Open Letter to Joan Ryan MP – Chair of Labour Friends of Israel

Dear Ms Ryan,

As the only Jewish member of the Labour Party to have been suspended for ‘anti-Semitism’, I note with interest the open letter which you recently wrote to Richard Burgon MP regarding his comments that Labour MPs should quit Labour Friends of Israel and that Zionism is the enemy of peace.

You suggested that the comments were so far outside the boundaries of what passes for acceptable political debate in the salons and interview rooms of Westminster, that they must have been misreported.  I think we can assume that this is merely a literary device on your part.  If you had any doubts that the above comments were genuine, you would have written a private not public letter.

I shall not indulge in fake politeness on a subject which involves the racial subjugation and immiseration of millions of human beings.  When one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza are forced to live through a decade long siege, when people die because basic medicines cannot be imported and when they are forced to drink polluted water, 95% of Gaza’s water is polluted as a result of Israel’s water theft and bombing of water purification plants, then one should not engage in semantics.  Keeping Palestinians thirsty is no doubt part of Israel’s war on ‘terrorism’.

You profess outrage that anyone could suggest not wanting to associate with LFI.  You must be aware that in 1982 large numbers of MPs, Tony Benn and Eric Heffer among them, resigned from LFI because of its support for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, when some 20,000 civilians were killed and 100,000 injured.

During the invasion of Lebanon, Israeli soldiers besieged Beirut in alliance with their fascist friends the Phalange (named in honour of Franco’s Falange).  Israel’s army lit up the night sky with flares and sent Phalangist death squads, armed with knives, to perpetrate an ISIS style slaughter of the inhabitants of the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps.  Some 2,000 women, children and old people were slaughtered, women had their breasts cut off and young boys were castrated.

Despite this atrocity, Israel’s then Defence Minister, Ariel Sharon went on to become Israel’s Prime Minister between 2001 and 2006.  Your friends in the Israeli Labour Party formed a coalition with Sharon, the ILP ‘s current leader, Yitzhak Herzog, serving as Minister of Housing and Construction.

You profess to be surprised that Richard described Zionism as an ‘enemy of peace’.  You even advise him to take note of Shami Chakrabarti’s advice to use the term ‘“Zionist” advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically.’  I am happy to follow her advice.  I can assure you I would never use Zionism ‘euphemistically’ given it is one of the most pernicious racial movements in colonial history.

The Zionist movement was formally established in 1897 by Theodor Herzl, at the first World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland.  As you probably do not know, it was originally scheduled to be held in Munich, Germany but the local Jewish community objected because Zionism was seen as a form of Jewish anti-Semitism.  Zionism reflected the anti-Semitic belief that Jews did not belong in the countries of their birth.

Zionism’s aim was the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine in alliance with a colonial power.  In 1917 it formed just such an alliance with British imperialism, in what became known as the Balfour Declaration.  Like many colonial movements it campaigned on the slogan of ‘a land without a people for a people without a land.’  The native Palestinians were invisible in the eyes of the Zionists.

You claim that Zionism is ‘the broad ideological movement for Jewish national self-determination in Israel.’  Perhaps you would enlighten me as to when Zionism was first described as a ‘national liberation movement’?  It appears you are attempting to bask in the reflected glory of liberation movements such as the African National Congress.  Incidentally, the notion that Jews form a separate nation is, in itself, deeply anti-Semitic and basis of the world Jewish conspiracy theory.

Zionism was a movement of settler colonialism.  That was why Israel was the best friend of Apartheid South Africa, breaking the arms embargo and supplying it with weaponry including nuclear weapons.  Perhaps you were not told about the visit of John Vorster, South African Prime Minister to Israel in April 1976?  Vorster, who was interned during the war for his support of the Nazis and membership of the Broederband, nonetheless paid homage to the Holocaust dead at Yad Vashem!

Israel is the state that helped train the death squads of Central America, supplied the Argentinian Junta with weaponry (despite murdering up to 3,000 Argentinian Jews) and armed and trained the Guatemalan army which in the 1980’s murdered up to 200,000 Indians.  Your suggestion that Zionism shares anything in common with the ANC is obscene.

The aforementioned Theodor Herzl wrote to Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia, asking for his support for Zionism.  Herzl wrote ‘How, then, do I happen to turn to you since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you?  How indeed?  Because it is something colonial.’  This can be found in Herzl’s Diaries, Vol. 4, page 1194.  The founders of Zionism always saw it as a colonising movement.

You are right.  Zionism was indeed a consequence of European anti-Semitism, in the 19th (not 20th) century.  It was unique amongst Jewish movements since it accepted the basic premise of the anti-Semites that Jews were aliens in the lands in which they lived and were born.

You said that it is a great pity that ‘the Labour Party’s relationship with the British Jewish community has been so damaged by the events of the past year.’  I agree.  The deliberate making of false claims of ‘anti-Semitism’ by MPs such as Ruth Smeeth and papers such as the Daily Mail, which in the 30’s opposed the entry of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, has indeed been damaging.  I can only hope that you use your influence to bring these false accusations of anti-Semitism to an end.

You profess to support a two-state solution.  Why then do you support the military dictatorship in the West Bank and the unremitting attacks on Gaza?  Your call for a 2 State solution serves only as a cover for Apartheid.  It enables Jewish settlement to take place whilst providing a pretext for the denial of any political or civil rights to the indigenous Palestinians.

Perhaps you could name even one Israeli government Minister who believes in a 2 state solution?  Deputy Foreign Minister Tsipi Hotoveli is typical when she said that ‘This land is ours. All of it is ours. We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognize Israel’s right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere.”

Even the ILP does not support a 2 state solution.  It supports segregation and a Bantustan.   Herzog explained that ‘I want to separate from the Palestinians. I want to keep a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. I don’t want 61 Palestinian MKs in Israel’s Knesset. I don’t want a Palestinian prime minister in Israel.’  If you don’t understand why this is racist imagine someone saying they didn’t want a Jewish Prime Minister in Britain. [Who needs the Right when we have Isaac Herzog?]

In an ILP election video Herzog was described as ‘someone who “understands the Arab mentality” and “has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations,” including “in the crosshairs.”  Why did we forget about Herzog’s anti-Arab campaign? +972 Magazine 23.3.15.  Again imagine someone describing the ‘Jewish mentality’.  Racist?  Historically the Israeli Labour Party was more racist than Likud.  It was the party of the Nakba, the expulsion of ¾ million Palestinian refugees.

You state that you support a negotiated settlement in Israel/Palestine.  Israel has spent billions of dollars on building its settlements and stealing its land and water.  It’s not going to negotiate them away.  As Martin Luther King famously wrote in Letter From a Birmingham JailLamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.

You say you support peace.  Perhaps you could tell me if you have ever opposed Israeli repression in the Occupied Territories?  You supported the 2014 war in Gaza which killed 550 children.  You have kept silent about the continued destruction of Palestinian homes and European Union funded structures, over 600 of which have been destroyed this year alone, in the West Bank.  Have you nothing to say about Jewish roads and separate entrances for Jews and Palestinians at checkpoints?  What I do know is that Louise Ellman, an LFI officer, supported the imprisonment and torture of Palestinian children as young as 12 in a recent debate in the House of Commons.

Your complaints about Hamas’s Charter, which is a dead letter, would be more impressive if it wasn’t for the fact that Israel played a crucial part in the creation of Hamas as a counterweight to secular Palestinian nationalism.  [see Israel’s Jerusalem Online News Agency for Wikileaks revelations or the Wall Street Journal How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas]

I would be more impressed by your concern about anti-Semitism if you displayed an equal concern about the most recent survey by Pew Research Centre which found that a plurality of Israeli Jews (48%) support the physical expulsion of Israeli Palestinians and 79% believe that Jews should be given preferential treatment. [Israel’s Religiously Divided Society]

You will be pleased to hear that I agree with you that ‘fostering links with, and supporting, progressive forces in Israel is an important task for an internationalist party’.  However the ILP is not such an organisation.  There are such organisations, like the soldiers group Breaking the Silence, which has revealed the truth about Israeli military atrocities but the ILP is hostile to it.

I hope you will now understand why increasing numbers of Jews oppose Zionism and why we join Archbishop Desmond Tutu in supporting a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.  Boycotting Apartheid is never anti-Semitic nor racist.

Yours sincerely,
Tony Greenstein

Let’s not talk about racism

A major report was issued about endemic racism in a major British institution; few people are aware of that although the report was widely reported.

Shami Chakrabarti was commissioned by the Labour Party to investigate “antisemitism and other forms of racism” in the party. Chakrabarti and her vice-chairs took their remit seriously; Zionist organisations and the British media did not.

The report raises critical issues about the treatment of members of BAME communities inside and by the party. These were obliterated by a media stampede to make the report a sideshow in the get Jeremy funfair and by a disbelief from the Zionist hierarchy that Jewish concerns were not placed centre stage.

The presentation of the findings was hidden under two confections.

Firstly, a malicious allegation that Corbyn had equated Israel and ISIS. It was clear to anyone hearing him talk or reading his words later that he had done no such thing.  He equated those who make false and racist allegations about Jews to those who make false and racist allegations about Muslims. He said: “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.” It is vexatious to wilfully misinterpret that to Israel equals ISIS and only makes sense as part of a campaign to demonise and undermine Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Secondly an accusation that Ruth Smeeth had been subject to anti-Semitic harassment. It may only be a coincidence that she made her allegation against one of the few Black men in the room. Journalists asked a series of questions about anything but the content of the report; mainly irrelevantly about Corbyn’s future or about the disciplining of Livingstone which was ultra vires for fear of contaminating the complaints procedure underway.

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. This farrago became a major news story and was turned into an attack on Corbyn for failing to intervene in an event that had never happened. Ever since, it seems no media comment on the report fails to undermine it by referring to at least one these two imaginary events. Once an association has been promulgated it attracts a life of its own – fiction becomes historical fact.

The Board of Deputies, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Community Security Trust, the Jewish Chronicle all gave major prominence to these two inventions even while giving guarded welcome to the report. The accusations were picked up by Jewish and Zionist bloggers and tweeters and broadcast globally; the content of the report and its welcome were not.

We do not assert that the Jewish and Zionist media and organisations deliberately set out to occlude the report’s findings on the racist treatment of BAME communities and its recommendations on curtailing and hopefully ending such behaviour. Such assertion is unnecessary to see an unconscious, but pervasive, disregard for the suffering of any other community than the Jewish one. An anti-racist response would be to celebrate that an investigation prompted by allegations of antisemitism, and a report wholeheartedly condemnatory of the occasional antisemitic behaviour it uncovered, was also led to reveal other and more widespread racist behaviour. Acknowledging the treatment experienced by other communities does not diminish the unacceptability of the racist treatment of Jews. There is however an unpleasant current in the Jewish community that sees the treatment of Jews as special and distinct from that suffered by others.

Chakrabarti was at pains to emphasise the distinctive nature of the Holocaust that should prevent it being used as an analogy for other historical or current events even other genocides. Each act of gross inhumanity has its own nature and needs its own consideration. It is necessary to understand the particular nature of each abuse, whether the Shoah, the Rwandan genocide, the Armenian genocide or the Atlantic slave trade – it diminishes each of them by lumping them together.

We expect people of all communities to oppose antisemitism; we equally expect members of all communities, and a fortiori their organised leadership, to oppose all forms of racism and discrimination and to use their experience to empathise with others not to compete in an abasing misery stakes.

Since the referendum street racist abuse, and violence, have escalated putting all minority communities at risk. Public racism has been become normalised in a way that we had hoped we had excised over the last four decades. So far, it seems, the abuse and assaults on Jews have not been the major problem. It is rampant Islamophobia and intolerance of anyone not speaking English that have been most prevalent.

We look to the Labour Party to defend members of all communities, it can only do that if it takes up Chakrabarti’s challenge to look at itself and embark on the long and painful process to reform itself. The report correctly commends the Party for promoting legislation over the last half-century to outlaw racism and other forms of discrimination, the Conservatives have no such record. As we all know the public actions are easier than the personal ones that challenge our own feelings and beliefs. It is much harder when petty and noisy squabbling drowns out the quiet voices of pain for short-term and factional gain.

Mike Cushman

Zionist bigwig lets the cat out of the bag – it’s all about criticism of Israel

Dave Rich, Deputy Director of Communications for the Community Security Trust, has written in Haaretz about Jeremy Corbyn, Shami Chakrabarti and alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party.

After regretting that Chakrabarti was asked to look at all forms of racism rather than privileging concern about one from of racism, antisemitism, Rich pretends that so-called Labour Party antisemitism has only surfaced following Corbyn’s election to the leadership ignoring that many if not most of the allegations relate to events before his election.

So far it’s only repeating the standard script but Rich then makes an extraordinary admission confirming what FSOI has been saying for months. Rich wrote, “Neither report [Chakrabarti and Royall] truly tackled the underlying question of whether the anti-Semitism in the party is a product of the obsessive mania over Israel that has gripped Corbyn’s part of the left for years.”

Rich admits the Zionist campaign is not driven by attacks on Jews but is about trenchant criticism of Israel. As we have said and Rich now admits the Zionist lobby has abandoned attempting to rebut well-founded criticism of Israeli discrimination, occupation and its apartheid regime about which it has consistently failed to convince most people; instead the lobby is attempting to defame its critics as antisemites.

FSOI and its many allies in the campaign  to defend Palestinian rights will not be intimidated by these attacks and will continue to hold Israel to account for its actions against Human Rights and International law.

Mike Cushman

 

Read Miriam David’s Review of Dave Rich’s new book: A scurrilous and ill-informed attack on the left

Zionism’s Record During the Holocaust

Please read the article, ‘Paul Bogdanor and the Zionist three card trick,’ in full on Tony Greenstein’s blog.

When Bogdanor’s article An Antisemitic Hoax: Lenni Brenner on Zionist ‘Collaboration’ With the Nazis appeared I wrote a response Why Ken Livingstone Got It Right Over Nazi Support for Zionism which showed why Bogdanor’s article was based on a series of lies and distortions.  Bogdanor was stung into writing a rejoinder, Tony Greenstein’s House of Cards, which has been published on the pro-war and Islamaphobic Harry’s Place, the Der Sturmer of the Internet, which specialises in demonising people on the Left like Livingstone and Galloway.

Judische Rundschau the Zionist paper carried the slogan 'Wear the Yellow Start with Pride'
Judische Rundschau the Zionist paper carried the slogan ‘Wear the Yellow Start with Pride’

Bogdanor’s writing is reminiscent of the vitriol employed against Hannah Arendt, herself a Jewish refugee from Nazism and Ben Hecht.  Hecht was a Revisionist Zionist who was so appalled by Zionist collaboration with the Nazis in Hungary and the indifference of American Zionists to the Rescue of Jews, that he wrote a devastating book ‘Perfidyabout Israel’s Kasztner’s trial.

Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem – the Banality of Evil was based on a series of 5 articles in the New Yorker.  The book touched on subjects such as the relationship between the Zionist movement and the Nazis in Hungary, the record of Kasztner, the leader of Hungarian Zionism and the Jewish leadership under Nazi occupation, which the Eichmann trial had studiously avoided. 

… the campaign, conducted with all the well-known means of image-making and opinion-manipulation, got much more attention than the controversy…. (it was) as though the pieces written against the book (and more frequently against its author) came “out of a mimeographing machine” (Mary McCarthy)… the clamor centered on the “image” of a book which was never written, and touched upon subjects that often had not only not been mentioned by me but had never occurred to me before.”

Shooting the messenger has always been the Zionist modus operandi. Apparently Arendt had claimed that ‘the Jews had murdered themselves.’ Why had she told ‘such a monstrously implausible lie?  Out of “self-hatred” of course.’

Marek Edelman, the commander of the Jewish Fighting Organisation in Warsaw, ZOB, was not invited to testify at the Eichmann trial because he was not a Zionist.  He had been a member of the anti-Zionist Bund, which had led the resistance.  Likewise Rudolf Vrba, the Jewish escapee from Auschwitz, whose Auschwitz Protocols had helped save 200,000 Hungarian Jews, was also not invited to testify because he too was not a Zionist.  As Ruth Linn, a Professor at Haifa University, explained ‘More than 35 years later… a prominent Israeli Holocaust historian explained to me that    “Vrba was probably not invited since the State of Israel had no money to sponsor the flight.’ even though witnesses from further afield had their fares paid. Even Andrew Biss, the friend of Rudolf Kasztner, the former head of Va’ada, the Zionist Rescue & Relief Committee in Budapest, was not invited to testify, because he intended to defend Kasztner.  Those stage managing the Eichmann trial were determined to keep the Kasztner saga out of the courtroom. Continue reading “Zionism’s Record During the Holocaust”

After Chakrabarti: We Need to Talk About Zionism

Please read this article in full on Media Diversified.

by Hilary Aked
JULY 1, 2016

The left should “stop talking about Zionism”, Labour’s Jon Lansman argued recently in the wake of a row that engulfed the party over anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and led to the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry. The inquiry, which was released yesterday, suggests a better way forward.

Chakrabarti, who disclosed that she had joined the Labour party on the same day she was asked to head up the investigation, found no evidence of institutional anti-Semitism within Labour. As regards Zionism, she advised “critics of the Israeli State and/or Government” to use the term ‘Zionist’ “carefully and never euphemistically or as part of personal abuse”. This is very good advice. Conversations about Zionism – carried out both by supporters and critics – are often crass, sometimes abusive, and occasionally accompanied by anti-Semitic or Islamophobic comments, particularly some of those carried out on Twitter IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

However, it’s important we don’t allow discussions around Zionism, an ideology and political movement which remains at the heart of the Israel/Palestine conflict, to be shut down. Indeed, this is precisely the point Chakrabarti made. Being respectful – and, as she put it, “leaving Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust out of it” – should help to “facilitate” rather than inhibit debate about what she called “one of the most intractable and far-reaching geopolitical problems of the post-war world”. In fact, she encouraged Labour members “to criticise injustice and abuse wherever they find it, including in the Middle East.”

Continue reading here.

Advisory position paper for TU & Labour members & delegates on antisemitism, training & disciplinary procedures

This is a downloadable leaflet.

Who We Are – Free Speech On Israel 

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. Many of us are members of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Jeremy, Jewish Socialists’ Group, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Young Jewish Left and Jewdas.

  • We do not believe there is a wave of antisemitism in the Labour Party
  • The attacks form part of two highly orchestrated campaigns: one is to undermine the Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. The other is to suppress the pro-Palestinian voices of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others of many faiths and none, campaigning for freedom, justice and equality, of which Jeremy Corbyn has been a leading spokesperson.
  • We reiterate our strong commitment to combating all forms of racism and to defending those who are subjected to it. This means opposing Islamophobia, prejudice against migrants and racism against ethnic and religious minorities, including antisemitism.
  • We reject the suggestion that questioning the current Zionist ideology of the Israeli state and its supporters, both Jews and non-Jews is antisemitic. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews. Zionism is a political ideology, it is not an article of religious faith nor is it intrinsically a part of Jewishness.
  • In the very best traditions of the British Labour movement we campaign to end the injustices inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people.

The Jewish Labour Movement

  • The JLM is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation (WZO), a major funder of the illegal settlements.
  • The JLM is an affiliate of the World Labour Zionist Movement (WLZM), supporting its Jerusalem Programme – which claims its homeland to be Eretz Yisrael (Great Israel), i.e. all the land from the sea to the Jordan river, thus appropriating the whole of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
  • The WLZM claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, which means expelling the Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
  • The purpose of the JLM is to justify the actions of the Israeli state, whomsoever is in power. 
  • The JLM’s parent party is the Israeli Labour Party, which has never condemned the occupation. Labour’s Premier, Herzog, recently stated, “I wish to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as quickly as possible…we’ll erect a big wall between us”. There are 1.4 million Palestinians who live in Israel itself.

Leading Israeli Cabinet members have made the following statements:

  • Speaking of Israeli Arab members of Parliament, Defence Minister Lieberman said, “The fate of the collaborators in the Knesset will be identical to […] those who collaborated with the Nazis […] executed after the Nuremberg trials at the end of the War. I hope that will be the fate of collaborators in this house.” And, “When there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important.”
  • Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, posted on Facebook during Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, “The entire Palestinian people is the enemy […] including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”
  • The JLM makes no criticism of these statements nor disassociates itself from them. In fact Herzog sought to join his Israeli Labour Party to Netanyahu’s coalition government.

For these reasons many Jews in the Labour party do not accept that the JLM can represent us. Continue reading “Advisory position paper for TU & Labour members & delegates on antisemitism, training & disciplinary procedures”