Antisemitism in Political Parties

Jenny Rathbone

2011-present: Welsh Labour Assembly Member for Cardiff Central

1998-2002: Labour Councillor, Highbury ward, Islington Borough Council

Ms Rathbone is also Director of Living Room Cardiff (Stafell Fyw Caerdydd)


  1. On 28th August 2018, Ms Rathbone tweeted, “Israeli Govt [sic] continues its relentless campaign against Jeremy Corbyn”, and asked: “Why are our media not investigating this level of foreign interference in UK politics?”
  2. On 13th November 2018, a recording thought to date from the beginning of November 2017 was published, in which Ms Rathbone stated: [a] “I think that the Israeli government’s behaviour in occupying part of the land, and in generally behaving like a conqueror is not conducive to peace. And I think that’s what drives people to be hostile to the Jewish community in this country. And I think that the Jewish community has a responsibility to promote peace in the Middle East, because this is one of the main drivers of intolerance.” She further stated: [b] “The fact that the Jewish synagogue in Cyncoed [Cyncoed Gardens in Cardiff] is behind this fortress is really uncomfortable and…how much of it is for real, and how much of it is in their own head is hard to judge, but siege mentality is also part of it.”


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

By asserting that the Israeli government was behind allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party, and accusing the UK media of not reporting it as such [1], Ms Rathbone 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” where “the State of Israel [is] conceived as a Jewish collectivity”.

By stating that antisemitism is a product of Israel’s behaviour and that Jews in Britain who do not act to “promote peace” are responsible for the resulting “hostility” towards them [2a], Ms. Rathbone was “holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel.”

There has been a history of terrorist and other kinds of violence against Jewish community buildings and property in the UK, as well as recent murderous violence against European Jews at their community buildings in Brussels, Copenhagen, Halle, Paris, and Toulouse. There has also been a long history of violent antisemitic incidents in the United States, including the murderous attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway. In the face of growing violence against Jews, Ms Rathbone’s suggestion that the Cardiff Jewish community’s taking steps to protect the security of the synagogue (by making it a “fortress”) might be due to an irrational perception of danger [2b] suggests that the community is paranoid and irrational, whilst encouraging others to believe that the protection of Jewish institutions is unnecessary.

Ms Rathbone’s comments in [2] echo those of Labour staffer Tim Lezard, who stated that funding for the UK’s synagogues’ security should be cut because of Israel’s military actions. It has also been reported that members of Momentum have claimed that security for synagogues is the product of a conspiracy by ‘Zionists’ to make ‘Jews’ feel unjustifiably fearful. Furthermore, the former Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker’s suspension and subsequent expulsion from the Labour Party was partly due to her assertion that security for Jewish institutions is unnecessary and a product of unjustifiable Jewish pleading. It has further been reported that the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, refused, when asked, to confirm that he would maintain budgets for security for Jewish institutions.


On 14th November 2018, it was reported that Ms Rathbone had been referred to the General Secretary of the Labour Party for investigation by First Minister Carwyn Jones.

It was also reported that Ms Rathbone had apologised for her statements, and had referred herself for ‘equality training’.

On 20th November 2018, it was reported that Ms Rathbone had been suspended by the Welsh Assembly’s Labour Group.

On 9th January, 2019, it was reported that Ms Rathbone’s suspension from the Welsh Assembly’s Labour Group had been lifted after only seven weeks, but that her comments were still under investigation by the national Labour Party.

It was further reported that the decision to readmit her had been contested by several other Labour members of the Welsh Assembly. The decision had reportedly been taken by former Labour chief whip Julie James following the election of Mark Drakeford (of whom Ms Rathbone was reported to be a key ally) as Welsh Labour leader on 13th December 2018, but before he appointed his cabinet.

On 7th February 2019, it was reported that Ms Rathbone had received a formal warning from the Labour Party and would be ordered to undergo training by a Jewish community charity, the Community Security Trust, something which she had reportedly already volunteered to do.

However, later that day, the Community Security Trust denied having been approached by either Ms Rathbone or the Labour Party with regard to training. It stated: “No requests for antisemitism training have been received for this or any other disciplinary case.”

In a statement on her website, Ms Rathbone wrote: “The Labour Party issued me with a formal warning about the unacceptable remarks I made 15 months ago. I am profoundly sorry for those remarks and for the offence I caused, both to my constituents and the wider Jewish community. I have reflected deeply on my mistakes and wish to do everything I can to enhance my understanding of antisemitism in order to identify it and fight it, wherever it occurs.”

She also wrote that she had met with a representative of another Jewish community charity, the Board of Deputies, in December 2018, saying: “I am grateful to the Board of Deputies for this meeting — an act of generosity in difficult and trying circumstances. The Board’s advice has helped me understand antisemitism and helped me reach out to the Jewish community.”

Ms Rathbone concluded by saying: “The Labour Party has rightly given me a formal sanction about my previous conduct and I am determined to make sure I never repeat that offence again. I will be undergoing training on how I apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism to my work.”

At the time of writing, on 17th November 2019, we have no record of another Labour Party case in which a suspension has been lifted before an investigation has been concluded.

The process by which the decisions relating to action taken by the Labour Party against Ms Rathbone were made remains unknown, owing to the conditions of secrecy imposed by the Chakrabarti report into antisemitism in the Labour Party.

We note that, as of 17th November 2019, the offending tweet of August 28th 2018 [1] was still on Ms Rathbone’s Twitter account and had not been removed.

In November 2019, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to Ms Rathbone, but did not receive a response.

In June 2020, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to the Labour Party, but did not receive a response.


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 21st July 2020.