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”

Is Progress behind suspension of Secretary, Croydon Central Labour Party?

Via Inside Croydon
10 May

The Labour Party has suspended David White, the secretary of the Croydon Central constituency party, following complaints over a single tweet sent a fortnight ago in defence of Ken Livingstone, after the former London Mayor’s Hitler and Zionism brain belch.

Lawyer David White: has doubts about the undertakings given to the council

Suspended: David White

Tonight, White said, “I shall fight my suspension and work to be reinstated in the Labour Party.”

There is more than a whiff of the involvement of Progress around the suspension of a socialist who has been a Labour Party member all his adult life.

Last week, Lambeth South MP Steve Reed OBE, a deputy chair of Progress, , the Blairite party-within-a-party, seemed to suggest that something was underway when he referred to “internal disciplinary matters” in a tweet regarding White’s situation. This was long before the Croydon party official had received any notification that he was subject to such a procedure.

This is not the first time that Progress has conducted a witch-hunt against socialists in Croydon.

It was widely understood that Progress members, possibly including Labour employees, were behind the attempt to have Jeremy Corbyn’s adviser, Croydon resident Andrew Fisher, kicked out of the party over some trumped up charges suggesting disloyalty towards The Hon Emily Benn, who barely lasted two years as a Croydon councillor. The petty factionalists of Progress have also been active in barring from party membership the likes of Mark Steel, the comedian and columnist. Continue reading “Is Progress behind suspension of Secretary, Croydon Central Labour Party?”

Guardian Letters: Response to Chief Rabbi Mirvis: Anti-Zionism does not equate to antisemitism

The list of 88 signatories includes Mike Leigh, Miriam Margolyes, Alexei Sayle, Selma James and Michael Rosen.

Tuesday 10 May, Guardian Letters

In his Daily Telegraph article on which you report (Chief rabbi: Labour has severe problem with antisemitism, theguardian.com, 4 May), Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the antisemitism crisis engulfing Labour had “lifted the lid” on bigotry.

He joins in the sensationalist allegations of antisemitism in the Labour party, where the headlines’ decibel level is in inverse proportion to the evidence supporting them. Ignoring the more serious anti-Muslim racism in electoral politics, Rabbi Mirvis attacks the Labour party by launching a defence of Zionism which turns it from a political ideology (that can be supported or opposed) into a religion that is beyond question. We British Jews reject this categorically.

Mirvis attacks as “antisemitic” those who separate Judaism from Zionism. Yet most Jews who perished in the Holocaust were indifferent to Zionism and many opposed it. In the last municipal elections in Europe’s largest Jewish community, in Poland, just before the second world war, Poland’s Jews voted overwhelmingly for the secular, anti-Zionist, socialists of the Bund, while Zionist parties got derisory votes. Is Rabbi Mirvis recasting those victims of the Holocaust posthumously as enemies of Judaism and therefore as antisemites?
George Abendstern
Seymour Alexander
Julia Bard
Sue Bard
Graham Bash
Craig Berman
Rica Bird
Haim Bresheeth
Elizabeth Carola
Linda Clair
Jim Cohen
Norman Crane
Wendy Crane
Judith Cravitz
Mike Cushman
Ivor Dembina Continue reading “Guardian Letters: Response to Chief Rabbi Mirvis: Anti-Zionism does not equate to antisemitism”

Haaretz: To Peter Beinart: We pro-BDS Jews Are as Much Part of Jewish People as You Are

Read article in full here.

Excerpt: ‘…when liberal columnist Peter Beinart told me recently in Haaretz that Jews like me have broken ‘the bonds of peoplehood’ by embracing BDS, I heard an assertion that reflects the consensus of the old Jewish world, not the contours of the new. In Beinart’s view, while pro-BDS Jews like me do indeed hold strong Jewish identities and build robust Jewish communities, the fact remains that we have broken sharply with the mainstream Jewish communal consensus.

For embracing a call for solidarity from Palestinians who experience daily violence from the Israeli state, we are denounced from the local synagogue bimah, denied jobs at the local JCRC, and ridiculed around the local mah-jongg table. We have prioritized our ethical values over the commandment, in Beinart’s words, to ‘protect other Jews’. And for making this choice, we have excommunicated ourselves from klal Yisrael (the Jewish collective).

But whose ‘peoplehood’ have we broken, exactly? Who determines the boundaries of what Beinart calls the collective ‘family’? Mainstream synagogues, with their ‘We Stand With Israel’ banners facing the street and Israeli flags adorning the bimah, are struggling to find members under the age of 50. In many places, a growing majority of Jews don’t pass through the doors of their community JCRC or their campus Hillel. For a variety of reasons, institutions like these have for decades been inaccessible not only to pro-BDS Jews, but to queer Jews, Jews of color, Jews from interfaith families, working-class Jews, disabled Jews, and many others. Continue reading “Haaretz: To Peter Beinart: We pro-BDS Jews Are as Much Part of Jewish People as You Are”

Labour reprimands a Muslim Cllr for speaking the truth about Israeli state-sanctioned terrorism

Staunchly pro-Israel newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, has revealed another Muslim Councillor ‘has been spoken to by the [Labour] party after the JC brought his comments to light.’ Waseem Zaffar sits on Birmingham City council.

Zaffar made a number of considered & insightful comments on the role played by the UK government’s support for what he identified as Israel’s state-sanctioned terrorism in ‘fuelling “violent fundamentalism”.’ He was also filmed endorsing the Palestinian civil society call for a boycott of Israel.

The JC has seen a letter posted on Zaffar’s website, in which he responds to an invitation from Ruth Jacobs (Representative Council of Birmingham & West Midlands Jewry) to meet with the Acting Israeli Ambassador to London, Eitan Na’eh, when he visited Birmingham in October 2015. Zaffar outlined the concerns he wished to be conveyed to the Ambassador.

Here is his principled letter in full:

Dear Ruth,

Thank you for your invitation to meet the Acting Israeli Ambassador ‪on 14th October.

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend as I will be on a training course on that day.  However, I would like to have been able to attend to convey to the Ambassador the anger that is felt amongst Birmingham citizens about the way that Israel has treated and continues to treat the Palestinians.  This anger has been expressed by thousands on our streets a number of times and in campaigns for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions.  We are a multicultural and multi-ethnic city with a powerful tradition of fighting for equality and civil rights and against racism in all its forms.  Israel’s actions are diametrically opposed to this tradition and our values.

As the situation in Palestine/Israel looks more and more like the beginning of a third intifada, I would have wanted to ask the Ambassador how could the Israeli Government believe that, by maintaining an inhumane blockade of Gaza, by shooting dead protestors, by continuing to build illegal settlements, by doing little to stop settler violence against Palestinians and by daily humiliations at road blocks, it was securing a future for all the people who live there, whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian, other faiths or of no faith.  Surely a path of talking to and treating the Palestinians as equal human beings, ceasing land expropriations and home demolitions  and seeking a just agreement would be more likely to lead to a sustainable peace? Continue reading “Labour reprimands a Muslim Cllr for speaking the truth about Israeli state-sanctioned terrorism”

Green party stands by candidate who compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa

Twickenham’s Green Party candidate, Tanya Williams was speaking at the Amnesty International hustings last year. Vice president of The Board of Deputies of British Jews Alex Brummer told SW Londoner (16 April, 2015) that Williams’ comments were ‘unacceptable,’ and made the baseless claim that they would fuel anti-Semitism.

Responding to a question on how she would tackle Israel’s violations of international law, if elected, Williams had explained she would fight for effective sanctions:

It needs to be pointed out that they are a racist state and an apartheid state. South Africa got its act together after decades of campaigning and I hope Israel may eventually too – I think it is time to stand up to the myth that Israel and Palestine are both equal participants in this conflict.

She said that the UK should stop supporting Israel, both politically and from a trade perspective: Continue reading “Green party stands by candidate who compared Israel to apartheid-era South Africa”

This is what the Mail on Sunday reports as evidence of antisemitism

Via Mail on Sunday

The row over anti-Semitism in Labour took a new twist last night after it emerged that one of Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs suggested a Labour Government could make a historical apology for the creation of Israel in 1948.

In comments made last year to a meeting of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Ealing MP Rupa Huq said that a Labour Government ‘could probably get that through’.

[…] Answering a question about whether an apology should be made, Ms Huq said: ‘1948, that happened under a British government. To my mind, an apology – yes. You could do one. A Labour Government could probably get that through.’

Rupa Huq was on a panel at a PSC event, ‘Palestine is Still the Issue – Pre-election public meeting‘ in February 2015. Also on the panel were Jon Ball – Lib Dem candidate for Ealing Central & Acton, and Tom SharmanGreen Party candidate for Ealing Central & Acton.

When contacted by The Mail on Sunday, Huq was quick to row back on her comments, and establish her support for Israel. She told the MOS that the remarks she made did not reflect her actual views: Continue reading “This is what the Mail on Sunday reports as evidence of antisemitism”

Labour’s Deputy Leader endorses McCarthyite ‘antisemitism’ rule change proposal

Tom Watson has used the opportunity of Yom HaShoah, the Jewish day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust, to back a proposal by the pro-apartheid Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

There is much to take issue with in his letter to JLM, but the aspect that should be urgently addressed by the progressive Left is the Labour Deputy Leader’s pledge to take the lead from the Jewish Labour Movement on what constitutes antisemitic abuse.

Together with many colleagues I am backing the JLM proposals for tougher rules.

[…] I will fight to ensure that Zionism is not used as a term of abuse. Or as a code word for Jews. I will fight to ensure that the right to Jewish national self-determination is preserved and respected. Jews are the target of antisemitism – but I will fight to ensure that are not left to oppose it alone. I am committed to that fight. Whatever it takes.

JLM proposes three amendments to The Labour Party Rule Book 2016 Membership rules, Section 8:

Add an additional sentence after the first sentence: ‘A member of the Party who uses antisemitic, Islamophobic, racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions in public, private, online or offline, as determined by the NEC, shall be deemed to have engaged in conduct prejudicial to the Party.’

Add at the end of the final sentence after “opinions”: …” except in instances involving antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism”

Insert new paragraph E: “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, transgender identity, or sexual orientation, the NEC may have the right to impose the appropriate disciplinary options from the following options: [same as D]”

JLM’s supporting argument and rationale includes:

This rule change would not prevent people from criticising the actions of the State of Israel, or policies of its elected Government. It would draw a distinction between legitimate discourse and antisemitic rhetoric which is inflammatory, divisive, dangerous and undermines the ability of our party to make a serious contribution to the struggle for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Zionism is no single concept other than the basic expression of the national identity of the Jewish people, a right to which all people are entitled. This rule change would recognise that it is not acceptable to use Zionism as a term of abuse or to substitute the word Zionist for where the word Jew has been commonly used by antisemites, such as alleging Jewish political, financial or media conspiracies and control.

It would also give due regard to the Macpherson definition of a racist incident which places particular value upon the perception of the victim/victim group.

It’s clear that JLM have interpreted Macpherson’s recommendations to mean that the complainant alone can determine what constitutes a racist incident. If someone believes their victimisation was aggravated by racism that should be taken seriously, but first they have to show they’ve been victimised, i.e. assaulted or discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity or religion. The same misconception was on display in the Fraser v UCU employment tribunal in 2011. Antony Lerman wrote at the time in openDemocracy that:

Most of the recommendations […] relate to reforming and improving police behaviour. And the definition of a racist incident was clearly meant as a very simple and very direct way of doing that: insisting that police must not only keep accurate records of racist incidents, but that they must record that an incident is racist if the victim says it is. At no point does the report move from that very specific and narrow point to a generalisation that racism is what the victim says it is. And I am certain that neither Macpherson nor his fellow inquiry members ever intended that readers of his report and recommendations should understand that this what what they meant.

There are therefore absolutely no grounds for attacking the UCU for rejecting the Macpherson definition of racism. It did no such thing; there is no such definition.

Continue reading “Labour’s Deputy Leader endorses McCarthyite ‘antisemitism’ rule change proposal”

Claim that Zionism is core to being a Jew is stereotyping, derogatory & abusive

By Glyn Secker

I want to address the conflation of Jew, Zionism and Israel, which are three separate identities: I am a Jew, but like hundreds of thousands of other Jews in the world, I am not a Zionist. Zionism is a political ideology; it is neither a religious identity nor a racial identity.

Zionism was not and is not a straightforward ideology simply espousing a Jewish nation. It has a necessary second half; it is predicated on a specific territory, Zion (Palestine), which was home to many hundreds of thousands of people for tens of centuries before the existence of Zionism. It was axiomatic to Zionism that its implementation was to be in Palestine, and therefore, its objective, the establishment of a Jewish state, could only be achieved by the removal of the existing population.

The early Zionist leader, J. Weitz, Head of the Jewish Agency, which was responsible for the initial settlements in Palestine, wrote in his diary,

there is no other way than to transfer the Arabs […] not one village, not one tribe should be left.

Continue reading “Claim that Zionism is core to being a Jew is stereotyping, derogatory & abusive”

Statement by Palestinians in Scotland on attempts to silence pro-Palestine voices as racist

Via English PNN

As members of the Palestinian Diaspora in Britain, many of us British citizens, we have long been familiar with the ploys of Zionists and their supporters in politics and the media. We observe the desperate attempts to silence the ever-growing world-wide criticism of Israel’s actions by conflating opposition to Israel’s brutal policies towards our people with hostility to Jews. We urge all to note that pro-Israeli elements have a vested interest in flagging up, exaggerating and inventing incidents of anti-Semitism to achieve the core Zionist aim of stimulating Jewish emigration to Israel/Palestine.

Suppressing a people necessitates suppressing a truth. The current cynical attacks on supporters of Palestinian freedom as ‘anti-Semitic’ aims to conceal a truth which cannot be hidden much longer, the fact of Israel as a full-blown Apartheid regime. Bishop Desmond Tutu noted that, compared to the harshness of the system imposed on Palestine by the Israelis, even the humiliation and violence that Africans experienced in Apartheid South Africa “was a picnic”.

We Palestinians are horrified that David Cameron told a meeting of Zionists he will commemorate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration that launched the colonisation of our homeland by European colonists, and led to our dispossession and expulsion. We condemn the Foreign Office statement that it is “proud of the role that Britain played in supporting the birth of the state of Israel”. Continue reading “Statement by Palestinians in Scotland on attempts to silence pro-Palestine voices as racist”