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Media coverage skews antisemitism report


October 16, 2016
Sarah Benton

In this posting: 1) FSoI condemns report, 2) Guardian sees it as anti-Corbyn, 3) the report, with a few cuts.


Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for Worthing, acting chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. Screenshot, parliament TV.

Partisan Report on Antisemitism discredits Home Affairs Select Committee

By Free Speech on Israel
October 16, 2016

House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Report:                    

  • Depends on evidence from almost exclusively pro-Israel, anti-Corbyn sources
  • Advocates re-defining antisemitism so as to intimidate and silence pro-Palestinian voices, including making it a punishable offence to use the word Zionist “in an accusatory context”
  • Dismisses the Chakrabarti Report’s principled recommendations for fair and transparent disciplinary Labour Party procedures  in cases of alleged antisemitism and other forms of racism, proposing draconian, politically motivated measures instead

London, October 16 – The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee today issued a Report on Antisemitism in the UK that, while correctly identifying the far Right as the source of most hate crime, shows such bias in its sources and assessment of evidence that it calls into question the committee’s reputation and competence.

The Report, from a Tory dominated committee, takes up the weapons that have been used to try to unseat Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader by smearing those he has attracted to the Party with charges of antisemitism. The apparent collusion of Labour committee members reflects the dirty war being waged against Corbyn’s radical leadership by elements within the party.   

Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, from the Jewish-led campaign group Free Speech on Israel (FSOI), said the select committee had aligned itself with extreme pro-Israel advocates, by setting restrictive limits on what may and may not be said, threatening to close down free speech on Israel and Palestine.

“The dire record of antisemitism over the centuries and especially in the last one means that vigilance is essential,” said Prof Rosenhead. “But antisemitism is not, currently, the major racist threat in this country; nor is it a significant problem in the Labour Party. This report loses all sense of proportion. It risks actually weakening the defences against true antisemitism (‘hatred of Jews as Jews’) by trying to extend its meaning to include many legitimate criticisms of Israel.

“For those of us who argue, along with many other Jews and Israelis, that the Zionist project has inflicted intolerable injustice on the Palestinians, the adjective ‘Zionist’ inevitably has an ‘accusatory’ aspect.  But it is directed against the State of Israel and its founding ideology, not against Jews.”

NOTES

  1. House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/inquiry2/publications/
  2. Free Speech on Israel is a network of labour, green and trade union activists in the UK, mainly Jewish, who came together in April 2016 to counter attempts by pro-Israel right wingers to brand the campaign for justice for Palestinians as antisemitic. 
  3. Prof Jonathan Rosenhead explores the workings of the campaign to discover antisemitism in every corner of Corbyn’s Labour Party https://opendemocracy.net/jonathan-rosenhead/jackie-walker-suspense-mystery
  4. Free Speech on Israel submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry. https://www.scribd.com/doc/315237906/Free-Speech-on-Israel-Submission-to-Chakrabarti-Submission
  5. Asa Winstanley exposes the fabrication of many antisemitism allegations https://electronicintifada.net/content/how-israel-lobby-manufactured-uk-labour-partys-anti-semitism-crisis/16481

 



Jeremy Corbyn gives evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee

Jeremy Corbyn accused of incompetence by MPs over antisemitic abuse

Labour leader hits back after select committee derides Shami Chakrabarti’s ‘compromised’ inquiry into antisemitism

By Daniel Boffey and Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian
October 16, 2016

Jeremy Corbyn has come under strong personal attack from a cross-party committee of MPs investigating the growth of antisemitism for helping to create a safe space for people with “vile attitudes towards Jewish people”.

In a damning indictment of the party and its leader, the powerful home affairs select committee claims that Corbyn’s lack of action “risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic”. In the report, published on Sunday , Labour is said to have been “demonstrably incompetent” in dealing with incidents of anti-Jewish abuse.

An inquiry into antisemitism in Labour carried out by Shami Chakrabarti on the orders of Corbyn earlier this year is described as “ultimately compromised”. Its independence was thrown into doubt by Chakrabarti’s acceptance of a peerage and a job in the shadow cabinet, the committee writes.

The MPs criticise Chakrabarti for describing antisemitic abuse as merely “unhappy incidents”, and note her failure to respond to requests for a timeline proving that there was no connection between her elevation to the Lords and her inquiry. They write: “Ms Chakrabarti has not been sufficiently open with the committee about when she was offered her peerage, despite several attempts to clarify this issue with her.”

The Labour leader hit back yesterday, suggesting that the committee had allowed itself to be politicised, and appearing to accuse it of sexism.

Corbyn said in a statement:

Not a single woman was called to give oral evidence in public, and the report violates natural justice by criticising individuals without giving them a right to be heard.

The report’s political framing and disproportionate emphasis on Labour risks undermining the positive and welcome recommendations made in it.

Although the committee heard evidence that 75% of antisemitic incidents come from far right sources, and the report states there is no reliable evidence to suggest antisemitism is greater in Labour than other parties, much of the report focuses on the Labour party.

As the report rightly acknowledges, politicising antisemitism – or using it as a weapon in controversies between and within political parties – does the struggle against it a disservice.

Corbyn added that he believed the committee was unfair in its criticism of Chakrabarti for being insufficiently independent. “This fails to acknowledge public statements that the offer to appoint Chakrabarti to the House of Lords came after completion of her report, and was based on her extensive legal and campaigning experience,” he said.

However, the devastating conclusions of the select committee have been seized upon by party colleagues and opponents alike who today call on the Labour leader to reform his party, and drive out those with antisemitic views.

The Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who sits on the home affairs select committee, said that the report’s conclusions were not motivated by a desire for political point-scoring but to offer justice to those affected, and it was “grossly insulting” to suggest otherwise. “From the evidence we have taken, any objective observer will conclude that the Labour party has failed to deliver on all our principles in the way that it has handled recent incidents of antisemitism – we have to be big enough and honest enough to admit this,” Umunna wrote on his Facebook page.

The Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green, Mike Freer, said: “As leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn has a duty to face up to the problem and to take concrete action to stamp it out now – not just make mealy-mouthed condemnations.”

James Sorene, of the Israel and Middle East thinktank Bicom, said Labour should not ignore the report’s findings. “This report brings much needed clarity where previously there has been denial, obfuscation and abdication of responsibility,” he said.

The select committee inquiry was launched in April after concerns had been expressed about an increase in prejudice and violence against Jewish communities in the UK.

Its report was unanimously agreed by the all-party committee after three and a half hours of discussion. The committee was until recently chaired by the Labour MP Keith Vaz.

The committee acknowledged that there was “no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour party than any other political party”. Nevertheless, it is withering about the Labour leader’s response to antisemitic attacks on his own MPs, and his understanding of modern forms of racism.

The committee writes: “While the Labour leader has a proud record of campaigning against many types of racism, based on the evidence we have received, we are not persuaded that he fully appreciates the distinct nature of post-second-world-war antisemitism.”



Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, gets an ingratiating welcome and thanks from the Home Affairs Select Committee for setting them off on the right track.

Antisemitism in the UK

Report of Home Affairs Select Committee
October 16, 2016

Introduction

The rise of antisemitism

1. The 2011 census suggested that there were 266,740 Jewish people living in the UK, with around two-thirds living in London, representing approximately 0.5% of the UK population.12 Some consider this to be an underestimate, with the Institute for Jewish Policy Research suggesting that the actual figure is around 284,000. Based on the census figures, the UK has the fifth largest Jewish population in the world, and the second largest population in Europe (after France).13

2. Reported rates of antisemitism have risen in the UK since 2000, with some fluctuations in line with significant trigger events in the Middle East. The first half of 2016 saw an 11% rise in reported antisemitic incidents compared with the same period during the previous year.14 This was the second highest total ever recorded during the first six months of the year by Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that works to protect British Jewish people from antisemitism. In London, reports of antisemitism rose by 62% between the first six months of 2015 and 2016.15

3. During the past few years, there has been an upsurge in violent attacks against Jewish people across Europe, including fatal attacks in Copenhagen and Paris and a significant rise in antisemitic attacks in Germany.16 This was one reason for the UK Government’s decision to increase its funding for the security of Jewish schools and synagogues (through CST).17

4. Police-recorded figures on antisemitism have shown similar patterns to the CST data. There was a 29% increase in police-recorded antisemitic hate crime in England, and some parts of Wales between 2010 and 2015, compared with a 9% increase across all hate crime categories.18 This masks a gradual drop between 2010 and 2013–14, followed by a sharp increase in 2014–15. Between 2013–14 and 2014–15, police-recorded antisemitic crime increased by 97%, compared with 26% across all hate crime categories.19 Over two-thirds of all antisemitic hate crimes in 2014–15 were recorded by the Metropolitan Police Force,20 broadly matching the proportion of the UK’s Jewish population living in London; although police-recorded figures elsewhere in the country remain surprisingly low, as elaborated upon later in this report. Antisemitic crimes represented approximately 1.4% of all police-recorded faith- or race-related hate crimes during 2014–15. We provide further figures on the rise of antisemitism in Chapter 3.

Antisemitism in political parties

5. In April 2016 and the months that followed, Naz Shah MP, Ken Livingstone and a number of other members (reported numbers vary from 18 to 50) were suspended from the Labour Party amidst accusations of antisemitism. For example, Salim Mulla, a Labour councillor in Blackburn, was suspended over sharing footage (in 2014) allegedly showing a Palestinian boy being arrested, with a comment from the councillor stating: “Apartheid at its best. Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity”. Naz Shah—a member of this Committee—issued a public apology after the publication of Facebook posts dating from before her election in 2015, in which she endorsed the notion of relocating Israel to the USA and drew comparisons between Israel and the Nazis. Ken Livingstone then gave a number of media interviews, in which he defended Ms Shah and promoted the opinion that Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism in the early 1930s. Naz Shah has since been reinstated as a Labour Party member. This act received the support of a number of prominent representatives from Jewish communities. As discussed later in this report, however, she has taken no part in this inquiry, by agreement of the Committee.

6. Shortly after the suspension of Ken Livingstone and a number of other allegations, the Labour Leader, Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP, announced an inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism perpetrated by members of the Labour Party, chaired by former Liberty Director Shami (now Baroness) Chakrabarti.21 The report was published in June, and made recommendations for a number of changes to the Labour Party’s disciplinary processes. It found that the Labour Party is “not overrun” by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism, but that, “as with wider society”, there is evidence of “minority hateful or ignorant attitudes and behaviours festering within a sometimes bitter incivility of discourse”.22 In early August, it was announced that the Labour Leader had nominated Ms Chakrabarti for a peerage, which she had accepted. She has sincetaken her seat in the House of Lords, and has been appointed as Shadow Attorney General in the Labour Leader’s recent Shadow Cabinet reshuffle. We discuss this further in the final chapter of this report.

7. This report focuses to some extent on the Labour Party, because it has been the main source of recent allegations of antisemitism associated with political parties. It should be emphasised that the majority of antisemitic abuse and crime has historically been, and continues to be, committed by individuals associated with (or motivated by) far-right wing parties and political activity. Although there is little reliable or representative data on contemporary sources of antisemitism, CST figures suggest that around three-quarters of all politically-motivated antisemitic incidents come from far-right sources.23 However, the fact that incidents of antisemitism—particularly online—have made their way into a major political party is a new and deplorable phenomenon, and one which has not recently affected the mainstream right wing of British politics. It is particularly shocking that it should affect a party whose founding principles are based on equality.

Our inquiry

8. Our inquiry was prompted by concerns expressed to us about an increase in prejudice and violence against Jewish communities in the UK, along with an increase in far-right extremist activity. Many of the developments outlined above, and discussed in detail later in this report, occurred after we announced this inquiry on 12 April 2016. There have been simultaneous developments regarding alleged antisemitism within the National Union of Students (NUS) and an investigation into antisemitism at Oxford University Labour Club, both of which are covered in Chapter 5 of this report.

9. Naz Shah stepped aside from the Committee shortly after her suspension from the Labour Party, and has taken no part in this inquiry. She has recommenced her Committee activities since her reinstatement as a Labour Party member, but has continued to recuse herself from all activities related to this inquiry.

10. We held four oral evidence sessions for this inquiry, with witnesses including the Chief Rabbi and other representatives of Jewish communities, the leaders of the SNP in Westminster, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, the former Chairman of the Conservative Party, and other politicians. We held a private meeting with Ruth Smeeth MP and Luciana Berger MP, and we held informal meetings with the main political parties’ Friends of Israel groups (the Conservative Friends of Israel, Labour Friends of Israel and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel); and their Friends of Palestine groups (Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and the SNP Friends of Palestine). We also invited the Conservative Middle East Council to submit evidence. Written evidence was received from a number of individuals and organisations, which are listed at the end of this report. We are grateful to everyone who has contributed to this inquiry.

2 Defining antisemitism

Why define antisemitism?

11. The Chakrabarti inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism in the Labour Party declined to provide a definition of antisemitism. The report states that there is “no need to pursue an age-old and ultimately fruitless debate about the precise parameters of race hate.”24 In his evidence to us, Jeremy Corbyn MP said:

Antisemitism is where you use epithets to criticise people for being Jewish; where you attack Jewish people for what they are. It is completely unacceptable, and I would have thought it was very obvious what antisemitism is, just as much as it will be very obvious what Islamophobia is if you criticise Muslim people for what they are and what they are alleged to believe in, whether they believe in it or not.25

12. However, it seemed to us that that it would be extremely difficult to examine the issue of antisemitism without considering what sort of actions, language and discourse are captured by the term, and that defining the parameters of antisemitism was central to the question of what should be done to address this form of hate. As a starting point for our recommendations, we decided that we should aim to establish a definition which achieves an appropriate balance between condemning antisemitism vehemently, in all its forms, and maintaining freedom of speech—particularly in relation to legitimate criticism of the Government of Israel.

The Macpherson definition

13. The Macpherson report, published in 1999 as a result of the inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, recommended that the definition of a racist incident should be “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”, and asserted that crimes and non-crimes of this nature must be “reported, recorded and investigated with equal commitment”.26 This interpretation has been adopted by the Government and justice agencies, although an incident will only be prosecuted as a crime if it meets certain legal tests, such as for the existence of sufficient evidence.27

14. CST addressed this issue in its 2009 Antisemitic Discourse Report. When collecting its data on antisemitism, CST “defines incidents against Jews as being antisemitic only where it can be objectively shown to be the case, and this may not always match the victim’s perception as called for by the Lawrence Inquiry.”28

15. In its 2014 discourse report, however, CST excluded the conditions outlined above and instead invoked the report of the 2006 All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism. That report argued that it is “not acceptable” for an individual to say “I am not a racist”, if their words or acts are perceived to be racist, concluding that “it is the Jewish community itself that is best qualified to determine what does and does not constitute antisemitism”.29 Nevertheless, CST’s 2015 Antisemitic Incidents Report notes that the organisation excluded 43% of the potential incidents reported to it, because there was no evidence of antisemitic motivation, language or targeting.30

The IHRA and EUMC Definition

16. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is an intergovernmental body that aims to generate and sustain support for Holocaust education, remembrance and research. In May 2016, IHRA’s 31 member countries (including the UK) adopted the following ‘Working Definition’ of antisemitism:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.31

This was based broadly on the Working Definition of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), which has since been replaced by the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).32

17. Like the EUMC’s definition, the IHRA goes on to list a number of contemporary examples of antisemitism, including:

— Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

— 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.

— Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

— Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

— Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust [see below for example].

— Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

— Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.

— Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

— Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis.

— Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

— Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.33

Figure 1: An example of Holocaust denial – a Christmas card sent to an MP in December 2015

Source: CST34

18. In his evidence to us, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, pointed out that the IHRA had adopted the EUMC definition “with a tiny change in wording”, and stated that “we do regard the EUMC working definition as helpful, comprehensive and fit for purpose”.35

19. The College of Policing’s guidance for UK police forces quotes the EUMC definition in full.36 The Government also endorsed it in a statement by Rt Hon Sir Eric Pickles MP, the UK’s Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues, in March 2016.37 The statement acknowledges the absence of an agreed international definition and asserts that it is for the victim to determine whether a crime against them was motivated by a particular characteristic (the Macpherson definition), but it also reproduces the College of Policing’s guidance (the EUMC definition), “for those seeking a definition of antisemitism”.38

Criticism of the IHRA/EUMC definition

20. In a sub-report commissioned for the 2015 All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, Professor David Feldman claimed that the EUMC definition has largely fallen out of favour, in part due to continued controversy regarding its application to the State of Israel and its policies.39 The representatives of the ‘Friends of Palestine’ groups whom we met informally also raised this issue, voicing concern that criticising policies that they regard as discriminatory against non-Jewish citizens could be categorised as “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” (by denying the Israeli Government the right to ensure a continued majority Jewish population in Israel), or as “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”. They believed that it is vital that free speech is maintained in the context of public debate about the Israeli Government, the Palestinian National Authority, and the rights of Palestinian and Israeli citizens.

21. We also heard concerns from the Friends of Palestine that the charge of “requiring of [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” could be applied to any activist who chooses to take a particular interest in Israel for any number of reasons (for example, due to personal experience of volunteering in the region). Other witnesses questioned why an individual would reserve more opprobrium for Israel than the countries surrounding it, or other countries around the world, with the implication that such a focus may be rooted in antisemitism. For example, Sir Mick Davis, Chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), questioned why there have only been nine Early Day Motions (EDMs) in the House of Commons on North Korea since 2010, compared with 97 EDMs that were critical of Israel. When challenged that MPs would expect a higher standard of Israel than North Korea, Sir Mick responded: “It is an interesting proposition that you should expect high standards of Israel but not of other countries”.40

A proposed amended definition

22. The Macpherson definition that, for recording purposes, a racist incident is one “perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person” is a good working definition, which provides a strong basis for investigation. As such, the perceptions of Jewish people—both collectively and individually, as an alleged victim—should be the starting point of any investigation into antisemitism. However, for an incident to be found to be antisemitic, or for a perpetrator to be prosecuted for a criminal offence that was motivated or aggravated by antisemitism, requires more than just the victim’s perception that it was antisemitic. It also requires evidence, and it requires that someone other than the victim makes an objective interpretation of that evidence. The difficulty of making such a determination in the face of conflicting interpretations underlines the importance of establishing an agreed definition of antisemitism.

23. It is clear that where criticism of the Israeli Government is concerned, context is vital. Israel is an ally of the UK Government and is generally regarded as a liberal democracy, in which the actions of the Government are openly debated and critiqued by its citizens. Campaigners for Palestinian rights have informed us that they would expect similar standards of conduct from the Israeli Government as they would demand from the UK Government. It is important that non-Israelis with knowledge and understanding of the region should not be excluded from criticising the Israeli Government, in common with the many citizens of Israel who are amongst its strongest critics, including human rights organisations in that country.

24. We broadly accept the IHRA definition, but propose two additional clarifications to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine, without allowing antisemitism to permeate any debate. The definition should include the following statements:

  • It is not antisemitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.
  • It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

25. We recommend that the IHRA definition, with our additional caveats, should be formally adopted by the UK Government, law enforcement agencies and all political parties, to assist them in determining whether or not an incident or discourse can be regarded as antisemitic.

Opposing ‘Zionism’

26. In an article for The Daily Telegraph in May, the Chief Rabbi criticised attempts by Labour members and activists to separate Zionism from Judaism as a faith, arguing that their claims are “fictional”.41 In evidence to us, he stressed that “Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith”. He stated that “spelling out the right of the Jewish people to live within secure borders with self-determination in their own country, which they had been absent from for 2,000 years—that is what Zionism is”. His view was that “If you are an anti-Zionist, you are anti everything I have just mentioned”.42

27. Similarly, CST and the JLC describe Zionism as “an ideological belief in the authenticity of Jewish peoplehood and that the Jewish people have the right to a state”.43 Sir Mick Davis, Chairman of the JLC, told us that criticising Zionism is the same as antisemitism, because:

Zionism is so totally identified with how the Jew thinks of himself, and is so associated with the right of the Jewish people to have their own country and to have self-determination within that country, that if you attack Zionism, you attack the very fundamentals of how the Jews believe in themselves.44

28. However, there is evidence to suggest that many British Jewish people do not associate Zionism simply with support for the existence of Israel. Research published in 2015 by City University found that 90% of British Jewish people support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and 93% say that is forms some part of their identity as Jews, but only 59% consider themselves to be Zionists. The researchers observed that some respondents believed that people who are critical of the current Israeli Government’s policies should not identify as Zionists, even if they fully support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.45

29. Regardless of the precise definition of ‘Zionism’, it is clear that the word ‘Zionist’ is used frequently as an insult against those who defend the actions of the Israeli Government, or even against those who speak out against antisemitism. In too many instances, it has been used as a proxy for the word ‘Jew’.46 The report of the 2006 All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism argues that “criticism of Zionism is not in itself antisemitic”, but that an “antisemitic discourse” has developed in some quarters that “views Zionism itself as a global force of unlimited power and malevolence throughout history”.47

30. In evidence to us, the Leader of the SNP in Westminster, Angus Robertson MP, shared his views on how criticism of the Government of Israel sometimes transitions to anti-Zionism, and then to antisemitism. He said that in pursuing support for “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people”, some individuals start using “language and imagery” that has been used before, drawing on “tropes” such as “repeated accusations from the 20th and 19th centuries about Jewish ownership of the press or the financial system and so on”. He described how some people move from referring to “the Government of Israel” to talking about “Israel”; then to “Zionists”, and then “some people start talking about Jews”; adding that “at some point along that line it morphs into antisemitism”.48

31. Such is the toxicity of the word “Zionist” that when we met campaigners from the ‘Friends of Palestine’ groups, several of the attendees told us that they never use it. In many of the incidents of abuse that we have seen on social media, including those shared by John Mann MP,49Chair of the APPG Against Antisemitism, replacing the word “Zionist” with “Jew” would render them blatantly and virulently antisemitic. For example, in an email received in May, Mr Mann was told:

[What] we DO not appreciate are the Zionists who use powerful connections to increase their own wealth—by war, dodgy business deals, political pressurisation, media mis-information and mis-direction, etc.50

A further sample of the messages he has received is set out below. We have decided to publish these in order to illustrate explicitly the sort of antisemitic language pervasive online, much of it using the word “Zionist” as a term of abuse. It is concerning that Mr Mann was the victim of further vilification, including from members of his own party, after his attempts to challenge Ken Livingstone’s comments.

28/06/2016

Twitter

@johnmannmp why don’t you admit you’re a Zionist wh*re then??

02/05/2016

Twitter

RT (Don’t buy ‘allegedly’.) John Mann’s a wee Zionist sh*te. I support Ken’s right to free speech. NOT anti-Semitic.

17/05/2016

Twitter

John Mann MP really is a prize ZIo servile tw*t

30/04/2016

Twitter

@**** @JohnMannMP shouting lies like an unhinged Zio Attack dog isn’t dignified

30/04/2016

Twitter

@JohnMannMP On the edge of my seat. lulz It’s time for Zio-Puppet Hour w/ John Mann !

28/04/2016

Twitter

@JohnMannMP YOU ARE A ZIO NAZI! P*LL*CK! The only people conducting a holocaust nowadays is Israelis. SHAME!

28/04/2016

Twitter

I wonder how much the Zionist lobby is paying @JohnMannMP for this utterly shambolic display. Disgraceful.

28/04/2016

Twitter

@JohnMannMP How much are your jewish paymasters paying you then mate? Enough to buy some land on a Palestinian olive grove perhaps?

20/11/2015

Twitter

@JohnMannMP getting really joed off with my MP constantly calling everyone anti semitic, how much is the Jewish lobby paying you?

06/05/2016

Twitter

@JohnMannMP Why are you so obsessed with pleasing the Jewish lobby? Should you not be serving the English you represent?

04/05/2016

Twitter

@JohnMannMP “Anti-semitism” just seems to be noticing Jewish power. How does it feel to take your 30 silver shekels to betray your own kin?

28/04/2016

Twitter

F**k me those Jewish lobby purse strings are being pulled harder and harder aren’t they? #Livingstine #johnmannmp

Letter

you should be suspended but you won’t as I believe you’re a Jew. You sound like one, you look like one, and you are one.

02/05/2016

Email

“maybe mark regev (who is a c … ) stuffed a envelope in your pocket for this loyalty?”; “of course there are good people in israel but they never get anywhere near the reins of power, only the nazi b*st*rds get there”; “so the current government in israel has terrorism in it’s DNA.”

32. ‘Zionism’ as a concept remains a valid topic for academic and political debate, both within and outside Israel. The word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse, however, has no place in a civilised society. It has been tarnished by its repeated use in antisemitic and aggressive contexts. Antisemites frequently use the word ‘Zionist’ when they are in fact referring to Jews, whether in Israel or elsewhere. Those claiming to be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic”, should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticise the policies of theGovernment of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise “the Israeli Government”, and not “Zionists”. For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory orabusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic. This should be communicated by the Government and political parties to those responsible for determining whether or not an incident should be regarded as antisemitic.

3 The rise of antisemitism

Reported and recorded antisemitic incidents

33. Antisemitic incidents are collected and reported annually by CST. Separately, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO—now replaced by the National Police Chiefs’ Council) has collated hate crime data—including antisemitic hate crime—from police forces across England (and some parts of Wales) since 2009.

34. As summarised in Chapter 1, the latest CST figures, released on 4 August 2016 and covering the period January–June 2016, show an 11% rise in antisemitic incidents compared with the same period during the previous year, and represent the second highest total ever recorded by CST during the first six months of the year. The worst year on record remains 2009, in which a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents was linked to the conflict in Israel and Gaza in January 2009. Operation Protective Edge, launched by Israel in 2015, was also linked to a significant rise in antisemitism in the UK, but this has nevertheless been outstripped by the first half of 2016.51

35. CST states that this year’s rise may be linked to any number of factors. Social media incidents showed a particularly sharp increase, from 89 in the first six months of 2015 to 133 in 2016—24% of the overall total.52 This may be due to a combination of a genuine increase in cases and heightened levels of awareness that such incidents should be reported.53 The negative press attention surrounding accusations of antisemitism within the Labour Party may also have raised awareness of this issue and led to higher levels of reporting, but it might also have increased the likelihood that British Jewish people found their faith (and prejudice against Jewish people) the subject of discussion. Overall, there has been a long-term, upwards trend in reported levels of antisemitism since 2000, with monthly incident totals now almost double what they were in 2011–13. As the Institute for Jewish Policy Research notes, however, CST data is a vital source of information, but there is no way of knowing for certain whether the increase is real or due to a change in reporting habits.54

36. The graphs below show annual CST figures for the full year, excluding 2016, and trends for the first six months of each year from 2012 to 2016.

37. As we have also noted, London has seen a particularly sharp increase in reported antisemitic incidents (from 227 to 379), in contrast to Greater Manchester, where the number of recorded reports fell by 54% (from 134 to 62) between 2015 and 2016. These two metropolitan areas together account for 79% of all incidents recorded by CST. It is not clear why they have shown such a stark difference in trends, although Sir Eric Pickles MP suggested to us that it was partly due to “good leadership and engagement” by religious leaders in Manchester, “who have gone out of their way over a number of years to engage and see people not through the spectrum of their religion”.

a quarter of incidents were described as “politically motivated”, of which the majority were from far right sources

38. A description of the offender was provided to CST in 58% of cases. Of these, 84% were male, 54% were white European, 20% were south Asian, 13% were black and 1% were described as South East Asian. Around a quarter of incidents were described as “politically motivated”, of which the majority were from far right sources.57

39. As outlined in Chapter 1, there was also an increase in police-recorded antisemitic hate crime in England and some parts of Wales between 2010 (488 crimes) and 2015 (629 crimes).58 A regional breakdown of police-recorded antisemitic crime by police force (in England) is provided as an Annex to this report. Although regional trends broadly reflect the distribution of the Jewish population across England, there are some discrepancies, and antisemitic crime appears to be under-reported to (or under-recorded by) some police forces. In Essex, for example, there was only one antisemitic crime recorded in 2014–15, despite census data suggesting a Jewish population of 6,602 (in 2011).59 In Surrey, with a population of 3,055 Jewish people, there were no antisemitic crimes recorded in 2014–15.60

In contrast, the Metropolitan Police Force recorded 429 antisemitic crimes in 2014–15, representing one crime for every 346 Jewish residents.61 We wrote to the Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) to query these apparent discrepancies. In response, the organisation’s Lead for Hate Crime, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, told us that it had been “actively working with forces to improve data accuracy over recent years”, but acknowledged that the capacity of forces varies “because of the capability and flexibility of existing crime reporting systems”.62

40. There were approximately 6,000 Jewish people living in Scotland at the time of the 2011 census, representing 0.1% of the population. However, the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) reports that Jewish people “bear the brunt” of 4% of all racist crimes recorded in Scotland.63 There were 26 charges pressed for antisemitic hate crimes in Scotland in 2014–15, compared with 12 in the previous year.64

41. Police-recorded antisemitic crime is almost non-existent in some parts of England, as illustrated by the data provided as an Annex to this report. We question why some police forces, operating in counties in which thousands of Jewish people live, have recorded few or no antisemitic crimes. The NPCC should investigate the causes of this apparent under-reporting and provide extra support, where needed, to police forces with less experience of investigating antisemitic incidents.

Public attitudes

42. The historical roots of antisemitism were based in religion, and we welcome recognition of this by the Archbishop of Canterbury when he gave oral evidence to the Committee in June, stating that “We had a shameful record until very recently, in historical terms”.65 England was the first European country to expel Jewish people (in 1290), with their exile lasting for 350 years.66

43. The CAA published the results of an online survey of British Jewish people in January 2015. It claimed that these showed that more than half of British Jewish people feel that current day antisemitism echoes that of the 1930s, and 58% believe that Jewish people have no long term future in Europe.67 The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) critiqued the findings, arguing that an open web survey could not claim to be representative of the views of British Jewish people, and that the inclusion of the question on antisemitism echoing that of the 1930s was “irresponsible”, raising questions about the organisers’ pre-existing assumptions.68

44. The CAA simultaneously published the findings of a representative YouGov poll of British adults, which revealed that almost half believed at least one of the antisemitic statements shown to them to be true—including that Jewish people chase more money than other people and have too much power in the media.69 When looking at the survey’s individual measures of antisemitism, the JPR reported that 4–5% of British adults could be characterised as “clearly antisemitic”.70 A more recent survey in May 2016 found that one in ten voters believe that Jewish people have too much influence in the UK; 6% disagree that “A British Jew would make an equally acceptable Prime Minister as a member of any other faith”; and 7% would be less likely to vote for a political party if its leader was Jewish.71

45. A telephone survey commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) compared antisemitic views among residents of 101 countries. Based on their agreement with a number of statements, such as “Jews have too much power in the business world”, the latest update (in 2015) reports that 12% of Britons harbour antisemitic attitudes—a four point increase from 8% the previous year.72 In contrast, in Germany, Belgium and France, the percentage of those holding antisemitic views decreased significantly between 2014 and 2015, albeit from a higher baseline than the UK.73 The difference was particularly stark in France, where the figure dropped from 27% to 16%, after four Jewish people were shot dead at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015. Comparative 2014 and 2015 results are illustrated in the graphics below.

Figure 5: Anti-Defamation League, 2014–2015 antisemitism figures74

46. Polls conducted by the ADL and the CAA indicate that a significantly higher proportion of British Muslims endorse antisemitic statements than the proportion of all Britons. Over a third of British Muslims polled by the CAA agreed with the statement “Jews don’t care about what happens to anyone but their own kind”, compared with 11% of all respondents, and over a quarter agreed with the statement “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave”, compared with 11% of all respondents.75 ADL surveys reveal that Muslims worldwide hold more antisemitic views than members of any other religion, but geography has a significant impact: 75% of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa express antisemitic views, compared with 20% of Muslims in Eastern Europe.76

47. Although the UK remains one of the least antisemitic countries in Europe, it is alarming that recent surveys show that as many as one in 20 adults in the UK could be characterised as “clearly antisemitic”. The stark increase in potentially antisemiticviews between 2014 and 2015 is a trend that will concern many. There is a real risk that the UK is moving in the wrong direction on antisemitism, in contrast to many other countries in Western Europe. The fact that it seems to have entered political discourse is a particular concern. This should be a real wake up call for those who value the UK’s proud, multi-cultural democracy. The Government, police and prosecuting authorities must monitor this situation carefully and pursue a robust, zero tolerance approach to this problem.

Antisemitism online

48. The growth of social media has materially changed the manner in which many individuals experience or observe abuse, whether motivated by race, religion, gender or sexuality. Of the sizeable majority (87%) of the UK population who are active online, over three quarters use social media sites or apps.77 Twitter has around 310 million active users every month: a figure close to the entire population of the USA; suggesting that around one in 20 of the world’s population is using the site.78

49. The Chief Rabbi described how this has affected the way in which antisemitism is experienced by British Jewish people:

When, 20 years ago, Mr Smith said to Mrs Smith something abusive about the Jews, in their kitchen in Nottingham, only the two of them were aware of the comments. Today, when Mr Smith says the same thing, he just types it out on Twitter and I see it in the palm of my hand in a split second, as can anybody throughout the world. Looking at that message in the palm of my hand—gosh, it really has an effect on me. It also encourages other people likewise to raise their ugly heads, come out into the open and do the same.79

50. Antisemitic abuse online is an under-researched issue in the UK. CST is unable to monitor the vast swathes of abuse committed online, so it only records the number of internet-based antisemitic incidents for which it receives reports. Mark Gardner from CST noted in evidence to us that the sheer number of antisemitic tweets presents difficulties for the organisation, because it would “throw the statistics [on the prevalence of antisemitism] totally out of kilter”.80

51. A survey of British Jewish people by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, published in 2014, found that a fifth of respondents had experienced at least one incident of antisemitic harassment during the previous 12 months. 46% had heard or seen non-Jewish people saying that the Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated, and 33% had heard non-Jewish people say that Jewish people are responsible for the economic crisis. In 68% of cases, these comments had been heard or seen on the internet.81

52. An analysis of 22 million tweets commissioned by the 2015 All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism found that there was an even more hostile or accusatory sentiment to tweets about Jewish people than those about Muslims, with words such as “Nazi”, “Hitler” and “Holocaust” featuring in the top 35 key words mentioned. The Inquiry report concluded: “The volume of communication is too vast to describe in detail but suffice to say we were all shocked by the ferocity and vulgarity of the antisemitism and the ease with which it was spread”.82 Research in the US found that 40% of all internet users have experienced harassment online, but only one in five victims chose to report the perpetrator to the website or online service.83

53. In July 2016, the Labour MP Luciana Berger reported that she had received a number of death threats online, which she had reported to the police.84 A 28 year old man, John Nimmo, pleaded guilty to the charge of sending a message (via email) causing anxiety or distress, and his case was sent to the Crown Court for sentencing on 27 July.85 Luciana Berger previously called on internet companies to take action against online abuse in 2014, after Garron Helm was sentenced to four weeks’ imprisonment for sending her an antisemitic tweet. According to press reports, at one point that year, police informed her that she had received over 2,500 abusive tweets in just three days, all using the hashtag “filthyjewbitch”. The barrage was linked to a campaign run against her by a US-based neo-Nazi website.86 At the time this report was agreed, there remained a large number of tweets carrying that hashtag on Twitter, including some directed at Ms Berger dating back to 2014.

Figure 6: Tweet by Luciana Berger MP, 28 April 2016

54. While abusive individuals may choose to target their victims via email, letter or telephone, the instant and potentially anonymous nature of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, as well as the presence of public abuse by others, may embolden many to express views that they might not disclose in a public forum. John Mann MP, who is not Jewish but has campaigned against antisemitism throughout his career, shared with us an extensive list of abusive tweets, emails and Facebook posts that he has received during 2016 alone.87 A sample of these communications is provided in Chapter 2 of this report. The vast majority reached him via Twitter.

55. Twitter generated global revenue of over $2.2 billion in 2015 from advertising, data licensing and other sources of income,88 and its co-founder and CEO is worth an estimated $1 billion.89 It has approximately 3,800 employees worldwide. Despite the company’s scale and resources, there are few options for Twitter users to avoid receiving such abuse without leaving the social platform entirely. Twitter does not screen tweets before they are made public, so users are largely responsible for enforcing the company’s rules—which state that it “will not tolerate behaviour that crosses the line into abuse, including behaviour that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice”.90

56. Over the last 18 months, Twitter has announced a number of measures aimed at improving its user experience, including new enforcement mechanisms requiring users to delete offensive content and allowing the company to lock abusive accounts for a specified period of time; the ability of a complainant to attach several tweets to one report; allowing bystanders to report abuse, rather than limiting that ability to the victim; and a verification process for new users involving their mobile phone numbers, in an attempt to prevent perpetrators of abuse from rejoining under a new account.91 It has also introduced a ‘quality filter’ which aims to remove tweets containing threats, offensive or abusive language, or those sent from suspicious accounts. The changes were accompanied by a number of press interviews, including one in which the Head of Twitter in Europe, Bruce Daisley, told The Independent that the company had “spent longer and put more effort into user safety than any other issue”.92

57. We were shocked by the viscerally antisemitic nature and volume of tweets directed specifically at Members of Parliament, as well as those received in response to our own tweets about this inquiry. It is particularly ironic that, at the point at which we considered this report, Twitter had made no effort to remove antisemitic responses to tweets sent from the Committee’s account two days earlier. More alarmingly, some of the abusive messages sent to Luciana Berger MP in 2014 (using the hashtag “filthyjewbitch”) are still available. This experience is no doubt common to many Jewish people outside Parliament, too. It is disgraceful that any individual should have to tolerate such appalling levels of antisemitic abuse in order to use Twitter—a social media platform now regarded as a requirement for any public figure. Twitter trolls attempt to use vile attacks to silence the voices that they find unacceptable. (We have also looked at the illicit use of the internet to promote hate, in our report into countering extremism).

58. In the context of global revenue of $2.2 billion, it is deplorable that Twitter continues to act as an inert host for vast swathes of antisemitic hate speech and abuse. The company has the necessary resources and technical capability, and must do more to address this pernicious problem, which appears to be growing exponentially. The onus should not be on the victim to monitor their account for ongoing abuse and report it to the company. Twitter has approximately 3,800 employees around the world. Even if a third of them work in the company’s security and enforcement team, that would equate to around one employee for every 82,000 active users, or one employee for every 130,000 tweets per day. It must devote more resources and employ more staff to enable it to identify hateful and abusive users in a proactive manner, and it must introduce more rigorous tools for detecting and filtering abuse.

59. Twitter has introduced new tools to improve the ability of victims to report abuse. While we welcome these changes, the scale of abuse on Twitter is a problem of such magnitude that it cannot be solved through quick fixes alone. Instead, we recommend that the company should:

  • Significantly expand its enforcement remit to include proactive identification of abusive users, by searching for keywords associated with abuse and suspending or removing the accounts of perpetrators;
  • Devote considerably more resources to identifying abusive users proactively, and employ a large number of staff dedicated to enforcing these new powers; and
  • Allow users to choose abusive terms that they wish to block from tweets or messages, so that they do not reach their intended victim and do not appear in any related conversations, to deny the abusive trolls the attention that they so desire
  • ………….

5 Campus antisemitism

Oxford University Labour Club

77. In February 2016, the co-Chair of the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC), Alex Chalmers, announced that he would be resigning from the position in protest at the Club’s decision to endorse Israel Apartheid Week—”a movement with a history of targetting and harassing Jewish students and inviting antisemitic speakers to campuses”. In a statement posted on Facebook, Mr Chalmers described “poisonous” attitudes among certain members of the club, citing examples such as members of the Executive “throwing around the term ‘Zio’”, and a former co-Chair saying that “most accusations of antisemitism are just the Zionists crying wolf”.115

78. Baroness Royall of Blaisdon was asked by Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to investigate Mr Chalmers’ claims. She published her findings in May, concluding that there was not a culture of institutional antisemitism at OULC, but that “difficulties [ … ] must be addressed to ensure a safe space for all Labour students to debate and campaign”.116 The NEC chose to publish a shortened version of the report, but theJewish Chronicle later obtained and published the full version on its website in August. In the full report, Baroness Royall said it was “clear” to her that there had been some incidents of antisemitic behaviour in the OULC, which should invoke the Labour Party’s disciplinary processes, but that many of the allegations made to her related to incidents that took place outside of the Club’s activities.117 Her recommendations included for all Labour clubs to undergo training on dealing with antisemitism, with leadership provided by the NEC, and for the Labour Party to establish a “properly resourced” national complaints procedure, with clear lines of reporting for complainants.

79. Oxford University Jewish Society said that the Labour Party’s decision not to publish the Royall report in full raised “serious doubts” about its sincerity in tackling antisemitism, noting that the full version of the report “finally confirms that antisemitic incidents did take place”. We agree that it was disappointing that the full report was not published; just as it was unfortunate that the Chakrabarti report did not mention the Royall report. The Union of Jewish Students (UJC) said that the full report “does not reveal much that wasn’t already thought to be the case”, raising questions as to why it was “suppressed” by the NEC.118 A Labour Party spokesman said that the NEC had accepted the report, and that all of the recommendations are currently being acted upon.119

National Union of Students

80. The election of Malia Bouattia as President of the National Union of Students (NUS) in April resulted in a lengthy ‘war of words’ between Jewish student groups and Ms Bouattia. The UJS challenged her previous comments that the University of Birmingham is “something of a Zionist outpost”. The statement appeared in a joint column for a student blog in 2011, in which she observed that Birmingham has the “largest [Jewish Society] in the country whose leadership is dominated by Zionist activists”.120 In an open letter signed by 50 Jewish society presidents, Ms Bouattia was asked why she saw “a large Jewish Society as a problem” and questioned about her relationship with Raza Nadim and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK), which has been ‘no-platformed’ by the NUS since 2004, after publishing antisemitic material online.121 In her response, Ms Bouattia asserted that she has no relationship with Mr Nadim, and said that she was “alarmed” that the signatories to the letter had “drawn a link between criticism of Zionist ideologies and antisemitism”.122

81. Attention has also been drawn to comments made by Ms Bouattia in a recorded speech at a conference on “Gaza and the Palestinian Revolution” in 2014, in which she said: “With mainstream Zionist-led media outlets—because once again we’re dealing with the population of the global south—resistance is presented as an act of terrorism”. She also criticised peace talks between Israel and Palestine for strengthening “the colonial project”, arguing that non-violent protest and sanctions could be “misunderstood as the alternative to resistance by the Palestinian people”.123

82. Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told us that he regarded Ms Bouattia’s description of Birmingham University (as a “Zionist outpost”) and her attack on “Zionist-led media outlets” as antisemitic.124 At the national conference at which Ms Bouattia was elected President, the NUS was also criticised for hearing arguments against commemorating the Holocaust. Supporting the motion in favour of the NUS coordinating events to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, delegates from Birmingham University described hate crimes against Jewish people on campus, including a poster entitled “Hitler was right”. Delegates arguing against the motion were applauded by audience members.125 Since the conference, a number of student unions have voted to disaffiliate from the NUS, including at the universities of Hull, Lincoln, Newcastle and Loughborough. Votes have also been held at the universities of Exeter, Warwick, Surrey, Essex, Oxford and Cambridge, but all six opted to remain affiliated.126

83. Ms Bouattia became the subject of further negative press attention when it was reported that, due to an amendment passed by the NUS’s National Executive Council (NEC) and Ms Bouattia, the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) will no longer be consulted on the selection of the Jewish representative on the NUS’s Anti-Racism, Anti-Fascist (ARAF) Taskforce. The vociferous response of the UJS, which said that Ms Bouattia had shown “once again” that she has “absolutely no interest in defending Jewish students’ interests”, demonstrates the extent to which the relationship between the UJS and the NUS has deteriorated.127

84. Writing for the Jewish News, the NUS Vice President for Society and Citizenship, Rob Young, conceded that the NEC of the NUS “want to ensure that we are not working with the UJS as closely as we have in the past”, and argued that when Jewish students say something is antisemitic, the NUS must listen, “not question it”.128 Mr Young has commissioned research into the experience of Jewish students within the NUS and student unions, and said: “By making our spaces unwelcoming for Jewish students, we are not only failing to focus on these challenges, we are failing as a movement that represents all students.”

85. In written evidence to this inquiry, Ms Bouattia argued that the media coverage of the ARAF amendments was “extremely inaccurate”.129Ms Bouattia’s submission also listed a number of NUS initiatives aimed at tackling racism, including Mr Young’s research on Jewish students. Referring to criticisms of her previous comments, she stated that she did not and does not see a large Jewish society on campus as a problem, and reiterated her previous defence of anti-Zionism (without defining what she believes to be covered by the term “Zionist politics”).130

86. In September, three NUS Vice-Presidents and numerous other student leaders, including 28 student union presidents, signed an open letter declaring that they “stand with Jewish students in their right to feel represented, safe and welcome” in the NUS.131 The leter states that the NUS’s leadership has “rightly come under increased scrutiny for its attitude towards Jewish students”, linking to a Guardian interview with Ms Bouattia in which she said she said that her previous comments had been “misinterpreted” and that accusations of antisemitism had raised the profile of the NUS and enabled the organisation to “put out our vision of the future”.132 In October, it was reported that Ms Bouattia had written to the UJS to suggest a meeting, which had not yet been arranged.133

87. The current President of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, does not appear to take sufficiently seriously the issue of antisemitism on campus, and has responded to Jewish students’ concerns about her previous language with defensiveness and an apparent unwillingness to listen to their concerns. There is of course no reason why an individual who has campaigned for the rights of Palestinian people—a cause widely supported on university campuses—should not serve as President of the NUS. But Ms Bouattia’s choice of language (and ongoing defence of that language) suggests a worrying disregard for her duty to represent all sections of the student population and promote balanced and respectful debate. Referring to Birmingham University as a “Zionist outpost” (and similar comments) smacks of outright racism, which is unacceptable, and even more so from a public figure such as the President of the NUS.

88. The unique nature of antisemitism requires a unique response, which may not be effectively addressed by the steps that the NUS is currently taking. For the sake of their own credibility and to ensure Jewish students across the UK are treated appropriately, the NUS and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) should work to mend their broken relationship. The Jewish member of the Anti-Racism, Anti-Fascist (ARAF) Taskforce should be elected by the UJS, and should not require the approval of the President of the NUS. If, after a one year ‘grace period’, the UJS does not believe that the ARAF Taskforce is up to the challenge of tackling antisemitism on campus, an Antisemitism Taskforce should be established at the Executive level of the NUS, aimed at ensuring that British universities are a safe space for students of all faiths or none.

Tackling antisemitism on campus

89. The Macpherson report brought public attention to the notion that racism can become institutionalised without conscious bias on the part of the majority of individuals in that institution. The failings inherent in the Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry were, for the most part, due to an institutional culture that treated the lives of black victims, witnesses and their families in a different manner from those of white people affected by serious crime. The report gives numerous examples of the ways in which “unwitting racism” can emerge. 134

90. Writing for Haaretz after her reinstatement to the Labour party, Naz Shah articulated how her understanding of antisemitism had improved since her Facebook posts were exposed:

My understanding of antisemitism was lacking. I didn’t get it. I don’t believe in hierarchies of oppression, but I’d never before understood that antisemitism is different—and perhaps more dangerous—than other forms of discrimination, because instead of painting the victim as inferior, antisemitism paints the victim as, in a way, superior and controlling.

135

91. Writing for The Guardian, the former President of Oxford University’s Jewish Society, Aaron Simons, describes the student left as “institutionally antisemitic”.136 He argues that Israeli politics is interpreted through a “settler-colonial” paradigm; the history of Jewish oppression “through racial construction” is dismissed; and Jewish people are associated with “power, privilege and oppression”. This results in the promotion of some of the oldest antisemitic tropes: “Jews controlling politicians, the media and financial institutions.”137

92. The Chief Rabbi told us that “the overall context [in the UK] is thankfully good for Jews”, but expressed specific concerns about the situation faced by Jewish students:

There are Jewish students leaving home for the very first time who are very excited to be part of the open, free world and feel so liberated when coming on to campus. They express certain views and are immediately being identified, stereotypically, as people with a certain mindset and with a certain outlook and being demonised and linked to who knows what. Some ugly things are happening and that causes us a lot concern.138

93. We welcome the fact that Holocaust teaching in schools is compulsory. However, public understanding both of centuries of European anti-Jewish hatred, which culminated in the Holocaust, and of post-Second World War Jewish history, is still lacking. Many students encounter campaigning and debates about Israel and Palestine for the first time at university. The tensions surrounding Israel Apartheid Week and pro-Israel activities on campus illustrate how polarised this debate tends to be, with some students drawing on a simplistic formulation of the conflict. There is evidence that this has resulted in unwitting antisemitism emerging in some student populations, and within left-leaning student political organisations in particular.

94. Free speech must be maintained, and it is perfectly legitimate for students to campaign against the actions of the Israeli Government. But resources should be provided to ensure that students are well-informed about both sides of the argument, both Israeli and Palestinian, and to support them in developing a sensitive, nuanced understanding of Middle Eastern politics in general. Universities UK should work with appropriate student groups to produce a resource for students, lecturers and student societies on how to deal sensitively with the Israel/Palestine conflict, and how to ensure that pro-Palestinian campaigns avoid drawing on antisemitic rhetoric. This should be distributed widely via student unions, university staff and social media.

6 Political discourse and leadership

The Labour Party

95. On 26 April 2016, the political blog Guido Fawkes published a screenshot of three Facebook posts shared by Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West, in 2014. All three posts are reproduced below.

Figure 8: Facebook posts shared by Naz Shah MP in 2014

Of equal concern as the contents of these three posts is the fact that nobody who reacted on Facebook appears to have objected to or questioned them.

96. Naz Shah stepped down as John McDonnell MP’s PPS and issued a formal apology after the publication of the first post. In a further statement to the House, she said: “I accept and understand that the words I used caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community and I deeply regret that. Antisemitism is racism, full stop.” The day after the revelations, she was suspended from the Labour Party, pending investigation. We have addressed Naz Shah’s involvement with the Committee and this inquiry in Chapter 1 of this report. Following the investigation, she was reinstated to the Labour Party in early July, after being issued with a formal warning and an instruction to apologise for bringing it into disrepute. The move was welcomed by representatives of Jewish communities: the Board of Deputies issued a statement describing Naz Shah as someone who “stands out” for her willingness to apologise and “make efforts to learn from her mistakes”,139 and Mark Gardner from CST said in evidence to us:

Can I say that I look forward to Naz Shah returning to this Committee? I met Naz Shah and her contrition and confession of ignorance of the subject and her desire to learn and engage with the Jewish communities was exemplary.140

97. Naz Shah’s actions were followed by an interview given by Ken Livingstone a day later, in which he defended her posts and told the interviewer, Vanessa Feltz, that they were not antisemitic. Particular attention resulted from a statement made by Mr Livingstone after he was challenged by Ms Feltz on the antisemitic nature of Naz Shah “talking about what Hitler did being legal”. He responded: “when Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism. [He then] went mad and ending up killing six million Jews.”141 Mr Livingstone’s comments were described as offensive by numerous commentators and observers, but he refused to apologise. In evidence to us, he said:

If I had said that Hitler was a Zionist, I would apologise for that, because it is rubbish. What I said was—and you can still access this on the BBC website—that when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy was that the Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism. [ … ] If I could go back in time and avoid referring to Hitler and Zionism in the Vanessa Feltz interview, I would. [ … ] I would go back and remove it. It allowed all the anti-Jeremy people in the Labour Party to start whipping this up as an even bigger issue.142

98. The day after Mr Livingstone’s comments and his suspension from the Labour Party, Mr Corbyn launched an independent inquiry into antisemitism within Labour, chaired by former Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti (who joined the Party on the day she was asked to lead the inquiry), with Professor David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (at Birkbeck), stepping in as Deputy Chair.The Daily Telegraph reported in early May that 50 members had been “secretly suspended” over antisemitic and racist comments, citing a “senior source”,143 but the Labour Party confirmed to Labour List two days later that 18 members had been suspended.144 This figure is likely to include Vicki Kirby, who tweeted that Jews had “big noses” and that Hitler might be the “Zionist God”.145 Ms Kirby was previously suspended over accusations of antisemitism and then reinstated in March, but was suspended again days later, after further antisemitic tweets were revealed by Guido Fawkes.146

99. A number of hard-left organisations, such as Unite Against Fascism, Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have clearly taken a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli Government stance. These organisations hold or participate in marches, some of which have been attended by leading politicians such as Mr Corbyn. Whilst the majority of individuals attending these marches are not antisemitic, some of the placards and banners displayed are very offensive to British Jewish people. Jonathan Arkush told us that, during one of the Gaza campaigns, there were “huge marches” in London at which people held placards that read “Hitler was right.”147 [One person was seen carrying such a home-made placard. Ed]

100. Labour members appeared divided over whether they felt that the media storm was reflective of a genuine problem within their Party, or simply a way of attacking Mr Corbyn’s leadership. Only one in 20 members surveyed by YouGov for The Times believed that antisemitism is a bigger problem in Labour than in other parties, but 47% felt that antisemitism is a problem in Labour, but is no worse than in other parties. Almost half (49%) believed that Labour does not have a problem with antisemitism, and that it has been created by the press and Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents to attack him. Around a third agreed that the issue is being used to attack Mr Corbyn, but also felt that antisemitism is a problem within the Labour Party.148

101. A further poll of Labour members who joined after the 2015 General Election found even greater support for the notion that the antisemitism row had been fabricated by Corbyn’s detractors, with 55% of respondents agreeing with the notion that antisemitism within their Party is “not a serious problem at all, and is being hyped up to undermine Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, or to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel”. Around a third thought that it is a genuine problem, but that its extent is being “deliberately exaggerated to damage Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, or to stifle criticism of Israel”; and only 9% agreed that antisemitism is “a serious and genuine problem that the party leadership needs to take urgent action to address”.149

102. The report of the Chakrabarti Inquiry was published at the end of June. The inquiry found that the Labour Party is “not overrun” by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism, but that, “as with wider society”, there is evidence of “minority hateful or ignorant attitudes and behaviours festering within a sometimes bitter incivility of discourse”.150 The report made 20 recommendations, including for a number of procedural rule changes to improve the disciplinary process within the Labour Party; the formation of an NEC working group into comprehensive education and training needs; the appointment of a General Counsel for the Labour Party, along with appropriately expert staff; an end to the use of the epithet “Zio”; and a wider range of sanctions for the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) to impose on members, short of suspension and expulsion.151 Some of the recommendations appeared to be little more than statements of the obvious, such as the assertion that “Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular”, or that “racial or religious tropes and stereotypes about any group of people should have no place in our modern Labour Party.” Ms Chakrabarti ruled out life bans for Labour Party members, and proposed time limits (of no more than two years) on the bringing of disciplinary charges.

103. At the launch of the Chakrabarti report, the Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth walked out after a Labour activist reportedly said: “Ruth Smeeth is working hand-in-hand with the right-wing media to attack Jeremy”. When she challenged him, the audience reportedly started shouting at Ms Smeeth, who later told the press that “Jeremy said nothing”. When questioned about this in oral evidence to us, Mr Corbyn said that he had not spoken out because he was not chairing the press conference.152 Ms Smeeth said later that day that no one from the Leader’s office had contacted her since the event, “which is itself a catastrophic failure of leadership”.153 We have received no confirmation from Mr Corbyn that he has subsequently met with Ms Smeeth to discuss this event.

104. Since that event, Ms Smeeth has reportedly experienced more than 25,000 incidents of abuse, including being called a “yid c**t” and a “CIA/Mossad informant”, and has said that she has “never seen antisemitism in Labour on this scale”.154 Ms Smeeth attended the Labour Party conference with a security detail, after press reports that she had received an antisemitic death threat online.155 In September, it was reported that Ms Smeeth had vocally rejected Mr Corbyn’s suggestion that those being abused online should simply “ignore it”, stating that “threats detailing how someone wants to hang me and what they want to do to me” are “not something that I nor the police can ignore”.156 In a television interview, she said of the abuse: “It’s vile, it’s disgusting and it’s done in the name of the Leader of the Labour party, which makes it even worse”.157 Ms Smeeth said that she needed Mr Corbyn “to make it clear what can be done”, including “naming and shaming some of the worst perpetrators who are doing it in his name”.158

105. At the time of its release, with the exception of some aspects, the Chakrabarti report received a largely negative reception from Jewish communities. Chief Rabbi Mirvis told us that it had some “positive features”, but that he was disappointed by some aspects. He voiced concern about the absence of a definition of antisemitism, arguing that “you can’t deal with a phenomenon if there is no definition of it”, and criticised the proposed moratorium on unearthing historical incidences of antisemitism. The Chief Rabbi also expressed concern that there was no reference to the Royall report (on antisemitism at Oxford University). In a written statement, the Board of Deputies criticised the report for failing to explore the history of antisemitism and anti-Zionism on the left; failing to highlight “support for—or lack of opposition to—terrorism against Jews” as a form of antisemitism; and lack of clarity on what anti-racist training will look like (with no mention of specific training on antisemitism).159 Like the Chief Rabbi, the Board also criticised the proposed moratorium on historic investigations.

106. Mr Corbyn gave evidence to us in July, shortly after the report was published, supported by Ms Chakrabarti, who passed him notes throughout the session. He repeatedly condemned antisemitism and all forms of racism; expressed regret at describing Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends”; and defended his links to them on the basis that “to bring about a peace process anywhere in the world, you have to reach out”.160Mr Corbyn described Mr Livingstone’s comments as “wholly unacceptable and wrong”, but refused to accept that they were antisemitic and/or racist. He also defended the absence of a definition of antisemitism in the Chakrabarti report, and denied that there had been a rise in antisemitism within the Labour Party under his leadership. He believed that his Party should be “commended” for setting up “a process that other parties may wish to follow”.161

107. In the face of questioning about his relationships with a number of individuals associated with antisemitism, including Raed Salah (who was convicted in Israel for using the blood libel and funding Hamas), Mr Corbyn defended himself on various grounds—in some cases, by denying that he was aware that those individuals had made antisemitic remarks.162 Mr Corbyn was specifically challenged about the views of his Executive Director of Strategy and Communications, Seumas Milne, who had been filmed at a demonstration in 2009, at which he said that Hamas “will not be broken” due to the “spirit of resistance of the Palestinian people”.163 The Covenant of Hamas states that “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it” and that “There is no solution for the Palestinian problem except by Jihad.” Mr Corbyn told the Committee that he did not think it “appropriate” for him to be asked questions about the views of “every single member of staff “ he employs, and said that he had not seen the video concerned, but described Mr Milne as a man of “immense intellect” and a “scholar”.164

108. In early August, it was announced that Ms Chakrabarti, who joined the Labour Party shortly after being appointed as Chair of an “independent” inquiry into antisemitism, had been nominated by the Labour Leader for a peerage, which she had accepted. The decision led Labour colleagues and other observers to question publicly the independence of the inquiry.165 The Chief Rabbi said that the credibility of Ms Chakrabarti’s report “lay in tatters” as a result,166 and CST said it was “a shameless kick in the teeth for all who put hope in her now wholly compromised inquiry into Labour antisemitism”.167 Similar concerns were raised when it came to light that she had joined the Labour Party on the day on which she was asked to lead the inquiry. The then Chair of the Committee wrote to Ms Chakrabarti on 8 August to ask when she was offered her place in the House of Lords.168 She responded to say that she had accepted the peerage after the publication of her report, but did not disclose when the offer was first made, adding that she came under “no pressure or undue influence” while chairing the inquiry, and that suggestions of a “whitewash” were “deeply insulting and completely untrue”.169

109. The then Chair wrote again to Ms Chakrabarti on 16 August with a specific set of questions, with the aim of establishing greater clarity around her appointment. She was asked to provide:

  • The date on which the prospect of her peerage was first raised with her or her office by the Leader of the Labour Party, his office or a member of the Shadow Cabinet;
  • The date on which she was offered her peerage by the Leader of the Labour Party; and
  • The date on which she accepted this offer.

The Committee has received no response to this letter, and Ms Chakrabarti has since joined the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Attorney General.

110. When the Labour Party’s NEC met in September, it reportedly agreed to implement the first six recommendations of the Chakrabarti report (regarding acceptable language), but decided against debating a motion proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement at this year’s autumn conference, which would have upgraded antisemitism to the same level of seriousness as showing support for another political party.170 It also backed a new Social Media Code of Conduct for Labour Party members.171 Further negative press attention was attracted by the autumn conference, where the then Vice-Chair of Momentum,172 Jackie Walker, who was temporarily suspended from Labour earlier in the year for stating that Jewish people were the “chief financiers” of the slave trade, reportedly criticised Holocaust Memorial Day and said that she had not heard a definition of antisemitism that she could “work with”.173 Ms Walker was suspended from Labour shortly afterwards and removed from her post as Vice-Chair of Momentum, although the group recommended against expelling her from the Labour Party.174 At the Momentum conference that took place nearby, it was reported that the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network handed out leaflets describing the Jewish Labour Movement as acting as a “representative of a foreign power, Israel”, and suggesting that antisemitism was being “exploited for factional goals”.175

111. In September, the CAA published the results of a self-selecting survey of British Jewish people, which suggested that the Labour Party is more negatively regarded than other political parties in relation to the manner in which it deals with antisemitism. When respondents were asked: “Do you feel that any political parties are too tolerant of antisemitism among their MPs, members and supporters?”, 87% responded affirmatively in relation to the Labour Party, compared with 49% for the Green Party, 43% for UKIP, 40% for the SNP, 37% for the Liberal Democrats, and 13% for the Conservative Party.176

112. Jonathan Arkush told us that the Jewish community is “not seeing much far right activity at the moment”, but that “Traditionally there has always been prejudice against Jews coming from the far left as well.” He said that, since the election of Jeremy Corbyn, “some people feel that a space has been opened up for them, or they feel emboldened to say things which previously they felt they couldn’t say in polite society”, adding that “We are concerned that leadership comes from the top”.177 Further criticism has been levelled at the Party by Dave Rich from CST, who said that antisemitism within Labour has been “normalised” by its decision to readmit Jackie Walker after her initial suspension, “with no apology, no punishment and no contrition”, adding that “it is now OK for Labour members to say that Jews were behind the slave trade” (quoting Ms Walker) and that this is “how Jews get squeezed out of the Labour Party”.178

113. While the Labour Leader has a proud record of campaigning against many types of racism, based on the evidence we have received, we are not persuaded that he fully appreciates the distinct nature of post-Second World War antisemitism. Unlike other forms of racism, antisemitic abuse often paints the victim as a malign and controlling force rather than as an inferior object of derision, making it perfectly possible for an ‘anti-racist campaigner’ to express antisemitic views. Jewish Labour MPs have been subject to appalling levels of abuse, including antisemitic death threats from individuals purporting to be supporters of Mr Corbyn. Clearly, the Labour Leader is not directly responsible for abuse committed in his name, but we believe that his lack of consistent leadership on this issue, and his reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism, has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people. This situation has been further exacerbated by the Party’s demonstrable incompetence at dealing with members accused of antisemitism, as illustrated by the saga involving the suspension, re-admittance and re-suspension of Jackie Walker. The ongoing membership of Ken Livingstone, following his outbursts about Hitler and Zionism, should also have been dealt with more effectively. The result is that the Labour Party, with its proud history of fighting racism and promoting equal rights, is seen by some as an unwelcoming place for Jewish members and activists.

114. The decision by the Leader of the Labour Party to commission an independent inquiry into antisemitism was a welcome one, notwithstanding subsequent criticisms. The Chakrabarti report makes recommendations about creating a more robust disciplinary process within the Labour Party, but it is clearly lacking in many areas; particularly in its failure to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism. The fact that the report describes occurrences of antisemitism merely as “unhappy incidents” also suggests that it fails to appreciate the full gravity of the comments that prompted the inquiry in the first place. These shortfalls, combined with Ms Chakrabarti’s decision to join the Labour Party in April and accept a peerage as a nominee of the Leader of that Party, and her subsequent appointment as Shadow Attorney General, have thrown into question her claims (and those of Mr Corbyn) that her inquiry was truly independent. Ms Chakrabarti has not been sufficiently open with the Committee about when she was offered her peerage, despite several attempts to clarify this issue with her. It is disappointing that she did not foresee that the timing of her elevation to the House of Lords, alongside a report absolving the Labour Leader of any responsibility for allegations of increased antisemitism within his Party, would completely undermine her efforts to address this issue. It is equally concerning that Mr Corbyn did not consider the damaging impression likely to be created by this sequence of events.

115. The recommendations of the Chakrabarti report are further impaired by the fact that they are not accompanied by a clear definition of antisemitism, as we have recommended should be adopted by all political parties. We remain unconvinced of the robustness of the Labour Party’s code of conduct (and whether it will be effectively enforced), and the report does nothing to address a severe lack of transparency within the Party’s disciplinary process. There are examples of Labour members who have been accused of antisemitism, investigated by their Party, and then reinstated with no explanation of why their behaviour was not deemed to be antisemitic. The Labour Party, and all other political parties in the same circumstances, should publish a clear public statement alongside every reinstatement or expulsion of a member after any investigation into suspected antisemitism.

116. We see no good reason for the Chakrabarti report’s proposed statute of limitations on antisemitic misdemeanours. Antisemitism is not a new concept: an abusive, antisemitic tweet sent in 2013 is no more defensible than one sent in 2016. If the Labour Party or any other organisation is to demonstrate that it is serious about antisemitism, it should investigate all allegations with equal seriousness, regardless of when the behaviour is alleged to have taken place.

117. In its determination to be inclusive of all forms of racism, some sections of the Chakrabarti report do not acknowledge Jewish concerns, including its recommendations on training, which make no mention of antisemitism. This has generated criticism among some observers that antisemitism may be excluded from future training programmes. The Labour Party and all political parties should ensure that their training on racism and inclusivity features substantial sections on antisemitism. This must be formulated in consultation with Jewish community representatives, and must acknowledge the unique nature of antisemitism. If antisemitism is subsumed into a generic approach to racism, its distinctive and dangerous characteristics will be overlooked. In addition, the Labour Party’s disciplinary process must acknowledge the fact that an individual’s demonstrated opposition to other forms of racism does not negate the possibility that they hold antisemitic beliefs; nor does it neutralise any expression of these beliefs.

118. The Chakrabarti Report is ultimately compromised by its failure to deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations, to provide a definition of antisemitism, or to suggest effective ways of dealing with antisemitism. The failure of the Labour Party to deal consistently and effectively with antisemitic incidents in recent years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic.

119. The historical inaccuracy of Ken Livingstone’s remarks regarding Hitler and Zionism have been analysed elsewhere, and it is not the job of this Committee to deliver lessons in Nazi history, except to point out that Mr Livingstone has since admitted that it was “rubbish” to refer to Hitler as a Zionist. Regardless of academic rigour, his decision to invoke Hitler in a debate about antisemitism and Zionism—in defence of a Facebook post comparing Israel with the Nazis—was unwise, offensive and provocative. In light of previous incidents in which he has made comments that have been interpreted as antisemitic, or especially offensive to Jewish people, we believe it likely that he knew that his comments would cause similar offence. The fact that he continues to defend his position casts serious doubt on whether he has sufficient understanding of the nature of contemporary antisemitism. In the words of Mr Corbyn, who described himself as his friend, we hope that Mr Livingstone will “mend his ways” without delay.

Other political activity

120. Despite significant press and public attention on the Labour Party, and a number of revelations regarding inappropriate social media content, there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party. We are unaware whether efforts to identify antisemitic social media content within the Labour Party were applied equally to members and activists from other political parties, and we are not aware of any polls exploring antisemitic attitudes among political party members, either within or outside the Labour Party. The current impression of a heightened prevalence of antisemitism within in the Labour Party is clearly a serious problem, but we would wish to emphasise that this is also a challenge for other parties.

121. A representative YouGov poll carried out in May 2016 found that Labour voters were no more likely than voters from other parties to express antisemitic attitudes, with UKIP voters demonstrating the highest levels of antisemitism.179 As outlined earlier in this report, a survey of British Jewish people found that almost half of respondents felt that the Green Party is too tolerant of antisemitism (compared with 87% in relation to the Labour Party), 43% think the same of UKIP, 40% of the SNP, and over a third in relation to the Liberal Democrats.180

122. Other political parties have not been immune to accusations of antisemitism, albeit apparently with a smaller number of reported incidents, and with a lower profile. In April 2015, a Conservative candidate for Derby Council was expelled from her Party after she said she would never support “the Jew” Ed Miliband.181 In August 2014, the University College London (UCL) Union investigated the university’s Conservative Society after it was accused of creating a “toxic environment”, with one member reported to have said “Jews own everything, we all know it’s true. I wish I was Jewish, but my nose isn’t long enough”. Media reports suggest that the incident was never investigated by the Conservative Party,182 but it is unclear whether it was ever referred to the Party, and questions have subsequently been raised about the veracity of the complaint.

123. A former Conservative Councillor who defected to the Liberal Democrats after losing his seat, Matthew Gordon Banks, was suspended from his new Party in September after writing on Twitter that “[Tim] Farron’s leadership campaign was organised and funded by London Jews”, adding in a second tweet: “I tried to work with them. Very difficult.”183 The former Liberal Democrat MP David Ward has been accused of antisemitism on several occasions. He was suspended from his Party after accusing “the Jews” of committing atrocities in Palestine,184 and later sent the following tweet: “The big question is–if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket?–probably yes”.185 Baroness Tonge, who now sits in the House of Lords as an independent Liberal Democrat, resigned the Party whip in 2012 after refusing to apologise for saying that “Israel is not going to be there forever”, and has recently attracted fresh criticism for sharing an article that suggested that “Jewish power” was targeting the Labour Party.186 At this year’s autumn conference, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine group was asked to remove Facebook posts that quoted the statement: “The Jews as victim. Always the Jews, only the Jews.” SNP MSP Sandra White apologised “unreservedly” in November 2015 after tweeting an antisemitic image of six piglets (representing the UK and others) suckling at a sow with the word “Rothschild” and the Star of David on it.187 Incidents involving other forms of racism, including Islamophobia, have also affected a number of mainstream parties.

124. Soon after this inquiry was announced, we invited the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, to give oral evidence as Leader of the Conservative Party. On the date in June when he was scheduled to attend, the events leading up to his resignation had been set in motion, and he wrote to the then Committee Chair apologising and stating that he was unable to attend. Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, the newly-appointed Chairman of the Conservative Party, provided a detailed written submission in early August, and indicated that he would have been happy to give further oral evidence to us.188 We later invited the new Prime Minister on several occasions to give evidence to us in October, but received no formal response until the morning of the scheduled evidence session, when Sir Eric Pickles MP, the UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues and former Party Chairman, was nominated to attend as a representative of the Conservative Party.

125. It is very disappointing that the Conservative Party procrastinated for so long, and that both the Leader and Chairman of the Party declined to give evidence on this vital issue, but we are very grateful to Sir Eric for stepping in at the last minute, and value his extensive experience in these matters. He told us that the Conservative Party had had problems (with racism) in the late 1960s, but had learned lessons from this and recognised that it “must have a no tolerance policy with regard to any form of racism”.189 When challenged about the incident at UCL, of which he was unaware, he apologised and said that, on the face of it, the Party should have investigated it; although, as previously mentioned, there is some dispute over the veracity of the complaint itself. Sir Eric denied that he had intended to suggest in his evidence that the Conservative Party was alone in having no ongoing problems with antisemitism among its members, stating that antisemitism is “one of the oldest, most nasty, most evil of all the sins”; that it “comes back”; and that “to suggest for a millisecond that I believe that the Conservative party is free of antisemitism would be a complete bastardisation of what I have just said”.190

126. Tim Farron MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, gave evidence to us on the same day, and told us that his Party could learn “plenty of lessons” from the manner in which it had dealt with Cllr David Ward, stating that it took “too long” for the Whip to be withdrawn. When challenged on Cllr Ward’s ongoing membership of the Liberal Democrats, he said that “when we are looking at matters of discipline”, it is important to “allow a disciplinary process to take place”. He denied that Cllr Ward was a “repeat offender” and said that it was “very tricky” to judge whether an individual has been antisemitic or “just provocative and offensive”. Similarly, he said that he was offended by Baroness Tonge’s remarks (calling for British Jewish people to stop Israel from destroying the Middle East), but that “it is right that those issues are dealt with through a full disciplinary process”. Mr Farron told us that he has formally launched a new inquiry into the Party’s disciplinary procedures, led by Lord Ken Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions.191

127. We also heard evidence from Angus Robertson MP, Leader of the SNP in Westminster, on 14 June. Mr Robertson told us that there have been examples of antisemitism “in all political parties, to a degree”, and asserted that “we all have responsibility as political leaders and democratic politicians to be absolutely unequivocal in our condemnation of antisemitism”.192 In reference to Sandra White’s tweet, he said there was “no prevarication” about the fact that it was “unacceptable”, and referred to correspondence that took place between the First Minister and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. When asked what he would have done if Ken Livingstone was an SNP politician, Mr Robertson said that he would have sought for him to be “dismissed from the party for acting in a way that the SNP rule book calls ‘conduct inimical’”, adding that Mr Livingstone’s behaviour was “against the values, policies and approach of the SNP”.193

128. No party is immune to ‘bad apples’, and it would be naïve to assume that tackling antisemitism in the Labour Party would eliminate it from political discourse altogether. Antisemitism is a problem of such gravity that no party can afford to be complacent. It is an issue that should transcend party loyalties and inter-party conflict.

129. Other political parties must not assume that antisemitic political discourse is an issue affecting the Labour Party alone. The Liberal Democrats in particular should pay heed to the need to act swiftly and decisively to deal with antisemitism within their ranks. We were disappointed by the manner in which their Leader, Tim Farron, referred to disciplinary processes rather than explicitly condemning antisemitic remarks made by members of his Party, and we were surprised to learn that Cllr David Ward remains an elected representative of the Liberal Democrats, despite his repeated antisemitic comments. All of the main political parties should examine whether the reforms recommended in this report could be applied to their own processes for training and disciplining their members and activists. Political leaders should also make themselves responsible for taking swift investigatory or disciplinary action when a party member is identified by Twitter as being a perpetrator of abuse.

130. The acts of governments abroad are no excuse for violence or abuse against people in the United Kingdom. We live in a democracy where people are free to criticise the British Government and foreign governments. But the actions of the Israeli Government provide no justification for abusing British Jews; just as the actions of the Saudi Arabian or Iranian governments provide no justification for abusing British Muslims.

131. History shows that antisemitism is a virus that is too easily spread, through subtly pernicious discourse, ignorance and collusion. Political leaders must lead by example, oppose racism and religious hate in all its forms, and promote an atmosphere of tolerance, inclusion and understanding, as befits the UK’s status as a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.

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