Guardian removes letter backing Labour suspended MP after complaint from Board of Deputies

The Board of Deputies, Britain’s umbrella Jewish organisation and EJC affiliate, has complained to the Guardian, saying the paper mishandled a letter it published and claimed was from “prominent members of the Jewish community” declaring their support for suspended Labour MP Chris Williamson.

The letter itself said all its signatories were “all Jews” and claimed the “mass media have ignored the huge support” for Williamson, “both within and beyond the Labour party”, adding: “We regard Chris as our ally: he stands as we do with the oppressed rather than the oppressor.”

But the Board said the paper had been “misleading and inaccurate in its description of the signatories, some have been suspended or expelled from the Labour Party and one of whom has called for Zionists to be exterminated”.

One signatory even claimed to represent the Jewish Labour Movement, which has taken a hardline on Williamson and his repeated intervention in Labour’s antisemitism crisis.

Shortly after the complaint, the Guardian said it had “taken down the letter pending investigation”.

Williamson, whom the Board of Deputies has accused of “Jew-baiting”, was suspended for saying that the Labour party had been “too apologetic” about antisemitism.

His readmission last month triggered a public outcry and he was re-suspended two days later.

One signatory to the Guardian letter was listed as representing anti-racist campaigners Hope Not Hate. But the group said they had “no knowledge” of them and would ask the paper to remove their name.

The Board’s complaint said: “One signatory – Meredith Wood-Bevan – claims to represent the anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate”.

Hope Not Hate themselves have complained that they have no knowledge of this person, and certainly did not authorise 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 said the paper had been inaccurate when it referred to the signatories as “prominent members of the Jewish community” because many names “are completely unknown and unverified”.

It added: “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”.

“In this case, the inclusion of racist signatories ought to have stopped the publication of the letter.”

Also among the signatories is Michael Morgan, who lists himself as a member of the Scunthorpe Labour party. Mr Morgan was suspended from the party in 2016 after his tweets came to light.

These included saying “thankfully the Hispanics are outbreeding the Jews in New York”, “I have many friends who are true Jews, not Ashkenazi bastardised, pseudo-Judaic, quasi semites” and talking about the “ongoing perversions of the Talmud Jews.”

The letter was shared by the fringe Jewish Voice for Labour group, which has repeatedly denied the extent of antisemitism within Labour.

Signatory Professor Noam Chomsky has publicly defended Robert Faurisson, a Holocaust denier with links to neo-Nazi groups, saying that he had found “no evidence” that Faurisson was either of those things and calling him “a relatively apolitical liberal”.

Richard Falk gave a cover endorsement for The Wandering Who, a book by notorious antisemite Gilad Atzmon, which, describes Jews as “the only people who managed to maintain and sustain a racially orientated, expansionist and genocidal national identity that is not at all different from Nazi ethnic ideology”.

Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker, who were both expelled by Labour over their comments about antisemitism, also signed the letter.


Subscribe to EJC newsletter

Get EJC's bi-weekly newsletter, including the latest statements and news from the European Jewish communities, direct to your inbox.

European Jewish Congress will use the information you provide on this form to contact you. We will treat your information with respect and will not share it with others. By clicking Subscribe, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

browse by community