Manufacturing consent on ‘antisemitism’

By Tony Greenstein.

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee has just published a Report, Anti-Semitism in the UK.  The first and most immediate question is why, when other forms of racist attacks are at an all-time high, the Committee should spend its time examining the least widespread or violent form of racism?  By their own admission, anti-Semitic hate crimes, however defined, total just 1.4% of all such crimes, yet anti-Semitism has its own Parliamentary Report.

In its section ‘Key Facts’ the Committee informs us that there has been a rise of 11% in anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2016 compared with 2015.  Shocking you may think.  The rise is from 500 to 557.  But 24% of the total, 133 incidents in all, were on social media.  Of the increase in anti-Semitic incidents, fully 44 of the 57 were on social media.[1]  Obviously it is not very pleasant to receive anti-Semitic tweets such as those above (which were sent by Zionists!) but it is clearly different from acts of violence.

If one looks closer at the Community Security Trust’s Report quoted from then it turns out that there were just 41 violent incidents.  If one delves a little deeper it turns out that there was actually a 13 per cent fall in violent incidents for the first half of 2015 and none of these were classified by the CST as ‘Extreme Violence’, i.e. they involved potential grievous bodily harm or threat to life.  This is good not bad news.  Why would the Select Committee wish to exaggerate the incidence of anti-Semitism?

Most of the anti-Semitic incidents involved ‘verbal abuse’ and it is difficult to know how many of these were genuinely anti-Semitic and how many were of the kind ‘why do you bomb children in Gaza’.  G given that the Board of Deputies of British Jews does its best to associate Jews with Israel’s war crimes, is it any wonder that some people take them at their word?

Contrast this with anti-Muslim hate crimes.  According to a report from the Muslim Hate Monitoring Group Tell MAMA, British Muslims are experiencing an “explosion” in anti-Islamic.

The annual survey by Tell MAMA found a 326 per cent rise in incidents last year, while the Muslim Council of Britain group of mosques said it had compiled a dossier of 100 hate crimes over the weekend alone.

Unlike anti-Semitism, ‘many attacks are happening in the real world – at schools and colleges, in restaurants and on public transport. The number of offline incidents rose 326 per cent in 2015 from 146 to 437’  The effect has been that many Muslim women – especially those wearing Islamic clothing –were being prevented from conducting normal “day to day activities”.[2]

Yet the Committee, which was chaired by Keith Vaz, has shown no interest in anti-Muslim racism.  Why might that be?

Somewhat confusingly for a Report that is supposed to be about anti-Semitism, another of its Key Facts tells us that ‘Research published in 2015 by City University found that 90% of British Jewish people support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and 93% say that it forms some part of their identity as Jewish people, but only 59% consider themselves to be Zionists.’  [3]  In reality this Report is not about anti-Semitism but the use of anti-Semitism as a weapon against anti-Zionists.

This Report dips in and out of what it is quoting without any attempt to put anything in perspective.  It probably is true that 90% of British Jews support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, but how many of them appreciate that a Jewish settler colonial state is an inherently racist state?   What is interesting is that although the Report admits that only 59% of British Jews consider themselves Zionists, 31% don’t.   Even more interesting, the Report states that ‘in 2010, 72% of the respondents classified themselves as Zionists compared to 59% in the present study.’  As to why that is, the Report offers two different explanations:

  1. Jews believe that criticism of Israel is incompatible with being a Zionist and
  2. the frequent use of the term ‘Zionist’ in general discourse as a pejorative or even abusive label discourages some individuals from describing themselves as a Zionist.

If the latter is correct, then this is clearly a good thing as anti-Zionist criticism of the State of Israel is having some effect and is deterring Jewish people from identifying with a racist ideology.  However the Committee draws the opposite conclusion because it considers Zionism a good thing.  Therein lies the problem.

Amongst other ‘key facts’ was the report of a survey of Labour Party members who joined after the 2015 General Election, 55% of whom agreed that antisemitism is “not a serious problem at all, and is being hyped up to undermine Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, or to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel”.[4]  Clearly, despite the bombardment of the mass media about fake anti-Semitism, most party members are dismissive of this fable.  When Owen Smith debated Jeremy Corbyn in Cardiff and claimed that he hadn’t taken ‘anti-Semitism’ seriously, he was booed.  In reality very few Labour Party members sincerely believe in this hype.

A Report whose primary motivation is to attack Corbyn and the Labour Left

It is curious that a Report on anti-Semitism should start off with a section ‘Anti-Semitism in the Political Parties’ before homing in on just one party, Labour.  Labour is the target throughout this ill-conceived and politically tendentious Report.  It immediately begins with the suspension of Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone and others (who it estimates range from 18-40) for’ anti-Semitism’.  Since no one has been tried or found guilty of ‘anti-Semitism’ one can only assume that the presumption of innocence has been abandoned by lawyer Chuku Ummuna and his Tory friends.  Livingstone expressed an opinion that Hitler supported Zionism.  He may be right or wrong, it may even give offence to those who find the truth unpalatable, but anti-Semitic it is not.  Naz Shah made a joke about how much nicer it would be if Israel was located within the borders of the USA as that would mean less death and destruction all round.  She borrowed a map that originated with the Jewish Virtual Library, hardly the greatest act of anti-Semitism the world has known!

After noting that the vast majority of anti-Semitic attacks come from the far-Right, the Report then speaks about ‘the fact that incidents of antisemitism—particularly online—have made their way into a major political party’ despite not having established any facts to support this.  It is this sleight of hand, asserting that which it is supposed to be proving, which runs throughout this Report.

The Report tried to come up with a definition of anti-Semitism but it did this in a very curious way by aiming to maintain ‘an appropriate balance between condemning antisemitism vehemently, in all its forms, and maintaining freedom of speech—particularly in relation to legitimate criticism of the Government of Israel.’  It is curious in two ways – firstly what has criticism of Israel got to do with a definition of anti-Semitism?  The underlying assumption is that criticism of the State of Israel is somehow anti-Semitic.  Because Israeli racism  is based on its self-definition as a Jewish state, i.e. a state where Jews have privileges, it is assumed that criticism of its racism is therefore anti-Semitic.  This is the ‘logic’ that the Report employes throughout.  Anti-Semitism is hatred of or discrimination against Jews as individuals or violence against them.  A state is not an individual or a victim of racism.  Secondly what is ‘legitimate’ criticism of Israel and in whose eyes?

The Report then dabbles with the MacPherson definition of a ‘racial incident’ suggesting that the definition of a racist incident should be “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”.  Again this is fundamentally dishonest because they ignore the context, which was the refusal of the Police to record as racial incidents, incidents perceived as racial by the victims.  MacPherson did not imply, unlike the Committee, that a perception of racism is therefore proof of guilt.

The Report quotes a government statement that ‘it is for the victim to determine whether a crime against them was motivated by a particular characteristic (the Macpherson definition)’.  An absurd statement which is not the MacPherson definition, since that applied to Police perceptions not the judicial process of inquiry.  A victim’s testimony may be good evidence but that is all it is.  It is not determinative.

The purpose of the Committee’s Report is a transparent as it is shallow.  It quotes the ‘International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism which in relation to criticism of Israel:

‘Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.’

The Committee demonstrates its ignoranxw since Israel is not a nation, nor does it claim to be so.  It is a state of the Jewish people, regardless of whether they live in or outside Israel.  Nor is Israel a democratic state since it rules over 4.5 million people who have neither civil nor political rights.  It is an ethnocracy, in which settlers rule over a people who are considered guests at best.[5]

Apparently ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.’ Is anti-Semitic.  Leaving aside the small fact that Zionists, including Israeli government politicians repeatedly use the Nazi period and the Holocaust to justify their actions, does this principle hold good for other states?  Were the demonstrators in France in May 68 anti-Semitic for chanting ‘CRS-SS’ at the riot police?

‘Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.’ is also apparently anti-Semitic.  I have great sympathy with this but the Committee’s attention should be directed primarily at Zionists who go to great lengths to associate British Jews with Israel’s war crimes!  Indeed the Report notes that ‘Sir Mick Davis, Chairman of the JLC, told us that criticising Zionism is the same as antisemitism’  because, in the words of the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis ‘Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith”.  The conclusion cannot be other than that British Jews are collectively responsible for Israel’s crimes.  What a tangled web the Committee weaves.

The most blatant attempt to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism which the Committee accepts:  ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.’

Firstly there is no Jewish people.  There are French, British, Argentinian and other Jews, who are members of their respective nations.  Only anti-Semites claim that regardless of where they live, Jews form one seamless nation.  It was a proposition that Hitler adhered to.  Apparently it also finds favour with Chuka Ummuna’s Committee too.

As for the Committee’s claim that the existence of the Israeli State is a racist endeavour, that is a matter of opinion or fact.  It has nothing to do with racism.

Without even bothering to examine the question, the Report says that Israel is ‘generally regarded as a liberal democracy’.  The question of what constitutes a liberal democracy is an interesting one but Israel is anything but a democracy by any normal definition.

  1. Although Israeli Arabs have the vote their representatives are vilified and demonised and Haneen Zoabi of the nationalist Balad Party has had to be protected by security guards from other Knesset members.  Arab parties also have no influence and have never been part of an Israeli government.
  2. In a Jewish state policies and laws are draw up with the intention of benefiting one sector only – the Jewish community.  In every area of public life there is entrenched state sponsored discrimination –  be it education funding, local authority grants, land access or police coercion and repression.  The Centre for the Rights of the Arab Minority Adalah has compiled a list of 50 discriminatory laws.[6]
  3.  Israel is in a permanent state of emergency, even though it faces no military threat.  It is a state where torture is legally allowed, where administrative detention is used to imprison (mainly Palestinian) dissidents for repeated bouts of 6 months.
  4. Israel is a state where all publications have to submit to the military censor whose remit has extended to cover government archives.  The Military Censors can prevent the unsealing of archives and even worse, prevent physical access to archives which were once available.  This is because of digitalisation.[7]
  5. Four and a half million Palestinians are subject to permanent military rule without any political or civil rights.

To call Israel a ‘liberal democracy’ is to render the term meaningless.  By this definition Apartheid South Africa could also have been considered democratic.

The Use of the Term Zionist

Despite allegedly being a Report on Anti-Semitism this is really about Zionism which, it concedes is ‘avalid topic for academic and political debate’.  Of course anti-Semites substitute the term ‘Zionist’ for ‘Jew’’ but that is precisely why it is incumbent upon us to make a clear distinction between Zionism and being Jewish.  Yet both Sir Mick Davies and the Chief Rabbi gave evidence to the Committee that Zionism and Judaism are one and the same.  It is a testimony to the Committee that it never saw the contradiction.

Where the Committee’s Report becomes a threat to freedom of speech and basic civil liberties is in its recommendation (Para. 32) that:

‘For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic.’ Anti-Zionism it is proposed should be made, in certain circumstances into a hate crime.  This is the criminalisation of speech.  ‘Zionist’ or its abbreviation is a political not an ethnic or racial category.  That although 59% of Jews consider themselves Zionists, 31% do not.  There are millions of non-Jews who are also Zionists, especially fundamentalist Christians.  Is it anti-Semitic to accuse them of being Zionists?!

The Committee quotes the Institute for Jewish Policy Research that between 4% and 5% of British adults could be termed ‘clearly anti-Semitic’.  In other words 95-96% are not anti-Semitic.  Would that the same could be said of Islamaphobia.  Aabsurdly the Committee concludes that ‘it is alarming that recent surveys show that as many as one in 20 adults in the UK could be characterised as “clearly antisemitic”.’  One wonders what the Committee will say when an opinion poll gets around to measuring anti-Muslim racism!

Contrast this with Israel where no less than 48% of Israeli Jews, a plurality, want to physically expel Arabs from Israel and 79% believe Jews are entitled to preferential treatment in Israel.  It is clear that British  people are remarkably free of anti-Semitic sentiments.[8]

Politically tendentious

When it comes to the affair of Oxford University Labour Club the Committee makes its intentions clear.  It complains that the Baroness Royall Report wasn’t published by Labour’s National Executive Committee in full.  That might be because it contained no evidence of anti-Semitism at the Labour Club.  When Royall first reported, she wrote on the web site of the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement that:

 ‘I know that you will share my disappointment and frustration that the main headline coming out of my inquiry is that there is no institutional Antisemitism in Oxford University Labour Club.’ 

What kind of political clown is disappointed that she couldn’t find any institutional anti-Semitism?  In fact Royall found no individual anti-Semitism either.  By her own admission she was ‘honoured but daunted when asked by the NEC to undertake this inquiry.’ [9]  It was clearly all too much for her.  What she found was a remarkably thin gruel.  She reported that she was aware of ‘one case of serious false allegations of antisemitism which was reported to the police.’   

All she had to say was that ‘I received a number of complaints of incidents of alleged antisemitic behaviour by individual members of OULC. I have also received evidence that members of the Club, including past office holders of  the Club, have not witnessed antisemitic behaviour by other members. …It is clear to me from the weight of witnessed allegations received that there have been some incidents of antisemitic behaviour … However, it is not clear to me to what extent this behaviour constituted intentional or deliberate acts of antisemitism. This is particularly true of historic hearsay evidence.’  We get no inkling as to what this behaviour consists of.  In the end she sees ‘no value in pursuing disciplinary cases against students who may be better advised as to their conduct’ which suggests that whatever she was told was clearly not serious.  It is little wonder that the Report was not published.

Even the Parliamentary Report observes that these allegations arose when the non-Jewish Zionist Chair of Oxford University Labour Club, Alex Chalmers, a former intern for the Zionist propaganda organisation BICOM, objected to the Club supporting Oxford University’s Israel Apartheid Week.  The Committee fails to explain what this has to do with anti-Semitism.

Malia Bouattia – President of the National Union of Students

In attacking the President of NUS, Malia Bouattia, a refugee from real oppression in Algeria, for ‘anti-Semitism’ the Committee descended into the gutter.  It relied on McCarthyite guilt by association and did not have the integrity or honesty to invite her to give evidence.  Instead it quoted the Union of Jewish Students, for whom Israel advocacy is an integral part of its constitutional requirements, that the statementthe University of Birmingham is “something of a Zionist outpost” is anti-Semitic.  Why this is anti-Semitic is never explained.  Presumably the UJS and the Committee, in conjunction with the BNP and other fascist organisations, agree that to be Zionist is to be Jewish.  There is no other logic.   It is no more racist than describing the University of Sussex as a radical outpost.

On the basis of the above the Committee concludes that ‘The current President of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, does not appear to take sufficiently seriously the issue of antisemitism on campus’  The Jewish students it refers to are representatives or supporters of the pro-Israel UJS.  Anti-Zionist Jewish students are, of course, invisible to the Committee as are anti-Zionist Jews generally.

Ill Intent

In the section entitled ‘Political Discourse and Leadership’ the Report says:

‘A number of hard-left organisations, such as Unite Against Fascism, Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have clearly taken a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli Government stance. These organisations hold or participate in marches, some of which have been attended by leading politicians such as Mr Corbyn.’  This is called killing two birds with one stone!  How anyone can describe Palestine Solidarity Campaign as ‘hard left’ is beyond comprehension.  The attendance of Jeremy Corbyn though is clearly an added bonus for the Chuku Ummunas of this world.

The Committee also regurgitates the false allegations of Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush that on some demonstrations ‘there were “huge marches” in London at which people held placards that read “Hitler was right.” (para 99).  This is an outright lie.  Not an iota of proof has been provided to substantiate this assertion.  For a report heavy on pictoral descriptions one might expect a photograph to back this up.  It is an evidence free assertion that typifies the whole report.

The Report is critical, in a nit picky way, of the Chakrabarti Report quoting the Board’s observation that it does not deal with ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘anti-Zionism’ on the left.  Maybe that’s because there is none!  The Report does however mention (paras. 103/104) the false allegations of anti-Semitism at the Chakrabarti Press Conference by Ruth Smeeth MP, who Wikileaks outed as a protected agent for the US Embassy.[10]  What was the anti-Semitic statement that caused this fake victim to walk out?  ‘“Ruth Smeeth is working hand-in-hand with the right-wing media to attack Jeremy”.   I defy anyone to show how this is anti-Semitic since Marc Wadsworth, the Black activist who said it, didn’t even know she was Jewish.

The Committee concludes that the Chakrabarti Report ‘is ultimately compromised by its failure to deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations or to provide a definition of antisemitism.  Given that the definition of anti-Semitism has eluded far wiser people than Chakrabarti, perhaps because the very concept of anti-Semitism is now so politically loaded, the failure to provide an all-encompassing definition is neither here nor there.  The Committee after all also failed to provide one.  The best it could do was to say that it ‘broadly accept(s) the IHRA definition’ with 2 caveats regarding criticism of the Israeli government.

Chakrabarti’s problem was that there is next to no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.  There is certainly criticism of Zionism and the Israeli state, but despite much muddying of the waters, most people still refuse to accept that criticism of the West’s armed watchdog in the Middle East is anti-Semitic.

What the Committee does do is to try and discredit Shami Chakrabarti through hint and innuendo.  Her acceptance of a peerage somehow discredits her Report.  This is an institution where the giving of money to a party in exchange for a peerage doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.

It is a measure of the political desperation of the Report that it picks up on the Jackie Walker debate on which I have previously reported.[11]  It did this without asking her to give evidence.  Its comments are inaccurate and frankly malicious.  It states that:

Jackie Walker, who was temporarily suspended from Labour earlier in the year for stating that Jewish people were the “chief financiers” of the slave trade, reportedly criticised Holocaust Memorial Day and said that she had not heard a definition of antisemitism that she could “work with”.’  Since Jackie did not say that ‘Jewish People’ were the chief financiers of the slave trade this is nothing short of malicious.  Secondly, how is saying that one hasn’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that one can work with, anti-Semitic?

It is therefore not surprising that, after much malicious and tendentious commentary, under the title ‘Other Political Activity’ the Committee concludes that ‘there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party.’  This throws into stark relief the Report’s vacuity.  It demonstrates that this is above all a Report of the Labour and Tory Right.

The Report depends almost exclusively  on evidence from  pro-Israel, anti-Corbyn sources.  This alone demonstrates that this Report is a one-sided propaganda exercise.

But the most remarkable omission of all is the fact that the one Jewish community which is visible in its distinctive appearance and which does suffer anti-Semitic attacks, the ultra-Orthodox haredi community of Stamford Hill, London isn’t even mentioned!  As the President of the Stamford Hill Shomrim (Guards) Rabbi Herschel Gluck states:

‘While this report focuses primarily on the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism…. it’s important to note that the parliamentary committee did not request any evidence from the most visible section of the Jewish community,  the Charedi Community, where the majority of the attacks are in person rather than online… and are usually clearly and unequivocally anti-Semitic.  I repeat my call to the Home Office to understand the real life anti-Semitism that members of the Charedi Jewish Community experience…’

It is not surprising that the only Jewish community to experience anti-Semitism was ignored, because this Report was not about anti-Semitism but about redefining anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism.  Truly this Report is risible.

[1]           CST Antisemitic Incidents Report January – June 2016

[2]           UK entering ‘unchartered territory’ of Islamophobiaafter Brexit vote

[3]           The Attitudes of British Jews Towards Israel,

[4]           Professor Tim Bale, Dr Monica Poletti and Professor Paul Webb, Submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry on behalf of the ESRC Party Members Project, 3 June 2016.

[5]           Twice, in 2013 in Uzzi Ornan v the State of Israel and again in 1972 in Tamarin v State of Israel the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that there was no such thing as an Israeli nationality.  In Tamarin Justice Agranat ruled that ‘the desire to create an Israeli nation separate from the Jewish nation is not a legitimate aspiration.’  It would ‘negate the foundation on which the State of Israel was established.’


[7]           Israel’s state archivist opens up about censorship, digitization

[8]           Israel’s Religiously Divided Society

[9]           Baroness Jan Royall, Allegations of anti-Semitism, Oxford University Labour Club,

[10]             In a cable the US Embassy placed ‘strictly protect’ after Smeeth’s name.

[11]          See Caving in to the witch-hunt and More than just cowardice

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