Israeli impunity is the real outrage

It has become increasingly clear this week that the Tory and Labour rightwing, Guido Fawkes-enabled, witch-hunt of Labour Cllrs and MPs, is targeting Muslims. This is based on two assumptions – one of them racist, the other classist: the witch-hunters reason that as Muslims their sympathy must be with the largely Muslim Palestinians, and it is no more than an expression of tribalism, of blind loyalty to the Muslim ummah. They also reason that the fact many hail from northern towns and were attracted to the Labour party, they will lack a cosmopolitan finesse and circumspection, and will be poorly educated; in short, they will be ignorant and irrational. They, therefore, conclude that during Israel’s devastating war on Gaza in summer 2014, Labour Muslim MPs and Cllrs will have felt sympathy for the Palestinians being brutally slaughtered in their hundreds, and having no control of their emotions, will have uniquely expressed an outrage that crossed a line.

The majority of the Facebook posts and tweets Guido Fawkes has unearthed in the course of trawling social media accounts, were shared in July and August 2014.

July 8 – August 26 were seven distressing weeks of war on a besieged, overcrowded Gaza strip, and only the ideologically-blinkered were left unmoved at the sight of the preventable deaths of hundreds of children. For the rest of us, the total impunity Israel enjoyed was intolerable: it was a period of intense emotions. Many wanted to do something to halt the massacre: tens of thousands mobilised to march on the streets of our cities, and hundreds organised acts of civil disobedience and direct action outside government buildings.

In a protest that was not covered by the national press, on August 5, ‘Jews in Britain against Genocide’ demonstrated outside the offices of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in London. They stated: ‘We are Jews in Britain outraged at the Board of Deputies’ uncritical support for Israel as it commits genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. The Board of Deputies claims to speak in our name when it lobbies in defence of Israeli violence. It organises rallies with the Zionist Federation in support of Israel’s slaughter.’


Read further & see more pictures here.

But many more felt increasingly angry and helpless, and inevitably some took the Board of Deputies at their cynical word: that this unelected body represented the views of all British Jews.

All of those with a keen sense of injustice could see the hypocritical stance of our government that, given the right political foe, could galvanise in a matter of days or weeks to impose sanctions or debate commencing a bombing campaign.

Outrage, frustration and anger against impunity is difficult to contain, and some have crossed a line, sharing memes that in calmer times appear offensive, even racist. A lot has already been written about Naz Shah (please see ‘In Defence of Naz Shah MP‘). Let’s look instead at what this allegedly irrational, northern, Muslim woman MP said to parliament in January 2016, when more mundane war crimes that are a daily reality for Palestinians, were largely going unreported. It was during a debate on ‘Child Prisoners and Detainees: Occupied Palestinian Territories’:

Naz Shah (Bradford West) (Lab)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) on securing this very important debate, and it is a great honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope.

I will keep my speech very brief. The hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) referred to a doll. I would argue that people do not need dolls to promote hate and violence. What we have before us in Israel and Palestine is children between the ages of nine and 12 experiencing discrimination. I have children of my own who are aged eight and 11, but I cannot begin to imagine the trauma and the stamp on Palestinian children’s brains and hearts of hatred towards the Israeli military as they grow up and face discrimination, as well as the way they are treated in custody. So I would argue that we do not need props.

Only recently, Shin Bet told the Israeli Government that Abbas was not encouraging terror and was actually promoting peace. So, I disagree with my hon. Friends when they say that the Palestinians are promoting this kind of propaganda.

Guto Bebb

Will the hon. Member give way

Naz Shah

No, I will not, because I will not speak for long.

As a former chair of a mental health charity and having my own children, I really struggle to understand why the Israeli Government and the world are silent on dealing with the trauma that these Palestinian children are growing up with. Surely we know that hate breeds hate; laws aside, that is just common sense. There are children who are blindfolded and tortured. We have got evidence before us. How can my hon. Friends ignore that? How can anyone even present a counter-argument to it? We are talking about the basic humanitarian right of children, which we in this House have signed up to, and we must support these children with conviction. There should be no excuse for taking children aged nine away from their homes, detaining them and sending them to prison. That is absolutely unacceptable.

Naz Shah’s intervention asks that common sense prevail and international laws and human rights conventions we have ratified be respected – it is an articulate plea that we stop ignoring what is an outrage to our shared values. She was joined in her condemnation of Israel by a number of non-Muslim colleagues. Continue reading “Israeli impunity is the real outrage”

Guardian letters: A Palestinian view on the antisemitism row

Read the letter in full here.

Professor Kamel Hawwash
2 May 2016

Excerpt: Jonathan Freedland (My plea to the left, 30 April) asks us to imagine if a country far away was created for black people and asks if the left would treat it as it does Israel. As a Palestinian I want to tell him that if, instead of a country for Jews, a country for black people or any other group had been created in our homeland without our consent, we would have objected and resisted as Palestinians with the same vigour.

If it continued to defy international law and occupy, colonise and murder and make our lives so miserable that we would leave, we would call for its boycott as we do in the case of the real occupier, Israel. And if that occupation had continued for as long as Israel’s has, we would have called supporters of human rights to help us end this occupation, treat Palestinian citizens of that state equally and allow Palestinian refugees to return. As it happens, those are the legitimate demands of the BDS movement called by Palestinian civil society organisations in 2005.

Further, had Israel been created in, say, Uganda and not in Palestine, does Freedland or any other supporter of Israel think that Palestinians would have created Fatah or Hamas and sent them to Uganda to attack the Jewish citizens of this entity in Uganda?

Continue reading

Jewish Chronicle tries to scupper inquiry before it has begun

Update: Professor Feldman responds: see below

Today, the JC has tried to discredit Professor David Feldman who is leading the Labour inquiry into antisemitism as ‘a named supporter of a group which has dismissed allegations of Jew-hatred in the party as “baseless and disingenuous”.’

Professor Feldman is a signatory to Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), which the Jewish Chronicle describes contemptuously as ‘a group of Jewish academics who are critical of British Jewish communal institutions.’

On Sunday, IJV released a statement which expressed concern “at the proliferation in recent weeks of sweeping allegations of pervasive antisemitism within the Labour Party.”

It added: “Some of these allegations against individuals are, in our view, baseless and disingenuous; in other cases, ill-chosen language has been employed.” Read the full statement here.

JC said it had approached Professor Feldman for a comment.

The article goes on: ‘In a “sub report” submitted to last year’s All Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Antisemitism, Prof Feldman dismissed most regularly used definitions of antisemitism. He wrote: “Definitions of antisemitism based on double standards, the EUMC working definition, perceptions and outcomes have not been adopted in this sub-report.”

The ‘EUMC working definition’ has been widely discredited and has no validity in the UK. As Ben White has written in ‘Shifty antisemitism wars,’

In 2005, a draft, working definition of antisemitism was circulated by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). To the dismay of its critics, the document confused genuine antisemitism with criticism of Israel, and was repeatedly, and erroneously, promoted by Israel advocacy groups as the EU definition of antisemitism.

By 2013, the EUMC’s successor body, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), had abandoned the politicised definition as unfit for purpose. Just this week, in response to a motion passed at NUS conference, the FRA explicitly denied having ever adopted the definition. Yet on March 30, Eric Pickles, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues and chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, revived the discredited definition by publishing it on the government’s website.

Feldman told the Jewish Chronicle: ‘“It is my view that all allegations of antisemitism require investigation. My starting point is that the rules and norms applied to identify racism for other minorities in British society should be applied consistently, and that means to Jews.

“My position is to work from an initial assumption that people are speaking and writing in good faith and are engaged in an honest disagreement. Allegations of disingenuousness, which come from many sides of this debate, can rarely be proven.

“The key points of the IJV declaration support human rights, the rights of Israelis and Palestinians to lead secure lives, and international law as a basis for peace and stability. The declaration also states its opposition to all forms of racism and that the battle against antisemitism is vital. It is hard to see what is controversial about these points.

Prof Feldman said he hoped the inquiry would help to ease the turmoil in the party over the issue.’

“There is a great deal of heat at present in statements from all sides,” he said. “There is an urgent need for dispassionate consideration and constructive proposals. I hope that this is what the Labour Party’s independent inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism will help to provide.”

Independent Jewish Voices statement

May 1, 2016 by IJV

We are concerned at the proliferation in recent weeks of sweeping allegations of pervasive antisemitism within the Labour Party. Some of these allegations against individuals are, in our view, baseless and disingenuous; in other cases, ill-chosen language has been employed; elsewhere, there have been statements which, deliberately or otherwise, have clearly crossed the line. We welcome the fact that the Labour Party has demonstrated its commitment to rooting out antisemitism with the seriousness of its response, including the setting up of an independent inquiry.

We are equally concerned, however, by the way in which such accusations are deployed politically – whether by the press, the Conservative Party, opponents of Corbyn’s leadership within Labour, or by those seeking to counter criticism of the actions of the Israeli government. The current climate is quickly coming to resemble a witch-hunt, in which statements and associations, some going back years, are being put under the microscope.

We appreciate the concern for anti-Jewish prejudice – a concern which we share. We are committed to our principles of opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism, anti-Arab racism or Islamophobia, in any circumstance. We are therefore dismayed by a lack of parallel attention to other forms of racial and religious bigotry, particularly given the current climate of growing Islamophobia across Europe. In the same week that the government refused to admit 3000 unaccompanied minor refugees to Britain, we cannot help but note the highly disproportionate attention paid in the media to errors of speech rather than errors of deed.

We also reiterate our view that the battle against antisemitism is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as antisemitic. Allegations of antisemitism foster an atmosphere increasingly hostile to  those fighting for the rights of Palestinians at a time of growing opposition to Israel’s racist and discriminatory policies towards its Arab citizens and its ongoing occupation in violation of international law. What is clear to those of us who have been engaged in the movement for Palestinian rights, and who believe in the right to dissent of Jews in relation to Israel, is that the more public opinion turns against Israel’s indefensible actions, the more our opponents will resort to name calling in an attempt to discredit us. As Jewish critics of Israel’s policies, we urge people of conscience not to succumb to this campaign of intimidation and to continue the struggle for equal rights and freedom for all people.

A response to Freedland’s defence of ethnic cleansing


30 April, Jamie Stern-Weiner
You can read this excellent article in full here

Excerpt: ‘… Let’s imagine that the entire world agreed on how to bring this brutal military occupation to a peaceful close, but that, in defiance of this overwhelming international consensus, the occupying power brazenly refused to withdraw to its legal borders. Let’s imagine that, when a number of individuals finally got together and tried to do something to bring the nightmare to an end, Jonathan Freedland came along and issued to them a heartfelt ‘plea’guys, take it down a notch.

The upshot of Freedland’s wretched article [‘My plea to the left: treat Jews the same way you’d treat any other minority‘] here is this: for a half-century nothing has been done to put a stop to the brutal, immoral and illegal persecution of the Palestinians, and it’s time to do less.

P.S. Naz Shah MP was vilified for posting an image suggesting, tongue-in-cheek, that Israel be relocated to the United States.  Here is what Jonathan Freedland had to say about an ethnic cleansing that actually happened, and whose surviving victims are still struggling for a mite of justice: ‘I have long believed that Israel should be strong enough to admit the reality of 1948 [i.e. the mass expulsion of Palestinian civilians]—and to defend it all the same’. The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians was ‘a horribly high moral price’ to pay for the establishment of a Jewish state—but it was also ‘a moral necessity’’

LABOUR JEWS ASSERT: The Labour Party does not have a ‘problem with Jews’

We are witnessing a wave of orchestrated hysteria over claims that the Labour Party is rife with antisemitism and has a ‘problem with Jews.’ This is not true. Yes there is indeed a problem. The problem is that some people – Jewish and otherwise, inside and outside the party – use allegations of anti-Semitism as a stick to beat the Corbyn leadership, regardless of the damage caused.

Jeremy Corbyn and others have done their best to respond, rightly asserting their impeccable anti-racist credentials, treating specific allegations of antisemitism seriously, investigating them and taking appropriate measures. This is no more and no less than should happen with allegations of racism or discrimination of any kind.

But this has not satisfied those sections of the pro-Israel lobby orchestrating the attacks. They have targeted Malia Bouattia, the first Muslim woman to be elected president of the National Union of Students, on the thinnest of pretexts and despite her consistently principled stance. Another victim has been Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) founder member and lifelong anti-racist Tony Greenstein, suspended from the Labour Party without even being informed of the charges against him. Now Naz Shah has been suspended on the basis of a few inappropriate social media posts, which she evidently regrets – swiftly followed by Ken Livingstone for having the temerity to defend her. (Regarding Shah’s comments, read more here, and this background to Livingstone’s comments on Zionism & Hitler)

Those who are making allegations of anti-Semitism are talking a different language.  It is not anti-Semitism but anti-Zionism that is their concern.  It is opposition to Israeli racism not anti-Jewish racism that concerns them.

This campaign of vilification is intended to undermine Labour’s new leaders, because of their commendable record of supporting justice for Palestine. The wider aim is to crush support for the solidarity movement, which is working to achieve for Palestinians basic rights that are endorsed by international legal bodies.

As the Jewish Socialist Group has stated on its website: ‘A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism.’                         

As Labour and Trade Union activists, we condemn this witch hunt and assert the right to campaign in solidarity with all oppressed people, including Palestinians. We: Continue reading “LABOUR JEWS ASSERT: The Labour Party does not have a ‘problem with Jews’”

Electronic Intifada: an exposé of the UK Israel lobby

How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis
By Asa Winstanley

Please read article in full hereExcerpt:

‘…an investigation by The Electronic Intifada has found that some of the most prominent stories about anti-Semitism in the party are falsified.

The Electronic Intifada can reveal that a key player in Labour’s “anti-Semitism crisis” covered up his involvement in the Israel lobby.

Most Labour members so accused are in reality being attacked for expressing opinions in favor of Palestinian human rights and particularly for supporting the boycott of Israel.

Labour activists, many of them Jews, have told The Electronic Intifada that false accusations of anti-Semitismare being used as a weapon against Corbyn by the party’s right-wing…



An “anti-Semitism scandal” erupted in the Oxford University Labour Club – an association of student supporters of the party.
In a public Facebook posting Alex Chalmers, the co-chair of the club, resigned his position over what he claimed was anti-Semitic behavior in “a large proportion” of the student Labour club “and the student left in Oxford more generally.”

But as evidence he cited the club’s decision, in a majority vote, to endorse Oxford’s Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual awareness-raising exercise by student groups which support Palestinian rights.

This connection was clearly designed to smear Palestine solidarity activists as anti-Semites – a standard tactic of the Israel lobby.

In fact, the similarity was no coincidence.

The Electronic Intifada can reveal for the first time evidence that Chalmers himself has been part of the UK’s Israel lobby.

Chalmers has worked for BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.

Funded by the billionaire Poju Zabludowicz, BICOM is a leading pro-Israel group in London….’

Continue reading here

The lessons of Zionists and the Nazis

By Mike Cushman
April 2016

It is a matter of historical record that some Zionists tried to do a deal with the Nazis in the 1930s. We should try and see this through what they knew at the time rather than with the aid of hindsight. Before Kristallnacht in 1938 it is quite possible that the Zionists saw the Nazis as maybe worse but not different in kind from the pogroms Jews of Eastern and Central Europe had suffered and survived for centuries; the brownshirts were just the new Cossacks. Maybe a closer reading of Mein Kampf would have told them different but neither they, nor anyone else, foresaw the Holocaust.

What is important is the lessons that are to be drawn from Heskem Haavara. In 1933 the Zionists in Germany thought that doing a deal with the Nazis would help them establish a Jewish state in Palestine. That the Nazis were antisemites was less important to them than that they supported proto-Israel. But you can only learn from history if you acknowledge history and Zionist organisations try to pretend that the Haavara never happened: Haavara denial.

Why is this important to those not interested in the minutiae of pre-war history? It is because the Israeli Government and their Zionist apologists are still seeking the support of visceral antisemites providing they support Israel. We can see this in the affectionate relationship between Israel and the US Christians United for Israel (CUFI). CUFI was founded by John Hagee who has claimed that, “God sent Hitler as a ‘hunter,’ in order to ‘hunt them [Jews] from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks … to get them to come back to the land of Israel’“. Hagee has argued with another Christian Zionist Joseph Farah CEO of WorldNetDaily about who has the purest antisemitic views.

They argue their points in terms of the fate of Jews and their eternal damnation as foretold in the Book of Revelations in the Christian Bible and Isiah in the Jewish Bible. We can infer however that their views are more practical. Like the Nazis they would rather the Jews were somewhere else rather than living next door. Having them forgather in Israel solves that problem as well as prefiguring the rapture. From 9/11 onward we may also suspect that they have come to hate Muslims even more than Jews and their Islamophobia leads them to ally themselves with Israel against their feared Islamic invasion of America – Europe to them is already lost.

None of this prevented Benjamin Netanyahu embracing Hagee when CUFI held their conference in Jerusalem in 2012. In the same year the largest US pro-Israel lobby Group, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) inviting Hagee to give the keynote speech at their annual conference.

What is clear is that antisemitism is unimportant to Israel providing you support their actions. For Zionists, perceiving antisemitism is a weapon to bludgeon their opponents not a principle. Proclaiming antisemitism is a tactic to attempt to scare diaspora Jews into making Aliyah, migrating to Israel.

The lesson of the thirties is that doing business with those who wish you dead may, or may not, be tactically astute; it does not promise long life and happiness.