Please read this article in full on Tony Greenstein’s blog
Excerpt: … Elli Sarah has written an essay entitled ‘Why Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism – but criticising Israel isn’t’. Her essay is a good example of how people can genuinely believe that what they write is profound and original, even though it is little more than an echo chamber for the received wisdom of establishment politicians and their media outlets. Clichés and hackneyed phrases are dressed up as original.
Elli Sarah’s thesis is that anti-Semitism equals anti-Zionism. It is a rather common theme. Abe Foxman of America’s right-wing Anti-Defamation League said, ‘Anti-Zionism 99 percent of the time is a euphemism for anti-Semitism.’ Elli Sarah is not being new or innovative in her thesis. All that she is missing from her essay is a description of Jewish anti-Zionists as self-haters’ and traitors.
I have a different take. Anti-Zionism is never anti-Semitism. They are polar opposites. If anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic then it isn’t anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionists as individuals may, rarely, be anti-Semitic but anti-Zionism is a political ideology that is as different from anti-Semitism as chalk from cheese. Continue reading “Hiding Zionism’s Racism Behind an ‘Anti-Semitic’ Mask”
UPDATE, 1 June: Following the outcry over the weekend, the page and video have been restored.
Speakers Trust have released a statement in which they claim they “temporarily suspended” the video of Leanne’s speech to protect her from abuse. This does not change the fact that they have appeased the abusive Edgar Davidson, reassuring him they had decided not to send Leanne through to the grand final of the public speaking competition, on the grounds she violated the fundamental rule to never “inflame or offend the audience or insult others.” (see the CEO’s letter to Davidson below that contradicts their statement)
If you visit Jack Petchey’s “Speak Out” Challenge website, you will find no trace of the British-Palestinian competition winner.
The competition organisers, registered charity Speakers Trust have
Israel has sought to erase the history of Palestinians in their homeland, deny the evidence and commemoration of the 1947-9 Nakba that led to the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of hundreds of villages.
Below is the defamatory letter that virulent anti-Palestinian racist and Nakba-denier, Edgar Davidson sent to Speakers Trust, in response to which he received a very courteous reply reassuring him that “We take your concerns very seriously,” andconfirming the charity had decided to censor Leanne’s speech:
This interview pre-dates the lifting of Walker’s suspension on 27 May.
Published by RT on May 21, 2016: ‘Afshin Rattansi goes underground with Jackie Walker from British grassroots activist group Momentum, who gives her first international exclusive TV interview since being suspended for alleged anti-Semitism by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.’
UPDATED: The Jewish Chronicle erroneously reported that “Following complaints by blogger Edgar Davidson to the Speakers Trust” the decision was taken not to put her through to the grand finals. They had already taken the decision to censor her (more details below).
A British Palestinian school girl, Leanne Mohamad of Wanstead High School, won the “Speak Out” challenge after giving this impressive performance to enthusiastic applause. But a day later, Speakers Trust decided Leanne will no longer be sent through to the grand final of the public speaking competition. It seems that giving a personal account of the Nakba and a plea for an end to discrimination against Palestinians is not acceptable in the UK in 2016.
Competition organisers Speakers Trust have removed the video from their website, Speak Out Challenge, and their YouTube channel. Copy below.
The Speak Out challenge is described thus: “In each one-day workshop, students take part in games and exercises to encourage them to think on their feet in a fun, interactive and safe environment. The day culminates in a ‘Speak Out’ speech contest where students can speak on any topic they feel strongly about – using only their voices, their words and their passion. Notes are not allowed; they must use the techniques from the training.”
The Free Speech on Israel network objects to any undue influence that was imposed on Speakers Trust; 15 year old Leanne Mohamad should have been allowed to go through to the final, on condition that she amended her fatality figures to conform to the historical record.
The Jewish Chronicle accurately reported that a letter from the Speakers Trust CEO was sent to Davidson in response to his own explicitly racist letter, confirming that: “There are two fundamental rules that are made explicit during the training: the speech must have a positive and uplifting message – in fact this is one of the core terms of the agreement with the Jack Petchey Foundation [and] a speaker should never inflame or offend the audience or insult others and this, by definition, means that propaganda is ruled out absolutely from the outset… Speakers Trust and Jack Petchey Foundation judging panel decided unanimously against sending Leanne Mohamad through to the next stage and she will not be speaking at the Grand Final. These were precisely our concerns.”
The inquiry which Jeremy Corbyn has set up under Shami Chakarabarti to investigate charges of anti-Semitism will be hearing eloquent Jewish voices saying unexpected things. The first member suspended from the party on these charges is the son of a rabbi, and the latest (at the time of writing) is of mixed Jewish and African-Caribbean descent.
It has taken some time for the missing voices to be heard. During these weeks of raging media accusations of anti-Semitism rife within Labour, British Jews who reject the claims of Israel to speak in their name have been meeting to organise and respond. They have a website now, “Free Speech on Israel”, declaring “as Labour and trade union activists, we assert the right to campaign in solidarity with all oppressed people, including Palestinians. Campaigning to end the injustices inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people is in the very best traditions of the British labour movement.”
Their statement concludes by calling on “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 anti-Semitism in the party.”
The Jewish Socialist Group, founded in the 1970s and thriving despite years of abuse from self-appointed community leaders, wrote in its own statement: “Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the anti-Semites. As anti-racist and anti-fascist Jews who are also campaigning for peace with justice between Israelis and Palestinians, we entirely reject these cynical agendas. The Conservative Party demonstrated their contempt for Lord Dubs, a Jewish refugee from Nazism, when they voted down en masse an amendment a few days ago to allow 3,000 child refugees into Britain while Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, gave total support to Lord Dubs and his amendment.”
Independent Jewish Voices – at whose launch in 2007 I found myself sitting next to a member of the Board of Deputies who spoke frankly of the corroding effect of the Occupation of Palestinian territories after 1967, and hoped to make changes in the way the Board reacted to criticism – said this: “The battle against anti-Semitism is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic. The more public opinion turns against Israel’s indefensible actions, the more our opponents will resort to name calling in an attempt to discredit us. As Jewish critics of Israel’s policies, we urge people of conscience not to succumb to this campaign of intimidation and to continue the struggle for equal rights and freedom for all people.’
So what is happening? The Chief Rabbi has openly told Jews to vote Tory, following such luminaries as Danny Cohen (former head of BBC TV and chief dumber-down of Newsnight) who plaintively asked in The Times: “How can Jews vote for Corbyn?”
Jews for Justice for Palestinians is now 14 years old with 1900 signatories. One of these, Michele Hanson wrote in her Guardian column: “Labour is not ‘rife’ with anti-Semitism or packed with ‘dirty old [Stalinist] men’. It has always been, and still is, anti-racist. And so is Jeremy Corbyn, my MP. And so am I, but I do not like a lot of what the Israeli government is doing, particularly the continuing illegal occupation of Palestine. If I can’t say that without being told off for being anti-Semitic, then the world has gone mad.”
Open Democracy’s online magazine has been a welcome refuge from much of the printed media, with a comprehensive scrutiny of all the anti-Semitism charges by British-Israeli researcher Jamie Stern-Weiner. He has also just elicited a coruscating interview with Norman Finkelstein, that child of Holocaust survivors hounded from one American campus after another for battling with Zionist orthodoxies.
“Compare the American scene. Our Corbyn is Bernie Sanders. In all the primaries in the US, Bernie has been sweeping the Arab and Muslim vote. It’s been a wondrous moment: the first Jewish presidential candidate in American history has forged a principled alliance with Arabs and Muslims. Meanwhile, what are the Blairite-Israel lobby creeps up to in the UK? They’re fanning the embers of hate and creating new discord between Jews and Muslims.” Continue reading “Missing voices have been heard”
With barely a month to go to put forward motions to this year’s Labour Party conference, supporters of Free Speech on Israel are fighting back against the smear campaign which has branded anti-racist activists antisemitic because of their support for justice for Palestine. One of the most high-profile victims, Jackie Walker, had her suspension from the party revoked on Friday after taking an uncompromising stand.
Labour Party members have until June 24 to take decisions in their constituencies on resolutions, rule changes, constitutional amendments and delegates to represent them at the annual conference in Liverpool on September 24-28. The same deadline applies to nominations for places on the National Executive Committee (NEC).
The Zionist Jewish Labour Movement, backed by the right-wing “Progress” faction, is pushing relentlessly for a change to membership rules that would allow proponents of one particular ideology to intimidate and exclude people who oppose them. It is being deliberately rushed through in order to pre-empt the findings of the Shami Chakrabarti inquiry which is due to report after the June 24 conference deadline.
The rule change the JLM and Progress are proposing seeks to insert the following new paragraph E (at Clause I, section 4 (‘Exclusions’) in the party’s membership rules:
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, transgenderidentity, or sexual orientation, the NEC may have the right to impose the appropriate disciplinary options ….(our emphasis)
This is a deliberate misreading of the Macpherson report recommendation that a victim’s perception must be taken into account in a case of hate crime. Macpherson did NOT intend to empower an alleged “victim or anyone else” to determine when a hate crime was being committed without reference to any other criteria. If passed, Zionists will use their new rule to claim that someone attacking their political beliefs is attacking their race or religion, making them an antisemite and therefore guilty of a hate crime.
The rule change is being presented as if it is needed to protect Labour Party members from racism and has received the backing of some on the NEC. But if a hate crime is committed there are laws that can – and should – be brought into play. The motivation of JLM and Progress – neither of which has any record of support for anti-racist struggles in British society at large – is to make it impossible to question the ideology which gave rise to the creation of a racially exclusive Israeli state on land stolen from the Palestinians.
This pernicious rule change motion needs to be opposed, and it is being opposed. There is a fine example here of the incredulity of its supporters when they were thwarted in Hampstead and Kilburn Labour Party last Thursday.
There are also a growing number of examples of positive resolutions being passed after thoughtful debate in labour movement organisations around the country. Below are just a few that we have heard about. Please let us know if you are aware of others.
You can download this leaflet about the JLM to hand out at labour movement meetings.
You can download this leaflet here to hand out at CLP, TU, etc, meetings
Baroness Royall’s inquiry into charges of antisemitism against Oxford University Labour Club has concluded that there was no institutional antisemitism. But the inquiry recommends that all Labour student clubs receive training in antisemitism from the Jewish Labour Movement. This idea was first put forward in April by the Progress think tank: there is a strong overlap between Progress and the lobby group Labour Friends of Israel. Progress called for all Labour’s National Executive Committee members to be “properly trained on modern antisemitism by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) or its nominee.”
We deplore the proposal to task Jewish Labour Movement with training Labour Party branches and organisations. JLM is an affiliate both of the Israeli Labour Party which in office has promoted the building of settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories and the World Zionist Organization, which has channelled funds to the illegal settlements.
JLM has proposed a change to the Labour Party Membership rules that gives “due regard to the Macpherson definition of a racist incident which places particular value upon the perception of the victim/victim group.” This deliberately distorts the Macpherson report recommendation that a victim’s perception had to be taken into account in a case of hate crime; it was not intended to empower an alleged victim to determine when a hate crime was being committed without reference to any other criteria. It allows pro-Palestinian, pro-boycott or anti-Israel statements to be labelled antisemitic, thus shutting down debate on Israel.
Some Labour Party members are being persuaded to join the JLM in the mistaken belief that this is a way of showing solidarity with “the Jewish community.”
The Free Speech on Israel network strongly objects to the Labour Party’s cooperation with the Jewish Labour Movement on combatting racism, given the latter’s record:
The Jewish Labour Movement, founded in 2004, is the successor organisation to Poale Zion. Earlier this year, the Israeli Labour Party to which it is affiliated, unanimously supported a plan that Israeli professor Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University said “would have been applauded by Apartheid South Africa.”
Israeli Labour Party leader Isaac Herzog has stated that “we wish to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as quickly as possible….we’ll erect a big wall between us. That is the kind of co-existence that is possible right now.” In April, Herzog said the Labour Party shouldn’t give the impression of being “Arab lovers.”
Since Poale Zion officially affiliated to the British Labour party in 1920, it has been able to retain an influence at the highest levels of the Labour Party, despite growing evidence of the existence, resistance and suffering of Palestinians, and the increasingly nationalist and colonialist character of the militarised Israeli state.
Over the decades many Labour figures have remained supportive of Israel despite the devastating consequences of Israel’s occupation for the Palestinians, and the role of the Israeli Labour Party in segregationist and illegal policies.
LEADING MOMENTUM ACTIVIST Jackie Walker has been suspended from the Labour Party for alleged anti-Semitism. The allegation is baseless. The evidence for it consists of two comments Walker made on Facebook. The first accurately dismissed allegations that Labour has a “major problem with anti-Semitism”, on the same grounds and in much the same language as did those notorious anti-Semitic hate-groups, the Jewish Socialists’ Group and Independent Jewish Voices.
The second took issue with the argument that the moral legacy of the Nazi holocaust forbids Europeans from boycotting the State of Israel, on the basis that – in Walker’s words – the “Jewish holocaust does not allow Zionists to do what they want”. No historical group is purely and perpetually a victim, Walker observed, drawing upon the experiences of her own Jewish and non-Jewish ancestors, and in any case, “having been a victim does not give you a right to be a perpetrator”.
As Jon Lansman, chair of Momentum, has written, there was “nothing” remotely anti-Semitic in either of Walker’s comments. Walker’s critics evidently agree, since they felt obliged to misrepresent her words to make the charges stick. In response to a comment decrying “[any] action against” Jews (i.e. boycotting Israel) as “shameful” because of the Holocaust, Walker wrote:
“Oh yes – and I hope you feel the same towards the African holocaust? My ancestors were involved in both – on all sides and as I’m sure you know, millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews . . . and many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice. And having been a victim does not give you a right to be a perpetrator.”
That is, in response to a particularist weaponisation of the Nazi holocaust to secure legal and moral impunity for the State of Israel, Walker urged a universalist compassion and a sober sense of historical perspective. The Jewish Chronicle rendered this thoughtful and nuanced plea as follows: “Labour suspends Momentum supporter who claimed Jews caused ‘an African holocaust’”. The obvious question is, if Labour truly were awash with anti-Semitism, would there be any need for such brazen and cynical misrepresentation as this? Continue reading “Suspension of Jackie Walker is ‘an outrage against justice and truth’”
“Islington North constituency Labour Party wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemns all forms of racism, including anti-semitism. We further wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the suspension by the Labour Party of Thanet Labour Party member Jackie Walker for alleged anti-semitism.
Jackie Walker is a long-standing member of the Labour Party, and was vice-chair of Thanet South Labour Party until her suspension. She played a key role in helping to organise the defeat of Nigel Farage when he contested Thanet South in the general election of 2015. She is an active anti-racism campaigner and a founding member of the Kent Anti-Racism Network. KARN has been organising for refugees stuck in the camps of Calais and mobilising opposition to openly fascist groups seeking to stoke anti-migrant sentiment and community divisions on Dover.
We welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s initiative to hold a full inquiry into anti-semitism in the Labour Party. Any member who has made obviously anti-semitic comments should face immediate suspension pending an investigation. But care must be taken not to suspend members on a spurious basis, and that is what Jackie Walker’s suspension clearly is.
Such suspensions are also a clear invitation to the party’s enemies to use our procedures to damage our party and its effective operation.
We call upon the National Executive Committee to lift the suspension immediately, to reinstate Jackie Walker and to apologise to her.
We resolve to send this motion to the National Executive Committee.”