Today, the House of Common’s Home Affairs Committee will question Jeremy Corbyn for its anti-Semitism inquiry. Below is our written contribution to the inquiry.
- Those who claim to represent the Jewish community, and who are given voice by the media, do not represent a sizeable Jewish minority who are highly critical of Israel and the violations of Palestinian human rights.
- There is no wave of antisemitism in the Labour party, whilst peaks of antisemitism in the general community correlate with the attacks on Gaza.
- The allegations essentially constitute a campaign against the left leadership of the Labour Party and the success of the Boycott movement.
- There is a conflation of Jew, Israel and Zionism such that criticism of Israel or Zionism is defined as antisemitism.
- A particular form of Zionism, committed to territorial expansion and the expulsion of Palestinians, today informs both the Israeli government and the international Jewish establishment.
- Where Israel, Zionism and Jew are conflated into one identity it should not be surprising that criticism of Israel’s actions or of its current political ideology may cause some Jews to feel personally uncomfortable or insecure. It is, however, incumbent on the critics to ensure criticism of human rights violations, and/or of the ideology which informs them, are accurately focussed and do not slide into criticism of Jews and become antisemitic.
- Israel receives privileged attention because it has a special relationship with the UK, the EU and the USA, and claims to be a liberal democracy.
- The EUMC committee’s ‘working definition’ of antisemitism has not been adopted by the EU and has been disowned by it’s successor committee, the FRA. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is a private body and cannot be cited to accord the ‘working definition’ any international legal status.
- The Jewish Labour Movement’s proposed Labour Party rule change would be a gross violation of the principles of natural justice.
- Due to its partiality, the JLM is not a fit body to provide the Labour Party with advice and training on antisemitism.
- Very occasionally individuals on demonstrations display references to the Nazis and refuse to remove them. Streets are public places and it would not be possible to remove them without force. Citing this microscopically small and insignificant minority as representative of the demonstrations or their organisers is a calumny.
- It is incumbent on Parliament and its Committees when taking evidence to include the Jewish groups which dissent from the mainstream Jewish narrative.
1. Who we are.
a ‘Free Speech On Israel’ is a network of Labour, Green and trade union activists, mainly of Jews drawn from Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Jeremy, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Young Jewish Left, and Jewdas. It came together to counter the campaign to brand support for justice for Palestinians antisemitic, and at concern for the lack of due process in the suspensions from the Labour party, with no published evidence.
b. Those interviewed or referenced by the Committee who claim to represent the Jewish community all identify themselves as Zionists who defend Israel from all and any criticism, namely the Board of Deputies of British Jews, The Jewish Leadership Council, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Community Security Trust, British Information Communications Media Organisation (BICOM), and the Zionist Federation. They are all well resourced, with their views amplified in the media. However, large sections of the Jewish community reject Zionism and between our different groups we believe we are representative of these sections.
c. A survey last year by Yachad, a liberal UK Zionist group found:
31% did not self-identify as Zionists
24% would support sanctions if they believed it would push Israel into a peace process,
This rose to 41% of under 30’s
A similar USA survey last year (only published in Hebrew) found:
just 42% believe Israel wants peace
only 38% believe Israel is a civilised society
only 31% believes it is democratic
21% believe the US should side with the Palestinians
It is evident that within the Jewish community there is considerable and deep disquiet concerning the nature of Israeli society, the Occupation and the discriminatory policies of the Israeli government. This diversity of opinion has been underrepresented in the media and, so far, in the public deliberations of your Committee.
2. Why the flood of accusations of antisemitism now?
a. In our collective experience running to thousands of person years, we have experienced only a tiny number of antisemitic incidents, none of which have been in the Labour Party, and we have seen no recent upsurge. Most of the current allegations relate to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
‘Could we see it as part of a broader campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, as the leading pro- Palestinian politician, and against the Boycott movement. Politicians have been silenced by fear of the antisemitic trope, which is intended to close down ethical, historically informed debate […] Settler and soldier brutality, casual killings, child arrests and imprisonment and abuse, land theft, house demolitions, and racism escalate daily. But criticism is deflected (by being defined) as visceral hatred of the Jewish state.’
These words (summarised) are not those of a conspiratorial antisemitic leftist, but of the internationally respected Oxford University Professor and author Avi Shlaim, who is also Jewish.
3. Understanding the nature of the complaints – the conflation of Jew, Israel and Zionism
a. The current accusations identify three areas as targets of antisemitism: Jews, Israel and Zionism. It is the tripartite conflation of these which creates the logic that criticism of any one is an attack on Jews and is therefore antisemitic. (Initially any criticism of Israel was so defined, recently however there has been a degree of moderation such that now not all criticism of Israel is defined as illegitimate).
This conflation is endorsed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis, who has said, “You can no more separate it (Zionism) from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.” Continue reading “Free Speech on Israel submission to Home Affairs Committee inquiry into antisemitism”