A former member of the National Union of Journalists’ supervisory body is considering appealing against a decision to censure her over an “anti-Semitic” tweet.
Arjum Wajid was also condemned this week after she shared a tweet promoting Holocaust denial, resulting in her suspension from the Labour Party. She shared an apology for this post today.
- December 13, 2019
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Wajid, a former BBC World Service journalist of 20 years and a long-time NUJ National Executive Committee member, was found to be in breach of her membership responsibilities when she wrote in August last year that two Jewish Labour MPs and a former Labour councillor did not have “human blood”.
Two NUJ members who complained about the tweet told a complaints panel, set up to investigate the matter, that it was anti-Semitic, unacceptable in tone and language, and brought the union into disrepute.
The tweet read: “Do you really believe the likes of Adam Langleben, Ruth Smeeth and Louise Ellman have a conscience?? Don’t know what runs through their veins, not human blood.
“Their hearts and brains totally devoid of humanity and eyes blind to truth. No creatures Abraham’s universe.”
Smeeth and Ellman are Labour MPs, while Langleben is a former Labour councillor in the London ward of Barnet who is on the Jewish Leadership Council.
The panel unanimously found that Wajid was in breach of her membership responsibilities, pointing to a clause entitled “strength through diversity”.
It states: “The NUJ does not regard prejudicial language or comments about people on the grounds of gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, age or disability as acceptable behaviour among its members.”
Wajid was therefore censured, which means the union publicly expresses condemnation of her actions.
An NUJ spokesperson said: “The panel deemed the language used to be prejudicial and Ms Wajid’s behaviour unacceptable in that context.
“At a meeting on Friday the NEC accepted the findings and the recommendation that Ms Wajid should be censured. The findings have been notified to the complainants and the respondent and it should be noted that the NUJ Rule Book makes provision for an appeal by members.”
Wajid, who is chronically ill with Addison’s disease, told Press Gazette that she is minded to appeal within the designated three weeks if her illness allows.
“If I feel better I am minded to because I am not a quitter and I don’t run away,” she said.
“I do still feel that this censure is unjustified because they are still saying my remarks are because they were Jewish and that is not acceptable.”
She said her wording in the tweet was “not based on who they are, it’s based on their views as politicians”, adding that she was referring to statements made previously relating to the deaths of Palestinian children.
She said her reference to blood was an idiom, but added: “I accept that the wording could have been better.”
Wajid resigned from her NEC role before the complaints process was complete, and resigned membership of the NUJ on the final day of the hearing last Thursday.
She said she resigned from the union because she was unwell and wanted to leave the hearing early. She believed that if she was no longer a member it would not continue in her absence, although this advice later proved incorrect.
Wajid therefore requested to rejoin the NUJ the next day.
“It was pointless to resign so the very next morning I sent an email to the General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary saying as the meeting went ahead without me I would like to take my resignation back,” she told Press Gazette.
“I don’t know whether I’m still a member or not. As far as I’m concerned, I am.”
Wajid was also condemned this week over a second tweet which promoted Holocaust denial.
She retweeted a post which featured an image of a cow and the heading “Zionism”.
The words in the graphic go on to say: “You then fake a mass killing of your own kind, and manipulate the entire world into a conflict that devastates Europe.
“In the aftermath you use the faked event to guilt the major powers into giving your people an exclusive plot of land.”
The tweet, posted on 8 July, was not part of the complaint considered last week as members were not made aware of it until several days ago.
Wajid “wholeheartedly” apologised today for the tweet, saying she had not read the text in the image.
She said she only wanted to share the words in the main part of the tweet which support Chris Williamson MP, who has been suspended from the Labour party amid its anti-Semitism row.
Wajid told Press Gazette today: “I have just written an apology on Twitter and a letter of apology to the General Secretary saying I’m appalled. That is the honest truth.
“I didn’t know what was said [in the graphic]. That’s vile. I couldn’t possibly have read it and retweeted it rather than condemned it. I’m not a racist. I have fought racism and anti-Semitism my entire life.”
Press Gazette understands Wajid was suspended from the Labour Party this week pending a disciplinary process for sharing the second tweet.
A Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Party takes all complaints of anti-Semitism extremely seriously and we are committed to challenging and campaigning against it in all its forms.
“All complaints about anti-Semitism are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken. We cannot comment on individual cases.”