Twickenham’s Green Party candidate,Tanya Williams was speaking at the Amnesty International hustings last year. Vice president of The Board of Deputies of British Jews Alex Brummer told SW Londoner (16 April, 2015) that Williams’ comments were ‘unacceptable,’ and made the baseless claim that they would fuel anti-Semitism.
Responding to a question on how she would tackle Israel’s violations of international law, if elected, Williams had explained she would fight for effective sanctions:
It needs to be pointed out that they are a racist state and an apartheid state. South Africa got its act together after decades of campaigning and I hope Israel may eventually too – I think it is time to stand up to the myth that Israel and Palestine are both equal participants in this conflict.
The row over anti-Semitism in Labour took a new twist last night after it emerged that one of Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs suggested a Labour Government could make a historical apology for the creation of Israel in 1948.
In comments made last year to a meeting of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Ealing MP Rupa Huq said that a Labour Government ‘could probably get that through’.
[…] Answering a question about whether an apology should be made, Ms Huq said: ‘1948, that happened under a British government. To my mind, an apology – yes. You could do one. A Labour Government could probably get that through.’
Tom Watson has used the opportunity of Yom HaShoah, the Jewish day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust, to back a proposal by the pro-apartheid Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).
There is much to take issue with in his letter to JLM, but the aspect that should be urgently addressed by the progressive Left is the Labour Deputy Leader’s pledge to take the lead from the Jewish Labour Movement on what constitutes antisemitic abuse.
Together with many colleagues I am backing the JLM proposals for tougher rules.
[…] I will fight to ensure that Zionism is not used as a term of abuse. Or as a code word for Jews. I will fight to ensure that the right to Jewish national self-determination is preserved and respected. Jews are the target of antisemitism – but I will fight to ensure that are not left to oppose it alone. I am committed to that fight. Whatever it takes.
JLM proposes three amendments to The Labour Party Rule Book 2016 Membership rules, Section 8:
Add an additional sentence after the first sentence: ‘A member of the Party who uses antisemitic, Islamophobic, racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions in public, private, online or offline, as determined by the NEC, shall be deemed to have engaged in conduct prejudicial to the Party.’
Add at the end of the final sentence after “opinions”: …” except in instances involving antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism”
Insert new paragraph E: “Where a member is responsible for a hate incident, being defined as something where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity, or sexual orientation, the NEC may have the right to impose the appropriate disciplinary options from the following options: [same as D]”
JLM’s supporting argument and rationale includes:
This rule change would not prevent people from criticising the actions of the State of Israel, or policies of its elected Government. It would draw a distinction between legitimate discourse and antisemitic rhetoric which is inflammatory, divisive, dangerous and undermines the ability of our party to make a serious contribution to the struggle for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Zionism is no single concept other than the basic expression of the national identity of the Jewish people, a right to which all people are entitled. This rule change would recognise that it is not acceptable to use Zionism as a term of abuse or to substitute the word Zionist for where the word Jew has been commonly used by antisemites, such as alleging Jewish political, financial or media conspiracies and control.
It would also give due regard to the Macpherson definition of a racist incident which places particular value upon the perception of the victim/victim group.
It’s clear that JLM have interpreted Macpherson’s recommendations to mean that the complainant alone can determine what constitutes a racist incident. If someone believes their victimisation was aggravated by racism that should be taken seriously, but first they have to show they’ve been victimised, i.e. assaulted or discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity or religion. The same misconception was on display in the Fraser v UCU employment tribunal in 2011. Antony Lerman wrote at the time in openDemocracy that:
Most of the recommendations […] relate to reforming and improving police behaviour. And the definition of a racist incident was clearly meant as a very simple and very direct way of doing that: insisting that police must not only keep accurate records of racist incidents, but that they must record that an incident is racist if the victim says it is. At no point does the report move from that very specific and narrow point to a generalisation that racism is what the victim says it is. And I am certain that neither Macpherson nor his fellow inquiry members ever intended that readers of his report and recommendations should understand that this what what they meant.
There are therefore absolutely no grounds for attacking the UCU for rejecting the Macpherson definition of racism. It did no such thing; there is no such definition.
I want to address the conflation of Jew, Zionism and Israel, which are three separate identities: I am a Jew, but like hundreds of thousands of other Jews in the world, I am not a Zionist. Zionism is a political ideology; it is neither a religious identity nor a racial identity.
Zionism was not and is not a straightforward ideology simply espousing a Jewish nation. It has a necessary second half; it is predicated on a specific territory, Zion (Palestine), which was home to many hundreds of thousands of people for tens of centuries before the existence of Zionism. It was axiomatic to Zionism that its implementation was to be in Palestine, and therefore, its objective, the establishment of a Jewish state, could only be achieved by the removal of the existing population.
The early Zionist leader, J. Weitz, Head of the Jewish Agency, which was responsible for the initial settlements in Palestine, wrote in his diary,
there is no other way than to transfer the Arabs […] not one village, not one tribe should be left.
As members of the Palestinian Diaspora in Britain, many of us British citizens, we have long been familiar with the ploys of Zionists and their supporters in politics and the media. We observe the desperate attempts to silence the ever-growing world-wide criticism of Israel’s actions by conflating opposition to Israel’s brutal policies towards our people with hostility to Jews. We urge all to note that pro-Israeli elements have a vested interest in flagging up, exaggerating and inventing incidents of anti-Semitism to achieve the core Zionist aim of stimulating Jewish emigration to Israel/Palestine.
Suppressing a people necessitates suppressing a truth. The current cynical attacks on supporters of Palestinian freedom as ‘anti-Semitic’ aims to conceal a truth which cannot be hidden much longer, the fact of Israel as a full-blown Apartheid regime. Bishop Desmond Tutu noted that, compared to the harshness of the system imposed on Palestine by the Israelis, even the humiliation and violence that Africans experienced in Apartheid South Africa “was a picnic”.
Please read the article in full on openDemocracy, 7 May
Excerpt: ‘… Before returning to the specific question of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, we need to place the three issues – ‘delegitimisation’, talking to ‘terrorists’, and exceptionalism – in a historical perspective.
‘Delegitimisation’, talking to ‘terrorists’ and exceptionalism
For many years the hot question was whether the best solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict was two states or one binational state. This debate intensified after the 1993 Oslo Accord which pointed to, but failed to deliver, two states. Since Oslo, Israel has expanded its colonies and their infrastructure on the West Bank to a point where a viable Palestinian state is no longer feasible. By signing the Oslo Accord the PLO gave up its claim to 78% of mandate Palestine in the expectation of eventually getting an independent state on the remaining 22% comprising the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But it was not to be. Israel under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, reneged on its side of the deal.
By pursuing the aggressive and illegal Zionist colonial project on the West Bank, Israel has all but eliminated the two-state solution. Once this falls by the wayside, the one-state solution comes to the fore. This re-opens the question that has been present since the inception of the state: how is an ethnocracy with one ethnic group dominating the polity compatible with equal rights for all its citizens?
It is stating the blindly obvious that in a one state scenario with no Jewish majority, Israel would face an even starker choice between being an ethnocentric state or a democratic one. Israel’s leaders know this all too well. This is why they have so far avoided formal annexation of the West Bank, preferring to secure their control through creeping annexation. If a one state is the only serious alternative to the status quo, it is surely not antisemitic to interrogate its nature and substance or to argue for a secular state with equal rights for all its citizens…. Continue reading “AVI SHLAIM and GWYN DANIEL: The Labour Party, Israel, and antisemitism”
Hadley Freeman has waded into the Labour antisemitism debate with a particularly fatuous opinion piece in the Guardian, today. Freeman has previously protested that her Twitter followers never let her forget her unique contribution to the Israel/Palestine issue, in August 2014. At the height of the Israeli military’s 2014 massacre of largely civilians in the besieged Gaza strip, Freeman added her support to the campaign of intimidation against the Tricycle theatre.
London’s Tricycle theatre had exercised their right to reject Israeli embassy funding of the UK Jewish Film Festival (read more on the controversy here). Freeman’s piece entitled ‘Please don’t tell me what I should think about Israel,’ informed her readers she thinks the Tricycle ‘demonstrated thinking so nervy and so potentially hypocritical that at least one legal expert said it “may well count as unlawful discrimination”.’ Case closed. Except it isn’t: the faux-‘legal opinion’ she linked to was a blog post by Adam Wagner who is not an expert on the Equality Act. Wagner later wrote that he ‘received some interesting emails from senior lawyers suggesting issues which I hadn’t considered such as standing under the Act as well as problems in finding an appropriate comparator.’
Hadley Freeman’s latest piece is her sarcastic take on the Left’s defence of suspended politicians, Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone (click on the links for responses to each case). Freeman does manage one decent joke at the expense of George Galloway, observing that, in insisting ‘this was “an entirely synthetic crisis”’, he was ‘perhaps confusing the crisis with his hat.’
A far less harmless joke is her snide remark that NUS president Malia Bouattia’s historic comment that the mainstream media is ‘Zionist-led’ is ‘about as political as a joke about hooked noses.’ Freeman must have been left unmoved by Bouattia’s piece in the same paper, last month, in which she exposed a racist, misogynistic campaign of intimidation against her and her family, and defended her political position, adding that she would ensure in future her words could not be misinterpreted:
Over the last two years I have received untold vitriol online – rape and death threats in abundance. I had to involve the police for my parents’ protection. But I stood strong, I persevered and, after serving as the NUS black students’ officer, student representatives across the country have shown faith by electing me.
[…] I want to be clear, again, that for me to take issue with Zionist politics is in no way me taking issue with being Jewish. In fact, Zionist politics are held by people from a variety of different backgrounds and faiths. For me it has been, and will always be, a political argument, not one of faith or ethnic identity. Zionism, religion and ethnicity must not be seen as one and the same. If the language I have used in the past has been interpreted any other way then let me make this clear – it was never my intention, although my political ideologies and beliefs remain unchanged.
Few public figures have been so thoroughly vindicated in their controversial views as Malia Bouattia: in the wake of her election as the first black, Muslim female NUS president last month, she came under a sustained and vicious attack by every mainstream media outlet, from the Telegraph and The Times, to the BBC, Independent and Guardian. In the Telegraph Simon Heffer referred libellously to Bouattia’s ‘long record of vilifying Jews,’ and Aaron Simons to the ‘dark message‘ she was sending to Jewish students. In the liberal press, the response was no less vicious, prompting a number of letters of support from British Jews, which pointed out that the ‘false equation ‘Jewish = Zionist’ comes from Israel’s supporters, not from the Palestine solidarity movement.’ Continue reading “Guardian’s Hadley Freeman adds her voice to the ‘antisemitism’ smear campaign”
I am frankly flabbergasted. As a Jew brought up in the Zionist tradition, who first joined the Labour Party in 1961, and who was subsequently a Labour Parliamentary candidate, I find the current wave of suspensions on suspicion of antisemitism beyond belief.
There is antisemitism in this country, so there is undoubtedly antisemitism in some Labour Party members. Maybe I am lucky, but I have never actually experienced it within the party in either word or deed. It is rare. Whether it is going up or down is hard to tell, because it is so insignificant. So why these suspensions? Why Tony Greenstein, a committed anti-racist campaigner? Why Jackie Walker for God’s sake? Both, extra-ordinarily, of Jewish heritage.
What has been going up, both within the Labour Party and in civil society generally, is an unwillingness to keep quiet about what Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians. What has been going up is the effort put out by Israel (and its unconditional supporters) to brand those who criticise Israel as, on the slightest excuse, antisemitic.
Why is the Labour Party buying this pernicious nonsense? Surely by now you must be aware of the downright lies being manufactured to ‘incriminate’ targets (and intimidate others). This is a mendacious campaign to which the Labour Party is giving credibility by its supine behaviour.
I have been campaigning for the Labour Party here in Hackney over the past weeks and today. It makes me sick at heart to see the Party brought into such disrepute by actions for which, I assume, you take ultimate responsibility. That means that you have the power to stop it.
Thank you for your email.
Jackie Walker has been suspended pending an investigation and, therefore, no further comment can be made at this time.
Iain McNicol General Secretary
Please sign the petition calling for Jackie Walker to be reinstated to the Labour Party
On Mondoweiss, Donald Johnson asks why no one calls out anti-Palestinian bigotry:
Excerpt: ‘…In the British argument over whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, the pro-Israel side is lumping in defensible statements, dumb or insensitive statements, and actual antisemitic statements from the anti-Zionists into one big pot. And so the well-intentioned commentator, like Gaby Hinsliff, in this Guardian piece (“Antisemitism has rocked Labour’s self-belief”) is too lazy to try and make the distinctions and then screws up herself– when she says it’s anti-Semitic to deny “Israel’s right to exist” without seeming to realize that Israel wouldn’t exist as a Jewish state without ethnic cleansing and discrimination.
Because nobody cares about anti-Palestinian bigotry.
‘No other human rights movement I can think of is automatically accused of being racist. The underlying assumption is that Palestinians just don’t matter that much, so anyone who expresses moral outrage or uses the normal tools of protest, like boycotts, can’t possibly be motivated by human rights concerns. They must be antisemites or at least examined very closely for antisemitism before being given a clean bill of health.
‘Who examines the examiners for their bigotry? No one….’
Presenting her contribution to the Labour antisemitism controversy as an unpleasant obligation reluctantly fulfilled, Spectator columnist Tanya Gold delivers one of the more muddled opinions on the subject in the Telegraph.
Gold declares that ‘the intensity of the loathing for Israel – the Jewish state – in parts of the far Left is curious.’ Any serious reflection on the subject would lead to the conclusion that it is one of the least curious phenomena in the post-colonial era to – in her emotive language – ‘loathe’ a state that exists because of large-scale, ongoing ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination. It’s what the far Left does, when not cowed by false accusations of racism.
Gold has reduced a righteous anger at the total impunity Israel enjoys for its serial atrocities to an irrational and very personal emotional response to something disgusting.
She then asks a facile question: ‘Where is the similar loathing for hosts of countries who observe no human rights whatsoever, including Israel’s Arab neighbours?’ Her failure to acknowledge the relevance of successive British governments’ consistent and unequivocal condemnation of Israel’s neighbours – backed up by sanctions – is comprehensible only if one accepts her premise that this is about personal hatred, not outrage at impunity. Gold confuses her growing feelings of resentment at outrage on the Left, with a legitimate grievance. Again, this is understandable given she gets the power asymmetry the wrong way round: she thinks she is backing Israel the victim, not the aggressor. Continue reading “Tanya Gold doesn’t want to hear about Israel’s atrocities – the left is just being antisemitic”