Labour leader calls Freedland’s antisemitism accusations “disgusting, subliminal nastiness”

The newly released Vice News documentary on Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, contains footage of Corbyn on the phone to Seumas Milne, his head of communications, discussing Jonathan Freedland’s article for the Guardian: ‘Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem.’ The article alleged that “Under Jeremy Corbyn the party has attracted many activists with views hostile to Jews….many Jews do worry that his past instinct, when faced with potential allies whom he deemed sound on Palestine, was to overlook whatever nastiness they might have uttered about Jews, even when that extended to Holocaust denial or the blood libel.” Published in March in the left-leaning paper, it helped kick off the latest smear campaign against Corbyn’s leadership that continues to have a chilling effect on free speech.

Corbyn is filmed saying (see the video below, at 3 minutes 30 seconds):

The big negative today is the Jonathan Freedland article in the Guardian. Utterly disgusting, subliminal nastiness, the whole lot of it. He’s not a good guy at all.  He seems kind of obsessed with me.

While Freedland’s insidious article is frequently cited, forgotten are the several letters to the Guardian repudiating his allegations. This is just one:

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.
Sue Lukes
London

As Lukes points out, Freedland’s assertions are not borne out by the facts.

Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Jeremy Newmark discovered at an employment tribunal in 2013, that giving evidence of antisemitism judged to be “false, painfully ill-judged and preposterous” has consequences for one’s reputation. And so it is with Jonathan Freedland. The examples he provides as evidence of an ingrained problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party would not stand up in court: they would be treated with contempt and the case thrown out. Continue reading “Labour leader calls Freedland’s antisemitism accusations “disgusting, subliminal nastiness””

Hate Crimes guidance criticized for conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism

Letters to the College of Policing and Metropolitan Police Commissioner

23 May 2016

Rachel Tuffin
Director of Knowledge, Research and Education
College of Policing
Coventry CV8 3EN
Cc: Steve White, Chair, Police Federation
Dave Prentis, General Secretary, UNISON

Re: antisemitism as defined in the Hate Crime Operational Guidance

Dear Rachel Tuffin

We are writing to express our concerns about the College of Policing 2014 document, Hate Crime Operational Guidance. It conflates antisemitism with anti-Israel criticism or anti-Zionism, especially boycott activity, which is thereby regarded as a potential crime of race hate. We are concerned that policing activity may apply this definition. We copy our letter to the Police Federation of England and Wales, as well as to UNISON, which jointly helped to establish the College.

The official definition of antisemitism matters for policing and beyond. Some politicians have promoted your guidance document as an authoritative source. For example, on 30.03.2016 Eric Pickles quoted its definition of antisemitism, especially this criterion: ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.’ See below why this criterion is misguided.

At around the same time Michael Gove denounced the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as follows:

But worse than that – worse than libelling the state of Israel – the BDS campaign, by calling for the deliberate boycott of goods manufactured by Jewish people, by calling for the shunning of the Jewish state, and the rejection of Jewish commerce and Jewish thought, actually commits a crime worse than apartheid (quoted in Middle East Monitor, 04.04.2016).

Antisemitic motives are likewise implied by the Hate Crime guidance: ‘Such manifestations could also target the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity’ (p.37). Both those statements misrepresent the anti-Israel boycott campaign as targeting Jews; see again our explanation below.

Moreover, Bob Neil MP sent Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe a letter claiming that the website Innovative Minds encourages antisemitism and incites violence (Daily Mail, 08.04.2016), apparently on grounds that its text supports resistance to the Israeli Occupation.

Given the pervasive conflation of antisemitic and anti-Israel views, our letter explains why this is misguided, especially in your guidance document. For other key quotes, our text includes hyperlinks. Our letter concludes with specific requests to you.

False equation: ‘anti-Israel = antisemitic’

The College of Policing guidance wrongly characterises anti-Zionism as a ‘new antisemitism’. The latter includes any statements ‘denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’, according to the guidance (p.37). In reality, a significant part of world Jewry has always seen the Zionist project as racist and as jeopardising Jews’ security in the countries where they live.  As regards that threat, antisemites have commonly regarded Jews as a separate nation who belong in Palestine (or later in Israel), thus complementing Zionist views. Continue reading “Hate Crimes guidance criticized for conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism”

False witness

By Rachel Lever

Rembrandt
Rembrandt

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” The Ninth Commandment. The word of God.

In English law, perjury is a crime too. But what happens when the accused neighbour is the Labour Party, now reeling under a barrage of accusations that it is “mired in antisemitism”?

Jan Royall’s report into supposedly “antisemitic” incidents and “a problem with Jews” at Oxford Labour Club famously found that there was nothing to be found. She also famously advertised her frustration and disappointment at finding nothing, maybe indicating that if she had any bias it was to make a tasty meal out of it all.

These supposed incidents were further discredited when it turned out that at least one of the complainants was secretly connected to a rival political party. Yet, for all their implausibility, they were the first shoots that grew into the choking weed of Labour’s alleged “antisemitism crisis.” And despite the myth being totally dispelled, it is still working its merry way through the system.

Copies of Royall’s report were handed out to members of Labour’s Executive Committee at its meeting on 17 May, and then collected back in, apparently after a substantial discussion. They concluded that it was completely unacceptable to use antisemitism/racism as a factional political tool.

Yet no-one seems to have asked the obvious question: why were these complaints made in the first place, who stood to benefit from the factional political tool of smearing the Labour Party with such falsehoods, and how should the bearers of false witness, and all their accomplices and co-complainants, be pilloried and punished?

Far from it: some of those who screamed and shouted may soon be given the franchise to tutor office holders in the party on antisemitism. Might we hope that this includes the Ten Commandments?

The Mutual Dependency of Zionism and Anti-Semitism

logo

Read the article in full on Alternet

By Eli Aminov
translated by Ronnie Barkan
May 28, 2016

When Netanyahu enlisted Adolf Hitler in October last year to claim that the responsibility for the Holocaust and the extermination of European Jewry lies with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin, and with the Palestinian people, he also stated that the Fuhrer wanted at the beginning of his rule to only expel the Jews and it was theMufti who persuaded him to exterminate them. This rehabilitation of Hitler, as was carried out by Netanyahu, may not have made Hitler into a Zionist but had indeed given him the status of pro-Zionist, like many other anti-Semites besides him.

While Netanyahu was unsuccessful at linking the Palestinian struggle with the Holocaust, this recurring wave of accusations had prompted a surge of attacks which were aimed at purging the critics of Zionism within the British Labour Party. This was all carried out under the pretext of anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism” is a derogatory term which the Zionist movement had associated with anyone who opposes it or its crimes against the Palestinian people. But history shows that Zionism and anti-Semitism are in fact like Siamese twins. Anti-Semitism today is mainly expressed through the hatred of Muslims—the vast majority of whom are Arabs —in Europe, and in that respect Israel is by far the world’s most anti-Semitic country. Along with the expressed opposition to Israel’s policies against the Palestinians, the more traditional anti-Semitism which focuses on the hatred of Jews, is also rearing its head. It is fed by both the Israeli propaganda which claims to represent world Jewry and by the fact that more and more people around the world understand that Israel is an apartheid state, which was built on the basis of a continuous act of ethnic cleansing and the denial of human and civil rights from its non-Jewish subjects. Continue reading “The Mutual Dependency of Zionism and Anti-Semitism”

Update: Speakers Trust betrays ignorance of the Palestinian experience

Further update, 1  June: Speakers Trust have now restored the video to their website.

In an interview with Middle East Eye, Speakers Trust CEO Julie Holness has denied that Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge regional finalist Leanne Mohamad was disqualified, and said her earlier comments on the controversy had been “misconstrued”. She explained that the teenager was one of 22 regional winners whom judges decided did not merit a place in the next round of the competition. She also reiterated the Trust’s defence that the decision to ‘temporarily’ take down the video of Leanne’s speech – and delete all reference to her win on the website – was to protect the 15 year old from abuse.

Holness’s letter to anti-Palestinian blogger Edgar Davidson (pasted below) and the Trust’s panicked actions betray an ignorance of the Palestinian experience of dispossession and censorship through Israel’s attempts to erase and deny the history of Palestinians in their homeland. It is this experience that informed Leanne’s impassioned speech as well as her subsequent distress at the disappearance of her award-winning speech:

Leaving aside the fact that it is just as easy to disable comments as it is to remove a YouTube video, let’s revisit Holness’s exchange with bigot and Nakba-denier, Davidson. I have repeatedly asked the Trust by email to explain this exchange: their responses do not address the content of their CEO’s letter, however. Nor do they in their latest statement.

Holness’s “misconstrued” comments consisted of her stating that the judging panel had shared his “concerns” that Leanne’s speech was inflammatory propaganda. The tone of her letter is respectful and apologetic. Davidson understandably took it as proof that Speakers Trust shared his view of the Palestinian narrative, and duly published her letter online. The story was then picked up by the pro-Israel Jewish Chronicle that erroneously reported Davidson had influenced the judging panel. In his letter to Speakers Trust, Davidson threatened to report the charity for supporting “vicious blood libels against Israel,” and denied all instances of Israeli violence towards Palestinians:

For the record there are no verified instances of Palestinian children being ‘murdered’ by Israel, although many dozens have died as a result of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups launching unprovoked rocket attacks against Israeli civilians (often from schools and hospitals) and then using their own children as human shields when Israel has responded. In fact, Amnesty International (an organisation that has traditionally been hostile to Israel) reported just this week that most of the child casualties of the 2014 conflict (that was started by Hamas) were actually killed by Hamas rockets falling short of their ‘target’. [*See note below]

In response to these victim-blaming claims that amount to a denial of ethnic cleansing and serial atrocities, Holness clearly expressed agreement and regret, and suggested Leanne had not been chosen because of similar “concerns”, thus appeasing her chief abuser:

Response from Julie Holness, CEO to Edgar Davidson

Thank you very much for your email, which my colleague Rebecca Griffiths has this morning forwarded to me. We take your concerns very seriously.

Every year thousands of young people are trained in the art of public speaking. They are encouraged to speak out on something they feel passionately about and of course they bring with them their history and culture and beliefs.

There are, however, 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.

– 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.

It is, however, the school that votes through its most talented speaker in an Assembly final and an independent panel of judges from the local community who select their regional winner. Speeches at this level will have been further developed and even rewritten, with the training guidelines but without our input on content. Judges do not mark a speaker down because they disagree with a point of view but they are clearly briefed on the those guidelines. Unfortunately, with over 18,000 young people trained annually, a speech that does not observe these ground rules may very rarely get through on passion and delivery.

Last Saturday a 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.  Continue reading “Update: Speakers Trust betrays ignorance of the Palestinian experience”

Tom Watson accepts an invitation from a far-right Zionist group

UPDATE: Tom Watson pulls out of community discussion on antisemitism at last minute citing ‘childcare commitments’

North West Friends of Israel is seeking to exploit Tom Watson’s appearance to perpetuate the baseless smear that there exists widespread antisemitism in the Labour Party. The NWFOI poster makes it clear they start from the premise that there is a problem of “antisemitism of the left.” NWFOI has already branded Watson “an ardent Zionist.” His association with them further compromises his reputation as a progressive.

Please see earlier post for details of North West Friends of Israel’s activities and alliances with far right groups.

The only conclusion to draw from this is that the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party believed this was a legitimate event appealing to Labour voters because of the involvement of the Jewish Labour Movement. JLM are playing a leading role in censoring free speech on Israel. Watson will speak alongside Labour Friends of Israel officer, Louise Ellman MP, and the pro-Israel outgoing Lord Mayor of Manchester, Paul Murphy.

13335681_1785235678379048_4830095050470489139_n

NWFOI have joined other online abusers in targeting the 15 year old speaking competition winner, Leanne Mohamad as an “ISIS recruiter.” The abuse and trolling is so grave that the police are now involved.

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 09.54.50

Submission to Chakrabarti commission on party rules

In considering the alleged problem of systemic institutional antisemitism in the Labour Party there are a number of points to consider

    1. The Labour Party exists in a society that that is disfigured by all manner of discriminatory beliefs and behaviours. Consequently it cannot be asserted that the Party is free of antisemtism any more than: homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, sexism, disableism etc. This does not suggest that antisemitism is a particular problem In the Party above and beyond other areas of concern. In society generally islamophobia is legitimised through the ‘War on Terrorism’ in a way that antisemitism is not condoned. The Party, though its acquiescence to the Prevent and counter-terrorism agendas is institutionally part of this problem.
    2. Antisemitism has to be seen in the context of racism. The EUMC draft working (but not ratified) definition of antisemitism places it in the context of Israel and it is this inadequate definition that has been employed by many of those currently raising concerns.
    3. It is being alleged that anti-Zionist comments are of themselves antisemitic. This is a category confusion. Jews are a religious group and attacks on them as Jews is an attack on their personhood. Zionism is a political ideology and as such is not immune from criticism, even fierce criticism, like any other political ideology.  It has only been a mainstream ideology among Jews since the holocaust and so is not inherent to Judaism but is historically and politically contingent. There are many non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews of whom I am one.
    4. The Jewish Labour Movement is claiming a special status in this matter. They are obviously welcome to contribute like anyone else but not to be given the particular role that they claim and Janet Royall’s report sought to give them. The JLM is the UK affiliate of the Israel Labour Party, a Party that throughout its terms of office since 1967 has promoted the illegal settlement programme. Isaac Herzog, the current leader of the ILP – in its current guise of the Zionist Union – has been seeking to join Netanyahu’s ruling coalition. Although this attempt has been unsuccessful it indicates how much shared responsibility the ILP has for the continuing assault on Palestinian rights by successive Israeli Governments.  The JLM is also affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation which has been identified by the United Nations as a major conduit of funds to the illegal settlements. 
    5. As an avowedly Zionist organisation, it is not open for non- and anti-Zionist Jews to join it and thus they are denied a formal voice in the current discussions.  Because of it partisan stance on Zionism and its advocacy role in pursuing current allegations it is not a suitable impartial provider of training for Labour Party branches and organisations. Their unsuitability is further illustrated by their response to the Party dismissing the charges against Jackie Walker. Rather than accepting that they had made claims that were determined to be unfounded they instead attacked those making the judgement of antisemitism because they had failed to endorse the JLM’s views.
    6. In seeking a definition of antisemitism one does not need to go beyond Oxford University scholar Brian Klug’s succinct one. “Antisemitism  is  a  form  of  hostility  to  Jews  as  ‘Jews’,  where  Jews  are  perceived  as  something  other  than  what  they  are.” For a body to be regarded as institutionally antisemitic its practices must incorporate such misperceptions and must be visible through a consistent pattern of action. This could be by such behaviour as only approaching Jewish members for donations by assuming that the stereo type of the rich Jew is correct or by acting as though all Jews have more loyalty to Israel than to their own country.
    7. It may be true that on isolated occasions members of the Labour Party make deliberately antisemitic statements, either directly or smuggled in under a deformed anti-Zionism. Such cases are easy to recognise they refer to too familiar stereotypes and fabrications and must be dealt with severely like any other racist abuse.
    8. Slightly more often, but still uncommonly, individuals are confused by Israel’s and its supporters’ conflation of Israel with all Jews; and consequentially hold Jews as a collective and as individuals responsible for Israel’s crimes. Such misapprehensions are precisely that, misapprehensions not expressions of a vile antisemitism. They must be dealt with through education. Such an educative process will be aided by clarity by the Party of its opposition to state crimes by Israel, as with crimes by other states, and, in making such denunciations, distinguishing between Jews and Zionists and Israel.
    9. The pressure to use a simplistic reading of MacPherson’s principles is misleading. Macpherson was writing in the specific context of the Metropolitan Police at the end of the last century where he uncovered a systemic refusal of the police to acknowledge even blatant examples of racist behaviour and violence and investigate them. He therefore enjoined the police to acknowledge the perceptions of victims and investigate accordingly. It was a guide to police behaviour in investigating not to judges in adjudicating on the outcomes of those investigations. There is pressure from the JLM and its allies for perception to stand in the place of adjudication and for perception to be sufficient to determine the existence of antisemitic behaviour.
    10. The rule changes proposed by the JLM seek to encode this false interpretation of MacPherson into the Labour Party rule book but they go even further. One of their changes would seek to limit Chapter 2 Clause 1 (8) “The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions” to read “The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions except in instances involving antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism” .They thus want to introduce thought crime into the Labour Party rules. This is clearly unacceptable on any number of grounds and illustrates the ill thought out and capricious nature on the assault on the free expression of thoughts and opinions on a matter as controversial as Palestine/Israel.
    11. Perversely the JLM could be seen as being more antisemitic than many of those it denounces because of its insistence that there is only one sort of ‘real Jew’: the sort of Jew that agrees with them in supporting a Zionist view of the world. Such a view reduces the diversity of Jews in Britain, who are heterogeneous – holding a wide variety of views on Palestine and Israel as they do on all other issues, to a single stereotype. Such stereotypes lie at the base of antisemitism just as other stereotypes afford other forms of racism.

Mike Cushman
May 2016

Hiding Zionism’s Racism Behind an ‘Anti-Semitic’ Mask

A Response to Rabbi Elli Sarah

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
Rabbi Elli Sarah

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”

Erased: Speakers Trust rewrites history by removing all trace of Leanne Mohamad’s win

[Please read follow-up post here]

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

  • safe_image-phptaken down the video of her speech on the Nakba,
  • deleted the page announcing the awarding to her of first place in the Redbridge regional finals,
  • removed the image of the proud 15 year old holding her trophy.

Watch her speech here.

 

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 10.09.44
Screenshot of the deleted page

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,” and confirming the charity had decided to censor Leanne’s speech:

Dear Ms Griffiths,

I have been a long term supporter of the Jack Petchey Foundation [personal details were added here].  What I was not aware of was that the Charity was now in the business of supporting vicious blood libels against the State of Israel. Continue reading “Erased: Speakers Trust rewrites history by removing all trace of Leanne Mohamad’s win”

Jackie Walker’s interview with RT on antisemitism and her suspension

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.’