On Monday, the organized British Jewish community took the unprecedented step of flooding the square outside Parliament to protest unchecked anti-Semitism in the U.K. Labour party under current leader Jeremy Corbyn. Drawing 1 in every 200 British Jews on less than 24 hours of notice, the event made all the major front pages and succeeded in forcing the issue, at least for the moment. On Wednesday, this renewed scrutiny claimed its first casualty.
Last night, top Corbyn ally Christine Shawcroft resigned as the chair of Labour’s disciplinary panel, after leaked emails revealed that she had defended a Holocaust denier and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist against suspension. The bigot in question was the aptly named Alan Bull, a Labour candidate who shared an article on Facebook titled “International Red Cross Report Confirms the Holocaust of Six Million Jews is a Hoax,” along with others claiming the Mossad killed JFK and that Israel is working with ISIS.
This would not seem to be a hard case. And yet, Shawcroft privately came out strongly against any disciplinary proceedings against Bull. Following his initial suspension, she argued for his reinstatement, writing that she was “concerned” to hear about the suspension over “a Facebook post taken completely out of context and alleged to show anti-Semitism.” In the same email, she also said that the party had “sat on” the complaint for months, and concluded: “I think we should reinstate his membership and allow him to contest the ward for which he has been selected.”
Of course, there is no context that would excuse assertions like “the Holocaust is a hoax” and “Israel is in cahoots with ISIS,” unless that context was, “Help! They’ve kidnapped my family and won’t release them until I share this insanely anti-Semitic material.” With her email exposed, Shawcroft belatedly acknowledged this fact, while dubiously claiming that she had not actually examined the material in question when she defended the man sharing it:
I sent this email before being aware of the full information about this case and I had not been shown the image of his abhorrent Facebook post. Had I seen this image, I would not have requested that the decision to suspend him be re-considered. I am deeply sorry for having done so.
This week we have seen a clear expression of the pain and hurt that has been caused to Jewish members of our party and the wider Jewish community by anti-Semitic abuse and language, and by the reality of anti-Semitism being denied and downplayed by others.
In light of this, I have decided to stand down as Chair of the Disputes Panel to ensure my wrong and misguided questions on this case do not cause doubt or anxiety about our processes. We must eliminate anti-Semitism from our party and wider society. To do this we must make sure our processes are as robust as possible and have the faith and confidence of our members.
Shawcroft had only taken up her position in January, after a far-left push by the Corbyn-backing group Momentum ousted the longtime respected chair of the Labour disciplinary panel. Shawcroft’s quick implosion confirms the suspicions of many Jews about her competence when she first took office. It also reveals the cold war over anti-Semitism and Corbyn quietly raging inside the Labour party.
Clearly, Shawcroft’s email was leaked by someone within the party seeking to expose her conduct. As tensions continue to rise over Labour’s failure to confront anti-Jewish hate, it is likely more such leaks will surface as concerned party members seek to eradicate the bigotry from their midst. That said, they are likely to be facing an uphill battle: though she stepped down as chair, Shawcroft herself will face no discipline for her actions and retained her powerful position on Labour’s National Executive Committee.
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