Antisemitism in Political Parties

Afzal Khan CBE

2017-2019: Labour Party Member of Parliament for Manchester Gorton

2017-2019: Shadow Minister (Home Office – Immigration)

Former Member of the European Parliament for North West England.

Incidents

1. On 2nd August 2014, whilst serving as an MEP, Afzal Khan tweeted a link to an article entitled, “The Israeli Government are acting like Nazi’s [sic] in Gaza.” Mr Khan quoted the headline of the article in his tweet.

2. On 23rd August 2015, Mr Khan reportedly shared a video on Facebook (apparently originally posted by the virulently antisemitic Philip E. Taylor), the prominent  text beneath which referred to “Israel-British-Swiss-Rothschilds crime syndicate” and “mass murdering Rothschilds Israeli mafia criminal liars”.

Analysis

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

By endorsing an article entitled “The Israeli Government are acting like Nazi’s [sic] in Gaza.” [1], he was “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” We note that on 26th March 2018, in a published response to complaints of antisemitism by Jewish community groups, Jeremy Corbyn stated: “…comparing Israel or the actions of Israeli governments to the Nazis…constitute[s an] aspect of contemporary anti-Semitism [sic].”

By sharing a video accompanied by text citing conspiracy theories about the Rothschild family, which promote the trope that a Jewish family dynasty secretly controls governments and banks [2], Mr Khan’s post constitutes “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.”

Outcome

On 18th May 2016, it was reported that the Labour Party had refused to discipline Mr Khan after his tweet had been exposed, with a spokesperson reportedly saying that he had, rather, been “reminded of his responsibilities”. It was further reported that a number of MPs had called for his suspension.

On 16th March 2017, after Mr Khan’s selection as Labour’s candidate to run in the Gorton by-election, the controversy surrounding his tweet reemerged, and he was reported as saying: “I have long since deleted this tweet and when this issue was raised with me last year I apologised for any offence caused.” He did not, however, apologise for the content of the tweet itself. He also claimed that the episode was being used to smear him.

On 5th April 2017, it was reported that Mr Khan had excused his tweet by suggesting that he had been “new to Twitter” at the time and had “made a mistake”. However, he did not explain how being inexperienced in operating his twitter account vindicated him of having formulated the tweet’s content.

It was further reported that Afzal Khan had condemned Ken Livingstone’s remarks linking Adolf Hitler with Zionism, and said that there was “no place for antisemitism” in the Labour Party. It is to be noted, however, that he did not join 107 other Labour MPs in signing a letter calling for Mr Livingstone’s expulsion.

On 6th April 2017, it was reported that Afzal Khan had been recorded at an anti-war rally in 2002 (prior to the invasion of Iraq), making the following statement: “and what about that man of peace Ariel Sharon, who makes a mockery of peace? Who’s been committing genocide against the Palestinian people. What about him? We need to deal with Saddam, but a far more pressing issue is the problem of Palestine.”

It was further reported that Mr Khan had made the following apology in relation to the recording: “I’m deeply sorry for my use of language 15 years ago and I strongly support a two state solution between Israel and Palestine.”

Campaign Against Antisemitism brought these matters to the attention of Mr Kahn in September 2017. In response, his office pointed out that he had apologised and “[had] always attended Holocaust Memorial Day”, and stated that Mr Khan had previously received awards from the Jewish community in Manchester for his work with them. We asked for examples or evidence of this, which we have yet to receive.

In November 2019, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to Mr Khan, but did not receive a response.

Rating

Campaign Against Antisemitism has rated the Party’s handling of this matter as “bad”. Our rating system is explained in our methodology. This case was last updated on 27th November 2019.

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