Inquiry launched into death of British Jewish scholar after anti-Semitism on Twitter ‘piles up’

The recent death of a British Jewish academic who was ‘bully without remorse’ on social media after being accused of anti-Semitism by Jewish children’s author Michael Rosen, is being investigated by a coroner, British media reported.

Peter Newbon, 38, died earlier this month following a Twitter ‘pile-up’ that left him under pressure, his friends said, according to The Daily Telegraph.

According to the newspaper last week, Newbon was suing Rosen for defamation after the author accused him of anti-Semitism in a social media post to his 250,000 followers and the English scholar’s university.

Newbon, who was director of Labor Against Antisemitism, reposted a doctored image of Jeremy Corbyn reading a book to schoolchildren.

The original image showed the former Labor Party leader reading ‘We’re Going Bear Hunting’, one of the UK’s best-selling children’s books of all time, written by Rosen .

The doctored image, however, showed Corbyn holding the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, an anti-Semitic hoax that claims Jews are plotting to take over the world. Newbon had intended it to be a satirical criticism of Corbyn, who had long been accused of failing to tackle rampant anti-Semitism within the Labor Party.

AuthorMichael Rosen. (Courtesy of Michael Rosen)

Rosen, a staunch Corbyn supporter and upset about his book’s doctored image, responded on Twitter.

“If someone called Peter Newbon is on your payroll, it’s to inform you that he superimposed the phrase ‘The Protocols of Zion’ on a page of We Go Bear Hunting by Me and Helen Oxenbury. It’s a disgusting and anti-Semitic thing to do,” Rosen said.

According to the report, Rosen’s tweet prompted some 4,000 complaints to Newbon’s employer, Northumbria University, which initiated disciplinary proceedings against him.

Corbyn also condemned the doctored image, saying in a tweet that he was “saddened that someone manipulated an image ‘from the book’ to suggest that I would share this disgusting anti-Semitic lie.”

Newbon’s attorneys filed a defamation suit against Rosen, in which they said: “The making of an allegation of racism against the defendant [Rosen’s] followers and beyond incited what is known on Twitter as a “pile-up” against the plaintiff [ Newbon].”

Former British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the media about the coronavirus, outside Finsbury Park Jobcentre in north London on March 15, 2020. (Hollie Adams/PA via AP)

The claim went on to allege that: “The purpose of the stacking was to nullify the plaintiff, i.e. to ostracize him by telling people he was a racist and/or had committed a racist act. .”

Lawyer Simon Myerson, who was acting for Newbon in a separate case in which he was being sued – and which also allegedly upset him – posted on Twitter: “Pete Newbon is dead. It’s devastating. Those who bullied him without remorse here do not represent, and I guess they do not understand, the love and friendship he inspired.

His wife Rachel Hewit tweeted last Tuesday: “Pete Newbon was my best friend, my partner in crime, my handsome and kind husband, a brilliant reader and scholar, the best dad in the world to our three beautiful daughters, and I don’t do what to give I don’t know how we will bear his loss. I’m shattered into a million unbearably painful pieces.

Fiona Sharpe, spokesperson for Labor Against Antisemitism, said: “Words cannot express the sadness we all feel at his death.”

The North Yorkshire and York Coroner’s Court is due to open an inquest at a later date.

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