A trade union official has been instructed to cease all social media activity for the moment, after he referred to “rootless cosmopolitans” in a tweet.
Fire Brigades Union official Paul Embery will be meeting with the union’s executive council to discuss his social media activity, but a date has not been confirmed yet.
This comes after Embery faced criticism for tweeting on Sunday: “I fear this encapsulates the divide in our society – between a rootless, cosmopolitan, bohemian middle-class […] and a rooted, communitarian, patriotic working-class.”
A spokesperson for the Fire Brigades Union said: “Racism in all its forms weakens and undermines trade unionism. The FBU has a longstanding history of standing up to and challenging racism.
“These traditions are not reflected in the recent comments made by someone who is an official of the FBU, whether this was done knowingly or not.
“We sincerely regret the use of this phrase (“rootless, cosmopolitan”) by an FBU official, and have requested that the person in question ceases all activity on social media until our executive council is able to meet to discuss.
“The FBU will deal with any potential abuse of policy in accordance with our organisational rules.”
The tweet was part of an exchange of messages with other users following a tweet by sports broadcaster Gary Lineker questioning support for ending freedom of movement.
Prominent public figures, including several MPs, the Guardian journalist Dawn Foster, Novara Media’s senior editor Ash Sarkar, quickly condemned the tweet.
Among them, the Jewish MP Alex Sobel tweeted: “Literally an antisemitic trope used by Stalin the culmination of which saw many good bundists imprisoned by East European Communist regimes (including my grandfather) just what I needed to see after the @JewishLabour AGM. Stop othering Jews.”
Glasgow North East MP Paul Sweeney added: “This is a Stalinist antisemitic trope. It is bereft of Marxist class-analysis; instead peddling a nationalist folk myth of the industrial working class.
“The British Labour movement shunned racist and misogynistic concepts of protecting workers rights nearly a century ago. Grim.”
Embery told Jewish News: “My remarks were directed at a section of Britain’s middle-class liberals and were made during a discussion that had absolutely nothing to do with Jews, Jewishness or race in general. How some can construe this as antisemitism is beyond me.
“The fact that Stalin might have used similar words in a derogatory way a century ago does not mean that everyone who ever uses those words in the future intends them to be heard in the same way. Normal people are not obsessed with communist history in that way.
“It’s a shining example of how Twitter sometimes goes all hysterical and is desperate to take offence at innocent comments.
“If people are ‘offended’, it can only mean they were looking to be offended.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.