Jewish academic death after Twitter pile-on to be examined by coroner

Academic dies after being accused of anti-Semitism in Twitter ‘pile-on’: Coroner to probe sudden death of Jewish father-of-three, 38, who was suing author Michael Rosen for branding him ‘loathsome’ in tweet that generated 4,000 complaints to his employer

  • Peter Newbon, 38, a lecturer at Northumbria Uni, was found dead last Saturday
  • Last year, he re-tweeted an already doctored photo of Jeremy Corbyn reading a book to schoolchildren – and added a satirical message aimed at Corbyn’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism in the Labour party
  • Original photo showed Mr Corbyn holding Mr Rosen’s book We’re Going On A Bear Hunt; doctored image showed him holding anti-Semitic hoax text, Protocols Of The Meetings Of The Learned Elders Of Zion  

The sudden death last week of a Jewish academic who was ‘remorselessly bullied’ on social media after he was accused of anti-Semitism by former Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, is to be investigated by a coroner.

Peter Newbon, 38, a humanities lecturer at Northumbria University, was found dead last Saturday following a Twitter ‘pile-on’ – where a large group attacks a smaller group, or one person – which had left him feeling under pressure, according to friends, the Daily Telegraph reported. 

A row had erupted last year when Dr Newbon, a father-of-three, re-posted on Twitter an already doctored image of Jeremy Corbyn reading one of Mr Rosen’s best-selling books to schoolchildren.  

The original photograph showed the ex-Labour leader reading from We’re Going On A Bear Hunt.

However, the photoshopped version saw Mr Corbyn holding Protocols Of The Meetings Of The Learned Elders Of Zion – a notorious hoax text first published in Russia in 1903 which claimed to outline a plan for world Jewish domination.

The sudden death last week of a Jewish academic who was ‘remorselessly bullied’ on social media after he was accused of anti-Semitism by former Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, is to be investigated by a coroner. Peter Newbon (pictured with his wife, Dr Rachel Hewitt), a humanities lecturer at Northumbria University, was found dead last Saturday following a Twitter ‘pile-on’

Dr Newbon, a director of the Labour Against Antisemitism activists group, wrote above the tweeted image: ‘Oh no! A nasty, horrible Zionist! We can’t go over him, we can’t go under him, we’ll have to make an effigy.’ 

The ‘can’t go over/ can’t go under’ phrasing mimics the style of writing used in We’re Going On A Bear Hunt.

Dr Newbon had intended it as a satirical swipe at Mr Corbyn, who, in October 2020, was the first ex-Labour leader to ever be suspended by the party – after he downplayed a damning report into anti-Semitism that ruled it illegally harassed and discriminated against Jews under his leadership. 

Pictured, children’s author Michael Rosen. A row had erupted last year when Dr Newbon, a father-of-three, re-posted on Twitter an already doctored image of Jeremy Corbyn reading one of Mr Rosen’s best-selling books to schoolchildren

But Mr Rosen, who is himself Jewish, and a supporter of Mr Corbyn, was upset by the doctored image of his book.

He wrote on his Twitter account on May 19 last year: ‘If someone called Peter Newbon is on your pay roll, this is to inform you that he’s superimposed the phrase ‘The Protocols of Zion’ over a page from ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ by me and Helen Oxenbury. This is a loathsome and anti-semitic thing to do.’

The message was tweeted out to Mr Rosen’s 260,000 followers and to Dr Newbon’s employer Northumbria University, where he was a lecturer in Romantic and Victorian literature. 

The tweet which Mr Rosen posted to his 260,000 followers. Dr Newbon subsequently received hate mail during this time and, shortly before Christmas last year, he issued a defamation claim against Michael Rosen, filing papers at the High Court

As a result, the university received around 4,000 complaints. Subsequent disciplinary proceedings saw Dr Newbon get a final written warning for bringing the university into disrepute. 

However, according to legal documents, the allegation that his post was anti-Semitic ‘was not proven’, the Telegraph reported. 

Dr Newbon also received hate mail during this time and, shortly before Christmas last year, he issued a defamation claim against Michael Rosen, filing papers at the High Court. 

Tributes were this week paid to Dr Newbon who leaves behind his wife, Dr Rachel Hewitt, and three girls – twins aged seven, and their elder sister, aged nine. 

His wife tweeted on Tuesday: ‘Pete Newbon was my best friend, my partner-in-crime, my beautiful kind husband, a brilliant reader & scholar, the best daddy in the world to our three beautiful daughters, and I just don’t know how we’re going to bear his loss. I’m broken into a million unbearably painful pieces.’

And Fiona Sharpe, spokesman for Labour Against Antisemitism, said: ‘Words cannot express the sadness we are all feeling at his death.’ 

The North Yorkshire and York coroner court is due to open an inquest at a later date. 

Above, a tribute to Dr Newbon from Fiona Sharpe, spokesman for Labour Against Antisemitism

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