12 top UK Labour officials in Facebook groups with anti-Semitic content – report

Sunday Times says it found more than 2,000 racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, violent and abusive messages in 20 restricted-access Facebook groups supporting party leader

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Britain's opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves a Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey in central London, on March 12, 2018. (AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas)
Britain's opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves a Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey in central London, on March 12, 2018. (AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas)

Twelve senior staff members working for UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John Mcdonnell are members of Facebook groups containing anti-Semitic comments, The Sunday Times reported.

The paper said it had spent two months working with “whistleblowers” to obtain access to 20 restricted-access pro-Corbyn Facebook groups with a total of 400,000 members and had found more than 2,000 racist, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, violent and abusive messages.

It quoted a former independent reviewer of terror legislation, Lord Alex Carlile, as saying some of the comments appeared to breach hate crime laws.

In a massive and detailed expose likely to deal a further blow to the embattled Labour leader, the right-of center newspaper reported that Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger and Board of Deputies head Jonathan Arkush were among those regularly targeted in abusive messages on Facebook groups supportive of Corbyn.

British Labour MP Luciana Berger. (Screen capture: YouTube)

One post on a Facebook group called Jeremy Corbyn True Socialism said of Berger, “Get rid of this cancer,” while another called her “a vile Zionist.” On another page, called We Support Jeremy Corbyn, one person posted that Berger was making “false accusations” about anti-Semitism to create a crisis within the party, while another described Arkush as a”Zionist Jewish thug.”

Writing in the same edition of the paper, Berger said she had received an email last week from an apparent party member telling her she should kill herself. She said that she and her staff had reported abuse they received to the police.

The report named key Labourites such as Corbyn’s senior political adviser, David Prescott, and McDonnell’s economic adviser, James Meadway, as being followers of some of those groups.

A statement from the Labour Party said no one in Corbyn’s or McDonnell’s office had seen, posted or endorsed anti-Semitic or abusive messages.

“These groups are not officially connected to the party in any way. Labour is committed to challenging and campaigning against anti-Semitism,” the statement said.

The Observer newspaper, meanwhile, said Sunday that the Labour Party had a backlog of more than 70 cases of alleged anti-Semitism to deal with and that new allegations were still surfacing.

Jonathan Arkush with British Prime Minister Theresa May. (Courtesy)

It quoted party “insiders” criticizing Labour’s internal disciplinary processes as being too slow. Allegations were examined by a panel of the party’s National Executive Committee, which met just once every three months. Some were then transferred to a party court, which allowed members legal representation.

“It is fine when you hear two or three cases a year. It doesn’t work if we’re suspending several people a week,” the report quoted a party veteran as saying.

In an editorial, the paper said, “There is no suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn personally holds anti-Semitic views, but he is rooted in left cliques where anti-Semitism has been a problem. This makes it even more important that he acknowledges those issues. Instead, his standard response has been to condemn it, along with ‘all other forms of racism’. He has not once conceded that parts of the left with which he has long associated have a problem with anti-Semitism.”

Corbyn had been enjoying a relative lull after an almost constant media spotlight on cases of alleged anti-Semitism within Labour’s ranks through 2016 and 2017.

Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain’s opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London on March 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)

But tensions between Corbyn’s left-wing supporters on one side, and the Jewish community and many Labour members of parliament on the other, reignited just over a week ago when the party leader apologized for having supported an artist in 2012 who had painted a mural in London with anti-Semitic overtones.

On Monday, some 1,500 British Jews and their supporters held a mass “Enough is Enough” protest outside Parliament and the Board of Deputies of British Jews — the UK Jewish community’s representative organization — submitted a letter to the party leadership of siding with anti-Semites “again and again.”

Among a series of measures, the Board of Deputies demanded that Labour oust former London mayor Ken Livingstone as one step toward draining what it called “the political sewer.”

Livingstone’s party membership was suspended in April 2016 over his claim that Hitler supported Zionism “before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.” Earlier this month, the BBC reported that Livingstone’s suspension was extended for a year to allow for an internal probe into whether his comments were really anti-Semitic or otherwise offensive to Jews.

Former mayor of London Ken Livingstone, outside Millbank in Westminster, London, April 28, 2016. (Anthony Devlin/PA via AP)

On Friday, as Corbyn tried to send a conciliatory message to the nation’s Jewish community for the Passover festival, a Labour official, Christine Shawcroft, claimed charges of anti-Semitism were an attempt to discredit him.

“This whole row is being stirred up to attack Jeremy, as we all know,” said Shawcroft, already forced to resign earlier in the week after defending a local council candidate linked to anti-Semitic posts on social media. She later apologized, claiming she had not been aware of the content of those posts.

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