Antisemitism in Political Parties

“Antisemitism is the organisation of politics against the Jews” — Ruth Wisse

Liberal Democrats

Prominent and egregious antisemites have been allowed to remain as office holders in the Liberal Democrats for many years after allegations were made, and even after those allegations had been accepted as true by Party leaders. The case of Ashuk Ahmed, who was reselected as a Parliamentary candidate in 2015 and then again in 2017, long after he had been interviewed under caution by Bedfordshire Police, indicates a systemic failure to identify antisemitism within the Party. The Liberal Democrats have adopted the International Definition of Antisemitism.

5

cases

20%

Good outcomes

60%

Unsatisfactory outcomes

20%

Bad outcomes

Ashuk Ahmed MBE

2015 and 2017 parliamentary candidate, Luton South

Incident

In a series of social media posts in 2014, Mr Ahmed suggested that “Zionists control half the world”, wrote that the Labour and Conservative Parties were in the grip of “Zionist paymasters”, compared the Israeli Prime Minister with Adolf Hitler, and posted an image showing the Israeli Prime Minister with blood dripping from his mouth while feasting on a child.

Outcome

Mr Ahmed’s posts were exposed by Campaign Against Antisemitism and published by the Daily Mail in April 2017. He was suspended by the Liberal Democrats the day after publication. As of 15th September 2017, it is unknown whether any further action has been taken by the Party.

In September 2017, we put this matter to Mr Ahmed, but we did not receive a response.

Matthew Gordon Banks

Executive Committee member, Moray Liberal Democrats
Former Conservative MP

Incident

Matthew Gordon Banks was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Southport from 1992 to 1997. In 2009, it was reported that he had defected to the Liberal Democrats and become a member of the executive committee of their Moray branch.

In September 2016, Mr Gordon Banks tweeted: “What fascinates me is that Farron’s leadership campaign was organised and funded by London Jews”. He then tweeted: “I tried to work with them. Very difficult.” When challenged by another Twitter user, Mr Gordon Banks replied: “I don’t care. It is not good for Farron to be funded and supported by one religious group.”

Mr Gordon Banks later apologised and removed the tweets, accepting that his wording was not entirely accurate, especially as the top two donors were Asian brothers and only three other major donors were Jewish.

Outcome

Following these tweets coming to light in September 2016, Mr Gordon Banks was suspended by the Liberal Democrats. In December 2016, at a disciplinary appeal meeting which was held in his absence due to ill health, he was expelled from the Party. He said that “the punishment was excessive given the nature of events” and that he hoped to return to the Party.

In September 2017, we put this matter to Mr Gordon Banks, who sent us a detailed response. He told us that he had merely intended to express genuine “fascination” at the Jewish control of finances in Tim Farron’s leadership campaign and Jewish control of the campaign, and that he holds no antisemitic prejudice.

Wera Hobhouse

2017 Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
2017 Member of Parliament for Bath
2015 parliamentary candidate, Bath
2015 council candidate, North East Somerset, Peasedown
2004-2014 councillor, Norden

Incident

On 3rd August 2014, Wera Hobhouse tweeted: “Gaza seems to remind terribly of Nazi ghettos in which Jews were trapped during Holocaust. For what reason do we remember Holocaust?”

On 25th January 2015, she tweeted: “Israel cynically using memory of the Holocaust. Never again this suffering to anybody not just Jews”.

Outcome

As of 13th September 2017 we have no evidence that the Liberal Democrats have at any time taken steps to initiate any kind of investigation or disciplinary process as a result of Ms Hobhouse’s comments.

In September 2017, we put this matter to Ms Hobhouse, who told us that members of her mother’s family fled the Holocaust and that a mentally ill great uncle was murdered by Nazi Germany. She also provided a statement saying: “I abhor antisemitism with every fibre of my being…However, I apologise unreservedly for any offence I have caused. Looking back at these tweets I realise that trying to discuss hugely serious issues via 140 characters is a mistake.”

Baroness Jenny Tonge

Former Liberal Democrat peer
Former MP for Richmond

Incident

Dr Jenny Tonge was the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park from 1997 to 2005. In June 2005 she was made a life peer as Baroness Tonge of Kew, entitling her to a seat in the House of Lords.

In 2003, Dr Tonge (as she then was) compared the living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza strip to those suffered by Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War.

In 2004, during a spate of suicide bombings targeting Jews in Israel, she said that she “might just consider becoming [a suicide bomber] myself” if she was a Palestinian. After her comments were condemned as “completely unacceptable” by the Party leader, Charles Kennedy, she told the BBC that suicide bombers’ actions are “appalling and loathsome”.

In 2006, Baroness Tonge (as she had then become) said, “The pro-Israeli lobby has got its grips on the western world, its financial grips. I think they’ve probably got a grip on our party.”

In February 2010, The Palestine Telegraph, of which Baroness Tonge was a patron, published false claims that an Israel Defence Forces emergency aid hospital in Haiti was secretly harvesting organs and selling them on the black market. Baroness Tonge lent credence to those allegations, saying: “To prevent allegations such as these — which have already been posted on YouTube — going any further, the IDF and the Israeli Medical Association should establish an independent inquiry immediately to clear the names of the team in Haiti.”

In February 2012, Baroness Tonge said: “Israel is not going to be there forever in its present performance. One day, the United States of America will get sick of giving £70bn a year to Israel to support what I call America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East — that is Israel. One day, the American people are going to say to the Israel lobby in the USA: enough is enough. Israel will lose support and then they will reap what they have sown.”

In January 2015, Baroness Tonge asked in the House of Lords whether the Government planned  “to encourage Jewish faith leaders in the United Kingdom publicly to condemn settlement building by Israel and to make clear their support for universal human rights.”

In July 2016, Baroness Tonge shared an article about “Jewish power” on Facebook. The article had been written by Gilad Atzmon, a notorious antisemite.

In October 2016, Baroness Tonge hosted a meeting in the Houses of Parliament, at which an audience member suggested that Jewish people were responsible for the Holocaust.

Outcome

Following her 2006 comments about the supposed “financial grips” of the “pro-Israeli lobby”, Baroness Tonge was severely reprimanded by the then Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, who said that her comments had “clear antisemitic connotations”, but she was unapologetic.

Following her February 2010 comments about supposed organ-harvesting, (comments considered to reflect a contemporary manifestation of the blood libel) Baroness Tonge was dismissed from her position as health spokeswoman in the House of Lords. the then Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, called her comments “wrong, distasteful and provocative” and said she had apologised “unreservedly” for any offence she had caused.

Following her 2012 comments, Baroness Tonge rejected Nick Clegg’s call for her to apologise, and resigned the party whip. She continued to sit in the House of Lords as an independent Liberal Democrat.

Following the meeting in October 2016, Baroness Tonge was suspended by the Liberal Democrats but then resigned from the party before any disciplinary process could be instigated.

In August 2017, Baroness Tonge shared a graphic which included an antisemitic caricature of a hook-nosed Jew.

In September 2017, we put this matter to Baroness Tonge, who told us: “All my comments over the years have been directed at the Government of Israel and not at Jewish people. I am not, and have never been, antisemitic but I am fiercely anti-injustice. Campaign Against Antisemitism is conflating the two.”

David Ward

2017 councillor and parliamentary candidate, Bradford East
2010 Member of Parliament

Incident

David Ward served as the Liberal Democrat MP for Bradford East from 2010 to 2015. Both before and after his time in Parliament, he served as a local councillor.

In January 2013, in advance of Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr Ward wrote: “Having visited Auschwitz twice — once with my family and once with local schools — I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.” In a later statement he added: “It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.”

On 13th July 2013, Mr Ward tweeted a message appearing to call for the destruction of the State of Israel.

On 26th January 2016, Mr Ward tweeted: “#HolocaustMemorialDay theme ‘Don’t stand by’ we must speak out for all — including #Palestinians — who face persecution and discrimination”.

On 27th January 2017, Holocaust Memorial Day, Mr Ward tweeted: “#Auschwitz happened and never can be compared but would be betrayal of its victims to use it to protect #Israel Govt from condemnation”.

Outcome

In January 2013, Mr Ward received a written warning from the Liberal Democrats, said to be the “equivalent of a yellow card”.

Following his July 2013 tweet, Mr Ward had the party whip withdrawn from him for three months.

In October 2016, then Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron deemed some of Mr Ward’s comments to be antisemitic, but said that he had “served his time” and so it was “appropriate” for him to represent the party as a councillor.

In April 2017, Mr Ward was selected as the Liberal Democrat’s General Election candidate for Bradford East. Following challenges in Parliament, Tim Farron tweeted that Ward was unfit to represent the party and that he had “sacked” him. It is understood that in practice, this means that Mr Farron, in his capacity as leader, prevented him from standing as a candidate. His membership of the party was suspended pending an investigation. Mr Ward subsequently unsuccessfully stood as an independent candidate.

In July 2017, Mr Ward appealed his suspension from the party. As of 26 August 2017, the progress of this appeal is unknown.

In September 2017, we put this matter to Mr Ward, but we did not receive a response.

Justice, justice, you shall pursue - צדק צדק תרדף
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