Labour should ditch the IHRA working definition of antisemitism altogether

Tony Lerman argues that we should ditch the IHRA definition because it does more harm than good. It both fails to tackle antisemitism and erodes free speech on Palestine and Israel. This article is reprinted from Open Democracy by permission of the author

In politics, neutralising a toxic controversy and moving on by taking a strategic decision to retreat, withdraw or compromise, may be a prudent course of action. But if this is what members of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) are planning to do today by ditching the amendments it made to some examples of antisemitism in the guidance notes of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) ‘working definition’ of antisemitism, and embracing the entire text lock, stock and barrel, they would be party to a travesty of justice. The more the definition is held up to the light and subject to public scrutiny, the more we see holes and cracks in its flimsy fabric. Not only is there now overwhelming evidence that it’s not fit for purpose, but it also has the effect of making Jews more vulnerable to antisemitism, not less, and exacerbating the bitter arguments Jews have been having over the nature of contemporary antisemitism for the last 20 to 25 years. Arguments that are inextricably linked to the Israel-Palestine conflict and generated by two questions: Are there forms of criticism of Israel which equate to antisemitism? If so, where is the line between ‘legitimate’ criticism and criticism that spills over into antisemitic hate speech? Continue reading “Labour should ditch the IHRA working definition of antisemitism altogether”

Sacks Vs Corbyn

Why conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism makes fighting antisemitism impossible

Robert Cohen explains why Sacks’ comments are dangerous for British Jews as well as attacking Palestinian rights. Reprinted from Patheos by permission of he author

Earlier this week Rabbi Jonathan Sacks made himself look foolish, tarnishing his worldwide reputation as a man of considerable Jewish learning and wisdom by making outlandish criticism of the Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

This morning, on the BBC Andrew Marr Show, he did it again:

“He [Corbyn] implies the majority of British Jews are essentially alien to British culture…he is as great a danger as Enoch Powell.”

For younger readers and those less familiar with U.K. political history, Enoch Powell was a Conservative MP from the 1950s through to the early 70s who Andrew Marr explained to his viewers is “probably the most reviled British figure of the 20th century”. Continue reading “Sacks Vs Corbyn”

FSOI Response to Consultation on the NEC Code

Free Speech on Israel submitted this response to the consultation on the NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism on 29 August 2018

Free Speech on Israel is a predominantly Jewish Group most of whose members are members of the Labour Party. It was formed in 2016— following a series of false allegations of antisemitism made against individuals and groups campaigning for Palestinian rights—under the slogan ‘It is not Antisemitic to Oppose Zionism’.

FSOI has always recognised the existence of antisemitism both within the Labour Party and in wider society but have always argued that its prevalence inside the Labour Party has been much exaggerated: to both distract attention from Israel’s repeated breaches of international law and to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Party. Continue reading “FSOI Response to Consultation on the NEC Code”

Lambeth Council leader’s weak defence of IHRA adoption

Dear Lib Peck

I was disappointed, but regrettably not surprised, by your reply which did not address any of the issues we raised about the problems with the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Since we wrote the Guardian has published an essay by Nathan Thrall which describes how the definition was produced as a propaganda weapon in the Israeli campaign against BDS and labelling Israel as an Apartheid state. Continue reading “Lambeth Council leader’s weak defence of IHRA adoption”

How Lambeth Council is getting antisemitism and the IHRA wrong

This letter was sent to Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth Council, on 13 August by Jewish members of Lambeth Labour Parties.

Lib Peck’s reply to this letter and Mike Cushman’s response: Lambeth Council leader’s weak defence of IHRA adoption

Dear Lib Peck

As Jewish members of Lambeth Labour Party we are dismayed by your letter to the local shul.

Firstly there is no evidence that antisemitism ‘plagues ….our party’ as you assert. There is a problem of a few members out of half a million who have made antisemitic statements or shared material, mainly out of confusion or ignorance, but possibly on rare occasions out of malice. It is important that the Party adopts a rigorous procedure for dealing with any such abuse, which is exactly what the NEC Code of Conduct on Antisemitism  is carefully constructed to achieve. It is exactly what the loosely worded examples appended to  the IHRA definition do not. Continue reading “How Lambeth Council is getting antisemitism and the IHRA wrong”

Hammersmith and Fulham Council: Reinstate Stan Keable

Stan Keable tells how the anti-Corbyn witch-hunt in the Labour Party has spilled over into political victimisation in the workplace

Reprinted from The Weekly Worker by permission

A Labour council’s inquisition

In its July 10 letter, Hammersmith and Fulham’s Labour-run council has informed me that my appeal against dismissal from my job as a housing enforcer for “bringing the council into disrepute” has been rejected. That exhausts the council’s internal disciplinary procedures, and leaves me free to pursue a wrongful dismissal case in an employment tribunal, after going through the precondition of attempting conciliation via Acas – the government’s advice, conciliation and arbitration service.

The appeal outcome contained no surprises. It was highly predictable, leaving me with the feeling that it was predetermined for – god forbid! – political reasons. It upheld the April 21 verdict of “serious misconduct” and immediate dismissal with salary in lieu of notice – not as harsh, thankfully, as gross misconduct and instant dismissal with no salary. Continue reading “Hammersmith and Fulham Council: Reinstate Stan Keable”

FSOI regrets Ken Livingstone’s resignation from the Labour Party

Free Speech on Israel deeply regrets that Ken Livingstone has been driven out of the Labour Party by a concerted campaign of misrepresentations of what he said. FSOI has always stood beside Ken and his statement on resignation clearly lays out why we have been right to do so. He is demonstrably not an antisemite but his opponents want to use his case to intimidate the rest of us into silence on Israel’s crimes. They will fail.

STATEMENT FROM KEN LIVINGSTONE

21 May 2018

After much consideration, I have decided to resign from the Labour Party. Continue reading “FSOI regrets Ken Livingstone’s resignation from the Labour Party”

The Israel Lobby, Jeremy Corbyn, and the Abuses of Antisemitism

Richard Silverstein assesses how the campaign to demonise Jeremy Corbyn as an antisemite was promoted and developed and how it parallels attempts to discredit progressive US politicians.

Reprinted by permission from Tikun Olam

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became a serious contender for Labour Party leader and later when he ran a surprisingly competitive election campaign, the UK Israel Lobby has been sharpening the knives against him. He is insufficiently pliant to Israeli interests. He is not subservient to the Lobby in the way previous Labour Party leaders have been. In addition, UK Jews are overwhelmingly Tory voters, so the prospect of a genuinely left-wing Party leader has given them the willies.  It has motivated the UK Lobby to escalate its efforts.

jeremy corbyn seder
Jeremy Corbyn attends Passover seder with the “bad Jews” of Jewdas

The accusations of antisemitism came right from the beginning, and they haven’t ceased for a second. They come in waves, all orchestrated by the Board of Deputies, the Israeli embassy, Bicom and their ancillary lobbying entities.

jeremy corbyn false anti semitism claims jewish chronicle

Typical screaming anti-Corbyn, anti-Labour Jewish Chronicle headline

When one wave of accusations recedes, another one comes along. This campaign is readily facilitated by the UK press.  Of Course the Tory tabloids and broadsheets like the Sun, Mirror, Mail and Telegraph offer screaming headlines about the fatal scent of anti Semitism in the ranks of Labour. Even supposedly liberal papers like the Guardian have lent their pages to the fulsome fusillades.

U.S. publications like the NY Times, not to be outdone, sic their pro Israel columnists on Corbyn’s alleged fatal flaw of Jew-hatred. We even witnessed the spectacle of an attack from resident pro Israel scribe, Bret Stephens.  Bari Weiss can’t be far behind.

Among the latest charges: that several Corbyn insiders belong to a 2,000 member private Facebook group which has published antisemitic comments.  So get this, several key figures in Corbyn’s circle either joined and were joined (depending on how your permissions are configured, sometimes Facebook Friends can sign you up for a group without your even approving it) were members of a group of 2,000 people among whom there were unspecified members who posted antisemitic material.  Corbyn’s folks didn’t post these comments.  In fact, we don’t even know if any of them posted even a single comment in the group.  None of them commented upon, liked or approved of the antisemitic posts.  So what exactly is the offense?  That they didn’t take the offending member out and shoot him?  Or that they didn’t denounce the rhetoric?  How could they if they didn’t participate in the group?  What does it mean that you are listed as a member of the social media group?  That you are personally responsible for every word published there?  Nonsense.

Angela Smiiht's tweet about Corbyn attending Jewdas seber (sic)
Angela Smiiht’s tweet about Corbyn attending Jewdas seber (sic)
The wrong sort of seder

The latest charge is a real doozy: after Corbyn asked to meet with the UK’s communal leadership, it refused unless he submitted to a series of conditions which were ridiculous and oppressive.  Instead, Corbyn chose to spend the Passover seder with a group of far more congenial UK Jews, progressives as well.  The members of Jewdas, a left-wing ant-Zionist group which opposes the mandarin Zionist leadership.  Well, the Jewish Chronicle and Deputies got wind of this and went to town.  They passed it on to the Blairites wing of the Labour Party and before you know it renegade MPs were denouncing Corbyn’s breaking matza with Jewish antisemites.

Guess what happened next? The UK Israel Lobby thought better of their shameless posturing and accepted Corbyn’s invitation to meet…with no conditions.  Exactly the approach they should’ve adopted from the beginning.  So Jeremy Corbyn and Jewdas taught the Lobby derech eretz, an ancient Jewish custom of showing decency to your fellow human being.

What especially irks me is hearing non-Jewish, non-progressive MPs telling Corbyn and the rest of us who are the good Jews and who are the bad.  And using a yardstick that has nothing to do with Judaism or Jewishness and everything to do, not just with Israel, but with an ultra-nationalist Likudist vision of Israel.  Excuse me, but Moses didn’t come down from Mt. Sinai with tablets on which the Zionist creed was inscribed.  He came down with Ten Commandments, which taught us as Jews how to be decent, ethical human beings.  Not good Zionists, but good humans.  That’s Jewdas’ vision and mine as well.  Maybe it’s yours too.

Strangely, though the charges are articulated in a fashion which assumes they pose a self evidently fatal blow to Corbyn, they aren’t. He bounces back as strong as ever. In fact, if anything, these scurrilous attacks ricochet and strike at the ones who launched them. Corbyn soldiers on, gaining support from quarters impervious to the traditional gutter snipe politicking of the tabloid press.

U.S. Israel Lobby Levels Antisemitism Charges Falsely at African-American Progressive Democrats

The Brits are not the only ones suffering from this ridiculous malady. Here in the U.S., our very own homegrown Israel Lobby and its media organs like the Algemeiner, Jewish Press, Washington Free Beacon, etc., stand like sentinels in the night protecting us from the anti Semites lurking among us.

The problem is that they always manage to dig up the usual suspects, and for some strange reason they’re always Democrats. Not just any Democrats, but progressive Democrats, least beholden to Israeli interests and the power of the Lobby. They are often African Americans, as well.

These attacks harken back to an era when Blacks and Jews first diverged from their mutual embrace of the civil rights agenda of the 1960s. Beginning in 1967, many Jews drew away from the Black struggle for justice and were drawn into Israel’s nationalist euphoria after its victory in what was called the Six Day War. This was also the era when Meir Kahane first developed his racist, nationalist platform, which is now triumphal within Israeli politics.

Ever since this period, pro Israel Jewish communal leaders have viewed the community’s interests as divergent from, and even inimical to the Black community’s. We saw this most clearly in the campaign by wealthy, white Jewush leaders to cast suspicion on Barack Obama’s bona fides as a supporter of Israel. He was called closet Muslim, anti Israel and even anti Semitic by some. The pages of the Jewish Forward were even filled with such false and provocative ads paid for by the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Nothing Obama did could assuage the naysayers and doomsayers. Though he was a traditional Democratic presidential candidate, captive to the Lobby, none of it did any good. The Lobby, under the influence of its Likud masters in Israel never warmed to him.

Even worse after Obama left office, Lobby groups like the ADL are suggesting he should apologize for being photographed in 2007, before he even ran for president, at a Congressional Black Caucus luncheon with Louis Farrakhan. Thankfully, Obama has ignored such nonsense.

Things are, if anything , worse with Bernie Sanders. A true populist, though with a strong pragmatic streak, he is seen as far too independent for the Lobby. His views on Israel, though calibrated in an extremely cautious fashion (long time lib-Zio DC operative, Matt Duss, manages his Israel messaging), elicited extreme fear and loathing from the Lobby.

But there is one major problem it has in attacking him: he is Jewish. Not religiously Jewish. But Jewish in the traditional cultural-political sense. He’s a liberal Democrat from New York. He sounds like us, looks like us, and thinks like us. So the usual attacks don’t stick. Sanders too, has been careful to manage his Israel messaging (and I don’t mean this as a compliment). Though it is distinctly to the left of Obama’s, he is careful not to rock the boat too heavily. After all, his main issues are domestic and economic. He is not a foreign policy wonk. That’s not where his passions lie. So Bernie is not prepared to die politically on a hill called Israel.

false israel lobby attacks on ellison

False claims by Israel Lobby oligarchs like Saban against Ellison

But Bernie has political allies who aren’t as insulated as he is from such attacks. Take Rep. Keith Ellison, who ran unsuccessfully for Democratic Party chair. The Lobby went into full attack mode then. They dredged up decade old comments he’d made praising Louis Farrakhan.

In 2009, I’d reported on secret Justice department wiretaps of the Israeli embassy which showed that the Minneapolus JCRC was tracking Ellison’s visit to Gaza with WA Rep. Brian Baird, after the 2012 Gaza war. The JCRC in turn passed this data on to the Israeli embassy, which also monitored Ellison’s activities, along with those of fellow African-American Muslim Rep. Andre Carson.,

Ellison is a proud progressive with a national profile. He is not beholden to the Lobby. Therefore, he poses a threat. That’s why its minions have dredged up an an old story that Ellison attended s 2009 dinner hosted by Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani. Farrakhan attended the same dinner which was falsely reported by the Forward as a “private dinner” with the three of them. In fact, 150 guests attended and Farrakhan was seated across the room from Ellison.

What do we learn from this? That the Israel lobby in both the UK and U.S. is threatened by true progressives. They prefer pliant, conservative politicians who do what they’re told without argument. We also learn that these two Lobbies are racist and Islamophobic. They they are anti populist and anti-democratic. They prefer Tories and Republicans. They prefer oligarchs and the white, monied classes. In short, they disapprove of everything many of the rest of us stand for. Even the Jews among us. Especially the (progressive) Jews among us.

Read also: UK Labor Party Witch Hunt: “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been Anti-Zionist?”

Israel and the Labour Party: a love story

Leon Rosselson shows how the Labour Party is in a state of denial about an Israel committed to a fantasy of a two state solution to be achieved through non-existent peace talks

This article is reprinted by permission from Medium

In my last blog  I suggested that Israel’s staunch supporters are infected with a brain disease called Zionusitis. It was, of course, a joke. Or maybe it wasn’t. Since then, there has been another enactment of the absurdist farce called Antisemitism in the Labour Party. A demonstration in Parliament Square organised by the (self-selected) British Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council demanded an end to the antisemitism which, so they claim, is now rife in Corbyn’s Labour Party. It was attended by a number of Labour MPs plus various riff-raff from other parties and the usual suspects from the Jewish Labour Movement. Following that, Jeremy Corbyn attended a seder organised by a group of young Jews called Jewdas and was pilloried for consorting with the wrong sort of Jews.

Of course, this has nothing to do with real antisemitism. The Board of Deputies has no problem with the antisemitism of Trump and the American white supremacists or the antisemites in Hungary and Poland, like Viktor Orban, since they are also firm supporters of Israel. Jewdas is attacked as unrepresentative because it is a non-Zionist group. Since Israel claims to represent all the Jews in the world and since Netanyahu claims to speak for ‘the Jewish people’, it would not be surprising if those who are angered by Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians tweet or write criticism of Israel that sometimes topple over into antisemitism. But a report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research found that the level of antisemitism in the country and across the political parties , including the Labour Party, is low; the level of anti-Israelism, on the other hand, is significantly higher. And this is what the Zionist lobby, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Labour Friends of Israel, are concerned about. Continue reading “Israel and the Labour Party: a love story”

Corbyn Under Fire

Daniel Finn writes how, for weeks, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party has been the target of a defamatory campaign meant to undermine it. He describes the agents of these attacks and their unsavoury connections
Reprinted from Jacobin by permission
The dominant narrative in the British media about Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party, and antisemitism is false and defamatory. Labour does not have a leadership that tolerates or encourages prejudice against Jews. It is not a safe haven for bigots. There is no evidence that antisemitic views are more prevalent in Labour than in other parties, or in British society as a whole.Anyone making those elementary points is likely to face an indignant response. Hasn’t Corbyn himself admitted that Labour has a problem? How can you deny the evidence staring you in the face? Continue reading “Corbyn Under Fire”