More “Rothschild” Conspiracy Mongering in the Labour Party Revealed

From the website of the Hastings & Rye Labour Party:

Below you will find statements supporting the individual candidacy of the shortlisted candidates for the Parliamentary Selection for Hastings & Rye Constituency Labour Party.

Update: 16 January 2018

The Parliamentary Selection Committee decided to remove  Michelle Harris from the shortlist. This was a retrospective decision when new information came to the attention of the committee.

The “new information” relates to Harris’s inability to tell the difference between supporting Palestinian rights and (a) making ill-considered references to the Holocaust in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and (b) promoting David Icke’s memes and posts about “Rothschild Zionism”. Here’s an example of the latter:

It should be noted that this isn’t some young activist who might not know any better – Harris has been a practising barrister since 2000. Her posts appear to have first been noted a few days ago by Marlon Solomon, who has previously made the case that Icke should be regarded a “leading antisemite” rather than as a marginal clown with risible sci-fi ideas about the Queen being a giant lizard from another dimension.

The name “Rothschild” has exercised the imaginations of conspiracy theorists for 200 years (as discussed by Brian Cathcart here), who believe that the family is somehow the key to understanding the nature of banking and the history of the modern state of Israel. The further implication – sometimes admitted, at other times denied – is that the family’s supposed influence reveals a more general point about a secret and unaccountable “Jewish influence”. Icke himself seems to have come up with the formulation “Rothschild Zionism”.

Harris’s 2014 promotion of Icke is just one example of how his conspiracy thinking has infected the political left in the UK – last February I noted the case of a Labour councillor named John Clarke who announced that he was “anti-Rothschild not Antisemitic” after posting a meme on how “the Rothschild family… has been creating almost all of the world’s money at interest for a couple hundred years”. Clarke made no mention of Icke, but I suggested then that his “anti-Rothschild” pose must serve to mainstream Icke’s “Rothschild Zionism” ideas.

I critiqued the basis for “Rothschild” conspiricism both in my post about Clarke and in a post about the US alt-right here. It’s a theory and a pseudo-explanation that appears to be attractive to some on the left and on the right.

UPDATE: Harris has responded to the media coverage. She writes that

the post had been doctored to make it look bad, but what I’d actually shared was a picture of Gaza being bombed with a tagline this is not defence; and a meme praising an Israeli Jewish man who had refused to join the IDF.

It is not clear from this in what way exactly the post was “doctored”, but this does not amount to a denial that she posted a reference by David Icke to “Rothschild Zionist Israel”. I take it to mean that the picture and the meme were the point of her post, rather than Icke’s “Rothschild Zionist” comment introducing them, but that these were absent from the screenshot.

She also writes:

 I don’t personally use either term [“Rothschild” and “Zionist”]. The former because whilst I fully accept that the Israel propaganda and vested interests affect the honest reporting of the situation, it adds nothing in my view to single out one. As to Zionists I’ve had arguments with some of these trolls because I won’t delete people who use it, but don’t myself use it, as I think the word has different meanings to different people, and as such has little value as a word.

I take this and the above to mean that although she does not use the term “Rothschild Zionist” herself, she is tolerant of it. Her criticism is that “Rothschild” should not be singled out because it “adds nothing” to do so, not that using a Jewish surname in this way promotes very old anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and is actually misleading.

It was also reported that she had joined a David Icke group on Facebook. On this point, she writes that

It is also said I belong to a David Icke group but their screenshot showed I hadn’t joined but been added by another Facebook user, and thus is another lazy attempt to smear.