Antisemitism in Political Parties

Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt

2019: Labour parliamentary candidate, Thanet South

2018: selected as Labour parliamentary candidate, Thanet South (later deselected)

Incidents

1. On 28th April 2016, responding to the news that Ken Livingstone had been suspended by the Labour Party over his remarks asserting that Hitler supported Zionism, a Twitter account using the handle @CambiarCultura, for which Dr Gordon-Nesbitt has taken responsibility, tweeted: “suspension of [Ken Livingstone] result of a campaign to smear [Jeremy Corbyn] as antisemitic orchestrated by #Israel lobby.”

2. On 29th April 2019, responding to the Labour List Twitter account (which had shared an article reporting the demand by a number of Labour MPs that Ken Livingstone be expelled from the Party), @CambiarCultura tweeted: [a] “Has anyone looked into Hitler’s policy on Zionism? Might not be mutually exclusive with his later actions. [b] #Scapegoating #Corbyn”

3. On 29th December 2016, in a tweet apparently defending Jeremy Corbyn’s affiliations, suggesting that they were consistent with his “fight for underdogs/against imperialism”, @CambiarCultura tweeted: “…Are John Bercow’s Zionist sympathies any more justifiable within Parliament?” The former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, is Jewish.

4. On 9th January 2017, responding to a tweet by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (in which it shared an article relating to former Speaker John Bercow’s ruling that further investigation into the case of the Israeli diplomat Shai Masot would be unnecessary after the Foreign Office had declared the matter “closed”), @CambiarCultura tweeted: “Would this be the same speaker who invited the Speaker of Israel’s Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, to visit the Houses of Parliament? Hmmm.”

5. On 24th September 2017, objecting to another Twitter user having shared a tweet which laid out the reasons for Jackie Walker being accused of antisemitism, @CambiarCultura tweeted: [a] “Accusations of antisemitism levelled against Jackie Walker are politically motivated.” When another Twitter user replied that the accusations were, rather, “motivated by the absurd and anti-semitic [sic] nature of what she says and does,” @CambiarCultura replied: [b] “Anti-semitism [sic] has been weaponised by those who seek to silence anti-Zionist voices.”

Analysis

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

By alleging that former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has “Zionist sympathies” which might be incompatible with his parliamentary role [3], and by implying that he might be colluding with the Israeli government [4], @CambiarCultura was questioning his loyalty, and thereby implicitly “accusing [a] Jewish [citizen] of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

By suggesting that Adolf Hitler’s “policy on Zionism [might] not be inconsistent with his later actions” [2a], thereby suggesting that Ken Livingstone’s assertion that “Hitler was supporting Zionism” might be accurate, @CambiarCultura was supporting a perversion of the historical account of the Holocaust which had been formulated in order to demonise an identifiably Jewish movement.

By alleging that Ken Livingstone was being unjustly accused of antisemitism, and was the victim of “scapegoating” [2b], as part of a campaign “orchestrated” by an “Israel Lobby” against Jeremy Corbyn [1]; by alleging that accusations of antisemitism against Jackie Walker were “politically motivated” [5a] and that antisemitism had been “weaponised by those who seek to silence anti-Zionist voices” [5b]; and by implying that the former Speaker John Bercow might be colluding with the Israeli government in a supposed attempt to quash investigation into the activities of an Israeli diplomat [4], @CambiarCultura 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.”

Additionally, by alleging that accusations of antisemitism against Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker specifically (in [1], [2] and [5a]), as well as more generally (in [5b]), were politically motivated, @CambiarCultura was deploying the so-called Livingstone Formulation, by accusing Jews who make claims of antisemitism of lying, conspiring or having deceitful motives, despite there being clear evidence that there have been breaches of the International Definition of Antisemitism.

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’.” 

Outcome

On 18th April 2018, the Guido Fawkes blog exposed the offending tweets by a Twitter account known as @CambiarCultura, and linked them to Dr Gordon-Nesbitt. It reported that Dr Gordon-Nesbitt had registered the website of an organisation called The Centre for Cultural Change in 2014, and that she was its only listed staff member. Tweets referencing academic events in which Dr Gordon-Nesbitt was involved and interviews in which she participated, and otherwise promoting her work, all appear to address the @CambiaCultura account as if she was its primary user, including her publishers, who identify her both by name and photographically in relation to the account.

On 19th April 2018, the Guido Fawkes blog reported that The Centre for Cultural Change’s website had been taken offline and that the @CambiarCultura Twitter account had been deleted.

On 28th April 2019, it was reported that Dr Gordon-Nesbitt had issued an apology, saying: “In 2016, I registered the url [website] for The Centre for Cultural Change, an anonymous blog and twitter group run by activists from the Kent area. I am sincerely sorry for any hurt and offence caused by tweets from the account and regret that I did not understand this at the time they were posted. I have since developed a deeper understanding of antisemitism and the prevalence of antisemitic tropes, and I believe the expansion of political education on antisemitism within our movement is an essential step forward. I fully support the efforts the Party is taking to stamp out antisemitism, and I look forward to working with the Jewish community in my constituency to raise awareness of antisemitism within our Party and within wider society.”

On 18th December 2018, Dr Gordon-Nesbitt wrote on Facebook that Labour’s National Executive Committee had that day decided against endorsing her candidacy for the South Thanet constituency. She stated: “The NEC’s decision was taken on the basis of three tweets that were posted from the Centre for Cultural Change Twitter account, run by a group of academics, to which I occasionally contributed well before I decided to stand as a parliamentary candidate. The Centre for Cultural Change tweets were in no way intended to imply that antisemitism doesn’t exist in the Labour Party. They were taken out of context on the right-wing Guido Fawkes hate blog to imply that I was antisemitic.” She added that the NEC had decided not to endorse her on the basis that she had “brought the party into disrepute.”

On 12th January 2019, the Jewish Voice for Labour website published a fundraising plea from Dr Gordon-Nesbitt to support her in legal action against the Labour Party’s decision to deselect her. Jewish Voice for Labour is an antisemitism denial group whose purpose is to provide an ostensibly Jewish voice in support of some of the most extreme elements of the Labour Party.

On 10th March 2019, it was reported that the Sunday Times had obtained a leaked recording in which the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was heard expressing his support for Dr Gordon-Nesbitt at a meeting of the influential Labour Representation Committee, of which he is President.

On 16th May 2019, it was reported that Dr Gordon-Nesbitt had been cleared of the accusations against her by Labour’s National Constitutional Committee, and that she would be seeking reselection as the parliamentary candidate for Thanet South.

On 19th May 2019, the Labour Representation Committee issued a call for Dr Gordon-Nesbitt to be reinstated as candidate for Thanet South.

On 25th October 2019, Dr Gordon-Nesbitt posted a message of endorsement by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, supporting her in her bid to be selected for Thanet South, on Facebook.

On 27th October 2019, the South Thanet Labour Party announced that Dr Gordon-Nesbitt had been selected to represent the Party at the forthcoming general election.

Owing to the conditions of secrecy imposed by Baroness Chakrabarti’s report on antisemitism in the Labour Party, the process and circumstances under which it was decided to clear Dr Gordon-Nesbitt remain unknown.

In November 2019, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to Ms Gordon-Nesbitt, 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.

Join the fight

Subscribe
Volunteer
Donate

Campaign Against Antisemitism is a volunteer-led charity dedicated to exposing and countering antisemitism through education and zero-tolerance enforcement of the law. Everything that we do is done by people who volunteer their time, using donations contributed by members of the public. Join the fight against antisemitism by subscribing to our updates, volunteering, or donating.

Justice, justice, you shall pursue - צדק צדק תרדף
© Copyright - Campaign Against Antisemitism, all rights reserved.
Campaign Against Antisemitism is a charitable incorporated organisation registered with the Charity Commission (number 1163790).
Use of our website is subject to our terms. We are grateful to a number of service providers.