A veteran Labour MP has been targeted by activists who are “hell-bent” on attacking her at meetings of her constituency party — reportedly because she is Jewish.
The orchestrated campaign against Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside, from within her own local branch has created an “intimidating and hostile” atmosphere for Jewish members, a councillor in her constituency party said this week.
News of the attacks emerged as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn again denied the party had an issue with antisemitism, rejecting the idea that it faced a “crisis”.
The campaign against Mrs Ellman is believed to have been led by activists from the hard-left group Momentum and to have taken place over the past two months during meetings at which she was present.
A small group of hard-left activists have attended the sessions specifically to attack her, asking questions only about her position on Israel.
The JC understands that antisemitic remarks were made on at least three occasions.
One non-Jewish man, who has been a Labour member for more than 40 years, said that when he defended Mrs Ellman, a Momentum activist threatened him and told him he was “a Jewish Chronicle-reading Zionist fascist”. The level of Jew-hate was, he said, “terrifying”.
During one meeting in February, activists discussed Hamas tunnels being dug from Gaza into Israel. One Momentum member was said to have compared the tunnels to those created by Jews trying to escape Nazi persecution in the Warsaw ghetto.
At last Friday’s session, an attendee claimed Israel was backing Daesh terrorists and that the IDF was operating covertly among jihadis. Mrs Ellman was asked whether she regretted supporting British air strikes in Syria following the alleged death of Israelis in the conflict.
She was also said to have been challenged on her work to combat antisemitism, with her attackers claiming the global rise of Jew-hate was “down to the existence of Israel”.
Mrs Ellman has not commented on the incidents.
Her colleague, Alison McGovern, Labour MP in neighbouring Wirral South, said: “I am really concerned by the way Jewish Labour MPs like Louise Ellman and Luciana Berger have been treated, not just in party meetings but in the vile abuse they get every day online. Inaction in the face of this racism is not an option.”
Nick Small, a councillor in Liverpool, said the attacks had come from “a tiny but vocal group who seem hell-bent on attacking our MP in an orchestrated, horrible, personalised way.
“They are trying to create an atmosphere of intimidation and hostility that is making many members, particularly Jewish members, feel deeply uncomfortable.”
Mr Small lodged a complaint with the party. Labour said it would investigate.
The supporter who defended Mrs Ellman said: “The level of antisemitism terrifies me. I don’t know how Louise remains so in control. The attacks send a shiver down my spine.”
A Momentum spokesman said the movement would welcome evidence to investigate the accusations.
He added: “Arguing, without substantive evidence, that Israel is behind Isis builds on the antisemitic trope that Jews secretly control the world for malevolent ends. The logic of this so-called argument must be called out for what it is — antisemitism.”
Criticism of Israel should be made in “comradely language and be sensitive to other perspectives”.
Speaking on Sky News on Sunday, Mrs Ellman said some activists were being allowed to “get away” with Jew-hate comments online, and called on Mr Corbyn to take action.
That prompted his brother, Piers Corbyn, to post a tweet claiming it was “absurd” for Mrs Ellman to question the Labour leader’s efforts.
Piers Corbyn added: “#Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for #Palestine”.
On Tuesday Mr Corbyn was asked by the Sun whether he agreed with his brother’s tweet. The Labour leader said: “We’re opposed to any form of racism. We’re investigating allegations of antisemitism but I wouldn’t call it a crisis. We as a party are taking resolute action.”
Pushed on whether he believed his brother had been wrong to post the tweet, Mr Corbyn said: “No, my brother isn’t wrong. My brother has his point of view, I have mine. We actually fundamentally agree — we are a family that has been fighting racism from the day we were born. My mother was at Cable Street.”
At Tuesday’s Jewish hustings for London mayoral candidates, Sadiq Khan said: “I’m embarrassed, I’m sorrowful about antisemitism in my party. I think the Labour leadership could have taken a tougher stance, and needs to take a tougher stance.”