One of the most active Jewish social media accounts attacking anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, GnasherJew, was defiant this week after being twice suspended by Twitter for alleged breach of its rules.
GnasherJew, which describes itself as a group of Jewish ex-Labour Party members, has been registered on Twitter since March 2017. The image it used for its account was a Yellow Star, as worn by persecuted Jews during the Holocaust. Members of the team said some of them were the descendants of Holocaust survivors who had been consulted about (and agreed with) the use of the image, which they said was “in solidarity” with those who had suffered anti-Semitism.
But earlier this week GnasherJew found its on-line account had been locked by Twitter. A warning message said that the account could not continue to operate because it had “violated Twitter rules by use of hateful imagery”; unless the image was removed, Twitter said, the account was blocked.
The team told the Jewish News that they were “firmly of the belief” that the suspension was as a result of an angry on-line row with the general secretary of the Unite union, Len McCluskey, whose girlfriend, Jennie Formby, has declared that she is running to succeed Ian McNicol as general secretary of the Labour Party.
GnasherJew had posted a year-old article from the Independent about Ms Formby which included claims about her views on Israel having become “an embarrassment” to the Unite union — claims which were firmly denied by Unite.
But Mr McCluskey reacted with fury and attacked GnasherJew for spreading “lies”, denouncing the account for remaining anonymous and insisting that he was going to “report” it and urging his own followers to do the same.
Within a day Twitter had suspended the GnasherJew account. After intervention from the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Community Security Trust, however, the GnasherJew team were assured that the suspension had been an error and that the account would be reinstated.
The GnasherJew team reposted the Yellow Star image, bearing the word “Jude” on their account — only for it to be suspended a second time on Tuesday. It was reinstated shortly afterwards.
The suspensions were greeted with glee by anti-Israel users of Twitter, notably Jackie Walker, who tweeted: “This account, which ferments abuse, hatred and harassment has been suspended at last”. An account using the name @streetswept described GnasherJew as “an abusive troll with a history of violating Twitter’s terms of service”. The team, @streetswept claimed “only care about anti-Semitism when they can use it to smear and harass political opponents”. But there was also a major backlash from supporters of GnasherJew, many of whom changed their own profile image to the Yellow Star to express their anger at Twitter.
Now the GnasherJew team has decided to change tack and has adopted a new profile image designed for them by an autistic Jewish woman who has suffered numerous anti-Semitic attacks, and posts using the name “Sparks of Brass”. A spokesman for GnasherJew told the JN: “We don’t want to risk our account again, as we’ve received no assurances from Twitter that they won’t do this again.”
The spokesman added: “We are defiant. We are daily uncovering Labour Party members and their anti-Semitic views, while the party is denying these as smears and failing to act on cases such as Livingstone, Billy Wells, Jackie Walker, Luke Cresswell, Mike Sivier & Pam Bromley. If anything the attack… has made us determined to extend our social media reach and we will be assembling a Facebook team”.
As for Mr McCluskey, he appears to have taken down the account which he used to attack GnasherJew on Twitter. Ms Formby has announced formally her attention to run as general secretary of the Labour Party. Her main challenger is almost certainly the Momentum leader, Jon Lansman, who is Jewish and who has spoken out clearly against anti-Semitism in the party.