Jackie Walker Hits Back

In these videos  Black Jewish Labour activist Jackie Walker, former vice-chair of Momentum, describes how she was targeted by the Zionist Israel Lobby, and falsely accused as being anti-Semitic. The Al Jazeera series The Lobby, uncovered the shenanigans of the Israel embassy and its Senior Political Advisor, Shai Masot, in four programme during January 2017. The investigation detailed how the embassy worked with Zionist organisations within the Labour Party to defame and harass critics of Israel. Jackie, iconic for her proclamation of her joint Jewish and Black identities was a prime target of this campaign.

FSOI Supports Suspended Black Labour Activists

Mike Cushman

Free Speech on Israel were proud to support the vigil of suspended black Labour Party activist, Marc Wadsworth outside London Labour Party offices today, 1 February. The combined presence of Black and Jewish activists made a powerful statement about the illegitimacy of victimising life-long anti-racists for invented slurs of antisemitism.

FSOI supporting Marc Wasdswoth vigil

Marc’s supporters issued this call which FSOI responded to.

Labour has excluded from membership or suspended prominent Black activists as part of a shameful purge. The main target of the rightwing witch-hunters are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s progressive politics, including his friend and ally Marc Wadsworth, the veteran anti-racist and human rights activist.

Wadsworth’s “crime” is that he dared call out anti-Corbyn Labour MP Ruth Smeeth at the June 2016 launch of the Chakrabarti report into Labour anti-semitism and racism and raise the under-representation of Africans, Caribbeans and Asians at the event. At a time when anti-semitism has been cynically weaponised to attack the Labour leader and his closest supporters, anti-Black racism and Islamophobia have been conveniently ignored. This vigil is being held outside the Labour hearing for Wadsworth the party has been forced to hold because of huge political pressure. It begins the Black community’s fightback against Labour injustice.For too long the party has taken for granted Black people, its most loyal supporters it needs to win back power. Now Labour has cracked down on Black activists telling truth to power to silence their voices. And, in solidarity with them, we say: Enough is enough.

A major part of the accusation against Wadsworth was a totally confected claim by Zionist MP Ruth Smeeth which FSOI refuted at the time it was made

One question was from a Daily Telegraph journalist about a Momentum leaflet on deselection of Labour MPs. The leaflet had been handed out by Marc Wadsworth, a Black activist and journalist.  He had refused to hand a leaflet to Ruth Smeeth who had been pointed out to him as one of the first MPs to call for Corbyn’s resignation – he had never come across her of heard of her before. Wadsworth had seen the Telegraph journalist, Kate McCann, hand her copy of the leaflet to Smeeth and the two sat together. Wadsworth accused Smeeth of collaboration with the media. Smeeth, whose Jewish heritage was totally unknown to Wadsworth chose to interpret the accusation as an antisemitic slur and departed the room. Later she claimed, despite video evidence to the contrary, to have fled the room in tears.

View video of Marc’s alleged offence

Black activists are asking for individuals to express their support by emailing

iain_mcnichol@labour.org.uk
I..(insert your name), call on you as Labour’s General Secretary to immediately lift the unjust suspension from party membership of veteran activist Marc Wadsworth. Please acknowledge receipt of my email.

Labour must reinstate anti-racist activist Marc Wadsworth

Marc received support in a letter in the Guardian signed by an impressive selection of respected public figures headed by former Head of the Equal Opportunities Commission Herman Ouseley

We call on Labour’s general secretary to lift the unjust suspension from Labour membership of veteran anti-racist campaigner Marc Wadsworth. It is a cause for serious concern that Wadsworth is one of several prominent black activists suspended or excluded by the party, which has historically relied on Africans, Caribbeans and Asians, its most loyal voters, to get many Labour MPs elected. Labour cannot hope to get back into power without black support. Black people, and their anti-racist allies in these troubled times, will be watching closely to see how this matter is handled.

We are making public our support for Wadsworth because, after a more than six month wait, he will on Wednesday be interviewed by Labour officials and a demonstration will be held to support him.

It is scandalous that Wadsworth was suspended by the general secretary, Iain McNicol, because he dared to challenge a Labour MP who was a high-profile opponent of the democratically elected Labour leader, and raise the issue of black political under-representation at the launch of the Shami Chakrabarti report into antisemitism and racism. Fortunately, the moment when Wadsworth spoke out was captured on a video that has been widely publicised by the media. It clearly demonstrates he is not guilty of antisemitism.

We note that Wadsworth has a long record of fighting against racism and antisemitism, inside and outside the Labour party and trade union movement, and demand that he is reinstated immediately.

Herman Ouseley Chair, Kick it Out, Linda Bellos, Peter Tatchell, Prof Paul Gilroy, Prof Gus John, Prof Pat Thane, Suresh Grover The Monitoring Group, Stafford Scott Tottenham Rights, Dr Iqbal Scram, Peter Herbert Society of Black Lawyers, Simon Woolley Operation Black Vote, Jackie Walker, Orson Nava, Gary Younge

We are also actively continuing our support of suspended Jewish Black activist Jackie Walker.

FSOI Media Notice – Government must not Cover up Israeli Interference in UK Politics

GOVERNMENT MUST NOT COVER UP ISRAELI INTERFERENCE IN UK POLITICS

  • Israeli Embassy collusion with pro-Israeli lobbyists must be fully investigated
  • All antisemitism charges against Labour Party members must now be reviewed

London, 18 January – Film evidence that Labour and Conservative pro-Israel lobbyists worked with the Israeli Embassy to undermine political opponents has implications for democratic processes in the UK that must be fully investigated, campaigners say.

“There must be no cover-up of what appears to have been a concerted campaign to discredit supporters of Palestine, Conservative as well as Labour, and to use concocted allegations of antisemitism to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and his support base,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, speaking for Free Speech on Israel (FSOI).

Theresa May has rejected a call from Corbyn for a government inquiry into the Embassy’s “improper interference in this country’s democratic process.” But a number of Jewish groups that work for  Palestinian human rights are supporting the Labour leader’s call and urging Labour to set up its own inquiry into the activities of politicians and lobbyists implicated by Al-Jazeera’s four-part documentary The Lobby.

The documentary showed an Israeli Embassy staffer discussing with a Conservative ministerial aide how to “take down” deputy foreign secretary Alan Duncan. It also revealed extensive collaboration between the embassy, Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and Labour Party affiliate the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). Both organisations have consistently alleged antisemitism against supporters of Palestinian rights who criticise Israel. Many of these have been suspended and subjected to disciplinary procedures that lack transparency and take no account of natural justice.

FSOI calls upon Labour’s National Executive Committee to institute a full review of all outstanding disciplinary proceedings and to investigate the activities of both JLM and LFI.

Notes for Editors

  1. Al Jazeera Investigative Unit’s series “The Lobby” was screened between Wednesday Jan 11 and Saturday Jan 15. It can be viewed online

2. Jeremy Corbyn’s letter to Prime Minister Theresa May called for an inquiry into “attempts to undermine the integrity of our democracy.”

Letter from Jeremy Corbyn to Theresa May demanding a public inquiry
Letter from Jeremy Corbyn to Theresa May demanding a public inquiry

3. Here is the full text of the statement from Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG):

We note with concern the very serious allegations of Israeli Embassy interference in the United Kingdom’s democratic processes revealed in the Al Jazeera series “The Lobby”. We support Jeremy Corbyn’s call on the Government to hold an enquiry into this attempt to subvert both the government itself and the Opposition. It is imperative that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee should summon those Israelis and British politicians and lobbyists shown to have been implicated.  We also call on the Labour party to conduct an immediate investigation into the involvement of its own members in the activities documented by Al-Jazeera.

4. Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) was founded as a predominantly Jewish campaign group in Spring 2016 to counter the manufactured moral panic over a supposed epidemic of antisemitism in the UK. Its earlier statement on the Al-Jazeera investigation can be read here.

5. Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University, analyses the relevance of the Al-Jazeera revelations, examining how anti-Zionism is deliberately conflated with antisemitism to suppress legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies.

6. Examples of the witch hunt against a large number of pro-Corbyn, pro-Palestinian Labour Party activists exposed in the Al-Jazeera programmes include:

a) Black Jewish activist Jackie Walker, former vice-chair of Momentum, is currently fighting her second bout of suspension from the party. She intends to make a formal complaint against Jewish Labour Movement director Ella Rose, seen threatening and abusing Walker in the second episode of the film.

b) The films show Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan MP discussing at length with fellow lobbyists how to frame a complaint of antisemitism against a Labour Party member, a woman who was suspended as a result and later reinstated on appeal.

c) Separately, activists in a party branch in the Liverpool constituency of former LFI chair, Louise Ellman MP, are fighting baseless allegations of antisemitism which have been used as an excuse to investigate the entire branch.

Al Jazeera Lifts the Lid on the Swamp of Israeli Subversion

Mike Cushman

Unverified reports of Russian interference with the US election have been whipping through the British media like a hurricane. Fully authenticated reports of Israeli subversion of British Democracy can be heard like the faintest breeze in a distant forest. Labour Party calls for a Government investigation have been ignored. Scandalously the Labour Party is not calling for an internal investigation into the deep penetration of its own structures.

Al Jazeera, over four days in January, broadcast The Lobby a detailed investigation into the activities of London based Israeli diplomats. The programmes show them planning the downfall of opponents of Israeli occupation and Apartheid in both the Labour and Tory Parties and elsewhere and the creation of false antisemitic slurs. The programmes shine a light into the murky sewers of the concerted attempts by Israel’s acolytes and Labour right-wingers to destabilise Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party to advance their separate but overlapping agendas.

The programmes focus on the activities of Shai Masot, a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, and his attempts to: set up pro-Israel lobby groups inside the Labour Party; fund Israel supporting activities; and undermine the elected leaders of the Labour Party and the National Union of Students; and more.

The programmes mainly consist of secret recordings made by an Al Jazeera journalist. ‘Robin’, posing as an aspiring Zionist activist supplemented by commentaries by expert observers of Israeli activities.

The two key organisations of Israel apologists inside the Labour Party are the ‘Jewish Labour Movement’ (JLM), an affiliated organisation of the Labour Party operating in constituency parties, and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), a parliamentary group.

The JLM, which is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation and is a sister party of the Israel Labor Party (ILP), has, in the last couple of years, been roused from a decades long torpor to play a leading role in defaming critics of Israel. The ILP is a fiercely Zionist organisation: it initiated the settlement programme after the 1967 war and to dispel doubts has rebranded itself as the Zionist Union. Although formally in opposition to Netanyahu’s far right government, it has actively pursued a strategy of trying to join the Government coalition.

A telling incident in the programmes is from the 2016 Labour Party Conference when a sympathiser with Palestine approached the Labour Friends of Israel stall to discuss the two-state solution. Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield and Chair of LFI was on the stall. Ryan became very defensive and refused to answer the delegate’s questions.  After the encounter Ryan met with her advisers and Robin and discussed how to turn inoffensive comments into an antisemitic and offensive tirade which could support an official complaint to the Party. Ryan invented words that the party member did not utter in order to create an illusion of ‘antisemitic tropes’ of Jewish control of finance and secret influence. Although the delegate was eventually cleared she suffered great distress and the Party has taken no action to hold Ryan account for her misuse of her authority and for her bullying of a person with none of her resources or influence.

The JLM is now headed by Ella Rose who segued into her position as JLM Director straight from a post in the Israeli Embassy. Rose is shown threatening to use her Israeli military unarmed combat training to ‘take’ Jackie Walker after Walker, a Black Jewish party activist, had asked unwelcome questions at a JLM led Party training session at the conference. Rose could not ascribe any motive to anyone questioning the purge by the Party of critics of Israel to anything other being a “f—–g anti-Semite”.

JLM Director Ella Rose boasts how she can 'take' Jackie Walker
JLM Director Ella Rose boasts how she can ‘take’ Jackie Walker

Masot is fearful that young people are increasingly hostile to Israel and offers to fund Robin to set up young LFI. Michael Rubin, a parliamentary officer of LFI is recorded saying, “The Israeli Embassy is able to get a bit of money…I don’t think money should be a problem really”. Masot is anxious to keep the link clandestine. “We do work really, really closely together. It’s just publicly we just keep the LFI as a separate identity to the Embassy”.

LFI staffer Michael Rubin expalin9ing how the Embassy hides its involvement
LFI staffer Michael Rubin expalin9ing how the Embassy hides its involvement

It is not just the Labour Party that is of concern to the Embassy. They are greatly exercised by the small minority of the Parliamentary Conservative Party who are not members of Conservative Friends of Israel. An extract that has received wider publicity shows Masot meeting with a former aide to Robert Halfon, formerly Party Vice-Chair and Chair of CFI, plotting to “take down” Government Minister Alan Duncan.

Since the programmes little has happened. Masot, his cover blown, has been recalled to Tel Aviv and sacked. Throughout the programmes Masot is shown in close contact with Ambassador Mark Regev and other senior Embassy officials. Despite that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has rushed to accept Regev’s assurances that Masot was a junior official flying solo. Even a cursory viewing of the footage shows that to be untrue and that there is a clear need for detailed investigation of this subversion and, in an old fashioned term, treason. Regev, himself, must be told to take the next plane back to Israel for abuse of his diplomat position.

Shai Masot & Jeremy Newmark with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)
Shai Masot & JLC Chair Jeremy Newmark with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev speaking at an event at Labour party conference in 2016 (Al Jazeera)

The reason for the reluctance to investigate, we can infer, is that it would reveal the most senior members of both main parties, with the exception of Corbyn and his close associates, and the Liberal Democrats, to be part of the network of Israeli influence.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee’s report on Antisemitism that gave fuel to the witch hunt of alleged antisemites was chaired by LFI member Keith Vaz and included many members of the respective FOI groups; a number of whom had received all-expenses paid visits to those parts of Israel and the Occupied Territories it was convenient for them to be shown.

The investigation allows us to understand better how Israelis influence works and frames political behaviour. Theresa May’s ill-judged endorsement of the fatally flawed ‘International’ definition of antisemitism which closely links antisemitism to criticism of Israel must be viewed through her membership of CFI. Her bizarre attack on John Kerry for his mild rebukes to Israel following the recent Security Council Resolution on the settlements might also be seen as reciprocity for previous career assistance from the Israelis.

This article can only cover a tiny fraction of the disturbing content of the exposé and readers are urged to view the programmes for themselves. Only then can you fully appreciate the degree to which the policy of successive Governments may have been skewed to favour what is in Israel’s interests rather than that of their own people, let alone the Palestinians.

Any human rights activists will recoil in horror at the way the Labour Party has become a pawn of Zionist organisations that place loyalty to Israel’s interests above advancing the Labour Party. Every Labour Party member must be demanding that each and every Party MP, Peer and Official who has betrayed the Party must be held to account. The evidence for every suspension for claimed antisemitic activity must be reviewed urgently and all those based upon confections of offence or statements lifted blatantly out of context revoked immediately.

The UK government’s new ‘anti-semitism’ definition conflates racism with valid criticism of Israel

Reprinted from Open Democracy

In 1981, a wise Israeli journalist called Boaz Evron observed that the Jewish people endured two tragedies in the twentieth century. One of course was the Holocaust. The second, he suggested more controversially, was what he termed “the lessons drawn from it” by those in power in Israel. These were the narrow nationalist lessons that “Never Again” applied to the Jews alone, rather than humanity in general; that anti-semitism was different from other forms of racism; that threats to Israel were always existential; that critics of Israel were always motivated by anti-semitism, and many of them really wanted to perpetrate a second Holocaust.

Pisgat Za'ev settlement in East Jerusalem
Pisgat Za’ev settlement in East Jerusalem                                                                     photo: Mike Cushman

In Evron’s view, the main aims of Holocaust awareness perpetuated by Israeli politicians and mainstream media, and through Israel’s education system, were “not at all an understanding of the past but a manipulation of the present” (my emphasis).

My mind drifted back to Evron’s words when I heard that the UK prime minister Theresa May had decided that she wanted to adopt a definition of anti-semitism drawn up by a group called the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and turn it into law in Britain. May says this will enable her government to tackle rising anti-semitism.

But you wouldn’t draw such confidence if you looked down the list of the 30 countries that have also signed up to this approach. These include several where anti-semitic incidents are on the rise, and some, such as Austria, Poland, Greece and Hungary, where politicians and leading commentators seem to indulge in anti-semitism themselves.

It’s not very international either. The countries signed up to the alliance are, with just four exceptions, confined to Europe. Those four exceptions are Argentina, Canada, Israel, and the US. The latter has just elected a president who was not only endorsed enthusiastically by dozens of far-right organisations in America, but who used anti-semitic tropes in his election campaign.

Is this coalition really saying that African and Asian countries (other than Israel), despite long histories of exposure to racism and its terrible outcomes, and the fact that several have diasporic Jewish communities, have nothing to contribute on tackling anti-semitism?

This definition by the IHRA is also an act of manipulation. It draws heavily on an earlier attempt in Europe: the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) definition of 2005. This was dropped by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency in 2013 because of the way it had stretched and twisted that definition to include various forms of criticism of Israel and opposition to Zionism.

Now, the IHRA seeks to revive the worst aspects of the EUMC definition, for the main purpose, I believe, of defending the Israeli government’s increasingly indefensible policies from attack by supporters of human rights, by anti-racists, and by growing numbers of dissident Jews in Europe, America, South Africa, and also in Israel. If you can label such critics as anti-Semites, you can hope to nullify their impact among the wider population and on political actors who might challenge the continued oppression of the Palestinians.

The basic definition that the IHRA works from is rather wordy but not so contentious:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Immediately after that, though, it leaps to:

“Manifestations might include the targeting of Israel conceived as a Jewish collectivity.”

That is quite a catch-all. So it then steps back to reassure those of us who may be less than enthusiastic about the actions of the Israeli state, that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”. But there are reasons why Israel attracts a qualitatively different kind of opprobrium to most other states, and it is not about anti-semitism. It is about Israel being an ethnocracy and an occupying power.

There is no doubt that many social democratic states around the world have a long way to go before we can say that their minority populations are treated equally. There is much institutionalised and indirect racism across the world, but in most countries it is against the law; in Israel, though, discrimination is built into many of the laws. Palestinians within the pre-1967 borders of Israel are second class citizens, and those in the Occupied Territories are ultimately under Israeli state control and suffer daily acts of repression despite a certain measure of autonomy given to the Palestinian Authority.  Palestinian political activists (including children) fill Israel prisons, many of them under administrative detention with no date set for any process of justice.

The IHRA definition gives eleven examples of anti-semitism, six of which mention Israel, while one refers to “it” meaning the State of Israel. This conflation of Israel and Jews has the potential to outlaw perfectly legitimate pro-Palestinian human rights campaigns as anti-semitic. It is also dangerous for Jews. If opposition to Israeli policy and state action can be defined as anti-semitic in such a manipulative way, those who will quite rightly continue to stand up for Palestinian rights will become less frightened of the label “anti-semite”; as a result, the targets of their actions might spread from those directly identified with the Israeli state to more general Jewish targets.

Theresa May deliberately added to this blurring of Jews and Israel by announcing her plan not at a Jewish community gathering, but at a luncheon organised by the Conservative Friends of Israel – a body that brings together right-wing non-Jewish and Jewish supporters of Israel, a number of whom have expressed less than sympathetic attitudes towards Muslims.

One of the sleights of hand which fuels that conflation is this clause:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.”

Let’s unpack this. Jewish people live in many different countries where they exercise their self-determination. They live as Jews, practising their Jewish life in each of them in their own way, in almost every single case with very few or no restrictions. Most Jews in the world already have one homeland and don’t see the need for another. For many decades now, almost every Jew who wished to do so could go to Israel where they would automatically be granted citizenship to exercise their self-determination there, something denied to Palestinian refugees. The majority have opted to stay in the diaspora, and that diaspora has been swelled by a significant number of Israelis who find it much more tolerable to live outside of Israel. Most Jewish self-determination therefore takes place outside of a “Jewish State”.

As for the accusation that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavour, you don’t have to believe that those who founded Israel were inspired by racism to recognise that racism has been an indisputable outcome of the creation of Israel, and that this racism has had more horrible manifestations in each succeeding decade. Neither do you have to define all Zionists as racists to acknowledge as a fact that Israel’s creation involved the displacement, the ethnic cleansing, of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

The creation of Israel solved a problem for many Jewish Holocaust survivors who languished for years in Displaced Persons camps in Europe with no countries offering to take them. But as their problem was solved by moving to Palestine/Israel, another tragic problem was being created for another people who had just as much or more right to live there.

Many Jews who settled in Israel were in fact left-wing, anti-racist, anti-fascist idealists who settled in kibbutzim and believed they were creating a new and just society. They sincerely believed that they were striking a blow against anti-semitism in the world, but they were blind to its impact on the Palestinians.

Israeli society is not monolithic, and there are a small but growing number of groups in Israel who challenge the status quo, who monitor human rights abuses, who stand up for Palestinian rights, who engage in solidarity activity despite repression from the authorities, and who are not afraid to call many actions of the Israeli state “racist” endeavours. It would be the height of absurdity to label these people and groups “anti-semites” but that is where definitions like the IHRA’s take us.

What kinds of attitudes towards Holocaust remembrance are likely to be engendered when the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, in practice, uses that name as a shield to defend an ethnocracy, a heartless occupying power, from perfectly legitimate censure? It will undoubtedly engender attitudes of cynicism and even hostility. That is bad for humanity.

Holocaust remembrance gains, rather than lessens, in its importance in a world that is sliding further and further away from the Declaration of Human Rights established just after the horrors of the Nazi genocide. Whether it is the treatment of longstanding minorities, newer migrants, or refugees, we see unambiguous processes of scapegoating, discrimination, exclusion, and dehumanisation unfolding in front of our eyes. Processes that must feel very painful to those, such as Boaz Evron, now nearly 90 years old, and to so many human rights campaigners, who have made an effort to learn and apply the lessons for humanity from the Holocaust.

Those lessons implore us to stand up and unite against all forms of racism and intolerance, whether directed against Jews, Blacks, Gypsies and Travellers, Muslims or, indeed, Palestinians.

David Rosenberg

Resist the attack on free speech on Israel

Reprinted with permission from Socialist Resistance

The Tory government’s announcement that it accepts the recommendation of the Home Affairs Select Committee and will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance[1] definition of antisemitism means that Britain will be the first country to employ this latest incarnation of the discredited and tendentious EUMC “working definition of antisemitism”. This definition in effect criminalises opposition to Zionism, or criticism of Israel that goes beyond the bounds permitted by the Israeli state itself.[2]

Part of the wall which divides Palestinian villages and Palestinian land
Part of the wall which divides Palestinian villages and Palestinian land:                     Photo: RNW.org

The IHRA definition starts with a bland, almost uncontentious statement that “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” This is the only part of the definition that has been reported in the media. However, the IHRA then goes on to illustrate this with concrete examples, most of which relate to criticism of Israel or of Zionism: “Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity… Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor… Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation… Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis. Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” As it happens, most Zionist groups, and the state of Israel itself, would fall foul of the last clause; while referring to “any other democratic nation” rather begs the question – and it should be noted that the state of Israel explicitly rejects the existence of an Israeli nation.

It is not yet clear how this decision will be put in to practice. The government has not announced any proposals for legislation, and apparently intends at present merely to issue “guidelines” to public bodies. Such guidelines, however, could themselves impose huge restraints on the freedom of expression and activity of campaigners. Among the bodies which will be required to use this definition are the police force, local authorities and university boards.

Since no new criminal offence is being created, it will presumably not be an explicit offence to oppose Zionism. However, since the police will be required to act according to these guidelines, a complaint by an Israel supporter of alleged antisemitism by a pro-Palestine activist will be investigated with the assumption that anti-Zionism is necessarily antisemitic. Further, “the Crown Prosecution Service will consider the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ for inclusion as part of its current guidance for prosecutors”. So we should expect to see criminal charges in the future against people whose only “offence” is to oppose the Zionist pretension to speak for and in the name of all Jews.

Recent legislation, opposed by activists and trade unions, has banned local authorities from using any political criteria in regard to investment, thus banning divestment from arms companies and environmental despoilers as well as from Israeli companies. But the new guideline could be used to deny the use of any council premises for any solidarity activity, or even potentially for banning critical books from libraries. Again, all it would take is a complaint from someone that a particular activity (or book) was offensive and antisemitic. This could have a chilling effect on political discussion, even if it does not lead to any actual prosecutions.

However, it is in universities that the chilling effect of this decision is likely to be felt first. The government statement endorses the Select Committee’s criticism of the National Union of Students for its alleged “failure to take sufficiently seriously the issue of anti-Semitism on campus”, and goes on to argue that “left-leaning student political organisations have allowed anti-Semitism to emerge”. This flies in the teeth of the unsurprising evidence, reported by the Select Committee, that the overwhelming majority of antisemitic incidents are perpetrated by the right.

The government statement endorses and reinforces the attack on NUS president Malia Bouattia, and on all student unions which have endorsed the Boycott Divestment and Sactions (BDS) campaign or organised an Israel Apartheid week. The decision could restrict the work not only of student groups, but of all organisations which are currently able to use student union premises and facilities for their campaigns. And the decision is also an implicit threat to academic freedom, potentially preventing the teaching of certain courses or the use of some material. This is already happening in the USA, where, for example, the Chancellor of Berkeley University recently ordered the cancellation of a course on “Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis”, while attacks on academics such as Norman Finkelstein, Steven Salaita, Sarah Schulman and Simona Sharoni are common.

Indeed, this decision needs to be seen in the context of a worldwide attack on supporters of Palestinian rights and BDS. In France, calling for BDS has been effectively criminalised, with acrtivists arrested even for wearing pro-boycott t-shirts. In Germany, a teacher is facing dismissal from his job because of his support (outside school) for BDS, and the bank account of the pro-BDS group Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East has been shut by the bank (as indeed have dozens of accounts of PSC and pro-BDS groups in Britain, by the supposedly progressive Cooperative Bank). At the beginning of December, the Ontario Legislative Assembly passed a motion condemning BDS. And the US Senate has just unanimously passed the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” which, if passed into law, would make even arguing that Israel is not a democratic state a criminal offence.

Meanwhile, Israel is also increasing its harassment of perceived opponents. In early December, the assistant general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr. Isabel Apawo Phiri, was denied entry at Ben-Gurion Airport on the false allegation that the WCC supports BDS. In fact, neither Dr Phiri, nor the WCC (which represents some 600 million Christians) supports BDS. Dr Phiri, a Malawian academic, was the only African member of her delegation, and the only member refused entry.

Although this decision by the May government will be used to harass and intimidate activists, it will not put an end to the increasingly effective BDS campaign. But opposition to the decision has been undermined by the dismaying support of the definition by Jeremy Corbyn. This is all the more surprising since the approach of the IHRA is in sharp contrast to the recommendations and wording of the Chakrabarti report, which quite consciously avoided conflating anti-Zionism and antisemitism, and located the latter in the context of racism and discrimination. It also seems that Labour’s equalities committee, which met on 12 December, with the participation of a representative of the “Jewish Labour Movement”,[3] failed to understand the crucial distinction. This position is both wrong in principle, and tactically inept. It will not put a stop to the continued barrage of false allegations against Jeremy Corbyn, other activists and the Labour Party as a whole; but, by conceding the legitimacy of this “definition” and implicitly approving its legal enforcement, spurious legitimacy has been granted to the false equation of anti-Zionism and criticism of Israel with antisemitism. Labour Party members who support the rights of the Palestinian people must argue against these decisions, which will do nothing to tackle real antisemitism but will rather be used to silence or intimidate campaigners for Palestinian rights.

Roland Rance


[1] The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is not a formal international body, but an informal association of western states.

[2] In a recent statement, Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee, who drafted the original EUMC text, noted that “the definition was never intended to be used to limit speech on a college campus; it was written for European data collectors to have a guideline for what to include and what to exclude in reports… it is wrong to say that BDS is inherently a form of antisemitism, and even if it were it would be improper to try and censor pro-BDS campus activity.”

[3] The Jewish Labour Movement, formerly known as Poale Zion, is the section in Britain of the party formerly known as the Israel Labour Party, now renamed the Zionist Camp. It is an affiliate of the World Zionist Organisation.

Israel Lobby and the Anti-Semitism Hoax

Reprinted from Tikun Olam by permission

First, let me begin by saying that anti-Semitism in itself is certainly not a hoax.  There are centuries of evidence supporting the existence of virulent Jew-hatred.  Anyone with a Twitter account knows that such anti-Semitism exists.  I’ve recently highlighted it at Mint Press News, a publication to which I contributed for over a year.  So anti-Semitism, though largely an enterprise of the far-right, exists on the left as well. Fighting anti-Semitism is a laudable goal.

But here’s where I part company with the institutional Jewish community. If you were to poll Jews about their priorities in life and issues that most concern them, anti-Semitism would be very far down the list.

Of course, members of all religions react with great concern to threats to their co-religionists.  That is understandable.  But Jews aren’t the only religion under threat: true, Jews have been attacked by Islamists in Europe and places like Turkey.  But Coptic Christians were attacked by ISIS in Egypt this week and Rohingya Muslims have been ethnically cleansed by Burmese Buddhists for several years.  Jews in today’s world don’t have a monopoly on victimhood.  But the organized Jewish community acts as if it does.  As if they own the field of religious hatred and are the only victims, or at least the only ones who really matter, because of our past suffering in the Holocaust.
Israel and Palestine: Alternative Perspectives on Statehood
Exaggerating the significance of anti-Semitism also tends to distort Jewish life and identity.  If you define yourself as a Jew as someone fighting against anti-Semitism, rather than fighting for a rich, positive, substantive Jewish identity–you don’t have much substance on which to base your Jewishness. That’s a significant part of my quarrel with groups like the ADL and AJC, whose existence and financial wherewithal is predicated on anti-Semitism.

Jews obsessed with anti-Semitism do offer what they see as a positive model of Jewish identity: Israel.  I wrote about this in the essay, The Closing of the American Jewish Mind, my contribution to the newly published Israel and Palestine: Alternative Models of Statehood.  There I noted that Israel has become a substitute for the Jewish culture, traditions, art, and even religious practice that used to be at the heart of Diaspora Jewry.  Wealthy Jews like Sheldon Adelson, Michael Steinhardt and others have bet hundreds of millions of dollars that while Judaism may wither on the vine, Israel will not.  That’s why they’ve funded Birthright as their primary response to assimilation.

But what happened to Torah, Talmud, religious ritual, Biblical prophecy, Kabbalah, Zohar, Yiddish culture, language, and song, among many others?  If you posit anti-Semitism and Israel as the sole arbiters of Jewishness, it leaves nothing of what sustained us over centuries and even millenia.  It is a poor substitute for what we’re losing.  And I can’t say that I blame any Jewish youth who rejects this tepid porridge they’re offered as a substitute for Jewishness.  This also explains why the Pew poll found that the younger generation is rejecting their parents’ generation and its single-minded near-obsession with Israel to the exclusion of almost all else.

jewish voice for peace anti semitism israel

Jewish Voice for Peace protest UC Regents proposal to define criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic

It goes without saying that if you offer Israel as the New Jewish Religion, that you view any threat to Israel as a threat to the Jewish people.  That is why the Israel Lobby has worked so diligently to insinuate criticism of Israel as a primary tenet of anti-Semitism.  That is why the current far-right Israeli government repeats the smear that BDS is not just anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic.

These are, of course, radical revisions of the traditional definition of anti-Semitism as expression of hatred toward Jews.  If you believe there is no difference between Israel and Jews, then this may make some sense.  But if you conflate the two then you fall into a morass of internal contradictions.  If you reject the notion of dual loyalty, then how do you combat the claim by anti-Semites that Diaspora Jews must be disloyal to their homelands because they retain sole loyalty to Israel?  How do you stand against acts of terror by Islamists aimed at Jews, when the terrorists believe that in attacking Jews they are also attacking Israel?  How do you embrace the claim by the Likudist far-right that Iran aims to destroy not just Israel, but the entire Jewish people?  Especially when the Iranians have never made such a sweeping claim?

Which brings me to the current efforts by legislators in the U.S. and UK to legislate a radical revision in the definition of anti-Semitism.  Recently, the U.S. Senate passed almost unanimously the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which employs the following definition and examples:

  •  Calling for, aiding or justifying the killing or harming of Jews
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust
  • Demonizing Israel by blaming it for all interreligious or political tensions
  • Judge Israel by a double standard that one would not apply to any other democratic nation

Few will have any argument with the first two definitions, but the second two are so vague and broad as to be meaningless.  Under this problematic rubric, reporting that Israeli Jews kill Muslims because of their religion is anti-Semitic.  Criticizing Israel for fomenting political discord in the Middle East also appears anti-Semitic.  And criticizing Israel before criticizing every other democracy which engages in bad behavior is also anti-Semitic.  In fact, such an approach makes most Jews themselves anti-Semites because most American Jews are critical, some highly critical of Israel and its policies.

Such definitions have one major goal: to silence, rather clumsily, political speech regarding Israel.  They are intended to “box in” the BDS movement and other forms of “delegitimization” by defining legitimate political discourse as off-limits.  Such efforts must be seen for what they are: bald-faced attempts to stifle debate and suppress dissent.  Democracies are antithetical to such notions.  They are strong precisely because they permit, even encourage the free flow of ideas.  That is how the best ideas develop and how we keep such societies strong and vital.  Suppressing speech, as the Israel Lobby seeks, is anti-American and anti-democratic.

The British parliament stands ready to pass an equally noxious anti-Semitism bill which the media have largely misreported as a milquetoast affirmation of the basic decency of Jews in the face of mindless hate.  This Christian Science Monitor report sounds innocent enough:

…The British government hopes the new definition will offer a more concrete and clearer notion of anti-Semitism, to be adopted in as many circles as possible. Proponents believe that the clarified definition will prevent vagueness that may lead to anti-Semitic crimes going unreported or unacknowledged. The definition is part of an international effort to end hate crimes against Jewish people as well as combat Holocaust denial in all its forms.

Until you read the fine print on the website of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance which the Parliament relied on in crafting its own definition:

  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews
    worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence
    of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other
    democratic nation.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

These examples themselves are deeply problematic.  The State of Israel is racist.  It’s policies are racist.  The structure of its society is racist.  By noting and criticizing such racism prevalent in Israeli society I by no means “deny Jewish people their right to self-determination.”  In fact, I strengthen Israel in doing so.

The “double standard” theory is bogus as well.  Holding Israel to the standards of international law is not “applying a double standard.”  In fact, the three main demands of BDS (ending Occupation, return of Palestinian exiles, and offering fully equality to Israeli Palestinians) derive from the heart of democratic traditions.

As for the “Nazi analogy,” I’d be a lot more comfortable with this one if the Israel Lobby wasn’t so free and easy to call Israel’s critics and opponents Nazis and the like.  Not to mention that there are clear elements of Israeli policy that echo those of the Nazis, just as there are elements of Trumpism which do so as well.  Why should the former be labelled anti-Semitic?  A clear, carefully articulated analogy based on historical facts cannot be.

Finally, you can’t call “holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel” anti-Semitic if Israel’s leaders themselves refuse to make such a distinction.  You can’t have your cake and eat it.

These efforts to redefine anti-Semitism for the convenience of the Lobby and as a buttress against criticism of the noxious polices of the State of Israel are worse than a waste of time.  They are a radical departure from established consensus both among moral philosophers, historians and Jews themselves about the definition of the noxious concept of Jew-hatred. We are about to see such a radical departure from consensus here in the United States as Donald Trump takes office. It will lead to great ugliness and distortion of the great traditions of American democracy. Let’s not do the same to the concept of anti-Semitism.

International “definition” of antisemitism threatens to limit criticism of Israel

Free Speech on Israel                                                                                    

Press release         For immediate release

International “definition” of antisemitism threatens to limit criticism of Israel

Arabs to the gas chamber
Will using an image like this, or commenting on its resonance to the Nazi regime, be outlawed?
  • This ‘international definition’ has no international status
  • The ‘definition’ deliberately emphasises criticism of Israel and Zionism as likely to be antisemitic
  • The UK government’s proposed adoption of it threatens to obstruct or even criminalise free speech

The UK Government has announced that it will adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Were the definition to stop at that point its adoption by the Government could be applauded. But the major part of the definition is given over to examples of actions that should be investigated as purported to show antisemitic motivation. Of the eleven examples given, seven relate not to Jews as Jews, but to the state of Israel and its actions.

This emphasis reveals the motivation of those who have been promoting this definition for more than 10 years. It will be all too easy for governments, or others via litigation, ‘lawfare’, to employ it to limit criticism both of: Israel’s repeated breaches of International Law and abuses of the Human Rights of Palestinians; and critiques of Zionism as an ideology used to justify and excuse Israel’s actions.

There are already many examples of attempts to illegitimately stretch the use of the definition to censor legitimate political and moral debate. A particular target has been the non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement – a mass non-violent civil society campaign to hold Israel to account. Already Israel’s UK supporters have rushed to pre-emptively interpret the Government’s announcement as shielding Israel and its foundational political philosophy of Zionism, rather than protecting Jews.

There is a simple option for the Government that will allay fears that this definition will be used to suppress free speech. This is to adopt just the 40-word definition cited above, but not the contentious, partisan, politically slanted examples that accompany it.

Free Speech on Israel also urges the Government to adopt an equivalent definition of Islamophobia and promote it vigorously since attacks on Muslims, both verbal and physical, are a far greater and more frequent threat to the safety and security of British citizens and residents than is antisemitism.

END

NOTES:

  1. Free Speech on Israel is a network of labour, green and trade union activists in the UK, mainly Jewish, who came together in April 2016 to counter attempts by pro-Israel right wingers to brand the campaign for justice for Palestinians as antisemitic. Their attacks form part of two highly orchestrated campaigns: one, to undermine the Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn, the first potential British Prime Minister to have a consistent record of supporting Palestinian rights; the other, to suppress the pro-Palestinian voices of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others of many faiths and none, campaigning for freedom, justice and equality for all.
  1. The IHRA definition of antisemitism is at https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/sites/default/files/press_release_document_antisemitism.pdf . It is virtually identical with the 2005 ‘EUMC working definition of antisemitism’ which according to an expert report to a Parliamentary inquiry “rapidly became a topic of controversy rather than consensus….. [and has] largely has fallen out of favour”. Kenneth Stern, the lead author of the EUMC definition has roundly condemned its use to limit debate in the United States.
  1. Oxford University philosopher Brian Klug has proposed a more straightforward and easier to apply definition of antisemitism as: ‘a form of hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which Jews are perceived as something other than what they are.’ Use of Dr Klug’s definition was recommended by Professor David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism in his report commissioned to assist the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism.
  1. The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign was launched by Palestinian civil society organisations in 2005 and has attracted worldwide support. It is the object of concerted attack by the Israeli Government and its supporters in other countries.
  1. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is not a formal international organisation. It is a loose alliance whose founding purpose is to ensure, through education, that new generations are informed about that tragedy.

 

When is anti-Semitism not anti-Semitism? When it’s from a Trump-loving ‘friend’ of Israel

Gideon Levy

reprinted from Middle East Eye

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy Credit:AFP

The only message of congratulations that Steve Bannon has received from abroad, apparently, since being named the senior strategic adviser in Donald Trump’s White House, is one that arrived on official Israel government stationery and was signed by Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel.

The Anti-Defamation League, long prominent among American Jewish organisations battling anti-Semitism, published a sharply worded announcement signed by its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, urging that Bannon’s appointment be rescinded; the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center and others pointed to Bannon’s “promotion of antisemitism, misogyny, racism and Islamophobia” as disqualifying him from any White House post; and local Jewish Community Relations Councils (eg New HavenSan Francisco) promptly published similar statements even as the leadership at AIPAC equivocated.

Meantime Israel’s Ariel hastens to send Bannon his blessings. Ariel, who is from the Jewish Home party, the party of the settler movement and the most extreme right-wing group in the Knesset and a senior partner in the Netanyahu government’s coalition, was pleased at the appointment of a man whose ex-wife has accused her former partner of anti-Semitism. “There are no words to describe this shame,” fumed Knesset member Stav Shaffir of Israel’s Labor Party in a Facebook post (Hebrew).

Breitbart store for racism

Knesset member Stav Sappir of the Israeli Labor party posted a scathing response to Ariel’s ensdorsement of Bannon (Hebrew) on her Facebook page: she wrote. “Rabbis from all across the USA are publishing denouncements… [and] dozens of Jewish organisations are campaigning against the appointment; the rest of the world – left and right alike – are warning of the danger in appointing a proud racist to such a sensitive American government post… while, along with Minister Ariel of Israel, those congratulating Bannon on his appointment include the leadership of the Ku Klux Klan, some prominent American anti-Semites, and the American Nazi Party.”

For supporting Israel, all is forgivable

The Israeli right has invented a new hybrid tool: the pro-Israel anti-Semite. It turns out that such a thing is possible. You can be an anti-Semite and still be okay is certain circles in Israel. The main thing is being “a friend of Israel,” which today means loving the Israeli occupation.

In return for supporting the Israeli occupation indefinitely, for encouraging the settler enterprise, the Israeli right is prepared to forgive anything. Anything at all. To forget the past, turn a blind eye to the present, mortgage the future, and relinquish any vestige of morality. Just let us go on building in the territories, that’s all we care about. To perpetuate the occupation, the Israeli right will sacrifice even the fate of America’s Jews, pawn its connection with them, ignore their anxieties and dismiss their concerns.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, another extreme right-wing figure, once said: “For the sake of Israel, lying is permitted.” The limits of this dubious assertion have now been woefully stretched by Israel’s right-wing settlers. For Israel, it is permissible to support even anti-Semitism, extreme nationalism, chauvinism and racism of every sort. The stretch began with the Israeli public’s overly broad support for candidate Donald Trump, perhaps the broadest of any other constituency outside the US, until it arrived at the ministerial letter congratulating the newly appointed Bannon.

Israel loves Trump

Unlike in many other countries, notably in Western Europe, no Israeli official figure has expressed reservations about Trump’s electoral win. This turn of events is not attributable solely to any threat to Israel. It was driven by authentic support for this problematic president-elect. Evidently the Israeli right, with its nationalism and its racism, finds a common language with the American right, similarly nationalist and racist.

Even worse, the global battle against anti-Semitism, a platform where the rightists typically scream loudest, begins to some degree to resemble a manipulative and cynical (and currently less useful) ploy. Suddenly, being anti-Semitic is no longer so terrible now. Suddenly it’s forgivable, especially if you hate Muslims and Arabs. So long as you are “pro-Israel”.

The Jewish and Israel right has issued a blanket pardon to pro-Israel anti-Semites, who will run the next US government. Like pornography, anti-Semitism now becomes a matter of geography, self-interest and cost-effectiveness. Right-wing American anti-Semites are no longer seen as anti-Semites as long as they support the occupation. Israel’s right wing finds anti-Semites only on the left. Roger Waters, an upstanding man of conscience, is anti-Semitic; Steve Bannon, openly racist and a closet anti-Semite, is Israel’s friend.

Jewish and Israeli activists who left no stone unturned in the search for signs of anti-Semitism, who saw every parking ticket issued to an American Jew as a hate crime, who screamed bloody murder when any Jew was robbed or Jewish headstone desecrated, are now kashering vermin. Suddenly they’re not sure that what we have here is that old disease, anti-Semitism.

When anti-Semitism is not anti-Semitism

Jurist Alan Dershowitz, pro-Israel crusader and propagandist extraordinaire, has already come to Bannon’s defence. In his Haaretz op-ed of 27 November, Dershowitz opined that the man whose wife testified that he didn’t want to send his children to school with Jews is not an anti-Semite. “The claim was simply made by his former wife in a judicial proceeding, thus giving it no special weight,” commented Dershowitz with pseudo-Talmudic aplomb. Dershowitz was told by an Orthodox Jew who once worked with Bannon that the man had never shown signs of anti-Semitism. Suddenly that’s enough for Dershowitz. Suddenly it’s all right to distinguish between anti-Semitism and racism.

Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, naturally made haste to join the chorus, declaring that he “looked forward to working with Bannon.” And how. They see eye to eye on everything: there is no such thing as a Palestinian, there is no occupation, illegal settlements are forever, leftists and liberals are traitors.

For Dermer, the Likud ambassador in Washington, friend of the Tea Party, boycotter of J Street, who in normal diplomatic circumstances would long since have been declared persona non grata in the USA and thrown out on his ear, the election results and the new appointments are like a brand new day dawning. Dermer will feel right at home with conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, another Islamophobe slated for a senior appointment; Dermer will love working with Bannon, and Mike Huckabee is so precisely his cup of tea. Dermer, remember, received the 2016 Freedom Flame award from the CSP, an organisation whose banner is Islamophobia and for whom Dermer is a hero.

Racists united

These and other likeminded racists are Israel’s best friends in the United States. They have common cause with right-wing racists in Europe. When supporting the occupation is the one measure of friendship, Israel has no other friends apart from racists and extreme nationalists. This should have evoked tremendous shame in Israel: tell us who your friends are and we will tell them who you are. With friends like these, who needs enemies? The disgrace of their friendship is sufficient. But Israel apparently takes pride in its friends.

These racists love Israel because Israel acts out their own fantasies – subjugating the Arabs, abusing the Muslims, expelling and killing, arresting, interrogating and torturing them, razing their homes, shredding their honour. How this bunch of lowlifes would love to go there. Till now it’s been possible only in Israel, the light unto the nations in this context. Long gone are the days when a handful of South African Jews went to prison with Nelson Mandela. Now, well-connected Jews in America support the nation’s new rulers: racists and anti-Semites.

“The Palestinians call the white nationalist Bannon an anti-Semite, and AIPAC and Dershowitz think he’s not such a bad guy,” commented Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa on her Facebook page. Abulhawa was expelled by Israel at the Allenby Bridge last year. The US and Israel are sharing the same values these days.

All that’s left now is to wait and see whether the new American regime will deliver the goods. Will the declared Islamophobia and xenophobia of several of its main figures lead to blind support for the Israeli occupation, even more so than under previous American administrations? Will the Israeli right wing’s bet pay off?

Liberal Jewish dilemma

There is also the matter of what will happen among liberal Jewish circles in the United States, who are a substantial segment of the American Jewish community. Will these developments change their attitude to Israel? Rightist, ultra-nationalist Israel, with its overt support for Trump and its senior minister who sends his congratulations to Steve Bannon – is that a country worthy of automatic support from America’s Jews? Israel, stalwart friend of the American hard right – is that an Israel whose flag liberal American Jews can proudly wave?

Over the next few months, we will find out. Maybe, paradoxically, the rise of the American right, alongside a regime no less rightist and nationalist in Israel, will shake up the liberal Jews of America and pose hard questions they have never faced. Until now.

Keith Vaz; the Home Affairs Select Committee Report on Antisemitism; and McCarthy

We have published a number of critiques of the Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism. This is a summary of the main points made.

Jeremy Corbyn under questioning by the Select Committee
Jeremy Corbyn under questioning by the Select Committee
David Plank, former Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Social Services Committee & former Local Authority Chief Executive slates the report for:
  • blatant political bias
  • bad statistical analysis and bad investigatory practice
  • pillorying leading personalities then them denying them the right of reply
  • exploitation of a discredited definition of antisemitism
  • distortion of the McPherson principle on investigation of racism
  • deliberate and hostile focus on the Labour party and its leader
  • summary dismissal of the Labour Party’s own report on antisemitism & exclusion of its Chair
  • the committee had no terms of reference – so they were free to follow their bias

Systemic weaknesses  of the report

Composition of the Committee

5 Conservatives, 3 Labour, 1 SNP, Chair. All, including the Chair, openly hostile to Corbyn, his supporters and policies. Labour MP Chuka Umunna’s questioning of Corbyn was abusive and disrespectful. Umunna was a leader of the no confidence vote against Mr Corbyn and promoted Owen Smith against him for the leadership.

 Submissions

The Committee ignored the submissions from Jewish groups and other organisations which contradicted the views of the Jewish establishment.

 Oral evidence

All the witnesses chosen were hostile to Corbyn (barring Ken Livingston, also under criticism)

Poor statistics

They use a self-selecting survey of Jews on Labour Party antisemitism. By definition such surveys are unreliable and are rejected by any self-respecting statistician.

Investigatory incompetence and bad practice
  • They dismissed the Chakrabarti report on the basis of innuendo and refused its author’s request to give evidence.
  • They gave overweening weight to the Board of Deputies of British Jews and The Jewish Leadership Council but ignored the views six UK Jewish groups with opposite points of view.
  • Despite identifying the vast majority of antisemitic abuse as being on social media – much from a US neo-fascist group – and not from the Labour party, they then studiously ignored this and devoted all their energies to attacking the Labour Party as the receptacle of antisemitism.
  • The Community Security Trust, the source of the figures justified ignoring the online abuse because it would “throw their statistics out of kilter” – in other words it would produce a different result to the one they wanted!
  • They observe police recorded antisemitic crime is almost non-existent, and conclude that the police should investigate this under-reporting, thereby inventing offences that do not exist.
  • Antisemitic hate crimes were just 1% of 52,000 police recorded hate the crimes for 2016
Flawed logic

They label the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as hard left (which demonstratively is not true) and as anti-the Israeli government, they then quote Jonathan Akush, President of the BoD, as saying their marches have fascist banners, so as to conclude it is the left which is antisemitic. They studiously ignored submissions by Jewish groups that Arkush took a minuscule display of 3-4 fascist banners (which were quickly removed) – to inflate the marches into being neo-fascist. They failed to note the presence of English Defence Leagues banners at many Zionist demonstrations.

Guilt by association

They go on to state that Corbyn attended these demonstrations to imply he is antisemitic. These are the tactics of McCarthyism; appalling practice for a Parliamentary Committee.

Attacks on individuals who had no right of reply
  • NUS President, Malia Bouattia, elected on a platform of Palestinian human rights;
  • Jackie Walker, a black Jew who stated her ancestors were slave trade merchants.
Use of the discredited EUMC draft working definition of antisemitism

The definition was drafted by the American Jewish Committee but was never adopted by the EU

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

  • Thus criticising Jewish property (e.g. the settlements?) becomes antisemitic.
  • Criticising non-Jewish supporters of Israel (e.g. US Christian Zionists or Russian emigres) becomes antisemitic. This serves to insulate Israel’s unalloyed supporters from criticism.

They worsened the definition by incorporating into it the EUMC examples:

  1. ‘Criticism of Israel can be no harsher than of any other democracy’ – a card sharper’s slight of hand: there is not one person one vote for all those governed by Israel in the Occupied Territories, the Israeli Palestinian minority do not have civil rights equal to those of the majority, but to question Israel’s democratic status would be ‘delegitimisation’ and thus antisemitic.
  2. ‘Criticism of Israel as a racist enterprise is antisemitic’. Quoting Ben Gurion,’The cleansing of Palestine (is) the prime objective”,founding Zionist Weizmann “Not one village not one tribe shall be left” or the 50 laws which discriminate against israeli Palestinians become antisemitic.

c.Israel is the core of Jewish identity, so to act against it (e.g. Boycotts) is antisemitic. This gives Israel impunity in its extensive violations of human rights. But Israel is not core to the identity of many 100,000s of Jews. Stereotyping them in this way is, ironically, antisemitic.

  1. Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than to the interests of their own nations. Note the word ‘citizen’ not ‘people’: this means such accusations of any Jewish group or even individuals could be antisemitic. And those groups that do put Israel first cannot be criticised for doing so because such criticism would be antisemitic. This is nonsensical.

Drawing comparisons between Nazis Germany and Israel is antisemitic.

But recently Ehud Barak, former Israeli President and Yair Golan, IDF Major General, have done just that. The Committee demands less freedom of speech in the UK than in Israel!

  1. Holding all Jews responsible for Israeli policies is seen as stereotyping and antisemitic – but it is the Jewish establishment itself which makes this very conflation of Jewish & Israeli identity. The Committee endorses this hypocrisy.
Distortion of Macpherson

The Macpherson principle has three components: (i) victims of racial abuse should be believed, (ii) their allegations investigated and (iii) if found credible to be referred to the CPS for legal action. The EUMC definition ignores (ii) & (iii) and guilt can be proved on the allegation alone.

 Glyn Secker

This paper has drawn on papers by

David Plank: HASC Report on antisemitism is a ‘partisan party political polemic’
Richard Kuper: Crying Wolf
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi: Zionists’ weapon of mass destruction against UK’s left
Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead: Parliamentary Selective Committee Report
Tony Greenstein: Manufacturing consent on ‘antisemitism’