Antisemitism in Political Parties

Angela Rayner

2015-present: Labour Member of Parliament for Ashton-under-Lyne

2020: Deputy Leader, national campaign co-ordinator, party chair, Shadow First Secretary of State

2016-2020: Shadow Education Secretary

Incidents

1. On 27th January 2015, Angela Rayner MP published an article both in the Morning Star and on the official website of Unison North West entitled: “Inside the Factory of Genocide.” In the article, describing a visit to Auschwitz, she referenced Norman Finkelstein’s controversial work The Holocaust Industry — in which the author argues that the American Jewish establishment exploits the Holocaust for political and financial gain — calling it “a seminal book”. 

2. On 28th November 2018, it was discovered by Twitter users that Ms Rayner had re-posted her 2015 article on Facebook in January 2018, on Holocaust Memorial Day.

Analysis

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Ms Rayner’s actions and statements qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology.

The Holocaust Industry is a work in which Jews are accused of exploiting the Holocaust politically and financially. Whereas many issues concerning the memorialising of the Holocaust have been legitimately aired, Mr Finkelstein’s position, as revealed both in this book and more widely, is regarded as hostile to Jews and Israel and, in the opinion of eminent academics, to be based in part on fabrications. Professor Peter Novick, a man who himself questioned the centrality of the Holocaust in American Jewish life, and whose work Mr Finkelstein cited as his “initial stimulus” for writing the book, stated: “No facts alleged by Finkelstein should be assumed to be really facts, no quotation in his book should be assumed to be accurate, without taking the time to carefully compare his claims with the sources he cites…Such an examination reveals that many of those assertions are pure invention.” For Ms Rayner to refer to his book as “seminal”, therefore, is to abuse the Holocaust to promote the perception of negative Jewish character traits; namely notions of dishonesty and greed. This trope is now so widespread that, in a recent survey, a third of Europeans expressed the opinion that Jews exploit the Holocaust. By describing this book as “seminal” in [1] and [2], therefore, Ms Rayner was endorsing a work which was “Making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews.”

Outcome

On 28th November 2018, it was reported that Ms Rayner had apologised after the exposure of her Facebook post had caused outrage in the British Jewish community.

Ms Rayner reportedly said: “I was reflecting on my visits to Auschwitz and speaking about the importance of remembering the Holocaust in order to continually challenge and confront antisemitism. I regret the choice of quote I used to illustrate it, and now that I know more about the context I would not make that reference again. I apologise for what was a genuine misunderstanding, in what was always intended to be a message of solidarity with the Jewish community. This underscores the importance of engagement with the Jewish community to improve understanding about this issue.”

It was further reported that, in her Facebook post, Ms Rayner had commented on her visits to the Nazi death camps, saying: “My previous visit was in 2003 and I couldn’t help but notice the increased commercialism and tourism related to the Holocaust era in the Kracow region.”

A number of Labour MPs with close links to the Jewish community had reportedly questioned Ms Rayner’s suitability to address the Board of Deputies’ Chanukah celebration, which was due to take place on 4th December. Attention was drawn to a tweet she had posted in September 2018 (after the Labour Party had faced months of scrutiny over its resistance to adopting the full IHRA definition of antisemitism with examples), for which she had been criticised, and which she had reportedly defended, saying: “It was smears against Labour Party in general, no mention of antisemitism smears? Our membership continues to grow despite hostility from sections of the MSM.” The Board of Deputies is a Jewish charity.

On 4th April 2020, it was reported that Ms Rayner had been elected as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

We do not know whether disciplinary action has been taken by the Labour Party against Ms Rayner, and at the time of writing, on 11th December 2018, 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 Ms Rayner, 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 13th May 2020.

Justice, justice, you shall pursue - צדק צדק תרדף
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