UK to look into anti-Semitic abuse of candidates in campaign
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UK to look into anti-Semitic abuse of candidates in campaign

Theresa May, 'horrified,' orders investigation into abuse and intimidation in recent election

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a statement outside 10 Downing Street in central London on June 9, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a statement outside 10 Downing Street in central London on June 9, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / Ben STANSALL)

LONDON — Britain’s prime minister has requested an investigation into the abuse and intimidation of parliamentary candidates in last month’s election.

Theresa May asked the Committee on Standards in Public Life to review a rising number of reports from members of all political parties of sexism, racism and anti-Semitism.

A report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism found many candidates in Britain’s 2017 general election received death threats and abuse online.

May said Wednesday that she was “horrified” by the intimidation and harassment of her colleagues.

“Robust debate is a vital part of our democracy, but there can be no place for the shocking threats and abuse we have seen in recent months,” she said.

The committee will examine existing protections for political candidates and recommend changes.

A recent poll conducted by the Anti-Defamation League found that anti-Semitism in Britain was less than in previous years. Ten percent of respondents “harbor anti-Semitic attitudes,” the poll found, compared to 12% in 2015 and 8% in 2014.

Nevertheless, some candidates in June’s election were subject to anti-Semitic abuse.

MP Zac Goldsmith at 'A New Conversation with the Centre-Right about Climate Change,' June 13, 2013. (CC-BY, Policy Exchange, via Flickr)
MP Zac Goldsmith at ‘A New Conversation with the Centre-Right about Climate Change,’ June 13, 2013. (CC-BY, Policy Exchange, via Flickr)

Zac Goldsmith, who won the seat of Richmond Park, suffered anti-Semitism due to his name — and his tycoon father’s Jewish heritage. During the campaign one of his Conservative election signs was defaced with a swastika.

A former Jewish community staffer, Ruth Smeeth was director of public affairs at Bicom, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre. Smeeth, who won her seat in 2015, has also been the target of prolonged social media anti-Semitism. She left last year’s public launch of Shami Chakrabarti’s anti-Semitism inquiry in tears, after being verbally abused in front of both Chakrabarti and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn himself.

Jewish Labour Party MP Ruth Smeeth (screen capture: YouTube)
Jewish Labour Party MP Ruth Smeeth (screen capture: YouTube)

Lee Scott was Conservative MP for Ilford North for 10 years until he lost to Labour’s pro-Israel Wes Streeting in 2015 by just 589 votes. Scott, a one-time staffer for the UJIA, the fundraising arm of the Jewish Agency in Britain, was subjected to terrifying anti-Semitism and death threats during the 2010 and 2015 campaigns, to the point where he had to have police escorts to protect him and his family.

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