A lawmaker in the UK’s Labour Party who played a key role in this year’s manufactured anti-Semitism crisis maintained ties to the Israel lobby once she entered Parliament.
Official records show that Ruth Smeeth was funded by two ultra-wealthy figures from the same pro-Israel organization she once worked for. But these relationships have been overlooked by the British press, which have extensively reported on her allegations of anti-Semitic abuse at the hands of Jeremy Corbyn supporters.
The register for legislators’ financial interests shows that Smeeth declared a donation of £5,000 ($6,200) from Poju Zabludowicz’s company Tamares Real Estates in June last year. She declared a donation worth £2,500 ($3,100) from Trevor Chinn, former chair of the Kwit-Fit chain of motor garages, at the same time.
The financial link was first noted in the new issue of investigative magazine Notes From the Borderland.
Zabludowicz is the billionaire property speculator who was once reported to own 40 percent of downtown Las Vegas. He used his wealth, inherited from his Israeli arms dealer father, to establish BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.
Smeeth did not reply to The Electronic Intifada’s requests for comment.
Smeeth made headlines in June this year when she walked out of the launch of a report into alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, claiming she had been the victim of bigotry at the event.
Corbyn had asked the lawyer and civil liberties campaigner Shami Chakrabarti to examine the allegations, which have dogged him since he became leader last year.
In the most high-profile case of fabrication, former BICOM intern Alex Chalmers claimed in February that there was anti-Semitism coming from “a large proportion” of his student Labour club “and the student left in Oxford more generally.”
Chalmers resigned as co-chair, kicking off much of the anti-Semitism controversy that has plagued the Labour Party all year.
Smeeth issued a statement immediately after the press launch of the report, claiming that a “Jeremy Corbyn supporter” had “used traditional anti-Semitic slurs to attack me for being part of a ‘media conspiracy.’”
This was a reference to campaigning journalist Marc Wadsworth, who had spoken out at the launch to challenge attacks on Corbyn by the press and right-wing Labour lawmakers.
The latter were at the time engaged in a coup attempt against Corbyn. And Smeeth herself had participated in the coup by resigning from a minor position assisting Labour’s shadow cabinet, in an attempt to pressure Corbyn into stepping down.
But video of Wadsworth’s comments demonstrates that he did not say “media conspiracy” and said nothing at all about Jews.
As reported by The Electronic Intifada at the time, Wadsworth in fact said: “I saw that the Telegraph handed a copy of a press release to Ruth Smeeth MP, so you can see who’s working hand in hand.”
Smeeth would later claim that “the audience started shouting at me” when she loudly responded “how dare you.”
The video demonstrates that the only person shouting seems to have been Smeeth herself. The footage shows her walking out of the room as Wadsworth continues: “If you look around this room, how many African, Caribbean and Asian people are there? We really need to get our house in order, don’t we?”
Wadsworth, chair of the National Union of Journalists’ Black members council, released his own statement slamming Smeeth’s claims as “poisonous libel” and insisting that he had not even known Smeeth is Jewish.
“I don’t participate”
Some left-wing Labour activists have expressed skepticism about Smeeth’s attempt to portray the party under Corbyn as a cesspit of anti-Jewish hate.
In September, Smeeth claimed to have experienced 25,000 incidents of “abuse” since the Chakrabarti report launch, “most of it on Twitter.” She did not claim all of these incidents were anti-Semitic, but strongly implied most were.
One message she received was reported to the Metropolitan police’s counterterrorism unit on 13 July. According to The Sun, which published part of the post, it was a 1,000-word, viciously anti-Semitic rant calling for her to be executed.
The Sun claimed it was sent by a “Jeremy Corbyn supporter” without presenting any evidence to show that, while Smeeth told the right-wing newspaper “I very much hold Jeremy personally responsible.”
In a long interview, Smeeth claimed to the London Evening Standard, which omitted mention of her links to Israel lobby groups, that “I don’t talk about Israel or Palestine. This is not about anything I’ve said on Middle East politics. I don’t participate.”
Yet earlier this month, Smeeth was part of a Labour Friends of Israel delegation to Israel, along with the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson. The group met and posed for photos with Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Israeli Labor party.
The aim of the meeting was to “strengthen the bonds of friendship between our parties,” Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, said at the time.
During the last Israeli election, Herzog’s faction ran a commercial featuring Israeli spies boasting that the country’s Labor leader – a former spy himself – “understands the Arab mentality” and “has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations,” including “in the crosshairs.”
Before entering Parliament in 2015, Ruth Smeeth worked in the public relations industry, later moving into work for anti-racist groups Searchlight and Hope Not Hate. The register of MPs’ interests shows that Smeeth is still a board member of Hope Not Hate.
A 2009 cable published by Wikileaks reported that “Ruth Smeeth (strictly protect)” had given US diplomats information about Gordon Brown, then the UK prime minister, and his thinking on when an election should be held. The cable noted that “this information has not been reported in the press.”
Smeeth responded that she had “no recollection of saying what has been attributed to me. I would not consider myself to be a source for the US government.”
- Ruth Smeeth
- Labour Friends of Israel
- Poju Zabludowicz
- Tamares Group
- Trevor Chinn
- Notes From the Borderland
- Jeremy Corbyn
- Labour Party
- Alex Chalmers
- Shami Chakrabarti
- Marc Wadsworth
- National Union of Journalists (UK)
- Isaac Herzog
- Tom Watson
- Community Security Trust
- Hope Not Hate