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Labour Candidate and Starmer-Ally Faces Antisemitism Complaint Over Controversial Remarks on Marxist Jews

Luke Akehurst’s remarks about Marxist Jews spark outrage, with critics claiming they play into “Good Jew / Bad Jew” trope

Photo: Screengrab of Luke Akehurst making the controversial comments

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A Labour candidate and director of the lobby group We Believe in Israel faces a complaint of antisemitism after footage emerged of him suggesting that Marxist Jews had “abandoned very much of their Jewish identity” and saw Judaism as “a purely cultural thing around a bowl of chicken soup”. 

Luke Akehurst, who is not Jewish, sits on Labour’s National Executive Committee as an ally of Sir Keir Starmer. He made the controversial remarks in a talk of Marxism, titled “What’s Going on in Regard to Israel, Jews and Antisemitism in the Labour Party” for the Edgware United Synagogue in 2020. 

In the speech, he claims that Marxist Jews “have abandoned very much of their Jewish identity, they don’t go to shul [synagogue] at all. You know, it’s become a purely cultural thing around the occasional bowl of chicken soup or whatever.

“They kind of look at all of you who are either more observant or even in a secular way more involved in the community and they’re like…that’s deeply frustrating for them. They can’t understand why you haven’t moved on. They can’t understand why you feel this affinity to Israel for instance.”

In the talk, he adds that Marxist Jews “have to force things like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…into a paradigm that makes it just part of a global history of class struggle.”

Now he is the subject of a complaint from Jewish London Labour councillor Martin Abrams, who told Byline Times: “As a Jewish Labour Party Member I believe Luke Akehurst’s comments are deeply antisemitic by trying to define anti-Zionist Jews out of Judaism. The Good Jew, Bad Jew trope.

“Many Jewish anti-Zionists go to shul (synagogue). Some don’t. We are all Jews and for a non-Jew to state our Jewishness is solely culture based on a bowl of ‘Chicken Soup ‘ is deeply offensive and I would question Luke Akehurst’s suitability as a Labour Party candidate.” 

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The Lambeth Labour councillor and left-wing Momentum activist added that Keir Starmer has said he would take a “zero tolerance approach to antisemitism” and that “he wants the highest possible quality candidates to put before the electorate” 

“We have already seen similar occurrences of Labour politicians, like [ex-MPs] Steve Reed and Barry Sheerman, both in Keir Starmer’s faction, making [allegedly] antisemtic comments and getting away with a simple apology,” Cllr Abrams said.

A lack of action against Luke Akehurst would “show that Keir Starmer certainly isn’t taking a zero tolerance approach to antisemitism and you can get away with it if you are a Keir Starmer supporter,” he claimed.

“These double standards ultimately damage the very real fight against antisemitism within the Labour Party and as a Jewish Labour Party member that is deeply upsetting,” he added.

Poet Michael Rosen, who is Jewish, responded to the re-emerged footage, shared on X, by joking: “This is really useful. Could Mr Akehurst set himself up as a gatekeeper we could go to, to find out if we qualify as being Jewish?

“Perhaps he could have a checklist that he could go through with us and then he could decide whether we could have the certificate or not.”

The left-wing group Jewish Voice For Labour also added: “We don’t need any advice from Luke Akehurst about how to be Jews. We could however offer him some useful advice about how to be a better human being.”

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Responding to the uproar and an inquiry from Byline Times, Luke Akehurst said via a party spokesperson: “I’m proud to have been an ally of the Jewish Community my entire political life and to have played a leading role in fighting the scourge of antisemitism in the Labour Party both before and since the EHRC Report.

“I’ve been targeted persistently since my selection by online hatred from people who are not North Durham electors. The latest manifestation of this is to take completely out of context 15 seconds of a speaker event from 2020 that latest [sic] over an hour.

“The event was a talk I gave to a Jewish audience about fighting antisemitism, and was hosted by Edgware United Synagogue.

“I will not let this distract me from fighting for a fairer and more just economic deal and better public services for the people of North Durham, with a Labour MP and a Labour Government led by Keir Starmer.”

The Labour Party did not comment directly but appears to be standing by him as a candidate, as nominations close today for the General Election at 4pm. 

In the days before being selected as a Labour candidate last week, Luke Akehurst appeared to delete over two thousand of his own tweets. One of the deleted tweets appeared to show Akehurst claiming that the United Nations was antisemitic. Others appeared to support illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and occupied Syria. 


In context: A more extensive quote from Akehurst’s lecture

Below, we share a more extensive transcript from the part of the talk (around 55 minutes in) to the Edgware United Synagogue in 2020 that has been recirculated. 

Responding to an audience question Luke Akehurst says: “I think if you are a doctrinaire Marxist Leninist, so I’m using this very carefully because I think you could get there if there are Marxists who might be in an okay position. Obviously, if you are Marxist Leninist, you believe that imperialism is the highest form of capitalism and comes just before capitalism collapses…There are [no longer] empires [with the] Union Jack flying over them any more. So you have to try and pin that [imperialist] label on somewhere and you pin it on Israel and say that it’s a colonial project, a bunch of Europeans…[you] ignore all the Jewish connection to the land of Israel and all of the survivors who’ve been there the whole time anyway, or whatever. 

“And you talk about it being a kind of European colonial project. It is not clear there whether the conspiracy theory is that the colonial powers are telling the Jews to do it, or the Jews are getting the colonial [inaudible]. One way or the other, we’re back into conspiracy theories. 

“And then there’s also this sort of sense of that, if you believe as a Marxist Leninist, even as a Marxist, that the history of all hitherto existing societies is a history of class struggle, and that’s what history is about. It’s not about religions. It’s not about tribes. It’s not about great men or women. It’s about the struggle, the economic struggle between classes that then resolves itself in a revolutionary situation and move forward to the next stage of history. 

“Well, you look at people whose primary identification is as a Jew, whether that’s cultural or religious, or ethno-religious, and you go well, they’re not supposed to believe that anymore. They’re supposed to identify as a proletarian and so that they get involved in class struggle until they forget all this Jewish stuff and spending the Tuesday nights at education sessions at Edgware United synagogue, and they get down the local communist hall and start spending their evenings being politically educated by Graham Bash or someone or Tony Greenstein, we’re not gonna be able to advance history. I think you’re completely right that this is deeply ideologically rooted and in particular the sort of the two guys that I mentioned…

“I once said to Graham Bash, when we’re handing out leaflets outside like party conferences, we know each other from Hackney, and before all the Corbyn stuff actually got on reasonably well. And I said, so Graham, are you a Bundist? [A secular, socialist Jew] Because I keep hearing about Bundists. 

“And he said, ‘well, I prefer Bundists to Zionists like you’. And then he went: ‘Actually, I’m not a Bundist, I’m a Bolshevik’. He will literally identify with the Russian Revolution in 1917…[and] the people that the Leninists sent around to like, smash up the synagogues, and chase the rabbis out of town and persuade everyone to go down to the communist hall and talk about communism.

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“And because they have abandoned very much of their Jewish identity, they don’t go to shul at all. You know, it’s become a purely cultural thing around the occasional bowl of chicken soup or whatever. They kind of look at all of you who are either more observant or even in a secular way more involved in the community and they’re like, ‘why haven’t, that’s deeply frustrating for them’. 

“They can’t understand why you haven’t moved on. They can’t understand why you feel this affinity to Israel for instance…It is like an all encompassing theory of how the world works.

“It’s like a substitute religion. It’s like, if you are a Marxist Leninist, you have an out of the box description of how people interrelate with each other, how the economy works, how relationships between countries work, how society works. 

“And then if things superficially don’t look like they fit into that, it would destroy your entire worldview. So you have to force things like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is actually incredibly complex [with] huge roots in history and religion and nationalism, all kinds of complexities and interrelationships. You try [to] force it into a paradigm that makes it just part of a global history of class struggle.

“Otherwise their heads explode if they are actually confronted with the reality that the world doesn’t fit neatly into patterns like that.” 


Byline Times is relaunching our VoteWatch project to monitor disinformation, dodgy campaigning, and dark money during the 2024 General Election. Get in touch if you have a tip off or any insights: votewatch24@bylinetimes.com

If you have another political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com.


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