An anti-Semitism pressure group highlighting a Welsh nationalist party’s “history of virile antisemitism” and accusations of prejudice against its founder, throw the spotlight on the fact that it is continuing to endorse a candidate standing for election despite her making anti-Semitic comments, The Eye can reveal.
Wales Against Anti-Semitism (WAAS) tweeted: “In publishing the report, (into remarks by Plaid Cymru (PC) candidate Sahar Al Faifi) it’s a shame @LSRPlaid@Plaid_Cymru & the Chief Executive didn’t take the opportunity to acknowledge the Party’s own history of virile antisemitism – the most notable example being that of founder Saunders Lewis & the need to apologise and make amends”.
But recent controversial events are unlikely to impress WAAS.
Ms Al-Faifi will continue to stand as a candidate for PC as a South Wales Central list candidate in the May elections to the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC), only being the subject of a ‘review’ which was then published in the report, by PC’s Westminster parliamentary group leader and MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd Liz Saville Roberts, despite admitting making anti-Semitic remarks.
The ‘review’ aimed to ensure there was a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to anti-Semitism within the party.
But it appears that one of the organisations battling it does not have the support of senior members of PC, and the WAAS Twitter account had earlier been blocked by former leader Leanne Wood.
Following Ms Al-Faifi’s comments being brought to light, the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BDBJ) was alerted, and there were calls for her expulsion from PC.
One Twitter post in June had linked US police violence to Israel.
The BDBJ said the decision to allow her to seek election sent a message that “anti-Semitism is tolerated in Plaid Cymru”.
A letter to PC from the BDBJ senior Vice-President Sheila Gewolb, and South Wales Jewish representative council chairman Laurence Kahn, said Ms Al-Faifi propagated “an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory”
The letter stated: “It is a hallmark of anti-Semitism to attempt to blame Jews for the world’s ills”, and added that the tweet followed “years of anti-Semitic behaviour”.
“Regrettably, a message has been sent to Jews and anti-Semites that anti-Semitism is tolerated in Plaid Cymru. We would like to understand what the party intends to do to rectify this situation”.
Ms Al-Faifi said in the summer that her tweet was based on an Amnesty USA report which was later clarified.
She was suspended by PC in 2019, but reinstated in February over her social media messages, although last year she had admitted that some of her posts had crossed “the boundary of criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism”.
Yet at the time of her reinstatement to the party, she had posted online: “The panel decided on January 2020 there was no need for sanctions and my Plaid Cymru membership was reinstated in full”.
When she was suspended she stated: “Several years ago I made a handful of social media posts that I regret deeply as they crossed the boundary of criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism.
“I deleted the tweets more than five years ago, and issued an apology to Jewish organisations and others.
“I have also undertaken anti-Semitism training, both formally through the Board of Deputies and informally with Jewish colleagues in order to ensure I never repeat the same mistakes.”
She made a series of recommendations, including giving training to those who considered complaints.
Even so the BDBJ Vice-President Amanda Bowman proclaimed: “In the Senedd election, Plaid Cymru is asking voters to support a candidate that has repeatedly shared anti-Semitic tropes”.
At the time Ms Saville Roberts’ review was announced, PC leader Adam Price declared: “I think this is a watershed moment, and I think no part of society is immune from it.
“The Welsh Labour Party is not immune from it, Plaid Cymru is not immune from it.
PC election candidates were to undergo training on combating anti-Semitism.
Yet the founder of PC, Saunders Lewis, almost certainly held anti-Semitic views himself, and was sympathetic to European fascism.
In 1936 he said of Adolf Hitler: “At once he fulfilled his promise – a promise which was greatly mocked by the London papers months before that – to completely abolish the financial strength of the Jews in the economic life of Germany”.
He wrote in a 1926 edition of the party magazine Y Ddraig Goch:“It’s a low, churlish thing to slur a man by calling him a Jew”.
In September 2014 it was stated in the publication of the think-tank Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA): “Lewis may or may not have been what some have called a ‘salon anti-semite’ that is one who has personal racial prejudice against Jews expressed privately”.
He is among many others who are ‘celebrated’ in Wales, but have deeply disturbing pasts.
At least the past of Mr Lewis is now being highlighted, even though he is venerated by PC supporters as the party’s founder, and a woman who admitted sending anti-Semitic messages is still being allowed to stand as one of their candidates…
Tomorrow – the problems exposed in launching a new ‘national’ newspaper for Wales.
Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his extraordinary decades-long award-winning career in journalism (which DID NOT include making anti-Semitic remarks) as he was gripped by the rare disabling neurological condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster!