Rebecca Long-Bailey has been criticised for sharing an interview in which Maxine Peake claims that US police learnt the practice of kneeling on people’s necks “from seminars with Israeli secret services”.
Following criticism on social media after her quote tweet with the comment that “Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond”, the Shadow Education Secretary tweeted again to defend her original comment.
Long-Bailey wrote: “I retweeted Maxine Peake’s article because of her significant achievements and because the thrust of her argument is to stay in the Labour Party. It wasn’t intended to be an endorsement of all aspects of the article.”
Labour MP Kate Osborne also shared the article in a tweet this morning, adding: “Finding it hard to disagree with the fantastic Maxine Peake”. This was later deleted.
In an interview with The Independent published today, Peake said: “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”
The current version of the Independent article adds: “A spokesperson for the Israeli police has denied this, stating that “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.”
It used to read: “Though a spokesperson for the Israeli police has denied this, a 2016 Amnesty International report said that hundreds of law enforcement officials had travelled to Israel for training.”
A 2016 Amnesty USA article states that law enforcement officials in Baltimore, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Connecticut, New York and other places “have all traveled to Israel for training”.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has condemned Long-Bailey for “praising an interview containing the conspiracy theory that Israel played a part in the death of George Floyd”.
President of the organisation Marie van der Zyl said that the failure by Long-Bailey to delete the tweet and issue an apology is “frankly pathetic”, and concluded that it “raises serious and immediate questions about her suitability for the role”.
The head of Holocaust Educational Trust has said she was shocked by the tweet, while the chair of the Jewish Leadership Council tweeted: “No lessons learned… Rebecca Long Bailey should apologise.”
Dave Rich, head of policy at the Community Security Trust, said: “There is a deep well of antisemitic conspiracism that blames Jews for every calamity. There are people who will believe anything bad about Israel, however ludicrous.
“Maxine Peake’s suggestion that Israeli police taught US police how to kill George Floyd is where these groups meet”.
Labour MP Stella Creasy tweeted that the interview was “textbook casual antisemitism”, and said that “being antiracist means countering, not indulging, such tropes”.
Maxine Peake, who has starred in Dinnerladies, Shameless and Silk, was an enthusiastic supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and campaigned in his favour in 2017 and 2019.
In the new interview, Peake describes Keir Starmer as “a more acceptable face of the Labour Party for a lot of people who are not really left wing”, before adding: “But that’s fine. Whatever. As long as the Tories get out, I don’t care anymore.”