Antisemitism in Political Parties

Wera Hobhouse

2017-present: Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Bath

2017-present: Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Housing, Communities and Local Government

2015: Liberal Democrat candidate, Peasedown ward, Bath and North East Somerset Council

2015: Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, North East Somerset

2005-2014: Liberal Democrat Councillor, Norden ward, Rochdale Borough Council (elected as a Conservative, 2004; defected 2005)

Incidents

1. 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?”

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

Analysis

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

By comparing the situation in Gaza to the suffering of Jews in ghettos during the Holocaust [1], she breached the definition by “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

The assertion that Israelis exploit the Holocaust politically and is an antisemitic trope based on the perception of negative Jewish character traits; namely the classic antisemitic stereotypical portrayal of Jews as dishonest. This trope is now so widespread that, in a 2018 CNN survey, a third of Europeans expressed the opinion that Jews exploit the Holocaust. By alleging that Israel was “cynically using [the] memory of the Holocaust” [2], therefore, she breached the definition by “making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews.”

Outcome

In September 2017, Campaign Against Antisemitism put this matter to Ms Hobhouse. She related that members of her mother’s family had 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.”

As of 25th November 2019, Campaign Against Antisemitism  is not aware of any formal steps taken by the Liberal Democrats to initiate any kind of investigation or disciplinary process as a result of Ms Hobhouse’s comments.

In November 2019 we put this matter to Ms Hobhouse, who told us: “I repeat my apology which I published in 2017 soon after my election about the tweet from 2014. Since then I went on training organised by the Liberal Democrats in partnership with the Holocaust Educational Trust to learn why the tweet had caused offence. I now understand fully that any comparison to the atrocities of the Holocaust are wrong and must not be used. Please accept that I used the wrong language in 2014 from ignorance.”

We put this matter to the Liberal Democrats, and were told by the President’s office that at the time of the comments, Ms Hobhouse was interviewed by the Party’s Chief Whip, who afterwards said: “She understood and accepted the need to be very careful in her use of language as an MP”. Furthermore, we were informed that she attended the Party’s training course on antisemitism, delivered by Jewish charities, and we were told: “She is very mindful that her family came to the UK originally in order to escape the Nazis. This training will be repeated for new parliamentarians.”

Rating

Campaign Against Antisemitism has rated the Party’s handling of this matter as “unsatisfactory”. 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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