We campaign against Labour antisemitism - and our mental health is suffering

Case studies: the people being left traumatised by their efforts to combat Jew-hate


Emma Feltham, member of campaign group Labour Against Antisemitism

Emma Feltham, a member of the campaign group Labour Against Antisemitism, was forced to see her doctor after spending six or seven hours a day in antisemitic Facebook groups recording and documenting racism.

“At first I just thought that the Labour Party would boot them out but then instead of expelling the antisemites they started showing up as councillors,” says Ms Feltham, a painter and decorator by trade. 

“I found myself being accused of being involved with the EDL or supporting Tommy Robinson because I was exposing antisemitism.

“These accusations were coming from people I saw as the good guys — they were people from my own party.”

Ms Feltham, who is not Jewish, says she has suffered higher levels of anxiety than normal as a result of involving the police and CST over targeting of her by people online. 

“Some of it has been really frightening and intimidating,” she says. 

She has helped blogger David Collier compile research for reports detailing the antisemitic social media posts by Labour activists and members.

“I was doing hours before I went to work and hours after in the evenings. I was existing on very little sleep. I was shocked and scared about what I was seeing. I found it all really frightening.”

She says repeated exposure to “cases and cases of Holocaust denial” meant that “I got more anxious and I wasn’t sleeping and had to go to the doctor. I was put on tablets.”

While she and her fellow campaigners “try to keep an eye out for each other” it is not always possible to notice when someone “needs to take a break.”

She admits that at times she has struggled to engage positively online with other campaigners whose approach to Labour’s antisemitism problem might differ: “There is a pressure put on everyone who is speaking out against it and it is upsetting. I get frustrated and it boils over.”

Relationships in her personal life have suffered because she is often “mentally absent at home, consumed with antisemitism online. I would wake up to 100s of tweets calling me a ‘Zionist bitch or a whore.’”
She worries “why more people don’t care. It is a politically unstable time. I don’t understand why people are willing to turn a blind eye.”


David Collier, researcher into online antisemitism

David Collier, who compiles reports into online antisemitism, says: “You don’t start off thinking this is going to have an impact mentally but it inevitably does.”

He says time spent in antisemitic social media groups has significantly impacted his mental health. 

“It takes you weeks to readjust having been exposed to the racism in them.”  

He experiences frequent feelings of fear and panic and has been physically attacked in public, which left him wondering if he was being followed. 

“I have felt like I am being suffocated and can’t breathe” after “spending time the bubble of antisemitism online. 

“I know it impacts on my mental wellbeing because when I come out of it it takes me a few weeks to adjust.”

He says the lack of action over antisemitism has robbed him of feelings of hope. 

His family has been left “terrified” because of his activism and he says “there isn’t an area of my life that hasn’t been affected. It has taken away my potential to earn money outside the community.”


Anonymous, former Labour councillor

A former Labour councillor, who asked to remain anonymous, says he has sought help for his mental health after speaking out against antisemitism in the party. 

“Prior to 2016 I never had any issues with mental health and now I often feel like I am drowning in the negativity that surrounds the Labour Party and our community. It is utterly depressing and at times debilitating,” he says.

He says his dreams of one day working for the party in government had “been shattered and it often feels like years or decades of your life have been wasted.”

He says he was regularly subject to “abuse and ridicule” from fellow Labour members which have compounded the negative feelings he experienced. 

At times it felt like the Labour leadership was “ridiculing” Jewish members with “statements denying antisemitism.” 

He also feels undermined by “abuse from people inside the Jewish community.” Rather than disagreeing politely with him, people have referred to him and his colleagues as “self-hating Jews, Kapos or worse”.

He says the failure from the leadership of Jewish community to condemn such activity “hurts far more” and has led to feelings of isolation. of isolation.

Sara Gibbs, former Labour member

“I feel like being Jewish has been stolen from me,” says Sara Gibbs.

“I have had tearful nights, nights feeling disbelieved, ignored and alienated”. 

Ms Gibbs, a comedy writer for high-profile shows on the BBC, is among those who are now known for being vocal opponents of antisemitism in a culture war that has exploded on social media since Mr Corbyn became Labour leader. 

They are inundated with abuse as a result.

“It makes you question your own boundaries of what is acceptable and you are constantly asking yourself, ‘Am I doing what they say and making it up or am I overreacting?’”. 

She says it “definitely affects my physical and mental health.”

Ms Gibbs feels Labour’s failure to deal with antisemitism has allowed “a feeling of hatred to be whipped up against Jewish people,” which is debilitating.

“You see the boundaries about what is antisemitism being moved more and more by Labour and its supporters. You start to feel hopeless that no one can see what is going on or where it is going.”

Those feelings started when Labour refused to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

Ms Gibbs, who tries to highlight but also explain antisemitism to people on social media, has noticed a feeling of “hopelessness” take hold of her in a way she has never encountered before. 

She hopes this “gaslighting” — a form of psychological manipulation in which a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt about what another knows to be true — of the Jewish community and the rejection of “what we know to be antisemitic” will be investigated by Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Ms Gibbs says gaslighting is a typical tactic of online trolls, who she says have been enabled by Labour’s inaction. “Labour supporters see the party failing to do anything about antisemites and they think they can do or say what they want about Jews. 

“It makes the victims of racism feel like there is something wrong with us.”

As a result, Ms Gibbs has found herself distracted by antisemitism when she is with her family. She has also experienced unusual levels of anxiety when using social media. 

“It is very unpleasant to look at all the abuse I get if I tweet something.”

She often worries that talking about it “impacts my career. I’ve noticed I am just blocking more and more people, or snapping out of frustration.

“You start to feel this paranoia that you have to be intellectually perfect as someone who is challenging racism. 

“The racists online can say anything they like — but when you are the victim and you say one wrong detail or get a minor thing wrong then you have to spend the next 48 hours having to explain it. You end up feeling all alone.”

She says her identity as a Jewish woman has become politicised which has had a negative impact on how she views herself. 

“I feel like being Jewish has been stolen from me. If you’re Jewish and you’re concerned about Labour’s antisemitism problem you’re immediately accused of being a right-wing Blairite when that isn’t who I am at all. 

“I was a Labour member for years. I worked for a cabinet member. I care about all the things Labour members care about and yet the more I talk about antisemitism the more my identity is defined by other people. 

“It completely zaps my energy.”

Ms Gibbs finds she communicates less with her friends because of antisemitism. 

“It has taken away elements of my life I enjoy. I have had friendships strained and ended because of it.” 
She says her mental health has also suffered as a result of the “infighting” that goes on within the Jewish community and other antisemitism campaigners.


Steve Lapsley, member of Open Labour

Steve Lapsley, a member of Open Labour, a forum set up to build a movement on the Labour left “committed to a better quality of debate and political culture”, often attempts to engage people in his own party on the issue of antisemitism. 

Working in the mental health sector, he says he feels better equipped to deal with the negative affects of social media — but even he is not immune. 

“It can be incredibly isolating when you are being attacked or  seeing people deny your experience. 

“It is easy to loose perspective and I’ve seen that happen.”

To protect his own mental health, he says, “I won’t go onto Labour forums on Facebook because I do find the antisemitism in them depressing and too hard to deal with.”

The hardest times are when a story about Labour antisemitism is in the news, such as the election of Labour’s newest MP, Lisa Forbes, earlier this month.

Many Labour MPs campaigned for her and congratulated her  without raising any concern about her past antisemitic behaviour. 

“It is moments like those where you feel worthless and the gaslighting from others is bewildering,” he says.

“It can feel really upsetting and destabilising mentally. 

“That is why people have left the party.”

Miriam Mirwitch chair of young labour

Miriam Mirwitch vowed to fight antisemitism when she was elected as chair of the Young Labour movement in 2018, beating a candidate backed by Momentum. 

But that has not always been an easy task for the LSE graduate, who backed Owen Smith in the 2016 Labour leadership election, putting her at odds with the rest of the Young Labour committee. 

Ms Mirwitch is regularly the victim of racist abuse online, often after disagreements between her and other Young Labour representatives. 

Being chair has been “quite challenging” for the 25-year-old who considers herself “quite a tough person”. 

As one of the most high profile young Jewish women in Labour, she “gets abuse from all sorts of people” but her mental health suffers the most when it comes from Labour supporters.

She regularly blocks accounts which send her race hate or misogyny as responding to abuse can become “quite obsessive and lead to you feeling powerless in that moment.”

Having chosen to stay in Labour, she is also on the receiving end of abuse from within sections of the Jewish community and she feels that people who disagree with her decision “show no tolerance”.

Ms Mirwitch says those who have sent her abuse on social media have made her feel “anxious and worthless,” which at times “you start to believe.”

“I’m not that open about having a hard time mentally because I am afraid to show weakness. But  I do often struggle.” 

Marlon Solomon, Jewish actor and comedian

Marlon Solomon, a Jewish actor and comedian who performs a one-man show about antisemitism and conspiracy theories, first encountered antisemitism on the left in 2016. 

He says: “I felt ostracised, isolated and very angry. This took a toll on my mental health and led to bouts of depression which I hadn’t really experienced before.”

He says it was engaging with the “Jewish community and being involved with JLM that really helped as a sort of support group.”

He says he still experiences “occasional pangs of mild depression and I worry for my new born son. But I am blessed with pretty strong mental health and I’ve grown mostly immune.” 


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