A senior Labour councillor has been suspended after two allegedly anti-semitic Facebook posts emerged, putting the party’s minority control of the council at risk.
Anne Pissaridou, who chairs the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, was reported to the party’s compliance unit last week.
She is the second councillor selected by the party on a Momentum slate to be reported for alleged anti-semitism. Councillor Nichole Brennan stood down in March and remains under investigation but has not been suspended.
In May last year, Labour won just one more seat than the Green party.
Councillor Anne Pissaridou said: “I am deeply sorry for my actions and any distress I have caused to the Jewish community.
“This happened several years ago, before I was a councillor, and the posts I shared do not reflect my views.
“I do not seek to excuse my mistake. I deeply regret not properly reading information before sharing such hurtful links.
“I am aware of the complaint that has been made to the Labour Party and will fully co-operate with any investigation.”
The first post, made in October 2016, was of an article from a conspiracy theory website which linked one of the Rothschilds with what it claimed was the imminent collapse of the German banking system and warnings to stockpile food.
It was illustrated with a picture of a smiling Sir Jacob Rothschild surrounded by bars of gold contrasted with an anxious child grabbing bottles of water, and stated that his family had been in “de facto control of the world’s central banks for centuries”.
The second post, made in August 2018, was from a website run by Mike Sivier, who had been expelled from Labour earlier that year, reportedly for refusing anti-semitism training.
The headline was “Jewish Israeli journalist claims pro-Israel propagandists have ‘taken out a contract’ to stop Jeremy Corbyn being elected”.
The suspension means Councillor Pissaridou cannot attend any Labour group meetings or represent the party. She will represent her constituents as an independent councillor until the matter is resolved.
A spokeswoman for the Sussex Jewish Representative Council said: “Once again the Jewish community of Brighton and Hove is confronted by the spectre of anti-semitism in the Labour-led council.
“We read in the press how this council is committed to being the ‘anti-racist’ council which we of course support and applaud, but we can’t help but ask, when might they commit themselves to being the anti-anti-semitism council? They seem to believe that press releases suffice when action is needed.
“The Jewish community and this city deserves better than this. Until they tackle, in action, the issues they have with anti-semitism, any statements about being an anti-racist council just seem rather hollow.”
Councillor Pissaridou was selected as a candidate on a Momentum slate in 2019 for North Portslade, and Councillor Brennan for East Brighton.
She was also an admin of the Hove and Portslade Labour Facebook group when it was suspended after being overrun by posts about Israel, many made by a member who has since been expelled.
Councillor Brennan stepped down as deputy chair of the housing committee in March after pictures of her protesting against the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-semitism emerged.
Three days later, she posted on Facebook that she “will not bow down to white supremacy and will always challenge racism in ALL its forms”.
In May, Labour said that this post formed part of its continuing investigation.
Last month, Councillor Brennan retweeted two untrue anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. The first falsely claimed that the first person to trial a coronavirus vaccine was dying and the other that Downing Street aide Dominic Cummings was visiting a vaccine development company during his infamous trip to Barnard Castle.
Earlier this month, a picture of and quote from Councillor Brennan was used on all the Brighton and Hove Labour Party social media channels to promote a transport survey and was used as a pinned tweet on its Twitter page for several days.
When these matters were raised with Brighton and Hove Labour, a spokesman said that it was not commenting on whether or not Councillor Brennan was still under investigation.
This month, the Labour party announced that it had been passed a draft copy of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into anti-semitism in the party.
A focus of the EHRC’s investigation has reportedly been how the party’s complaints process has been run, with some alleged cases of anti-semitism taking months or years to resolve.
At least three local members accused of anti-semitism, Pam Page, Rebecca Massey and Anne Mitchell, have been expelled or have left after being suspended in recent weeks.
Ms Massey tweeted she had been expelled in June because of her support for Chris Williamson MP, who was suspended after saying Labour had been “too apologetic” over anti-semitism.
Other local members who have been suspended and who say they have now left the party include Dan Harris, Amanda Bishop, and Mel Melvin.
In August last year, Anne Pissaridou attended a Stand With Corbyn rally at the Brighton Hilton Metropole, where she was pictured sitting with Rebecca Massey, Anne Mitchell and another Momentum selected council candidate Alex Braithwaite, who was suspended for alleged anti-semitism during the 2019 local elections.
Last week, the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, apologised after a 2009 Facebook post in which he described zionism as a dangerous nationalist idea.
It was also alleged that he wrote a letter to Labour’s HQ asking for Rebecca Massey not to be expelled.
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