Mark Serwotka
Mark SerwotkaREUTERS

The leader of one of the UK’s largest unions denied the existence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and insinuated that the recent string of scandals within the party were the work of the State of Israel.

On Friday, Public and Commercial Services (PCS) general secretary Mark Serwotka spoke in Manchester at a conference of the Trades Union Congress, during which he defended Opposition Leader and Labour Party chief Jeremy Corbyn from accusations of anti-Semitism, following a string of anti-Semitic scandals in recent months.

Serwotka denied that anti-Semitism exists within the party, and hinted that the recent scandals were invented by Israel to distract from alleged “atrocities”, The Independent reported.

“In a year when Donald Trump has moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a year when dozens of Palestinians including children were gunned down – unarmed innocent civilians – by the Israeli military, in a year when the Americans are cutting off aid,” Serwotka said, “isn’t it a vile world when, instead of being on the front foot, denouncing these atrocities, demanding an independent and sovereign state for the Palestinian people, we have had a summer of asking ourselves whether leading Labour movement people are in any way anti-Semitic?”

“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.”

A long-time friend of Labour Party chief Jeremy Corbyn, Serwotka was kicked out of the party in the 1990s, and only readmitted following Corbyn’s election as party leader in 2015.

The comments drew criticism from Jewish leaders, who called on Serwotka to issue an apology.

Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, excoriated Serwotka, and criticized what she called the Labour Party’s “failure” to confront anti-Semitism among its members.

"The only reason Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis remains in the media is Labour’s failure to deal with it. PCS members should consider whether they want to be represented by such a man."

Some within the Labour Party also condemned Serwotka’s comments, calling them “despicable” and “malevolent”.

“Serwotka’s comments are despicable,” said Labour Friends of Israel Director Jennifer Gerber.

“There is a problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party because of anti-Semites and Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to deal with them, not because of Israel.”

Labour Against Antisemitism spokesperson Euan Philipps said Serwotka’s statement was a “stark illustration of how deeply embedded anti-Semitism is within the Labour movement.”

According to a poll published last week by The Jewish Chronicle, 85.9% of British Jews believe Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic, with nearly as many (85.6%) saying the Labour Party is highly or very highly anti-Semitic.

Corbyn and the Labour Party has faced a string of scandals involving anti-Semitism and accusations of bigotry in recent months.

The Daily Mail recently published photos of the Labour leader at a cemetery in Tunisia holding a wreath near the graves of some of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorists who were responsible for the massacre of the 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Days later, a picture emerged of Corbyn apparently making a salute linked to the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

That week, the Times of Londonpublished a picture of Corbyn meeting with the leader-in-exile of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist organization, only weeks before its members carried out an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue in which six people were murdered.

Later, it was revealed that Corbyn attended a conference with a convicted Hamas leader who was jailed in Israel for his role in orchestrating a string of terrorist attacks that killed more than 100 people between 2001 and 2002.

Last week, the Daily Mailexposed remarks made by Corbyn in 2010 in which he hinted that Israeli officials were controlling the speeches made by British MPs.

Moreover, dozens of Labour members have been suspended over their anti-Semitic statements in recent years, and the party has been criticized for its failure to deal with the anti-Semitism within it.

Labour has also come under fire for its refusal to adopt all the examples in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, though the party’s ruling body is expected to convene on Tuesday and decide whether to adopt all examples.