Guardian Criticized for Publishing Letter Falsely Claiming to Be From ‘Prominent Members of the Jewish Community’ Defending MP Accused of Antisemitism
A top UK Jewish group has lodged a formal complaint with The Guardian over a letter defending a Labour MP accused of antisemitism, calling the newspaper’s description of the missive “misleading and inaccurate.”
The letter was published under the headline “Jewish support for Chris Williamson” and described as “[p]rominent members of the Jewish community in the UK and abroad write to defend the Labour MP Chris Williamson amid allegations of antisemitism.”
It was later revealed that the signatories in fact included many accused of antisemitism and others who had misrepresented their credentials. The Guardian subsequently removed the letter from its website, leaving the message, “This letter was taken down on 9 July 2019 pending investigation.”
Williamson became an object of controversy after he was found to have told an audience that Labour was “too apologetic” over antisemitism charges. He was suspended from the party, but readmitted last month and then suspended again.
The BBC reported that a party disputes panel was meeting on Tuesday to discuss whether to expel Williamson permanently.
Williamson is a close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is notorious for his opposition to Israel and has been accused of antisemitism multiple times. Polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of British Jews consider him personally antisemitic.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews lodged its complaint with The Guardian on Tuesday. In a statement, it said the paper “was misleading and inaccurate in its description of the signatories.”
In its complaint, the board noted The Guardian’s own rule that the press “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.”
“Many of the signatories are themselves implicated in allegations of antisemitism, and some have been suspended or expelled from the Labour Party, for example Jackie Walker, Sally Eason, and Tony Greenstein,” the complaint said of the letter.
“One such signatory — Michael Morgan, suspended from the Labour Party in 2016 — has called for Zionists to be exterminated, stated that ‘Rothschild funded’ various wars, and claims that the Jews killed Jesus,” said the complaint.
“The Guardian has a duty to conduct due-diligence on the signatories of letters it publishes, especially on one relating to such a serious issue as racism,” the board stated. “In this case, the inclusion of racist signatories ought to have stopped the publication of the letter.”
“One signatory — Meredith Wood-Bevan — claims to represent the anti-racist organization Hope Not Hate,” noted the complaint. “Hope Not Hate themselves have complained that they have no knowledge of this person, and certainly did not authorize her to sign on their behalf.”
“Another signatory — Peter Sheridan — claims to represent the Jewish Labour Movement, despite the Jewish Labour Movement being categorical in its opposition to Chris Williamson’s readmission to the Labour Party,” the complaint added.
The board also revealed that “[m]any other names are completely unknown and unverified, certainly not ‘prominent members of the Jewish community.’”