Antisemitism in Political Parties

Lloyd Russell-Moyle

2017-present: Labour Member of Parliament for Brighton, Kemptown and Peacehaven

2020: Shadow Minister for Natural Environment and Air Quality

2016-2017: Labour councillor, East Brighton ward, Brighton and Hove City Council

2015: Labour parliamentary candidate for Lewes

Incidents

  1. On 10th January 2009, Lloyd Russell-Moyle wrote on Facebook: “…most of the Jews and Socialist [sic] that I know are anti-Zionist as they feel as do many people in the UK and around the world that Zionism is a very dangerous nationalist idea.”
  2. On an unknown date prior to 2017, Mr Russell-Moyle reportedly wrote on Facebook: “The point is people who are form [sic] Jewish decent [sic]/Jewish but are not Zionist is that the two are not automatic that you can be proud of being Jewish but realise that idea of inheriting/claim a land that you may have never visited or seen but have a ‘heritage’ claim for is not progressive in its very nature.”
  3. On 30th June 2017, Mr Russell-Moyle MP reportedly wrote to Labour’s then General Secretary Ian McNichol to recommend the reinstatement of Melanie Melvin (who had tweeted that a Syrian gas attack had been “filmed by the BBC at Pinewood on the orders of Mrs May and the Israeli lobby”).

    Prior to Mr Russell-Moyle’s intervention on her behalf, Ms Melvin had previously claimed that allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party (which she described elsewhere as a “witch hunt” in which one could be targeted simply for mentioning Israel) were a “storm in the teacup” used as an “excuse to bash Corbyn”; attributed criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s perceived failure to hold the government to account over problems within the NHS  to “the strong arm of the Israel Lobby”; and suggested that the Parliamentary Labour Party prioritised antisemitism over other forms of racism.

    (Following his intervention, as well as dismissing claims of antisemitism as a “smear campaign against Corbyn made in bad faith”, Ms Melvin went on to articulate further conspiracies involving British Jews and Israel, such as claiming that UK “foreign policy [is] run by Israel”; that the “Israel Lobby” was part of the “deep state” and had been “given a free hand to trash UK democracy and shape foreign policy from the shadows”; and more recently, that Labour has become a “Zionist Party”, whilst defining the term “Zionist” as “an increasingly powerful white supremacist, colonialist ideology.”)

  4. On 11th June 2019, Mr Russell-Moyle attacked Jewish MP Dame Margaret Hodge for having criticised the Labour leadership over its choice of candidate for the Peterborough by-election, Lisa Forbes. Ms Forbes had been revealed as having endorsed antisemitic material on social media. In a series of tweets (the first of which originally included a video shared from the notorious @SocialistVoice account operated by expelled Labour activist Scott Nelson), Mr Russell-Moyle defended Ms Forbes and wrote: “Let’s remember Hodge in 1983 was lined up by the right of party to be the MP for Islington North and as leader of the council was considered a shoe in [sic]. [Jeremy Corbyn] stood as a rank a [sic] file member and won. She has never forgiven him and has dedicated her time to undermine him.”

    It should be noted that Mr Russell-Moyle’s assertion regarding the 1983 selection process appears to be at odds with reports that Mr Corbyn’s closest rival for the candidacy was Paul Boateng.

    Mr Russell-Moyle subsequently replaced the video in his first tweet with the same clip shared from a different account, claiming he was unaware of Mr Nelson’s reputation and apologising for having shared content from his account. He ultimately deleted all the tweets in question.

  5. On 12th July 2020, it was reported that in June 2020 Mr Russell-Moyle had written to the Labour Party to intercede on behalf of the suspended local Labour activist (and former Chair of the Central Hove, Brunswick and Adelaide constituency Labour Party) Rebecca Massey. Although Ms Massey had apparently been suspended (and was subsequently expelled) for having supported the former Derby North MP Chris Williamson in his bid for election as an independent candidate in the 2019 election, her history of antisemitic discourse had been in the public domain for over three years. It was reported that Mr Russell-Moyle’s letter only referred to Ms Massey’s history of support for the Labour Party.

Analysis

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Mr Russell-Moyle’s statements and actions qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology.

By dismissing Dame Margaret Hodge’s concerns over antisemitism in the Labour Party as being motivated by a decades-long vendetta against Mr Corbyn [4], he 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 constitutes “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 allegedly suggesting in a letter to the General Secretary of the Party that a suspended Labour Party member such as Ms Melvin should be re-admitted to the Party on account of her “record” as a “stalwart” campaigner — where that individual already had a public history of  having made antisemitic statements for over a year — and by attempting to claim that a conspiracy theory, consistent with her previous statements, was disseminated by her as a parody [3]; and by reportedly writing to the Labour Party to intercede on behalf of Rebecca Massey in spite of her public history of antisemitic discourse [5], Mr Russell-Moyle was attempting to use his status as an MP to seek the reinstatement of known antisemites as Labour members. As such, Mr Russell-Moyle was demonstrating a determination to sustain the dissemination of antisemitic discourse in the Labour Party as well as the denial of its existence. In doing so, he was promoting discrimination against Jews within the Labour Party, as well as supporting a wider demonisation of Jews objecting to antisemitism in the Labour Party.

Zionism is an expression of national self-determination for Jews, and, since the establishment of the State of Israel, of support for the maintenance of that State. The allegation that Zionism is an inherently racist or “dangerous” ideology was promulgated by the Soviet Union as part of a deliberate and explicitly antisemitic campaign to persecute Jewish citizens who wished to practise their religion and/or leave the Soviet Union — especially to emigrate to Israel — as well as to demonise and undermine Israel on the foreign stage. A singular purpose of this propaganda was to drive a false distinction between “Jews” and “Zionists”, in which the latter is presented as the enemy of the former.

By claiming that “Zionism is a very dangerous nationalist idea” [1]; by stating that Jews can only retain their pride in being Jewish if they “realise” that they must relinquish their right to the same self-determination afforded to other peoples [2]; and by writing that Zionism “Is not progressive in its very nature”, thereby implying that the right to self-determination for Jews cannot be “progressive” but is a negative right, when the right to self-determination for other peoples is invariably considered a positive one [2], Mr Russell-Moyle was demonising Jews who assert their universal right to self-determination, and as such was “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination”.

We note the words of the Labour Party’s own guidance, particularly where it states that “…for many Jews, Zionism represents national liberation. The concepts of Israel, Zion and Jerusalem run deeply in Jewish religion, identity and culture, and…are symbolic of a homeland, refuge, or place of safety. The sensitivities around these concepts should be considered before using them.”

Outcome

On 11th July 2017, it was reported that a Brighton and Hove City councillor had accused Mr Russell-Moyle of “defending the indefensible” over his interceding on behalf of Melanie Melvin [1], and of having misrepresented the nature of his actions by stating that he was “not appealing” on her behalf.

On 28th March 2019, the Guido Fawkes political blog reported that Mr Russell-Moyle had co-hosted a meeting in Parliament with then Home Secretary Diane Abbott MP to launch a report by Professor David Miller of Bristol University. Professor Miller has a history of alleged antisemitic discourse and had been briefly suspended from the Labour Party whilst under investigation. Further statements made by Prof. Miller prompted complaints to the Party, and he was suspended a second time after claiming that Labour leader Sir Keir Startmer had taken money from “the Zionist movement”. However, he resigned from the Party before the disciplinary process could be completed.

On 11th June 2019, it was reported that former Labour MP Ian Austin had branded Mr Russell-Moyle “a disgrace” for his comments in [1].

It was later reported that Mr Russell-Moyle and Dame Margaret had agreed to discuss the matter.

On 24th June 2019, it was reported that Mr Russell-Moyle had invited to Parliament the representatives of the Yemenite Houthi military group whose motto is: “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory to Islam”. The previous day, he had directed abuse at his fellow MP, Graham Jones, for having criticised him over the invitation.

It was later reported that Mr Russell-Moyle had cancelled the invitation to the Houthi leader, reportedly claiming not to have investigated his background thoroughly enough.

On 1st July 2019, in an interview on BBC Radio 5 Live, Mr Russell-Moyle was asked to comment on whether the behaviour of former Derby North MP Chris Williamson (who had been resuspended for alleged antisemitism a few days earlier) had been antisemitic, to which he responded: “I wouldn’t make that judgement. I would say he has behaved foolishly in some of the stuff he has said, but whether that’s antisemitic or not, that’s for people who are either Jewish or the [NEC] panel..” However, when presented with a list of some of Mr Williamson’s comments and actions, Mr Russell-Moyle was forced to agree that “on the balance of it, they look like they’re antisemitic.”

On April 14th 2020, it was reported that Mr Russell-Moyle had shared an unredacted version of a leaked report into the workings of Labour’s Governance and Legal Unit with regard to cases of antisemitism. Details of antisemitism complainants were reportedly shared on neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites as a result of its being widely distributed.

It was further reported that Mr Russell-Moyle had subsequently deleted the link he had posted and apologised, but not before having justified his actions, as noted by an activist on Twitter.

On 23rd May 2020, it was noted that Mr Russell-Moyle continued to interact in Facebook groups with Labour members suspended over antisemitism allegations, including an individual who had called for local Labour members to march on the Brighton synagogue and another who had shared a video in which the faces of councillors critical of antisemitism in Labour were superimposed onto the faces of dancing Rabbis.

On 28th June 2020, the former leader of Brighton Council, Warren Morgan, who resigned from the Labour Party over antisemitism, and who had strongly protested the overt antisemitism manifested at the Labour Party conference in Brighton in 2017, tweeted that he had been informed that Mr Russell-Moyle had written to the Party’s General Secretary to request that his application to re-join should be blocked, and as a result, despite wishing to re-join, he cannot. This was subsequently confirmed.

On 12th July 2020, Mr Russell-Moyle’s support for Rebecca Massey [5] and his social media posts in [1] and [2] were reported. It was noted that he had apologised for his posts, saying: “I have now deleted these posts and recognise why they were offensive”. It was further reported that he had said he would be contacting Labour’s Jewish affiliate for talks, and that he had added: “I am completely and unreservedly committed to supporting Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner’s pledge to rid the party of anti-semitism [sic].”

On 12th July 2020, Labour’s Jewish affiliate issued the following statement: “Lloyd Russell-Moyle has, in his short time in Parliament, managed to attract constant controversy in relation to antisemitism, which has caused deep upset and distress within the Jewish community in Brighton and Hove…Taken together they appear to be a pattern of behaviour that is simply not acceptable for a front bench member of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Shortly after the 2017 election, Russell-Moyle spontaneously joined a planned meeting…We have had no formal contact with or from him since.”

On 16th July 2020, Mr Russell-Moyle announced on Twitter that he had resigned from the shadow cabinet, writing: “It is with regret I leave the shadow ministry, owing to a campaign by right-wing media my position has become untenable.”

We do not know whether disciplinary action has been taken by the Labour Party against Mr Russell-Moyle, and at the time of writing, on 1st July 2020, we have no record of any. However, the circumstances and outcomes of any such action would remain unknown, owing to the conditions of secrecy imposed by Baroness Chakrabarti’s report on antisemitism in the Labour Party.

In July 2020, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to both Mr Russell-Moyle and the Labour Party, but did not receive a response.

Rating

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