There are two radically different rule changes on the agenda for Labour Party Conference later in September dealing with alleged antisemitism in the Party. One from the Jewish Labour Movement and one from Hastings and Rye Labour Party.
In early 2016 the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) tabled an amendment to Labour’s rulebook to make an undefined antisemitism, as perceived by an accuser and including unspoken “thought crime”, a matter for expulsion. That summer also saw dozens of people, and whole CLPs, suspended in a wholesale purge that included many unsubstantiated allegations of antisemitism.
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.
Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) is a new group that aims to reinvigorate the Jewish socialist tradition inside the Labour Party.
FSOI has, from its establishment in 2016, been active in combatting the Labour Party’s acquiescence in the Zionist campaign to demonise criticism of Israel. The Party bureaucracy and many leading figures on the right of the Party have uncritically adopted the views of the so-called Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) that Israel, even under its extreme right-wing leadership, is a natural bedfellow of Labour. Opposition to Netanyahu’s regime is assumed to be antisemitic unless shown otherwise – and that judgement is to be made by sceptical, if not actively hostile, adjudicator.
On Monday 24 June Haringey Council gave a masterclass in how not to fight antisemitism. And indeed how to give local democracy a bad name.
On 15 June the agenda for the Council’s meeting was published. One item was the proposal of a motion, by the Council Leader on behalf of the Labour Group, for Haringey to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) ‘definition’ of antisemitism. (Those blissfully unaware of what is wrong with this sorry document can catch up here.)
Most Labour Party members, even including many MPs previously hostile to Jeremy Corbyn, have responded to the party’s revival during the general election campaign by setting aside divisive talk and looking forward to a more unified future. Not all however.
For Jeremy Newmark, chair of the pro-Israel Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), writing in the Jewish News, “the immediate agenda” is to re-investigate and expel Ken Livingstone, pursue outstanding cases such as Jackie Walker’s, “revisit” those Chakrabarti and Royall report recommendations “that fell short of expectations,” get the NEC to table the JLM’s rule change proposals at Labour Party conference and, “redouble our efforts to massively expand our training and education program at all levels across the party.”
The JLM’s rule change proposals, like their partisan training sessions, are based on the same principles as the “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition” which attempts to redefine the term “antisemitism” in order to include criticism of the State of Israel. The impact of this goes way beyond the Labour Party. John Mann MP, one of a number of ardent, right-wing non-Jewish Zionists in the Labour Party, has proposed an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling for its adoption by all public bodies in the UK.
It is significant that the Jewish Chronicle reacted angrily to Jeremy Corbyn’s race and faith manifesto issued during the election, complaining that “the manifesto only uses the section of the definition which makes reference to hatred of Jews. The rest of the definition – which refers to Israel – has been cut.” In other words, for the JC, the part of the IHRA document that seeks to define antisemitism as what it really is, is unacceptable unless widened to include examples which talk not about Jews but about the state of Israel.
Proponents of the IHRA document claim that it poses no threat to free speech because it permits criticism of the current government of Israel and allows opposition to settlement building in the Palestinian West Bank. It is perfectly acceptable, they say, to subject Israel to criticism similar to that which is made of other states.
They fail to take into account the many ways in which Israel is entirely different from other states. The IHRA document explicitly rules out, as potentially antisemitic, types of criticism that Palestinians and their supporters are entitled to make in order to highlight their specific history of dispossession and racist discrimination. The document is already being used in the UK to censor campaigns which call for an end to injustices Palestinians have faced since Zionist colonisation and settlement of their land began a century ago.
The recent European Parliament debate on this subject starkly demonstrated the point. Social Democrats argued that the IHRA document was nothing more than a harmless contribution to opposing racism against Jews. But they found themselves in the same camp as far-right Islamophobes who saw it as a weapon to be used in Israel’s defence and against its critics, particularly Muslims.
This is not the way to unite our diverse and fractured society. Nor is it conducive to unity within the Labour Party.
Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s Inquiry into the UK’s policy towards the Middle East Peace Process
Submission from Free Speech on Israel
This evidence, prepared by Jonathan Rosenhead, was submitted to the select committee enquiry which was halted owing to the announcement of the General Election. As it is not clear when or whether the enquiry will resume in the new Parliament we are publishing our evidence now. This evidence was submitted on 30 March 2017.
Who we are
Free Speech on Israel is a Jewish-led group formed in April 2016 out of concerns that the surge in accusations of antisemitism in British public life, and especially within the Labour Party, in no way reflects the reality that we live in. This concern now extends both to the unbalanced media coverage of this issue, and to the Government’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s definition of antisemitism, which we find to be deeply flawed. See in particular the recently released legal Opinion on this subject.
Our submission to your Inquiry focusses entirely on point 7: how UK policy is influenced by other states and interested parties. In particular we will address the extent to which the state of Israel has been exerting undue influence on the UK’s policy in respect of that country’s violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people. We start from the evidence revealed in the Al-Jazeera series of investigative reports The Lobby, transmitted in January 2017.
Background to our concern
Recent events have demonstrated that some national governments have an appetite to intervene in the political processes of other countries. The ability to do so will depend on the resources they can muster – such as electronic capabilities, finances devoted to that purpose, and well-disposed individuals in the target country.
We further take the view that the formation of foreign policy in the UK (as in other countries) is not conducted only within political parties but involves a wider swathe of think tanks, academic researchers, businesses with spanning interests, influential organisations and individuals, media commentators and so on. Our comments will address that broader matrix.
This article is reprinted from Open Democracy by permission of the author
The attempt to outlaw the use of the term “apartheid” in relation to Israel and its occupation has to be recognised as carrying dangers of effectively stifling debate on an issue of great importance
We are faced with an increasing onslaught on criticism of Israel with attempts being made to drawn the lines ever more narrowly. There are accusations that any singling out of Israel is antisemitic: so, for example, calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions in Israel’s case but not in others is prima facie evidence of antisemitism, as is using the word apartheid to characterise any aspect of Israeli society.
What I would like to address here is the use of the concept of ‘apartheid’ to compare South African and Israeli society, and the dangerous suppression involved in outlawing its use. Critics say the analogy is plain wrong and therefore its use can only be malign: an attempt to delegitimate, demonise and apply double standards (to use Sharansky’s 3-D test of criticism of Israel – see the discussion Is criticism of Israel antisemitic?) about what it is that goes beyond what is acceptable. Ultimately, for many of these critics, the use of the term “apartheid” is antisemitic. Continue reading “Don’t mention Apartheid”
As Jewish and non-Jewish members and supporters of the Labour Party, we reject the call from supporters of Zionism and the Labour Right for the expulsion of Ken Livingstone. [Jewish Labour members say Livingstone must go, April 6th]
Those who call for a new disciplinary hearing simply because they didn’t like the conclusions of the previous one, demonstrate their contempt for democracy and due process.
A year ago Livingstone, responding to a question from Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London, said: ‘Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.’
There is nothing whatsoever anti-Semitic about this. Francis Nicosia, the Raul Hilberg Professor of Holocaust Studies at Vermont University wrote in his book Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany (p. 79) that:
‘Throughout the 1930s, as part of the regime’s determination to force Jews to leave Germany, there was almost unanimous support in German government and Nazi party circles for promoting Zionism among German Jews’ Is telling the truth also anti-Semitic?
Support for Zionism can go hand in hand with anti-Semitism. What the campaign against Livingstone is really about is his long-standing support for the Palestinians and his opposition to Zionism and the policies of the Israeli state.
Those who help to throw Livingstone overboard today are preparing the way for Jeremy Corbyn’s removal tomorrow.
Tony Greenstein Brighton Kemptown CLP
Jackie Walker South Thanet CLP
Miriam Margolyes OBE Lambeth & Vauxhall CLP
Professor Richard Seaford Exeter CLP
Professor (emeritus) Moshé Machover Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Professor Bill Bowring School of Law Birkbeck College
Professor (Emeritus) Jonathan Rosenhead Hackney South and Shoreditch CLP
Professor Haim Bresheeth School of Oriental and African Studies
Dr Tanzil Chowdhury School of Law University of Manchester
(Emeritus Professor) Wade Mansell Thanet North CLP
Reposted from his blog by permission
The ongoing Ken Livingstone (“Get Corbyn!”) saga grows yet more preposterous. After outrage that the former London mayor had said Hitler was a Zionist (when he clearly hadn’t, as I pointed out at the time here and here), Labour suspended Livingstone amid accusations that he had made antisemitic, offensive and false historical claims.
Now as Livingstone fights to avoid expulsion before a closed hearing of the party’s national constitutional committee, it emerges that Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, has written to Livingstone saying that the hearing is not interested in the historical accuracy of his statements or whether what he said was antisemitic. Rather, it is about whether his conduct has been “grossly detrimental” to the party. Continue reading “Labour’s witch-hunt against Ken Livingstone”
Thirteen Jewish female members of the Labour Party have called for a review of a decision by general secretary Iain McNicol on a complaint brought against former Israeli Embassy employee Ella Rose, who now heads a pro-Israel lobby group affiliated to the Labour Party, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).
They say Ella Rose’s abusive and threatening behaviour, caught on camera in a documentary film, The Lobby, is intimidating to them as campaigners for Palestinian rights and critics of the state of Israel.
The swift, discrete and sympathetic handling of Rose’s case contrasts markedly with treatment meted out to many party members who have been unjustly charged with antisemitism, suspended from membership and subjected to months’ long investigations, often in the full glare of publicity, through processes with scant regard for principles of natural justice.
McNicol said that in Ella Rose’s case the matter was closed after she “expressed regret” for some of her actions.
In response to your judgement in the case of Ella Rose, we cannot accept the contrast with other disciplinary cases where you have given considerable weight to testimony from complainants stating that they were upset or offended by an individual’s words or actions.
We wish to put on record that we, Labour Jewish women, have been not only offended and upset but also intimidated by the behaviour of Ella Rose. (You will see that this letter is signed by a larger group than the one that made the original complaint.)