Campaign Against Antisemitism has called for “strong and decisive action” against the Leader of Sandwell Council and the former leader of Dudley Council after it emerged that the Labour Party is investigating them over antisemitism.
Cllr Yvonne Davies, the current Council leader at Sandwell, is being investigated over tweets she sent in 2018, one of which promoted a petition calling for a parliamentary debate over whether Israel has an “improper influence” over British politics, a notion reminiscent of historically popular claims of excessive Jewish power in national politics. In another tweet, Cllr Davies linked to a story titled “Is Israel’s hand behind the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn?”, alongside which she commented: “This makes interesting reading if anyone is wanting to understand where all this emphasis on Labour and antisematism (sic) comes from…”
According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, “Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis” is an example of antisemitism.
A complaint regarding Cllr Davies submitted to Labour reportedly accuses her of “breaching Labour’s social media policy”.
Cllr Davies reportedly commented: “I do retweet stuff that I probably shouldn’t, but I do not have an antisemitic bone in my body. I have a career of tackling discrimination and unfairness and I would certainly not consider that people who are Jewish have any influence at all over matters that we deal with in society. Whether countries do, and clearly Russia, China, Israel…a lot of countries get involved in stuff for political purposes…but I don’t relate that to anybody’s religion and I think anybody that does is making a big mistake. This is about politics, it’s not about religion at all. Certainly I will be careful in future about what I retweet, because clearly I’m aware that there is a lot of sensitivity around this issue and that things can be taken out of context.”
In Dudley, Cllr Pete Lowe, a former leader of the council, former parliamentary candidate and former Labour candidate for West Midlands Metro Mayor, posted a tweet purporting to shop historical maps of Israel, which he shared in order to criticise the dismissal of Rebecca Long-Bailey from the Shadow Cabinet for sharing an article that contained the antisemitic conspiracy theory. The picture was accompanied in the tweet by a caption from Cllr Lowe reading: “No words of explanation….just in case! #RebeccaLongBailey #LabourParty”. The tweet was subsequently deleted.
Ian Austin, the former Labour MP for Dudley North who quit over antisemitism in the Party, described the tweets as “completely unacceptable”. Mr Austin is an honorary patron of Campaign Against Antisemitism.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “The suggestion that Israel has an ‘improper influence’ in British politics and is ‘behind attacks’ on Jeremy Corbyn is totally unacceptable. The idea that the Jews – or the Jewish state – have outsized influence in national affairs is an infamous antisemitic trope that has no place in political parties or on a local council, let alone coming from the Leader of the council. Both the Labour Party and the council must take strong and decisive action. Those defending Rebecca Long-Bailey’s promotion of an antisemitic conspiracy theory, be they MPs or local councillors, must also be brought to book. At a time when so many are showing solidarity against racism, it is appalling that some individuals in Labour continue to defend or indulge in antisemitism.”
Meanwhile, in Greenwich in London, the Leader of the Council has reportedly referred a fellow Labour councillor to the Party over a series of tweets promoting the controversial group Labour Against Witchhunt” and defending Ms Long-Bailey. Cllr David Stanley reportedly promoted a petition in the form of an open letter to Mr Corbyn, who was then Leader of the Labour Party, worrying that “any criticism of the actions of the state of Israel is now immediately conflated with antisemitism” and “a cynical alliance between those who wish to deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism, and the right-wing in the Labour Party and the news media, who oppose your wider politics.” Cllr Stanley also apparently retweeted posts with the hashtag #IStandWithChrisWilliamson, in reference to the disgraced former Labour MP, Chris Williamson.
Cllr Stanley said: “I have always condemned antisemitism in the strongest possible terms, and fully supported Greenwich council signing up to the full [International Definition of Antisemitism]. I have no time for antisemitic conspiracy theories, but recognise that criticism of the state of Israel can sometimes be wrongly conflated with antisemitism. I support a fair and rigorous procedure for those Labour members who are subject to disciplinary measures due to alleged antisemitic comments.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism calls for action against these three councillors both by the Labour Party and by their own local authorities.
On 28th May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.
In the first release of its Antisemitism in Political Parties research, Campaign Against Antisemitism showed that Labour Party candidates for Parliament in the 2019 general election accounted for 82 percent of all incidents of antisemitic discourse by parliamentary candidates.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right.
Campaign Against Antisemitism advocates for zero tolerance of antisemitism in public life. To that end we monitor all political parties and strive to ensure that any cases of concern are properly addressed.