How to be right – – – when you are wrong?

Jonathan Coulter writes about James O’Brien who runs a well-known chat show for LBC, and has just published:  ‘How to be right – – – in a world gone wrong’. 

Cover of James O'Brien bookHe takes a progressive position on a range of issues, from the position of Muslims to the fixed-odd gambling terminals, but is what I would call Progressive except on Palestine (PEP).  Moreover, he sometimes treats people deplorably, as I found in two clips where members of the public questioned views he had been propagating about antisemitism in the Labour Party.

In the first clip, he is speaking to an articulate and polite caller called Chloe, whom he repeatedly interrupts, censuring her for using the words mainstream media and Zionist.  He provides a erroneous definition of the latter word, which in reality refers to the political movement that led to the establishment of Israel and continues to inspire its leaders.  He also falsely claims that Chloe has asserted that there was a Zionist collusion to run the world, and when he cannot dominate the conversation, he cuts her off and asks to hear from another caller from Finchley.

O’Brien doesn’t spare holocaust survivors

In the second clip, a listener had texted O’Brien, calling him out for saying that a Jewish man, who criticised Israel at a meeting hosted by Jeremy Corbyn in 2010, had a camouflage of being a Holocaust survivor.  The person in question, Hajo Meyer, was indeed a Holocaust survivor, and had given a talk entitled The Misuse of the Holocaust for Political Purposes.

In both cases, O’Brien behaved very unpleasantly, putting down and smearing his interlocutors.  He badly misrepresented Chloe who had said there was Zionist collusion in the World, not to run the world as O’Brien would have it.  He was moreover deeply offensive about Meyer, a man who had survived the Holocaust and had the audacity to put forward a view which didn’t fit O’Brien’s narrative.  In a response below the second clip, Mark Vincent sums it up saying your rants about Meyer, the listener and Corbyn were bang out of order.  As for myself, watching the clips made me feel positively sick.

On 26th November, O’Brien spoke at a public event organised by the Hacked Off Campaign in London.  I attended, and found I liked most of what he had to say.  I told him this when I met him at the end, but also asked for a chat about the way he had treated the people in the clips.  He immediately closed down the conversation, and our discussion ended in no more than a minute.

He was signing copies of his book, so I decided to buy one to get a better understanding of his thinking.  On the train home, and on the second page, I read words that directly contradicted what I had just experienced:

– – – I’m happy to employ a little bombast in defence of my own positions (- – -), but am always keenest to hear people who disagree with me – – -. 

O’Brien: Progressive except Palestine

O’Brien has dedicated many hours to phone-ins on alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party, ridiculing it for baulking at accepting the full IHRA definition of antisemitism last summer.  He also has a clip in which he spells out his own views.  It is a rambling rant, but his central argument is that Jewish people feel under massive threat in modern Europe, and think Israel is the only place they can go the next time they are persecuted by racist movements.  This, he says, prompts a slavish devotion to Israel that may seem reprehensible, but which he thinks is fully understandable in the light of what they have suffered through history.  He seems to be implying that we have no right to hold Israel or its supporters accountable for their actions – judge for yourself.

If O’Brien actually investigated what was happening in Israel, particularly actions like Israeli soldiers shooting unarmed medics from across the border with Gaza, he would need to change his attitude.  However because he considers the state of Israel a special case, he doesn’t make that investigation.

While one should never play down the magnitude of past Jewish suffering, O’Brien never addresses the fact that their present fears derive in large part from other factors, notably pro-Israeli propaganda telling them they are constantly under threat, and that the best thing they can do is to make Aliyah, i.e. to emigrate to Israel.  O’Brien deplores the way newspaper magnates misuse their power to stir up irrational fears among the British populace about Muslims, the EU and other matters, but he seems blind to the massive propaganda that is brought to bear on the Jewish community.  He also implies, questionably, that Israel only acts as it does to protect Jewish people, never mentioning its expansionist power politics.

He also fails to deal with the fact that so many of those the Labour Party has suspended, due to their statements on Israel, are in fact Jewish.  Many Jews do not see Israel as representing their interests.  O’Brien claims to have thought at great length about the issue, but he has excluded key facts from his radar.

 How can we explain O’Brien’s contradictions?

I have become intrigued with British behaviour on the subject of antisemitism, seeking to understand how people one might otherwise call progressive, adopt hawkish pro-Israel positions, as if they have some sort of cognitive dissonance about public morality.  I discussed the topic in an article entitled: Britain’s acquiescence with the weaponisation of antisemitism; can we really be so daft?

So what is going on with O’Brien?  In his book he writes about his father, also a journalist, his childhood and Catholic education, coming over as someone with a strong sense of morality.  This may explain the title of his book.   But why does this man with profoundly moral impulses end up contradicting himself, using shaky reasoning and behaving so unpleasantly?  And why do so many other public figures show themselves to be Progressive except on Palestine?  There are various possible explanations, but the most plausible one I can find is that they are willing to compromise their morality to survive or progress in their job, and/or to ensure they are not the target of attacks by powerful lobbies and the press.

I am glad that O’Brien is concerned about morality.  We need more of it if we are to deal with the many challenges and mighty vested interests of today, but public figures like O’Brien need to set a decent example.  If they will not put their best foot forward, we should call them out, according to the principles they claim to hold dear.

Labour, Antisemitism and the news

A new report from the Media Reform Coalition, based on research by Dr Justin Schlosberg from Birkbeck’s Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, has found significant inaccuracies or misleading coverage in news surrounding antisemitism in the Labour party. Two thirds of the TV news segments analysed contained reporting errors or substantive distortion.

In an in-depth case study of 260 articles and news segments from the UK’s largest news providers (including the BBC, Guardian, Sky News, the Daily Telegraph, The Times and the Huffington Post), the research found 29 examples of false statements or claims, six of them on BBC TV news programmes. A further 66 clear-cut instances of misleading or distorted coverage were identified, including omission of essential facts or right of reply, and contentious claims repeated by journalists without verification or qualification. Continue reading “Labour, Antisemitism and the news”

The Guardian hack: lies and distortions

Leon Rosselson explores how The Guardian allows only one narrative of the Holocaust and condemns survivors who tell another tale as antisemitic: ‘the wrong sort of survivors’.

Reprinted from Medium by permission of the author

Though we resist oppression, still our dream is peace
Theirs is the mask of hatred, ours the human face
Then let not our suffering turn our souls to ice
So that we do to strangers what was done to us.

It is not with conquering armies I belong
Their bloody retribution I disown
Their songs of triumph I will never sing
For the god they worship turns them into stone.

If any teach their children how to hate and hurt
Though they are Jews they do not live inside my heart.

(From ‘The Song of Martin Fontasch’)

Jonathan Freedland’s article in the Guardian of Saturday 28 July (Jewish anger is about Labour’s failure to listen with empathy) is a good example of the devious arguments and outright lies used to defend the IHRA definition of antisemitism and the accusations being levelled against Corbyn and the Labour Party. Continue reading “The Guardian hack: lies and distortions”

Venturing into the lion’s den: the case against IPSO

Jonathan Coulter describes the weaponisation process, the targeting of the Labour Party and his own experience in challenging media distortions.   He seeks to explain why this is happening, and goes on to suggest how pro-Palestinian rights activists can push back, in alliance with other groups.

Britain’s acquiescence with the weaponisation of antisemitism; can we really be so daft?

I recently launched a Judicial Review of the press regulator IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) for failing to heed a group complaint about two Murdoch newspapers which had grossly misreporIPSO logoted a House of Lords meeting to launch the campaign for Britain to apologise for the impact on the native Palestinian people of the Balfour Declaration of 1917.   Between them, the newspapers had smeared a whole meeting of Palestine sympathisers as ‘antisemitic’ and, by implication anybody who spoke at or attended similar meetings.

In this endeavour I worked closely with the Hacked Off Campaign.  Hacked Off has no position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but supported me as it considers IPSO to be a ‘sham regulator’ that the press barons established to protect their own interests, and not those of the public, and because it felt that my specific complaints had merit and were important. Continue reading “Venturing into the lion’s den: the case against IPSO”

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?”

Labour right’s failed attempt to smear leading Jewish activist

The suspension from the Labour Party of Glyn Secker, secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour, and his hurried reinstatement, goes to the heart of attempts by Labour’s right-wing bureaucracy to drive out supporters of the left led by Jeremy Corbyn. It demonstrates how they used smears, from overtly anti-Corbyn, anti-Palestinian sources, to try and make false antisemitism allegations stick.

This is an edited and updated extract from an OpenDemocracy article by Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, media officer of JVL

Glyn Secker captained the Jewish Boat to Gaza in 2010. He is a long-standing executive member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. He is also a Unite trade union delegate to Dulwich and West Norwood (DaWN) Constituency Labour Party general committee and political officer for Herne Hill branch. He is one of those members of the Momentum grassroots movement backing Jeremy Corbyn who only recently managed to break the stranglehold of the Blairite “Progress” faction which had dominated DAWN for years. Continue reading “Labour right’s failed attempt to smear leading Jewish activist”

Help fund challenge to IPSO over refusal to condemn false accusations of antisemitism

Jonathan Coulter's judicial review application
Jonathan Coulter’s judicial review application

The ‘Independent’ Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has refused to hold The Times and Sunday Times) to account. Both grossly misreported a public meeting to launch the Balfour Apology Campaign. They misrepresented the event as a sort of antisemitic ‘hate-fest’; this set the tone for other media reports. Thirty attendees complained to IPSO but IPSO failed to investigate properly.

Jonathan Coulter is seeking Judicial Review on three grounds:

  • the misreporting of the conduct of Baroness Tonge
  • IPSO made Insufficient inquiry
  • IPSO’s decision making was irrational

The Hacked Off campaign is supporting this challenge.

Judicial review is expensive

Support Jonathan’s crowdsourcing appeal

Continue reading “Help fund challenge to IPSO over refusal to condemn false accusations of antisemitism”

Ken Loach on Palestine: “don’t be distracted, just tell the truth”

Film maker Frank Barat interviews Ken Loach about recent allegations in The Guardian and New York Times which claim he gave “spurious legitimacy” to Holocaust denial and the refusal of these same newspapers to give him any opportunity to provide an adequate response

First published in Roar and reproduced by permission of the author

Continue reading “Ken Loach on Palestine: “don’t be distracted, just tell the truth””

Labour Conference or Nuremberg Rally? Assessing the evidence

Jamie Stern-Weiner

This article was first published on Jamie Stern-Weiner’s blog and is reprinted by permission of the author

It was difficult to ascertain on the basis of media reports whether Brighton played host this month to a Labour Party conference or a Nuremberg rally. This article investigates claims of antisemitism at the Labour conference and finds them to be without factual basis.

Labour v Nuremberg. Spot the difference: is it really so difficult?

The 2017 Labour Party conference was a success for supporters of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn snubbed a reception held by Labour Friends of Israel, a group which lobbies for close UK-Israel relations, and put enjoyably little effort into his excuse. According to the Telegraph, this ‘was the first time in over two decades that a Labour leader has not attended the annual event’.[1]

Delegates cheered as Corbyn’s keynote speech pledged ‘real support to end the oppression of the Palestinian people, the 50-year occupation and illegal settlement expansion and move to a genuine two-state solution of the Israel-Palestine conflict’.

Most significantly, the leader’s office defeated a back-door attempt to neuter the party’s support for Palestinian rights: Continue reading “Labour Conference or Nuremberg Rally? Assessing the evidence”