Film maker Jon Pullman interviewed Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Mike Cushman to produce this video on the FSOI journey to playing a vital role in defending the space for action in support of Palestinian Rights.
Reposted from his blog by permission
The ongoing Ken Livingstone (“Get Corbyn!”) saga grows yet more preposterous. After outrage that the former London mayor had said Hitler was a Zionist (when he clearly hadn’t, as I pointed out at the time here and here), Labour suspended Livingstone amid accusations that he had made antisemitic, offensive and false historical claims.
Now as Livingstone fights to avoid expulsion before a closed hearing of the party’s national constitutional committee, it emerges that Labour’s general secretary, Iain McNicol, has written to Livingstone saying that the hearing is not interested in the historical accuracy of his statements or whether what he said was antisemitic. Rather, it is about whether his conduct has been “grossly detrimental” to the party.
Continue reading “Labour’s witch-hunt against Ken Livingstone”
The launch on Monday of Hugh Tomlinson QC’s devastating legal opinion on the so-called IHRA definition of antisemitism marks a watershed moment in resisting Israeli-backed attempts to gag pro-Palestinian advocacy.
The definition, deliberately equating criticism of Israel with hatred of Jews, was adopted in December 2016 by the UK government and has since been vigorously promoted by pro-Israel lobbyists to local authorities, universities, Labour movement organisations and other public bodies. Its rollout has coincided with an increase in bannings and restrictions imposed on pro-Palestinian activities, especially on campus.
As explained by eminent legal figures speaking at the launch, the Opinion drives a coach and horses through the definition, exposing it as:
Therefore pro-Palestinian campaigners who, for example, describe Israel as a settler-colonialist state enacting a policy of apartheid, or call for policies of boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel, cannot properly be characterised as antisemitic.
Free Speech on Israel, a Jewish-led organisation, condemns the decision of the London Assembly on Feb 8 to adopt a position on antisemitism that is a charter for censors. It threatens to make effective campaigning for justice for Palestinians impossible.
Antisemitism is an age-old visceral hatred of Jews simply because they are Jews. It must be vigorously fought against, along with all forms of bigotry. To confuse it with opposition to a state which calls itself Jewish, or to the founding ideology of that state, Zionism, is to obscure the real meaning of the term antisemitism and make combatting it more difficult. This is exactly what the motion passed by the Assembly does.
The UK Government has adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism of antisemitism: a seriously deficient definition
Since early in 2016, debate about rights for Palestinians has been under severe threat because criticism of Israel and of its founding ideology, Zionism, has been misrepresented as antisemitic.
Antisemitism is hatred of Jews simply because they are Jews. It must be vigorously combatted, along with all forms of bigotry. Confusing it with opposition to the state of Israel or Zionism is to obscure the real meaning of the term antisemitism and make fighting against it more difficult.
Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel
In this piece first published online by Al-Jazeera, Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University, provides context for the TV channel’s four-part series on “The Lobby”.
There is no denying that from time to time anti-Semitism raises its ugly head in the UK, as it does in many other countries.
What is striking, however, about contemporary Britain is the use of anti-Semitism as a political tool to silence legitimate criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government and the collusion of members of the political establishment in this process.
A word on definitions is in order.
The Jewish philosopher Isaiah Berlin defined an anti-Semite as someone who hates Jews more than is strictly necessary.
This definition has its humorous side but it does not take us very far. A simpler definition of an anti-Semite is someone who hates Jews as Jews.
Israeli propagandists deliberately, yes deliberately, conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism in order to discredit, bully, and muzzle critics of Israel; in order to suppress free speech; and in order to divert attention from the real issues: Israeli colonialism, Israel’s apartheid, its systematic violation of the human rights of Palestinians, and its denial of their right to independence and statehood. The propagandists persistently present an anti-racist movement (anti-Zionism) as a racist one (anti-Semitism).
First, let me begin by saying that anti-Semitism in itself is certainly not a hoax. There are centuries of evidence supporting the existence of virulent Jew-hatred. Anyone with a Twitter account knows that such anti-Semitism exists. I’ve recently highlighted it at Mint Press News, a publication to which I contributed for over a year. So anti-Semitism, though largely an enterprise of the far-right, exists on the left as well. Fighting anti-Semitism is a laudable goal.
But here’s where I part company with the institutional Jewish community. If you were to poll Jews about their priorities in life and issues that most concern them, anti-Semitism would be very far down the list.
Of course, members of all religions react with great concern to threats to their co-religionists. That is understandable. But Jews aren’t the only religion under threat: true, Jews have been attacked by Islamists in Europe and places like Turkey. But Coptic Christians were attacked by ISIS in Egypt this week and Rohingya Muslims have been ethnically cleansed by Burmese Buddhists for several years. Jews in today’s world don’t have a monopoly on victimhood. But the organized Jewish community acts as if it does. As if they own the field of religious hatred and are the only victims, or at least the only ones who really matter, because of our past suffering in the Holocaust.
Exaggerating the significance of anti-Semitism also tends to distort Jewish life and identity. If you define yourself as a Jew as someone fighting against anti-Semitism, rather than fighting for a rich, positive, substantive Jewish identity–you don’t have much substance on which to base your Jewishness. That’s a significant part of my quarrel with groups like the ADL and AJC, whose existence and financial wherewithal is predicated on anti-Semitism.
Jews obsessed with anti-Semitism do offer what they see as a positive model of Jewish identity: Israel. I wrote about this in the essay, The Closing of the American Jewish Mind, my contribution to the newly published Israel and Palestine: Alternative Models of Statehood. There I noted that Israel has become a substitute for the Jewish culture, traditions, art, and even religious practice that used to be at the heart of Diaspora Jewry. Wealthy Jews like Sheldon Adelson, Michael Steinhardt and others have bet hundreds of millions of dollars that while Judaism may wither on the vine, Israel will not. That’s why they’ve funded Birthright as their primary response to assimilation.
But what happened to Torah, Talmud, religious ritual, Biblical prophecy, Kabbalah, Zohar, Yiddish culture, language, and song, among many others? If you posit anti-Semitism and Israel as the sole arbiters of Jewishness, it leaves nothing of what sustained us over centuries and even millenia. It is a poor substitute for what we’re losing. And I can’t say that I blame any Jewish youth who rejects this tepid porridge they’re offered as a substitute for Jewishness. This also explains why the Pew poll found that the younger generation is rejecting their parents’ generation and its single-minded near-obsession with Israel to the exclusion of almost all else.
It goes without saying that if you offer Israel as the New Jewish Religion, that you view any threat to Israel as a threat to the Jewish people. That is why the Israel Lobby has worked so diligently to insinuate criticism of Israel as a primary tenet of anti-Semitism. That is why the current far-right Israeli government repeats the smear that BDS is not just anti-Israel, but anti-Semitic.
These are, of course, radical revisions of the traditional definition of anti-Semitism as expression of hatred toward Jews. If you believe there is no difference between Israel and Jews, then this may make some sense. But if you conflate the two then you fall into a morass of internal contradictions. If you reject the notion of dual loyalty, then how do you combat the claim by anti-Semites that Diaspora Jews must be disloyal to their homelands because they retain sole loyalty to Israel? How do you stand against acts of terror by Islamists aimed at Jews, when the terrorists believe that in attacking Jews they are also attacking Israel? How do you embrace the claim by the Likudist far-right that Iran aims to destroy not just Israel, but the entire Jewish people? Especially when the Iranians have never made such a sweeping claim?
Which brings me to the current efforts by legislators in the U.S. and UK to legislate a radical revision in the definition of anti-Semitism. Recently, the U.S. Senate passed almost unanimously the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which employs the following definition and examples:
Few will have any argument with the first two definitions, but the second two are so vague and broad as to be meaningless. Under this problematic rubric, reporting that Israeli Jews kill Muslims because of their religion is anti-Semitic. Criticizing Israel for fomenting political discord in the Middle East also appears anti-Semitic. And criticizing Israel before criticizing every other democracy which engages in bad behavior is also anti-Semitic. In fact, such an approach makes most Jews themselves anti-Semites because most American Jews are critical, some highly critical of Israel and its policies.
Such definitions have one major goal: to silence, rather clumsily, political speech regarding Israel. They are intended to “box in” the BDS movement and other forms of “delegitimization” by defining legitimate political discourse as off-limits. Such efforts must be seen for what they are: bald-faced attempts to stifle debate and suppress dissent. Democracies are antithetical to such notions. They are strong precisely because they permit, even encourage the free flow of ideas. That is how the best ideas develop and how we keep such societies strong and vital. Suppressing speech, as the Israel Lobby seeks, is anti-American and anti-democratic.
The British parliament stands ready to pass an equally noxious anti-Semitism bill which the media have largely misreported as a milquetoast affirmation of the basic decency of Jews in the face of mindless hate. This Christian Science Monitor report sounds innocent enough:
…The British government hopes the new definition will offer a more concrete and clearer notion of anti-Semitism, to be adopted in as many circles as possible. Proponents believe that the clarified definition will prevent vagueness that may lead to anti-Semitic crimes going unreported or unacknowledged. The definition is part of an international effort to end hate crimes against Jewish people as well as combat Holocaust denial in all its forms.
Until you read the fine print on the website of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance which the Parliament relied on in crafting its own definition:
- Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews
worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence
of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
These examples themselves are deeply problematic. The State of Israel is racist. It’s policies are racist. The structure of its society is racist. By noting and criticizing such racism prevalent in Israeli society I by no means “deny Jewish people their right to self-determination.” In fact, I strengthen Israel in doing so.
The “double standard” theory is bogus as well. Holding Israel to the standards of international law is not “applying a double standard.” In fact, the three main demands of BDS (ending Occupation, return of Palestinian exiles, and offering fully equality to Israeli Palestinians) derive from the heart of democratic traditions.
As for the “Nazi analogy,” I’d be a lot more comfortable with this one if the Israel Lobby wasn’t so free and easy to call Israel’s critics and opponents Nazis and the like. Not to mention that there are clear elements of Israeli policy that echo those of the Nazis, just as there are elements of Trumpism which do so as well. Why should the former be labelled anti-Semitic? A clear, carefully articulated analogy based on historical facts cannot be.
Finally, you can’t call “holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of Israel” anti-Semitic if Israel’s leaders themselves refuse to make such a distinction. You can’t have your cake and eat it.
These efforts to redefine anti-Semitism for the convenience of the Lobby and as a buttress against criticism of the noxious polices of the State of Israel are worse than a waste of time. They are a radical departure from established consensus both among moral philosophers, historians and Jews themselves about the definition of the noxious concept of Jew-hatred. We are about to see such a radical departure from consensus here in the United States as Donald Trump takes office. It will lead to great ugliness and distortion of the great traditions of American democracy. Let’s not do the same to the concept of anti-Semitism.
reprinted from Middle East Eye
The only message of congratulations that Steve Bannon has received from abroad, apparently, since being named the senior strategic adviser in Donald Trump’s White House, is one that arrived on official Israel government stationery and was signed by Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel.
The Anti-Defamation League, long prominent among American Jewish organisations battling anti-Semitism, published a sharply worded announcement signed by its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, urging that Bannon’s appointment be rescinded; the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center and others pointed to Bannon’s “promotion of antisemitism, misogyny, racism and Islamophobia” as disqualifying him from any White House post; and local Jewish Community Relations Councils (eg New Haven, San Francisco) promptly published similar statements even as the leadership at AIPAC equivocated.
Meantime Israel’s Ariel hastens to send Bannon his blessings. Ariel, who is from the Jewish Home party, the party of the settler movement and the most extreme right-wing group in the Knesset and a senior partner in the Netanyahu government’s coalition, was pleased at the appointment of a man whose ex-wife has accused her former partner of anti-Semitism. “There are no words to describe this shame,” fumed Knesset member Stav Shaffir of Israel’s Labor Party in a Facebook post (Hebrew).
Knesset member Stav Sappir of the Israeli Labor party posted a scathing response to Ariel’s ensdorsement of Bannon (Hebrew) on her Facebook page: she wrote. “Rabbis from all across the USA are publishing denouncements… [and] dozens of Jewish organisations are campaigning against the appointment; the rest of the world – left and right alike – are warning of the danger in appointing a proud racist to such a sensitive American government post… while, along with Minister Ariel of Israel, those congratulating Bannon on his appointment include the leadership of the Ku Klux Klan, some prominent American anti-Semites, and the American Nazi Party.”
The Israeli right has invented a new hybrid tool: the pro-Israel anti-Semite. It turns out that such a thing is possible. You can be an anti-Semite and still be okay is certain circles in Israel. The main thing is being “a friend of Israel,” which today means loving the Israeli occupation.
In return for supporting the Israeli occupation indefinitely, for encouraging the settler enterprise, the Israeli right is prepared to forgive anything. Anything at all. To forget the past, turn a blind eye to the present, mortgage the future, and relinquish any vestige of morality. Just let us go on building in the territories, that’s all we care about. To perpetuate the occupation, the Israeli right will sacrifice even the fate of America’s Jews, pawn its connection with them, ignore their anxieties and dismiss their concerns.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, another extreme right-wing figure, once said: “For the sake of Israel, lying is permitted.” The limits of this dubious assertion have now been woefully stretched by Israel’s right-wing settlers. For Israel, it is permissible to support even anti-Semitism, extreme nationalism, chauvinism and racism of every sort. The stretch began with the Israeli public’s overly broad support for candidate Donald Trump, perhaps the broadest of any other constituency outside the US, until it arrived at the ministerial letter congratulating the newly appointed Bannon.
Unlike in many other countries, notably in Western Europe, no Israeli official figure has expressed reservations about Trump’s electoral win. This turn of events is not attributable solely to any threat to Israel. It was driven by authentic support for this problematic president-elect. Evidently the Israeli right, with its nationalism and its racism, finds a common language with the American right, similarly nationalist and racist.
Even worse, the global battle against anti-Semitism, a platform where the rightists typically scream loudest, begins to some degree to resemble a manipulative and cynical (and currently less useful) ploy. Suddenly, being anti-Semitic is no longer so terrible now. Suddenly it’s forgivable, especially if you hate Muslims and Arabs. So long as you are “pro-Israel”.
The Jewish and Israel right has issued a blanket pardon to pro-Israel anti-Semites, who will run the next US government. Like pornography, anti-Semitism now becomes a matter of geography, self-interest and cost-effectiveness. Right-wing American anti-Semites are no longer seen as anti-Semites as long as they support the occupation. Israel’s right wing finds anti-Semites only on the left. Roger Waters, an upstanding man of conscience, is anti-Semitic; Steve Bannon, openly racist and a closet anti-Semite, is Israel’s friend.
Jewish and Israeli activists who left no stone unturned in the search for signs of anti-Semitism, who saw every parking ticket issued to an American Jew as a hate crime, who screamed bloody murder when any Jew was robbed or Jewish headstone desecrated, are now kashering vermin. Suddenly they’re not sure that what we have here is that old disease, anti-Semitism.
Jurist Alan Dershowitz, pro-Israel crusader and propagandist extraordinaire, has already come to Bannon’s defence. In his Haaretz op-ed of 27 November, Dershowitz opined that the man whose wife testified that he didn’t want to send his children to school with Jews is not an anti-Semite. “The claim was simply made by his former wife in a judicial proceeding, thus giving it no special weight,” commented Dershowitz with pseudo-Talmudic aplomb. Dershowitz was told by an Orthodox Jew who once worked with Bannon that the man had never shown signs of anti-Semitism. Suddenly that’s enough for Dershowitz. Suddenly it’s all right to distinguish between anti-Semitism and racism.
Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, naturally made haste to join the chorus, declaring that he “looked forward to working with Bannon.” And how. They see eye to eye on everything: there is no such thing as a Palestinian, there is no occupation, illegal settlements are forever, leftists and liberals are traitors.
For Dermer, the Likud ambassador in Washington, friend of the Tea Party, boycotter of J Street, who in normal diplomatic circumstances would long since have been declared persona non grata in the USA and thrown out on his ear, the election results and the new appointments are like a brand new day dawning. Dermer will feel right at home with conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, another Islamophobe slated for a senior appointment; Dermer will love working with Bannon, and Mike Huckabee is so precisely his cup of tea. Dermer, remember, received the 2016 Freedom Flame award from the CSP, an organisation whose banner is Islamophobia and for whom Dermer is a hero.
These and other likeminded racists are Israel’s best friends in the United States. They have common cause with right-wing racists in Europe. When supporting the occupation is the one measure of friendship, Israel has no other friends apart from racists and extreme nationalists. This should have evoked tremendous shame in Israel: tell us who your friends are and we will tell them who you are. With friends like these, who needs enemies? The disgrace of their friendship is sufficient. But Israel apparently takes pride in its friends.
These racists love Israel because Israel acts out their own fantasies – subjugating the Arabs, abusing the Muslims, expelling and killing, arresting, interrogating and torturing them, razing their homes, shredding their honour. How this bunch of lowlifes would love to go there. Till now it’s been possible only in Israel, the light unto the nations in this context. Long gone are the days when a handful of South African Jews went to prison with Nelson Mandela. Now, well-connected Jews in America support the nation’s new rulers: racists and anti-Semites.
“The Palestinians call the white nationalist Bannon an anti-Semite, and AIPAC and Dershowitz think he’s not such a bad guy,” commented Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa on her Facebook page. Abulhawa was expelled by Israel at the Allenby Bridge last year. The US and Israel are sharing the same values these days.
All that’s left now is to wait and see whether the new American regime will deliver the goods. Will the declared Islamophobia and xenophobia of several of its main figures lead to blind support for the Israeli occupation, even more so than under previous American administrations? Will the Israeli right wing’s bet pay off?
There is also the matter of what will happen among liberal Jewish circles in the United States, who are a substantial segment of the American Jewish community. Will these developments change their attitude to Israel? Rightist, ultra-nationalist Israel, with its overt support for Trump and its senior minister who sends his congratulations to Steve Bannon – is that a country worthy of automatic support from America’s Jews? Israel, stalwart friend of the American hard right – is that an Israel whose flag liberal American Jews can proudly wave?
Over the next few months, we will find out. Maybe, paradoxically, the rise of the American right, alongside a regime no less rightist and nationalist in Israel, will shake up the liberal Jews of America and pose hard questions they have never faced. Until now.
We have published a number of critiques of the Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism. This is a summary of the main points made.
5 Conservatives, 3 Labour, 1 SNP, Chair. All, including the Chair, openly hostile to Corbyn, his supporters and policies. Labour MP Chuka Umunna’s questioning of Corbyn was abusive and disrespectful. Umunna was a leader of the no confidence vote against Mr Corbyn and promoted Owen Smith against him for the leadership.
The Committee ignored the submissions from Jewish groups and other organisations which contradicted the views of the Jewish establishment.
All the witnesses chosen were hostile to Corbyn (barring Ken Livingston, also under criticism)
They use a self-selecting survey of Jews on Labour Party antisemitism. By definition such surveys are unreliable and are rejected by any self-respecting statistician.
They label the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as hard left (which demonstratively is not true) and as anti-the Israeli government, they then quote Jonathan Akush, President of the BoD, as saying their marches have fascist banners, so as to conclude it is the left which is antisemitic. They studiously ignored submissions by Jewish groups that Arkush took a minuscule display of 3-4 fascist banners (which were quickly removed) – to inflate the marches into being neo-fascist. They failed to note the presence of English Defence Leagues banners at many Zionist demonstrations.
They go on to state that Corbyn attended these demonstrations to imply he is antisemitic. These are the tactics of McCarthyism; appalling practice for a Parliamentary Committee.
The definition was drafted by the American Jewish Committee but was never adopted by the EU
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
They worsened the definition by incorporating into it the EUMC examples:
c.Israel is the core of Jewish identity, so to act against it (e.g. Boycotts) is antisemitic. This gives Israel impunity in its extensive violations of human rights. But Israel is not core to the identity of many 100,000s of Jews. Stereotyping them in this way is, ironically, antisemitic.
Drawing comparisons between Nazis Germany and Israel is antisemitic.
But recently Ehud Barak, former Israeli President and Yair Golan, IDF Major General, have done just that. The Committee demands less freedom of speech in the UK than in Israel!
The Macpherson principle has three components: (i) victims of racial abuse should be believed, (ii) their allegations investigated and (iii) if found credible to be referred to the CPS for legal action. The EUMC definition ignores (ii) & (iii) and guilt can be proved on the allegation alone.
This paper has drawn on papers by
David Plank: HASC Report on antisemitism is a ‘partisan party political polemic’
Richard Kuper: Crying Wolf
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi: Zionists’ weapon of mass destruction against UK’s left
Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead: Parliamentary Selective Committee Report
Tony Greenstein: Manufacturing consent on ‘antisemitism’