Rebecca Long Bailey has been criticised for failing to condemn a Labour member who blamed Jeremy Corbyn's general election defeat on the "Israeli lobby" at a leadership hustings event in Liverpool.
The left-wing leadership was challenged from the floor by notorious anti-Zionist Jack Thomas – a member of Sefton Labour Party – who said: "The people who prevented Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister most are Tom Watson, John Mann and Margaret Hodge and they are all members of the Israeli lobby - why on earth did you declare yourself to be a Zionist?"
Responding, Ms Long Bailey said: “On the question about Zionism, now I believe like many in the party do, and it was set out in our manifesto, in a secure viable Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state.
"We have been a party that has recognised a Palestinian state for some time now. And I'm proud of that."
But her failure to challenge Mr Thomas’ reference to the existence of an alleged Israel lobby within the party was immediately condemned by Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge.
She tweeted: "To be clear, accusing a Jew who calls out antisemitism of working on behalf of Israel is both conspiratorial and antisemitic.
"And using Zionist as a term of abuse isn't much better.
"Why didn't you challenge this straight away @RLong_Bailey? This is not what leadership looks like."
To be clear, accusing a Jew who calls out antisemitism of working on behalf of Israel is both conspiratorial & antisemitic.— Margaret Hodge (@margarethodge) February 24, 2020
And using Zionist as a term of abuse isn't much better.
Why didn't you challenge this straight away @RLong_Bailey? This is not what leadership looks like. https://t.co/zD9Wx2SGUW
Earlier on Monday at an event in West Yorkshire, Ms Long Bailey had also appeared to attempt to excuse some Labour members who had made antisemitic remarks.
She said: “There were many members using conspiracy theories and tropes..
"Many didn’t realise they were doing it and would be horrified if they realised they were.
"We need to educate our members and I’ll do that as leader.”
Later at the Liverpool rally, Ms Long Bailey had attempted to convince a partisan audience, including Liverpool Wavertee MP Paula Barker, that she was the best candidate to replace Jeremy Corbyn.
At one stage, in response to the Sefton CLP member’s question, Ms Long Bailey said the definition of a Zionist was "someone who believes in the right of Jewish people to self-determine and the existence of Israel."
But she added: "That doesn't mean as a party we shouldn't stand up for the rights of Palestinians - I do."
The JC had previously exposed Mr Thomas in 2018 for claiming the then Jewish Labour MPs Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger were Israeli “footsoldiers.”
Ms Long Bailey, the so-called 'continuity Corbyn' candidate, faces a challenge from Keir Starmer and Lisa Nandy to be announced as Labour leader on April 4.
Also speaking at Monday evening’s rally was local councillor Sarah Doyle, who had once apologised over a “typical Jew” remark.