Tuesday, June 28th | 29 Sivan 5782

June 25, 2020 12:18 pm

UK Labour Leader Axes Top Party Official for Sharing Article Promoting ‘Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Rebecca Long-Bailey. Photo: Reuters / Hannah McKay / Pool.

The UK Labour party’s shadow education secretary was fired on Thursday after she tweeted and praised an interview with a British actress who asserted that Israel was responsible for police brutality against minorities in the US.

A spokesperson for Labour leader Keir Starmer announced the axing of Rebecca Long-Bailey with statement saying, “The article Rebecca shared earlier today contained an antisemitic conspiracy theory.”

“As leader of the Labour party, Keir has been clear that restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority,” the statement added. “Antisemitism takes many different forms and it is important that we all are vigilant against it.”

Long-Bailey tweeted an interview in The Independent with far-left British TV star Maxine Peake, a former communist, who said, “Systemic racism is a global issue. The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”

The article also noted that Peake was “supposed to be in Palestine still, liaising with young activists.”

The Independent itself repudiated Peake’s accusation, writing in a correction, “While it is true that US law enforcement officials have travelled to Israel for training, there has been no suggestion that this training involved the tactics referred to in the article.”

Referring to the interview, Long-Bailey tweeted, “Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond.”

Following criticism, Long-Bailey explained, “I retweeted Maxine Peake’s article because of her significant achievements and because the thrust of her argument is to stay in the Labour party. It wasn’t intended to be an endorsement of all aspects of the article.”

After her firing was announced, Long-Bailey tweeted that Starmer’s office had approved the initial “clarification of my retweet,” but she was later told to take it down.

“I could not do this in good conscience without the issuing of a press statement of clarification,” she noted. “I had asked to discuss these matters with Keir before agreeing what further action to take, but sadly he had already made his decision.”

Top UK Jewish groups praised Starmer’s move.

Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl thanked Starmer for “backing his words with actions on antisemitism.”

“After Rebecca Long-Bailey shared a conspiracy theory, we and others gave her the opportunity to retract and apologize,” she said. “To our surprise and dismay, her response was pathetic. Her position as shadow education secretary was therefore untenable.”

“There can be no space for this sort of action in any party and it is right that after so many challenging years Labour is now making this clear under its new leader,” Van der Zyl added.

Gideon Falter — chief executive of the UK-based Campaign Against Antisemitism — said, “We have been critical of Sir Keir Starmer’s early handling of incidents within the Labour Party and the fact that he has not yet announced a timetable for reforming the Party’s broken disciplinary process.”

“His swift and firm action in this case appears to indicate that he is taking our comments on board and has shifted up a gear,” Falter continued. “Sir Keir’s decision to sack Rebecca Long-Bailey for retweeting an antisemitic conspiracy theory sends a clear message to those in the Labour party’s ranks who still think that antisemitism is a grey area.”

“We were disconcerted that one of Sir Keir’s first moves was to appoint her to his Shadow Cabinet given her long history of denying the extent of antisemitism in the Labour party, but he has put that right today,” he added. “We now expect that Ms Long-Bailey will be the subject of disciplinary proceedings under an overhauled system which must be fair, transparent and efficient.”

Jewish Leadership Council Chair Jonathan Goldstein said, “Today, we saw significant action from Sir Keir Starmer in ensuring there is zero tolerance for antisemitism within the Labour party.”

“His actions show he understands the severity and harm that antisemitic conspiracies do to our politics,” he added. “We welcome this decisive leadership and firm action.”

The Jewish Labour Movement said the firing “should be welcomed,” pointing out that “the pervasive culture of antisemitism, bullying, and intimidation can only be tackled by strong and decisive leadership.”

“The culture of any organization is determined by the values and behaviors of those who lead them,” the group added. “The Labour party must be able to implement the kind of cultural and structural changes required to end institutionalized discrimination.”

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee, on the other hand, accused Labour of having “prostrated themselves to the Zionist lobby.”

“Criticism of Israel and its murderous policies are not antisemitic,” it claimed.

Under Starmer’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour was plagued by antisemitism scandals, some involving Corbyn himself.

Starmer replaced Corbyn in April, in the aftermath of Labour’s resounding electoral defeat last December.

Just last week, Starmer told representatives of the UK Jewish community, “We are beginning to wash clean the stain of antisemitism from our party.”

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