The Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has shamefully downplayed the antisemitism at the heart of the Dreyfus Trial in his advocacy of the controversial activist Julian Assange.
Mr Assange, who heads the Wikileaks website, is facing extradition proceedings to the United States after spending years in refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
Referring to the trial of the French army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, who was wrongfully charged with espionage in the 1890s because he was Jewish, Mr McDonnell said: “I want to make it absolutely clear what my view is on this [Assange] case: I think this is one of the most important and significant political trials of this generation, in fact, longer. I think it’s the Dreyfus case of our age. The way in which a person is being persecuted for political reasons, for simply exposing the truth of what went on in relation to recent wars.”
Alfred Dreyfus was not persecuted for “political reasons” or for “simply exposing the truth of what went on in relation to recent wars” but because he was a Jew.
Defending his comments, Mr McDonnell insisted that “It was quite clear what I meant. Just like the Dreyfus case, the legal action against Julian Assange is a major political trial in which the establishment is out to victimise an innocent. On that basis, of course it’s right to assert that it’s a parallel.”
Joe Glasman, Head of Political investigations at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “For John McDonnell to invoke the Dreyfus trial, one of the most heinous and consequential episodes of antisemitism in modern history, in order to promote his own foreign policy agenda, is utterly shameful.
“Yet again the Shadow Chancellor has managed to downplay antisemitism, this time not in his own party but in a historical event which is remembered not principally as a miscarriage of justice in a matter of espionage but because it was a concerted effort to malign a military hero simply because he was Jewish.
“There is a straight line between Mr McDonnell’s dubious reading of history and his sordid leadership role in an institutionally antisemitic Labour Party.”
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.