Labour MP apologizes for 'clumsy' antisemitic tweet

The veteran MP apologized for cryptic tweets in relation to Richard Desmond and Philip Green, both of whom are prominent British businessmen and Jewish.

Vans with slogans aimed at Britain's Labour Party are driven around Parliament Square ahead of a debate on antisemitism in Parliament, in London, April 17, 2018 (photo credit: HANNAH MCKAY/ REUTERS)
Vans with slogans aimed at Britain's Labour Party are driven around Parliament Square ahead of a debate on antisemitism in Parliament, in London, April 17, 2018
(photo credit: HANNAH MCKAY/ REUTERS)
Barry Sheerman, a Member of Parliament for the constituency of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, apologized Sunday for posting an allegedly antisemitic tweet, according to a report from the local news website YorkshireLive.
The veteran MP apologized for cryptic tweets in relation to Richard Desmond and Philip Green, both of whom are prominent British businessmen and Jewish, in which he said, “Apparently there has been a bit of a run on silver shekels!”
When Twitter users asked him to explain the meaning of his tweet, Sheerman posted again, saying “Apparently Richard Desmond & Philip Green were on the original list for seats in the House of Lords!”
Sheerman then proceeded to delete both tweets, later saying: “I apologise for my earlier tweet."
He continued, "I did not intend the meaning which has upset many, and I am very sorry for the upset and offense I have caused.
"I will think more carefully in future and will reflect on this…I have fought antisemitism all my political life & have been a Labour Friend of Israel since joining as a student at the LSE. I am deeply sorry that my clumsy tweet has caused offence,” he added. 
A spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism also highlighted the antisemitic nature of the statement, saying,  “Barry Sheerman’s first reaction on hearing that two prominent Jewish businessmen supposedly missed out on peerages is to think about ‘silver shekels’, eluding in one fell swoop to both classic and modern antisemitic tropes about Jews corrupting politics with money and being more loyal to Israel than their own countries.
“Mr. Sheerman must immediately face disciplinary proceedings and lose the whip of both the Labour and Co-operative Parties," the spokesperson added.
"Sir Keir Starmer also has a more fundamental question to answer about his parliamentary party; how long are Labour MPs capable of going without making brazenly antisemitic statements? Labour’s antisemitism problem apparently goes well beyond the Party’s far-left contingent.”
Regarding the origins of his use of the term 'silver shekels,' Sheerman said that "during lockdown I have been reading the Bible and I thought I would tweet about 30 pieces of silver."
"I was reading the Gospel of John and the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot and I thought I would Google the expression and found it referred to shekels instead of silver so that was the background to my tweet.
"I was stupidly smart and I have apologised immediately for any offence caused and withdrew the tweets.
"During lockdown there has been a real sense of cabin fever and I have become a bit obsessed with twitter, how many followers I have, likes etc and I made a mistake," he added.  


 
"It is unfortunate that one careless tweet has offended many people when I have been an antisemitism campaigner all my life and only spoke to my constituency party on Friday about rooting out the horror of antisemitism.
"I am coming off Twitter for a while. I thought I was being so clever," he added. 
Sheerman also noted his background in fighting antisemitism, saying, "I will think more carefully in future and will reflect on this…I have fought antisemitism all my political life & have been a Labour Friend of Israel since joining as a student at the LSE. I am deeply sorry that my clumsy tweet has caused offence.”