Antisemitism in Political Parties

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


Campaign Against Antisemitism researches antisemitism in political parties on an ongoing basis. Our research identifies and 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 of officials’ and candidates’ posts on social media.

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 a political 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, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the 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 questioning whether the UK’s ambassador to Israel should be Jewish, for fear that he might “go native” and have “divided loyalties”. Though the definition includes a series of examples, some forms of antisemitism, such as some types of Holocaust revisionism, are not captured explicitly within the examples; however, we consider them to be captured by the broader wording of the definition.
  2. Denying that antisemitism has occurred despite clear evidence that there has been a breach of the definition, which is often referred to as the ‘Livingstone Formulation’. This involves 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 definition. It therefore constitutes “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews…” under the definition. Common instances include accusations that Jews are dissembling to protect Israel from criticism, to politically attack an adversary, or that they are in an alliance against progressive politics.

Additionally, we include discourse identified by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in its report on its investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party.

On Thursday 29th October 2020, EHRC found that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn had committed unlawful acts of antisemitism, in the form of harassment of its Jewish members; had discriminated against Jewish members as a result of political interference in the investigation of antisemitism complaints; had created a culture that, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it; and had a leadership which lacked the will to deal with the antisemitism within the Labour Party.

The EHRC stated that its findings applied to all political parties and “provide a foundation to assist all politicians and political leaders in adhering to equality law, while still protecting freedom of expression and engaging in the robust and wide-ranging debate that is a core part of living in a democratic society.”

The EHRC emphasised that the European Convention on Human Rights “does not protect racist speech that negates its fundamental values. The European Court of Human Rights has held that speech that is incompatible with the values guaranteed by the EHRC, notably tolerance, social peace and non-discrimination, is removed from the protection of Article 10 [freedom of expression]…This may include antisemitic speech and Holocaust denial.”

The EHRC ruled 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 because they amount to unlawful harassment of Jewish people.

Additionally, the EHRC specified certain examples of antisemitic conduct that would be unlawful on the same basis within the relevant context, including comments that:

  • Diminish the scale or significance of the Holocaust
  • Express support for Hitler or the Nazis
  • Compare Israelis to Hitler or the Nazis
  • Describe a ‘witch hunt’ in the Labour Party, or say that complaints had been manufactured by the ‘Israel lobby’
  • Reference conspiracies about the Rothschilds and Jewish power and control over financial or other institutions
  • Blame Jewish people for the ‘antisemitism crisis’ in the Labour Party
  • Blame Jewish people generally for actions of the state of Israel
  • Use ‘Zio’ as an antisemitic term, and
  • Accuse British Jews of greater loyalty to Israel than Britain.

Included political parties

We monitor all registered political parties for antisemitism.

We have no cases recorded for some political parties; for example, Sinn Féin. 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 qualify for publication under our methodology.

In relation to far-right parties, we note that the electorate has chosen not to vote for such parties in significant numbers and that, as a consequence, vanishingly few representatives of such groups appear in our study. Furthermore, the far-right is increasingly organising in informal groupings — particularly online — that either do not necessarily register as political parties, are in the process of applying, or may have failed in their attempts to do so. This does not in any way diminish the danger of such groupings to the Jewish community, but it does exclude them from qualifying as a political party under our methodology.

Research method

Our initial research was conducted by way of a proactive sweep of the social media output of officials’ and candidates’ posts on social media since 2013. We have then continued our research through ongoing monitoring.

Our ongoing monitoring uses Campaign Against Antisemitism’s detailed logs of incidents uncovered by our researchers, incidents reported in the media and online, periodic proactive sweeps and reports by members of the public. We are indebted to members of political parties 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.

Rating method

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

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

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

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