Antisemitism in Political Parties

Chris Williamson

2017-2019: Labour Member of Parliament for Derby North

2019: Independent candidate for Derby North

2017-2018: Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services

2010-2015: Labour Member of Parliament for Derby North

Incidents

  1. On 28th August 2017, the Guardian published an interview with Mr Williamson. He reportedly described the row surrounding Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism within Labour and his approach to Venezuela as “proxy wars and bulls**t”. He was further reported as having stated: “I’m not saying it never ever happens but it is a really dirty, lowdown trick, particularly the antisemitism smears. Many people in the Jewish community are appalled by what they see as the weaponisation of antisemitism for political ends. It is pretty repellent to use that to attack somebody like Jeremy Corbyn, who has spent his whole life fighting for social justice and standing up for the underdog.”
  1. On 2nd September 2017, Mr Williamson reportedly posted a series of images on Twitter relating to a pro-Palestinian event he had attended, one of which showed the late South African president Nelson Mandela accompanied by a quotation falsely attributed to him, comparing Israel to apartheid-era South Africa and accusing it of systematic torture and “wag[ing] a war against a civilian population, in particular children.” The text was, in fact, written by Arjan El Fassed, a co-founder of Electronic Intifada, a website which has defended Mr Williamson. Mr Williamson subsequently removed the image citing the falsely attributed quote and replaced it with a genuine one’.
  2. On 9th September 2017, Mr Williamson wrote an article in the Tribune entitled “Agenda setting”, in which he stated that accusations of antisemitism against him were “malicious” and “positively sinister.”
  1. On 20th September 2017, Mr Williamson was interviewed on talkRADIO about the accusations of antisemitism made against the Labour Party. A recording showed that he claimed: “There’s no evidence as far as I’m aware [that] any of the abuse online is being perpetrated by them [Labour Party members].”
  1. On 16th January 2018, Mr Williamson tweeted: “In this short video blog @AaronBastani calls out despicable false anti-Semitism [sic] smears.” He shared a link to the videoblog. Mr Bastani, a founder of the pro-Corbyn media channel, Novara Media, prefaced his blog with the following comment: “Some people aren’t interested in dealing with issues of race, just leveraging them for their own political gain…” and pursued this theme in his video blog.
  1. On 30th May 2018, Mr Williamson spoke at a “#Justice4marc” meeting in Manchester, in support of the expelled Labour activist Marc Wadsworth. It was reported that Mr Williamson stated: “What we want to do is not just win an election — we are in the process of changing the course of history. Changing the balance of power in this country forever. That’s what is at stake. And that’s why certain dark forces are using their power, using their contacts in the media, in order to undermine this project. In order to take out key allies like Marc and others from the struggle…it’s like 1984 and the Ministry of Truth…Many people in the Jewish community…said to me that antisemitism was being weaponised. I think some people have weaponised it, I agree with that, that’s pretty clear when you look at some of the comments…”
  1. On 3rd August 2018, it was reported that Mr Williamson had commented on remarks made by Peter Willsman. Peter Willsman is a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) who was recorded at Labour’s NEC meeting on 17th July 2018 calling some Jews “Trump fanatics”, adding that he would “not be lectured” by Jewish supporters of the US President “making up duff information [about antisemitism] without any evidence at all.” Mr Willsman was also reported as stating: “I think we should ask the…rabbis: where is your evidence of severe and widespread antisemitism in this party?” This was in reference to a group of 68 UK Rabbis who, in an unprecedented show of unity, had signed a letter to The Guardian urging the Labour Party to adopt the full International Definition of Antisemitism without qualification. Mr Williamson said that, while he “wouldn’t necessarily have expressed himself” as Mr Willsman had at that particular meeting, it was nevertheless a “reasonable question” to ask about evidence for the claim of “widespread antisemitism.”
  1. On 17th August 2018, it was reported that Mr Williamson had accused Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge of making “absurd” and “hyperbolic” criticisms of the Party over its handling of antisemitism. He was responding to Dame Margaret Hodge’s comment about finding out that she faced investigation for confronting Jeremy Corbyn over antisemitism. She had said: “It’s rather difficult to define but there’s that fear and it reminded me of what my dad used to say. He always said to me as a child: ‘You’ve got to keep a packed suitcase at the door Margaret, in case you ever have got to leave in a hurry.’ And when I heard about the disciplinary, my emotional response resonated with that feeling of fear…” Mr Williamson said of antisemitism in the Labour Party that it was “very, very rare that it does rear its head.”
  1. On 23rd September 2018, Mr Williamson was a guest speaker at a Labour Against the Witchhunt fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference, at which he shared a platform with Tony Greenstein (see [I] below). During the event, it was reported that Mr Williamson had described the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis as similar to “McCarthyism”, and that he had compared the ‘withchhunt’ [sic] against members accused of antisemitism to George Orwell’s 1984, where “good is bad, black is white and we had the Ministry of Truth and all the rest of it.”Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW) was founded in October 2017 “to oppose the purge of pro-Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party.” Aims of Labour Against the Witchhunt include rejection of the International Definition of Antisemitism..The group’s membership criteria states: “Those who promote the false anti-Semitism [sic] smear, who conflate anti-Semitism [sic] with anti-Zionism and who promote the myth of a ubiquitous left anti- Semitism [sic], are not welcome in LAW.”
  1. On or around 25th November 2018, in an article in the left-wing Labour Briefing, Mr Williamson accused Sheffield University Jewish Society, of “hateful smears” against him over antisemitism, calling them “opponents of common-sense socialism” and “haters.” He also wrote: “as we get closer to a general election the smears, insults and intimidation will only increase.” The Sheffield Labour Student group had cancelled an event in which Mr Williamson was to have participated, after the University’s Jewish Society had objected to it taking place.
  1. On 23rd February 2019, Mr Williamson was interviewed by Nick Robinson on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. During the interview, Mr Williamson said that he had “never witnessed any bullying” and “never seen any examples of antisemitism” in the Labour Party.
  1. On 23rd February 2019, Mr Williamson spoke at a Sheffield Momentum meeting and stated that the Labour Party was being “demonised as a racist, bigoted party” over antisemitism allegations, and that “…our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we have backed off too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic.”
  1. On 26th February 2019, it was reported in The Guardian that Mr Williamson had arranged a screening in parliament of the film Witch Hunt, and that the screening was to be hosted by the so-called Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), an antisemitism denial group. The Witch Hunt film defends Jackie Walker against allegations of antisemitism and claims that accusations of antisemitism against her and others are not only false, but are instead motivated by a desire to attack Jeremy Corbyn and to defend the State of Israel. Jackie Walker was expelled from the Labour Party on 27th March, 2019.
  1. On 27th February 2019, the Jewish Chronicle published a recording of a speech Mr Williamson reportedly gave to activists in September 2018. In the speech, he stated that Labour had “turned into a 21st Century version of the Stasi” with its response to the antisemitism crisis, adding: “I think frankly our response has been really, really, really poor — we’ve tried to reason with people who are completely unreasonable.” He also said: “I’ve been a member 42 years and I’ve never witnessed antisemitism — I’ve witnessed other forms of racism inside the Labour Party I regret to say. I’m not saying it’s never happened obviously. But let’s not inflate it and imply that it’s a major problem when it isn’t. It’s clear people have weaponised this. It’s not just me saying that, its people in the Jewish community who have said that.” Mr Williamson also asserted: “Ultimately what they want to do is topple Jeremy — they will not be satisfied until Jeremy has either stepped down, died or been removed.” Mr Williamson also referred to the thousands of examples of antisemitism submitted to the Party, saying “most of them are absurd.”
  1. From 17th March 2018 to 27th February 2019, Mr Williamson lent regular and explicit support, both in word and deed, to some of the most prominent and controversial individuals suspended and expelled from the Labour Party for actions and statements subsequently determined by the Labour Party to have brought the Party into disrepute as a result of their antisemitic content (often both before and after their expulsion). These include Jackie Walker (expelled); Scott Nelson (expelled); Marc Wadsworth (expelled); Ken Livingstone (suspended twice and resigned); Cyril Chilson (expelled); Peter Willsman (suspended); as well as Miko Peled and Gilad Atzmon, both of whom are non-Labour members with a history of disseminating antisemitism (see below). He also shared a platform during this period with Tony Greenstein (expelled twice).

    The circumstances relating to Mr Williamson’s support for these individuals are as follows:

    [a] On 17th March 2018, Mr Williamson spoke at a performance of Jackie Walker’s play The Lynching in Peterborough. Jackie Walker is the former ViceChair of Momentum who was suspended twice from the Labour Party for antisemitism-related breaches of Labour Party rules, before being expelled for making comments that were “prejudicial” and “grossly detrimental” to the Party. Mr Williamson said: “It’s a real pleasure and a privilege…to be sharing a platform with Jackie Walker, and I’ll be absolutely delighted when the day comes — and hopefully it won’t be too long — before Jackie is back in the Labour Party,” adding: “We’ve got these ridiculous suspensions and expulsions from the Party because some seriously good, decent human beings — socialists — have actually been excluded from the Party in the most grotesque and unfair way. Jackie is one, and Ken Livingstone is yet another.” Then Peterborough MP Fiona Onasanya was due to speak at the event, but tweeted beforehand: “There have been concerns pertaining to an event in Peterborough on Saturday. For the avoidance of doubt, I am vehemently opposed to antisemitism and was invited to speak out against racism, but will not be attending.”On 24th September 2019, Mr Williamson maintained that, rather than having been expelled after allegations of antisemitism, Ms Walker should instead be a Labour Party MP.

    [b] On 1st April 2018, Mr Williamson was challenged on Twitter for having retweeted Scott Nelson (who tweets as @SocialistVoice), who was suspended from the Labour Party following complaints of disseminating antisemitic discourse and abuse. Mr Williamson initially dismissed the accusations against Mr Nelson as “smears”; when presented with the evidence of Mr Nelson’s tweets, he supported him, tweeting: “He repeatedly apologised for those comments. He is opposed to all forms of racism and bigotry and he never called for a boycott. Please give him a chance.” Mr Nelson’s Twitter account was cited as one of the ‘Engines of Hate’ in a report into accounts that drive antisemitism on Social Media.

    [c] On 27th April 2018, it was reported that, in response to the expulsion of Marc Wadsworth from the Labour Party, Mr Williamson had stated: “The NCC’s [National Constitutional Committee] decision has all the hallmarks of predetermination and tramples on the Labour Party’s record of standing up for fairness. I will therefore continue to stand four-square behind Marc and assist him in his efforts to clear his name, and his reputation as a veteran anti-racist campaigner, which have been besmirched by this absurd NCC ruling.”

    Labour activist Marc Wadsworth was expelled from the Labour Party after accusing Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth of orchestrating a media plot against Mr Corbyn. Mr Williamson had appeared in person to give evidence in support of Mr Wadsworth at his NCC disciplinary meeting.

    On 27th April 2018, on hearing that Marc Wadsworth had been expelled from the Labour Party he declared himself “astonished” and stated: “I will continue to stand four-square behind Marc and assist him in his efforts to clear his name…”

    [d] On 1st August 2018, it was reported that Mr Williamson had attended a Momentum meeting in Liverpool on 31st July 2018. At the meeting, it was reported that Mr Williamson had failed to challenge a speaker disseminating antisemitic discourse, and that he had stated: “I understand the reasons why some feel cowered [sic]…I think it was wrong to take the action we did against Ken Livingstone…We should have drawn a line in the sand. Ken has spent his life fighting bigotry, antisemitism and racism.”

    [e] On 1st August 2018, Mr Williamson tweeted to Cyril Chilson’s wife: “Sorry to read that. Cyril should not have been expelled”. Mr Chilson was expelled from the Labour Party over antisemitic discourse following a disciplinary hearing on 20th March 2018. Mr Chilson had claimed, for example, that “The purpose of this bogus campaign against antisemitism is to give Israel a foothold in British politics and bring down Corbyn”, and had engaged with Gilad Atzmon (see [I] below) about emancipating British politics from the “Jewish lobbies and its influence”.

    [f] After Peter Willsman had made antisemitic comments at an NEC meeting, which were subsequently widely condemned both inside and out of the Labour Party, Mr Williamson not only attempted to diminish them [7] but then supported Mr Willsman’s bid to be re-elected to his position in the NEC. In the subsequent election, Mr Willsman was re-elected, having received some 70,000 votes from Labour members.

    [g] On 23rd September 2018, Mr Williamson was a guest speaker at a Labour Against the Witchhunt fringe meeting at the Labour Conference, at which he shared a platform with Tony Greenstein, a founder of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign who has been expelled from the Labour Party over his abusive social media activity, including repeatedly referring to various Jews as “Zios”. He had been expelled from the Labour Party some years earlier, but was readmitted soon after Jeremy Corbyn became Leader. On 1st October 2018, in a blog post about the meeting, Mr Greenstein commented: “Chris Williamson gave an excellent speech ridiculing the witchhunt [sic] and…received a standing ovation.”

    [h] On 23rd September 2018, following attendance at the Labour Against the Witchhunt fringe meeting above, Mr Williamson tweeted: “It was a genuine privilege to meet you Miko”. Miko Peled was reported to have commented at a Labour conference fringe meeting in 2017: “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no…the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion”, and has reportedly made other statements qualifying as antisemitic discourse under the International Definition of Antisemitism.

    [i] On 21st December 2018, Mr Williamson promoted a petition calling for the London Borough of Islington to rescind its ban on Gilad Atzmon’s performing at Islington Assembly Hall. The local council had considered the ban as a result of a complaint from a Jewish member of the public. In support of the ban, the council stated: “…under the Equality Act 2010, the Council must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to foster good relations between different races and religions within the borough. The Council took account of the fact that Mr Atzmon’s presence at the Hall, and knowledge of his presence among residents of the borough, might harm such relationships, as well as the Council’s duty to tackle prejudice and promote understanding within the borough.” Mr Williamson subsequently deleted his tweet promoting the petition.

    Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli-born British jazz musician and author who is widely considered to be an antisemite, who has denounced what he calls “the Holocaust religion”; stated that the burning of synagogues might be considered “a rational act”, and suggested that the Grenfell fire was the work of ‘Jerusalemites’. His claim that the Chair of Campaign Against Antisemitism fabricated cases of antisemitism for financial gain led to his being successfully sued for libel.

  1. On 6th November 2019, Mr Williamson resigned from the Labour Party, and wrote a resignation letter in which he made the following statements:

    [a] “Many of the victims of this witch hunt have been Jewish socialists, whose anti-Zionism is anathema to the apartheid apologists apparently influencing Labour foreign and domestic policy.”

    [b] “And yet Labour Party officials have capitulated to the Jewish Labour Movement — formerly known as Po’ale Zion — an organisation revived in 2015 at the same time as the State of Israel launched a diplomatic strategy to delegitimise Palestinian activism on the Left and normalise Zionism in our movement.”

    [c] “As I made clear to the NEC in April, this witch hunt primarily serves the objectives of the far-right activists — including members of Britain First and the Jewish Defence League — who led the campaign for the Labour Party to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism and its examples.”

Analysis

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

By referring to claims of antisemitism in Labour as a “smear”, a “dirty, lowdown trick”, as being “weaponised for political ends” [1], as “despicable false anti-Semitism [sic] smears” [5], as (mostly) “absurd” [14], and as “smears” brought by “haters” [10]; that those against him personally were “positively sinister” [3]; by endorsing the allegation that there is no evidence of antisemitism in the Labour party [7][14]; by falsely claiming that no Labour Party members were responsible for online abuse of Jews [4]; by reportedly dismissing Dame Margaret Hodge’s comments about fearing for her future in Britain due to the experience of being victimised by the Labour Party as “absurd” and “hyperbolic” [8]; by reportedly equating claims of antisemitism by various individuals (many of whom were expelled) to a “witch hunt” [16a],[16c] comparable to McCarthyism [9]; by claiming to have “never seen any examples of antisemitism” in the Labour Party [11], nor “witnessed any antisemitism..inside the Labour Party” [14]; by stating that the Labour Party has been “too apologetic” over anti-Semitism [sic] allegations” [14]; by stating that “dark forces are using their power” to undermine “this project” [6], and by stating that “Ultimately what they want to do is topple Jeremy” [14]; by organising an event in Parliament in support of Jackie Walker’s film Witch Hunt  [13]; and by stating that the Labour Party had been “demonised” over allegations of antisemitism for which it had been “too apologetic” [12], Mr Williamson is characterising those who allege antisemitism in the Labour Party to have ulterior political motivations. In doing so, Mr Williamson necessarily includes those Jewish groups and individuals who have publicly and repeatedly done so, and is thus deploying the so-called Livingstone Formulation, by accusing Jews who cite evidence of antisemitism of lying, conspiring or having deceitful motives in doing so when there is clear evidence that there have been breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism. This 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.”

Furthermore, we note that, on 26th March 2018, in a published response to complaints of antisemitism by Jewish community charities, Jeremy Corbyn MP stated: “I recognise that anti-Semitism [sic] has surfaced within the Labour Party, and has too often been dismissed as simply a matter of a few bad apples.” On 24th April 2018, in an article published in the Evening Standard, Mr Corbyn stated: “We must strive to understand why anti-Semitism [sic] has surfaced in our party…”, and “when members of Jewish communities express genuine anxieties we must recognise them as we would those of any other community. Their concerns are not ‘smears’.”

The allegation that Jews harm non-Jewish children is an element of the ancient blood libel. By sharing an image of former South African president Nelson Mandela, with a quotation attributed to him, in which it is alleged that Israel has “waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children,” [2], he was, therefore, “using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterise Israel or Israelis.” Additionally, however, he was disseminating material which was likely to amplify hatred against Jews by falsely attributing inflammatory and slanderous statements about the Jewish state to a benign and highly respected figure. Deliberately using falsehoods in order to slander Jews is a manifestation of classic antisemitism.

By lending regular and explicit support, both in word and deed, for the most prominent individuals suspended and expelled from the Labour Party for actions and statements subsequently determined by the Labour Party to have been antisemitic and/or to have brought the Party into disrepute as a result of their antisemitic content (often both before and after their suspension/expulsion) [15 a-h], Mr Williamson consistently demonstrated a determination to sustain the dissemination of antisemitic discourse in the Labour Party. In doing so, he was promoting discrimination against Jews within the Labour Party such as Ruth Smeeth, Luciana Berger, Margaret Hodge, members of the Jewish Labour Movement and others, who were the specific targets of these individuals’ comments, as well as supporting a wider demonisation of Jews objecting to antisemitism in the Labour Party. As such, he was responsible for “mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective.”

In his resignation letter [16], Mr Williamson refers to a “witch hunt”, in relation to the process by which some Labour members included in [15 a-i] were variously sanctioned by the Labour Party after they had been found to have disseminated antisemitic discourse under Labour Party’s rules. By characterising those who were sanctioned as “victims” of “apartheid apologists”, thereby indicating his belief that those who brought charges of antisemitism were motivated by promoting the interests of the State of Israel (Israel has often been characterised as an “apartheid state” by those same Labour members), rather than the interests of the UK Labour Party as an institution of the UK polity [16a]; and by characterising the Jewish Labour Movement (a century-old affiliate of the Labour Party for British Jewish Labour Party supporters) as a strategic arm of the Israeli government [16b]; he was “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

By falsely asserting that it was two far-right groups who led the campaign for the Labour Party to adopt the International Definition of Antisemitism, when there is no evidence that these two groups were involved in such a “campaign” [16c], he was “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews…”

 

Outcome

On 30th August 2017, following his comments in [1], Mr Williamson responded to calls for him to be sacked and to withdraw his comments by stating: “I absolutely did not and never would blame the victims of antisemitism or any form of racism and bigotry. Antisemitism is utterly repugnant and a scourge on society, which is why I stand in absolute solidarity with anyone who is subjected to antisemitic abuse. The point I was trying to make is that accusations have on occasions been used for factional or party political ends.”

In September 2017, the Campaign Against Antisemitism wrote to Mr Williamson for comment regarding [1] and [3], but did not receive a response.

On 17th March 2018, it was reported in the Jewish News that Mr Williamson was a member of a deeply antisemitic Facebook group, Palestine Live. Responding to the allegation, Mr Williamson reportedly told Jewish News: “I get well over a hundred notifications from social media every single day. I was not aware that I was added to this group nor have I participated in it. Upon being informed that I was a member I have left the group. Facebook should change its settings to enable users to accept or decline membership of groups.”

On 17th July 2018, it was reported that Mr Williamson had attempted to block a motion proposed by two Jewish MPs from being brought before the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) the previous evening. The motion stated: “The PLP adopts the full IHRA definition of antisemitism, including all of its accompanying examples, and believes this should be used to define, understand and act against antisemitism in the Labour Party.” The motion was passed.

On 1st August 2018, it was reported that Mr Williamson had attended a Momentum meeting in Liverpool on 31st July 2018. At the meeting, it was reported that a member from the Sefton Constituency Labour Party had stated: “What could be a greater threat to our democracy than a foreign government who is trying to veto the person we want for Prime Minister? Of course, I’m talking about the Israelis with their foot soldiers in Labour — the LFI, the JLM. They are trying to take our democracy away from us.” It was reported that Mr Williamson had failed to challenge the speaker, and that he had stated: “I understand the reasons why some feel cowered [sic]…”

On 20th August 2018, it was reported that Tessa Milligan, a Jewish member of the Labour Party, had filed a complaint against Mr Williamson, including 20 pieces of evidence; for example, his having supported the view that those raising claims of antisemitism in Labour were engaging in a “witch hunt”. A Labour Party spokesman had responded on 18th August 2018 by stating: “The Labour party takes all complaints of antisemitism extremely seriously…All complaints about antisemitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken”. The Labour Party complaints team had stated: “Having reviewed your complaint I can inform you that this matter was passed to the Chief Whip who has spoken to Mr Williamson reminding him of the conduct expected of him.”

Also on 20th August 2018, it was reported in The Times that Mr Williamson had been reprimanded by Labour’s Chief Whip. A party source had reportedly said that, because Ms Milligan’s complaint concerned Mr Williamson’s attitude to allegations of antisemitism rather than alleged acts of antisemitism he himself had committed, it could not be dealt with under Labour’s Code of Conduct, which is why it became a matter for the Chief Whip.

On 24th September 2018, it was reported that the then National Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Ivor Caplin, had said in relation to Mr Williamson’s sharing of a platform with Tony Greenstein [15h]: “The Labour Party claims it has made it clear that MPs should not share platforms with those who have been expelled from the party.” Mr Caplin reportedly renewed a call for the Labour Party to remove the whip from Mr Williamson. It was also reported that the Party had confirmed that Mr Greenstein, who had been expelled in February of that year, did not have a conference pass.

On 27th October 2018, the day eleven people were murdered in a Pittsburg Synagogue, Mr Williamson tweeted: “Wow, well blow me down with a feather”, with a link to an article dated 27th October 2018, which contained a false accusation by Skwawkbox against a Jewish charity. The Skwawkbox is a recognised ‘fake news’ site. The insensitivity shown by the timing of Mr Williamson’s tweet, as other political figures were expressing support and sympathy for Jewish communities, was widely condemned, including by Labour MP Wes Streeting, who called his behaviour “a new low.”

On 27th November 2018, it was reported that, in response to Mr Williamson’s accusation in [10], Sheffield University Jewish Society president Gabe Milne had tweeted: “And for the 10,000th time: We never said Chris Williamson was antisemitic. Not once. We said he encourages a culture of antisemitism, which is clear to everyone except the disgraceful people that continue to support him.”

On 21st December 2018, Mr Williamson tweeted in relation to [15i]: “APOLOGY Earlier today I tweeted a petition about an Islington Council ban against the Blockheads performing with their chosen line up. The council has blocked jazz musician Gilad Atzmon from playing with the group. Since then I’ve learned that Atzmon…is not confined to the jazz world. I am told that in various blogs and in speeches he has adopted antisemitic language. I wasn’t aware of this until after I tweeted the petition. As soon as I was informed, I deleted the tweet. I’ve always condemned all forms of racism, including antisemitism, and strongly disassociate myself from Atzmon’s antisemitic views. I therefore apologise for tweeting this petition and any distress or offence it may have caused…”

Later on 21st December 2018, it was reported that a number of far-left activists and commentators had condemned Mr Williamson’s support for Mr Atzmon, notwithstanding his apology, including Momentum campaigner Mike Segalov, who tweeted: “apologise, @DerbyChrisW. just deleting this isn’t good enough. educate yourself. stop embarrassing yourself and the left.” Then, following Mr Williamson’s apology, he tweeted: “why the f*** did you think he had been banned by the council then? why did you sign a petition before reading it?”

On 23rd December 2018, it was reported that 30 University Labour Clubs had issued this statement: “Today Chris Williamson’s actions have again shown a complete lack of respect for the Jewish community. He repeatedly platforms and supports antisemites and takes no responsibility for his actions. We wholeheartedly condemn this…It’s disappointing that the Labour Party have not yet taken appropriate action. Whilst we welcome his apology, we still urge them to withdraw the whip from Chris Williamson until he listens to the concerns of the Jewish community and properly educates himself about antisemitism.”

On 21st January 2019, Mr Williamson tweeted: “It is Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday. Hatred and bigotry led to the unimaginable horrors of the holocaust. We must never forget and always strive to build a better, peaceful and compassionate world through love and solidarity.” Members of the Jewish Community condemned his action, including Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, who tweeted: “Making a mockery of the memory of the Holocaust is repulsive.”

On 31st January 2019, it was reported on Derbyshire Live that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had said: “Chris Williamson is a very good, very effective Labour MP. He’s a very strong anti-racist campaigner. He is not antisemitic in any way.”

On 19th February 2019, it was reported that Mr Williamson had retweeted a video from an account which had previously posted Holocaust revisionism and other antisemitic content.

On 26th February 2019, it was reported that Ruth Smeeth MP had brought the matter of Mr Williamson’s booking of a room in Parliament on behalf of JVL [13] to the attention of the previous evening’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and had commented: “It’s outrageous that a member of Parliament is giving a platform to an organisation that seems more intent on characterising the antisemitism crisis within the party as smears rather than being part of [the] solution.”

On February 26th 2019, Tom Watson MP, having been alerted to the booking above, responded by tweeting: “Just for information — as soon as I found out about this I reported it [to] the Chief Whip and General Secretary.”

On 27th February, It was reported that Mr Williamson had responded to the resignations of Labour MPs, on 18th February 2019, by singing the 1980s hit Celebration, and had told his audience in Sheffield: “I was singing that all day in my office full blast, and my office, by the way, is right opposite Joan Ryan’s.” Joan Ryan MP, one of those who had resigned from Labour on 18th February, cited antisemitism as her principal reason for leaving the Party.

On 27th February 2019, it was reported in The Guardian that Labour’s Chief Whip Nick Brown and the party’s General Secretary Jennie Formby were going to contact Mr Williamson to stress their displeasure at his actions and ensure he cancelled the booking.

Following the exposure of Mr Williamson’s comments at the Sheffield Momentum meeting [12], it was reported on 27th February 2019 that he had been placed under a “formal notice of investigation” over a “pattern of behaviour.”

On 27th February 2019, Mr Williamson tweeted: “A personal message and sincere apology from me regarding my recent remarks on anti-Semitism [sic] in the Labour Party”. He attached the text of a full apology in which he stated: “…On a personal level, I have been an anti-racist all my life…It pains me greatly, therefore, that anyone should believe that it is my intention to minimise the cancerous and pernicious nature of anti-Semitism [sic]…Whilst it is true that there have been very few cases of anti-Semitism [sic] in the Labour Party…it is also true that those few are too many…I am therefore sorry for how I chose to express myself on this issue…” Tom Watson tweeted in response: “Chris Williamson has produced a long-winded and heavily caveated apology. It is not good enough. If it was in my gift I would have removed the whip from him already.” He embedded his letter to Mr Brown and Ms Formby, in which he stated: “…I formally request that Chris Williamson has the Labour whip removed from him and/or is suspended from the Labour Party.”

A number of other Labour MPs also responded to Mr Williamson’s tweet.  For example, Wes Streeting MP stated: “I do not believe this is sincere. I believe you have deliberately baited Jewish people in our Party and across the country. I think you were caught in a moment of honesty saying what you really think. It was repulsive, revealing and you should be expelled from the Labour Party”; former Labour leader Ed Miliband tweeted: “Chris Williamson is bringing the Labour party into disrepute over anti-semitism [sic]. This is a test of seriousness on our part about the whole issue. Disciplinary action, not simply an apology, is required.” Dame Margaret Hodge MP wrote: “I have just written to the Chief Whip demanding Chris Williamson have the whip removed…”; Yvette Cooper MP tweeted: “…Agree with Tom Watson and Ed Miliband on immediate suspension needed…” In addition, Tim Roache, the General Secretary of the GMB Trade Union, stated: “Agree. Time for him to go.”

The Labour Party Tribune Group of MPs tweeted: “We must set the highest standards for ourselves on issues of racism, sexism and bullying if we are to be seen as a party that can lead on behalf of all sections of our communities.” Embedded in the tweet was a letter to Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby, in which they wrote: “…Our response to a member being antisemitic, must be to apologise to those who have been offended and then investigate. Where guilt is proven, that person’s membership should be revoked…The complaint that the Labour Party is institutionally racist…is being made because of the values that are being applied when cases related to sexism, bullying and racism are being adjudicated…if the values that underpin our tolerance to bullying, sexism and racism are absent, then we invite the accusation that the Labour Party is institutionally racist…[Chris Williamson’s] actions have brought the party into disrepute… should have his membership suspended and the whip removed while the investigation takes place.” The Tribune Group describes itself as “…the voice of the centre left of the Parliamentary Labour Party…”

On 27th February 2019, it was reported in The Independent that Mr Corbyn’s office had seemingly intervened to prevent Mr Williamson’s suspension, but following threats of front-bench resignations, demands for action from MPs and Jewish groups, and the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) committee’s “totally unprecedented” decision to ask Mr Williamson to stop attending PLP meetings, the Party had finally announced that Mr Williamson had been suspended pending an investigation.

Later that day, it was reported in The Guardian that Mr Williamson had indicated his intention to clear his name, insisting: “I think I’ve got a very strong case. There is no evidence against me in reality.”

On 28th February 2019, it was reported in The Telegraph that Mr Corbyn had let it be known that he did not want Mr Williamson suspended, but it was only when it became clear that this was a “PR disaster” that the whip had been removed from the MP.

On 26th June 2019, it was reported that Mr Williamson had been readmitted to the Labour Party despite a recommendation by Party staff that he be referred to the next stage of Labour’s disciplinary process. He was instead issued with a formal warning after being found to have breached the party’s rules. A Labour source reportedly said: “He could face further, more severe action if he repeats any similar comments or behaviour.”

On 27th June 2019, it was reported that over 90 Labour MPs and peers had signed a letter demanding the whip be removed from Mr Williamson. The letter called on Jeremy Corbyn to “show leadership” by asking for “this inappropriate, offensive and reputationally damaging decision to be overturned and reviewed”, and described the way in which the decision-making panel’s composition had been changed at short notice as seeming “highly irregular” and having the “appearance of political interference.”

Also on 27th June, it was reported that Keith Vaz MP had written to Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby suggesting that the decision to readmit Mr Williamson (to which he, as a member of the NEC disputes panel which ruled on the case, had been integral) should be reconsidered.

On 28th June 2019, it was reported that the whip had again been removed from Mr Williamson.

On 29th June 2019, it was reported that Mr Williamson was facing deselection by local Party activists and trade unions angry at his comments about antisemitism, with plans being put in place to deselect him even if he should be readmitted to the Party (a process permitted under Labour Party rules). Mr Williamson was reported to have tweeted: “They say a week is a long time in politics: it seems two days is even longer. I’m naturally concerned by the lack of due process and consistency in how my case is being handled. I’ve been a loyal Labour member for 43 years, and will do my utmost to fight for my membership.”

On 9th July 2019, it was reported that a fresh panel of the NEC’s disputes committee had referred Mr Williamson’s case to a specialist panel who would reassess his conduct to determine whether a full investigation was warranted.

On 31st July 2019, it was reported that Mr Williamson had been referred to Labour’s National Constitutional Committee for expulsion, and that a statement on his official Facebook page had called this “a total subversion of due process.”

On 11th August 2019, it was reported that former members of Mr Williamson’s staff had expressed concern over his failure to distance himself, when requested to do so, from the Labour activist Scott Nelson who was expelled from the Party over antisemitism.

On 14th August 2019, it was reported that Mr Williamson was suing the Labour Party in an attempt to overturn his suspension.

On 24th September 2019, the film director Ken Loach, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, gave an interview in the course of which he stated: “Everyone knows Chris [Williamson] is not an antisemite.”

On 10th October 2019, it was reported that Mr Williamson had lost his appeal to be reinstated by the Labour Party, although the High Court ruled that his second suspension (in June 2019) had been unlawful. However, it transpired that Mr Williamson had been briefly reinstated and suspended for a third time during the appeal proceedings, and the presiding judge upheld the lawfulness of this suspension, saying: “I therefore refuse relief in respect of Mr Williamson’s recent re-suspension. The new disciplinary case must run its course.”

On 6th November 2019, it was reported that Mr Williamson had been barred from running as an MP in the 12th December General Election.

Later on 6th November 2019, Mr Williamson resigned from the Labour Party, and announced that he had decided to run as an independent MP in his former constituency of Derby North. His resignation letter was described by Campaign Against Antisemitism as “a manifesto against Jews” and contained several antisemitic tropes.

Owing to the conditions of secrecy imposed by Baroness Chakrabarti’s report on antisemitism in the Labour Party, the processes by which the various decisions were made to reinstate and resuspend Mr Williamson remain unknown.

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 4th December 2019.

Justice, justice, you shall pursue - צדק צדק תרדף
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