An event held on the sidelines of the UK Labour Party annual conference this week included a raffle for signed copies of two cartoons that were rejected from publication over concerns they could be anti-Semitic.
The event, organized by the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) activism group, also featured speeches by party members who have been either expelled or suspended for anti-Semitism controversies.
Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s wife, Laura Alvarez, was seen at the Monday night event in the seaside resort of Brighton, though a Labour source said she had arrived by mistake and that she soon left, The Independent newspaper reported Tuesday.
Corbyn has come under prolonged attack — including from within Labour — for allegedly allowing anti-Semitism to spread in the party and for initially refusing to adopt fully the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in its code of conduct.
Two of those who addressed the LRC event were MP Chris Williamson and party activist Jackie Walker. Williamson was suspended for saying Labour had “given too much ground” to accusations of party anti-Semitism and Walker was expelled after she claimed Jews funded the slave trade, and questioned why Holocaust Memorial Day should be mostly about Jewish people.
In response to this week’s event, the Jewish Leadership Council, an umbrella group for UK Jewish community organizations, called on senior Labour lawmaker John McDonnell, who is president of the LRC, to resign from it.
“John McDonnell has been made aware of the issues with LRC on multiple occasions,” the JLC tweeted. “If we needed any more proof of why any politician who claims to be anti-racist should play no role in the organization, here it is.”
McDonnell was not at LRC event and a spokesman told The Independent he is not involved in the day-to-day operation of the LRC “and is not responsible for its activities.”
A Labour Party source told the paper that Alvarez, Corbyn’s wife, was not attending the event but rather had arrived for another function that was to follow the LRC event at the same venue.
According to the source, the LRC event was supposed to have been held at a different location.
Alvarez “had no idea the LRC event was taking place beforehand,” the source said. “When she got to the venue, the LRC event was still going, so she left.”
The two drawings that were raffled off at the event, by cartoonist Steve Bell, feature Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and were rejected by The Guardian newspaper, where Bell works.
One drawing, which Bell produced in July, features Labour deputy leader Tom Watson riding on a horse and seeking out anti-Semitism in the party but then identifying Netanyahu as an “anti-Semitic trope.” The cartoon also depicts the prime minister playing with Donald Trump and Boris Johnson puppets.
This is the Steve Bell 'Tom Watson/Netanyahu' cartoon that the Guardian refused to publish (on the same day they did publish the Lords stitch up advert)
— ????Mick Fulcher???? (@mickbognor) July 17, 2019
At the time Bell sent an email to the paper’s editors protesting the rejection and insisting the cartoon was “not anti-Semitic, nor is it libellous.”
Bell wrote he suspects the drawing “contravenes some mysterious editorial line that has been drawn around the subject of anti-Semitism and the infernal subject of anti-Semitic tropes.”
The other cartoon, from last year, depicts Netanyahu sitting together with previous UK prime minister Theresa May while in the background a fireplace burns with an image of Palestinian nurse Razan al-Najjar, who was killed by Israeli forces during clashes on the border with the Gaza Strip.
— Political Cartoon (@Cartoon4sale) June 6, 2018
Bell claimed that the cartoon was “unfairly traduced and censored.”
Labour has grappled with anti-Semitism accusations since its far-left leader Corbyn was elected party chief in 2015, with fresh scrutiny coming after a number of former party officials accused him and his allies of interfering in efforts to address the issue, in a BBC program aired earlier this summer.