Guardian’s Hadley Freeman adds her voice to the ‘antisemitism’ smear campaign

Hadley Freeman has waded into the Labour antisemitism debate with a particularly fatuous opinion piece in the Guardian, today. Freeman has previously protested that her Twitter followers never let her forget her unique contribution to the Israel/Palestine issue, in August 2014. At the height of the Israeli military’s 2014 massacre of largely civilians in the besieged Gaza strip, Freeman added her support to the campaign of intimidation against the Tricycle theatre.

London’s Tricycle theatre had exercised their right to reject Israeli embassy funding of the UK Jewish Film Festival (read more on the controversy here). Freeman’s piece entitled ‘Please don’t tell me what I should think about Israel,’ informed her readers she thinks the Tricycle ‘demonstrated thinking so nervy and so potentially hypocritical that at least one legal expert said it “may well count as unlawful discrimination”.’ Case closed. Except it isn’t: the faux-‘legal opinion’ she linked to was a blog post by Adam Wagner who is not an expert on the Equality Act. Wagner later wrote that he ‘received some interesting emails from senior lawyers suggesting issues which I hadn’t considered such as standing under the Act as well as problems in finding an appropriate comparator.’

Hadley Freeman’s latest piece is her sarcastic take on the Left’s defence of suspended politicians, Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone (click on the links for responses to each case). Freeman does manage one decent joke at the expense of George Galloway, observing that, in insisting ‘this was “an entirely synthetic crisis”’, he was ‘perhaps confusing the crisis with his hat.’

A far less harmless joke is her snide remark that NUS president Malia Bouattia’s historic comment that the mainstream media is ‘Zionist-led’ is ‘about as political as a joke about hooked noses.’ Freeman must have been left unmoved by Bouattia’s piece in the same paper, last month, in which she exposed a racist, misogynistic campaign of intimidation against her and her family, and defended her political position, adding that she would ensure in future her words could not be misinterpreted:

Over the last two years I have received untold vitriol online – rape and death threats in abundance. I had to involve the police for my parents’ protection. But I stood strong, I persevered and, after serving as the NUS black students’ officer, student representatives across the country have shown faith by electing me.

[…] I want to be clear, again, that for me to take issue with Zionist politics is in no way me taking issue with being Jewish. In fact, Zionist politics are held by people from a variety of different backgrounds and faiths. For me it has been, and will always be, a political argument, not one of faith or ethnic identity. Zionism, religion and ethnicity must not be seen as one and the same. If the language I have used in the past has been interpreted any other way then let me make this clear – it was never my intention, although my political ideologies and beliefs remain unchanged.

Few public figures have been so thoroughly vindicated in their controversial views as Malia Bouattia: in the wake of her election as the first black, Muslim female NUS president last month, she came under a sustained and vicious attack by every mainstream media outlet, from the Telegraph and The Times, to the BBC, Independent and Guardian. In the Telegraph Simon Heffer referred libellously to Bouattia’s ‘long record of vilifying Jews,’ and Aaron Simons to the ‘dark message‘ she was sending to Jewish students. In the liberal press, the response was no less vicious, prompting a number of letters of support from British Jews, which pointed out that the ‘false equation ‘Jewish = Zionist’ comes from Israel’s supporters, not from the Palestine solidarity movement.’ Continue reading “Guardian’s Hadley Freeman adds her voice to the ‘antisemitism’ smear campaign”

Suspensions: Labour is giving credibility to pernicious lies by its supine behaviour

Jacqueline Walker

Letter sent by Professor Jonathan Rosenhead to Labour Party General Secretary Iain McNicol, 5 May. Rosenhead was reacting to the latest, most egregious case: the Labour Party suspension of anti-racist campaigner, Jacqueline Walker.

Dear Mr McNicol

I am frankly flabbergasted. As a Jew brought up in the Zionist tradition, who first joined the Labour Party in 1961, and who was subsequently a Labour Parliamentary candidate, I find the current wave of suspensions on suspicion of antisemitism beyond belief.

There is antisemitism in this country, so there is undoubtedly antisemitism in some Labour Party members. Maybe I am lucky, but I have never actually experienced it within the party in either word or deed. It is rare. Whether it is going up or down is hard to tell, because it is so insignificant. So why these suspensions? Why Tony Greenstein, a committed anti-racist campaigner? Why Jackie Walker for God’s sake? Both, extra-ordinarily, of Jewish heritage.

What has been going up, both within the Labour Party and in civil society generally, is an unwillingness to keep quiet about what Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians. What has been going up is the effort put out by Israel (and its unconditional supporters) to brand those who criticise Israel as, on the slightest excuse, antisemitic.

Why is the Labour Party buying this pernicious nonsense? Surely by now you must be aware of the downright lies being manufactured to ‘incriminate’ targets (and intimidate others). This is a mendacious campaign to which the Labour Party is giving credibility by its supine behaviour.

I have been campaigning for the Labour Party here in Hackney over the past weeks and today. It makes me sick at heart to see the Party brought into such disrepute by actions for which, I assume, you take ultimate responsibility. That means that you have the power to stop it.

Jonathan Rosenhead

Dear Jonathan

Thank you for your email.

Jackie Walker has been suspended pending an investigation and, therefore, no further comment can be made at this time.

Yours sincerely
Iain McNicol
General Secretary

Please sign the petition calling for Jackie Walker to be reinstated to the Labour Party

Mondoweiss: Does nobody care about anti-Palestinian bigotry?

On Mondoweiss, Donald Johnson asks why no one calls out anti-Palestinian bigotry:

Excerpt: ‘…In the British argument over whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, the pro-Israel side is lumping in defensible statements, dumb or insensitive statements, and actual antisemitic statements from the anti-Zionists into one big pot. And so the well-intentioned commentator, like Gaby Hinsliff, in this Guardian piece (“Antisemitism has rocked Labour’s self-belief”) is too lazy to try and make the distinctions and then screws up herself– when she says it’s anti-Semitic to deny “Israel’s right to exist” without seeming to realize that Israel wouldn’t exist as a Jewish state without ethnic cleansing and discrimination.

Because nobody cares about anti-Palestinian bigotry.

‘No other human rights movement I can think of is automatically accused of being racist. The underlying assumption is that Palestinians just don’t matter that much, so anyone who expresses moral outrage or uses the normal tools of protest, like boycotts, can’t possibly be motivated by human rights concerns. They must be antisemites or at least examined very closely for antisemitism before being given a clean bill of health.

‘Who examines the examiners for their bigotry? No one….’

Continue reading here

Tanya Gold doesn’t want to hear about Israel’s atrocities – the left is just being antisemitic

Presenting her contribution to the Labour antisemitism controversy as an unpleasant obligation reluctantly fulfilled, Spectator columnist Tanya Gold delivers one of the more muddled opinions on the subject in the Telegraph.

Gold declares that ‘the intensity of the loathing for Israel – the Jewish state – in parts of the far Left is curious.’ Any serious reflection on the subject would lead to the conclusion that it is one of the least curious phenomena in the post-colonial era to – in her emotive language – ‘loathe’ a state that exists because of large-scale, ongoing ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination. It’s what the far Left does, when not cowed by false accusations of racism.

Gold has reduced a righteous anger at the total impunity Israel enjoys for its serial atrocities to an irrational and very personal emotional response to something disgusting.

She then asks a facile question: ‘Where is the similar loathing for hosts of countries who observe no human rights whatsoever, including Israel’s Arab neighbours?’ Her failure to acknowledge the relevance of successive British governments’ consistent and unequivocal condemnation of Israel’s neighbours – backed up by sanctions – is comprehensible only if one accepts her premise that this is about personal hatred, not outrage at impunity. Gold confuses her growing feelings of resentment at outrage on the Left, with a legitimate grievance. Again, this is understandable given she gets the power asymmetry the wrong way round: she thinks she is backing Israel the victim, not the aggressor. Continue reading “Tanya Gold doesn’t want to hear about Israel’s atrocities – the left is just being antisemitic”

CST implies ‘Zionist’ should only be used as a term of endearment

Dave Rich is Deputy Director of Communications at the Community Security Trust. CST is a registered charity.

Writing in today’s Jewish Chronicle, Dave Rich provides what he calls a guide to ‘Jew-hate for the perplexed.’ It is impossible to take seriously the views of someone that believes Naz Shah’s satirical Facebook post (shared via American Jewish scholar, Norman Finkelstein’s website) was tantamount to

Endorsing the mass deportation of its citizens – ethnic cleansing, effectively and denying the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in the region.

By using the term ‘Jewish sovereignty‘ he – unwittingly – underlines the reality of Israel as an ethnic-supremacist state, like Apartheid-era South Africa.

Rich divides language used to criticise Israel into two types: he reluctantly concedes that although the first type used to criticise Israel, involving ‘human rights,’ ‘discrimination,’ and ‘inequality’ is ‘inaccurate,’ it is more likely to be legitimate.

The second type, he writes, ‘is the reservoir of antisemitic ideas that lies deep in Europe’s culture.’ As an example, he cites the alleged use of “Zio” by members of the Oxford University Labour Club. Electronic Intifada’s investigation concluded that cases of antisemitism at OULC were fabricated.

Rich claims ‘Zio’ is a term ‘only used by people who are hostile to Zionism’:

Jewish students do not call each other “Zio” as a term of endearment…. “Zio” is a derogatory term used in an abusive and bigoted way.

He dismisses the idea that it is ‘simply an abbreviation of “Zionist” with no further meaning.’ He is correct to observe that the term is pre-dominantly (though not exclusively) used by those critical of political Zionism, particularly on Twitter. But his fixation on the abbreviation of ‘Zionist’ serves to obscure his central argument: that it must never be used in a pejorative way. On this, he is in agreement with Momentum’s Jon Lansman. Continue reading “CST implies ‘Zionist’ should only be used as a term of endearment”

Labour MP John Mann: ‘The Jewish vote’ has gone against Labour

John Mann MP has given an interview to the BBC on election night, in which he appears to gloat over losses in Jewish majority wards.

John Mann MP shouting at Ken Livingstone

John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw and chair of the all-party group against anti-Semitism, said the results in Jewish areas had been a “sub plot” of the night – and predicted a similar impact in London.

Jewish News reports that Mann told the BBC:

It is clear the Jewish vote, which for generations in families has been Labour, has gone against Labour tonight. We’ve seen that Bury, in Glasgow, I think we’ll see it in parts of London.

This is going to define Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership – he’s got to get on top of this because Labour is not going to win power of it doesn’t get on top of the problem.

JN don’t add, however, that he also insisted “now is not the time” for any challenge to Mr Corbyn. Continue reading “Labour MP John Mann: ‘The Jewish vote’ has gone against Labour”

Petition: Reinstate Jacqueline Walker to the Labour Party

Please sign and share petition started by Bridget Chapman on ‘Change’ here

Jackie Walker has been suspended from the Labour Party on the basis of posts on her Facebook page in February in which she argued that the state of Israel cannot use the Holocaust to justify committing crimes against the people of Palestine.

This information was collected by an organisation called the Israeli Advocacy Organisation and published by the pro-Israel Jewish Chronicle and passed onto the Labour Party.

Her comments have been taken out of context but even out of context can in no way be construed as antisemitic.

Jackie is of Jewish heritage and her partner is Jewish. She works tirelessly to combat racism in all its forms, and has been key in coordinating the response to the recent fascist demonstrations that have been focused on Dover.

We call on you to immediately reinstate her to the Labour Party.

Bridget Chapman (Folkestone and Hythe CLP)

Aaron Roche (Folkestone and Hythe CLP)

Stuart McCann (South Thanet CLP)

This petition will be delivered to:
  • General Secretary, the Labour Party
    Iain McNichol

Continue reading “Petition: Reinstate Jacqueline Walker to the Labour Party”

Ilan Pappe: Don’t surrender to Israel’s bullying on ‘anti-Semitism’

Please read article in full on Middle East Eye here

Excerpt: ‘… Whatever the Zionists in Britain point to, as an expression of anti-Semitism, which in the main are legitimate criticism of Israel, have been said before in the last 50 years. The pro-Zionist lobby in Britain, under direct guidance from Israel, picks them up because the clear anti-Zionist stance of BDS has reached the upper echelons. They are genuinely terrified by this development. Well done the BDS movement!

The reaction, one has to admit, is powerful and vicious. However, succumbing to it by suspending party members, firing student leaders and unnecessarily apologising for crimes not committed is not the right way to confront it.

‘We are in a struggle for a free and democratic Palestine and Israel: fear of Zionist intimidation is not the way forward. The coming days will be very tough and we would need to be both patient and go back to the podium, the website, the radio and television and re-explain what for many of us is obvious: Zionism is not Judaism, and anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism.

‘Zionism was not the antidote for Europe’s worst chapter of anti-Semitism: the Holocaust. Zionism was the wrong answer to that atrocity. In fact, when European leaders lended without hesitation their support for Zionism their motives in many cases were anti-Semitic. How else can one explain a Europe that stood by when the Nazi regime genocided the Jews and asked for forgiveness by supporting a new plan to get rid of the Jews by despatching them to colonise Palestine? No wonder this absurd logic did not kill the anti-Semitic impulse but rather kept it alive. Continue reading “Ilan Pappe: Don’t surrender to Israel’s bullying on ‘anti-Semitism’”

Kamel Hawwash: Chief Rabbi owes Palestinians an apology

Kamel Hawwash is a British Palestinian academic and vice-chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, writing in a personal capacity.

Please read article in full on Electronic Intifada

Excerpt: ‘… The chief rabbi and Zionism both ask us to accept that only Jews have a right to determine where they live and never mind the impact of their demand on whoever already lives on that land.

‘In his article, Mirvis astonishingly fails to mention my people, the Palestinian people, even once. His anger with the left has unfortunately left him ignorant of our plight.

‘To the chief rabbi, we are invisible.

‘He did not once acknowledge our existence on the land, our own unshakable connection to it or that it was and still is our home – whether for those living in historic Palestine or in the diaspora.

‘We are in the diaspora because of Zionism.

‘The chief rabbi implies that we cannot disassociate Zionism from Judaism – by implication accusing all Palestinians who oppose Zionism – as indeed we do – of anti-Semitism.

‘This is why Ephraim Mirvis is wrong, with the greatest respect to him, to conflate the two – a religion and a political ideology….’

Graham Bash: Latest victim of ‘McCarthyite witchhunt’ is my own partner & anti-racist campaigner, Jackie Walker

In an exceptionally impassioned, moving piece, editor of Labour Briefing, Graham Bash describes what led to the suspension of Jackie Walker, of mixed heritage (Afro- Caribbean and Jewish), from the Labour Party. It was,

simply for telling the truth that her Jewish ancestors were involved in financing the Slave Trade, that the African holocaust was even worse than the Jewish holocaust, and that anti-Semitism is not a major problem in Corbyn’s Labour Party.

As a Jew and Labour Party member (48 years), he writes that he is ‘outraged at the way allegations of anti-Semitism have been used to silence legitimate criticism of Israel and undermine Jeremy Corbyn as my party’s leader.’

I know what anti-Semitism is. I was brought up to learn how the Jewish East End fought with the dockers against Mosley’s fascists at Cable Street. I was told at school how it was a pity that Hitler didn’t finish off the job of murdering all Jews. And very quickly I learned what it was like to be made to feel an outsider. It was hardly surprising that I started going on anti-fascist demos in my late teens and very soon afterwards joined the Labour Party, which I remain a member of to this day.

Continue reading “Graham Bash: Latest victim of ‘McCarthyite witchhunt’ is my own partner & anti-racist campaigner, Jackie Walker”