Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, sat quietly in the audience this week as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed that Jews brought the Holocaust upon themselves through their “social behavior, [charging] interest, and financial matters.” He also cited a theory often used by antisemites that modern-day Jews are in fact imposters from “Khazaria”.
Instead of walking out or challenging him, Ms Thornberry posted on Facebook that it had been her “privilege” to represent the Labour Party at the conference of the Palestinian National Council.
Only when the media reported on the fact that she had contentedly sat through the three-hour speech did she issue a further statement, saying: “It is deeply regrettable that, during a lengthy speech whose main and successful purpose was to urge the Palestinian National Council to remain committed to the Middle East peace process and the objective of a two-state solution, President Abbas made these antisemitic remarks about the history of the Jewish community in Europe which were not just grossly offensive, but utterly ignorant. His comments were out of keeping with the tone of the Council as a whole, and of my discussions with other delegates, and I hope President Abbas will immediately apologise for them, so that the message to come out of this important Council meeting can remain positive and progressive, and focused on re-establishing peaceful and constructive dialogue.”
Some have suggested that Ms Thornberry may not have heard Mr Abbas’ remarks during his turgid three-hour speech, but were that the case, she should have said so, rather than suggesting that her conduct in sitting passively through the speech was acceptable.
Mr Thornberry has attracted criticism before for suggesting that in order to address Labour’s antisemitism crisis, British Jews needed to show “a bit of movement”.
Campaign Against Antisemitism is extremely concerned that Ms Thornberry failed to react to the speech in any way until called out by the media.