Double standards at the Sun

Accusing the Sun of double standards is more dog bites man than man bites dog. Their double standards are usually deplored by all those not in the pay of, or in thrall to, Rupert Murdoch. This time however they have been given a free pass by IPSO, The Independent (sic) Press Standards Organisation.

Fatima Manji in hijab

The day after the Nice bombings, The Sun published a Kelvin MacKenzie column attacking Fatima Manji for presenting on the Channel 4 News while wearing a hijab. MacKenzie effectively accused Manji of being a terrorist supporter for wearing her hijab; and, even if not a terrorist supporter, causing distress to faint-hearted viewers by her choice of headgear. MacKenzie, naturally, overlooks the large number of Muslims who were killed in the outrage and the comfort that Muslim viewers might have gained from seeing a presenter they could identify with when their co-religionists had been killed and their deaths overlooked. For MacKenzie and his ilk only the deaths of ‘real’ French people is to be mourned.

Imagine the reaction if anyone had accused a Jewish reporter of supporting any of the terror activities of the Israeli government simply on account of the wearing of a Yamulke. The imputation of political belief from religious identity is a mark of antisemitism; it is equally a mark of Islamophobia. Pointing to someone as being sympathetic to terrorism without clear evidence is, or should be, well beyond even the generous boundaries accorded to newspaper columnists in Britain; but not in IPSO’s book.

We must judge journalists on what they say and write not on their religious or ethnic identity.  On this metric it is Manji who comes out far ahead of MacKenzie.

Many had doubts when the newspaper industry set up IPSO after the Leveson inquiry and that it would be another in the long succession of industry toothless watchdogs. These doubts have been confirmed by this latest example of failure to distinguish free speech from abuse.

FSOI has long been concerned that the manufacture of concern about a relatively low level, although still deplorable, antisemitic comment has occluded a far greater level of Islamophobic abuse. Abuse not just on Twitter and on the streets but tolerated and enacted at the highest levels of British society. IPSO’s failure to recognise such unambiguous Islamophobic abuse sits alongside their toleration of the excoriation by much of the press of marginal, or even fantasised, antisemitic speech . An unbalanced view of the world also apparent in the reception of the Chakrabarti report and more recently in the Home Affairs Select Committee report.

Mike Cushman

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? Continue reading “Manufacturing consent on ‘antisemitism’”

Student leaders denounce false, selective & partisan HASC report and the unjust targeting of Malia Bouattia

Open Letter to Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) on report titled ‘Antisemitism in the UK’

We, the undersigned, note with grave concern the findings of the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) on anti-Semitism. The report’s findings on the sharp growth in anti-Semitic incidents in the last year is deeply troubling, and is an urgent call to all those involved in fighting against racism, oppression, and for a better society more generally. We welcome the reports calls to take on anti-Semitism, as well as its focus on greater recognition of under-acknowledged areas of abuse, such as online platforms.

Unfortunately, despite outlining that the large majority of anti-Semitic abuse and crime has historically been, and continues to be, caused by the far right, the report fails to address these groups in any detail. Instead, it focuses virtually all of its attention on the Labour Party and the National Union of Students (NUS), without providing any evidence that these organisations are responsible for the deplorable situation it describes. This undermines the report and casts doubt upon its authors’ intentions. We believe that in order to address the growing reality of anti-Semitism in society effectively, we have to do so without falling prey to partisan selectivity.

We strongly regret the report’s recommendation that would suggest legitimate criticism of Zionism to be considered as hate-crimes by the government, effectively equating them with anti-Semitism. Zionism is a political ideology that continues to express itself through the actions of the State of Israel. It is one that is held or rejected by both Jewish people and non-Jewish people. Zionism and Judaism are not interchangeable and do not go hand in hand. As with all political ideologies, it should be open to discussion, scrutiny and debate. This is the long-held position of many Jewish academics and key figures, and one we are disappointed that the report is unable to reflect.

We are extremely alarmed at the way NUS’ National President, Malia Bouattia, is being singled out for her views on Israel by the HASC in its report, and depicted as the source of anti-Semitism in Higher Education. Bouattia’s repeated assurances, within the union and in the media, that she will address concerns and revise her language, are completely ignored by the HASC report, despite the fact that she has done just that and reiterated her commitments to do this in her submission for the HASC report.

Furthermore, Bouattia has outlined – on numerous occasions and in her written submission to the HASC – the actions she and NUS are taking to fight anti-Semitism which include: supporting NUS’ Anti-Racism and Anti-Fascism Campaign, continued work on interfaith and campus cohesion, interfaith work focused specifically on anti-Semitism, upcoming work on tackling hate crime, an Institutional Racism Review inclusive of anti-Semitism which she demanded, as well as working alongside the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust on Holocaust education. The report fails to acknowledge any of these endeavours.

The HAC also seem to be misinformed about recent developments in NUS’ Anti-Racism Anti-Fascism (ARAF) Committee. Under Bouattia’s leadership, the Jewish representative on NUS’ ARAF Committee is now elected by Jewish members of the union’s National Executive Committee. Previously, representatives were appointed by the NUS president. The report claims the reverse to be true.

Finally, we believe this report’s selective and partisan approach attempts to delegitimise NUS, and discredit Malia Bouattia as its president. An attack on NUS is an attack on the student and union movements. This is completely unacceptable and we cannot allow these claims against us to go unchallenged. We demand a revised report that is impartial and contains factual evidence. We demand that all false statements are retracted, especially in relation to the sections regarding campus anti-Semitism, along with an apology to those who have been vilified by the inaccuracies and partisan biases it contains. Our movement will remain principled in its work defending human rights, freedom of expression, and the fight against anti-Semitism and racism in all its forms.

To add your name to this statement sign here: https://goo.gl/forms/VROOugGVCUtN6MK93

Updated list of over 300 signatories here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pTqtRyLSTmYTNi_NOBDXvq6A-Z7RjEfxLSPPGCZP8dg/mobilebasic



Free Speech on Israel note:

In the media furore over Malia Bouattia’s historic remark that Birmingham University was ‘something of a Zionist outpost in British Higher Education,’ with ‘the largest JSoc in the country whose leadership is dominated by Zionist activists,’ the context was entirely overlooked.

Bouattia’s 2011 article reveals a campaign of intimidation and harassment, by pro-Israel student groups, of Palestine solidarity activists on campus. Referring to events during Israeli Apartheid Week, that included a mock Israeli checkpoint, Bouattia wrote at the time:

Overall the events were a success and many of the students and visitors on campus witnessed the Zionist attempts of intimidation which contradicted their “peace” initiative. We reinforced that our approaches remain non-violent and that we have no intention of intimidating students as opposed to the continuous harassment and confrontations we experience from Zionists on campus. Our principle aims are to liberate and seek justice for the Palestinian. We therefore also wanted to contribute to raising awareness about Israel in the hope that Zionists may take the first step and admit their state’s inhumane and illegal actions are wrong and then perhaps this would be the first step to discussing genuine peace.

Not all members of JSocs are pro-Israel, identify as Zionists or oppose BDS, but JSocs are arguably ‘Zionist-dominated’, and committed to undermining the Palestinian civil society, non-violent, anti-racist Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS), which represents its membership through Jewish Societies (JSocs), is a member of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS). Their mission is:

To connect students worldwide with the State of Israel as the central creative factor in Jewish life, and to pursue this through the encouragement of Aliyah, strengthening the State of Israel.

The WUJS, in turn, is an affiliated member of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) with, possibly, voting rights. WZO’s mission is ‘promoting Zionism & the Zionist idea and the Zionist enterprise through Israel Education as vital and positive elements of contemporary Jewish life.’ (See also Jews Sans Frontieres post on Birmingham JSoc)

Commons Home Affairs Committee ignored evidence

The Home Affairs select committee was presented with many different views of the nature of antisemitism. The committee ignored all those which did not fit in with its narrow purpose. It should have considered how best to protect British Jews; it failed. Instead it cherry picked submissions that absolved Israel or attacked Jeremy Corbyn.

We reprint Free Speech on Israel’s evidence which we hope fair minded commentators will consider even if MPs would not.

Mike Cushman

Free Speech on Israel submission to Home Affairs Committee inquiry into antisemitism

4 July 2016

SUMMARY

  • Those who claim to represent the Jewish community, and who are given voice by the media, do not represent a sizeable Jewish minority who are highly critical of Israel and the violations of Palestinian human rights.
  • There is no wave of antisemitism in the Labour party, whilst peaks of antisemitism in the general community correlate with the attacks on Gaza.
  • The allegations essentially constitute a campaign against the left leadership of the Labour Party and the success of the Boycott movement.
  • There is a conflation of Jew, Israel and Zionism such that criticism of Israel or Zionism is defined as antisemitism.
  • A particular form of Zionism, committed to territorial expansion and the expulsion of Palestinians, today informs both the Israeli government and the international Jewish establishment.
  • Where Israel, Zionism and Jew are conflated into one identity it should not be surprising that criticism of Israel’s actions or of its current political ideology may cause some Jews to feel personally uncomfortable or insecure. It is, however, incumbent on the critics to ensure criticism of human rights violations, and/or of the ideology which informs them, are accurately focussed and do not slide into criticism of Jews and become antisemitic.
  • Israel receives privileged attention because it has a special relationship with the UK, the EU and the USA, and claims to be a liberal democracy.
  • The EUMC committee’s ‘working definition’ of antisemitism has not been adopted by the EU and has been disowned by it’s successor committee, the FRA. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is a private body and cannot be cited to accord the ‘working definition’ any international legal status.
  • The Jewish Labour Movement’s proposed Labour Party rule change would be a gross violation of the principles of natural justice.
  • Due to its partiality, the JLM is not a fit body to provide the Labour Party with advice and training on antisemitism.
  • Very occasionally individuals on demonstrations display references to the Nazis and refuse to remove them. Streets are public places and it would not be possible to remove them without force. Citing this microscopically small and insignificant minority as representative of the demonstrations or their organisers is a calumny.

CONCLUSION

  • It is incumbent on Parliament and its Committees when taking evidence to include the Jewish groups which dissent from the mainstream Jewish narrative.

1. Who we are.

a ‘Free Speech On Israel’ is a network of Labour, Green and trade union activists, mainly of Jews drawn from Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jews for Jeremy, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, Young Jewish Left, and Jewdas. It came together to counter the campaign to brand support for justice for Palestinians antisemitic, and at concern for the lack of due process in the suspensions from the Labour party, with no published evidence.

b. Those interviewed or referenced by the Committee who claim to represent the Jewish community all identify themselves as Zionists who defend Israel from all and any criticism, namely the Board of Deputies of British Jews, The Jewish Leadership Council, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Community Security Trust, British Information Communications Media Organisation (BICOM), and the Zionist Federation. They are all well resourced, with their views amplified in the media. However, large sections of the Jewish community reject Zionism and between our different groups we believe we are representative of these sections.

c. A survey last year by Yachad, a liberal UK Zionist group found:
31% did not self-identify as Zionists
24% would support sanctions if they believed it would push Israel into a peace process,
This rose to 41% of under 30’s

A similar USA survey last year (only published in Hebrew) found:
just 42% believe Israel wants peace
only 38% believe Israel is a civilised society
only 31% believes it is democratic
21% believe the US should side with the Palestinians

It is evident that within the Jewish community there is considerable and deep disquiet concerning the nature of Israeli society, the Occupation and the discriminatory policies of the Israeli government. This diversity of opinion has been underrepresented in the media and, so far, in the public deliberations of your Committee.

2. Why the flood of accusations of antisemitism now?

a. In our collective experience running to thousands of person years, we have experienced only a tiny number of antisemitic incidents, none of which have been in the Labour Party, and we have seen no recent upsurge. Most of the current allegations relate to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

‘Could we see it as part of a broader campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, as the leading pro- Palestinian politician, and against the Boycott movement. Politicians have been silenced by fear of the antisemitic trope, which is intended to close down ethical, historically informed debate […] Settler and soldier brutality, casual killings, child arrests and imprisonment and abuse, land theft, house demolitions, and racism escalate daily. But criticism is deflected (by being defined) as visceral hatred of the Jewish state.’

These words (summarised) are not those of a conspiratorial antisemitic leftist, but of the internationally respected Oxford University Professor and author Avi Shlaim, who is also Jewish.

3. Understanding the nature of the complaints – the conflation of Jew, Israel and Zionism

a. The current accusations identify three areas as targets of antisemitism: Jews, Israel and Zionism. It is the tripartite conflation of these which creates the logic that criticism of any one is an attack on Jews and is therefore antisemitic. (Initially any criticism of Israel was so defined, recently however there has been a degree of moderation such that now not all criticism of Israel is defined as illegitimate).

This conflation is endorsed by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis, who has said, “You can no more separate it (Zionism) from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.” Continue reading “Commons Home Affairs Committee ignored evidence”

Partisan Report on Antisemitism discredits Home Affairs Select Committee

House of Commons Home Affairs Committee Report:                    

  • Depends on evidence from almost exclusively pro-Israel, anti-Corbyn sources
  • Advocates re-defining antisemitism so as to intimidate and silence pro-Palestinian voices, including making it a punishable offence to use the word Zionist “in an accusatory context”
  • Dismisses the Chakrabarti Report’s principled recommendations for fair and transparent disciplinary Labour Party procedures  in cases of alleged antisemitism and other forms of racism, proposing draconian, politically motivated measures instead

London, October 16 – The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee today issued a Report on Antisemitism in the UK that, while correctly identifying the far Right as the source of most hate crime, shows such bias in its sources and assessment of evidence that it calls into question the committee’s reputation and competence.

The Report, from a Tory dominated committee, takes up the weapons that have been used to try to unseat Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader by smearing those he has attracted to the Party with charges of antisemitism. The apparent collusion of Labour committee members reflects the dirty war being waged against Corbyn’s radical leadership by elements within the party.   

Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, from the Jewish-led campaign group Free Speech on Israel (FSOI), said the select committee had aligned itself with extreme pro-Israel advocates, by setting restrictive limits on what may and may not be said, threatening to close down free speech on Israel and Palestine.

“The dire record of antisemitism over the centuries and especially in the last one means that vigilance is essential,” said Prof Rosenhead. “But antisemitism is not, currently, the major racist threat in this country; nor is it a significant problem in the Labour Party. This report loses all sense of proportion. It risks actually weakening the defences against true antisemitism (‘hatred of Jews as Jews’) by trying to extend its meaning to include many legitimate criticisms of Israel.

“For those of us who argue, along with many other Jews and Israelis, that the Zionist project has inflicted intolerable injustice on the Palestinians, the adjective ‘Zionist’ inevitably has an ‘accusatory’ aspect.  But it is directed against the State of Israel and its founding ideology, not against Jews.”

NOTES

  1. House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee report on antisemitism http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/home-affairs-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/inquiry2/publications/
  2. Free Speech on Israel is a network of labour, green and trade union activists in the UK, mainly Jewish, who came together in April 2016 to counter attempts by pro-Israel right wingers to brand the campaign for justice for Palestinians as antisemitic. 
  3. Prof Jonathan Rosenhead explores the workings of the campaign to discover antisemitism in every corner of Corbyn’s Labour Party https://opendemocracy.net/jonathan-rosenhead/jackie-walker-suspense-mystery
  4. Free Speech on Israel submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry. https://www.scribd.com/doc/315237906/Free-Speech-on-Israel-Submission-to-Chakrabarti-Submission
  5. Asa Winstanley exposes the fabrication of many antisemitism allegations https://electronicintifada.net/content/how-israel-lobby-manufactured-uk-labour-partys-anti-semitism-crisis/16481