Israel “created” a storm over anti-Semitism to mask its own “atrocities”, a leading union figure and Jeremy Corbyn-ally has hinted.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) which represents around 200,000 members, is said to have made the comments during a fringe meeting at the Trade Union Congress conference in Manchester this week.
In audio footage released by The Independent, Serwotka reportedly cited Donald Trump’s decision to shift the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – a deeply divisive move that broke with a decades-old international position and triggered furious protests – as well as the bloody deaths of unarmed Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli military as among the real issues being distracted from by accusations of anti-Semitism.
He reportedly said: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I’ll tell you what – one of the best forms of trying to hide from the atrocities that you are committing is to go on the offensive and actually create a story that does not exist for people on this platform, the trade union movement or, I have to say, for the leader of the Labour Party.”
The comments come at the end of a summer dominated by accusations of anti-Semitism within Labour, with former frontbencher Chuka Umunna branding the party “institutionally racist” over its handling of the crisis.
Labour peer John Mendelsohn said left-wingers had entered the Labour Party and anti-Semitism was rife.
He told a Lords debate this week: “It astounds me that it is a revelation no longer worthy of questioning that I too believe that the leader of my party, Jeremy Corbyn, has been a perpetrator of anti-Semitism.”
Newly-elected Labour MP for Canterbury Rosie Duffield, meanwhile, has said she may stand down after activists in her constituency conflated her opposition to anti-semitism with criticism of Corbyn.
She told the Guardian: “Sometimes you have to ask yourself if positives outweigh negatives, and whether it is worth the effect it is having on my family.”
Corbyn has been privately supportive, but he should have done more publicly to back her, she added.
A PCS spokesman said: “Mark spoke at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign fringe event at the TUC – an organisation PCS is affiliated to.
“He made the point at the start of the meeting that we need to oppose anti-Semitism in society and within the Labour movement.
“But we should not allow the issue of anti-Semitism to be used by people who are attempting to silence Palestinian voices as they legitimately struggle for their rights and a sovereign state.”