Labour Deputy leader Tom Watson and Naz Shah MP to meet notoriously racist groups

In the mistaken belief that they are meeting with representatives of ‘the Jewish community,’ both the Labour Party Deputy Leader, and the suspended Bradford MP have given credence to the antisemitism smear against the party, as well as lending legitimacy to notoriously racist, pro-settlement organisations.

On Sunday, Naz Shah MP will attend a meeting by the Leeds Jewish Representative Council (LJRC), whose former Deputy, Antony Cohen is so racist that even the pro-Israel Board of Deputies of British Jews launched a code of conduct complaint against him, and illegal colonisation denier Geoffrey Alderman came to his defence.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that during the 2014 war on Gaza that killed over 2,000 Palestinians,

Antony Cohen, a deputy for the Leeds Jewish Representative Council, told the Board’s meeting on Sunday: “I’m going to lay my cards on the table, I don’t care about any Palestinians, I only care about the Jewish people in this country and in Israel. We are facing a tremendous danger.”

The comment prompted 10 deputies to launch a code of conduct complaint for racism following the meeting.

The complaint accused Mr Cohen of violating the Board’s code on discriminating against others and added that his remarks could “constitute incitement to racial hatred” .

After news of Shah’s satirical posts emerged in April, a spokesman for LJRC told the Jewish Chronicle,

the first thing we did was contact her and ask her for a meeting urgently. She got back to me and we had a long conversation in which she apologised, expressed remorse and indicated that she would be willing to meet the Jewish community publically to discuss what had been said.

I could find no public record of Antony Cohen’s apology and remorse for his own comments, which led to his resignation.

The following Sunday on June 5 at an event in Manchester, Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party is on a North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI) panel discussion, entitled “Antisemitism of the Left: A Labour Party Problem?” It will be chaired by Jewish Labour Movement Chair Jeremy Newmark whom a tribunal judge called a ‘preposterous, arrogant liar,’ in 2013.

The JC reports that NWFOI co-chair called Watson ‘an ardent Zionist,’

Anthony Dennison, NWFOI co-chair, said he was “very proud” to have secured such a high-profile figure for the event.

“There are questions that need to be asked of the Labour Party,” he added, explaining that Mr Watson – who he called “an ardent Zionist and a real friend” – was well-placed to answer them.

NWFOI has worked closely with another extremist group Sussex Friends of Israel (SFI). Researcher Hilary Aked wrote a detailed investigative piece in the Electronic Intifada in December 2015, ‘Is new UK Zionist group funding settlements?‘ in which she revealed that North West Friends of Israel and Sussex Friends of Israel, promoted the ‘IsrAction day’, the stated aim of which is to ‘beat the BDS’ – the Palestinian civil society Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement: according to The Jewish Chronicle, ‘IsrAction Day’ in December 2014 was cosponsored by the Israel Solidarity Campaign, or ISC.

Despite presenting itself as a grassroots initiative, it is a propaganda outfit working closely with the Israeli government. It is also the UK affiliate of a new faction within the World Zionist Organization, which finances the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

[…] In a detailed response emailed to The Electronic Intifada, ISC advisory board member Jeremy Newmark, former CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council, confirmed that the group “provided a four figure sum” to Sussex Friends of Israel to sponsor the event. Sussex Friends of Israel seems likely to have been the sole recipient of almost $35,000 in external funding for IsrAction Day. This figure comes from the financial accounts of Over the Rainbow, the ISC’s parent organization.

[…] The ISC was registered as a company in the UK in 2014. Its director is Tzvi Avisar, a former Israeli government official.

Continue reading “Labour Deputy leader Tom Watson and Naz Shah MP to meet notoriously racist groups”

Cambridge student says she is forced to choose between being Jewish and equal opportunities for all minorities

Today, Hull University voted to disaffiliate from the NUS, citing largely financial reasons. That did not stop Jewish News and Guido Fawkes linking the decision to the election of the NUS’s first female, black Muslim president Malia Bouattia – an outspoken anti-Zionist. In her column for the Jewish Chronicle on Cambridge University’s own referendum, entitled ‘No one should have to compromise religion for politics – but the NUS elections made me doubt myself,‘ Noa Gendler makes no explicit reference to Bouattia, but is otherwise extraordinarily frank:

there’s no way I can decide whether or not [Cambridge University Students Union] should disaffiliate from the NUS without my Judaism coming into play. I’ve had to ask myself whether the NUS can offer me, as a Jewish student, representation and equality, and I’ve had to ask myself if its support for other minority students is more important than its support for me, as a Jewish student. Essentially, I’ve been forced to choose between two fundamental aspects of my life and values: being Jewish, versus liberation and equal opportunities for all minorities.

The final-year student at the University of Cambridge adds,

I’m ashamed to be part of a community which has asked me to make such a painful and irrational decision. No one should ever have to compromise their religion for their politics, or vice versa.

The clear inference is that the rights and needs of Jewish students do not accord with those of other minority student communities, and are incompatible with the struggle against oppression. She claims that choosing in favour of the latter would entail a compromise of her religious beliefs. It’s a dangerous attempt to blur the boundary between religion and political ideology. Gendler also attempts to make ‘her [Jewish] community’ complicit in this cynical calculation. Continue reading “Cambridge student says she is forced to choose between being Jewish and equal opportunities for all minorities”

Naz Shah MP’s Palestine advocacy under media spotlight again

Unlike liberal Zionist groups such as the Jewish Labour Movement, the Zionist right-wing have nothing further to gain from Naz Shah‘s public apology, suspension for alleged antisemitism and willingness to be ‘re-educated;’ they want to ensure she is branded an unreformable extremist – not just ‘anti-Israel,’ but a Muslim extremist that shouts Allahu Akbar.

Conservative Friends of Israel today uploaded a post to their website, ‘NAZ SHAH MP REVEALED TO HAVE ATTENDED SERIES OF ANTI-ISRAEL PROTESTS,’ based on a Daily Mail article, ‘Proof that Labour MP’s anti-Israel outburst was anything but a one off.’

In a tone more suited to a high-profile exposé, the Daily Mail tells its readers that Shah,

Playing dead with her children on the floor of a fast-food restaurant […] it can be revealed… mother-of-three Miss Shah was part of a group that mounted a string of protests against Israel.[…] Miss Shah also co-ordinated protests at Sainsbury’s and Tesco, and carried a coffin at a pro-Palestine rally where she was filmed chanting: ‘Shame on you.’

The group stormed the Bradford restaurant, chanting: ‘Allahu Akbar.’ They staged a number of protests at the branch and smeared ketchup across the premises, according to activists. Footage shows activists chanting: ‘Free, free Palestine.’ It is not known whether Miss Shah joined in the chanting or smeared ketchup. The previous day – August 3 – the group had staged a protest at a Tesco store over its stocking of Israeli produce.

There are some wonderful, inspiring images of Shah showing her solidarity with Palestinians. They date from summer 2014, when Israel killed over 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children.

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Naz Shah (right) at a pro Palestine rally
London March July 2014 Pro Palestine rally Naz Shah with coffin on her shoulder
London March July 2014 Pro Palestine rally
Naz Shah with coffin on her shoulder

The latest attack on Naz Shah makes two things abundantly clear: in the eyes of pro-Israel lobby groups and press, her crime is an outspoken support for Palestinian human rights, including direct action. And while the Labour Israel lobby will be appeased once she publicly disavows her principled opposition to Israel, she is not likely to ever shake off her reputation in the mainstream media as a Muslim antisemite calling for the destruction of Israel.

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Twitter profile picture of the President of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush

A Board of Deputies of British Jews spokesman told the DM that Naz Shah was,

clearly involved in a lot of unacceptable activities’ but had shown ‘a significant amount of remorse, which, if proven to be genuine, must count in her favour.

The strategy of appeasing Zionists is always doomed: most of the accused begin by protesting their innocence while simultaneously accepting the premise that antisemitism is rife – in their Party or community – and vowing to confront and stamp it out. But as Shah quickly discovered that isn’t enough, and under pressure she appeared to confess to having been antisemitic; she is now undertaking a ‘journey‘ that will only be complete in the eyes of her new Zionist defenders once she has disavowed her wholehearted solidarity with Palestinians.

Shah’s case is an instructive one. Public figures known for their support of the Palestinian cause have one option if they are not willing to be publicly humiliated: insist that they are committed to combatting all forms of racism, of which Israeli apartheid is an egregious example, and express sadness that their words have been misinterpreted, providing the context for their remarks missing from hostile media reports. Zionist lobbies across the political spectrum will be outraged and never cease in their attempts to smear the target of their witch-hunt, but at least the hunted will retain their integrity, and win the respect – not pity – of genuine anti-racists.

Elly Fryksos

Professor Feldman on the Macpherson definition of a racist incident

This is what the co-Vice Chair of the Chakrabarti inquiry, Professor David Feldman, said about the Macpherson principle, in his January 2015 sub-report to the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, chaired by John Mann:

Perceptions.

It is sometimes suggested that when Jews perceive an utterance or action to be anti-Semitic that this is how it should be described. In the UK this claim looks for support to the 1999 Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, written by Lord Macpherson of Cluny. There Macpherson wrote that ‘a racist incident’ is ‘any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.’ If we look at the context in which this quotation appears, it is unambiguously clear that Macpherson intended to propose that such racist incidents require investigation. He did not mean to imply that such incidents are necessarily racist. However, Macpherson’s report has been misinterpreted and misapplied in precisely this way. Its authority has been thrown behind the view that such incidents should, by definition, be regarded as racist. In short, a definition of antisemitism which takes Jews’ feelings and perceptions as its starting point and which looks to the Macpherson report for authority is built on weak foundations.

The battle for the soul of the NUS and a hijacked review into institutional racism

Last year, former National Union of Students President, Megan Dunn, launched an independent review into whether the NUS is institutionally racist. The audit was ordered in response to claims that were made at a meeting of the national executive committee by Malia Bouattia, then NUS Black Students’ Officer. Times Higher Education reported on 5 October that Bouattia was not the only member of the union’s top team to make allegations of institutional racism:

Shelly Asquith, the vice-president (welfare), tweeted that the “student movement [and] its institutions are institutionally racist”. “People need to properly accept that before we can begin to overcome it,” she said. […] Earlier this summer, Sorana Vieru, the vice-president (higher education), criticised universities’ “white, male and stale” environment, and the fact that they employ so few black female professors, in an interview with Times Higher Education.

At the time, the organisation’s chief executive, Simon Blake expected the review to be completed by January. In a letter to NUS staff he said the appointees,

will be asked to explore and understand whether there is evidence of direct or indirect racism within [the] NUS’s culture, systems, policies, processes and structures and make recommendations about any changes we can make to ensure we fulfil our commitment to being an organisation that is truly fair, open, accessible and representative of all.

Six months later, Malia Bouattia was elected as NUS President, in spite of a vicious campaign led by JSocs to paint her as an anti-Semite and ISIS sympathiser. Aliya Yule described the reaction:

her election has sparked an array of attacks against her in the media based on racist lies. […] Calls to disaffiliate from NUS have largely been mobilised on the back of these attacks, alongside attempts to belittle and deride the work that NUS does.[…] Some students have argued that we should disaffiliate from NUS because of accusations of anti-Semitism levelled at Malia, many of which were derived from comments taken out of context. Articles reporting these accusations have taken recourse to Islamophobic stereotypes, suggesting they go hand in hand with her being Muslim.

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An Oxford student union Rep invokes the antisemitism controversy, but to dissuade student unions from disaffiliating on the basis of an internal review into the allegations.

Student campaigns to disaffiliate with NUS have been launched at several universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. JC reports that JSocs at both universities are officially supporting disaffiliation.

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Lincoln and Newcastle have already disaffiliated. It has become a battleground between those who feel they should stay in order to force through change (see poster above), and those who seek to paint NUS as unreformable, or in the words of pro-Israel MP and former NUS president, Wes Streeting, “NUS is lost I’m afraid. It’s had good leadership from Megan Dunn, but it no longer represents students well.”

It is in this febrile atmosphere, that the internal review into institutional racism is being invoked by those in the ‘Yes to NUS’ campaign to win over Zionists.

In Cherwell yesterday, Rivka Micklethwaite made a heartfelt plea: expressing her strong support for Bouattia, she writes that “as a Jewish student at Oxford,” she believed leaving would be “damaging to the fight against anti-Semitism”: Continue reading “The battle for the soul of the NUS and a hijacked review into institutional racism”

French Prime Minister tells audience in Tel Aviv that behind the boycott is a ‘loathing’ of all Jews

In a further sign that the Palestinian civil society campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is considered by Israel’s allies to be a threat to the impunity it has long enjoyed, the Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls, invited Israeli students to study in France by denouncing BDS as motivated by antisemitism:

This invitation is…the most sincere response to those who talk of nothing but boycott. Behind this boycott we know well what there is: not only an opposition, but also a loathing of the State of Israel, the loathing of a Jewish home, and therefore of Jews as a whole.

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Manuel Valls during his visit to Tel Aviv, 22 May 2016 (Credit: official Facebook page of Manuel Valls)

Valls was addressing an audience during a ceremony on Sunday at Tel Aviv University in which the George Wise Medal was conferred on him. The medal commemorates Tel Aviv University’s founding President and is awarded to long-standing Israel advocates.

The Prime Minister said that it was France’s ‘role and duty’ to never give way before those that want to ‘hinder a democracy;’ that it was the ‘fight of a lifetime’ against antisemitism, ‘a battle of civilisation.’ To applause, Valls said,

When one attacks Jews, one of course attacks France and attacks civilisation.

Before receiving the medal, university officials praised Valls as ‘a friend of Israel.’ François Heilbronn, president of French Friends of Tel Aviv University, told Valls:

You are not one of those ministers that once appointed instantly forget that they are friends of Israel.

France has introduced anti-democratic legislation and taken other repressive measures to undermine the BDS movement. One activist was arrested simply for wearing a BDS t-shirt.

Tel Aviv University (TAU) is linked to an array of services to the Israeli state including in its most oppressive modes. TAU has particularly intense connections with the Israeli military. The cover story of its Winter Review 2008/9  is an account of the 64 projects for the military that were then ongoing. Continue reading “French Prime Minister tells audience in Tel Aviv that behind the boycott is a ‘loathing’ of all Jews”

Model motion for labour movement on antisemitism allegations

This is a policy motion for organisations to define their stance and mandate their delegates; local branches of organisations might forward this resolution to their regional and national bodies. Another issue that organisations can cite as “not antisemitic” is the critique of Zionist ideology.

This (organisation) deplores antisemitism. But we believe the press outcry on alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party was designed, in league with Israel’s apologists and censors, to damage the party and its leadership. This does no service to a genuine fight against this hate crime.

We deplore the proposal to task Jewish Labour Movement with training Labour Party branches and organisations in recognising and defining antisemitism. JLM is an affiliate both of the Israel 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.

We oppose censorship of legitimate and valid political action such as Palestine solidarity. We assert our right to speak and organise against the State of Israel’s systemic, historic and ongoing ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and violations of human rights and international law, and to support Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions against those complicit in these injustices.

This (organisation) therefore, urges the Labour Party to: Continue reading “Model motion for labour movement on antisemitism allegations”

Two sides of the Zionist Labour coin

Israel Labor ‘no place for radical leftists;’ JLM ‘no place for Palestine advocates’

Recalling Herzog’s anti-Arab racism, the Haaretz columnist Sayed Kashua mused today that, ‘The choice of the name “Zionist Union” left no room for doubt.’ Isaac Herzog is Chairman of the Zionist Union and leader of the Israeli Labour Party, which is affiliated to the UK Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

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Official logo for the Zionist Union

Haaretz reports that Herzog has maintained there was “no place in Zionist Union for the radical left.” Here, the Jewish Labour Movement are trying to impose a rule change on the Labour Party that could see members (often labelled the hard left) suspended for using Zionist as a pejorative.

Herzog was referring to former leader Shelly Yacimovich and other party members who opposed his move to join the government. He added that his resignation from the leadership of the party following the failure of his negotiations to enter the Likud-led coalition would,

“provide dubious satisfaction to left-wing radicals… and the radical right who dragged along [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”

On Saturday, Herzog – who insisted in April that his party were no ‘Arab lovers’ – maintained that the failure of his coalition negotiations with the Netanyahu government had prevented him from taking “a step that would definitely have changed the entire region:”

With the launch of a regional diplomatic initiative, which I was planning with Netanyahu and international elements, Israel would for the first time have related positively to elements of the Arab peace plan and begun, for the first time, to negotiate with the Arab states.

Sayed Kashua is creator of the popular Israeli TV series ‘Arab Labour’ and was recalling an encounter he had with Herzog three years ago. His producer had suggested they offer the part of the character of a Labor politician based on Herzog to the man himself. In the course of their meeting the latter betrayed his casual racism towards Palestinian Arabs: Continue reading “Two sides of the Zionist Labour coin”

Even Zionist hawk Melanie Phillips uneasy with execution of wounded Palestinian

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JC Columnist Melanie Phillips

I had to read this twice, so sure was I that I had misinterpreted Phillips’ words. Framed by the usual vitriolic attack on ‘lefties’ and a scornful rejection of the European fascism/Israel analogy, the Jewish Chronicle columnist betrays an uncharacteristic unease with Israeli society:

In [Major-General Yair Golan’s] speech on, of all things, Holocaust remembrance day he said: “If there is one thing that is scary in remembering the Holocaust, it is noticing horrific processes which developed in Europe – particularly in Germany – 70, 80, and 90 years ago, and finding remnants of that here among us in the year 2016.”

The uproar over his apparent equation of Israeli society with Nazi Germany obscured other things he said which were sound. In an apparent reference to Sergeant Elor Azaria, whose trial for manslaughter after shooting a wounded Palestinian on the ground has divided the country, Golan said the IDF should be proud that it probes “problematic behaviour” with courage.

It is very troubling that so many Israelis seem not to grasp the moral distinction between shooting in cold blood someone who poses no threat and defending against attack. There are also disturbing trends indeed in Israeli society, from violent anti-Arab “hilltop youth” and “price-tag” terrorists to prejudice against Ethiopian Jews.

Phillips, alone, apparently believes one can disassociate Golan’s revulsion at the morally ‘flawed’ Israeli occupation forces, from his warning that Israeli society has become so callous, degraded, violent and bigoted in its rightwards drift that it resembles early 20th century European fascist regimes. Such is the muddle Melanie has got herself into, that the notorious Islamophobe can accurately illustrate fascist trends, without identifying them as such. And it doesn’t stop there; she seeks to bolster her anti-left rant by citing examples that can only give her readers pause for thought and win support for her opponents:

Yet demonising “the other” was what Golan was doing in comparing unidentified Israelis to putative or actual Nazis. That is also the signature motif of the left, demonising the non-left as fascists while accusing them of demonising “the other”.

In Israel, these are standard tactics. During the 2014 Gaza war Israel Prize laureate (and historian of French fascism) Prof Ze’ev Sternhell said there were “indicators” of fascism in Israel which was “on the brink of boiling over”, and compared the atmosphere to 1940s France. Last December Dr Ofer Cassif, a political science lecturer at the Hebrew University, called Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “neo-Nazi scum” and wrote she was responsible for making Israel more fascist. He also told Israel Radio: “I think it’s fair to compare Israel to Germany in the 1930s, and not to the years of genocide.”

Ha’aretz does this all the time. Last December, Gideon Levy wrote that 2015 “heralded the start of blatant and unapologetic Israeli fascism”. I could go on, but you get the general idea.

Indeed we do, Melanie.

Elly Fryksos

Can Israel be compared to Nazi Germany? – A view from an Israeli who has witnessed both

We are told repeatedly that making any comparison between Israel’s actions and those of the Nazis is a form of antisemitism.

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Uri Avnery (Source uriavnery.com)

Reading the latest from Uri Avnery, a 92-year old Israeli writer and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement, it seems that both he and the deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army must bear this badge of shame. Today, in a piece entitled I Was There, Avnery enters the storm of controversy surrounding comments made on Holocaust Memorial Day by General Ya’ir Golan.

Wearing his uniform, Golan recalled “the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago,” and confessed his fear at “finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.”

Avnery carefully examines what Golan said and to what extent they are true. “He compared developments in Israel to the events that led to the disintegration of the Weimar Republic. And that is a valid comparison,” writes the veteran peace campaigner who witnessed Hitler’s rise to power in person. “Things happening in Israel, especially since the last election, bear a frightening similarity to those events.”

Avnery’s article deserves to be read in full and can be found on the Gush Shalom websiteHere is one excerpt:

The discrimination against the Palestinians in practically all spheres of life can be compared to the treatment of the Jews in the first phase of Nazi Germany. (The oppression of the Palestinians in the occupied territories resembles more the treatment of the Czechs in the “protectorate” after the Munich betrayal.)

The rain of racist bills in the Knesset, those already adopted and those in the works, strongly resembles the laws adopted by the Reichstag in the early days of the Nazi regime. Some rabbis call for a boycott of Arab shops. Like then. The call “Death to the Arabs” (“Judah verrecke”?) is regularly heard at soccer matches. A member of parliament has called for the separation between Jewish and Arab newborns in hospital. A Chief Rabbi has declared that Goyim (non-Jews) were created by God to serve the Jews. Our Ministers of Education and Culture are busy subduing the schools, theater and arts to the extreme rightist line, something known in German as Gleichschaltung. The Supreme Court, the pride of Israel, is being relentlessly attacked by the Minister of Justice. The Gaza Strip is a huge ghetto. 

Continue reading “Can Israel be compared to Nazi Germany? – A view from an Israeli who has witnessed both”