Mike Cushman looks at how the witch hunt against Chris Williamson is linked to WitchHunt. The film shows how slurs against principled supporters of Palestinian rights become solidified into ‘common sense’
Most Labour Party members, even including many MPs previously hostile to Jeremy Corbyn, have responded to the party’s revival during the general election campaign by setting aside divisive talk and looking forward to a more unified future. Not all however.
For Jeremy Newmark, chair of the pro-Israel Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), writing in the Jewish News, “the immediate agenda” is to re-investigate and expel Ken Livingstone, pursue outstanding cases such as Jackie Walker’s, “revisit” those Chakrabarti and Royall report recommendations “that fell short of expectations,” get the NEC to table the JLM’s rule change proposals at Labour Party conference and, “redouble our efforts to massively expand our training and education program at all levels across the party.”
The JLM’s rule change proposals, like their partisan training sessions, are based on the same principles as the “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition” which attempts to redefine the term “antisemitism” in order to include criticism of the State of Israel. The impact of this goes way beyond the Labour Party. John Mann MP, one of a number of ardent, right-wing non-Jewish Zionists in the Labour Party, has proposed an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling for its adoption by all public bodies in the UK.
It is significant that the Jewish Chronicle reacted angrily to Jeremy Corbyn’s race and faith manifesto issued during the election, complaining that “the manifesto only uses the section of the definition which makes reference to hatred of Jews. The rest of the definition – which refers to Israel – has been cut.” In other words, for the JC, the part of the IHRA document that seeks to define antisemitism as what it really is, is unacceptable unless widened to include examples which talk not about Jews but about the state of Israel.
Proponents of the IHRA document claim that it poses no threat to free speech because it permits criticism of the current government of Israel and allows opposition to settlement building in the Palestinian West Bank. It is perfectly acceptable, they say, to subject Israel to criticism similar to that which is made of other states.
They fail to take into account the many ways in which Israel is entirely different from other states. The IHRA document explicitly rules out, as potentially antisemitic, types of criticism that Palestinians and their supporters are entitled to make in order to highlight their specific history of dispossession and racist discrimination. The document is already being used in the UK to censor campaigns which call for an end to injustices Palestinians have faced since Zionist colonisation and settlement of their land began a century ago.
The recent European Parliament debate on this subject starkly demonstrated the point. Social Democrats argued that the IHRA document was nothing more than a harmless contribution to opposing racism against Jews. But they found themselves in the same camp as far-right Islamophobes who saw it as a weapon to be used in Israel’s defence and against its critics, particularly Muslims.
This is not the way to unite our diverse and fractured society. Nor is it conducive to unity within the Labour Party.
Open Letter to Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party
We can’t add more names as the letter has been submitted to Corbyn, but do indicate your support in a comment
We are writing to you as members of the Labour Party. We are a predominantly Jewish group and are writing to ask you to review your behaviour on the question of Israel/Palestine. We understand that amongst reasons given by the Labour Party for claiming that Jackie Walker, the ex-Deputy Chair of Momentum, is antisemitic, the following are included:
Regularly posting on Israel
Describing Israel as a racist state
A pattern of behaviour that causes offence to some members
Claiming that there is an antisemitism witch-hunt
Claiming that there is Israeli involvement in British politics
Saying the Right of the party is using this witch-hunt for political purposes
Saying adoption of IHRA definition of antisemitism is an attempt to outlaw criticism of Israel and to silence pro-Palestinian voices
Jackie Walker was due to speak at a Scottish PSC meeting at St Columba’s by the Castle Church in Edinburgh on 20 March. One Edinburgh Jew claimed to the Church Rector that the meeting might have antisemitic connotations. The Rector amplified this claim into “criticism of Israel’s policies can have unintended consequences, leading to an increase in anti-Semitic attacks” and the Anglican Bishop of Edinburgh, John Armes, told him to cancel the Booking. FSOI has written to the Bishop to add our voice to that of Ken Loach and Miriam Margolyes and local activists in deploring this censorship and silencing of criticism of Israel.
The FSOI letter
Dear Bishop Armes,
We are aware of the controversy surrounding your decision to prevent a Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) event from taking place at St Columba’s Church on March 20.
As a Jewish-led organisation which abhors all forms of racism and supports the right of the Palestinian people to live their lives free from discrimination, we would welcome the opportunity to open a dialogue with you about this fraught subject. Continue reading “FSOI protests Scottish church cancellation”
Thirteen Jewish female members of the Labour Party have called for a review of a decision by general secretary Iain McNicol on a complaint brought against former Israeli Embassy employee Ella Rose, who now heads a pro-Israel lobby group affiliated to the Labour Party, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).
They say Ella Rose’s abusive and threatening behaviour, caught on camera in a documentary film, The Lobby, is intimidating to them as campaigners for Palestinian rights and critics of the state of Israel.
The swift, discrete and sympathetic handling of Rose’s case contrasts markedly with treatment meted out to many party members who have been unjustly charged with antisemitism, suspended from membership and subjected to months’ long investigations, often in the full glare of publicity, through processes with scant regard for principles of natural justice.
McNicol said that in Ella Rose’s case the matter was closed after she “expressed regret” for some of her actions.
In response to your judgement in the case of Ella Rose, we cannot accept the contrast with other disciplinary cases where you have given considerable weight to testimony from complainants stating that they were upset or offended by an individual’s words or actions.
We wish to put on record that we, Labour Jewish women, have been not only offended and upset but also intimidated by the behaviour of Ella Rose. (You will see that this letter is signed by a larger group than the one that made the original complaint.)
GOVERNMENT MUST NOT COVER UP ISRAELI INTERFERENCE IN UK POLITICS
Israeli Embassy collusion with pro-Israeli lobbyists must be fully investigated
All antisemitism charges against Labour Party members must now be reviewed
London, 18 January – Film evidence that Labour and Conservative pro-Israel lobbyists worked with the Israeli Embassy to undermine political opponents has implications for democratic processes in the UK that must be fully investigated, campaigners say.
“There must be no cover-up of what appears to have been a concerted campaign to discredit supporters of Palestine, Conservative as well as Labour, and to use concocted allegations of antisemitism to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and his support base,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, speaking for Free Speech on Israel (FSOI).
Theresa May has rejected a call from Corbyn for a government inquiry into the Embassy’s “improper interference in this country’s democratic process.” But a number of Jewish groups that work for Palestinian human rights are supporting the Labour leader’s call and urging Labour to set up its own inquiry into the activities of politicians and lobbyists implicated by Al-Jazeera’s four-part documentary The Lobby.
The documentary showed an Israeli Embassy staffer discussing with a Conservative ministerial aide how to “take down” deputy foreign secretary Alan Duncan. It also revealed extensive collaboration between the embassy, Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and Labour Party affiliate the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). Both organisations have consistently alleged antisemitism against supporters of Palestinian rights who criticise Israel. Many of these have been suspended and subjected to disciplinary procedures that lack transparency and take no account of natural justice.
FSOI calls upon Labour’s National Executive Committee to institute a full review of all outstanding disciplinary proceedings and to investigate the activities of both JLM and LFI.
Notes for Editors
Al Jazeera Investigative Unit’s series “The Lobby” was screened between Wednesday Jan 11 and Saturday Jan 15. It can be viewed online
2. Jeremy Corbyn’s letter to Prime Minister Theresa May called for an inquiry into “attempts to undermine the integrity of our democracy.”
3. Here is the full text of the statement from Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG):
We note with concern the very serious allegations of Israeli Embassy interference in the United Kingdom’s democratic processes revealed in the Al Jazeera series “The Lobby”. We support Jeremy Corbyn’s call on the Government to hold an enquiry into this attempt to subvert both the government itself and the Opposition. It is imperative that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee should summon those Israelis and British politicians and lobbyists shown to have been implicated. We also call on the Labour party to conduct an immediate investigation into the involvement of its own members in the activities documented by Al-Jazeera.
4. Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) was founded as a predominantly Jewish campaign group in Spring 2016 to counter the manufactured moral panic over a supposed epidemic of antisemitism in the UK. Its earlier statement on the Al-Jazeera investigation can be read here.
5. Avi Shlaim, emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford University, analyses the relevance of the Al-Jazeera revelations, examining how anti-Zionism is deliberately conflated with antisemitism to suppress legitimate criticisms of Israeli policies.
a) Black Jewish activist Jackie Walker, former vice-chair of Momentum, is currently fighting her second bout of suspension from the party. She intends to make a formal complaint against Jewish Labour Movement director Ella Rose, seen threatening and abusing Walker in the second episode of the film.
b) The films show Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan MP discussing at length with fellow lobbyists how to frame a complaint of antisemitism against a Labour Party member, a woman who was suspended as a result and later reinstated on appeal.
c) Separately, activists in a party branch in the Liverpool constituency of former LFI chair, Louise Ellman MP, are fighting baseless allegations of antisemitism which have been used as an excuse to investigate the entire branch.
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.
David Plank, former Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Social Services Committee & former Local Authority Chief Executive slates the report for:
blatant political bias
bad statistical analysis and bad investigatory practice
pillorying leading personalities then them denying them the right of reply
exploitation of a discredited definition of antisemitism
distortion of the McPherson principle on investigation of racism
deliberate and hostile focus on the Labour party and its leader
summary dismissal of the Labour Party’s own report on antisemitism & exclusion of its Chair
the committee had no terms of reference – so they were free to follow their bias
Systemic weaknesses of the report
Composition of the Committee
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.
Investigatory incompetence and bad practice
They dismissed the Chakrabarti report on the basis of innuendo and refused its author’s request to give evidence.
They gave overweening weight to the Board of Deputies of British Jews and The Jewish Leadership Council but ignored the views six UK Jewish groups with opposite points of view.
Despite identifying the vast majority of antisemitic abuse as being on social media – much from a US neo-fascist group – and not from the Labour party, they then studiously ignored this and devoted all their energies to attacking the Labour Party as the receptacle of antisemitism.
The Community Security Trust, the source of the figures justified ignoring the online abuse because it would “throw their statistics out of kilter” – in other words it would produce a different result to the one they wanted!
They observe police recorded antisemitic crime is almost non-existent, and conclude that the police should investigate this under-reporting, thereby inventing offences that do not exist.
Antisemitic hate crimes were just 1% of 52,000 police recorded hate the crimes for 2016
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.
Guilt by association
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.
Attacks on individuals who had no right of reply
NUS President, Malia Bouattia, elected on a platform of Palestinian human rights;
Jackie Walker, a black Jew who stated her ancestors were slave trade merchants.
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.”
Thus criticising Jewish property (e.g. the settlements?) becomes antisemitic.
Criticising non-Jewish supporters of Israel (e.g. US Christian Zionists or Russian emigres) becomes antisemitic. This serves to insulate Israel’s unalloyed supporters from criticism.
They worsened the definition by incorporating into it the EUMC examples:
‘Criticism of Israel can be no harsher than of any other democracy’ – a card sharper’s slight of hand: there is not one person one vote for all those governed by Israel in the Occupied Territories, the Israeli Palestinian minority do not have civil rights equal to those of the majority, but to question Israel’s democratic status would be ‘delegitimisation’ and thus antisemitic.
‘Criticism of Israel as a racist enterprise is antisemitic’. Quoting Ben Gurion,’The cleansing of Palestine (is) the prime objective”,founding Zionist Weizmann “Not one village not one tribe shall be left” or the 50 laws which discriminate against israeli Palestinians become antisemitic.
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.
Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than to the interests of their own nations. Note the word ‘citizen’ not ‘people’: this means such accusations of any Jewish group or even individuals could be antisemitic. And those groups that do put Israel first cannot be criticised for doing so because such criticism would be antisemitic. This is nonsensical.
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!
Holding all Jews responsible for Israeli policies is seen as stereotyping and antisemitic – but it is the Jewish establishment itself which makes this very conflation of Jewish & Israeli identity. The Committee endorses this hypocrisy.
Distortion of Macpherson
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.
Manchester and Trafford Momentum AGM discussed and agreed this motion from Greater Manchester Momentum BAME Caucus on 16 November
Momentum Democracy, Jackie Walker and Support of BAME Activists
This Momentum Caucus notes that:
Jackie Walker, Malia Bouattia, Shami Chakrabarti and Dianne Abbott are three women of colour with long histories of standing against all kinds of racism. Not only have they not been supported in recent times by Momentum against vicious, racist attacks in the media and by politicians; in the case of Jacqueline Walker she was removed as Vice-Chair of the Momentum Steering committee – a decision made by a mainly white panel with no consultation of its BAME membership.
The Momentum Steering Committee have accepted that Jackie Walker, a Jewish and Black woman, had not been anti-Semitic but judged her critical remarks on Holocaust Memorial Day and her interview to Channel 4 News to be offensive. This was despite the many Jewish voices stating her comments were neither anti-Semitic nor offensive. However, during this trial by media Momentum had not contradicted the misquotations in a number of media sources
There are many Black Activists and Jewish Socialist Activists across the country who have commented that the national Momentum Steering Committee had a knee-jerk and undemocratic response to the pressure from the right of the Labour Party, pro-Zionist lobbies and the Media.
This Momentum Caucus believes that:
In recent months people of colour, notably the women named above, have been targeted by groups hostile to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and Palestine solidarity activists.
The rapid decisions and knee-jerk reaction of the Momentum Steering Committee in removing Jackie Walker, a lifelong anti-racism campaigner from her post in such circumstances has left BAME Momentum members wondering who is representing them within the leadership.
Momentum should commend these women for their courage to stand for these just causes no matter how much they are attacked for doing so Many BAME members in recent months have felt disenfranchised and are losing faith in the movement due to Momentum and the Left’s capitulation on issues such as the Anti-Semitism row
Momentum a less safe space for BAME members, who feel marginalised by the failure of the national Steering Committee to engage positively with BAME members or gauge their views in deciding upon the outcome of Jackie Walker’s position. This Caucus further believes that: BAME Members must have the safe space necessary to advocate for issues such as Palestine and Black Lives Matter even if that means countering prevailing views. Apartheid in South Africa was supported by the Thatcher government and many in the establishment but figures such as Jeremy Corbyn fought against such views even if that resulted in arrest; Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, the Black Panthers and the Black Lives Matter movement have also taken courageous stands against the oppression of Palestinian people despite very similar pressure and attacks
Our concerns now are that the Momentum leadership will continue to capitulate and leave its membership susceptible to outside pressure when they take a meaningful stance
The fight against racism and anti-Semitism cannot be selective and Greater Manchester BAME Caucus abhors any act of anti-Semitism or racism and extends the hand of solidarity to any comrade who has suffered such abuse. There can also be no justification for any form of latent or unconscious racism and therefore we remain perplexed at the actions of the Committee over this matter.
If Momentum is truly a People’s movement committed to transforming Britain for the better under a future Labour government, then Momentum needs to learn from its mistakes and listen to its members if it is to have any role in delivering this change.
This Caucus therefore calls on Manchester and Trafford Momentum to:
Engage in positive and constructive dialogue with BAME groups within Momentum with the assistance of BAME allies within the Labour and Trade Union movement
Apply pressure on the national Steering Committee to produce a clear and fair disciplinary policy that is agreed by members including the right that Liberation groups be consulted and involved in any potential disciplinary action of members of their groups
Apply pressure on the national Steering Committee to take on board the findings of the Chakrabarti report in terms of how disciplinary cases are to be handled
Take a much stronger stand to support prominent BAME activists who support Jeremy Corbyn and apply pressure on the national Steering Committee to do so also
Apply pressure on the national Steering Committee to apologise to Jackie Walker for her treatment in regards to the disciplinary procedures used against her
Make a statement that outlines Manchester & Trafford Momentum support for Palestinian rights, opposing Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, the denial of the right of return home for Palestinian refugees and equality of Palestinian Citizens of Israel.
Support our regional and national Momentum liberation groups to actively engage in decision making within Momentum but also respect the different viewpoints that may bring
To create an educational event addressing the current antisemitism row and how it connects to Zionism and the history of Palestine
I am Jackie Walker, life-long anti-racist campaigner and socialist. I was suspended from the Labour Party in May of this year, amidst what appears to have been a breach of Data Protection law by Iain McNicol as General Secretary of the Labour Party.
This is my campaign to raise money in order to bring legal proceedings against Iain McNicol for this serious breach of data – briefing a major community media publication or other parties before informing me of my suspension from the party. This is not acceptable in his position as General Secretary of the Labour Party.
This case matters as my story is just one of many where Labour members have found themselves in a similar position. While this may not be the only case where a breach has occurred, as I was abroad at the time it may well be the most provable.
We invite anybody who has a personal interest in this case or the wider public to contribute.
Statement from Martin Howe – Solicitor (representing)
“Jackie Walker has faced a barrage of hurtful, threatening and nasty abuse since the private details of her investigation by the Labour Party over alleged anti-Semitism was leaked to the press before even she knew of her suspension by the Party. This apparent breach of her private data has had a devastating impact on her public and private well-being and has led directly to her being pre-judged and unfairly cast as a racist before she was given any opportunity to tell her side of the story. Data Protection laws are there to protect all of us and any breach is a very serious matter.”
I am Jewish, my Russian born Jewish father and Jamaican born mother of Sephardi Jewish descent, were brought together in their shared political commitment to the Civil Rights movement of 1950’s America. My mother brought me to England in the late fifties. My experience is not untypical of blacks of that generation. I have been a victim of violent, structural, and persistent racism ever since I arrived in this countryin 1959. My personal response to this, my own everyday resistance, was not to become a particularist or a separatist but to be a universalist. I have been an anti-racist activist and campaigner all my life, a supporter of the rights of Palestinians, and have worked with disadvantaged families and communities nationally and internationally.
More about my suspension…
On 4th May I was suspended for the alleged (subsequently cleared) charge of antisemitism. As a Jewish person, whose partner is Jewish, this was heart-breaking. Since May I have continued to be targeted by the media, in print, online and in other places. Currently I am suspended for questions asked at a training session on ‘Confronting Antisemitism & Engaging Jewish Voters’ at this year’s Labour Conference, after being unethically filmed by a Jewish Labour Movement campaigns officer who is also a Labour councillor. It seems this training was not a ‘safe space for all Jews’ by any means.
Consequences of my suspension…
As soon as the first article was released before my notification had even arrived, trolls circled for the kill, posting spooky blacked up faces (and worse) to my Facebook account. The community and national newspapers led the attacks, querying my Jewish identity (a racist move in itself), my work as an anti-racist activist and my political commitment.
When my suspension was lifted things got worse. Indignation at my alleged breach reached the heights of irony when Nigel Farage, anxious not to miss out on the fun being had by among others, the Spectator, a number of Labour MPs and officers of the Party, dedicated an article in Breitbart and a good dose of righteous indignation on national TV to publicly calling me out as a racist. The widespread hate campaign against me led to public abuse, strangers shouting ‘racist’ as I walked to the tube. With the murderous racist political discourse now taking the place of debate, I became conscious I was recognisable on the street.
As General Secretary, Iain McNicol is directly responsible for the damage caused to me, my family and friends by the decision of persons unknown – who briefed a major community publication in regards to my suspension and allegation, before the Labour Party had informed me.
What do you call someone who makes up their own facts and abuses their opponents? In the US you say they are acting like Donald Trump; in the Labour Party you say they are channelling their inner John Mann.
A letter from a Jewish 90 year old long-time Labour member to John Mann has been gaining attention. In his letter Dr Glatt draws attention to Mann’s “narcissistic and attention-seeking” behaviour. He goes on to write:
However, your comments that all Labour members who supported her [Jackie Walker]“should be expelled from the Party,” which were reported in the media, absolutely appalled me. The implied ‘guilt by association’ is akin to the ‘fellow traveller’ accusations made during the McCarthyite era in the USA. Shame on you. There seems to be a desire, on your part, to conflate (i.e. run together as if they represent the same meaning), the words and concepts of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
Was Mann’s response to issue an apology, quite the contrary. He alleged, without foundation, that Sam Glatt hadn’t written the letter but that Graham Martin has fraudulently issued his own letter and misappropriated Dr Glatt’s name. A serious charge.
Unfortunately for Mr Mann Tony Greenstein did some detective work and made contact with Sam Glatt who readily confirmed that he wrote the letter with some minor editing assistance from Graham Martin.
Mann’s response so far has only been to delete his Facebook post but unfortunately, for him, not before a number of people had taken a screen-shot.
Mann’s behaviour to Dr Glatt reminds us of how he was denounced by an Employment Tribunal for giving evidence-free evidence when Ronnie Fraser tried to sue his own union, UCU, for spurious allegations of antisemitism.
Mann is a serial offender who leads a charmed life. He is not ridiculed in the Press or on the broadcast media; rather he treated with extraordinary respect and taken at his own estimate as a truth-telling expert. The UK media ignore unwelcome inconsistencies as readily as the most dedicated Trump supporter praises Donald’s respectful treatment of women.
Similarly the Labour Party compliance unit, which at Mann’s urging has chased wills-of-the-wisp across the landscape of Palestinian rights advocates, has sat on its hands and not started proceedings against Mann for bringing the Party into disrepute.
We await Mr Mann’s intersection with justice more in hope than anticipation.