LABOUR JEWS ASSERT: The Labour Party does not have a ‘problem with Jews’

We are witnessing a wave of orchestrated hysteria over claims that the Labour Party is rife with antisemitism and has a ‘problem with Jews.’ This is not true. Yes there is indeed a problem. The problem is that some people – Jewish and otherwise, inside and outside the party – use allegations of anti-Semitism as a stick to beat the Corbyn leadership, regardless of the damage caused.

Jeremy Corbyn and others have done their best to respond, rightly asserting their impeccable anti-racist credentials, treating specific allegations of antisemitism seriously, investigating them and taking appropriate measures. This is no more and no less than should happen with allegations of racism or discrimination of any kind.

But this has not satisfied those sections of the pro-Israel lobby orchestrating the attacks. They have targeted Malia Bouattia, the first Muslim woman to be elected president of the National Union of Students, on the thinnest of pretexts and despite her consistently principled stance. Another victim has been Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) founder member and lifelong anti-racist Tony Greenstein, suspended from the Labour Party without even being informed of the charges against him. Now Naz Shah has been suspended on the basis of a few inappropriate social media posts, which she evidently regrets – swiftly followed by Ken Livingstone for having the temerity to defend her. (Regarding Shah’s comments, read more here, and this background to Livingstone’s comments on Zionism & Hitler)

Those who are making allegations of anti-Semitism are talking a different language.  It is not anti-Semitism but anti-Zionism that is their concern.  It is opposition to Israeli racism not anti-Jewish racism that concerns them.

This campaign of vilification is intended to undermine Labour’s new leaders, because of their commendable record of supporting justice for Palestine. The wider aim is to crush support for the solidarity movement, which is working to achieve for Palestinians basic rights that are endorsed by international legal bodies.

As the Jewish Socialist Group has stated on its website: ‘A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.’                         

As Labour and Trade Union activists, we condemn this witch hunt and assert the right to campaign in solidarity with all oppressed people, including Palestinians. We: – Reiterate our strong commitment to combating all forms of racism and to defending those who are subjected to it. We actively oppose Islamophobia, prejudice against migrants and racism against ethnic and religious minorities, including anti-Jewish racism.

– Reject the suggestion that questioning the Zionist ideology of the Israeli state and its supporters – both Jews and non-Jews – entails antisemitic prejudice. On the contrary, campaigning to end the injustices inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people is in the very best traditions of the British Labour movement.

– Urge the Labour Party establishment to

  • listen to the many Jews who are outraged by the lie that Jews are not safe in the Labour Party;
  • cease victimising those who work for justice for Palestine;
  • adhere to fair practice and transparency when investigating charges against members;
  • call to order Labour Party members who bring the party into disrepute by spreading calumnies about widespread antisemitism in the party.
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9 thoughts on “LABOUR JEWS ASSERT: The Labour Party does not have a ‘problem with Jews’”

  1. 1. In some circles KL’s comments were condemned for being ‘political’ or that he ‘politicised’ the Holocaust. As the Holocaust was an extreme political act, all discourse about it is political. That’s not the problem with KL’s comments.
    2. The key problem with his comments are that intertwining zionism with Nazism one suggests that somehow these two entities were symmetrical at the time of the so-called deal of 1933. (They weren’t. One was a massive power, one was a relatively small group of people on the receiving end of persecution, figuring out a fiddle to escape that persecution. And then, having signed this deal, KL’s comments signify that zionism collaborated with the Holocaust – even contributed to it happening. That is an absurd proposition. Whether this is what KL was saying, or implying or suggesting, is now beside the point. That’s the can of worms he opened up and then opened up again and then lumbered the Labour Party with having to deal with it.
    3. As a minimum, a functionary of the left, as he is, has to act with the support of others and in support of others. It rather looks as if he acted entirely on his own.
    4. Yes, of course there is a right wing agenda within the Labour Party, and from outside, and of course there is a zionist one too – and perhaps these overlap, but this isn’t a reason to support or defend KL!

    nbI’m not in the Labour Party.

    1. Thank you for really usefully (because logically) delineating and distinguishing the separate issues here. I hope the Labour Party will work along these lines in their enquiry.

    2. I agree with much that Muchael Rosen has written.
      I am a socialist, a member of the Labour Party and am Jewish by birth , Humanist by choice.
      Of course the Tories have sat on this story until the time was right to deflect attention from their dreadful , destructive policies…dismantling of the NHS, junior doctors dispute, compulsory academisation of schools etc. and inflict maximum damage on Labour.
      What a gift Ken Livingstone’s contribution has made!
      A naive young woman retweeted nearly 3 years ago…anti-Semitic nonsense, offensive and distasteful.
      By all accounts she has learnt a lot since, apologised, engaged with the Jewish community and has been suspended pending an investigation…action taken less than promptly but a situation that could have been contained and led on to rule changes ensuring swift action in future.
      What did she tweet?
      That Israel should be relocated, all Jewish inhabitants transported to America, where they would be welcomed, not hated as they were in the Middle East.
      This is anti-Semitic as it treats all Jews in Israel ,and implies all Jews everywhere, as if they all share responsibility for the policies and actions of the right-wing Israeli government including the shameful treatment of the Palestinians trapped in Israel and the occupied territories.
      Many Jews inside and outside Israel do not support these policies and actively campaign against them.
      Not everyone in England supports the policies of the Tory government, only 24% of voters voted for them and many of them are shocked at what has been done in their name.
      And Ken Livingstone defended her by announcing that in the early 1930s Hitler was a Zionist and had taken part in brokering a deal to expel all Jews from Germany where they were hated and persecuted and send them to live in Palestine.
      I can only assume KL was trying to say that we mustn’t jump to conclusions that people are anti-Semitic when they have the best interests of Jews at heart….Hitler, like Naz , was trying to help them by getting them to a place of safety as an act of altruism!
      Shame that he then went mad and changed his solution to torturing and staving them, then gassing them and cremating them in ovens.
      However hard KL was pressed to apologise he refused and just kept repeating that his words were historically accurate.
      No one is denying that but wondering how this is a defence of what the perpetrator has described as an anti-Semitic tweet for which she is deeply sorry?
      KL has made sure that this story will undermine the progress Jeremy Corbyn has painstakingly made in building a Socialist party to counteract the horrors of this right-wing government hell-bent on dismantling our society into profit-making opportunities for their grubby mates.
      KL has been suspended. I am sure he will continue to seek the attention he clearly craves.
      Perhaps we need to think of a country to transport him to where he will be loved, as an act of altruism obviously.
      Of hand, I can’t think of one.

      1. Hi Valerie, thank you for your contribution to the debate on our new site.

        Regarding Naz Shah’s comments, please see this post: http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/naz-shahs-comments/

        There is a note on the Jews for Justice for Palestinians website that explains the map Naz Shah shared was posted on Norman Finkelstein’s blog under the heading: ‘Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict‏’, on Monday, August 4th, 2014: the day before Shah shared it (http://normanfinkelstein.com/2014/08/04/solution-for-israel-palestine-conflict%E2%80%8F/). Then reposted or linked to in 2014 by politics i.e. and Democratic Underground (Are you caught in social media crossfire over Gaza) among many others (mostly American).

      2. On February 15, the co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) resigned his position, in response to OULC deciding to endorse Israeli Apartheid Week (a telling trigger). Shortly afterwards, and for a period of roughly a month, the media reported a number of cases where Labour members were alleged to have been guilty of antisemitic remarks, predominantly on social media.

        Corbyn’s political opponents and their friends in the media, saw an opportunity: the Daily Mail declared Corbyn to be “a long-standing supporter of the terrorist organisation Hamas”, while Boris Johnson urged Londoners to vote Tory in the mayoral contest, citing Labour’s antisemitism “cancer.” In mid-March, The Jewish Chronicle declared that Labour “attracts antisemites like flies to a cesspit.”

        The Labour Party has more than 400 MPs and peers at Westminster, in addition to almost 7,000 local government officials and some 390,000 members. The antisemitism ‘crisis’ has involved half a dozen individuals, most of whom have either never held, or no longer hold elected office. Corbyn himself has repeatedly condemned antisemitism since becoming leader, while according to Party General Secretary Iain McNicol, everyone reported for antisemitism has been suspended or excluded.

        Getting a problem in perspective is not the same as denying that any problem exists (by definition). As Richard Kuper, spokesperson of Jews for Justice for Palestinians tells me, “there is some antisemitism in and around the Labour party – as there is in the wider society in Britain”, a problem made worse by “increased use of social media.”

        However, Kuper said, “there is clearly also a coordinated, willed and malign campaign to exaggerate the nature and extent of antisemitism as a stick to beat the Labour party” under Corbyn. Ian Saville, a founder of the ‘Jews for Jeremy’ Facebook page, agrees, saying he is “disturbed” by the way antisemitism has “been taken up as a proxy with which to attack the left in the Labour Party.”

  2. As a socialist who has been fortunate to go to Austwitch Birkanau and Palestine this year I can say first hand criticism of Israel and Zionism is not anti semitic. It is a response to the oppression of the Palestinians. I met the coalition of women for peace, a Jewish organisation who are wonderful and other groups.

  3. I disagree with Mike Rosen’s comments. He does not appreciate the situation we are in nor it would seem the concept of solidarity.

    Anti-semitism is being instrumentalised as a weapon to attack the Labour leadership. Unfortunately Corbyn seems blithely unaware and is unable to push back on this because he has never theoretically understood why Zionism is racist. He has been full of solidarity on a human rights level but never come to terms with what a Jewish state is.

    Ken is different in that he has read around the subject and has been far more willing to engage in debate. He has not always understood e.g. the book by Lennin Brenner on Nazi-Zionist collaboration. Ken presumably made his comments about Hitler supporting Zionism, in the context of emigration of Germany’s Jews, as a response to Zionist accusations of anti-Semitism and their ritual use of the holocaust.

    This is a subject that should be rationally discussed. Yes of course it is true that Nazism held power in Germany, Zionism did not. But Zionism was allied with British imperialism and it aimed to build a Jewish state. It therefore acted as an adjunct to imperialism and looked at what was happening from the perspective of state building not from the position of how best to rescue Germany’s Jews.

    If anyone doubts this they should read an especially perceptive chapter in Shabtai Teveth’s biography of Ben Gurion, The Burning Ground, the official biography incidentally, so he had access to all his papers. I could quote from it at length but I’ll just include this one quote:

    ‘‘If there was a line in Ben-Gurion’s mind between the beneficial disaster and an all-destroying catastrophe, it must have been a very fine one.’ Ben-Gurion’s attitude was that ‘Disaster is strength if channelled to a productive course. The whole trick of Zionism is that it knows how to channel our disaster, not into despondency or degradation, as is the case in the Diaspora, but into a source of creativity and exploitation.’

    The Holocaust was, in the words of Berl Katznelson, who was effectively Ben Gurion’s deputy on the Jewish Agency Executive. Francis Nicosia, an extremely pro-Zionist historian, writes that: ‘Berl Katznelson, a founder of Mapai and editor of Davar, saw the rise of Hitler as “an opportunity to build and flourish like none we have ever had or ever will have”. [Zionism in Nazi Germany, p.91] Rabbi Joachim Prinz, one of the leaders of German Zionism and later President of the AJC and Vice Chairman of the WJC, admitted that:
    “It was morally disturbing to seem to be considered as the favoured children of the Nazi Government, particularly when it dissolved the anti-Zionist youth groups, and seemed in other ways to prefer the Zionists. The Nazis asked for a ‘more Zionist behaviour.”

    The Zionist movement saw in the holocaust an opportunity to build their state. Hence why, when Nazism arose most Jews, including ordinary Zionists, supported the Boycott of Nazi Germany which frightened the Nazi leaders. Zionism together with the bourgeois Jews in the West opposed the Boycott.

    In a debate between Berl Locker of the JA Executive and Baruch Vladeck, editor of the Yiddish daily Forward and Chairman of the Jewish Labor Committee (a Bundist group), Vladeck described how ‘The whole organized labor movement and the progressive world are waging a fight against Hitler through the boycott. The Transfer Agreement scabs on that fight.’ Vladeck contended that ‘The main purpose of the Transfer is not to rescue the Jews from Germany but to strengthen various institutions in Palestine.’ Vladeck termed Palestine ‘the official scab agent against the boycott in the Near-East’ because ‘without the worldwide effort to topple the Third Reich, Hitler would have never agreed to the Transfer Agreement.’ This can be found in Lenni Brenner’s 51 documents.

    So Livingstone was essentially correct and the behaviour of the Jewish Agency and its representative in Hungary, Rudolf Kasztner was far worse. In 1953 Kasztner brought a libel action against Malchiel Greenwald who had accused him of collaboration. The trial, in Israel, lasted for over 4 years. During it Kasztner was assasinated and the second Labour govt under Moshe Sharrett fell as a result of the Jerusalem District Court finding that Kasztner had collaborated. Although the verdict was overturned 4-1 by the Supreme Court, it didn’t challenge the factual findings of the lower court.

    In essence Kasztner reached a deal with Eichmann. A train out of Hungary for the Zionist and Jewish elite and in return the Zionists and bourgeois Judenrat would collaborate with the Nazis in the rounding up of the Jews, the production of lists and in misleading Jews as to the nature of the trains. Jews were told that they were going to a fictitious place Kenyermeze not Auschwitz. Hungary at that time was adjacent to Romania where it was possible to find refuge. At least 5,000 Jews including many Zionists did escape. After the war and this was why he was held to have collaborated by the Court, Kasztner gave testimony in favour of 7 leading Nazis at Nuremburg including Krumey, who had been Eichman’s second in command in Hungary and Wisliceny, the butcher of Slovakian and Salonikan Jewry. In the latter case, the Czechs refused, as the Zionists lobbied, for him to be transferred back into US custody and he was hanged instead.

    The Zionist role during WWII was abysmal. They actually lobbied the Gestapo into not allowing Jewish emigration to countries other than Palestine and did their best to close the doors in places like the US and Australia.

    I disagree with Valerie Goldthorp too. What has happened to Naz Shah, as Finkelstein has pointed out, is utterly repugnant. In the middle of the attack on Gaza, when over 2,000 people were murdered, including 550 children, she made a joke about how much better it would be if Israel was transferred to the US. It was a typical example of a make believe, tongue in cheek joke of how it would be nice if we could emulate Harry Potter kind of stuff. It has been ripped out of context by those whose business it is to defend the Israeli state. A state where 48% of the people, a majority, want to expel Israeli Palestinians, where 75% of Jews wouldn’t live next to an Arab. A state that has supplied and trained the death squads of Central America.

    Naz Shah wasn’t in the least anti-Semitic and nor was Ken Livingstone. I’m sorry that Mike Rosen, who is a long standing socialist, doesn’t understand that an attack on Ken is an attack on all of this. His tactical ineptness is besides the point. He isn’t being attacked for that. His comments whilst slightly inaccurate weren’t anti-Semitic in the least.

  4. There are two related but distinct factors at play here. The main factor is the fight within the Labour Party: the right-wingers in the party are very narked that a left-winger, Jeremy Corbyn, has been elected as leader and that the left is growing within the party. They wish to remove the new leader and defeat the left and are not at all choosy as to the methods used. And their main method is accusing him and the whole Labour left of anti-Semitism. As the Labour right’s aims are shared by the Tories, the Lib-Dems and the majority of newspapers, they have all jumped on this bandwagon.

    The second, and secondary, factor is the Zionist lobby in Britain. It wants at all costs to discredit those — Jews and Goys alike — who reject Zionism and are critical of the conduct of the state of Israel, and does so by claiming that rejecting Zionism and criticising the state of Israel is by definition being anti-Jewish. They deliberately conflate the critique of a political philosophy and of a state with a prejudice against a national/religious group.

    As it is largely on the left that criticisms of Zionism and Israel are to be found, it is obvious that there is a community of interests between the Labour right and the Zionist lobby in discrediting the left by accusing it of ‘anti-Semitism’. The anti-Corbyn brigade are being fed information by the Zionist lobby, often via right-wing muckrakers such as the ‘Order Order’ website.

    It is true that the Labour right-wingers are predominantly pro-Zionist. This is mainly because they are neo-cons or at least Atlanticists, and Israel plays a key role in US foreign policy, which they support. Nevertheless, the driving factor in their anti-Corbyn campaign is not Zionism as such, but a much broader push to get him out and to defeat the left. It’s just that the question of Zionism is the convenient weapon of choice. And of course, the Labour left is not helped by a few crass and ignorant statements on the subject by some of its figures.

    It is possible that the hoo-ha about ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party might backfire. We all know of Orwell’s phrase that he who controls the past controls the future, but suspending a left-wing party member for a brief Facebook comment about her African and Jewish ancestors of several centuries back could well mark a turning point.

    But there’s another way it could backfire, and this is the one that I fear: a revival of real anti-Semitism. Let us close with the words of Moshé Machover, an Israeli dissident and longstanding critic of Zionism:

    ‘… the Israeli propaganda machine cynically uses the accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’ to deflect and denigrate the growing criticism against its actions. I should point out that, paradoxically, this mendacious propaganda itself has an anti-Semitic implication. By conflating Israel with the totality of Jews and claiming that hostility to Israel is hostility to that totality, this propaganda implies that Israel is acting in the name and on behalf of all Jews. But from this false proposition it would follow that all Jews are somehow complicit in the atrocities committed by Israel, that all Jews are to blame for what Israel is doing to the Palestinian Arabs. So anyone who hates what Israel is doing, but is stupid or naive enough to take seriously that claim of Israeli propaganda, may develop negative feelings against all Jews.’

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