Labour’s witch-hunt against Ken Livingstone

Jonathan Cook
Reposted from his blog by permission

John Mann bringing the Labour Party into disrepute by inviting media to record his ambush of Ken Livingston
John Mann bringing the Labour Party into disrepute by inviting media to record his ambush of Ken Livingston

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”

Jewish Women condemn Labour’s tolerance of JLM threats

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.

Dear Mr McNicol,

Sent 20 February 2017

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.

JLM Director Ella Rose boasts how she can 'take' Jackie Walker
JLM Director Ella Rose boasts how she can ‘take’ Jackie Walker

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.)

We believe that the influence of Ella Rose, and others working with the Israeli Embassy (as exposed by Al Jazeera in The Lobby), should be fully investigated and this should start with a proper investigation of the incidents in which Ella Rose was involved.
Continue reading “Jewish Women condemn Labour’s tolerance of JLM threats”

FSOI Media Notice – Government must not Cover up Israeli Interference in UK Politics

GOVERNMENT MUST NOT COVER UP ISRAELI INTERFERENCE IN UK POLITICS

  • Israeli Embassy collusion with pro-Israeli lobbyists must be fully investigated
  • All antisemitism charges against Labour Party members must now be reviewed

London, 18 January – Film evidence that Labour and Conservative pro-Israel lobbyists worked with the Israeli Embassy to undermine political opponents has implications for democratic processes in the UK that must be fully investigated, campaigners say.

“There must be no cover-up of what appears to have been a concerted campaign to discredit supporters of Palestine, Conservative as well as Labour, and to use concocted allegations of antisemitism to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and his support base,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, speaking for Free Speech on Israel (FSOI).

Theresa May has rejected a call from Corbyn for a government inquiry into the Embassy’s “improper interference in this country’s democratic process.” But a number of Jewish groups that work for  Palestinian human rights are supporting the Labour leader’s call and urging Labour to set up its own inquiry into the activities of politicians and lobbyists implicated by Al-Jazeera’s four-part documentary The Lobby.

The documentary showed an Israeli Embassy staffer discussing with a Conservative ministerial aide how to “take down” deputy foreign secretary Alan Duncan. It also revealed extensive collaboration between the embassy, Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and Labour Party affiliate the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). Both organisations have consistently alleged antisemitism against supporters of Palestinian rights who criticise Israel. Many of these have been suspended and subjected to disciplinary procedures that lack transparency and take no account of natural justice.

FSOI calls upon Labour’s National Executive Committee to institute a full review of all outstanding disciplinary proceedings and to investigate the activities of both JLM and LFI.

Notes for Editors

  1. Al Jazeera Investigative Unit’s series “The Lobby” was screened between Wednesday Jan 11 and Saturday Jan 15. It can be viewed online

2. Jeremy Corbyn’s letter to Prime Minister Theresa May called for an inquiry into “attempts to undermine the integrity of our democracy.”

Letter from Jeremy Corbyn to Theresa May demanding a public inquiry
Letter from Jeremy Corbyn to Theresa May demanding a public inquiry

3. Here is the full text of the statement from Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG):

We note with concern the very serious allegations of Israeli Embassy interference in the United Kingdom’s democratic processes revealed in the Al Jazeera series “The Lobby”. We support Jeremy Corbyn’s call on the Government to hold an enquiry into this attempt to subvert both the government itself and the Opposition. It is imperative that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee should summon those Israelis and British politicians and lobbyists shown to have been implicated.  We also call on the Labour party to conduct an immediate investigation into the involvement of its own members in the activities documented by Al-Jazeera.

4. Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) was founded as a predominantly Jewish campaign group in Spring 2016 to counter the manufactured moral panic over a supposed epidemic of antisemitism in the UK. Its earlier statement on the Al-Jazeera investigation can be read here.

5. Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University, analyses the relevance of the Al-Jazeera revelations, examining how anti-Zionism is deliberately conflated with antisemitism to suppress legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies.

6. Examples of the witch hunt against a large number of pro-Corbyn, pro-Palestinian Labour Party activists exposed in the Al-Jazeera programmes include:

a) Black Jewish activist Jackie Walker, former vice-chair of Momentum, is currently fighting her second bout of suspension from the party. She intends to make a formal complaint against Jewish Labour Movement director Ella Rose, seen threatening and abusing Walker in the second episode of the film.

b) The films show Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan MP discussing at length with fellow lobbyists how to frame a complaint of antisemitism against a Labour Party member, a woman who was suspended as a result and later reinstated on appeal.

c) Separately, activists in a party branch in the Liverpool constituency of former LFI chair, Louise Ellman MP, are fighting baseless allegations of antisemitism which have been used as an excuse to investigate the entire branch.

Anti-Zionism and antisemitism in British politics, by Avi Shlaim

Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel 

In this piece first published online by Al-Jazeera, Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University, provides context for the TV channel’s four-part series on “The Lobby”.

Anti-Zionism is deliberately conflated with anti-Semitism to suppress legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies

There is no denying that from time to time anti-Semitism raises its ugly head in the UK, as it does in many other countries.

What is striking, however, about contemporary Britain is the use of anti-Semitism as a political tool to silence legitimate criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government and the collusion of members of the political establishment in this process.

A word on definitions is in order.

The Jewish philosopher Isaiah Berlin defined an anti-Semite as someone who hates Jews more than is strictly necessary.

This definition has its humorous side but it does not take us very far. A simpler definition of an anti-Semite is someone who hates Jews as Jews.

An anti-Zionist, on the other hand, is someone who opposes Israel as an exclusively Jewish state or challenges the Zionist colonial project on the West Bank.

Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel; in order to suppress free speech; and in order to divert attention from the real issues: Israeli colonialism, Israel’s apartheid, its systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians, and its denial of their right to independence and statehood. The propagandists persistently present an anti-racist movement (anti-Zionism) as a racist one (anti-Semitism).

Continue reading “Anti-Zionism and antisemitism in British politics, by Avi Shlaim”

Undercover video reveals Labour and Tory Friends of Israel conspiring with Embassy official

UPDATE: Labour’s Emily Thornberry calls for a government inquiry into “improper interference in our democratic politics”. This is welcome, but attention also needs to focus on the role of Labour’s own “Friends of Israel.”

An undercover Al-Jazeera report has revealed clear evidence of collaboration between both Labour and Tory “Friends of Israel” and the Israeli Embassy in London.

The right-wing Daily Mail – a staunch supporter of Israel – has nonetheless reported at length on the revelations, which vindicate Free Speech on Israel’s case over recent months. There can now be no doubt that supporters of Palestine have been systematically targeted in a campaign to undermine their valid criticisms of the Israeli state and its ideology.

The UK Foreign Office has said that the Embassy, quoted in the Guardian with all the appearance of trying to play the story down, has apologised and the matter is closed. This is clearly not the case.

A full statement from Free Speech on Israel will follow.

See the Daily Mail story below.

Israel plot to ‘take down’ Tory minister: Astonishing undercover video captures diplomat conspiring with rival MP’s aide to smear Deputy Foreign Secretary

The Israeli Embassy made a shocking vow to ‘take down’ Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office deputy, a secret film reveals today.

The bombshell footage, covertly filmed in a London restaurant and obtained by The Mail on Sunday, shows a senior diplomat making the astonishing threat to target Sir Alan Duncan.

Extraordinarily, he is egged on by a senior aide to another Conservative Minister, Robert Halfon.

The video comes in a film claiming to expose the way that the Israeli government has ‘infiltrated’ both the Conservative and Labour parties via its embassy in the UK, using secret cash and covert support.

Further footage shows the Israeli diplomat, intelligence expert Shai Masot, telling senior Labour MP Joan Ryan that he has obtained ‘more than £1 million’ to pay for sympathetic Labour MPs to visit Israel.

Mr Masot also mocks ‘crazy’Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his ‘weirdo’ supporters. Footage shows pro-Israel Labour activists discussing the Jerusalem government’s secret role in backing their activities.

FULL MAIL ON SUNDAY STORY HERE.

Zionists’ weapon of mass destruction against UK’s left

21 November 2016

Profile image Jeremy Corbyn

Baseless accusations of antisemitism are damaging to more than the British left and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Peter Nicholls/Reuters

From Blairite to far-right, the British political elite is relishing having discovered the ultimate weapon of mass destruction to try and block the growth of a movement of the left around Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

All it needs to do is fire off round after round of unsubstantiated assertions of antisemitism, deploying circular and often contradictory arguments.

The left, so the mantra goes, has always been riddled with antisemitism. To deny this is, by definition, antisemitic.

Corbyn is in denial, according to his critics. The ardent pro-Israel advocate Howard Jacobson has accused him of belonging to the “more un-self-questioning wing of British politics.” Those words are probably more applicable to Tony Blair, the former prime minister and Corbyn’s arch enemy.

Jacobson, a novelist and academic, graciously allows in a recent opinion piece that Israel may be subjected to “fair and honest” criticism but asserts, in the face of reams of historical evidence to the contrary, that the Zionism which created and upholds the state is a “dreamy” and idealistic national liberation movement of the Jewish people that has nothing to do with conquest or colonial expansion.

The clincher is Jacobson’s assertion – denied by a considerable body of Jewish opinion – that anti-Zionism is equivalent to repudiating Israel’s right to exist and is therefore “almost invariably” antisemitic.

Case closed. There really is nothing left to say.

“Open season on minorities”

Where does this leave the UK as a proudly democratic society that values freedom of speech? We value it so highly that just last month, the Independent Press Standards Organisation – the media regulator established by UK newspapers – ruled that Kelvin MacKenzie, a former editor of The Sun, was free to denounce Channel 4 for letting a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman, Fatima Manji, report on the Nice terror attacks.

Manji said this meant that it was now “open season on minorities and Muslims, in particular.”

It leaves us in an unpleasant place, following the vote to exit the European Union, where upsetting Muslims and other non-whites is fine. Upsetting friends of Israel is not allowed, however – especially, but not exclusively, if they are Jewish.

It’s also fine to upset Jews like me who are not Zionists. Wes Streeting, a member of parliament (not a Jew), called me a “massive racist” in a tweet about an interview I did with the radio station LBC during October.

But then I’m a pro-Palestinian activist who supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement. Streeting evidently believes I can be discounted as a self-hating Jew.

Just to be clear, I have no time for conspiracy theorists who see Israel as the root of all evil. I do not tolerate anti-Jewish racism, whether or not it is coupled with claims of supporting justice for Palestine, as it sometimes is.

Nor do my fellow campaigners in Free Speech on Israel. We demand justice and security for both Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs and Jews, and we agree with the Arab-Jewish Forum’s Tony Klug who wrote in The Jewish Chronicle earlier this year: “While antisemitism is monstrous – and, like all forms of racism, should be vigorously dealt with – false accusations of antisemitism are monstrous too.”

Disturbingly, the recent report on antisemitism in the UK from the Home Affairs Committee in the House of Commons gives a free pass to those making false accusations.

Released on 16 October, the report performs a service by highlighting the role of social media – in particular Twitter – in facilitating deplorable abuse and threats to individuals. It also makes the important point, ignored by most media, that the far right is behind 75 percent of all politically motivated antisemitic incidents.

Its main thrust, however, is that antisemitism is rampant and tolerated in the Labour Party, the National Union of Students and elsewhere on the left and that a “new definition” of antisemitism is required so that we can halt this alleged scourge. It is a gift to the pro-Israel, anti-Corbyn brigade who welcomed it ecstatically.

Moral panic

The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), an intensely Zionist group, tweeted, “We could not have written this report better ourselves.”

caa-tweet-screen-grab

Until the current wave of moral panic, people generally knew what bigotry was and what was specific about the anti-Jewish bigotry usually called antisemitism.

As the Free Speech On Israel website says, language or behavior is anti-Semitic if it expresses hatred of Jews, or inflicts or incites violence against them, because they are Jews; if it stereotypes Jews on the basis of alleged negative personal characteristics such as being mean, sly and avaricious; if it links Jews to conspiracy theories about world domination of media, financial or governmental institutions; if it suggests Jews were responsible for, or fabricated, the Holocaust.

Most people would also agree that it is antisemitic to implicate all Jews in the actions of the Israeli state or to accuse all Jews of embracing a single ideology – Zionism, for example.

Yet no one is more determined to suggest that all Jews owe loyalty to the State of Israel, and that Zionism is part and parcel of being Jewish, than Zionists like Jacobson and the CAA. It isn’t so long ago that Ephraim Mirvis, Britain’s chief rabbi, declared that Zionism was a “noble and integral part of Judaism.”

A long list of Jews including well-known figures such as the filmmaker Mike Leigh, actor Miriam Margolyes and writer Michael Rosen put their names to a letter repudiating the chief rabbi’s version of their identity. Gideon Falter, the CAA’s chair, dismissed them as “a fringe assortment of British Jews” who had committed an “anti-Semitic slur” against his group.

Is it any wonder that some people outraged by Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians may take the chief rabbi at his word and hold all Jews responsible for what is done in their name?

If only the report from the Home Affairs Committee had tackled this contradiction and affirmed that there are different forms of Jewish identity, different traditions to which Jews adhere, including radical traditions that have no connection with Zionism.

Instead the committee promotes a “new definition” of antisemitism that does everything Falter, Streeting and company desire. If imposed on all areas of public life, as the committee proposes, opposition to their partisan approach is at risk of being criminalized.

To start with, the committee exalts its definition of antisemitism as being “based broadly on the working definition of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).” That falsely gives the impression that the definition favored has already been approved by the European Union.

The so-called working definition appeared on the EUMC website as a discussion document that was found wanting and dropped. It was originally drafted more than a decade ago by Zionist lobby groups, which have pushed it relentlessly since then.

The home affairs committee report lists some of the obvious characteristics of antisemitism but muddies the waters by introducing Israel into the equation.

We already have extensive evidence of how this will be used to censor debate – an academic conference canceled, a theater director pilloried, school children denied involvement in a literary festival.

It is not only Jewish Zionists who are guilty of this kind of censorship. In the three cases mentioned, non-Jewish Conservative cabinet ministers were actively involved.

The Home Affairs Committee’s “new definition” offers myriad opportunities for conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism. As I write, Israel’s CAA friends are filing a complaint against the School of Oriental and African Studies in London for allowing writer Tom Suarez to lecture about the violent origins of the Israeli state.

These are some of the more problematic examples given in the “new definition”:

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

If this is antisemitic, then Jewish organizations that uphold loyalty to Israel – as most do – will be immune from criticism for doing so. Dissenting Jews, or anyone else who wonders aloud why the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which claims to represent all Jews in the country, persists in supporting Israel right or wrong, will be silenced.

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

This clause is particularly pernicious. Rights attach to human beings, not states. Asserting the right to self-determination does not give any group a right to suppress others in its name. Palestinians also have rights, including the right to protest at the injustices inflicted upon them in the name of Jewish self-determination. It is not antisemitic for them to do so, nor for anyone else to support them.

Nor is it antisemitic to identify the racism present in the origins of the Israeli state. Jacobson may call its creation an act of “dreamy” idealism – but it was almost by definition a racist endeavor since the intention was to conquer and occupy the maximum amount of land while ensuring that the fewest possible non-Jewish inhabitants remained on it.

Modern Israel offers multiple examples of racism, some of it extreme.

Applying double standards by requiring of it [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

In practice, what Israel’s defenders complain of is Israel being expected to abide by internationally accepted norms while other states behave as badly or worse. Israel’s critics point out that Israel is exceptionally favored on the international scene by being allowed to get away with breaches of international law and human rights conventions without facing any sanction. It is not antisemitic to call Israel to account for those breaches.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

The blood libel is a horrifying medieval superstition that led to the slaughter of innocent Jews accused of using the blood of Christian children in religious rites. Today’s pro-Israel censors frequently allege “blood libel” when anyone comments on the shedding of Palestinian blood.

Veteran cartoonist Gerald Scarfe found himself in the center of a diplomatic storm when he dared to portray Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, cementing bleeding bodies between the slabs of a wall. To call this a blood libel distorts Jewish history and, as one Israeli commentator argued at the time, is “not antisemitic by any standard.”

It is certainly antisemitic to allege, as used to happen to my mother when she was a young girl, that Jews bear the guilt of Christ’s death, or to suggest that Jews have a propensity to slaughter children. But it is not antisemitic to hold the State of Israel or its leaders responsible for the real deaths of real children caused by their forces.

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

The study of history and politics requires us to make comparisons between different societies in different times. Nazi Germany has become the benchmark for a particularly horrifying form of racist totalitarianism. Sometimes people appalled at Israel’s behavior towards Palestinians, including Jewish Israelis, reach for the worst comparison they can muster and draw Nazi parallels.

It can be hurtful and may make productive debate difficult. But it is not antisemitic.

Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

It is indeed bigoted to hold Jews – or any ethnic or religious group – collectively responsible for anything. But people can hardly be blamed for believing that Jews and Israel are indivisible when most mainstream Jewish organizations are solidly aligned with Israel and Zionism.

It would be far more beneficial for people who are confused about this to learn about non-Zionist Jewish traditions than to drum them out of the Labour Party for crossing a line laid down by pro-Israel partisans.

The Home Affairs Committee report calls for its seriously flawed pseudo-definition to be “formally adopted by the UK government, law enforcement agencies and all political parties, to assist them in determining whether or not an incident or discourse can be regarded as antisemitic.”

There is considerable danger in this.

Not only is the committee’s definition a threat to the possibility of holding intelligent, informed discussion about one of the great moral and political issues of our time, it is also a potential spur to anti-Jewish sentiment because it gives the impression that debate is to be censored at the behest of a Jewish collective acting on behalf of the State of Israel.

Unquestioning media bear much of the blame for obscuring the fact that many Jews are not Zionists and a great many Zionists are not Jews.

While many of us Jewish dissenters have been at the forefront of defending Jeremy Corbyn in his attempts to build a grassroots socialist movement, his enemies have united to undermine him, regardless of their faith backgrounds.

It is not too late to avert the threat to freedom of speech posed by the cynical political games afoot. We should start by rejecting the Home Affairs Committee’s phony definition of antisemitism.

 

HASC Report on antisemitism is a ‘partisan party political polemic’

A scathing critique written by a former specialist adviser to the House of Commons Social Services Committee, David Plank, has found that the HASC Report on antisemitism ‘is a partisan party political polemic which should not have been agreed and made public by a House of Commons select committee.’

He adds that the Report purporting to be the result of an inquiry into antisemitism in the United Kingdom, ‘is no such thing. The Inquiry has no terms of reference: as a result, it is ill-defined from the outset. Its evidence base is partial and excludes a swathe of evidence sources that would have been essential to such an inquiry. It is unbalanced in the coverage it gives to political discourse as against other aspects of antisemitism in the United Kingdom – and grossly imbalanced within the topic of political discourse in the entirely disproportionate attention it gives to the Labour Party and personally to its Leader.’

The former advisor’s recommendations:

      1. The House of Commons Home affairs Committee should withdraw this Report and undertake a properly impartial, objective and sufficiently evidenced inquiry into antisemitism in the United Kingdom. Individuals and organizations should not be named or otherwise made identifiable in the report of this and other inquiries undertaken by the Committee without due process and proper verification of evidence.
      2. The House of Commons Liaison Committee should examine the adequacy of the arrangements select committees of the House of Commons have in place to assure their inquiries and reports to ensure they achieve basic standards of impartiality, objectivity and adequacy of evidence – including strict adherence to the rule of no party politics.
      3. The Labour Party should consider the comments made above in relation to: a definition of antisemitism and the areas of outright disagreement as to what falls within it in the assessment of allegations; and accountability.

On the committee’s method, he has this to say:

The fundamental weakness arising from the Inquiry’s lack of clarity about what it set out to do is aggravated by the method used in the inquiry, which is also not spelled out and appears partial and incomplete. For example, why was evidence obtained from some voices in the communities of British Jews and not others? The Board of Deputies of British Jews is one voice that was heard. A different voice – the voice of Independent Jewish Voices – was not heard. Independent Jewish Voices is a significant body which states:

“We believe that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole. We further believe that individuals and groups within all communities should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews is a body which claims authority to represent the Jewish community in this country as a whole – describing itself as:

“… the voice of British Jewry …” [Taken from website – my emphasis]

Why then did the Committee obtain evidence from one voice and give it much weight in its report and not obtain evidence from this other different voice – and indeed others such as the non-Orthodox communities which do not necessarily see their varied views represented by the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and its Chief Rabbi from whom evidence was obtained?  Why did the then Chair of the Committee reject a request from Shami Chakrabarti to appear before the Committee and give evidence? Why is great weight given by the Committee to the evidence of bodies such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews when no weight appears to be given to that of other bodies with different views such as Free Speech on Israel? [Witnesses and Published written evidence on pages 63 & 64 respectively]

Some may not regard it as surprising that the Board of Deputies of British Jews has welcomed the Committee’s report given the weight the Committee appears to have attached to the Board’s views – and to those of other bodies from which evidence was obtained that some British Jews may see as like-minded bodies, i.e. the Jewish Leadership Council and the United Hebrew Congregations. Had the Committee obtained evidence from other known voices in the communities of British Jews – and given weight to the evidence it did have of different views – its account of Zionism, for instance, might well have been significantly different. The Committee gives the impression of not being sensitive to this crucial point. Had the Committee been as comprehensive in the evidence it took as the Chakrabarti Inquiry, its conclusions and recommendations might have carried greater weight than they do. [Compare the evidence listed on pages 63 & 64 of the Committee’s Report and the many more and more representative spread of organizations and individuals which contributed to the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry following its call for evidence, pages 30 & 31 of the SC Report]

Read the detailed critique in full here.

David Plank is also a member of the Labour Party living in Cambridge and a former local authority director of social services and chief executive.

Book Review – The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism

By Mark Elf who blogs at Jews sans frontieres

I suspect the book is timed to cash in on Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to the leadership of the UK Labour Party as Corbyn seems something of an afterthought for its author, Dave Rich.  Dave is a committed Zionist so no doubt he also wanted to play his part in undermining a left Labour leader who has a high profile in the Palestine solidarity movement.

The book has lots of Zionist staples like the Jewish right to national self-determination. There are lots of stretches of people’s meaning and out of context quotes to portray Israel’s opponents and even victims as being antisemitic.  The holocaust is instrumentalised to justify Israel’s existence without the author realising that this undermines the idea of Jews being a standard case for national self-determination which is supposed to accrue to communities with territorial contiguity and raises the idea that, instead, Jews are a special case.

Dave avoids analysis or even definitions of terms.  He avoids analysis of what Zionism means to its victims.  He avoids saying what it means to or for its Jewish beneficiaries except to say that this ideological choice is an integral part of their identity.  He avoids details around implementation of the Zionist project and he mostly avoids the various imperial supports the project has received and without which Israel couldn’t exist.

Remarkably for a book supposedly about antisemitism, Dave fails even to define that. He doesn’t mention, for example, the so-called EUMC working definition which his employers at the Community Security Trust learned to love.  He certainly uses parts of the definition.  For example, when Israel is compared to the Nazis, this is offered by Dave as an example of antisemitism.  His failure to analyse Zionism or Nazism or refer to the racism essential and common to both enables this given.

Dave’s only mention of Israel’s founding war on the Arabs is plain wrong. Dave claims “five Arab armies had invaded their new Jewish neighbour”.  Arab armies have never invaded Israel. The Zionist movement had already ethnically cleansed 300,000 Palestinians by the time Arab armies mobilised against an already expanding Israel.

He fails to consider the Eurocentrism that would allow for the Labour Party to propose in 1944 the “transfer”, i.e. the ethnic cleansing, of all of Palestine’s Arabs.  For Dave, the labour movement was all cloth caps, trade unions and Poale Zion (now calling itself the Jewish Labour Movement, JLM).  And somewhere between the old days and the rise of the new left, the youth wing of the Liberal Party, the Young Liberals, decided to call Israel out as a state not significantly different from the apartheid regime of the Republic of South Africa.  Without analysing either Zionism or liberalism, Dave doesn’t have to consider the glaringly illiberal tenets of the former to see how repugnant they are to the young activists of the latter.

And so to the new left whose ideas and genealogy get mangled by Dave.  Where he quotes work, he doesn’t seem to understand it.  Abram Leon for example, is chastised by Dave, of all people, for mostly ignoring Palestine.  But Leon was explaining the Jewish identity, hostility to Jews and the ahistorical nationalism of the Zionist movement. So why mention Leon? Because his book is called The Jewish Question and an idiot called Gerry Downing claims that global affairs are run by what he calls “the Jewish question”. If Downing claims inspiration from Leon then, like Dave, he hasn’t understood him.  Contrary to Dave’s claim, we do not have to read Leon to understand Downing. But the spurious linkage is made because Downing was suspended from the Labour Party during Corbyn’s time as leader even though he survived Kinnock, Blair, Brown and Miliband. Continue reading “Book Review – The Left’s Jewish Problem: Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism”

Two more videos from FSOI Liverpool meeting

We are pleased to be able to post two further videos of speakers at FSOI’s successful Liverpool Labour Conference fringe meeting: Salma Karmi-Ayyoub and Glyn Secker A video of Jackie Walker’s presentation is already available on this site.

1. Salma Karmi-Ayyoub

British Palestinian lawyer Salma Karmi-Ayyoub is a criminal barrister and external consultant for the Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq.

2. Glyn Secker

Glyn Secker captained the Jewish Boat which challenged the siege of Gaza and is an active member of FSOI

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”