search

Why don’t Mexican & Ukrainian journalists matter to UK Labour MP Zarah Sultana?

Three journalists were killed this week in Mexico, bringing the total for this year to at least nine in that country. Seven journalists have been killed in Ukraine since the war started in late February. A journalist is killed on average once every week based on the global death tolls of journalists over recent years. And yet, if you are a follower of UK Labour MP Zarah Sultana, you wouldn’t know that. The only journalist she has expressed her outrage over so far this year is the one she alleges was killed by the Israel Defense Forces. None of the others got a mention in her 200+ Facebook posts this year. 

The issue as to whether the Al Jazeera journalist was killed by an IDF soldier or a Palestinian gunman was unestablished when Sultana made the following statement hours after the journalist’s death:  

“Shireen Abu Akleh was reporting on an Israeli army raid on Jenin refugee camp in the illegally-occupied West Bank when she was shot in the head and killed by Israeli snipers.

She was wearing a helmet and body armour clearly marked “PRESS”.

Let’s call this what it is: A war crime.”

So why exactly does Sultana not post about the journalists killed in Mexico and Ukraine? If one Palestinian journalist is inexplicably more worthy to someone than nine Mexicans and seven Ukrainians is that not anti-Hispanic or anti-Slavic racism or discrimination? What exactly is the intent behind her demonstrable focus on Israel? This isn’t her first rodeo when it comes to applying different standards to Israel. How many times do dubious double standards need to be applied to Israel before there is a serious investigation into her intent in doing so?

The comments in response to Sultana’s post, which has been shared hundreds of times, are entirely predictable in nature…. So predictable to the point that it must be asked whether there is intent to bully or incite hatred by sharing an irresponsible statement based on allegations she should have known were unsubstantiated?.

Regarding the comments in response to her post, I’ve lost count of the number of times these comments include a warning along the lines of “careful Zarah or you’ll be accused on antisemitism!” (I’d like to correct these people who really should be asking if the discrimination she should be accused of is actually anti-Hispanic or anti-Slavic considering her inexplicable disinterest in the journalists killed in Mexico and Ukraine?)

And while there is this flurry of comments belittling and ridiculing Labour’s antisemitism problem, not one of these commenters bothered with angry faces over the comments featuring blatant antisemitism or using classic antisemitic tropes in response to her post. For example: 

“You’re not allowed to criticise our Jewish masters”

“They control Westminster and number 10”

“Starmer takes the blood soaked israeli shekel”. 

“Israel’s hold over Westminster…”  

“The west backs up the Rothschilds”

“Israel brings shame upon the Jewish community”

“IDF Stormtroopers”

“Zionist Nazis”
“This is in Starmers name”

“Worse than fkn Nazis!”

“Here’s the truth how Shireen was murdered by the White Zionist European invaders”

“I wonder if the Israeli lacky Starmer will demand an independent inquiry”

“Gagged by donations”

“The Apartheid state and its murderers in uniform are becoming more like the Nazis every day”

“The whole world has been manipulated by these rascals. Keep killing, one day you’ll perish”

“The apartheid state strikes again at the core of human values and compassion while its minions are fulfilling a task already fulfilled to silence any margin of opposition that calls the beast a beast to its face”

“BBC news played a clip of an Israeli spokesman blaming Palestinian snipers, then said Palestine wont agree to a joint enquiry… The whole dirty game is rigged towards keeping Israel happy”

Apart from the likeliness of knowingly inciting antisemitic hatred (I say knowingly since this isn’t the first time such antisemitic filth is witnessed in response to her posts), does her statement defy Labour’s rules on antisemitism or bullying?

Labour’s antisemitism policy states “It is not racist to assess the conduct of Israel – or indeed of any other particular State or government – against the requirements of international law or the standards of behaviour expected of democratic States (bearing in mind that these requirements and standards may themselves be contentious).” 

So conversely, does that mean that it IS racist to fail to apply the same standards to Mexico and Ukraine, both of which fall under the definition of democratic states? 

On the subject of prejudice and bullying, Labour’s 2022 Rule Book states (bolding added):

No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party. The NEC and NCC shall take account of any codes of conduct currently in force and shall regard any incident which in their view might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on age; disability; gender reassignment or identity; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation as conduct prejudicial to the Party: these shall include but not be limited to incidents involving racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia or otherwise racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions, sexual harassment, bullying or any form of intimidation towards another person on the basis of a protected characteristic as determined by the NEC, wherever it occurs, as conduct prejudicial to the Party.“

Her statement declaring Israeli snipers as the killers was not based on established facts when she posted it, and her statement was made so many hours after the journalist’s death that it would be inconceivable and highly irresponsible that she was unaware of the debate over who actually shot the journalist. Thus her statement demonstrates her prejudiced view, and thus she is clearly guilty of prejudice.

Under the UK Equality Act 2010, race, as a protected characteristic, includes the definition of nationality. Even if one wishes to argue that Sultana repeatedly applying different standards to Israel is not antisemitic in nature, her prejudiced views, repeatedly hostile towards Israel are unquestionably conduct prejudicial to the party by the party’s definition above. While it may be argued that prejudice towards Israel as a country would not qualify as prejudicial conduct as per the Labour Rule Book definition above since the conduct must be applied towards individuals rather than a country, but she is accusing Israeli snipers of murder – i.e. individuals, not the country. Interestingly she didn’t accuse just one sniper, but used the plural ‘snipers’. The journalist was apparently killed by a single bullet, so to accuse more than one individual of murder without any basis is clearly dubious conduct as per the party’s definition.  

I’ve personally complained to Zarah Sultana’s office and to the Labour Party over antisemitic comments in response to posts on her Facebook page in the past. When I commented to counteract an antisemitic comment, my comment was removed and I was banned from commenting on her page. To this day, the antisemitic comment I complained of remains on her page. The reason I mention my personal experience is because the antisemitic responses to her recent post remain on her page more than 15 hours later.  

Labour’s Social Media Code of Conduct states “We should not give voice to those who persistently engage in abuse and should avoid sharing their content, even when the item in question is unproblematic. For the avoidance of doubt, this includes where members either share or like (or otherwise favourite) any social media content that is racist, antisemitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ableist, or uses otherwise racist and/or discriminatory language. Those who consistently abuse other or spread hate should be shunned and not engaged with in a way that ignores this behaviour.”

Will the antisemitic comments be removed at some stage? Will those commenters be banned from her page just as I am? That remains to be seen.

I call upon the Labour Party to investigate this MP for antisemitism, bullying, racism (against Hispanics and Slavs) and violation of the Party’s Social Media Code of Conduct over her recent posts.

If you wish to complain to the party you can do so here: https://labour.org.uk/complaints/making-a-complaint/
and/or sign my petition for the party to investigate the MP here:
https://www.change.org/p/labour-must-investigate-mp-zarah-sultana-for-antisemitism-racism-and-bullying .

About the Author
Michelle Moshelian was born and raised in London. She moved to Israel in her twenties and has been a pro-Israeli activist since the second intifada erupted.
Comments