Antisemitism in Political Parties

Mark McDonald

2019: Labour parliamentary candidate, Stoke-on-Trent South

Cofounder of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East

Incidents

  1.  On 26th April 2016, Mark McDonald wrote an article for Tribune, in which he stated: [a] “In the last year, there has been mounting and heavily publicised criticism against the Labour Party of anti-Semitism[sic] or failure to sanction anti Semitism [sic] within the party. It is, however clear, with only the slightest scrutiny, that any allegation of anti-Semitism [sic] is wholly without foundation. The Labour Party does not have a problem with anti-Semitism [sic]. But it is a sad truth that when any person or organisation is accused of anti-Semitism [sic], it sticks. The allegation may be without evidence, unproven or, indeed as we find here, politically motivated.”

    Going on to claim that “in today’s politics, if you want to lead, if you want to get to the top of that pole, you can’t be outspoken, you can’t defend unpopular causes and you cannot, whatever you do, ever ­criticise Israel”, Mr McDonald continued: [b] “So after Jeremy’s election, there was an unholy alliance between Conservative Central Office and a small group of Labour MPs. Working closely with the Daily Telegraph and the political blogger Guido Fawkes, they began scrutinising every meeting he had attended, every platform he had shared, and the Twitter feeds and Facebook posts of the 400,000 new members. It is not surprising that they found one or two anti-Semitic bad eggs. This is not to diminish the seriousness of anti-Semitism, but to say that the Labour Party has a problem with anti-Semitism is simply not true.”

    Mr McDonald went on to criticise former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks for writing in an article entitled: “Anti-Zionism Is The New Anti-Semitism [sic]”. Noting that Lord Sacks stated, “Today [justification for antisemitism] is human rights. It is why Israel…is regularly accused of the five crimes against human rights: racism, apartheid, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide. This is the blood libel of our time,” Mr McDonald wrote: [c] “And here Jonathan Sacks, evoking the most heinous of anti-Semitic [sic] tropes, gets to the root of the issue. This has never been about anti-Semitism [sic]. This has always been about protecting Israel.” It should be noted that, early on in the article, Lord Sacks stated explicitly: “Here one must state the obvious. Criticism of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic [sic].”

  1. On or around 16th November 2019, Mr McDonald ‘liked’ a tweet which shared an article dealing with an open letter signed by a number of prominent figures. The letter stated: “we are outraged that Jeremy Corbyn, a life-long committed anti-racist, is being smeared as an anti-semite [sic] by people who should know better. Antisemitism is a problem within society and is present within all political parties and movements, including Labour. It must be confronted and rooted out at every turn. No political party or political leader has done more to address this problem than Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. In the last two years, the speed of investigations has increased fourfold, staffing committed to dealing with the issue has doubled, legal experts have been drafted, and rules changed to expedite sanctions. But the prevailing evidence speaks for itself: Labour’s political opponents and much of the media have trivialised and weaponised this issue for ideological ends.” The letter was published just weeks before the 2019 General Election, at a time when the Labour Party was forced to answer repeated allegations of antisemitism against it.

Analysis

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

Given that Jewish groups and individuals have been prominent among those who have claimed there is antisemitism in the Labour Party, by claiming that allegations of antisemitism in Labour are “wholly without foundation” and “politically motivated” [1a]; that to suggest the Labour Party has a problem with antisemitism is “not true” [1b]; and that allegations against the Labour Party have “never been about anti-Semitism [sic]” but, rather, have “always been about protecting Israel” [1c]; and by ‘liking’ a tweet sharing a letter in which allegations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn were characterised as “smears” and it was alleged that “Labour’s political opponents and much of the media have trivialised and weaponised the issue [of antisemitism] for ideological ends” [2], Mr McDonald was 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. In so doing he 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 22nd June 2018 it was reported that Mr McDonald had been adopted as the Labour Party’s Parliamentary candidate for Stoke-on-Trent South.

On 14th August 2018, Mr McDonald’s comments in [1] were reported and it was noted that Mr McDonald had advised the activist 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”).

On 10th November 2019, Mr McDonald’s comments in [1] were once again reported in the media.

We do not know whether disciplinary action has been taken by the Labour Party against Mr McDonald, and at the time of writing, on 21st 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 McDonald, 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 4th December 2019.

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