Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Ms Letsae’s actions and statements amount to breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism and qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology.
Although the theory that Ashkenazi Jews descend from a Turkic people in Khazaria who converted to Judaism was first propagated by a well-meaning Jewish intellectual, the idea has been repeatedly debunked by historians and geneticists. However, the Khazaria myth became an antisemitic canard of the far-right, used to deny the connection between European Jews and their biblical ancestors, and now also has currency in left-wing antisemitic discourse. Ms Letsae, however, does not appear to discriminate between Ashkenazi Jews and those who have resided in the Middle East and North Africa since Biblical times in her statement in , in which she additionally asserts that “Jews are not Semites” — a fallacious argument, often based on a misunderstanding of the term “antisemitism” — thereby advancing an antisemitic trope employed by the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, amongst others. By promoting claims that allege an alternative origin of Jewish ancestry, especially the Khazar myth about Ashkenazi Jewish ethnic origins, therefore, she was “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination…”.
By responding to criticism of US President Trump by a Jewish journalist by falsely claiming that the journalist had not criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a similar manner, thereby suggesting that his moral authority was compromised , she was “holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel.”
The use of the phrase “Zionist” in a context where it was being deployed pejoratively alongside the obscene and offensive term “cumsluts” rendered it an equivalent form to terms such as the abusive slur “Zio”. As such, it qualifies as a derogatory and abusive term for Jews and constitutes antisemitic discourse under the International Definition of Antisemitism by expressing “hatred toward Jews”. By ‘liking’ the use of the phrase “zionist cumsluts” in , therefore, she was endorsing the expression of “hatred toward Jews”.
By suggesting that Israel was responsible for the brutal behaviour of French police and the supposed death of their victim , which is analogous to the antisemitic claim that Israel was ultimately responsible for the racist killing of George Floyd by American police, and reminiscent of repeated libels against the Jewish people, who have been blamed throughout history for atrocities, she was “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective…” where Israel is “conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”
By claiming that “Zionists own the media and everything else…” ; by expressing resentment towards the Jewish community, asserting that they, as a minority, receive preferential treatment, and claiming that they no longer suffer from discrimination , thereby both denying the existence of antisemitism and implying that Jews use power and influence to garner inappropriate or unnecessary attention, sympathy and material gain ; by asserting the existence of a conspiracy involving the blogger Guido Fawkes, the right wing of the Labour Party and the “Israel Lobby” ; by characterising the belligerents in the battle of Mosul as “Zionist nations”, thereby implying that both the coalition of western governments and Islamic State were either directly controlled by or acting on behalf of Jews or Israel (as suggested by the hashtag “#FreePalestine”) ; by claiming that a hospital trust which she described as “extremely corrupt” was “run by Zionists” ; by making a false claim about the Jewish journalist Jonathan Freedland ; and by sharing an article in which repeated allusions are made to the “Zionist Lobby” (a trope regarding the hidden power of diaspora Jews or Israel which originated in the antisemitic propaganda of 1970s Soviet Russia) and its supposed power [11b], she 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.”
By describing those proposing an action plan to deal with antisemitism in the Labour Party as “peddling the biggest con” and implying, through juxtaposition with an accusation against Israel, that they were doing so in order to protect the State of Israel from criticism ; by sharing an article in which accusations of antisemitism within the Labour Party are characterised as having “no merit” and as being politically motivated [11a]; and by signing a statement which accused a Jewish charity fighting antisemitism of being a “politically motivated external campaign” enacting an “anti-Palestinian agenda” by “systematically [making] accusations of antisemitism against pro-Palestine activists” , she was deploying 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…”
We further note that the report of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) following its statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party, in which Campaign Against Antisemitism was the complainant, includes a section entitled “Types of antisemitic conduct that amounted to unlawful harassment” with a subsection entitled “Suggesting that complaints of antisemitism are fake or smears”. This subsection states that: “Labour Party agents denied antisemitism in the Party and made comments dismissing complaints as ‘smears’ and ‘fake’. This conduct may target Jewish members as deliberately making up antisemitism complaints to undermine the Labour Party, and ignores legitimate and genuine complaints of antisemitism in the Party. These comments went beyond simply describing the agents’ own personal experience of antisemitism in the Party.”
Additionally, in its report, the EHRC made clear that its judgements apply to all political parties and emphasised that the European Convention on Human Rights does not protect racist speech, which may include antisemitic speech.
On this basis, the EHRC found that denying antisemitism in the Labour Party and making comments dismissing complaints as “smears” or “fake” — such as allegations that complaints of antisemitism are “part of a smear campaign by ‘the Israel lobby’ to stigmatise critics of Israel as antisemitic, and…intended to undermine and disrupt the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn MP” — are not protected by the fundamental right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In other words, such comments are not protected as freedom of speech at all, but amount to unlawful harassment of Jewish people.
Furthermore, the EHRC specified certain examples of antisemitic conduct which would be unlawful on the same basis within the relevant context.
Ms Letsae’s comments, endorsements and dissemination of material deploying the so-called ‘Livingstone Formulation’ as described above appear, under our analysis, to be captured within the examples given in the EHRC’s report.
By expressing solidarity with Ken Livingstone and claiming that he “dared to speak the truth” , she was endorsing Ken Livingstone’s assertion that “Hitler was supporting Zionism”, which perverts the historical account of the Holocaust in order to demonise an identifiably Jewish movement.
We note in this context that the EHRC found that Mr Livingstone had “[committed] unlawful harassment” of Jews through his comments made in defence of Naz Shah.