Sir Keir Starmer’s Front Bench Picks Leave Unanswered Questions on Antisemitism Commitment

Sir Keir Starmer’s Front Bench Picks

Unanswered Questions on Antisemitism Commitment

Sir Keir Starmer’s Front Bench Picks Leave Unanswered Questions on Antisemitism Commitment

Sir Keir Starmer’s choice of some of his front bench team members reveals an apparent lack of judgement regarding antisemitism in the Parliamentary Labour Party. His highly questionable selection of MPs with concerning track records, such as Lisa Nandy, Afzal Khan and Lloyd Russell-Moyle, reveals that despite some positive signs, Sir Keir is as capable of making inappropriate appointments as his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn.

The appointment of Lisa Nandy in particular has raised serious questions given her links with alleged antisemitic groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and related controversial figures.

As chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, Ms Nandy appears to have failed to distance herself from figures such as Michelle Harris, the organisation’s founder, who was removed as a Labour parliamentary candidate following evidence of alleged antisemitic views.

Despite having regularly spoken at PSC events, Ms Nandy appears to have repeatedly failed to publicly challenge the apparently antisemitic views of its leaders such as Tapesh Abu Shaim, who has reportedly posted anti-Jewish content on social media, and Huda Ammori, the head of campaigns at PSC who has alleged that Israel funds ISIS. At the Labour conference last year she reportedly shared a platform with, and defended, Omar Barghouti, the founder of the BDS movement, and sat next to Kamel Harwash, the current chair of the PSC, who has apparently previously suggested the murder of two Israeli rabbis by a terrorist was acceptable (“He might have committed an act people find unacceptable that is up to them. Actually I consider what he did an act of…an act of revenge”).

Ms Nandy has also failed to address her apparent commitments during the leadership campaign to the antisemitic ‘right of return’ and BDS policies, both of which threaten the safety and security of Israeli civilians and the existence of Israel itself.

As well as Ms Nandy, we have serious reservations about the appointment of Afzal Khan as Shadow Leader of the House. In September 2019 Mr Khan apologised for sharing an antisemitic conspiracy post on Facebook, featuring a video of the US comedian Jon Stewart talking about Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompanied by text that prominently refers to an "Israel-British-Swiss-Rothschilds crime syndicate" and "mass murdering Rothschilds Israeli mafia criminal liars".

Mr Khan also apparently shared a video allegedly sourced from a Far Right website and ‘liked’ another Facebook post claiming Jeremy Corbyn had been "the target of a relentless smear campaign, orchestrated by the wealthy establishment". Furthermore, it was revealed in January that despite claiming he was “mortified” by some of these posts, he had not deleted them from his Facebook profile.

In 2016 Labour refused to discipline Mr Khan when it was revealed that, as an MEP in 2014, he had allegedly tweeted "The Israeli Government are acting like Nazi's in Gaza." This followed a speech he made in 2002 when Mr Khan was recorded apparently claiming that Israel was “committing genocide against the Palestinian people”.

We also have deep concerns about the appointment of Brighton Kemptown MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, to the role of Shadow Minister for Natural Environment and Air Quality. In July 2017 Mr Russell-Moyle reportedly called for then-suspended local Labour activist Melanie Melvin to be reinstated to the Labour Party, despite her apparent claim that the BBC faked footage of a Syrian gas attack at the behest of the “Israeli lobby”. In February 2019 he reportedly called MPs leaving the party (like Jewish MP Luciana Berger) “scabs”, while in June 2019 he had to withdraw an invitation he had made to a representative of the Houthis (an antisemitic Yemenite military group) to Parliament, following criticism and condemnation from Jewish groups.

In March 2019 Mr Lloyd-Moyle reportedly hosted the launch of a report by Professor David Miller of Bristol University, a figure who has allegedly condemned Ken Livingstone’s treatment by the Labour Party as “absurd” and a “disgrace”, claimed there was nothing “historically inaccurate” about Livingstone’s comments about Hitler and Zionism, and apparently dismissed the fears of Jewish students on campus as “propaganda”. Professor Miller has also allegedly accused Jewish groups of being the main cause of Islamophobia, and reportedly runs a series of websites that apparently seek to legitimise the promotion of antisemitic conspiracy tropes regarding Jewish control of the media. For example, one of his alleged websites, Neocon Europe, published extensive writings from the “notorious” “white-supremacist academic” Kevin MacDonald, which was seemingly presented as an impartial and academic analysis of “Jewish influence”. Last August (after the meeting with Lloyd-Moyle in Parliament) Professor Miller appointed himself as sole director of ‘Campaign for Chris Williamson Ltd’, which led the opposition to the former Labour MP Chris Williamson’s suspension for antisemitism.

While other members of Sir Keir Starmer’s top team have got question marks against them regarding allegations of anti-Jewish racism, it is Labour Against Antisemitism’s belief that these three MPs are the most clearly unsuitable for any role in a Labour leadership team that has committed itself to tackling antisemitism in the Labour Party “as soon as possible”. We urge Sir Keir to reflect on the decisions he has taken.


Lisa Nandy:

Afzal Khan

Lloyd Russell-Moyle:

Sir Keir Starmer: