Labour councillor claims tweets questioning Israel’s existence and referring to radio presenter as “that Jew” were “taken out of context”
A councillor for the Labour Party in Leeds who came under fire for making inflammatory comments about Jews on Twitter has claimed that his online output has been “taken out of context”.
In May, Leeds’s Labour group launched an investigation into two social media posts written by Councillor John Garvani in 2012.
However, when local press asked to be updated on the progress of the case, the group’s spokesperson now claims Cllr Garvani was sanctioned for his comments by the Party’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) a year earlier but did not state how exactly the councillor was reprimanded.
In one post, Cllr Garvani had allegedly written “Why can’t we question the existence of Israel?” accompanied by a link to an article with that title on a political website.
In another post, written five months later, Mr Garvani referred to a guest on BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme as “that Jew”.
Cllr Garvani had been slated to chair a council meeting after he was elected, but the Leeds Labour Group prevented him from standing as a candidate for the role at the authority’s Annual General Meeting when his tweets came to light.
When he was asked if he had any regrets about what he had said, Cllr Garvani said: “I regret that they’ve been taken out of context. They’ve been dealt with by the Party and I was reminded of the Party’s social media code of conduct.”
Cllr Garvani claimed that the tweet about Israel was misunderstood because people seeing the post after the fact had not read the accompanying article.
Regarding the tweet about the radio guest, Cllr Garvani maintained that he had only referred to them as “that Jew” because he could not remember their name and it was a case of using “rapid shorthand”: “If it had been an Islamic guest I’d have referred to them as ‘that Muslim’ and if it had been a Christian I’d have referred to them as ‘that Christian’.”
A Conservative Party councillor in Leeds, Dan Cohen, who is Jewish, said in May after the tweets first came to light that “I consider these tweets to be antisemitic and grossly insulting.”
The Labour Party was found by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to have engaged in unlawful discrimination and harassment of Jews. The report followed the EHRC’s investigation of the Labour Party in which Campaign Against Antisemitism was the complainant, submitting hundreds of pages of evidence and legal argument. Sir Keir Starmer called the publication of the report a “day of shame” for the Labour Party.
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.