Why do they hate us? An apology for my enemies

Michael Lesher

Reproduced by permission of the author from The Times of Israel Blog

You’ve seen them, haven’t you? The vicious personal attacks, the expletives, the death wishes? If you’ve read any writing like mine – writing by a Jew who acknowledges Palestinian humanity – and taken the time to look at some of the readers’ comments, you know what I mean.

Michael Lesher
Michael Lesher is an author, lawyer and Orthodox Jew who lives in Passaic, NJ. His most recent book is Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities (McFarland & Co., 2014).

If you don’t – well, for simplicity’s sake, let’s consider only the attacks on me personally. (Gideon Levy, Amira Hass, Norman Finkelstein and my friend Jonathan Ofir, among others, have all attracted similar vituperation.) An ostensibly religious Jew has publicly called me a “deviant,” “an enemy” and “the worst kind of Jew”; he has also compared me to Nazi collaborators, concluding that since I “lack[] the morality of a sewer rat,” it might be appropriate for a truly religious Jew to murder me.

An exceptional case? I wish it were. One of my recent columns in this space called attention to the dehumanization of Palestinians who resist Israel’s occupation. In response, an assortment of Jewish readers described me as “vile,” “a sub-category of human,” “a disgusting human being,” “an enemy to Judaism” and a “self-aggrandizing demented buffoon” with “sick, twisted opinions.” Another of my fellow Orthodox Jews – borrowing a leaf from the Nazi pamphlet Entartete Kunst – suggested that my concern with Palestinian rights could only mean a taint in my Jewish lineage.

And so it goes.

I could ignore these comments, of course. But I prefer trying to understand them. For if we don’t understand what drives Jews to such bizarre slanders – all the while believing themselves completely above reproach – it’s obvious that we won’t be able to change their minds. And if we don’t, it isn’t only Palestinian rights that must suffer: people incapable of civilized discourse about the institutions they cherish are eo ipso incapable of keeping their civilization alive. So it’s dangerous to turn one’s back completely on the invective, however stupid and shallow – the very stupidity of the attacks is the index of the threat their authors pose to their own culture. And to mine.

So why do the mudslingers hate us so much? Here are few things I think I can discern behind the ranting.

1) They’ve been deceived about themselves. For decades, many Jews – particularly Israeli Jews, and those raised to identify with Israel – have been taught that they belong to a higher breed of human being, one that by nature never harms anyone needlessly. Like the citizens of Mark Twain’s Hadleyburg, they believe in their moral superiority because it’s been preached at them, incessantly, as the essence of their identity: to doubt it is to doubt themselves.

Thus the celebrated Jewish-American writer Jeffrey Goldberg, who embraced Israeli citizenship in time to assist in the torture of Palestinian prisoners and the brutal military repression that characterized the IDF’s response to the overwhelmingly nonviolent first intifada, could still kvell in print over Israel’s martial prowess and piously insist that Israeli Jews are morally superior to the Palestinians they kill.

It’s not that Goldberg is stupid or deliberately dishonest. He’s just so wedded to the fantasy of Jewish purity that he cannot acknowledge the testimony of his own eyes without imperiling his sense of identity. Like Heinrich Himmler, who boasted that SS officers, having seen “a hundred corpses lying together,” “remained decent fellows” because of the Germans’ “harmless soul” and “idealism” – qualities never found among the “alien peoples” they were forced to exterminate – Goldberg must insist, against all evidence, that Palestinians are naturally violent while “we [Israelis] don’t try to kill children.”

2) They’ve been trained in fear. Just as they’ve been taught to assume their own superiority, our critics have been taught to hate and fear those they repress. And why not? If you want to hold other people down with a clear conscience, you need to persuade yourself – or allow yourself to be persuaded – that your victims are monstrous, evil by definition. Over two years ago, I quoted in one of my columns a widely-publicized sermon in which an Orthodox rabbi advised his flock to shun all non-kosher food because “the Arabs seek nothing else but Jewish blood” – implying that Palestinians were not just murderers but vampires, longing to suck the blood from Jewish veins but thwarted when that blood is pure. (Because they aren’t, I guess.) I have yet to hear from another Orthodox Jew who found this passage grotesque; on the contrary, several denounced me for questioning it.

Conversely, such people have been taught to identify virtue exclusively with those they know. Instead of seeing loyalty, justice, compassion as qualities they share with humankind generally, their exposure to these traits in their own communities only reinforces their sense of uniqueness: if we are like that, then they cannot be. This is what Sartre had in mind when he wrote that “if the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would have to invent him.” It’s also why, as Laith Saud has remarked, those Americans (and Jews) today who want to see in themselves “an unadulterated Enlightenment” must picture the Other – Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims generally – as “purely barbaric.” To those trapped in this mindset, the good we know in ourselves must be ours alone if it is to be real.

3) They’re demoralized. Behind the bravado and the hate speech, today’s Israel-Firsters are a confused, beleaguered, unhappy lot. The state they once regarded as Olympian has revealed feet of clay. The airy utopianism of Israel’s early leaders has given way to a Jim Crow society where crowds of young Jews chant racist slogans while the Justice Minister, no less, openly condones murder. Israel supporters who rightly criticize Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies, or condemn the Syrian army’s violence against civilians, are inwardly uneasy when they consider that Israel has been doing the same things for decades. They want to believe in their superiority, but facts keep getting in the way.

James Baldwin pointedly observed in the 1960s that “the absolutely prohibitive price the South has paid to keep the nigger in his place” had only “succeeded in having what is almost certainly the most bewildered, demoralized white population in the Western world.” The same is true of Israelis today, and just as true, I’m afraid, of the Jews who condemn me for repeating some of the facts about Israel’s history and its continuing occupation of Palestinian land. My sins, however these people might describe them, are venial next to the violence they’ve done to their own consciences. Jettison moral principles unless they further Jewish ethnic supremacy; throw away facts; turn your back on the human rights so painstakingly incorporated into international jurisprudence after the horrors of World War II; say no to justice and yes to apartheid; shuck off every acquaintance, every former friend who points out uncomfortable truths to you; trade your religion (if you’re religious) for a slice of stolen real estate – and what have you got to live for, except some dirt that was never yours to begin with? These Zionists are not to be envied; behind their fury, I think I can hear their pain.

So what is to be done with them? Sad to say, the obvious antidote – information to counter ignorance – is not really effective. If these people wanted the facts they would have absorbed them long ago: today, the real difficulty is keeping one’s head deep enough in the sand to avoid knowing the facts. So their ignorance is only the shell of a deeper malady.

I propose a different approach. Instead of educating our critics with facts, I suggest we first demonstrate to them the force of our own moral convictions. We do this not by answering insults with insults, but by addressing them as human beings – just as we address Palestinians. Without flagging for a moment in our pursuit of justice, we can calmly, sadly, insistently challenge our enemies to justify themselves. Do they support the occupation? Jewish settlements that violate the Geneva Convention? Why? Can they justify apartheid? Do they believe they can square Jewish ethics with robbery and violence? If so, how?

Such questions make more sense to me than apologetics. After all, it is our critics, not we, who ought to be apologizing; they, not we, who owe an explanation and a self-defense. And they need to see that we know that, and that we won’t stop affirming it, whatever happens. This may not stop the personal attacks. But I think it can shift the focus of the discourse.

By the way, I do not expect my enemies to be mollified by my attempt to understand their motives. They do not want to be understood; at bottom, they are terrified of understanding themselves.

I make the effort because justice for Palestine cannot be sought in a vacuum. Edward Said was fond of quoting a beautiful line from the poet Aimee Cesaire: “There is room for all at the rendezvous of victory.” The great things we strive for are meant for everyone. And the words we share about those goals must take everyone into consideration, too – even those who hate us.

 

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Review of State of Terror, How Terrorism Created Modern Israel – Thomas Suarez

Review by Glyn Secker

State of Terror coverSkyscraper Publications £20.00

Purchase from Wordery for  £13.72 inc p&p

Anyone unaware of the years of research spent in dusty archives could well be forgiven for thinking this book was written in the publisher’s fast food kitchen to cash in on the current antisemitism soufflé whipped up by the unalloyed supporters of Israel and their right wing counterparts in the Labour Party and beyond.

When setting out to pen a short pamphlet on Zionism, a topic with which he was familiar and on which he believed himself to be well informed, Thomas Suarez  came across some unusual references; checking their derivation lead him to the UK’s national archives at Kew and to a library of primary sources from the hands of individuals, British officials, the British secret services, national journals and Zionist organisations themselves. Many years of diligent work transformed the pamphlet into this seminal work, whose publication date fortuitously coincides with the very period when Political Zionism, having transmuted itself from a political ideology into a liberation theology deeply embedded in the existential identity of the majority of the Jewish community, has attained its apogee in popular European and American culture.

Suarez traces this trajectory from its beginnings in the second half of the 19C. to the Suez crisis of 1956. From its inception Revisionist Zionism was conceived as a biblical enterprise: building the Third Temple, founded on the rights of Jews as a race, claiming a divine right for all Jews and in the process trumping Jewish orthodoxy. The weapon of choice to carve out their temple was that of terrorism.

For many familiar with the history of the creation of Israel the received knowledge is that, in the aftermath of the Holocaust and in the pursuit of a safe haven for Jews, attacks were targeted by the incipient Israeli army on the British garrison in Palestine, and that in the quest for a state a number of atrocities were committed by small bands of extremists, the Irgun and Lehi (Stern) gangs, epitomised by the infamous massacre of Deir Yassin.

Suarez research lead him to a very different narrative: these small bands of extremists were integral, structured components of the regular armed force, the Hagana of the Jewish Agency – no model of the Geneva Convention itself, with its elite corps, the Palmach, its assassination unit the Pum and its deployment of barrel bombs loaded with shrapnel. All five groups were engaged in the programme of intimidation and terror, where the end, Eretz Israel – an exclusively Jewish state stretching east from the Mediterranean to include Transjordan, and from Egypt to the Lebanese boarder – justified Revisionist Zionism’s means. Obstacles in its path were the British, the other key players in the UN Partition plan, and not least the awkward existence of the indigenous occupants of Palestine.

Violence to the Palestinians, modelled on the antisemitic pogroms in eastern Europe, is traced to commence from the first settlers prior to the First World War, developing through the inter-war period, and rising to a crescendo of public bombing and the poisoning of wells with typhoid and dysentary, to provoke a reaction and to create a premise for full scale military operations in the period leading up to 1948. It culminated in the massacres of the inhabitants of tens of villages and the raising of many hundreds more: planned by military intelligence gatherers posing as hiking tourists, Plan Dalet was devised and executed, to create the Nachba of 900,00 refugees. The records show that, contrary to common understanding, the wanton violence was not brought to an end by the declaration of the state of Israel but was maintained, and continues to this day.

A significant portion of the book simply enumerates the hundreds of attacks on the British presence in Palestine, which hit both military and civilian targets. Violence to the regional powers ranged from assassination plans and actual attempts on the life of Churchill, Eden and Ernest Bevan, sabotage of British forces during WWII (compromising their capacity); plans to explode bombs in London, and UK facilities in France, Austria and Italy (mostly but not all foiled); false flag operations (such as the Lavrone affair in Egypt & the Bagdad Trials in Iraq) to ‘create’ antisemitic movements to justify Zionist demands; the sinking of British ships (resulting in 276 deaths) carrying Jewish refugees, when, contrary to Zionist demands they were diverted away from Palestine; the training and the use of child operators; selective assassinations of leading Jewish critics (most of the assassinations carried out by the Irgun and Stern gangs were of anti-zionist Jewish individuals); sabotaging Jewish anit-zionist printing presses and the targeting of institutions such as the Hashoma Club which argued for a two state solution. The litany is extensive and shocking.

Another dimension to the Zionist’s agenda was that they did all in their power to direct Jewish refugees away from offers of asylum by western democracies and to exert pressurise to divert Jews to Palestine. To this effect they were instrumental in seeing that Roosevelt’s plan in 1938 to accept 400,000 from Nazis Germany came to nothing.

It is instructive that these early Zionists listed in order of priority the opposition which they saw as critical: first were the anti-zionists in the Jewish communities, second came the offers of asylum from the democracies, and third was antisemitism. They referred to Jewish anti-zionists as ‘kikes’ which is the ’N’ word for Jew.

In the UK the startling rise of Jeremy Corbyn to leadership of the Labour Party, a person who has been both a life long champion of Palestinian human rights and a socialist committed to the substantial redistribution of wealth back to the poor, created major tremors simultaneously in the conservative and the Jewish establishments. Desperate to mount a counter-attack they seized on antisemitism as their weapon: a tool which, as this book describes, was fashioned by the Political Zionists from their beginning and was well honed over the ensuing decades in their drive to control the destiny of the Jewish community.

There are many quotations in the book from UK, UN, US  and other international observers of parallels between the Irgun and Stern gang’s organisation and methods and those of the Nazis – statements which today would surely lead to expulsion from the Labour Party. A footnote observes that the relevant  ‘Polkes’ papers in the Israeli archives remain classified. Referencing from Suarez’s book at a Labour Party meeting would certainly incur the wrath any Jewish Labour Movement or Labour Friends of Israel member present. It must be the author’s diligence in meticulously referencing every description of the legion of ruthless objectives and acts owned by the political and military wings of Zionism which has safeguarded him from legal action by the ‘lawfare’ department of Israel’s hasbora machine. (The references occupy one quarter of the book).

Intelligence reports in the period prior to 1948 put the Irgun and Stern gangs’ numbers at 8500, the Palmach at 5000, the Hagana army at 90,000, and a total call up potential of a fully equipped army and airforce of 200,000. (A Goliath against an ill equipped and disorganised alliance of squabbling Davids). It was from their positions in the comparatively small terrorist groups that the future leaders of Israel were able to set the agenda of violence to build Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall – who, as the father of the Irgun, put his boots where his mouth was. As small cogs in the gears of the military machine, in an environment where the British were exhausted by war and desperate to withdraw, and where the rule of law was disintegrating, these terrorist groups were able to dictate and drive the strategy: a reign of terror across the Mandate, with its tentacles reaching into the heart of its European masters to create mayhem until their objective was conceded. Conceived in a state of terror, terror became the new state’s  modus vivendi, and its current leaders continue this macabre dance, still fixated on pursuit of the Third Temple.

It is this context which make sense of the seemingly incongruous fact that the commanders of the Irgun and Stern gangs, Ben Gurion, Menachim Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, became the first leaders of the new Israeli state. It also provides the historical context for the fact that Israel to this day has not defined its eastern boarder, and provides an explanation as to why successive peace talks, dating back to 1949 have produced no resolution.

For post 1948 second and third generation Jews growing up with a partial, bowdlerised narrative of Zionism, reading this book will either be a traumatic experience or it will be another volume to be consigned to the antisemitic waste bin. It is now well recognised that post Holocaust second generation Jews enveloped themselves and their children in a silence about their past. Suarez’s account of Zionist terror, which predated the Holocaust and which emanated from the pogroms of the 18C. and 19C., has exposed a second dimension of silence, in which the consolidation of Revisionist and Political Zionism has deployed the image of Humanitarian Zionism to cloak its past. For very many Jews Zionism is genuinely core to their identity, the very sense of their self, the solution to millennia of persecution. Suarez reveals it to have been yet another false flag on a grandiose and grotesque scale.

However,  some third and fourth generation Jews, having looked beneath the cloak, have made the difficult and uncomfortable journey to disavowing Political-revisionist Zionism and are reasserting the international and Jewish values of human rights. It was wholly predictable that this would provoke a knee jerk response from the Political Zionists who have reached for their historical weapon of antisemitism, whilst those of us in a stubborn minority wave a contrary flag, that anti-zionism is not antisemitism, and seek to reclaim the genuine Jewish socialist tradition forged by the BUND in the period of revolutionary working class organisation at the start of the 20C.  There is a Jewish tradition that even the smallest of minority voices shall be recorded, because one day they may prove to be the ones which should have been heeded.

This review first appeared in a shorter version in Labour Briefing

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Anti-Zionism and antisemitism in British politics, by Avi Shlaim

Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel 

In this piece first published online by Al-Jazeera, Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University, provides context for the TV channel’s four-part series on “The Lobby”.

Anti-Zionism is deliberately conflated with anti-Semitism to suppress legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies

There is no denying that from time to time anti-Semitism raises its ugly head in the UK, as it does in many other countries.

What is striking, however, about contemporary Britain is the use of anti-Semitism as a political tool to silence legitimate criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government and the collusion of members of the political establishment in this process.

A word on definitions is in order.

The Jewish philosopher Isaiah Berlin defined an anti-Semite as someone who hates Jews more than is strictly necessary.

This definition has its humorous side but it does not take us very far. A simpler definition of an anti-Semite is someone who hates Jews as Jews.

An anti-Zionist, on the other hand, is someone who opposes Israel as an exclusively Jewish state or challenges the Zionist colonial project on the West Bank.

Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel; in order to suppress free speech; and in order to divert attention from the real issues: Israeli colonialism, Israel’s apartheid, its systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians, and its denial of their right to independence and statehood. The propagandists persistently present an anti-racist movement (anti-Zionism) as a racist one (anti-Semitism).

Continue reading “Anti-Zionism and antisemitism in British politics, by Avi Shlaim”

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Statement by Palestinian Students in the UK Demanding the Resignation of NUS VP Richard Brooks

Reprinted from Medium by permission

In light of the revelations made by the Al Jazeera investigative documentary The Lobby, Palestinian students in the UK have published a letter calling for an apology and the resignation of the National Union of Students VP Richard Brooks. In the footage Brooks implicates himself in helping to organise a group that is trying to oust Malia Bouattia for her strong stance on Palestine. The attacks being levelled against Bouattia are based on her politics and principled opposition to Israel’s regime of apartheid and settler colonialism. As an elected official of the NUS, Brooks is betraying the trust placed in him by students and has demonstrated seriously misplaced and misguided priorities, which lead him to collude with the Israeli Embassy.

Statement

Following the revelations made as part of the first episode of the Al Jazeera documentary, The Lobby, we as Palestinian students, many of whom are members of the student movement in the UK, are issuing this statement to express solidarity with NUS President Malia Bouattia and to demand an apology from NUS Vice President (Union Development) Richard Brooks, as well as his resignation. These revelations contain evidence that Brooks has been implicated in soliciting help from the Israeli Embassy to bring down the NUS President and to destabilise the Union as a whole. In a climate where student activists, NUS, and the NUS President in particular, have been undermined, attacked, and harassed for their pro-Palestine politics, such activities and communications are outrageous, must be condemned outright, and cannot go without severe consequences.

We believe that Brooks’ activities constitute a flagrant violation of the guidelines of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign (BDS), which was endorsed and adopted by the NUS in 2014 as part of a democratic and transparent process amid widespread concern over the deteriorating situation in Palestine after Israel’s devastating attacks on Gaza that summer. The BDS Campaign calls for freedom, justice, and equality for Palestinians and the provision of their full human rights. Palestinian students in the UK are an important part of the national student movement, and it is due to this that both the Palestinian students and the wider student movement feel disturbed at what has been shown to transpire between Brooks and the Israeli Embassy.

As an elected full time official within the National Union of Students, Richard Brooks bears a great deal of responsibility towards the student movement, as well as to the Palestinian students who come under attack by public figures on an increasingly regular basis due to our nationality. It is unacceptable for a somebody in Brooks’ position to conspire with a foreign government to undermine and damage one of the largest democratic institutions in the country, which represents over 7 million students. This constitutes a massive betrayal of the trust placed within Richard Brooks by the students who elected him, in addition to demonstrating his misplaced and misguided priorities, none of which should include colluding with the Israeli Embassy, as is evidently the case. Furthermore, it is important to affirm that the attacks levelled at Bouattia since her electoral victory were based on her politics and principled opposition to Israel’s regime of apartheid and settler colonialism. As Palestinian students, we see these attacks as part of a broader attempt to dehumanise Palestinians and silence our narratives.

In light of these appalling and outrageous revelations, we the undersigned Palestinian students in the UK and supporters of the Palestinian cause feel that the position of NUS Vice President Richard Brooks has become untenable and unworkable. In light of this, we demand the following:
– An unequivocal public apology for the actions taken by Richard Brooks.
– Richard Brooks’ resignation from his position as Vice President (Union Development) of the National Union of Students with immediate effect.

Signatories

Malaka Mohammed, University of Exeter
Samar Ahmed, Kings College London
Yara Hawari, University of Exeter
Toqa Zait, Leeds University
Kareem Bseiso, SOAS, University of London
Yahya Abu Seido, University College London
Ayat Hamdan, University of Exeter
Shahd Abusalama, SOAS, University of London
Laura Al-Tahrawy, Lincoln University
Afnan Jabr Alqadri, St. Mary University
Sahar S, Kings College London
Omar Jouda, Oxford Brookes University
Abdulla Saad, SOAS, University of London
Eyad Hamid, SOAS, University of London
Motaz Ayyad, Imperial College
Razan Masri, SOAS, University of London
Gabriel Polly, University of Exeter
Rawand Safi, University College London
Razan Shamallakh, Kings College London
Yousef Anis, University College London
Hani Awwad, Oxford University
Beth Jamal, Cambridge University
Layla D., University of Nottingham
Emily M., Surrey University
Dana El Ghadban, University of Leeds
Mahmoud Zwahre, Coventry University
Miriam Abu Samra, Oxford University
Doa Althalathini, Plymouth University
Rama Sahtout, University of Exeter
Mostafa Afana, Belfast University
Haya Natsheh, London School of Economics
Ashraf Hamad, University of Leeds
Rama Sabanekh, SOAS, University of London
Basel Sourani, SOAS, University of London
Layla Al-Khatib, University College London
Hussam Al-Kurd, London School of Economics
Ramsey El-Dabbagh, University College London
Ala Sawalha, SOAS, University of London
Marwan Hanbali, Cardiff University
Jamal Abdulfattah, Exeter University
Mjriam Abu Samra, University of Oxford
Rawan Yaghi, Oxford University
Ibtehal H., Kings College London
Sari Sati, University of Kent
Abdulrahman Arasoghli, University of Manchester
Saba I., Kings College London
Syeda Tahmina Khatun, Brunel University London
Dena Qaddumi, Palestinian PhD student, University of Cambridge
Khalil al-Wazir at the University of East Anglia
Haya Naji, Southampton University
Dina Tahboub, University of Cambridge
Abdelrahman Murad, University of the Arts London
Alessia Cancemi, Goldsmiths University of London
Tamer EL-Nakhal , Medicine, Cambridge University Hospital
Hamss Hassan Dawood, University College London
Salim Habash, Loughborough University
Huda Ammori, University of Manchester
Laila al-Khatib, University College London
Samir al-Khatib, University College London
Zeena Jojo, London School of Economics
Ahmed A., University of Leeds
Haneen Shubib, University of Leeds
Hana Elias, University of Exeter

If you wish to add your name, please email Malaka933@gmail.com

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