Antisemitism in Political Parties

“Antisemitism is the organisation of politics against the Jews” — Ruth Wisse


Our research into antisemitism in political parties is ongoing. Our research records antisemitic discourse and discourse that enables antisemitism, by officials and candidates in political parties. Our research is conducted through ongoing monitoring and periodic proactive sweeps.

Included individuals

For the purposes of our research, officials and candidates are individuals who, since 2013, have stood for election to or been appointed to offices by a political party, including Members of Parliament, Life Peers, councillors, mayors and local party officials, as well as any candidate approved by the party, such as a candidate in a local council election. We also include key employees who play a significant role in the organisation of their parties.

Included discourse

We define antisemitism using the International Definition of Antisemitism adopted by the British Government, the College of Policing, many local councils and the Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party.

Our research into antisemitism in political parties cites examples of discourse that enables antisemitism and the dissemination of antisemitic ideas, as follows:

1. A direct breach of the definition, for example, saying that “Jews…were the chief financiers of the slave trade” or claiming that “Jewish money…bias[es] the Conservatives”.

2. Denying antisemitism exists where there is clear evidence that there has been a breach of the definition.

For example, Ken Loach, for many years a Labour member, a founder of the Left Unity Party and a public supporter of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, told the BBC’s Daily Politics he had been attending Labour meetings for 50 years and had “never in that whole time heard a single antisemitic word or a racist word” and that allegations of antisemitism were a fallacy “without validation or any evidence”.

3. Accusing Jews who cite evidence of antisemitism of lying, conspiring or having deceitful motives in doing so (the so-called ‘Livingstone Formulation’) where there is clear evidence that there has been a breach of the definition. A common accusation is that Jews are dissembling to protect Israel from criticism, or in order to attack people who have criticised Israel, such as Jeremy Corbyn, or are in a ‘right-wing’ alliance against progressive politics.

For example, in Parliament, Jenny Tonge once said of a range of Jewish organisations, that they “make constant accusations of antisemitism, when no such sentiment exists, to silence Israel’s critics”.

Those who make such accusations may also be considered in some circumstances to breach the definition by implying that Jews are engaging in a conspiracy. “Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective” is one of the examples of antisemitism given in the definition.

Such discourse may not be antisemitic per se, however it does enable antisemitic ideas to spread, and emboldens antisemites.

For example, Naz Shah admitted that her words and social media activity were antisemitic. She said “I wasn’t antisemitic, [but] what I put out was antisemitic”. We are not going to gainsay Ms Shah when she says that she is not “in her heart of hearts” an antisemite. The problem is not what she privately felt but what she publicly expressed. Ms Shah is clear, as we are, that her activity disseminated antisemitic ideas and may have emboldened antisemites.

We consider Holocaust revisionism and use of the term ‘Zio’ to be antisemitic discourse under the terms of the International Definition of Antisemitism, as detailed here.

Included political parties

We have no cases recorded for some political parties, for example, Sinn Féin and Plaid Cymru. Their absence from our published cases does not mean that we do not continue to research and examine incidents relevant to them, only that we currently do not have any cases that meet the criteria for publication.

Research method

We have combined ongoing monitoring with periodic proactive sweeps.

Our ongoing monitoring uses Campaign Against Antisemitism’s comprehensive logs of incidents uncovered by our researchers, reported in the media and online, and reports by members of the public. We are indebted to those party members who oppose racism and pass information to us.

The basis of our proactive sweeps is a systematic study of social media usage among selected groups of officials and candidates in political parties.

Our first proactive sweep captured the social media output of candidates from all political parties standing in the 2017 General Election. Our starting point was Democracy Club’s crowdsourced list of politicians’ social media accounts, although we looked for additional accounts where the list seemed incomplete. Altogether, over four million status updates or ‘tweets’ were collected from over two thousand Twitter accounts. An automated search for keywords such as “Jew” and “Zionist” was then used to select 14,500 of those tweets for closer inspection. The selected tweets were read through by our Head of Online Monitoring and Investigations, who verified that the great majority were innocuous, but flagged some for further inspection, using the International Definition of Antisemitism as a guide. Where tweets were deemed to be particularly problematic, the online activity of the individuals responsible was investigated in further depth, looking at a wider range of sources. In many cases, we found nothing further. In some cases, we found material far more disturbing than the tweets that the initial data collection and analysis brought to our attention.

Rating method

The response of political parties to each case is rated as follows:

Good: Broad compliance with our Manifesto for Fighting Antisemitism in Political Parties and a strong deterrent effect

Unsatisfactory: Poor compliance with our Manifesto for Fighting Antisemitism in Political Parties and a weak deterrent effect

Bad: Non compliance with our Manifesto for Fighting Antisemitism in Political Parties and an emboldening effect