Skwawkbox reported to Labour Party for antisemitism

Steve Walker, the man behind the Alt-left blog, Skwawkbox, has been reported to the Labour Party for breaching its code of conduct on antisemitism.

Steve Walker, the man behind the Alt-left blog, Skwawkbox, has been reported to the Labour Party for breaching its code of conduct on antisemitism.

The complaint follows a tweet from the Skwawkbox twitter account on Saturday evening, which shared an article titled, ‘The Jewish ‘War Against Corbyn’ risks bringing real antisemitism to Britain.’ The tweet added the endorsing comment, “pertinent and frightening.”

Adam Langleben, the Jewish former-Labour councillor who lost his Barnet seat in May’s local elections, submitted the complaint to the Labour Party earlier today. He pointed out that “only the wilfully ignorant” could claim that “real antisemitism” doesn’t already exist in Britain, as the article’s title implies, and gives the example of the arson attack on a synagogue in Exeter last week, which was condemned by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The article was written by Robert Cohen, who previously accused the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council of “advocating for a foreign power not fighting racism” when they organised the Enough is Enough protest outside Parliament in March.

Langleben also suggests that the article breaches three of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) examples of antisemitism. The article claims that “the Jewish community’s leadership [and] its media” aren’t concerned about NHS funding, care for the elderly, or affordable housing, and instead “only have one issue on their mind – Israel, and how best to protect it from criticism.” The trope that Jews have greater loyalty to Israel than their home nation is the sixth example of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. It is described as “wrong” rather than explicitly antisemitic in Labour’s new code of conduct, so this will be an interesting test case for what that means in practice.

The article also contains the somewhat threatening passage:

“And what if Corbyn losses by a narrow margin? How will the millions who voted for him see the Jewish community and its three-year campaign to brand him toxic? The ‘Jewish War Against Corbyn’ is not good Jewish communal politics. It’s playing with fire.”

Langleben points out that this is guilty of violating two IHRA examples of antisemitism which Labour adopted wholesale:

Accusing the entire Jewish community of being behind a campaign against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, and that such a campaign could be viewed as having cost Labour the next election, falls under the IHRA example of antisemitism “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective” (paragraph 9, subsection b of Labour’s NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism), and “accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews,” (paragraph 9, subsection c of Labour’s NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism).

Skwawkbox later deleted the original tweet, and wrote “Retweeted a tweet earlier by a Jewish author, without endorsement and with the original title unchanged, commenting that it was frightening in the current circumstances.” Both the claim that he ‘retweeted’ the tweet, rather than tweeting it himself, and that his tweet was “without endorsement,” when he in fact called it “pertinent and frightening,” appears to be untrue.

The full letter of complaint is below:

Dear Ms Formby,
I am writing to report Steve Walker, a party member in Garston & Halewood CLP, for a grossly offensive tweet he wrote on 28 July 2018, which is in breach of Rule 2.1.8 of the Labour Party Rule Book (“The Rules”), the Party’s existing code of conduct on antisemitism as particularised in Appendix 9, Section 2 of The Rules, the Chakrabarti Recommendations as adopted by the NEC, and further breaches Labour’s new NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism.

The tweet in question shared to his 33,950 followers an article titled, “The Jewish ‘War Against Corbyn’ risks bringing real antisemitism to Britain,” the original version of which can be found here:

http://archive.is/JwE03

Mr Walker added to this title his comment on the article, that it was “pertinent and frightening,” thereby endorsing its content.

CONTEXT: THE ARTICLE

The title of the article suggests that there is not already “real antisemitism” in Britain. Only the wilfully ignorant can hold that view, when just last week there was an attempt to burn down a synagogue in Exeter, which was rightfully condemned by our leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The article claims that the British Jewish community’s leadership and British Jewish journalists are only concerned with protecting Israel from criticism, and not “funding for the National Health Service, affordable housing, safer communities, and care for the elderly.” This is a version of the antisemitic trope that Jews have greater loyalty to Israel than to their own nation, forbidden by paragraph 14 of Labour’s new NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism.

“If Labour runs a good campaign the election will also be fought on the issues that mattered long before the Brexit referendum – ending economic austerity, funding for the National Health Service, affordable housing, safer communities, and care for the elderly. As the most radical version of Labour for many decades, a Corbyn victory could well herald serious change and the reversal of the neo-liberal economic agenda pursued by Thatcher/Major/Blair/Cameron/May for the last thirty years. The quality of life for millions of people in this country is at stake. For a change, who wins the next election will actually make a difference.

“But none of this is of the slightest concern to the Jewish community’s leadership or its media. They only have one issue on their mind – Israel, and how best to protect it from criticism. On this basis they are willing to brand the main opposition party in Britain as irredeemably antisemitic under Corbyn’s leadership.”

The article goes on to ask:

“And what if Corbyn losses (sic) by a narrow margin? How will the millions who voted for him see the Jewish community and its three-year campaign to brand him toxic? The ‘Jewish War Against Corbyn’ is not good Jewish communal politics. It’s playing with fire.”

Accusing the entire Jewish community of being behind a campaign against Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, and that such a campaign could be viewed as having cost Labour the next election, falls under the IHRA example of antisemitism “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective” (paragraph 9, subsection b of Labour’s NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism), and “accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews,” (paragraph 9, subsection c of Labour’s NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism).

THE TWEETS

Mr Walker’s tweet has now been deleted but can still be viewed here:

http://archive.is/24XIG#selection-3549.28-3549.104

Following his deletion of the tweet, he tweeted:

“Retweeted a tweet earlier by a Jewish author, without endorsement and with the original title unchanged, commenting that it was frightening in the current circumstances. That tweet caused offence, which was not its intent and it has been deleted.”

https://twitter.com/skwawkbox/status/1023331169880956933

It’s clear that this second tweet is deliberately misleading. Mr Walker did not “retweet” the article; he tweeted it himself. His tweet was not “without endorsement,” as he described it as “pertinent.” That description in the original tweet of a so-called “Jewish” war against the Leader of the Labour Party as “pertinent” is deeply offensive to us, as Jewish Labour members.

Furthermore, it breaches Baroness Chakrabarti’s recommendation that “…that racial or religious tropes and stereotypes about any group of people should have no place in our modern Labour Party”, and Paragraph 9, subsections b and c of the Party’s new Code of Conduct on Antisemitism.

In his capacity as a prominent Party member, Mr Walker being the Chair of Garston and Halewood CLP, these comments are clearly prejudicial to the interests of the Labour Party by causing embarrassment and further ill-will to the interests of the Party.They further are found to be grossly detrimental. These comments were sent to 33,950 followers. They are retweeted at least 56 times and attracted at least 59 responses in reply before he could delete the tweet. High-profile journalists and influential commentators such as Robert Shrimsley, Dan Hodges, Oliver Kamm, Hugo Rifkind, Suzanne Moore and Matt Zarb-Cousin both commented on and criticised this tweet, bringing further detriment to the Party in the eyes of the hundreds of thousands of their followers on social media.

SKWAWKBOX/ STEVE WALKER

The tweets in question were both from the Twitter account of the blog Mr Walker runs, The Skwawkbox. In this complaint to press regulator, IPSO, Mr Walker acknowledges that he runs the blog:

https://www.ipso.co.uk/rulings-and-resolution-statements/ruling/?id=16690-17

As editor and owner of the site, he must therefore retain full editorial responsibility for its content both as a news organisation and the content of its social media sites, including Twitter.

CONCLUSION

The comments contain offence to Jewish and non-Jewish people, who are both members of the Party and non-members, which goes beyond mere opinion.

It appears therefore that there is a prima facie breach of rule 2.1.8 of The Rules, of Baroness Chakrabarti’s recommendations and of the NEC Code of Conduct on Anti-Semitism.

I cannot see how the Party can abide by these comments as acceptable form of comment from a responsible member of the Party and officer of his CLP, and request that an investigation is held immediately into this statement.

Please let me know what action you plan to take against Mr Walker, including what you as General Secretary will do immediately to protect the vital interests of the Party against further public prejudice and gross detriment.

Yours sincerely,

Adam Langleben
Chipping Barnet CLP

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