Antisemitism in Political Parties

Apsana Begum

2019-present: Labour Member of Parliament for Poplar and Limehouse

2019: Executive Committee member, Labour London Regional Board

2019: Vice Chair, Poplar and Limehouse Constituency Labour Party

2018-present: Member of Momentum’s national coordinating group

2017-2018: Secretary, Tower Hamlets Constituency Labour Party

Incidents

  1. On 11th June 2017, Apsana Begum shared a post on Facebook which linked to an article relating to the harassment of Qatari pilgrims in Mecca and which was accompanied by the comment: “House of Saud are crossing the red line, inspired by their zionist masters !”

Analysis

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis is that Ms Begum’s actions amount to a breach of the International Definition of Antisemitism and qualify as antisemitic discourse according to our methodology.

By sharing a post in which it was suggested that the House of Saud is somehow subservient to “Zionist masters” — that is, alleging that they were somehow under the control of Israel or Jews — she was disseminating material which was “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 9th February 2019, it was reported that Ms Begum’s post was among thousands collected by activists with a view to submitting them to the Labour Party. It was further reported that Ms Begum had described the words used by the original poster as “inappropriate”.

On 3rd March 2019, it was reported that Ms Begum had been elected to the Labour Party’s London Regional Board, and that, although her comments had been reported to the Party, no action was believed to have been taken against her at that time. It was also reported that she had deleted her Facebook posts and that she had said: “I didn’t make those comments and I shared the article because I was concerned with the treatment of pilgrims who were being harassed in the Mecca Grand Mosque. The original poster used words that were inappropriate, and I wouldn’t use them myself. I’m committed to fighting antisemitism both inside the Labour Party and in wider society.”

On 17th October 2019, Ms Begum tweeted that she had received the endorsement of the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell in her quest to be shortlisted for the candidacy of Poplar and Limehouse.

On 18th October 2019, it was reported that Ms Begum had also been endorsed by Momentum. It was also reportedly confirmed that she had been investigated by the Party over her social media activity, which had included a post which appeared to link former Prime Minister Tony Blair with “spreading Zionist propaganda” and sharing material by the anti-Zionist activist Ken O’Keefe, who promulgates antisemitic conspiracy theories, but that she had faced no sanctions.

On 19th October 2019, it was reported that Ms Begum had been shortlisted for the Poplar and Limehouse constituency.

On 28th October it was reported that Ms Begum had been chosen as the Labour parliamentary candidate.

On 22nd November 2019, it was reported that Ms Begum was being urged to stand down as the candidate for Poplar and Limehouse after it was alleged that she was linked to a campaign to unseat a Jewish Conservative councillor, Peter Golds, in Tower Hamlets. It was alleged that Ms Begum had been part of the Tower Hamlets Momentum group when it posted a tweet which played on the Labour slogan “For the many, not the few”, changing it to “For the many, not Golds”. Ms Begum reportedly denied having been involved in the incident.

On 12th December 2019, Ms Begum was elected to Parliament.

We do not know whether disciplinary action has been taken by the Labour Party against Ms Begum, and at the time of writing, on 17th 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 Ms Begum, 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.

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