One of the People Suing Labour Over Leaked Antisemitism Report Used Antisemitic Slurs

‘AsaJews’, is it?

by Rivkah Brown

3 May 2023

A white woman with long grey curly hair, a beige cardigan and thick-rimmed glasses smiles besides a white woman with a brown bob and grey top
Julie Cattell (left) poses for a photo with MP Jess Phillips, October 2019. Julie Cattell/Twitter

A would-be Labour councillor in Thursday’s local elections who is suing the party for identifying her as an antisemitism complainant used antisemitic slurs via an anonymous Twitter account, Novara Media understands.

In a formal complaint submitted to the party yesterday, a Jewish woman Labour member accused Julie Cattell of antisemitic and abusive behaviour. Cattell, a former Labour councillor for Brighton & Hove who lost her seat in 2019, hopes to rejoin the council tomorrow.

The complaint cited a number of Cattell’s tweets, including one from 2019 in which she describes a number of prominent Jewish figures – including formerConservative speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, academic Noam Chomsky and actor Miriam Margolyes – as “AsaJews”.

The term is an antisemitic slur that suggests Jewish people are not genuinely Jewish but rather instrumentalising their Jewishness for political ends. In another tweet, Cattell used the same pejorative term to describe two Labour officers in her ward.

Cattell, who did not respond to Novara Media’s requests for comment, also asked the comedian David Baddiel whether something was “a Jewish secret” and joked repeatedly about the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad’s underhand influence in Jewish life.

Cattell’s candidacy calls into question Keir Starmer’s commitment to tackling antisemitism across all wings of the Labour party. Last month, Starmer suspended MP Diane Abbott for saying that GRT and Jewish people experience prejudice rather than racism (Abbott apologised later the same day, and withdrew the letter in which she had made the claim) – meanwhile, a number of rightwing Labour officials accused of antisemitism have got off scot-free.

In July 2020, frontbencher Steve Reed apologised for describing Jewish Tory donor Richard Desmond as “the puppet master to the entire Tory cabinet”, but faced no disciplinary action from the party.

The following month, Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman warned of a “run on silver shekels” in an apparent reference to a rumour about two Jewish businessmen missing out on peerages – resulting in the tweet being deleted and an apology issue.

Meanwhile, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has faced no consequences for her vocal support for the Nazi sympathiser Nancy Astor.

Speaking to Novara Media, a Labour member with knowledge of Cattell’s case said: “The fact that she’s being allowed to stand as a Labour candidate shows once again that Starmer’s promise to show ‘zero tolerance’ on antisemitism doesn’t apply to antisemitism from his allies.”

Cattell was recently named among the nine people currently suing the Labour party for identifying them as antisemitism complainants in a leaked report about the handling of such complaints under Jeremy Corbyn. This is despite the fact that a number of the complainants are publicly affiliated with Labour Against Antisemitism.

The lawsuit, which could cost the party up to £4m, is widely regarded as an attempt to settle factional scores: at a panel event shortly after the 2019 election, two people who went on to be claimants in the case joked about bankrupting Labour as punishment for antisemitism. Footage of the event was deleted by the organisers shortly after Novara Media reported on it.

Speaking to Brighton & Hove News, Cattell denied her participation in the case was politically motivated: “This isn’t about politics. It’s about a breach of GDPR and trust that occurred under the previous general secretary when Jeremy Corbyn was still leader.

“As a result of the leak, threatening articles were published on neo-Nazi websites, which was extremely frightening for all of us.

“I remain totally committed to the Labour Party and hope the lawyers settle the case soon so all parties involved can move on.”

The Labour party did not respond to Novara Media’s request for comment.

Rivkah Brown is a commissioning editor and reporter at Novara Media.


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