SKWAWKBOX editor lodges formal antisemitism complaint against Keir Starmer for conflation of Jewish people with actions of Israeli government in breach of IHRA code

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As a Labour Party member I have lodged a formal complaint of antisemitism with the Labour Party against its leader Keir Starmer, in the wake of events yesterday around the dismissal of Rebecca Long-Bailey as Shadow Education Secretary.

Long-Bailey was sacked after a row about Starmer’s support for Boris Johnson’s plans to rush children and teachers back into the classroom in spite of the danger of fuelling a new spike in coronavirus infections – it emerged yesterday that outbreaks in schools have doubled after even the abortive partial return on 1 June.

However, Starmer appeared on camera to tell the media that Long-Bailey had been sacked for sharing an article by actor Maxine Peake that Starmer said contained an ‘antisemitic conspiracy theory’. The wording of the article, later deleted by the Independent, mentioned US police receiving training from Israeli state organisations.

The final example of antisemitism in the IHRA working definition of antisemitism is:

Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

By equating a comment about the Israeli state training US police – such training is a matter of public record, in spite of Peake’s subsequent withdrawal – with antisemitism, I believe that Starmer himself has conflated the state of Israel with Jewish people collectively, in clear breach of this example in the IHRA working definition.

Starmer has previously said that he will implement the full definition in the party, including all its examples.

I have therefore submitted a formal complaint to the party, using its complaints page, as follows:

By describing Maxine Peake’s criticism of Israel as ‘an antisemitic conspiracy theory’, Mr Starmer has collectively equated Jewish people with the Israeli state. This is a clear breach of the final example of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, which is:

“Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”

As Mr Starmer has endorsed the full application of the IHRA, including all its examples, he has no excuse for such a breach. As a member of the Labour Party I am appalled at this casual antisemitism and lack of care by its leader.

Starmer’s comments about the sacking also reinforce the false idea that all Jewish people think alike on the topic of Israel and its government’s actions. On his sacking of Long-Bailey, Starmer said:

I do not consider sharing that article furthered the course of rebuilding trust with the Jewish community

But many Jewish people are also appalled at the behaviour of the behaviour of Netanyahu government. Jewish LSE professor David Graeber, in a recent interview for Double Down News, explained why treating Jewish people as if they all have one opinion on the topic is so problematic:

Furthermore, the majority of Charedi ultra-Orthodox Jews – who make up around a quarter of the UK’s Jewish population and are projected to represent half within fifteen years – are not supporters of the state of Israel, yet Starmer ignored and negated their opinion and lumped them in with his comments about ‘the’ Jewish community.

Many Jewish people appalled by the conduct of the Israeli government feel deeply aggrieved and discriminated against by the negation of their viewpoint as Jewish. Their experience must not be ignored or discounted.

I am aware that making this complaint will lead to attacks from the Labour right and others, but the importance of standing with Jewish people against such shoddy and dismissive treatment is too great. Such framing is common among the media and the right, but it cannot pass unchallenged when Labour’s leader participates.

The Labour Party’s response is awaited.

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