Rebecca Long-Bailey has been sacked from the shadow cabinet for sharing an ‘antisemitic conspiracy theory’ on Twitter
Staunch left Labour MP and Greater Manchester representative, Rebecca Long-Bailey, was booted from Sir Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet yesterday after she endorsed an article containing an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
Long-Bailey met her fate for applauding The Independent’s interview with Maxine Peake – a British actress, lifelong leftie and fellow Northerner – who discussed her life intertwined with politics and fight against the establishment. The problem is, while Peake crudely linked the murder of George Floyd by US cop Derek Chauvin to Israeli agents, Long-Bailey publicly endorsed her: “Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond”, the offending Tweet read.
Peake’s precise words were: “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.” And while Peake has since apologised for the “inaccurate assumption of America Police training and its sources”, Long-Bailey was put to trial by Twitter; then refused to apologise and was subsequently sacked from her role as Shadow Education Secretary.
What followed was a long and painful debate on what constitutes as antisemitism by, largely, non-Jewish people. While Long-Bailey’s cheerleaders saw her fewer than 280-character-Tweet as innocuous and Peake’s statement as casual fact, the hidden context is grave.
Peake’s article bubbled with conspiracy after conspiracy that, when dotted up, mapped one of the largest antisemitic tropes of the past century: that worldwide hardship, capitalism and genocide all boils down to the Israel-Palestine conflict and that, by extension, Jewish people are master puppeteers to all the many woes of the world. At best, it is uneducated ignorance, but at worst, it incites prejudice against Jews.
At best, it is uneducated ignorance, but at worst, it incites prejudice against Jews
Besides, resources for this wildly spun theory all hark back to one, lone 2016 blog post by Amnesty USA which found law enforcement agents in Baltimore, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Connecticut and New York among others had all embarked “to Israel for training”. The fiasco has even thrown Amnesty International into hot waters – which in itself has been accused of international bias against Israel – causing the organisation to refute that it has ever reported such an allegation.
Amnesty International told The Newstatesman: “Allegations that US police were taught tactics of ‘neck kneeling’ by Israeli secret services is not something we’ve ever reported and the article in question has rightly been amended to acknowledge that.
“The US police themselves have a longstanding record of using excessive force against members of the public – including Black Lives Matter protesters, something we reported on earlier this week.”
Journalists are clearly failing to check the validity of their sources – The Independent has not been alone in spinning the web of lies: the Morning Star, the New York Times and the Washington Post are among a sea of other online media sites cashing in on the assumption, often siting that same blog post as its resource.
The Morning Star, the New York Times and the Washington Post are among a sea of other online media sites cashing in on the assumption, often siting that same blog post as its resource
The blog post and its subsequent spin is libel, to say the least. Amnesty has since clarified that “police chiefs, assistant chiefs, and captains” have been to Israel, but that there is no such evidence of military-style training on a grand scale, nor do chiefs return with a breadth of violent techniques sketched in a guide to teach their colleagues back home.
An article in Mondoweiss goes a step further, using the Morning Star’s piece from the Amnesty USA post to link Floyd’s murder to a counter-terrorism conference held by the Israeli consulate in Chicago in 2012. However, again, only Chinese whispers exist on the subject of physical training.
However, again, only Chinese whispers exist on the subject of physical training.
Even so, police forces sharing tactics (particularly in counter-terrorism) is not uncommon. In fact, US police gain insight from countries across the European continent. It would, therefore, be as equally outlandish to suggest the UK’s police force played a hand in Floyd’s murder. Such a distorted narrative spits in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement by discrediting deeply entrenched systemic racism in the US and its authorities as the root of the problem. Instead, it breezes past one of the darkest periods of history that was responsible for the transatlantic slave trade and places Israel at the heart of all humankind corruption.
Such a distorted narrative spits in the face of the Black Lives Matter movement by discrediting deeply entrenched systemic racism in the US
Jewish groups and organisations in the UK have welcomed Starmer’s firm hand, including Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews who said Peake has “dreamed-up” the theory, the head of the Holocaust Educational Trust, the chair of the Jewish Leadership Council and former Labour MP who is currently the government advisor on antisemitism, John Mann.
Head of policy at the Community Security Trust, Dave Rich, said: “There is a deep well of antisemitic conspiracism that blames Jews for every calamity. There are people who will believe anything bad about Israel, however ludicrous.
“Maxine Peake’s suggestion that Israeli police taught US police how to kill George Floyd is where these groups meet”.
Still, the hill the far-left faction of the party and its membership are willing to die on? ‘It’s not antisemitic to criticise Israel’. It may not be, but, like the agency afforded to black people on the subject of racism, is it not decided by Jewish people as to what compiles anti-Semitism? This steadfast obsession within the British left over this one singular conflict is beginning to appear a ruse, and the mask is slipping. Why, of all the genocides, conflict and civil wars waging in the world, is the record stuck on Israel?
But MPs and ‘Corbynistas’ woefully and willingly continue to miss the point. Perhaps to the untrained eye, Peake’s misjudged remark was a mere throwaway comment, but to Jewish people, it stung, and Rebecca Long-Bailey ought to have known better.
Why, of all the genocides, conflict and civil wars waging in the world, is the record stuck on Israel?
Labour has been rife with allegations of antisemitism since Jeremy Corbyn took the reins in 2016. By the 2019 General Election, it plunged the Party into dire straits and forced what was once a mainstream opposition into a fringe party. Starmer is all too aware of this fact with the weight of the hot-off-the-press Labour Together report on his shoulders, detailing with great agony the avalanches that snowed Labour under into irrelevance and of the Everest Starmer now must climb.
Starmer cannot allow one whiff or one ambiguous aroma of antisemitism to sneak back into the Party. Months upon months of training; brick after brick that has since been painstakingly built to re-establish trust with Jewish communities and bridge a four-year-long divide was momentarily shattered the moment Rebecca Long-Bailey hit send on her tweet. To add insult to injury, she failed miserably to apologise and instead took to The Mirror (and Twitter again) to solidify her position.
Starmer cannot allow one whiff or one ambiguous aroma of antisemitism to sneak back into the Party
“There is a valid concern about police practices across the world and I don’t think that, worded in the right way, it’s racist or anti-Semitic to draw attention to that,” she said.
Her refusal to admit wrong-doing only proves that Long-Bailey, after all, was never fit to lead; and she is what the media dubbed her as: Corbyn’s devote fangirl and continuity candidate. But did she really deserve the sack for it when sprawled across the internet exists reputable pieces alluded to the conspiracy as fact?
Whether or not Starmer acted proportionately is another debate, but the irony cannot go unnoticed: for too long the left has feasted on cancel culture and de-platforming, only now that it’s their comrade who is being roasted do they feel hard done by.
Starmer is now paying the price today for doing the right thing. Far-left commentators including journalist Owen Jones and Momentum leader Jon Lansman are convinced Starmer overreacted and has only solidified a decade of factional rifts. MPs including Corbyn, John McDonnell and Ian Lavery met with the Labour leader to defend Long-Bailey, but there is perhaps more than meets the eye.
For too long the left has feasted on cancel culture and de-platforming, only now that it’s their comrade who is being roasted do they feel hard done by
A new far-left organisation seems to be brewing. Starmer sacking the last remaining far-left representative may just be all the ammunition they need to get off the ground, although one does wonder how any breakaway organisation will appeal to voters when it has once again burst its way onto the scenes off the back of another antisemitism scandal.
It is certainly sad to see a passionate, hard-working and far-left woman go when this Labour is just in its infancy of a new direction. However, she left the man with no choice, and it is highly doubted politics has finished with her yet.
The hard pill to swallow is that Long-Bailey probably didn’t warrant expulsion from the shadow cabinet for her exact wording, but by doing so, Starmer has set an honourable precedent to his cabinet: there is no tolerance for antisemitism in the Labour Party anymore. He will not allow this issue to stain the Party or plat a part in his downfall come the 2024 General Election.