Antisemitism in Political Parties

Ali Milani

2018-present: Labour parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge and Ruislip

2018-present: Labour Councillor, Heathrow Villages Ward, Hillingdon London Borough Council 

2017-present: Vice President (Union Development) at National Union of Students 

Executive member of Labour Muslim Network 

Incidents

1. On 9th November 2011, in an exchange on Twitter with journalist Piers Morgan, unrelated to the subject of Jews or Israel, Councillor Ali Milani replied: “U are a zionist and a corperate [sic] jackass.” 

2. On 29th May 2012, in an exchange on Twitter in which he reportedly criticised another twitter user for being stingy, Cllr Milani tweeted: “Nah u won’t mate. It’ll cost u a pound #jew.” 

3. On 22nd February 2013, Cllr Milani tweeted: “Israel has no right to exist.” 

4. On 27th October 2013, in another exchange Cllr Milani tweeted: “I want to be the President of Israel. They have a self-destruct button right?” 

Analysis

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

By tweeting “Nah u won’t mate. It’ll cost you a pound #jew” [2], he was making “mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews” by invoking the stereotype of Jews being mean with money.

By tweeting that Israel does not have a right to exist [3], and by expressing the desire to destroy Israel [4], Cllr Milani was “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.”

Zionism is an expression of national self-determination for Jews, and since the establishment of the State of Israel, of support for the maintenance of that state. We note the words of the Labour Party’s own guidance, particularly where it states that: “…for many Jews, Zionism represents national liberation. The concepts of Israel, Zion and Jerusalem run deeply in Jewish religion, identity and culture, and…are symbolic of a homeland, refuge, or place of safety. By using the term “Zionist” in a context unrelated to Jews or Israel where the term was not political in its intent [1], he was therefore deploying it as a term of abuse, suggesting that any person who supports the rights of Jews to self-determination is contemptible. 

Outcome

On 10th April 2017, it was reported that Cllr Milani, who was then a candidate for the vice presidency of the National Union of Students, had apologised for the tweets he had posted in 2012 and 2013, saying: “I have apologised unreservedly for these comments before and I do so again. They do not reflect how I see the world today. These tweets are from an incredibly long time ago — when I was 16 to 17 years old. It’s unacceptable, I know that now. Education taught me that.”

It was further reported that Josh Nagli of the Union of Jewish Students had said: “These tweets are likely to further entrench those opinions and provide further evidence of a culture in the student movement that wilfully tolerates antisemitism. It is very worrying that someone seeking to be an NUS Vice President has previously expressed views that many Jewish students will find deeply antisemitic.”

On 10th April 2017, Cllr Milani was also reported to have made a statement in which he apologised for his remarks and cited an article and video in which he “forthrightly acknowledged and unreservedly apologised for the antisemitic language [he] once used.”

On 12th April 2017, it was reported that a number of officials from the National Union of Students had called for Cllr Milani to withdraw his candidacy in light of the revelation of his previous comments.

On 11th December 2017, at the launch of the Labour Muslim Network in Parliament, Cllr Milani’s position as Chair was supported by the attendance of  the Rt Hon. Jeremy Corbyn MP, who was photographed standing alongside him, the Rt Hon. John McDonnell MP, and other Labour MPs including Andy Slaughter MP and Dawn Butler MP. 

On 5th April 2018, it was reported in The Times that Labour Party activists had submitted a complaint against Cllr Milani to the Labour Party. A spokesman for John McDonnell reportedly stated at the time: “These new allegations will now be a matter for the Party’s authorities to decide upon, and deal with swiftly.” 

The Labour Party activists who reported Cllr Milani to Labour’s Compliance Unit have informed Campaign Against Antisemitism that they reported him on 4th April 2018 and were subsequently informed on 14th April 2018 that an investigation had already taken place, implying that the investigation was complete, without revealing the nature or outcome of it.

Despite the evidence of his antisemitic social media statements already in the public domain, Cllr Milani was selected to stand as a Labour candidate in the 2018 local council elections in Heathrow Villages ward, which is located in John McDonnell MP’s constituency of Hayes and Harlington. He was photographed campaigning with Mr McDonnell in the run-up to the election. The further publicity surrounding his earlier statements did not prevent his being elected on 3rd May 2018. 

Despite previous objections by the Union of Jewish Students, Cllr Milani remained in post as a Vice President of the National Union of Students. 

On 16th September 2018, it was reported that Cllr Milani was the front-runner on the shortlist of Labour candidates for the Uxbridge constituency.

On 29th September 2018, it was reported that Cllr Milani had been selected as the Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge and Ruislip, the constituency of the incumbent Prime Minister, Boris Johnson

On 11th October 2018, it was reported that Cllr Milani had urged his critics to accept his apology for his remarks, saying, “It was an appalling thing for me to have said,” and adding: “I said it when I was a teenager and I’m ashamed and embarrassed.” It was further reported that Cllr Milani had offered to meet with Labour Party antisemitism activist Euan Philipps in order to apologise personally, arguing that he had done everything he could to make up for his past mistakes. Cllr Milani reportedly added: “I genuinely don’t believe that a mistake someone makes when they’re a teenager should eliminate them from public life.”

On 29th July 2019, it was reported that, in 2015, Cllr Milani had appeared on Press TV, the Iranian government’s principal English-language propaganda channel, which regularly promulgates antisemitic conspiracy theories, and which lost its UK broadcasting licence in 2012. He was interviewed by and alongside individuals responsible for disseminating antisemitism. When asked whether or not boycotts of Israel are an alternative to “armed struggle”, he replied that “there’s no reason why we need to frame the argument as binary. It doesn’t have to be either a non-violent economic resistance or an armed resistance. People will see this differently. I’m not a Palestinian, so I don’t see it as my right to frame other people’s resistance — I don’t live under occupation, I don’t live under apartheid.” It was further reported that Cllr Milani had also stated: “what you’ll find when you’re talking about Palestine — not just BDS but Palestine as an issue as a whole — the lobbyists come out very quickly, the other side is a lot better funded than we are.” 

On 30th July 2019, it was reported that Cllr Milani had posted a number of tweets in 2012 alleging that the 9/11 terrorist atrocities were a so-called ‘false flag’ operation. One allegedly stated: “It is and will forever be, until a thorough independent investigation is done, my position that the US gov. Knew of the attack in advance”. Conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks often postulate that either the US or Israeli government (or both) were responsible. 

Despite John McDonnell’s reassurances that action would be taken, we do not know whether disciplinary action has been taken by the Labour Party against Cllr Milani, and at the time of writing, on 26th November 2019, we have no record of any. However, the circumstances and outcomes of any such action would remain unknown, owing to the conditions of secrecy imposed by Baroness Chakrabarti’s report on antisemitism in the Labour Party.

In November 2019, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to Mr Milani, 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 28th November 2019.

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