“We are all connected”, the leader of Plaid Cymru proclaimed to last week’s party conference. “Connection. That’s the message of this year. No woman, no man, no child… no person is an island. An injury to one is an injury to us all.”
Adam Price’s speech had plenty of the usual oratorical power that his already-converted audience are now used to. It was nationalist Welsh rhetoric at its finest; and it was certainly more than what most politicians could come up with on a Friday night.
There were soundbites on struggle, optimism, passion, hope, love, and… the resilience of Welsh mams. Alongside this there was a rallying cry to create a new Welsh way of life, as well as thoughtful contributions on coronavirus strategy: proposals to improve the test and trace system, why the UK government should compensate people who have isolated at home for lost income, and his take on solving the conundrum of local lockdowns. Adam Price has an answer to everything.
That is, it seems, until this week. Has anyone seen him, by the way? There was uncharacteristic silence from Price as Labour and Conservative MSs lined up to condemn his party’s decision to take no further action against its member, Sahar Al-Faifi, after claims she sent an anti-Semitic tweet in June.
This came after Ms Al-Faifi last year apologised for posts which she admitted had crossed “the boundary of criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism”; for a period she was suspended from Plaid Cymru and undertook anti-Semitism training through the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Yet Ms Al-Faifi is now free to continue her campaign to win selection as Plaid Cymru’s candidate on the South Wales Central regional list. The Board of Deputies of British Jews said Plaid Cymru’s decision showed that “anti-Semitism is tolerated” in the party.
Plaid Cymru say they have a “zero tolerance” to such prejudice and discrimination, while Ms Al-Faifi noted that she (and her party) are proud of “being open and inclusive” and “reject all forms of discrimination and prejudice and challenge it wherever and whenever it may arise”.
Actions speak louder than words. Adam Price can talk as much as he likes about embedding anti-racism into the Welsh curriculum, but he can’t pick and choose when to be serious on prejudice. He had no time to respond to the criticism levelled at him and his party, but (obviously) found time to wish the Welsh football team good luck before their game with England on Thursday evening. It would be laughable if the issue was not so serious.
The now-deleted Twitter post in question – where Ms Al-Faifi appeared to link American police violence with Israel – was deemed to be propagating “an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory” by the Board of Deputies. Plaid Cymru’s statement in response was both arrogant and offensive; the party “respects the views” and will continue to have “constructive discussions” with the Board. And all of this at a time when there are alarm bells ringing over the rise of anti-Semitism in Britain and across Europe.
Politically, the lack of inaction from Adam Price is reckless and avoidable. Anti-Semitism contributed to the destruction of the Labour party’s reputation under Jeremy Corbyn, and has the danger to creep up on the Plaid Cymru leader ahead of May’s parliamentary elections in Wales. If these events had unfolded in a nation where there was a probing media, Adam Price would already be under the spotlight and facing very difficult questions. He shouldn’t think he is off-the-hook after events this week.
The key question Adam Price should ask himself is this: what message does Plaid Cymru send to the Jewish community if anti-Semitic behaviour from members is tolerated in the Party of Wales? A party which likes to see itself as the leaders of a resurgent nationalist movement, one focused apparently on creating a more equal and fair nation. None of that rhetoric seems to add up as Adam Price idly stands-by on this matter.
Compare him to Sir Keir Starmer, whose first few months as leader of the Labour party have been characterised by assertiveness over anti-Semitism. He sacked one of his Shadow Cabinet Members, Rebecca Long-Bailey, after she shared a story that Sir Keir said contained an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that also related to US police violence. Whatever you think of the Labour leader, it is evident that he is serious about restoring trust with the Jewish community.
In Plaid Cymru, by contrast, that trust seems to be waning thin. The optics are bad; the PR is disastrous; and more importantly, the principle is almost unforgivable. That’s why it’s time for Adam Price to do the right thing and show real leadership by acting on anti-Semitism in Plaid Cymru. It’s better late than never.