Willsman’s claims but to brand him as anti-Semitic. This was in yesterday’s Observer.
    Blunkett did not say what was anti-Semitic about what he said.

    The Corbyn-haters seem to have recognised that a coup of the old-type will not work and that they must go after his advisors.

    Presumably, with some new advisors these people can then undermine him and force him out.

    To summarise, the current coup follows a different strategy from the earlier ones.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Yes, I think I mentioned the fact that there seemed to be intent behind the choice to wait more than four months before publishing Mr Willsman’s comments – and the recording has been edited, too.

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