Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories Proliferate in UK’s Labour Party
Conspiracy theories can usually be found in environments where antisemitism is substantially present. The classic, most extreme case — a fallacy originating from czarist Russia — is The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Many extreme antisemitic conspiracy theories also flourish in the Arab world.
In the stories about the antisemitism scandal in the UK Labour Party, a slew of conspiracy theories by elected party members have come to the fore. Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s leader since 2015, is a terrorist sympathizer, supporter of Holocaust distorters, anti-Israel inciter, and part-time antisemite.
He has also promoted conspiracy theories about Israel.
In 2012, Corbyn was interviewed by the Iranian propaganda outlet Press TV. Corbyn commented on a terrorist attack at an Egyptian Army base in the Sinai Peninsula, where 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed. The Labour leader suggested that Israel was behind the attack, because it supposedly had an interest in increased violence in the Sinai and destabilizing the Muslim Brotherhood regime.
Corbyn said: “In whose interests is it to kill Egyptians other than Israel, concerned about the growing closeness of relationships between Palestine and the new Egyptian government?” He added: “I suspect the hand of Israel in this whole process of destabilization.”
In 2010, Corbyn spoke at a meeting of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign in London. He mentioned the shooting of Turkish activists on a Gaza flotilla ship by Israeli commandos after they were attacked by the passengers. He claimed that British MPs made pro-Israel speeches in parliament on this issue, with a pre-prepared script.
Corbyn said that he was sure that then-Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor wrote the script, saying: “They all came with same key words. It was rather like reading a European document looking for buzzwords. And the buzzwords were: Israel’s ‘need for security, the extremism of the people on one ship, and the existence of Turkish militants on the vessel.’” The Daily Mail checked the transcript of the Commons debate in question, and was unable to find any evidence that these buzzwords were used by MPs.
Corbyn never apologized for these falsehoods. But some lesser Labour officials did apologize for the conspiracy theories they promoted, including about Jewish world control and support for terrorism.
Mohammad Pappu, a local councilor in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, had been praised by Corbyn for his help to create a “fair, just, and decent society.” But it was found that Pappu shared messages on Facebook in which he accused Britain of attacking Syria “to install a Rothschild bank.” He also shared posts on social media that claimed that Israel had staged 9/11, the London terrorist bombings, and the Paris terrorist attacks.
Labour councilor Irfan Mohammed, from London’s Lambeth borough, posted in December 2015 on his Facebook page: “Jews working in the World Trade Center received a text message before the incident, ‘do not come to work on September 11th.’” When this was exposed, he resigned his post as councilor, and apologized for the conspiracy theories he had spread.
In 2017, John Clarke, a city councilor and prospective Labour parliamentary candidate, posted a text from a far-right website on which he commented that it contained a great deal of truth. It said that the “Rothschilds have used usury alongside modern Israel as an imperial instrument to take over the world and all of its resources, including you and I.”
Andy Slack, a Labour city councilor in Chesterfield, shared: “The modern state of Israel was created by the Rothschilds, not God, and what they are doing to the Palestinian people now is exactly what they intend for the whole world.” He later apologized.
The trade union leader Mark Serwotka, head of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), is an avid supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. While referring to the antisemitism row in Labour, he told a conference it was possible “that Israel could have created a story that doesn’t ‘exist’ in order to distract attention from atrocities.” Serwotka had been expelled from Labour in the 1990s as an extreme leftist, but was allowed to rejoin after Corbyn became its leader.
Where conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel proliferate, others are also attacked. For instance, Andrew Murray, a policy adviser to Corbyn, suggested in an article that the British security services were undermining Corbyn.
The above examples illustrate one more facet of hate-mongering in Labour — and one that might soon spread beyond Jews.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Irene Kuruc is a researcher of Western European antisemitism.