Film maker Jon Pullman interviewed Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Mike Cushman to produce this video on the FSOI journey to playing a vital role in defending the space for action in support of Palestinian Rights.
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.
Dear Sir or Madam,
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
Professor Chris Knight Streatham CLP
Malcolm Adlington Derby’s Dales CLP Continue reading “Letter to the Guardian: we reject the call for the expulsion of Ken Livingstone”
Jackie Walker was due to speak at a Scottish PSC meeting at St Columba’s by the Castle Church in Edinburgh on 20 March. One Edinburgh Jew claimed to the Church Rector that the meeting might have antisemitic connotations. The Rector amplified this claim into “criticism of Israel’s policies can have unintended consequences, leading to an increase in anti-Semitic attacks” and the Anglican Bishop of Edinburgh, John Armes, told him to cancel the Booking. FSOI has written to the Bishop to add our voice to that of Ken Loach and Miriam Margolyes and local activists in deploring this censorship and silencing of criticism of Israel.
Dear Bishop Armes,
We are aware of the controversy surrounding your decision to prevent a Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) event from taking place at St Columba’s Church on March 20.
As a Jewish-led organisation which abhors all forms of racism and supports the right of the Palestinian people to live their lives free from discrimination, we would welcome the opportunity to open a dialogue with you about this fraught subject. Continue reading “FSOI protests Scottish church cancellation”
The launch on Monday of Hugh Tomlinson QC’s devastating legal opinion on the so-called IHRA definition of antisemitism marks a watershed moment in resisting Israeli-backed attempts to gag pro-Palestinian advocacy.
The definition, deliberately equating criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews, was adopted in December 2016 by the UK government and has since been vigorously promoted by pro-Israel lobbyists to local authorities, universities, Labour movement organisations and other public bodies. Its rollout has coincided with an increase in bannings and restrictions imposed on pro-Palestinian activities, especially on campus.
As explained by eminent legal figures speaking at the launch, the Opinion drives a coach and horses through the definition, exposing it as:
Therefore pro-Palestinian campaigners who, for example, describe Israel as a settler-colonialist state enacting a policy of apartheid, or call for policies of boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel, cannot properly be characterised as antisemitic.
The UK Government has adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism of antisemitism: a seriously deficient definition
Since early in 2016, debate about rights for Palestinians has been under severe threat because criticism of Israel and of its founding ideology, Zionism, has been misrepresented as antisemitic.
Antisemitism is hatred of Jews simply because they are Jews. It must be vigorously combatted, along with all forms of bigotry. Confusing it with opposition to the state of Israel or Zionism is to obscure the real meaning of the term antisemitism and make fighting against it more difficult.
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”.
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.
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).
21 November 2016
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.
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.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), an intensely Zionist group, tweeted, “We could not have written this report better ourselves.”
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.
In Defence of Jackie Walker
We are Jewish Labour activists who were with Jackie Walker at the training session on antisemitism led by Mike Katz, vice chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) during the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on Monday September 26. Like her, some of us were heckled when we raised questions unpalatable to others in the audience who share the JLM’s bias towards Israel, its coupling of Jewish identity with Zionism and its insistence on the uniqueness of Jewish suffering.
Jackie had every right to question the JLM’s definition of antisemitism and the tendency of mainstream Jewish organisations to focus entirely on the slaughter of Jews when they commemorate the Nazi Holocaust. We share her determination to build greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. Jackie responded appreciatively when one audience member described Holocaust memorial events involving Armenians and others. She has since issued a statement on this issue, reproduced below.
We were shocked at the way the level of barracking rose as soon as Jackie began to speak. JLM supporters demonstrated contempt for her as a Jewish woman of African heritage who is a lifelong anti-racist advocate for the rights of minorities and a leading Labour Party activist in her Thanet constituency.
We unreservedly condemn allegations of antisemitism made against Jackie Walker. Calls for her to be disowned by the Momentum movement of which she is vice-chair, and for her to be suspended for a second time from the Labour Party, are reprehensible instances of the witch hunt to which she and other Corbyn supporters have been subjected over recent months.
The way Jackie has been treated demonstrates the unfitness of the JLM to deliver training on antisemitism. It is an organisation committed to one, contested strand of Jewish labour tradition to the exclusion of any other; it relies on a definition of antisemitism that conflates Jewish identity with Zionism; and it exploits its interactions with party members to set the limits of political discourse about the Middle East in accordance with its own partisan ideology.
By promoting the witch hunt, the JLM has helped to relegate the vile prejudice of antisemitism to a tool in the armoury of pro-Israel advocates, backed by Corbyn’s enemies in the political and media establishment.
Graham Bash, Hackney North CLP
Rica Bird, Wirral South CLP
Leah Levane, Hastings and Rye CLP
Jonathan Rosenhead, Hackney South and Shoreditch CLP
Glyn Secker, Dulwich and West Norwood CLP
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Chingford and Woodford Green CLP
A statement from Jackie Walker
“A number of people made comments in a private training session run by the Jewish Labour Movement. As we all know, training sessions are intended to be safe spaces where ideas and questions can be explored. A film of this session was leaked to the press unethically. I did not raise a question on security in Jewish schools. The trainer raised this issue and I asked for clarification, in particular as all London primary schools, to my knowledge, have security and I did not understand the particular point the trainer was making. Having been a victim of racism I would never play down the very real fears the Jewish community have, especially in light of recent attacks in France.
In the session, a number of Jewish people, including me, asked for definitions of antisemitism. This is a subject of much debate in the Jewish community. I support David Schneider’s definition and utterly condemn antisemitism.
I would never play down the significance of the Shoah. Working with many Jewish comrades, I continue to seek to bring greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. If offence has been caused, it is the last thing I would want to do and I apologise.”