Venturing into the lion’s den: the case against IPSO

Jonathan Coulter describes the weaponisation process, the targeting of the Labour Party and his own experience in challenging media distortions.   He seeks to explain why this is happening, and goes on to suggest how pro-Palestinian rights activists can push back, in alliance with other groups.

Britain’s acquiescence with the weaponisation of antisemitism; can we really be so daft?

I recently launched a Judicial Review of the press regulator IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) for failing to heed a group complaint about two Murdoch newspapers which had grossly misreporIPSO logoted a House of Lords meeting to launch the campaign for Britain to apologise for the impact on the native Palestinian people of the Balfour Declaration of 1917.   Between them, the newspapers had smeared a whole meeting of Palestine sympathisers as ‘antisemitic’ and, by implication anybody who spoke at or attended similar meetings.

In this endeavour I worked closely with the Hacked Off Campaign.  Hacked Off has no position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but supported me as it considers IPSO to be a ‘sham regulator’ that the press barons established to protect their own interests, and not those of the public, and because it felt that my specific complaints had merit and were important.

As I explained in my letter to supporters, we achieved much in getting a judge to accept the case ‘on the papers’.  However another judge who heard the case on April 17th took a very different tack, raising a question over the court’s jurisdiction, and ruling against me on the grounds I had raised.   The judge in effect declared that IPSO’s rules, written by the press industry, gave IPSO discretion to do exactly as it wanted within those rules.

Notwithstanding this setback, the issues are very much alive, and another person has made a related complaint to IPSO, this time about scurrilous articles in the Jewish Chronicle.

The context – a battle on British soil

When, about a decade ago, I started researching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I soon concluded that it was being fought out at least as much in Western countries as in the Middle East.   This had been the case from the beginning, because Zionist doctrines originated in 19th Century Europe and it was Britain that issued the famous Balfour Declaration during World War I.  In accordance with the colonial thinking of the time, Europeans (gentiles and Jews alike) tended to see Palestine rather like a blank canvas on which they could carry out their own designs.

Since World War Two, first Zionists and then the state of Israel tirelessly and successfully used spin and PR to bring the western nations behind Israel.   Israel was presented variously as ‘a plucky David facing the Arab Goliath’, ‘a tolerant and democratic country in a tough neighbourhood’, and, as always ‘responding to Arab/Palestinian aggression’ rather than as an aggressor in its own right.  However, as the decades of occupation drew on, western perceptions as to the identity of David and Goliath became confused or often reversed, and so the ‘hasbara’ wore thin.

It is in this context of declining credibility that Israel and its western advocates have truly weaponised the concept of ‘antisemitism’ in Western countries, and particularly in the UK, the country with one of the strongest Palestine Solidarity movements.   There have been two major features of this:

  • Their repeated, and often successful, attempts to get western Governments and public institutions to adopt bogus or dodgy definitions of the term ‘antisemitism’ that conflate it with legitimate criticism of Israel and its supporters, and to force this on public institutions such as universities and local governments.
  • A powerful media campaign smearing as ‘antisemitic’ those who are critical of Israel.

As soon as it became known that Jeremy Corbyn, a known supporter of Palestinian rights, was likely to become leader of the Labour Party (and potentially Prime Minister), the Labour Party, and particularly Corbyn supporters, became leading targets of these denunciations.  The campaign has been unremitting, reaching peaks before the local elections of 2016 and 2018 and at the time of Labour’s Autumn Conference in Blackpool. My case against IPSO was closely related to this, as I along with 29 co-complainants had witnessed the press smearing people involved in the Balfour apology campaign.

The process of weaponisation has been amply exposed on the pages of ‘Free Speech of Israel’ and elsewhere.  Suffice it for me to say that the strategy has been crude and obvious, and the reasoning full of holes.   Hugh Tomlinson’s legal opinion laid bare the inadequacy of the IHRA Definition of antisemitism which the British government had ‘adopted’.   As for antisemitism within the Labour Party, I have seen no body of evidence demonstrating that the party has a special problem that would justify singling it out from other sections of British society and parroting denunciations across the media.  Indeed statistical evidence shows that antipathy towards Jews across UK society is minor compared to that felt towards some other religious and ethnic groups, and that it is strongest on the far right.

Why is this happening?

This is the question that really intrigues me.  Why is British society and the political establishment allowing this noxious campaign to proceed?  And how can it happen in a country like the UK, that has a track record in standing up to the threats and abuse of foreign powers?  I get a sense of cognitive dissonance about public morality; on the one hand, I see British people doing a vast amount of more-or-less selfless voluntary work for an array of different causes, while at the same time they seem spineless in the face of political manipulation.  Are we a fickle people, or is something else going on?

I have sounded out a variety of politicians and public figures, and have spoken to others who have made similar soundings, and can identify five explanatory factors:

  • The sheer intensity of campaigning and the extent of the lobby’s reach, from right to left. Other lobbying groups, e.g. militant Brexiteers, manage to get fiercely propagandistic and pejorative lines adopted in certain newspapers, notably The Mail and The Telegraph.  However, Israel appears to have greater reach and as it can get favourable coverage across the board, including outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC.  Here it is worth noting a comment by the journalist Nick Davies in his ground-breaking book, ‘Flat-Earth News’ (p122-125);  he refers to the Israel lobby as an ‘electric fence’ of which journalists seek to steer clear for fear of getting powerful electric shocks, including a phone that never stops ringing.
  • The poor performance of the media. Some of this must be put down to anti-left and pro-Israel biases among the media barons, but at least as much can be attributed to mechanistic failings within the press.   Here Nick Davies shows that the media lack the journalistic resources to research and check most of their stories, for which reason they have increasingly relied on a burgeoning PR industry to deliver stories ‘on a plate with a sprig of parsley on top’.  Israel and its supporters are well equipped to provide this in in timely fashion.  He also points to a range of ‘rules of production’ including ‘avoiding the electric fence’ (see above), selecting ‘safe ideas’, going ‘with the moral panic (see below)’, and the ‘Ninja turtle syndrome’, all of which tend to bias journalists away from arguments that upset powerful lobbies and established ideas (see p109-153).
  • The fear factor: faced with potential media smears, British politicians and public figures prefer to keep their heads below the parapet for self-preservation or so that they can fight other political battles.  This is understandable if, as stated by Jackie Walker, accusations of antisemitism are as damaging to one’s reputation as being called a pedophile or a murderer.   However, legitimate fear can morph into cowardice.  At present in Britain, after all, opposing Israel can’t cost you your life, unlike the situation in my wife’s country in Central America, where standing up for human rights can result in a ‘sicario’ on a motorbike putting a bullet in your head.
  • Political opportunism. The weaponisation of antisemitism against Corbyn has proved useful to his opponents on the Labour right and to other parties.   A host of politicians have jumped on this band-waggon without looking closely at the evidence and forgetting that they have a duty to protect British citizens (whether political allies or foes) against the intrigues of a foreign power.
  • Moral panic. Stan Cohen advanced this concept in his study ‘Folk Devils and Moral Panics’ (1972) to explain a media storm and other events after a clash between ‘mods and rockers’ on a beach in 1964. He described a process whereby: (a) the ‘folk devil’ is symbolised in an oversimplified narrative; (b) facts are exaggerated and distorted, fuelling a ‘moral crusade’, and; (c) further immoral actions on the part of the folk devil are anticipated.   We can see a similar, but much more damaging, pattern in the history of witch-hunts against minorities including: the Roman persecution of Christians, blamed for military reverses; medieval targeting of Jews for dark, murderous practices; 16th and 17th century witch-craft trials in protestant Europe and North America; the McCarthyist anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s, and; the current campaign about Labour antisemites.   Witch-hunts can put public figures under massive pressure to conform to the moral crusade, and can cause doubters or opponents to ‘bend in the wind’ so as to limit the political damage.  I find this in President Eisenhower’s failure to act promptly against Senator Joseph McCarthy, and in Jeremy Corbyn and some other public figures’ unwillingness to call out the role of pro-Israel lobbyists in the campaign against the Labour Party.
It’s time to build a truly national campaign

This problem could be tackled were a group of leading public figures and politicians to join hands and mount a national campaign to expose the reality about antisemitism smears, but fears and opportunism presently combine to prevent this.   So it is up to pro-Palestinian rights activists to develop a strategy that can attract the necessary support.   Here are some ideas.

A high percentage of these activists are on the left, which I find unsurprising; I first noted the left’s tendency to speak up vigorously on international injustices when the Vietnam War was raging.   As we see above, the Labour left needs to defend itself against pro-Israeli smears, but this means reaching out to other parts of the political spectrum, beyond its own echo-chambers.  It takes a little thought to realise that the cause of Free Speech on Israel has enormous unexploited potential in the centre of British politics and even right of centre.

If we look at the centre, one of the leading political causes is currently the reform of press regulation.  This is being led by the Hacked Off Campaign where we see an alliance of Labour figures like Ed Milliband and Tom Watson, Lib Dems, and rebel Tories like Lord Attlee and Kenneth Clark; it also enjoys strong support in the House of Lords.  The present Government has managed to narrowly block proposed amendments to the Data Protection Bill which would have put the second part of the Leveson Inquiry back on track.  However, a change in Government or voter arithmetic will put it straight back on the parliamentary agenda.

I tend to see the cause of ‘Free Speech on Israel’ as a subset of the Hacked Off Campaign.   Both causes seek remedies to media abuse and inaccuracies, while both struggle with politicians’ acute fear of the media, a point that both Ed Milliband and Kenneth Clark hammered home in the 9th May Commons debate on the Data Protection Bill.

Excerpts from the 9th May House of Commons Debate on the Data Protection Bill

Edward Milliband:  Now I will answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Wellingborough. I set out the reasons adduced by the press and, indeed, the Government for the cancellation of this inquiry, but let us be absolutely honest: there is one overriding reason for the Government’s decision to abandon it, and that needs to be discussed. It is quite simple. It is fear: fear about the wrath of the press. That is why the Government have made this decision. The press do not want the inquiry to go ahead, and the Government fear attacks on them by the press. That is why the last Labour Government did not take action against the press: they too feared the consequences. But what did we also say after 2011? We said, ‘Never again will we succumb to fear and make the wrong decisions, which are not in the public interest.’

Kenneth ClarkeIn the present mad climate of political debate, I think that quite a lot of people—for one reason or another, as has always been the case in politics—are currying favour with the proprietors and editors of newspapers, or are fearful of those proprietors and editors. It is difficult to deny that that may have played a part in the sudden decision that we do not want to know any more about matters such as relationships between the police and the press.

Source:  Hansard

To date much of Hacked Off’s campaigning has been about press abuse of individuals and families, both with or without police complicity.  The names of victims such as Dowler, McCann, Hollins and Grant come to mind.  However the Campaign is even larger than this, and is concerned with the press repeatedly smearing large groups of people, like Muslims or immigrants, something that tends to silence dissenting voices and prevent the country from debating topics in a rational manner.   It is therefore hardly surprising that the Campaign worked with me on my complaint against IPSO.

We need to build on this bridge, with a view to achieving two key aims:

  • to make the press answerable for individual abuses, and patterns of abuse (something that will require a regulator with investigative powers), and;
  • to drastically reduce the cost to ordinary people of securing redress from the press (Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 could provide for this through low-cost arbitration).

For those to the ‘right of centre’ of British politics, the most compelling cause of recent years has been Brexit, which is popularly represented as ‘getting our country back’ from an encroaching European Union – in my view deeply erroneous and sometimes disingenuous argument that ignores the voice that the EU has given Britain in international affairs.  Another topic on which we hear every day is the Russian threat to our external and internal security – this time I believe with some justification.

But while the European Union and Russia win the titles of ‘top bogeymen’,  we should simultaneously consider the threats posed by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel, all of them countries that Britain often goes out of its way to please despite their acting against our best interests.   Israel has interfered egregiously and with impunity in our internal affairs on multiple occasions, including the move to ‘take down’ our Deputy Foreign Secretary.  Defending national sovereignty is a legitimate aim, but rather than simply focusing on the bogeymen, we need to search for rational ways to maximise it overall, given threats we face on different sides.

In conclusion

We British should first unambiguously acknowledge we have allowed ourselves to be manipulated in a way that has undermined our freedom of expression in matters that affect Israel.  The aggressive weaponisation of antisemitism follows a series of propaganda initiatives since the 1940s, and has brought out some of our worst characteristics, notably a widespread willingness to constantly appease and hope things will blow over.  But this only whets the Lobby’s appetite and results in further bullying and manipulation.   We only have ourselves to blame for this, so it is time to say enough is enough, and work together to reclaim liberties for which our forebears struggled.

If we can create the necessary space for free speech and rational debate, we can contribute much to the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it will have positive knock-on effects on our relationships with Arabs and Muslims generally.  In order to accomplish this, we should in particular get behind the Hacked-Off Campaign that seeks to hold the media accountable for what it publishes on a wide range of topics, ranging from intrusive reporting into the affairs of vulnerable people to the smearing of entire categories of people.

Jonathan Coulter is 69, retired, and has spent his career in overseas development, in jobs which have involved much travel.  It has made him a passionate advocate for foreign policies that are just and coherent, and for accurate reporting.   He is currently Newsletter Editor for Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (

This Is not about Natalie Portman

Michael Lesher argues that talking about Portman’s refusal to visit Israel to receive a prize provides a useful distraction from thinking about Israel’s murders of Gazans

This article first appeared in The Forward and is reprinted by permission

Come on, folks. Since when is one actress’s discomfort about sharing a stage with Israel’s blood-stained prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, more newsworthy than the Israeli atrocities against Gaza that presumably spurred it? (And let’s face it, these are just the most recent horrors in Israel’s war on the 2 million inmates of the world’s largest concentration camp.)

Since when does a cancelled award ceremony take precedence over murdered children and defenceless demonstrators getting their legs blown off?

And what sort of Jewish media, or public intellectuals, would have more to say about one performer’s refusal to be window dressing for Israel’s latest crimes than about the crimes themselves?

But — oh, if only these were rhetorical questions! Continue reading “This Is not about Natalie Portman”

What is the Jewish Labour Movement?

In early 2016, an intense media offensive was launched claiming that the Labour Party was rife with antisemitism. Since then, after a wave of summary suspensions, costly investigations and many successful appeals, it is clear that the vast majority of the members disciplined were on the Left of the Party and were opponents of Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights who had no hostility to Jews as Jews.

Even after Corbyn’s transformatory 2017 general election campaign the offensive, led by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Labour Friends of Israel and other pro-Israel lobby groups has not abated. Some of the groups receive direct finance from Israel, as revealed in the Al Jazeera investigation The Lobby, televised in January 2017. It made clear the hostility of Labour’s pro-Israel Right to the left-wing leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, a known supporter of Palestinian rights.

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Why JLM is a problem

Continue reading “What is the Jewish Labour Movement?”

The Guardian and Howard Jacobson’s blindness to racism

The Guardian has commissioned an article, Let’s be clear – antisemitism is a hate apart, from Howard Jacobson. In his attempt to show that anti-Zionism is really a modern form of an ancient plaint, anti-Semitism, Jacobson’s literary talents seem to desert him. His arguments are wooden and stilted as his hackneyed phrases betray a poverty of imagination. 

How can one write about Israel without once mentioning the Palestinians? Israel is a state that receives the largest amount of aid of any country, despite its small population, from the United States. It is a state armed to the teeth, with nuclear weaponry, whose military has ruled over 4.5 million people for 50 years. Palestinians live in the same territory as 600,000 settlers, yet unlike them they are subject to a different legal system of Military Law. By any definition this is Apartheid. At the hundreds of checkpoints that cover the West Bank there are separate entrances for Jewish settlers and Palestinians, yet Jacobson has convinced himself that our reasons for opposing Israeli Apartheid is because of anti-Semitism!

Jacobson may be a distinguished novelist but there is nothing original in what he writes about anti-Semitism and Zionism. Jacobson offers us no special insights that cannot be gained from Israeli hasbara (propaganda). For Jacobson, criticism of the Israeli state can be explained by the fact that ‘in the matter of the existence of the State of Israel… all the ancient superstitions about Jews find a point of confluence. Apparently criticism of Israel and Zionism has nothing to do with land discrimination and theft, the underfunding of the Arab education sector, the Judaisation of areas of Israel where there are not enough Jews, extra-judicial executions, torture of children or house demolitions. It’s all because we are anti-Semitic!

Jacobson though is but the latest Guardian sock puppet. In the past year it has run a series of articles about ‘anti-Semitism’ with the aim of portraying Labour under Jeremy Corbyn as a party in the grip of a tsunami of anti-Semitism. Articles it has printed include The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and AntiSemitism and Why I’m becoming a Jew and why you should, too which is a rewrite of an earlier article in the Jewish Chronicle Hatred is turning me into a Jew by Nick Cohen; Why Jews in Labour place little trust in Jeremy Corbyn by Joshua Simons; Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem; and My plea to the left: treat Jews the same way you’d treat any other minority by Jonathan Freedland; Antisemitism is a poison – the left must take leadership against it by Owen Jones, which he rewrites annually. The Guardian has refused to print articles rejecting the idea in the above articles that anti-Zionism is a modern form of anti-Semitism.

Howard Jacobson made his name as a comic novelist. It is a genre that he should have stuck to because there is little that is amusing or revealing in his discursions into anti-Semitism. Jacobson pronounces that the Chakrabarti Report into racism and anti-Semitism in the Labour Party was ‘a soft inquiry’ and ‘was stillborn’. Instead of explaining what it is he disagreed with in the Report he insinuates that the elevation of Shami Chakrabarti to the House of Lords was the payment of a bribe. The Chakrabarti Report was a serious attempt to investigate the spurious anti-Semitism allegations of the Labour Right, the Tory press, and the Zionist movement. Chakrabarti found that the Labour Party was not overrun by anti-Semitism. 

Indeed it is one of the curious aspects of the anti-Semitism allegations that no hard evidence has ever been produced. The one serious attempt to investigate these allegations by Asa Winstanley How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis showed that the evidence for the allegations was spurious, fabricated and in the specific case of Oxford University Labour Club, set in motion by a former intern, Alex Chalmers, for BICOM, Britain’s main Israeli propaganda organisation.

Howard Jacobson’s theme is anything but novel. It is that anti-Semitism is ‘unlike other racisms’. It ‘exists outside time and place and doesn’t even require the presence of Jews.’ In response to the Russian pogroms of 1881, Leo Pinsker, the founder of the Lovers of Zion, likewise wrote that ‘Judaephobia is then a mental disease, and as a mental disease it is hereditary, and having been inherited for 2,000 years, it is incurable. [Pinsker, Autoemancipation, Berlin 1882 p.5.]

The logical conclusion is that if anti-Semitism cannot be explained then it cannot be fought. It doesn’t even require Jews. It exists in the realm of the metaphysical like all those other racial myths. After all ‘when Marlowe and Shakespeare responded to an appetite for anti-Jewish feeling in Elizabethan England, there had been no Jews in the country for 300 years.’ Jacobson is wrong, there were Jews in England but the memory of the Jews and the roles they performed in society had not disappeared. It is all too easy to characterise Marlowe and Shakespeare’s productions as anti-Semitic when they simply reflected not only popular perceptions but the actual role that Jews played in medieval society.

As Abram Leon, the Trotskyist leader who died in Auschwitz observed:

‘Zionism transposes modern anti-Semitism to all of history and saves itself the trouble of studying the various forms of anti-Semitism and their evolution.’.. [Abram Leon, The Jewish Question – A Marxist Interpretation, p. 245. Pathfinder, New York, 1970]

Anti-Semitism was seen by Zionism as a permanent feature of Jewish relations with non-Jews, an immutable fact beyond history and time itself. In June 1895, barely six months after the framing of the French Jewish Captain Alfred Dreyfuss for treason, Theodor Herzl, the founder of Political Zionism wrote that ‘In Paris …I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all I recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to ‘combat’ anti-Semitism. Since anti-Semitism was a natural phenomenon, it could not be fought. You might as well fight the tides.

Jacobson’s claim that anti-Semitism is a unique form of racism is a truism. All forms of racism have unique characteristics but anti-Semitism is not a unique form of racism. There has always been racism against groups who were seen as better off and prosperous, be it the Huguenots, the Biafrans, the East African Asians or Koreans in the United States. The Chinese of South-East Asia were known as the ‘Jews of the East’. Racism against the Roma is just as persistent and deadly as anti-Semitism if not more so.  Continue reading “The Guardian and Howard Jacobson’s blindness to racism”

The Day Satire Died – Guardian gets Israeli Ambassador to pay tribute to anti-fascists of Cable Street

By Tony Greenstein

It is really unbelievable.  Who does the Guardian choose to write an article commemorating the Battle of Cable Street, one of the most famous days in the annals of the British Labour Movement when up to quarter of a million workers, including thousands of Jewish workers, sent the fascists packing?  The PR man for Netanyahu and now Israel’s Liar-in-Chief in Britain, Mark Regev.  The man who night after night justified on TV the murderous bombing of Gaza two years ago when 2,200 Palestinian refugees were murdered, including 551 children.

The man whose career was spent justifying every last racist measure of Netanyahu – from banning the commemoration of the Nakba in 1948, the massacre and expulsion of ¾ million Palestinians to the exclusion of Arabs from Jewish towns under the Access to Communities legislation.

It is a sign of the deep sickness at the ‘liberal’ Guardian that they could even think of carrying an article which tries blatantly to rewrite history.  The Board of Deputies of British Jews vehemently opposed the march.  It had a box printed in the Jewish Chronicle warning Jews to stay away from the march.  The Zionists had effectively taken over the Board of Deputies by 1933 as Neville Laski made his peace with the Zionists.

This is an example of how even the most radical moments in our history are co-opted by the ruling class in order to blunt their political message.  In the process they allow the passage of time to dim our memory so that the real lessons, the need to fight against all forms of racism, are lost.

According to Regev’s rewriting of history, the Zionist movement, which had worked hand in hand with the precursor of Oswald Moseley’s BUF, the British Brothers League, was somehow in the vanguard of opposition to the fascists.  The Zionists played no part in building opposition to the march.  That was the job of Jewish communists and socialists.  The Jewish Peoples Council contained a few dissident Zionists but to pretend that a handful of Zionist individuals constituted an alliance between the Labour movement and the Zionists is a shameless rewriting of history.

What the Guardian could have done, was to run this piece by Bill Fishman, the late and great historian of East End Jewry that was printed in the Docklands and East London Advertiser ten years ago on the 70th anniversary of Cable Street.

Entrance to Cable St on Sunday afternoon, October 4, 1936... crowds stop Mosley's Blackshirts passing through [Tower Hamlets Archive picture]
Entrance to Cable St on Sunday afternoon, October 4, 1936… crowds stop Mosley’s Blackshirts passing through [Tower Hamlets Archive picture]
By 1936, Oswald Mosley’s party had been waging a hate campaign against Jews, communists and the Irish in the East End for more than two years, writes Bill Fishman.

Accusing Jews of taking ‘English’ jobs, Mosley’s elite bodyguard—the Blackshirts—terrorised Jewish stallholders in Petticoat Lane market, beat up Jews going home after synagogue and covered walls with anti-Semitic graffiti.

“Perish Judah” and “Death to the Jews” were scrawled all over the East End.

Copying the militaristic style of the fascist regimes in Germany, Italy and Spain, they carried out a reign of terror.

At that time, I was a member of the Labour Youth League and we heard that Mosley was planning a big rally in the East End on that Sunday in 1936, on October 4. We were told to get down to Gardiner’s Corner on the edge of the City.

It seemed like an act of solidarity because, on the same day, the Republicans in Spain were also preparing to defend Madrid against General Franco’s fascist nationalist forces.

I got off the 53 tram just after noon and there were already people marching and carrying banners proclaiming ‘No Pasaran’—the slogan we took from the Spanish Republicans which meant ‘They shall not pass.’

People were coming in from the side streets, marching towards Aldgate. There were so many that it took me about 25 minutes to get there.

I remember standing on the steps of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, watching Mosley arrive in a black open-top sports car. He was a playboy aristocrat and as glamorous as ever.

By this time, it was about 3.30pm. You could see Mosley—black-shirted himself—marching in front of about 3,000 Blackshirts and a sea of Union Jacks. It was as though he was the commander-in-chief of the army, with the Blackshirts in columns and a mass of police to protect them.

I had already seen him at a public meeting some months before. He had been standing on the back of a lorry parked outside the Salmon & Ball pub in Bethnal Green.

But at Gardiner’s Corner, Mosley encountered his first setback, thanks to a lone tram driver. I saw a tram pull up in the middle of the junction about 50 yards away from me—blocking the Blackshirts’ route. Then the driver got out and walked off. I found out later he was a member of the Communist Party.

I remember that, in contrast to the ugliness to come, the weather was beautiful, like a summer day. By mid-afternoon, the crowds had quickly swelled to more than 250,000, with some reports later suggesting that up to 500,000 people gathered there.

As the tension rose, we began chanting “1, 2, 3, 4, 5! We want Mosley—dead or alive!” and “They shall not pass!”

I was moved to tears to see bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockers standing up to stop Mosley and shall never forget that as long as I live—how working-class people could get together to oppose the evil of fascism.

In a bid to keep the crowd away from the fascists, around 10,000 police officers, virtually every spare policeman in London and the South East, had been drafted in.

The police decided when the tram stopped and blocked the way to charge the crowd to disperse us. They were waving their truncheons, but we were so packed together, there was nowhere for us to go.

I could see police horses going up in the air because some kids in front of me were throwing marbles under their hooves. That made the police more hostile and they spent the next hour charging into us. Then, suddenly, people were waving to us from the back of the crowd.

The Communist Party had a system of loudspeaker vans and a command post with a phone and team of messengers from which to co-ordinate the action.

But they also had a secret weapon—a spy named Michael Faulkner, who was a medical student and communist sympathiser. Faulkner had infiltrated the Blackshirts.

When Mosley was halted at Gardiner’s Corner (today’s crossroads of Commercial Street, Whitechapel High Street and Commercial Road), police chief Sir Philip Game told him that the fascists could go another way, south through Royal Mint Street and Cable Street.

As Mosley was passing on instructions, Faulkner rushed to a phone kiosk near Aldgate Underground station and rang Phil Piratin, the Communist leader. Piratin told those in the loudspeaker vans to transmit the message—“Get down to Cable Street!”

The sheer weight of numbers meant it was a slow procession, but I got there in time to watch the battle.

I was young and afraid of what was basically a fight between the police and us, because we couldn’t get near the Blackshirts.

Cable Street is very narrow and there were three and four-storey houses where Irish dockers lived who quickly erected barricades of lorries piled with old mattresses and furniture.

Women in the houses hurled rotten vegetables, muck from chamber-pots and rubbish onto the police, who were struggling to dismantle some of the barricades.

Things escalated again when the police sent ‘snatch squads’ into the crowd to nab supposed ringleaders. Organised groups of dockers hit back with stones and sticks, while making several ‘arrests’ themselves!

Indeed, there are some families in the East End who still have police helmets and batons as souvenirs!

Finally, with the area in turmoil and the protesters at fever pitch, Sir Philip Game told Mosley that he would have to abandon the march, fearing too much bloodshed. He ordered Mosley to turn back and march through the deserted City of London.

When the news filtered through, people went mad and what had been a wild protest became a massive victory party, with thousands of people dancing in the streets.

Once the dust settled, it was found that 150 protesters had been arrested, with some of them being severely beaten once in custody. In all, there were around 100 injuries, including police officers.

Oswald Mosley’s popularity began to wane, after his setback in Cable Street.

The Government hurried through laws banning political parties from wearing military-style uniforms, depriving them of both menace and allure.

Stanley Baldwin’s Tory government passed the Public Order Act, which gave the police the power to ban ‘provocative’ marches.

Then, during the Second World War, Mosley and his wife Lady Diana Mitford were interned as a threat to national security. Years in the political wilderness followed before his death in 1980.

Although a lot of fascists still lived in the East End following the Cable Street victory, never again would the ideology be so popular.

Jews, communists, Irish and English men and women rose up simply because they did not want extremism.

Years later, during my first teaching job in Bethnal Green, a parent came up and said: “My son speaks very highly of you. I have to apologise, I was a fascist and supported Mosley. Now I realise how wrong you can be.”

There was redemption in that and it moved me. It made me realise how much things were changing even then.

I have sent a letter into the Guardian but I suspect that they will prefer to pass silently over this shameful episode.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Clearly satire has died.  Mark Regev’s article ‘Remember Cable Street, when the labour movement and Zionists were allies’ was an exercise in the rewriting of history.  The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the British Zionist movement under Chaim Weizmann were implacably opposed to the anti-fascist mobilisation at Cable Street.

On 2nd October 1936, the Board placed a warning notice in the Jewish Chronicle entitled ‘Urgent Warning – Keep Away’.  It read ‘Jews are urgently warned to keep away from the route of the Blackshirt march’.

The anti-fascist mobilisation was organised by Jewish communists and socialists and the Jewish Peoples Council.  The Zionists played no part in the mobilisation.  The idea that English Zionism, which had allied with the anti-Semitic opponents of Jewish immigration in the Conservative Party, would support physical opposition to the BUF is laughable.

Mark Regev stands in opposition to everything the demonstrators at Cable Street represented.  He is Ambassador for the most racist regime in the world, a state that maintains a brutal military occupation in the West Bank, which bombs refugees in Gaza and which demonises Israel’s own Palestinian citizens.

The lessons we should remember are those of the historian of East End Jewry, William Fishman who wrote that:

‘“We were all side by side. I was moved to tears to see bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockers standing up to stop Mosley. I shall never forget that for as long as I live, how working-class people could stand together to oppose the evil of racism.” [East London Advertiser 4.10.06]

Yours faithfully,
Tony Greenstein

New Jewish Labour Movement director was Israeli embassy officer

Please read article in full on Electronic Intifada

Asa Winstanley Lobby Watch 21 September 2016

The new director of the Jewish Labour Movement was an officer at the Israeli embassy in London for the past year, The Electronic Intifada can reveal.

Ella Rose worked at the embassy as public affairs officer between September 2015 and August 2016, when she joined JLM as its first director.

JLM chair Jeremy Newmark has hit out at the group’s Jewish critics, telling The Electronic Intifada that the embassy had been “a good career move” for Rose.

The Israeli embassy did not respond to requests for comment.

Press reports in July announcing Rose’s appointment did not disclose the Israeli embassy link, mentioning only her previous position as president of the Union of Jewish Students.

Jewish critics of the JLM have told The Electronic Intifada that JLM’s link to the Israeli embassy should disqualify it from leading Labour Party trainings on anti-Semitism.

The Israeli government and its allied organizations around the world have a long-standing policy of deliberately conflating criticisms of Israel with anti-Semitism.

The JLM has drawn criticism from non-Zionist Jewish members of Labour for its pro-Israel tendencies. Jews who do not follow Zionism, Israel’s state ideology, have told The Electronic Intifada that JLM excludes them.

Continue reading here.

Who owns the anti-Corbyn front – us says Tory peer

Danny Finkelstein asks in the Jewish Chronicle ‘Is our Corbyn Strategy Working?’ The JC notes that Finkelstein is associate editor of the Times; it does not note that he is a Tory peer. So who is the ‘our’ in ‘our strategy’? Is it the Tory Party, is it the Zionist community, is it Tory Zionists? The article does not directly tell us so we have to infer ownership from the content.

Finkelstein gives three examples of alleged ‘antisemitism’; each one related to Israel and not British Jewry. He goes on to write:

For years, anti-Israel feeling has been growing on the left and it has slowly been changing into an antisemitic theory about Zionism as the ideology of worldwide imperialist occupation. By this means, every act of Western foreign policy has been linked to Israel and to Jews.

This starts from a valid premise: the left, but not only the left, has grown increasingly critical of the actions of the Israeli state. It is also true, but not noted, that it is becoming increasingly common for people who pay attention to Palestine/Israel to identify the criminality of the state to be organically linked to the Zionist ideology that led to the founding of the state and is used by it to justify its actions. However, Finkelstein then makes a daring leap into fantasy by not only identifying criticism of Zionism as an ‘antisemitic theory’ but claiming that Zionism is seen as the ideology of imperialism and that everything is blamed on the Jews. Because he is preaching to the gallery he sees no need to provide any evidence for this claim; fortunate for him as such evidence is scant or non-existent.

What is true is that Zionism sits easily with western imperialism. It is a settler-colonial project that is only legitimate within an imperialist view of the world. A view that any territory, anywhere can be alienated from its long term inhabitants for the benefit of militarily superior invaders. It is also true that Israel has geo-political interests in the Middle East and that they lobby the US and other Governments to take action that would advance Israel’s interests. A recent inconvertible example of this was Israel’s intensive lobbying to try to derail the deal to end Iran’s nuclear adventures.

None of this remotely supports the contention that ‘every act of Western foreign policy has been linked to Israel’. It is possible that somewhere on Twitter you can find a seriously misinformed, or seriously malevolent, individual who has alleged Israeli or Zionist or Jewish involvement each time a Western state has acted badly. However, Finkelstein’s claim is not about an individual misusing their keyboard: it is a claim that the mass of those challenging Zionism believe ‘it is all the fault of the Jews’. A serious but false and unsubstantiated charge.

Finkelstein declares ‘these very same people jeer when obvious examples of antisemitism are raised’. He can only write this because he cannot accept that with very few, if any, exceptions there is no obvious antisemitism once the exaggerations, misquotations and downright deceits are exposed. The jeering is for the cynical exploitation of Jewish fears not for any victim of abuse. The groans are for yet another instance of portraying the aggressor as the victim.

So who are the owners of ‘our strategy’. It is those who fear, correctly, that a Corbyn led Labour Party will challenge inequality and exploitation in the UK as well seeking the end of British exculpation of Israel’s crimes. The strategy is for the benefit of the wealthy and privileged and for the architects of Israeli apartheid. It is deeply regrettable that so many Labour Party MPs have signed up to a strategy at such sharp variance with Labour Party ideals and of such great assistance to the enemies of the Party and those it defends.

Mike Cushman