Commons Home Affairs Committee ignored evidence

The Home Affairs select committee was presented with many different views of the nature of antisemitism. The committee ignored all those which did not fit in with its narrow purpose. It should have considered how best to protect British Jews; it failed. Instead it cherry picked submissions that absolved Israel or attacked Jeremy Corbyn.

We reprint Free Speech on Israel’s evidence which we hope fair minded commentators will consider even if MPs would not.

Mike Cushman

Free Speech on Israel submission to Home Affairs Committee inquiry into antisemitism

4 July 2016

SUMMARY

  • Those who claim to represent the Jewish community, and who are given voice by the media, do not represent a sizeable Jewish minority who are highly critical of Israel and the violations of Palestinian human rights.
  • There is no wave of antisemitism in the Labour party, whilst peaks of antisemitism in the general community correlate with the attacks on Gaza.
  • The allegations essentially constitute a campaign against the left leadership of the Labour Party and the success of the Boycott movement.
  • There is a conflation of Jew, Israel and Zionism such that criticism of Israel or Zionism is defined as antisemitism.
  • A particular form of Zionism, committed to territorial expansion and the expulsion of Palestinians, today informs both the Israeli government and the international Jewish establishment.
  • Where Israel, Zionism and Jew are conflated into one identity it should not be surprising that criticism of Israel’s actions or of its current political ideology may cause some Jews to feel personally uncomfortable or insecure. It is, however, incumbent on the critics to ensure criticism of human rights violations, and/or of the ideology which informs them, are accurately focussed and do not slide into criticism of Jews and become antisemitic.
  • Israel receives privileged attention because it has a special relationship with the UK, the EU and the USA, and claims to be a liberal democracy.
  • The EUMC committee’s ‘working definition’ of antisemitism has not been adopted by the EU and has been disowned by it’s successor committee, the FRA. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is a private body and cannot be cited to accord the ‘working definition’ any international legal status.
  • The Jewish Labour Movement’s proposed Labour Party rule change would be a gross violation of the principles of natural justice.
  • Due to its partiality, the JLM is not a fit body to provide the Labour Party with advice and training on antisemitism.
  • Very occasionally individuals on demonstrations display references to the Nazis and refuse to remove them. Streets are public places and it would not be possible to remove them without force. Citing this microscopically small and insignificant minority as representative of the demonstrations or their organisers is a calumny.

CONCLUSION

  • It is incumbent on Parliament and its Committees when taking evidence to include the Jewish groups which dissent from the mainstream Jewish narrative.

1. Who we are.

a ‘Free Speech On Israel’ is a network of Labour, Green and trade union activists, mainly of Jews drawn from Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Jeremy, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Young Jewish Left, and Jewdas. It came together to counter the campaign to brand support for justice for Palestinians antisemitic, and at concern for the lack of due process in the suspensions from the Labour party, with no published evidence.

b. Those interviewed or referenced by the Committee who claim to represent the Jewish community all identify themselves as Zionists who defend Israel from all and any criticism, namely the Board of Deputies of British Jews, The Jewish Leadership Council, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Community Security Trust, British Information Communications Media Organisation (BICOM), and the Zionist Federation. They are all well resourced, with their views amplified in the media. However, large sections of the Jewish community reject Zionism and between our different groups we believe we are representative of these sections.

c. A survey last year by Yachad, a liberal UK Zionist group found:
31% did not self-identify as Zionists
24% would support sanctions if they believed it would push Israel into a peace process,
This rose to 41% of under 30’s

A similar USA survey last year (only published in Hebrew) found:
just 42% believe Israel wants peace
only 38% believe Israel is a civilised society
only 31% believes it is democratic
21% believe the US should side with the Palestinians

It is evident that within the Jewish community there is considerable and deep disquiet concerning the nature of Israeli society, the Occupation and the discriminatory policies of the Israeli government. This diversity of opinion has been underrepresented in the media and, so far, in the public deliberations of your Committee.

2. Why the flood of accusations of antisemitism now?

a. In our collective experience running to thousands of person years, we have experienced only a tiny number of antisemitic incidents, none of which have been in the Labour Party, and we have seen no recent upsurge. Most of the current allegations relate to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

‘Could we see it as part of a broader campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, as the leading pro- Palestinian politician, and against the Boycott movement. Politicians have been silenced by fear of the antisemitic trope, which is intended to close down ethical, historically informed debate […] Settler and soldier brutality, casual killings, child arrests and imprisonment and abuse, land theft, house demolitions, and racism escalate daily. But criticism is deflected (by being defined) as visceral hatred of the Jewish state.’

These words (summarised) are not those of a conspiratorial antisemitic leftist, but of the internationally respected Oxford University Professor and author Avi Shlaim, who is also Jewish.

3. Understanding the nature of the complaints – the conflation of Jew, Israel and Zionism

a. The current accusations identify three areas as targets of antisemitism: Jews, Israel and Zionism. It is the tripartite conflation of these which creates the logic that criticism of any one is an attack on Jews and is therefore antisemitic. (Initially any criticism of Israel was so defined, recently however there has been a degree of moderation such that now not all criticism of Israel is defined as illegitimate).

This conflation is endorsed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis, who has said, “You can no more separate it (Zionism) from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.”

4. An historical context

a. In 2500 years of Jewish culture Zionism was a late addition, arriving in the last third of the 19C. It did so as a political ideology, was vigorously opposed across the spectrum, from Orthodox Judaism to the Bund – the powerful Jewish socialist, trade union, political and welfare organisation extensively established across Russia and Eastern Europe. Completely opposed to nationalism, the Bund believed the solution to antisemitism was to change the nature of the societies in which Jews lived. It was overwhelming the dominant organisation up to the collapse of the 1917 Russian revolution and the devastation of its members in the carnage of WWI. Zionism remained a tiny minority movement until the inter-war period, from when it gained influence and following the Holocaust became dominant.

b. Zionism took many forms – humanist, socialist, political, practical/cultural, labour, revisionist and general – each distinctive in their values and objectives. Over time they coalesced into two camps, Humanist and Political Zionism, their essential difference being co-existence with the indigenous Palestinian population (one state, bi-national state, etc) on the one hand and the establishment of an expansionist and exclusively Jewish state on the other. The latter won the day.

c. A good illustration of humanist Zionism is the story of Reuven Moskowitz, the Holocaust survivor who, nearly 70 years later, was on the Jewish Boat to Gaza in 2010. When liberated in 1945 he and others set up a kibbutz on vacant land. The kibbutz thrived and the committee decided to expand forcibly by taking adjoining Palestinian land. Reuvan and colleagues objected and were expelled. He went on to become a founding member of Wahat al-Salam – Nev Shalom, a Jewish Palestinian community which exists to this day. He was and is a humanist Zionist.

d. Large parts of the international Jewish community continue to reject Zionism – for religious reasons, for a belief in a ‘diasporic’ identity or out of rejection of nationalism as the solution to the Jewish question of identity and safety.

e. Zionism is a political ideology, it is not a religion, a racial characteristic  or an essential component of Jewish identity. As such, it must be legitimate to subject it to criticism as any other political ideology.

5. The conflation of Israel’s right to exist with the right to ignore United Nations  Resolution 181. 

a. UN Resolution 181 stipulated the establishment of “a Jewish state and an Arab state” with a  56%-43% division of the land; guarantees of the rights of minorities, and of religious rights, including free access to and preservation of Holy Places; an Economic Union between the two states, with joint administration of main services, and with equal access to water and energy resources. Israel has never recognised Resolution 181 nor its responsibility in the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis created in 1948.

It must be legitimate to criticise the way in which Israel came into existence, its illegitimate violation of Resolution 181 and its continued denial of Palestinians’ rights with respect to this Resolution.

6. The relationship between Zionism and criticism of Israel, past and current

a. The violation of Resolution 181 by the founders of Israel can be better understood from their early pronouncements. Their a priori belief was that antisemitism was rooted in human nature, and that the only answer to centuries of persecution would be a Jewish nation state. Its founders were transparent about both their objectives and their means:

b. The founding Zionist leader, J.Weitz, for 40 years Head of the Jewish Agency and of the Jewish National Fund (which was responsible for the initial settlements in Palestine) wrote,

“….there is no other way than to transfer the Arabs….not one village, not one tribe should be left.” To the Committee for Population Transfer, he said, “The transfer of the Arab population from the land of the Jewish state […] serves to evacuate the land presently held and cultivated by the Arabs and thus release it for the Jewish inhabitants.”

c. David Ben Gurion – Prime Minister, leader of the Zionist movement from the 1920s – 60s wrote,

“The cleansing of Palestine remains the prime objective of Plan Dallet.”

(Plan Dalet was the military operation for the clearing of Palestinian villages in 1948)

d. Chaim Weizmann – President of the World Zionist Organisation,1920, said,

‘There is a fundamental difference in quality between Jew and native’.

Following the Deir Yassin village massacre he said:

“It was a miraculous clearing of the land”

e. Menahem.Ussishkin, Chair of the Jewish National Fund, 1930, said,

“If there are other inhabitants there, they must be transferred to some other place. We must take over the land. We have a greater and nobler ideal than preserving several hundred thousands of Arab fellahin”.

For territorial zionism, therefore, conflict with the Arab population was inevitable.

f. Arhur Ruppin, founder of the Sociology Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, believed that,

“owing to the process of selection […] the Ashekenasim are today superior in intelligence […] to the Sephadim and Arabian Jews..”

‘Dr.Aaron Sandler, Leading Zionist, physician at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem was convinced that the Jewish people had always been a pure race.’

Redcliffe Salaman, of the Faculty of Life Sciences, Hebrew University and member of its Board of Trustees, believed that Zionism was a eugenic project for improving the Jewish race’.

This racism has been a consistent component of the Israeli polity. From its inception there has been discrimination not only against its Arab citizens but also against Mitrachi, Sephadi, and Falasha Jews, all still very much in evidence today.

7. This tradition, in unalloyed form, is reproduced today by leading Israelis figures

a. Ayelet Shaked (MK) Justice Minister during Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, in a Facebook post a day before Israeli extremists burned alive Muhammad Abu Khdeir,  asserted,

“the entire Palestinian people is the enemy […] its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

b. The Likud Party’s Chairman is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Likud defines itself as:

“A center-right party, whose roots can be traced back to the teachings of Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Revisionist Zionism”, where “The Jordan River will be the State of Israel’s permanent border”.

c. Avigdor Lieberman, Defence Minister, said of Israeli Arab legislators who support the Palestinian cause,

“The fate of the collaborators in the Knesset will be identical to that of those who

collaborated with the Nazis. Collaborators, as well as criminals, were executed after the Nuremberg trials at the end of the World War Two.”

Last September he said:

“The vision I would like to see here is the entrenching of the Jewish and the Zionist state. I very much favor democracy, but when there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important.”

d. Some senior Israeli figures are ringing alarm bells:

on May 20th ex-Prime Minister Ehud Barak described the current Israeli government as:

“infected by the shoots of fascism”.

e. And the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces, Maj. Gen.Y’air Golan, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, professed himself frightened to recognise

“the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then ….. and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.”

8. Why the focus on Israel’s human rights abuses?

a. Israel claims to be part of the western democratic club. Politically, economically and socially it has a special relationship with the UK, the USA and the EU. This relationship means mainstream media in these countries give primacy to the Israeli narrative on the Israel/Palestine conflict. For us in FSOI rejection of this narrative is bound up with our own Jewish identity and our social responsibility.  As Israel’s politics and actions move increasingly rightwards, so criticism in the West, with its strong sense of civil rights and hypocrisy grows louder, in turn causing Israel’s publicity organisation, known as the Hasbora, to raise the volume and the reach of their message.

9. Has there been a rise in antisemitism?

a. The Community Security Trust’s own statistics show a clear correlation between specific attacks on Gaza and spikes in antisemitic incidents in the UK. The relatively small (though not unimportant) rise in the average following Protective Edge, appears to correlate with the social media coverage of the raised level of Israeli violence. The CST chart below (Appendix 1) is not consistent with the statement by Jonathan Arkush that since the attack on Gaza in 2014 the raised levels of antisemitism were sustained.

The reference to police figures was also deceptive, those quoted were of reported incidents, not incidents verified following investigation; that is, they were figures based on subjective experiences.

10. Misuse of the EUMC/FRA definition

a. Since the 1970s  there have been consistent attempts to broaden the concept of antisemitism, lately called ‘the new antisemitism’ and often re-packaged as ‘antisemitic, anti-Israel anti-zionism’ .  These attempts have been based on the ‘so called’ ‘EUMC working definition of antisemitism’. – ‘so-called’ because its original parent body – the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia – was disbanded, the ‘new antisemitism’ definition was never adopted by the EU, and the EUMC’s successor body the Fundamental Rights Agency has disowned it. In other words the EUMC definition of antisemitism was never agreed or adopted by the EU, and thus never existed as a formal EU definition.

11. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance

a. The IHRA has been cited as a body which has adopted the EUMC ‘working definition’, which is intended to give this definition authority, but the IHRA has no legal or international standing, it is a private body. Referencing the EMCU definition and the IHRA’s ‘endorsement’ of it to pass it as an ‘official’ definition by Jonathan Arkush was at best disingenuous, at worst deceptive.

12. The 50 suspensions in the Labour Party

a. These suspensions have been marked by a major failure of natural justice; in particular, as there has been no independent investigation of the allegations. Many were generated on the say so of individuals who may well have had their own agendas. Until the hearings are complete these suspensions cannot be used as evidence of antisemitism. The two which have been completed (Royall’s investigation into Oxford University Labour Club, and that of Jackie Taylor) found no evidence of antisemitism.

b. Feelings are running high due to what are widely seen as gratuitous allegations, and reflex suspensions, against life long committed socialists and anti-racists.

13 The Jewish Labour Movement

a. The JLM

The JLM is affiliated not only to the British Labour Party, but also to the World Zionist Organisation (WZO), a major funder of the illegal settlements. It is also an affiliate of the World Labour Zionist Movement (WLZM) which, in its Jerusalem Programme claims its homeland to be Eretz Yisrael  (Great Israel), that is, comprising all the land from the sea to the Jordan river, and thereby laying claim to the whole of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Furthermore, the WLZM claims all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which implies the expulsion of all Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

The JLM’s parent party is the Israeli Labour Party, which has never condemned the Occupation.

The ILP’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”.

As there are 1.4 million Palestinians who live in Israel itself, so this implies he wishes to expel them to the West Bank.

b. The Proposed JLM Rule Change

There has been widespread disbelief at the nature of the rule change proposed by the JLM.

The Conference motion it has proposed states:  “A member of the Party who uses antisemitic, Islamophobic, racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions in public, private, online or offline, as determined by the NEC, shall be deemed to have engaged in conduct prejudicial to the Party.”

“The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions, except in instances involving antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism

“Where a member is responsible for a hate incident, being defined as something where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity, or sexual orientation, the NEC may have the right to impose the appropriate disciplinary options.” (emphasis added).

c. Observations

i. It violates the principles of natural justice as there is no provision for independent assessment of prima facie grounds for suspension; suspension would be at the say so of any individual, with a presumption of guilt.

ii. The inclusion of ‘private and offline material’ is regulation of private and personal life.

iii. It would give extraordinary power over party membership to any unrepresentative group, such as the JLM.

iv. Once adopted it would be difficult to criticise or repeal as this could be defined as antisemitic by the rule itself, and the proposer could be liable to suspension/dismissal.

This is the world of mind control and Orwell’s 1984.

e. Given all of the above, it is not appropriate that the JLM should be the body which advises the Labour Party on antisemitism, or to be the body responsible for training in this area, which is what it is proposing. We do not consider the JLM is fit for this purpose.

14. Exaggerations on displays of fascist symbols

a. Most us have participated over many years in many demonstrations protesting the violation of Palestinian human rights, often at organisational level, as main speakers or as stewards. These demonstrations have numbered from a few hundred to many tens of thousands (the largest 140-150,000 during Protective Edge). There have never been organised contingents displaying fascist emblems. On one occasion a group of young people displayed pictures of the Star of David with a swastika inside it. Members of Jewish pro-Palestinian groups on the march talked with them, and on learning of the real meaning and associations they removed the pictures.

Inevitably there have been very occasional individuals who display references to the Nazis and refuse to remove them. Streets are public places and it would not be possible to remove them without force. Citing this microscopically small and insignificant minority as representative of the demonstrations or their organisers is a calumny.

CONCLUSION

We have attempted to demonstrate that there is a significant part of the Jewish community which is not represented by its establishment leaders; that Zionism is a political ideology not a religious belief, a racial characteristic or an essential component of Jewish identity; that there has been no upsurge of antisemitism in the Labour Party, and that the wave of suspensions is part of a broader campaign against both its left wing leadership and the movement for Palestinian human rights. Where Israel, Zionism and Jew are conflated into one identity it is not surprising that criticism of Israel’s actions or of its current political ideology may cause some Jews to feel personally uncomfortable or insecure. The conflation serves to close down both criticism of Israel’s actions by non-Jews, for fear of accusations of antisemitism, and to inhibit the development of critical attitudes by Jews themselves, because any questioning becomes defined as an existential challenge. It is, however, incumbent on the critics to ensure criticism of human rights violations, and/or of the ideology which informs them, is accurately focussed and does not slide into criticism of Jews and become antisemitic.

RECOMMENDATION

With respect to both the Jewish community and to matters relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict, it is incumbent on Parliament and its Committees when taking evidence to include the Jewish groups which dissent from the mainstream Jewish narrative, so that a comprehensive understanding is achieved and that such understanding may inform any action which may be considered.

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