A view of the Labour Party’s inquiry into antisemitism

Professor Jonathan Rosenhead:

The inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism within the Labour Party is the best hope of pulling the Labour Party back out of the quagmire, the McCarthyite nightmare, into which it is in danger of being pulled. We need to make sure that the distortions of this remarkable, and so far remarkably successful, campaign of disinformation are thoroughly and powerfully exposed.

It’s encouraging that the inquiry is to be led by Shami Chakrabarti, with Professor David Feldman as her deputy. The former is a household name. At the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony she was one of those who carried in the Olympic flag at the opening ceremony alongside, among others, Doreen Lawrence, Daniel Barenboim, Ban Ki-Moon and Muhammed Ali. But she has this prominence and respect because of her achievements as a highly effective long-term leader of the civil rights organisation Liberty, which she left only this March. There, and as a member of the Leveson Enquiry she was a formidable defender of civil liberties.

David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck College in London, is less of a public figure. When the institute was set up, there were those who feared it might become something of a propaganda outfit for Israel. David Feldman, a notably open-minded man, has ensured that this has not happened, and he has earned broad respect among those who know his work. For example, in 2013 he organised and co-chaired a 3-day conference at Birkbeck on Boycotts – Past and Present, at which supporters of the boycott of Israel were among those who gave papers. As the Jewish Chronicle has noticed with distaste, he is a signatory of Independent Jewish Voices, an organisation set up in 2007 as a way of countering the hegemonic power of the ‘official’ institutions of British Jewry.

Millerian tragedy or Orwellian?

What has been going on in the Labour Party these last few months and especially weeks summons up literary ghosts. Which is the closer fit, Arthur Miller’s Witches of Salem – complete with tearful admissions of guilt under pressure? Or Orwell’s 1984, with its thought crimes? Continue reading “A view of the Labour Party’s inquiry into antisemitism”

Firefighters union: criticism of Israel branded anti-semitic to discredit Labour’s leadership

Via Morning Star

Excerpt: Delegates at the Fire Brigades Union’s annual conference said criticism of Israel was being falsely branded anti-semitic in a bid to discredit Labour’s leadership.

logoA motion passed unanimously singled out Bassetlaw MP John Mann for “attempting to engender a position where any discourse relating to the atrocities carried out by the Israeli state upon the peoples of Palestine is somehow anti-semitic.” Proposing the motion, Merseyside brigade secretary Mark Rowe said […] it was “simply untrue” to say that anti-Israel activists were only focused on this issue, and that there was “no other country today premised on ethno-religious discrimination.”

London LGBT rep Lucy Masoud recalled how she was branded “nazi, fascist and anti-semitic” by Israeli settlers while accompanying Palestinian children to school on a recent visit to the region. She said some defenders of Israel levelled accusations of anti-semitism at “anyone who dares to challenge Israel’s behaviour.” Continue reading “Firefighters union: criticism of Israel branded anti-semitic to discredit Labour’s leadership”

Haaretz: Israel (inadvertently) revives Nazi slogan for Independence Day

The theme of this year’s official ceremony to mark Israel’s 68th Independence Day at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem was ‘civic heroism.’ During the festivities on Wednesday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz columnist, Asher Schechter describes that,

as the soldiers transitioned from formations depicting one time-honored symbol to another – a peace dove, a Star of David – they suddenly formed a phrase that should have inspired discomfort in anyone with even the slightest historical knowledge: “one people, one nation.”

It’s a phrase that, if you repeat it in German, in Germany, it is more than likely that you’ll be arrested for incitement. The reason? It is more than a little reminiscent of a leading slogan belonging to a certain German regime from the 1930s. In fact, it’s an almost-complete translation. The difference is that when the Germans originally uttered that phrase, it had the words “one Führer” at the end.

Continue reading “Haaretz: Israel (inadvertently) revives Nazi slogan for Independence Day”

The day the Australian newspaper described an attack on free speech as made by the ‘Jewish lobby’

In an article on B’nai B’rith’s attempt to censor a play by Palestinian-Australian-Canadian writer Samah Sabawi about the 2014 war on Gaza, the Murdoch owned Australian refers to the pro-Israel advocacy group as a ‘Jewish lobby’ – exactly the same labelling that has led to many critics of Israel pilloried for alleged antisemitism – with the abuse encouraged by papers also owned by Murdoch. It’s a conflation the paper might come to regret; it is also not difficult to see how it happened. B’nai B’rith describes itself as an organisation that – in this order – has ‘advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843.’ It is also ‘recognized as a vital voice in: promoting Jewish unity & continuity; supporting the State of Israel; advocating on behalf of senior citizens; and humanitarian aid & disaster relief.’

Shielding from criticism a state that is indeed – to borrow their hyperbolic yet fairly apt terminology – ‘a bloodythirsty, evil war machine,’ (see screenshot below) contradicts their principal mission to advocate on behalf of all Jews everywhere and to condemn human rights violations. As long as B’nai B’rith uses threats and intimidation – in the name of ‘global Jewry’ – to undermine free speech, antisemitic conspiracy theories will flourish. It is even more of a travesty given support for the play from the Australian Jewish Democratic society and other members of local Jewish communities (see Sabawi’s statement below). B’nai B’rith puts Jewish lives at risk in their aggressive pursuit of a narrow political agenda, without heed for the effects on victims of their witch hunting.

Jlobby

Samah Sabawi’s statement to Fairfax Media in regard to an attack on her play by Dvir Abramovich, Chair of B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission:

Do we need to tell an Israeli love story every time we tell a Palestinian one? Can we write about ordinary lives in Gaza without writing about the Palestinian people’s daily struggle for normalcy in a war zone? How ironic is it that a depoliticised play that puts the focus on the human dimension is being made political by interest groups who fail to see the world outside of their ideological filters. Tales of a City by the Sea builds bridges, celebrates diversity and depoliticises the human story. In fact, one of our 2014 performances was organised by the Australian Jewish Democratic society and was followed by a Q&A in Melbourne for interested members of the Jewish community. Almost 50 people came to that performance and there was not one complaint. The feedback was heartwarming and the review that was published by Israeli writer Ann Fink on the Australian Jewish Democratic Website was truly one of the best we had.

 

Glenn Greenwald: attempts to criminalize BDS one of greatest threats to free speech

Writing in the Intercept today, Interview With BDS Co-Founder Omar Barghouti: Banned by Israel From Traveling, Threatened With Worse, Greenwald argues that,

the attempts to criminalize BDS activism – not only in Israel but internationally – is one of the greatest threats to free speech and assembly rights in the west. The threat has become particularly acute on U.S. college campuses, where official punishments for pro-Palestinian students are now routine. But obviously, the threats faced by Barghouti inside Israel are far more severe.

Regardless of one’s views on BDS and the Israeli occupation, anyone who purports to believe in basic conceptions of free speech rights should be appalled by Israeli behavior.

The Israeli government’s refusal to allow Omar Barghouti to travel is, Greenwald explains,

obviously intended to suppress his speech and activism. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the world leaders who traveled last year to Paris to participate in that city’s “free speech rally.” […] The travel denial came after months of disturbing public threats directed at him by an Israeli government that has grown both more extreme and more fearful of BDS’s growing international popularity.

Read, and listen to the interview here.

New report: The Israel lobby and the European Union

0001Sponsored by the EuroPal Forum and Spinwatch, this new report by David Cronin, Sarah Marusek and David Miller challenges the secrecy surrounding the pro-Israel network in the European Union capital, Brussels.

It identifies where pro-Israel groups receive their funding and how some of their donors have facilitated Israel’s illegal colonisation of the West Bank. It examines how the lobby has persuaded law-makers to refrain from sanctioning Israel over its human rights abuses. And it analyses how Israel’s supporters have been trying to undermine grassroots campaigning for justice in Palestine, including BICOM. Labour Party NEC candidate Luke Akehurst is director of We Believe in Israel, the ‘grassroots’ arm of the UK’s major pro-Israel lobby group BICOM. You can download the full Israel lobby report here.

ExcerptEurope Israel Press Association
Another recent addition to the Israel lobby in Brussels is the Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA). It was formed in mid-2012 as a kind of public relations consultancy that puts journalists in contact with spokespersons for the Israeli state. EIPA is similar to the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) in London. Both organisations strive to ensure that the mainstream media treats Israel in a sympathetic manner. Continue reading “New report: The Israel lobby and the European Union”

How will the Jewish Labour Movement bear its shame?

JLM_HavodaHaaretz’s Ravit Hecht has called on the Israeli Labour Party to ‘Bear Its Shame,’ asking: wouldn’t it be better for them to ‘simply join the Netanyahu government and end their sad pretense of opposition?’ The ’embarrassing attempts to crawl into a unity government’ by the Party leader, Herzog, is reflecting badly on JLM. In Hebrew, the Israeli Labour Party is Mifleget Havoda HaYisrelit. It receives official support from the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), here in the UK. And Hecht is right: shouldn’t the Party that JLM supports ‘stop deceiving the public,’ both at home and abroad?

What benefits do those who fear the growing racism against Arabs and the violent incitement against leftists receive from an opposition including Labor MK Eitan Cabel, who denounced his party colleague Zouheir Bahloul and rushed to join in the verbal assault on Breaking the Silence following an “investigative report” against it by a right-wing group?

And what has Labor MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin done to end the occupation? And how has Labor MK Eitan Broshi, who is hungrily eyeing the Agriculture Ministry or the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division, helped resist the onslaught of delegitimization that the government is leading against the left?

Continue reading “How will the Jewish Labour Movement bear its shame?”

JLM realises that calling non-Zionist Jews imposters & ‘contrary’ is unacceptable

Yesterday, Young members of the Jewish Labour Movement, posted on the JLM website a letter that – much to their vexation – the Guardian had declined to publish. It isn’t hard to see why: it repeats the mainstream media’s default position that Labour under Corbyn is a ‘haven’ for anti-Semites. JLM’s complaint that they are a ‘group of Jews’ whose views are not being heard is the complete inverse of reality.

The Zionist contention that groups like JLM and JSocs/UJS are the victims not the aggressors is becoming increasingly risible: they have been in the forefront of the smear campaign against the Labour Left; one of their targets, Malia Bouattia, was fortunate enough to have a strong, wide base of support and nerves of steel to withstand their onslaught. The JSoc presidents published TWO – not one – open letters in their attempt to destroy Bouattia’s reputation prior to her election as NUS president, demanding she prove she wasn’t an anti-Semite: an action that was picked up with glee by every media outlet as evidence that all British Jewish Students lived in fear of her racist reign. This intimidation was only a continuation of the harassment she and others experienced as Palestine solidarity activists on campus, leading Bouattia in 2011 to call Birmingham with its large, pro-Israel JSoc ‘something of a Zionist outpost.’

In the preamble to their unpublished Guardian letter, Young JLM members referred contemptuously to a letter signed by 88 British Jews (one of many critical responses to the Chief Rabbi’s article that Zionism=Judaism), by writing,

It appears that some of those signatories only identify as Jews for purposes of taking such contrary positions.

Perhaps in response to protests that it was offensive, demeaning – even racist – to portray non-Zionist Jews as imposters and ‘contrary,’ JLM removed that sentence. Liron Velleman who posted the letter on the JLM website is both Youth and Students Officer at JLM, and incoming UJS Campaigns Officer. Here is a screengrab of the original, and the updated website post below it. As Jews Sans Frontieres has written: ‘I had a feeling they’d excise the offensive suggestion that Jewish critics of Israel aren’t quite the real thing,’ quipping, ‘spot the difference’:

JLM Continue reading “JLM realises that calling non-Zionist Jews imposters & ‘contrary’ is unacceptable”

Whose ‘Jewish community’?

Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Jeremy Newmark, whose evidence of alleged institutional antisemitism at UCU was described as false and preposterous by the tribunal judge, has questioned the remit and independence of the Chakrabarti inquiry into antisemitism within Labour.

Writing in the Times of Israel blog today, Newmark argues that,

It would have been better for this to have been addressed in consultation with our community before it was announced.

Having said that the inquiry and a new ‘code of conduct’ has the ‘potential to enable the party to embark on a long and complicated road to regaining the confidence of the Jewish community,’ he appears, however, to be pre-empting it by implying it is already failing in its obligations to certain Jewish groups he represents. Newmark was formerly Chief Executive of the UK’s Jewish Leadership Council – ‘the umbrella body for the major institutions of the UK Jewish community.’

JLC Chairman Sir Mick Davis wrote an article, published in the Telegraph on 1 May, asserting he is ‘a proud Zionist’ and ‘a passionate supporter of the state of Israel,’

and I am not alone. More than 90 per cent of British Jews see Israel as part of their Jewish identity. Attacks on her legitimacy are an affront to our consciousness, an assault on our religious, cultural and moral heritage.

Davis also referred to what he called ‘the brazen nature of anti-Zionist anti-Semitism.’ Adding that ‘Israel’s legitimacy is unassailable and its democracy vibrant,’ despite all evidence to the contrary.

Groups such as JLM and JLC have been at the forefront of attempts to re-define anti-Zionism as antisemitism. (See JLM’s Labour Party membership rule change proposal).

Other British Jewish voices, which struggle to be heard beyond the letters pages of liberal newspapers, have repeatedly rejected the premise that the Party has lost the confidence of its Jewish members. Since March, Labour members have sought to convey a very different experience. This letter in the Guardian by Sue Lukes is just one example of several in the same vein:

As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor I never stop worrying about how we can make “never again!” meaningful. But as an active member of both the Labour party and my Jewish community, I can say that the assertion that “Labour has become a cold house for the Jews” is simply not borne out by the facts. The party has become a much warmer place for everyone, including Jews, since Jeremy Corbyn was elected. However, some people, inside and outside the party, appear to use allegations of antisemitism to pursue other, political ends.

Continue reading “Whose ‘Jewish community’?”

Paul Kelemen: Antisemitism and the left

Kelemen, author of The British Left and Zionism: History of a Divorce, looks at the roots of the recent controversies in the Labour Party
Please read the article in full on Red Pepper, May 2016. 

Excerpt: ‘…For creating this perfect storm, elements in and outside the party, wanting for a range of rightwing reasons to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, latched on to a controversy initiated by pro-Israeli activists seeking to pre-empt Labour moving away from its traditional pro-Israeli stance. Several of the newspapers that have eagerly joined the hunt to root out Labour’s antisemites are unlikely champions for this cause. Not so long ago, they had been insinuating that the previous Labour leader’s Jewish origins – highlighted by such apparently telltale signs as his foreign-born Marxist father and alleged ineptness in eating a bacon sandwich – made him unsuitable material to be a British prime minister. But their newfound outrage over antisemitism has a wider agenda than undermining the current Labour leader. Continue reading “Paul Kelemen: Antisemitism and the left”