THE shop steward and Labour Party activist at the centre of allegations of anti-Semitism stunned his accusers in the GMB union when a rabbi appeared in his defence.

Due to a time problem caused by his religious duties, Rabbi Ahron Cohen was unable to appear in person at the Glasgow hearing convened by the GMB union into the allegations against Pete Gregson, the only GMB shop steward in NHS Lothian.

Gregson is accused of anti-Semitism because he has accused Israel of being a racist state in its treatment of Palestine. The GMB has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA’s) definition of anti-Semitism which states that Israel cannot be accused of being a racist endeavour.

Gregson is defending himself with some legal assistance and is citing the European Convention on Human Rights Article 10 in reference to freedom of speech.

He learned yesterday at the hearing that he has also been accused of speaking to the press about the issue in contravention of union rules.

Gregson was supported yesterday by a small demonstration of pro-Palestinian activists, and he told friends later he had been heard politely, but was disappointed the hearing which will give a verdict later could not hear the Rabbi in person.

A source close to Gregson said: “Trade unions should not be in the habit of suppressing the freedom of speech of workers – and Pete is adamant he has never spoken on these matters in his capacity as a shop steward.” Rabbi Cohen’s letter stated: “To oppose the State of Israel or Zionism is not anti-Semitism. Judaism is an ancient, ethical, moral, compassionate and religious way of life going back thousands of years.Whereas Zionism (the movement and concept that begat the State of Israel) is a nationalistic, harsh, inconsiderate, secular and racist way of life, barely 120 years old.

“It is totally incompatible with and diametrically unacceptable to Judaism on grounds of religious belief and religious humanitarian grounds. Criticism of the State of Israel, is entirely within the boundaries of free speech and within the statutory rights of anyone making that criticism. Legally entitled criticism should not and cannot be stifled.”

The GMB has said that it will comment after the case is dealt with.