Antisemitism in Political Parties

Jacqui Harris

2020-present: Conservative Councillor, Harbury ward, Stratford-upon-Avon District Council

2019-2020: Independent Councillor, Harbury ward, Stratford-upon-Avon District Council

2015-2019: Conservative Councillor, Harbury ward, Stratford-upon-Avon District Council

2018: selected as Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate (constituency unassigned)

Incidents

  1. On 28th January 2019, Councillor Jacqui Harris tweeted: “At this time when we are remembering the horror of Auschwitz – those who were treated so badly back then, seem to have a short memory and are now behaving badly against fellow human beings now! look how they are treating the innocents in GAZA?”
  2. On 3rd March 2019, Cllr Harris responded to a tweet which alleged, “The whole AS [antisemitism] thing is a false flag, probably masterminded by mossad/cia…Its [sic] not about AS, its [sic] about removing JC [Jeremy Corbyn]”, by saying: “Spot on, don’t you find it timely that this was encouraged fanned and exploded just before the release of the report on Israel and war crimes?”
  3. On 11th July 2019, Cllr Harris tweeted a link to a video of a speech by the late Gerald Kaufman MP in which he [a] likened Israel’s behaviour in Gaza to that of the Nazis, and [b] alleged that the Holocaust was being exploited for political ends.
  4. On or around 15th December 2019, Cllr Harris ‘liked’ and retweeted a tweet stating: “Trump ran for office on a platform of ‘America first’ — his actions over the last 3 years have clearly demonstrated, he is ‘Israel first’ #Puppet”, which also linked to an article claiming that “All the credible, independent, and objective evidence proves that Israel and the United States were behind 9/11. Despite the fact that the Zionist controlled US mainstream media simply ignores all the evidence.”
  5. On 14th January 2020, the antisemitism-denial group Jewish Voice for Labour shared an article on Twitter which alleged that Labour’s performance in the general election had been undermined by a “concerted campaign to falsely describe [it] as antisemitic”, and described those making accusations of antisemitism as “witch hunters”, most of whom were doing so for cynical reasons. Cllr Harris ‘liked’ this.
  6. On 13th January 2020, a Twitter account using the handle @PalestinePR (which has now become @PalBint) shared an article from the controversial anti-Israel Mondoweiss site entitled: “The British Jewish Board of Deputies launches 10 plagues against Palestine solidarity”. The article commented on the Board of Deputies’ issuing of “Ten pledges to end the antisemitism crisis”, asserting: “the mere title already reveals the fictitious nature of the whole document – since there was never an actual ‘Antisemitism crisis’ in Labour. The whole notion was concocted by Zionist interest groups and amplified by an all too willing and sloppy mainstream press.” Cllr Harris ‘liked’ and retweeted this.

Analysis

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Cllr Harris’s actions and statements amount to breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism and qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology.

By endorsing the allegation that the antisemitism crisis in the Labour Party was a “false flag” which had been “masterminded” by the Israeli or American intelligence services for the purpose of removing Jeremy Corbyn, and further suggesting that it might have been created in order to divert attention from a United Nations report about Israel’s actions in Gaza [2]; and by endorsing and retweeting a post which shared the antisemitic conspiracy theory that Israel was involved in the 9/11 terror attacks and which called US President Trump Israel’s “Puppet” [4], she was both endorsing and disseminating material which was “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

Moreover, the assertion that Jews exploit the Holocaust politically and financially is an antisemitic trope based on the perception of negative Jewish character traits; namely the classic antisemitic stereotypical portrayal of Jews as dishonest  and greedy. This trope is now so widespread that, in a 2018 CNN survey, a third of Europeans expressed the opinion that Jews exploit the Holocaust. By sharing a video of a speech alleging that the Holocaust is being exploited for political ends [3b], therefore, she was further “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews.”

By both endorsing and sharing articles in which allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party were characterised as “false”, “fictitious” and “concocted by Zionist interest groups,” with those who have claimed there is antisemitism in the Labour Party (which necessarily includes Jewish groups and individuals) characterised as doing so for ulterior political motives, using language such as “witch hunters” [5][6], she was endorsing the deployment of the so-called ‘Livingstone Formulation, by accusing Jews who cite evidence of antisemitism of lying, conspiring or having deceitful motives in doing so, when there is clear evidence that there have been breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism. This further constitutes “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews.”

By comparing the events of the Holocaust with Israeli actions in Gaza [1], and by sharing a video of a speech in which Israel’s behaviour in Gaza was compared to that of the Nazis [3a], she was “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

Outcome

Cllr Harris’s comments in [2] were reported to the Conservative Party immediately and, within a few hours, her local party reported that she had been suspended.

The Conservative Party chairman at that time, Brandon Lewis, responded to a question about the incident by noting that Cllr Harris had already been suspended and saying: “…We do not tolerate any form of abuse or racism.”

On 21st March 2019, Cllr Harris made a lengthy public defence of her statements in a letter published by the Leamington Observer in which she stated: “Those comments I made were not anti-Semitic [sic] but deliberately misconstrued by a certain blogger with a questionable agenda,” further adding that “our country is under attack in that we are being undermined by agents of various states, subversives and individuals in our own society…”

The article reported that, following her suspension by the Conservative Party, she had resigned from the district council’s cabinet and remained in post as an Independent councillor.

On 2nd May 2020, Ms Harris stood for election as an independent councillor for Harbury ward and was duly elected. The Conservative Party did not put up a candidate for the election.

On 13th December 2019, Cllr Harris announced that, following an investigation by the Conservative Party, the complaint against her had been rejected and that she could be reinstated.

On 18th December 2019, the rejection of the complaint against her and the lifting of her suspension was reported, and Cllr Harris was quoted as saying: “The issue came about by sheer ignorance and hate and it was clear manipulation by those who hate the Conservative Party. We live in very vitriolic sad times when people behave like this.”

She is now listed once more as a Conservative councillor.

The Council’s code of conduct provides “…in line with the Localism Act 2011 this code only  applies to members when they are carrying out their official duties nevertheless the Council expects its members to uphold high standards of conduct at all times in order to uphold the reputation of the Council and the office to which they have been elected…”

At the time of writing, on 21st August 2020, it is not known whether Stratford-upon-Avon District council has decided to take action against her.

It is not known whether Cllr Harris remains a prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate.

In August 2020, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to both Cllr Harris and the Conservative Party; Cllr Harris did not respond, but the Conservative Party replied that she had been suspended pending an investigation based on the content of the dossier we had sent them.

Rating

Campaign Against Antisemitism has rated the Party’s handling of this matter as “bad”. Our rating system is explained in our methodology. This case was last updated on 1st Monthember 2019.

Campaign Against Antisemitism has rated the Party’s handling of this matter as “unsatisfactory”. Our rating system is explained in our methodology. This case was last updated on 8th September 2020.

Campaign Against Antisemitism has rated the Party’s handling of this matter as “good”. Our rating system is explained in our methodology. This case was last updated on 1st Monthember 2019.