Plaid Cymru’s Antisemitism Review is a welcome step but needs to consult with Jews across Wales
Nathan Abrams, Professor at Bangor University
Plaid Cymru’s Review into Antisemitism was published last month to little or no fanfare. It was barely reported on with two pieces in the Jewish Chronicle and WalesOnline.
The review was commissioned by Party Leader Adam Price at the end of October 2020 and conducted by Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary Group Leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP. Submissions were invited from Party members and identified Jewish and human rights groups in November 2020 and reviewed through the first week of January of this year.
The report throws up some interesting points regarding the Party’s complaints procedure. ‘At present, all Jewish representatives who contributed to the Antisemitism Review expressed at least a degree of distrust in Plaid Cymru’s complaints procedures. In general, they regarded the Party’s processes as well-meaning but insufficiently robust and lacking in independence. They perceived the Party as prioritising internal interests over implementing publicly stated values,’ it says.
The most pertinent part is the section entitled, ‘Social media: communications protocol’ – given the dwindling number of Jews in Wales coupled with the high rate of online antisemitic online searches emanating from Wales as demonstrated by a 2019 report.
It must also be noted that antisemitism is likely to be encountered online, on Twitter, or on comments underneath the posting of what may appear, at first sight, to be an innocuous article.
The key point is the expectation of standards of due diligence among its elected members and candidates as representatives of Plaid Cymru because they act as public-facing representatives of Plaid Cymru and hence play a role as ‘active influencers’ and leaders in the public political arena.
On the surface, there is a lack of contentious matter in the report, and it is a welcome first step in that it has been conducted and published in the first place. Has this been done among the other parties within Wales I wonder?
There are only two issues that I wish to raise. First, the report was conducted in haste over two months, including Christmas, between November and January and also during a period of lockdown. This leads me to question how thorough or wide-ranging it was in terms of its consultation.
It is not clear from the report exactly from whom evidence was received. Other than explicit mentions of ‘Plaid Cymru members, representatives of the Jewish community and race equality organisations’, it is not clear from whom evidence was received. In terms of the established Jewish community, it consulted with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Antisemitism Trust and the Jewish Leadership Council.
Secondly, in only consulting with British Jewish organisations like the Board of Deputies, there was little evident recourse to those who might vote for Plaid Cymru and/or be affected by its actions: Jews in Wales. It did not consult with other Jewish organisations in Wales (e.g. the South Wales Jewish Representative Council) or Jewish individuals including communal representatives and academics. If it did, this is not evident.
These objections aside, of course, the key to any report and recommendations is how far they are implemented to show that it has been more than a tick-box exercise. This is especially pertinent given the haste in which the report was conducted and completed.
In this respect, recommendation 6.2 calls on ‘the Party Leader to conduct reflective discussions with Jewish representatives at least twice during 2021 to evaluate progress against the Party’s Antisemitism Action Plan, and to maintain regular contact into the future.’
I, therefore, urge Adam Price to consult with Jews in Wales and Welsh Jews across the length and breadth of Wales and not just those affiliated to synagogues in South Wales or organisations based in London.
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As the person who co-ordinated a Jewish response to Plaid Cymru’s Antisemitism review I wanted to give some more context: The Board of Deputies of British Jews, the South Wales Jewish Representative Council, the Cardiff United Synagogue and the Cardiff Reform Synagogue gave a joint submission to the review. Plaid Cymru has offered regular meetings with the Jewish community going forward to review progress and, speaking for the Board of Deputies, we will do our utmost to ensure that Jews from throughout Wales have a voice, and I hope to be in contact with the author soon.
Beware the stock tokenism that will inevitably crop up in any response or action. The Party is just as negligent as the UK Labour Party, without as much underlying malice. That said it has displayed naivety, or was it calculated action, in endorsing a woman who had a track record of endorsing extreme Islamo fascist behaviours. There was a modicum of backing off after the usual criticisms were heard but I am led to believe that she is well and truly back in the fold and will no doubt feature in due course as some kind of poster girl for… Read more »