Antisemitism in Political Parties

Carrie Harper

2017-present: Plaid Cymru councillor, Queensway ward, Wrexham Borough Council

2019: Plaid Cymru parliamentary candidate, Wrexham

2008-2012: Plaid Cymru councillor, Queensway ward, Wrexham Borough Council

Incidents

  1. On or around 6th March 2019, Councillor Carrie Harper responded to a Facebook post by fellow Plaid Cymru councillor Steve Collings, in which he defended Labour councillor against accusations of antisemitism. Cllr Harper wrote: “It seems any criticism of the actions of Israel are now deemed anti semitic [sic], absolutely bonkers. No one decent would condone hate towards any group and genuine anti semitism [sic] should always be called out but this hijacking of the term to shut down discussion is as you rightly say dangerous.”
  2. On 3rd September 2019, Cllr Harper shared a post on Facebook from another account called “Expose Israel” which stated: [a] “Not content with the massacre of Palestinian children, Israel is now beginning to kill the Palestinian environment by destroying orange trees to pave the way for illegal settlements in a deafening global silence.” The post was accompanied by several hashtags, of which the first three were: [b] “#Zionism #ISRAEL #Jews”.
    The “Expose Israel” Facebook account shares a wide variety of antisemitic content including, but not limited to, comparing supposed Jewish “exceptionalism” with Nazism and otherwise comparing Israeli actions to those of the Nazis; implying that US President Trump is controlled by Israel; dehumanising Jews; blaming Jews for world events; suggesting that Israel controls the media, and Holocaust denial.
  3. On 30th June 2020, Cllr Harper shared an article on Facebook which she had published that day on her “Plaid Wrecsam” blog, in which she wrote: “There would seem over recent years to be a determined attempt by the right in both the UK and US in particular, to label anyone who criticises this Israeli Government policy as ‘anti-semitic’ [sic]. More generally it is in my view, often a rather sinister example of a smoke and mirrors tactic designed to shut down discussion and debate about very real human rights violations.”
    It should be noted that Cllr Harper stated on 10th October 2020 (in the Facebook thread recorded in [4]), that this blog was written in response to an article in Nation.Cymru about Sahar Al-Faifi, whose history of antisemitic discourse had become a matter of public record and was reportedly a source of concern both for the Jewish community in Wales and for current and prospective members of the Welsh Assembly. She was facing renewed criticism for a tweet in which she appeared to blame Israel for the racist killing of George Floyd by American police.
  4. On 10th October 2020, Cllr Harper commented in a Facebook thread responding to an article posted by the Nation.Cymru news site, entitled “Adam Price should take a leaf out of Keir Starmer’s book and show he is serious on anti-semitism [sic]”, criticising the party for its failure to take action against would-be Welsh Assembly candidate Sahar Al-Faifi. Cllr Harper commented: “There is an organised effort to go after Plaid reps with accusations of anti semitism [sic] in an attempt to stop criticism of the Israeli Government. I know because an article I wrote, ironically titled ‘criticism of the Israeli Government is not anti Semitic [sic]’ sparked a complaint against me, it was also an article nation [referring to Nation.Cymru] refused to publish. To publish yet another attack on Sahar, in the middle of the List selection process is pretty below the belt. Really disappointed to see this, no doubt deliberately timed article, it’s starting to look like a witch hunt.”
  5. On 6th November 2020, Cllr Harper posted an article on Facebook relating to alleged actions by Israeli forces. In the discussion thread which followed, a number of commenters made claims alleging that any criticism of Israel would result in false accusations of antisemitism, whilst another user (Ashley Drake) repeatedly attempted to correct these assertions by pointing out that criticism of Israel is not per se antisemitic, although certain ways of expressing such criticism can be.
    Responding to a commenter who had written “Be careful. You know condemnation is instant of accusations of antisemitism…”, Cllr Harper responded: [a] “…I’ve already had complaints, smears and attacks for being critical of the actions of the Israeli Government. They’re groundless and intended to stop people talking about situations like this.”
    Mr Drake tried to point out that criticism of Israel is not per se antisemitic, although certain ways of expressing such criticism can be, to which Cllr Harper responded [b] by suggesting that he was trying to “turn a discussion about what’s happening in Palestine to one about anti semitism [sic].” Mr Drake then challenged Cllr Harper on her failure to admonish and educate those whose replies to her post had strayed beyond legitimate criticism by invoking claims of false accusations of antisemitism, and noting that her failure to engage with and moderate the comments constituted tolerance of antisemitism.
    Cllr Harper responded by accusing Mr Drake of displaying an “arrogant attitude” and adding: [c] “I also see this tactic repeated time after time too, someone posts something highlighting the situation in Palestine, then they’re accused of anti semitism [sic] or ‘tolerating anti semitism’ [sic], that’s what you’re doing.”
    Mr Drake made a further attempt to clarify that he had no objection to Cllr Harper’s post, merely to the language used in some of the comments and her failure to engage with it; however, Cllr Harper responded by accusing him of “[making] it all about [his] own agenda” and “[bypassing] the very real human rights abuses that are clearly taking place in Palestine and [trying to] make the conversation about something else.”

Analysis

 

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

 The allegation that Jews harm non-Jewish children is an element of the ancient blood libel. By sharing a post in which it was alleged that Israelis perpetrated and took pleasure in “the masscare of Palestinian children”, using language which has particular significance in Christian tradition [2a], she was disseminating material which was “using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis.”

By sharing a post in which all Jews were implicated in the supposed crimes of Israel through the use of the hashtag “#Jews” [2b], she was disseminating material which was “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.”

Given that much of the debate “over recent years” in the UK over antisemitism has revolved around the failure — of the political left in general and the Labour Party in particular — to recognise that discourse regarding Israel and the Israeli government can, indeed, be antisemitic, and that Jewish groups and individuals have been prominent among those who have highlighted this, by alleging that claims of antisemitism are made indiscriminately against “anyone who criticises this Israeli Government policy” and that this was “a rather sinister example of a smoke and mirrors tactic” which was “designed to shut down discussion” [1][3]; by alleging the existence of a deliberate attempt to “go after” Plaid Cymru representatives with accusations of antisemitism in order to “stop criticism of the Israeli government”, which she characterised as a “witch hunt” [4a]; by claiming that allegations of antisemitism made against her were simply “smears” provoked by her criticism of Israel and were intended to prevent such criticism [5a]; and by accusing an individual objecting to antisemitism of doing so in bad faith, as a “tactic” [5b][5c], Cllr Harper was both deploying and endorsing the deployment of 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…” under the definition.

Additionally, by characterising those making accusations of antisemitism as being of “the right”, she was advancing an antisemitic trope which has gained currency in left-wing discourse which allows the views and concerns of Jewish people not only to be dismissed, but which also seeks to demonise them by association with political groups already demonised on the left, either by employing the generalised term ‘right wing’, or by explicitly linking them with the Conservative Party, which is often associated with the notion of ‘evil’ in left-wing discourse. 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 because they amount to unlawful harassment of Jewish people.

Furthermore, the EHRC specified certain examples of antisemitic conduct that would be unlawful on the same basis within the relevant context.

Cllr Harper’s comments in which she deploys the so-called Livingstone Formulation as described above; and her “blaming Jewish people generally for the actions of the state of Israel” [2b] appear, under our analysis, to be captured within the examples given in the EHRC’s report.

Moreover, by deploying the so-called Livingstone Formulation as described above; and by “blaming Jewish people generally for actions of the state of Israel” [2b], Cllr Harper, as an agent of her Party, may have caused Plaid Cymru to breach equality legislation.

Outcome

In August 2020, Campaign Against Antisemitism was informed by a member of the public who had lodged a complaint with Plaid Cymru against Cllr Harper over her social media activity that their complaint had not been upheld.

On 30th October 2020, it was reported that Cllr Harper had been selected as a candidate for the Welsh Assembly.

At the time of writing, on 31st October 2020, Campaign Against Antisemitism is unaware of any action having been taken by Plaid Cymru against Cllr Harper.

In December 2020, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to both Cllr Harper and Plaid Cymru. Cllr Harper did not respond, but a Plaid Cymru spokesperson said: “Plaid Cymru is committed to building a Wales where all members of society feel safe and valued, and we are completely opposed to any form of discrimination.”

Rating

Click to add your own text here

Click to add your own text here

Click to add your own text here