Jewish groups call on Labour to disown Peterborough by-election candidate who ‘liked’ antisemitic Facebook post

Jewish groups have called on Labour to disown the party’s by-election candidate in Peterborough after it was revealed she ‘liked’ an antisemitic post on Facebook.

Monday, 3rd June 2019, 12:12 pm
Lisa Forbes

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jewish Leadership Council and Community Security Trust said a failure by Labour to act against Lisa Forbes would “only confirm the party’s shameful descent into the racist mess for which they are now being investigated by the EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission)”.

The condemnation was in response to Ms Forbes liking a Facebook post last month relating to the Christchurch shooting which described Theresa May keeping her “Zionist Slave Masters agenda alive”.

The Labour candidate said she had liked the video accompanying the post, which was of children playing, and had not read the text.

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Ms Forbes also commented on a post from September 2014 which accused the CIA and Mossad, “supported by British imperialism”, of funding and creating extremists such as ISIS.

She wrote: “I have enjoyed reading this thread so much. So much that trys to divide us, but there is much more that unites us all.”

She said this was linked to the comments underneath the post discussing prejudice and hostility towards Muslims and not about Mossad or ISIS.

Lisa Forbes

After being contacted about the Facebook activity, Ms Forbes said she “apologised wholeheartedly for not calling out these posts” and will “deepen” her understanding of antisemitism whether she is elected or not, so she can challenge it in the future.

The posts were disclosed by journalist Iggy Ostanin.

This is not the first accusation of antisemitism against Peterborough Labour members.

The Facebook post liked by Lisa Forbes. Photo: Iggy Ostanin

The party in 2017 suspended city council candidate Alan Bull after he shared an article on his private Facebook account, without commenting, which suggested the Holocaust was a hoax.

He said this was to find out his friends’ views on the article, and that he had never denied the Holocaust in his life.

Labour city councillors Richard Ferris and Matthew Mahabadi, who resigned last year for several reasons, issued a statement accusing the Peterborough Labour Party of failing “to take seriously the disease of antisemitism we have diagnosed”.

They also alleged they were pressured into keeping quiet over the issue.

The Labour Party said in response: “The Labour Party is wholly committed to the support, defence and celebration of the Jewish community and its organisations. We are taking action against antisemitism, standing in solidarity with Jewish communities, and rebuilding trust.”

In a joint statement released yesterday (Sunday), Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council and David Delew, chief executive of the Community Security Trust, said: “The revelation that Labour’s Peterborough candidate Lisa Forbes liked a racist Facebook post accusing Theresa May of having a “Zionist Slave Masters agenda” as recently as April – and previously welcomed a post indulging the bizarre conspiracy theory that Mossad and the CIA are behind Daesh – brings in to question her suitability for public office.

“Ms Forbes has now apologised, saying she had not seen these words, but this stretches the limits of credulity, especially given the high profile problems in Labour and the previous antisemitism scandals in Peterborough Labour circles, such as Alan Bull and last November’s resignation of two senior councillors, who said they had been pressured against when trying to complain about antisemitism.

“Ms Forbes also says she will seek antisemitism training. This is somewhat ironic given her previous rejection of the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

“We are fed up hearing that Labour opposes antisemitism while repeatedly hearing excuses that its members accidentally missed the racism that was staring them in the face.

“Unless Labour disowns Lisa Forbes as a candidate, it will only confirm the party’s shameful descent into the racist mess for which they are now being investigated by the EHRC.”

Ms Forbes said yesterday (Saturday) after being contacted about her Facebook activity: “I apologise wholeheartedly for not calling out these posts. I liked a video of school children praying in solidarity with the Christchurch attacks, not the views expressed in the accompanying text. I am sorry.

“Antisemitism is abhorrent and has no place in our society. Standing up against hatred toward one group of people must never be allowed to become hatred of another. Regardless of whether I am elected, I will deepen my understanding of antisemitism so I can act as an ally, challenging anti-Semitism wherever it occurs.”

After being contacted about the joint statement, and her signing a letter rejecting the IHRA definition of antisemitism, she responded: “I’m sorry. I have engaged in social media posts in error and realise it was wrong and have wholeheartedly apologised. I condemn antisemitism and have committed to work with the community to deepen my understanding of antisemitism, to challenge antisemitism wherever it occurs.”

Ms Forbes is one of 15 candidates standing for the by-election which sees voters go to the polls on Thursday.

The by-election was triggered when voters recalled former MP Fiona Onasanya after she was jailed for perverting the course of justice after lying about speeding points.

A Recall Petition was signed by more than 27 per cent of constituents, far in excess of the 10 per cent needed to oust her from Parliament.