The Free Speech on Israel network broadly welcomes the Chakrabarti inquiry report into antisemitism and other forms of racism. Nevertheless, we are publishing below the first in a series of responses that is more critical of the inquiry’s focus and findings.
By Tony Greenstein.
On 29th April, as the media hyped ‘anti-Semitism’ hysteria in the Labour Party was in full swing, with daily revelations from those doughty fighters against racism at the Daily Mail, Jeremy Corbyn set up an inquiry into racism in the Labour Party under the former Chair of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti. Chakrabarti is no radical and when it was announced that Baroness Royall of Labour Friends of Israel was to become a Vice Chair of the Inquiry I feared that this Inquiry would simply become a rubber stamp for the Right of the Labour Party and the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement.
The other Vice Chair, Professor David Feldman, was attacked by the Jewish Chronicle for his links to Independent Jewish Voices, a group which had expressed its concern “at the proliferation of sweeping allegations of pervasive antisemitism within the Labour Party.” ‘Labour inquiry professor has links to group that says antisemitism claims are “baseless”,’ Jewish Chronicle 2.5.16. I made a long submission to the Inquiry and I gave evidence to the Inquiry two weeks ago.
When I gave evidence to Chakrabarti she made it clear that the Inquiry Report was hers and hers alone. Baroness Royall of Labour Friends of Israel would not determine its findings or outcome. She was an advisor, nothing more. So although my worst fears were not realised and the Inquiry did not become a repetition of Royall’s rubber stamp ‘Inquiry’ into allegations of anti-Semitism at Oxford University Labour Club, the Chakrabarti Report is nonetheless problematic.
There is no merit in pretending that Chakrabarti found for the supporters of the Palestinians and opponents of Zionism in the Labour Party. Whilst there are some welcome recommendations, in particular over disciplinary procedures, the Inquiry clearly falls down on the side of the Zionists politically.
The Chakrabarti Report has been welcomed by both Richard Angell of Progress, for whom any criticism of Zionism is de facto anti-Semitic Grading the Chakrabarti report, and Jeremy Newmark Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, who called the report a “sensible and firm platform” to combat anti-Semitism. Report says UK Labour Party not racist, Jerusalem Post 1.7.16.
Chakrabarti has also been welcomed by John Mann MP, the boorish loud mouth who hectored and bullied Ken Livingstone. It is true that in a Parliamentary Labour Party with an overrepresentation of the stupid and vain, Mann stands head and shoulders above his compatriots. Nonetheless when he declares that he was ‘delighted that every single one of the proposals I made [to Chakrabarti] in (sic) included in her report’ John Mann: The anti-Semitism report gives a route out of this mess this cannot be ignored. Mann stated that “For the first time, it makes the use of ‘Zionist’ in a derogatory way a disciplinary offence.’ Even a stuck clock is right twice a day.
The best thing about the Report is the first line which states that ‘The Labour Party is not overrun by antiSemitism, Islamaphobia or other forms of racism.’ This is important because it negates the whole campaign which gave rise to this report. However there are two problems with this. Chakrabarti immediately rows back on this saying that ‘I have heard too many Jewish voices express concern that anti-Semitism has not been taken seriously enough in the Labour Party and broader Left for some years.’
Chakrabarti avoids the central reason behind the setting up of the Inquiry, the false use of anti-Semitism as a weapon against those who oppose Zionism and the Apartheid State of Israel. Coupled with this is what can be described as ‘false victimhood’. Although Chakrabarti accepted our submissions over the Zionists’ misuse of the MacPherson principles, she doesn’t draw any conclusions as to why the Zionists have tried to subvert the MacPherson definition of a racial incident. Why are the Zionists so insistent that only they can define what is an anti-Semitic incident?
What would Chakrabarti have said a quarter of a century ago if opponents of Apartheid in South Africa had repeatedly been told that they were ‘anti-White’ racists? It is a constant of Zionist discourse that anyone supporting the Palestinians or opposing their treatment by Israel is accused of ‘anti-Semitism’. An example of this occurred at the Chakrabarti Report press conference itself when Marc Wadsworth, a Black anti-racist activist, accused Labour MP, Ruth Smeeth, a spin doctor for BICOM, the main Zionist propaganda group in this country, of feeding information to The Telegraph. Former Israel lobby spin doctor aims for seat in UK parliament, Wadsworth made no mention of Smeeth being Jewish, indeed he didn’t know she was Jewish, yet this was spun by Smeeth and the media as being an anti-Semitic incident.
The problem with Chakrabarti is that false claims of ‘anti-Semitism’ can be directed with impunity at Black anti-racist activists. It substitutes the subjective for the objective, yet Smeeth proudly boasted on Twitter that Chakrabarti had apologised to her.
The whole Report is suffused with subjectivity. Instead of defining anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism from the outset and rejecting the ‘new anti-Semitism’ which sees opposition to the Israeli state as anti-Semitic and Israel as the ‘Jew among the nations’, Chakrabarti ignores the issue completely. There is no excuse for this. A number of submissions, including my own and IJV’s, spent some time on defining what is and is not anti-Semitism. How can you have a report on anti-Semitism which fails to define what it means by anti-Semitism?
The Institute of Race Relations IRR’s submission to the Labour Party Inquiry into anti-Semitism and other forms of racism emphasised the difference between attitude and acts, the subjective and objective. According to the poisonous logic of identity politics, the rights of every group – be they an oppressor or oppressed – are equally valid. So the rights of the Zionists are equally as valid as those of the Palestinians. The rights of ethnic cleansers are as important as those they drove out. If you challenge this then you are engaging in a ‘hierarchy of oppressions’ which is not allowed. The subjective demands that you take all claims at face value. Both bogus claims of racism and actual racism are equal. It therefore drains racism of any meaning and reduces it to personal antagonism.
The Chakrabarti Report depoliticises racism. Instead of being a product of the power relations in a society built on colonial exploitation, including the slave trade, racism is nothing more than a difference in colour or ethnicity. Black people can therefore be equally as racist as White people. Racism is reduced to the personal. It has nothing to do with imperialism or Zionist settler colonialism. Indeed the very use of the word ‘Zionism’ is deprecated. Continue reading “Chakrabarti – A Missed Opportunity to Develop an Anti-Racist Policy for Labour”