Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Smoke Without Fire – Anti-Semitism Without Jews


 A Critical Review of 
Edited by Jamie Stern-Weiner, Verso, 2019
 


Below is a Review of Anti-Semitism and the Labour Party, an Ebook Below is my Review of Anti-Semitism and the Labour Party, an Ebook brought out shortly before the General Election and edited by Jamie Stern-Weiner. It is a critical review because the book fails to come to terms with what the anti-Semitism attacks are really about.
If, as I have argued for the past 4 years, the ‘anti-Semitism’ attacks by the Board of Deputies and the Zionists are not about anti-Semitism but Israel/Zionism then it is futile ‘proving’ that only 0.06% or whatever of Labour members are anti-Semitic.  Even assuming that those expelled were genuine anti-Semites whereas of course most of those, like Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth and myself are committed anti-racists, it is irrelevant.
The Labour Party is supposed to be the party of the working class. If that is true then it will also include all the mass of petty prejudices and chauvinism of capitalist  society, including racism, that circulate in the working class. What Marx called the 'muck of ages'. That will inevitably include anti-Semitism. Those who plotted and planned the Board of Deputies and Zionist campaign knew full well that if they looked they could find ‘anti-Semitism’.  It has always been there. It has nothing to do with Jeremy Corbyn and the Left. 
‘Anti-Semitism’ provided the ideal pretext to attack Corbyn and unfortunately in accepting the framework of the anti-Semitism attack, viz. that the attacks are genuinely about anti-Semitism, books such as this do little to help in the fightback.
The Zionist demonstration against 'antisemitism' outside Parliament March 2018 - it was the first 'antiracist' demonstration that Norman Tebbit, Ian Paisley and Sajid David had attended
This is the fatal mistake that Jewish Voice for Labour made. It assumes the campaign was about Jews but of course it was not. That is why you have the phenomenon of non-Jewish racists, like the hapless Lukey Stanger, attacking Black anti-racists as ‘anti-Semitic’.
This isn’t so strange as it seems.  When Donald Trump told 4 Black Congresswomen to ‘go home’ he added for completeness that they were ‘anti-Semites’ because they hated Israel. In Donald Trump and the Zionists’ eyes, Israel = Jews.
The Zionist Campaign to Paint Corbyn as an Antisemite had to overcome the difficulty that he was an antiracist activist
Jamie sent me a copy of the book on 26th November and we engaged in a short correspondence.  I wrote that though his and Alan Maddison’s article ‘Smoke Without Fire’ was impressive, nonetheless
The point though is that however logical, fact filled etc. it is it fails to understand one point. This campaign is not based on logic or rationale.  It is a campaign in defence of ruling class capitalist interests and the Zionist leaders are quite happy to perform like dancing bears for that establishment.  It is in many ways reminiscent of the role that Jews used to play in Eastern Europe, the tools of the nobles or kings which brought so much wrath down on their heads.
The anti-Semitic slogan of the 'antisemitism' smear merchants - it implies that all Jews are not of the 'few' not the 'many'

Jamie replied that
 ‘Of course, the campaign serves interests - but that does not mean its claims should not be debunked. The Iraq War also served ruling interests, but it was still important to critique the arguments for war on the evidence.’
Which is of course true but the problem is that politically the whole campaign is based on debunking the lies of our opponents rather than pushing an alternative narrative that is about Palestine and Zionism.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, one of the weakest essays in the collection by Richard Kuper, ‘Hue and Cry over UCU’, was written in 2011 for Open Democracy on the situation concerning the University College Union. The article was relevant then and irrelevant now. Richard’s comments on the EUMC Working Definition of Anti-Semitism now the IHRA are ill-thought out and I’m sure he would no longer stand by them, in particular his comment that refers to ‘six relatively unproblematic examples of antisemitism’ being the first 6 examples of ‘anti-Semitism’ that is given.
In one sense this series of essays, which are highly uneven in quality, encapsulate all the mistakes made by people in the ‘anti-Semitism wars’ in the Labour Party.
As these wars show every sign of continuing I can only hope that some attention is paid to this analysis.
Tony Greenstein 
Jamie Stern-Weiner did his best to avoid any serious discussion of the relationship of Zionism to the antisemitism campaign

Smoke Without Fire (this review appears in Weekly Worker)

It is said that those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. It would seem that the contributors to this title were determined to prove the truth of this aphorism.
The centrepiece of this Internet book is Smoke Without Fire, referring to the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign against the Labour Party: Their conclusion being that:
‘no persuasive evidence has been presented to demonstrate that antisemitism within the Labour Party has increased since 2015..’
How then to account for the widespread perception to the contrary? Why is it that between 15 June 2015 and 31 March 2019 there were five and a half thousand articles on Labour ‘anti-Semitism’ in the national press? [1]
Or to put it another way. How is it that the Windrush Scandal, when dozens of Black British citizens were illegally deported to the Caribbean has garnered only a fraction of such coverage? Why is it that genuine racism is a matter of indifference for the British media but ‘anti-Semitism’ garners such attention?
Jamie Stern-Weiner and friends have consciously avoided the question of Israel and Jamie clearly harbours illusions in Zionism as an ideology
Weiner and Maddison’s observe that:
There were no witches in Salem; Jewish elders did not gather in a graveyard at night; a Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy did not target Nazi Germany. The allegation that Labour is rife with antisemitism is of a piece with these fantastic antecedents.
But if the allegations of anti-Semitism against the Labour Party are of a piece with the belief that Salem was host to a coven of witches, then what were they about?  Where did they come from?  On this Weiner and Maddison and indeed virtually all the contributors are silent.
If Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism’ affair was not about anti-Semitism then what was it about? Virtually no one in this collection is prepared to call out the BBC/Daily Mail smear campaign for what it was. A vicious, right-wing campaign, using bogus allegations of anti-Semitism as a stick to beat a left-wing leader of the Labour Party who was held to represent a threat to all that the British Establishment held to be dear to them.
When the Daily Mail and the BBC are concerned about racism, then surely it cannot be too difficult to figure out what has happened? There seems to be a reluctance amongst these luminaries of the left elites to say what is or should be obvious namely that we have just witnessed the destabilisation of a political party by state actors, British and foreign.
At the beginning of 2017 Al Jazeera broadcast a four-part programme, The Lobby, which provided a snapshot of what had been happening.  Clearly the Israeli state and its surrogates, Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement, were actively organising for the overthrow of Corbyn using anti-Semitism as their chosen weapon.
Equally clearly the British and American states were also involved. That is why there was no interest by the British government in inquiring as to why an Israeli intelligence operative, Shai Masot, was plotting the downfall of Britain’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Alan Duncan. Anyone acquainted with the actions of the CIA and the intelligence agencies, as documented by ex-CIA agent Phil Agee in Inside the Company, should not have been surprised. 
Just contrast this with the reaction should Al Jazeera’s programme have focussed on the activities of an Iranian political agent seeking the downfall of particular government ministers.
In Jeremy Corbyn we had the election of someone who was anti-Nato, a supporter of the Palestinians and a well known opponent of US foreign policy, to the leadership of the second major party in the US’s closest ally in Europe. Why would the Americans not intervene to prevent Corbyn becoming Prime Minister? Do the left social democrats and liberals who contributed to these essays really believe that the United States wouldn’t intervene in British politics if its interests were at stake?
In 20 or 30 years, when the present furore has died down, some enterprising young researcher or journalist, perhaps on The Guardian, will obtain details under freedom of information legislation about what really happened, which was a conspiracy against democracy.
Antisemitism and the Labour Party was distributed as an EBook two weeks before December 12th. It claimed to ‘bring(s) together the most rigorous and penetrating analytical writings on the ‘Labour antisemitism’ affair.’ Unfortunately, with the exception of two articles by Norman Finkelstein and that by Justin Schlosberg, all the contributions suffer from the same fallacy, namely that what it calls the ‘strange events that have warped British politics since 2015’ are actually about anti-Semitism.
Finkelstein in his chapter on the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism points the finger at Zionism and Israel but others seem strangely reluctant. Daniel Finn’s Corbyn Under Fire concludes that if Chakrabarti’s  recommendation
‘to ‘use the term “Zionist” advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically ... and to ‘resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel/Palestine’
had been heeded then ‘some of the controversies of the past two years could have been avoided.’ Complete nonsense. Indeed the exact reverse of the truth. Far from avoiding the use of the term ‘Zionist’ people should have emphasised that the attacks on the Labour Party came from the Zionist
If Luciana Berger could resurrect a six year old long erased mural in the East End to attack Corbyn with then why would Hitler comparisons make any difference?
But if people had fought back and not accepted the ‘anti-Semitism’ framework.  If they had argued that ‘Zionism’ meant a political settler colonial project that anti-Semites like Trump and Orban were only too happy to support then perhaps some much needed political clarification might have been injected.
Is it seriously suggested that when the Israel State funds campaigns against miscegenation and when mobs chant ‘Death to the Arabs’ or when Israeli law recognises the right of Jewish communities to bar Arabs as members, that comparisons with pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany are inappropriate?  That when Israel uses the Holocaust to justify its barbarism that it is inappropriate for us to respond in kind?
Was it anti-Semitic for Hannah Arendt in ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem: the Banality of Evil’ to compare Israeli laws forbidding marriage between Jew and Arab with those of the Nuremburg Laws? Was Professor Ze’ev Sternhell, an expert on fascism and a childhood survivor of the Polish ghetto of Przemyśl, wrong to write that in Israel there is a ‘Growing Fascism and a Racism Akin to Early Nazism’?
Jamie Stein-Werner continues where Finn left off with his report on the 2017 Labour Party Conference. He says that
‘whereas ‘Nazis[m]’ and ‘apartheid’ unambiguously refer to extreme oppression, ‘Zionism’ might denote any one along a spectrum of beliefs ranging from the harmful to the benign (e.g., support for the right of Jews to collective self-determination.’
It’s no wonder that the JLM had it so easy when even our supporters fail to understand that Zionism was a reflection of anti-Semitism and is the ideological font of racial supremacy in Israel.
This acceptance of Jewish racism originated with Jon Lansman’s Left Futures and Why the Left Must Stop Talking About ‘Zionism’. The fact that every act of racism in Israel is justified by reference to the ‘ideals’ of the Zionist vision is simply obliterated.
When appeals were made for the right of African refugees to stay in Israel Interior Minister Elli Yishai was quoted as saying that ‘The migrants are giving birth to hundreds of thousands, and the Zionist dream is dying’ [2] The whole debate around these refugees was conducted in terms of Zionism’s desire for as Jewish a state as possible and a permanent Jewish demographic majority.
Every act of racism in Israel is carried out in the name of preserving the ‘Jewish’ state and its majority. It is the failure to take this on board in their critique of Israel and Zionism that lies behind much of the failure of the opposition to the anti-Semitism witchhunt.
Only Finkelstein raised the issue of genuine racism against Black people which should have been the major plank of our fightback.
How many Jews have been shot dead by police or railroaded into jail? Whereas being Black or Muslim closes doors, being Jewish opens them.
Where was the anger with those, Tory and New Labour, who had introduced a ‘hostile environment’ policy which led to Windrush? Not one contributor pointed the finger at the Labour Right’s complicity in supporting the 2014 Immigration Act and in playing the race card.
I have long campaigned to highlight Tom Watson’s support for Labour MP Phil Woolas who was removed as an MP by the High Court after having waged an election campaign based on ‘making the white folk angry’. Or Watson’s role in the 2004 by-election in Hodge Hill where he issued a leaflet ‘"Labour is on your side, the Lib Dems are on the side of failed asylum seekers."
There was a total failure by Corbyn to call out the Daily Mail and Sun, who employed Katie Hopkins, who described refugees as ‘cockroaches’. This is also reflected in the contributions to this book.  We should have responded to the hypocritical nature of the attacks on us rather than scurrying to find ‘evidence’ of how many anti-Semites there were in the Labour Party.
Sentiments that Rebecca Long-Bailey finds difficult to endorse
6 days before the General Election I wrote Expect the worst, hope for the best. The night before the election, whilst campaigning for Chris Williamson, I penned an Open Letter to Seamus Milne which read that ‘the strategy of apologising for ‘anti-Semitism’ and appeasement of the Right had led to Disaster’.
I had sleepless nights asking myself how Corbyn could win. ‘What’ I asked myself, ‘had I missed’?  People were confident. Hundreds of Momentum supporters were flooding marginal constituencies. Was I a natural born Jeremiah, forever a Cassandra? It was clear to me that Corbyn Labour’s inability to stand up for its beliefs and to rebut the smears were going to result in an election defeat. The only question was ‘how bad it was going to be’. In 2017, when even my closest comrades in Brighton and Hove Momentum were gloomy I had been optimistic. In two blog articles I had predicted a hung parliament and even victory.
It was the inability of Corbyn and McDonnell to fight back against this state-inspired campaign, including throwing Chris Williamson to the wolves, that spelt the end. It was not that ‘anti-Semitism’ was raised on the doorstep, rather that his permanent apologising, temporising, failing to answer questions and an inability to go on the offensive and face down his critics that was not only depressing but demeaning. Corbyn appeared weak and it was this that led to the low opinion of him on the doorsteps. After all how would Corbyn and McDonnell stand up to a much fiercer onslaught when in government?
When I had been suspended in March 2016 for ‘comments you are alleged to have made’ (I only learnt what these comments were when I read The Telegraph and Times two weeks later) it was immediately clear that the allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. In 2018 I was expelled as part of the ‘anti-Semitism’ moral panic as was Marc Wadsworth and then Jackie Walker. Ken Livingstone was forced out too and yet Corbyn failed to speak out
Anti-Semitism and the Labour Party contains 20 different contributions and there are 21 different testimonies from Jews in the Labour Party. The most obvious lacuna is that nowhere in the nearly 300 pages is there any contribution from someone, Jewish or non-Jewish, who has been the victim of Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism’ witchhunt.  Neither Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Chris Williamson, Marc Wadsworth, Asa Winstanley or myself was invited to contribute. It is as if the testimony of those who were at the sharp end of what happened was of no account.
This arrogance reminds me of the question posed by Rudolph Vrba, the Jewish escapee from Auschwitz in April 1944. Vrba was deliberately ignored and rendered anonymous by Israel’s Holocaust historians, because what he had to say did not accord with Zionism’s holocaust narrative. Vrba asked who was the better historian: ‘those of us who saw the Nazis in action in Auschwitz’ or ‘those who did not have direct experience with the Nazis’? [3]
This book contains many good essays but there are also a considerable number of mundane stocking fillers. One of the worst is by David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialist Group. Appearing in July David spoke of ‘improvements’ in Labour’s procedures for handling complaints of anti-Semitism. David imagined that Labour’s right-wing had
‘been pushed back. The detail will be discussed more and refined before Labour Conference. And it has been confirmed that antisemitism will not be separated out but these processes will apply to all complaints that discrimination/abuse has occurred against members across the range of protected characteristics.
This is a pure flight of fantasy. At the Labour Party conference it was agreed that people would be expelled by a fast track procedure without so much as a hearing. In practice any statement critical of Israel can and does lead to expulsion. David was also silent on the unlawful suspension of Chris Williamson.
In reality this campaign was not about procedures. The focus on that was another red herring which unfortunately David and much of the JSG swallowed. However good the procedures (to do what?) they could never have satisfied Labour’s opponents.
Meanwhile all other examples of racism have been ignored. Black and Muslim people have been primary targets of the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign.  Anti-racist campaigner Marc Wadsworth, who played a pivotal role in the Stephen Lawrence campaign was expelled at the behest of Ruth Smeeth, a former Israel lobbyist for BICOM.
In Brighton and Hove notorious right-winger, Lukey Stanger, who stated that Travellers were ‘frequently a nasty blight on communities’ has been suspended for months with no sign of an impending expulsion. Stanger was protected by Tom Watson.
Luke Akehurst, the Director of We Believe in Israel who openly campaigned to defend Israel’s murder of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators, including children, in Gaza by Israeli snipers,[4] has not been disciplined.  We can only assume that Palestinian lives are worth less than Israeli or Jewish lives.
David Rosenberg bears a greater responsibility than most. He lives in Corbyn’s constituency and knows Corbyn personally. David did his best to ensure that there was no criticism of Corbyn’s feeble tactics even though it should have been obvious that it was only counter-pressure that might have led to Corbyn fighting back.
Even worse Jon Lansman was (is?) a member of the JSG. When I posted an article on the Jewish Socialists’ Facebook Group it was removed by David’s partner, Julia Bard. When I persisted in criticising the JSG’s refusal to support Jackie Walker I was removed altogether.
David has been pivotal in the formation of Jewish Voice for Labour. I refused to join JVL because I opposed a Jewish only group when the ‘anti-Semitism’ attacks were not about Jews or anti-Semitism. The first rule of any political campaign is not to accept your opponents’ terms of reference.
That is why JVL has failed to make any impression on the witchhunt or anti-Semitism campaign. The attacks were always about Israel, Zionism and wider British foreign policy, not Jews or anti-Semitism. JVL consistently refused to criticise Corbyn’s weak leadership or raise the wider question of racism in the Labour Party.
In the Chimera of British Anti-Semitism Norman Finkelstein notes that the fear in the Jewish community of an impending Corbyn government did not mean they had anything to fear.
If residents of Salem, Massachusetts, experienced deep anxiety about witches; if Americans experienced deep anxiety about Communists; ... if, for that matter, Christians experienced deep anxiety about Jewish ritual child-murderers – if an anxiety is widespread, surely it doesn’t necessarily, or even probably, follow that it is a rational fear. It could just as plausibly have been induced by powerful social forces standing to benefit from a deliberately contrived paranoia. (p.41)
Instead of tackling head on reports of the disaffection of British Jews the Jewish Chronicle’s campaign to instil fear was simply ignored and allowed to fester.
Where I disagree with Finkelstein’s is his references to an ‘outsized Jewish political power’. It is true that Zionist groups such as the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute boasts of such power. It is also true that Jews are disproportionately represented amongst the wealthy, in the media, politics and academia.
But does this therefore translate into Jewish Power? Do all Jews possess the same class interests? Unless we believe that Jews are acting in concert, as an organised block or caste, then we should avoid the ethnicisation of what are historic, political, social and economic phenomenon.
There is no separate Jewish interest or lobby in society. Of course the Zionist lobby purports to represent all Jews but we should not accept their claim. In the United States politics is ethnicised precisely because of the weakness of class politics. Lenni Brenner is another American anti-Zionist who falls into this trap.
Finkelstein is a brilliant writer however he is not infallible. Although he is not using the concept of ‘Jewish power’ in an anti-Semitic sense there is no doubt that ‘Jewish Power’ is both an anti-Semitic and a Zionist concept. It suits Zionism to pretend that Jews worldwide, apart from us ‘self haters’ all support Israel. It suits anti-Semites to make ‘Jew’ and ‘Israel’ synonymous.
It was Paul Eisen, whose alleged association with Corbyn first began the anti-Semitism campaign, who published ‘Jewish Power’, the first of 3 articles which mapped his coming out as a holocaust denier.[5]
Being Jewish is no barrier to being accused of 'antisemitism'
When Finkelstein says that ‘Were it not for the outsized power of British Jews, it’s hard to conceive that British society would be interminably chasing after a hobgoblin’ he has completely missed the point.  Just as there can be anti-Semitism without Jews, as in Eastern Europe, so there can be an anti-Semitism smear campaign without Jews as the United States may be about to prove with Bernie Sanders.
Daniel Finn got it right when he wrote that ‘Israel’s supporters are not an external force that has bent the British ruling class to its will. They are the outriders of that class.’ Zionism is the ruling class’s cutting edge. The fake anti-Semitism campaign had nothing whatsoever to do with ‘Jewish Power’. Daniel is also right when he wrote that ‘A narrative can still be false even if it contains truthful elements: in fact, there are very few that don’t.’  Indeed I would argue that in that one sentence Daniel summed up everything about the ‘anti-Semitism’ smears. Yes there were anti-Semites in the Labour Party. There always have been. The campaign was not however about them.
Of course there will be people with anti-Semitic or conspiracy ideas in their heads in the Labour Party. There always have been. But it was only when Corbyn was elected leader that the hunt began to find them. Such people are not a threat to Corbyn or even anti-Semitic in any meaningful sense. They are certainly no threat to Jews.
There will also be people in Labour who support racist immigration controls, who believe that migrants take British jobs and who believe that Gypsies are a social nuisance. The way to deal with them is by way of education and debate.  If Labour is to be the party of the working class then it cannot exclude those who offend its middle class sensibilities.
It is a sign of the theoretical and political poverty of the Labour Right that it resorted to disciplinary measures and it is equally a measure of the intellectual bankruptcy of the Labour Left that it has given way to the Right on this. This book does not challenge that vacuum.
Jews in Britain were the alibi, the pretext for the British Establishment. It was extremely useful to be able to wage the war against Corbyn in the name of Britain’s Jews. In much the same way that British imperialism justified its occupation of India by reference to its campaign against Suttee not the exploitation of the Indian peasantry. Opposition to anti-Semitism had a ring of moral righteousness that support for austerity lacked!
It was however the weakness of the Labour Left and this book reflects that weakness, that it failed to draw any conclusions from who supported the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign. The same Daily Mail which supported Hitler and the British Union of Fascists and which campaigned against the admission of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Then there was the BBC and the Sun. Yet not once did Corbyn or Lansman point out these basic facts.
The ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign was adopted by a Tory Party which has historically been riddled with anti-Semitism and which even today sits, in the European Parliament in the ECR group with fascists and anti-Semites.
Justin Schlosberg and Laura Laker’s article ‘Labour, Antisemitism, and the News - A Disinformation Paradigm’ is well worth reading for the detail it provides on the overwhelming bias, not only of the printed press but the broadcast media and the BBC in particular. They are the only contributors to refer to the outrageous and unlawful suspension of Chris Williamson MP.
Richard Kuper’s outdated Hue and Cry over the UCU adds nothing to the criticism of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism by Hugh Tomlinson QC, Geoffrey Robertson QC and Sir Stephen Sedley. It is truly abysmal. It is difficult to know why it was included. Kuper refers to six relatively unproblematic examples of antisemitism’ amongst the 11 illustrations of ‘anti-Semitism’. In fact they are all problematic. His first example is
‘Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.’
Is Richard seriously suggesting that calling for the killing of Jews in the name of a ‘moderate’ ideology or religion is acceptable? Clearly what this ‘illustration’ is about is demonising Muslims.
Richard also says that ‘using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism’ – could hardly be anything but anti-Semitic. Where has Richard been? It is part of Zionist hasbara (propaganda) to associate criticism of Israeli practices today with medieval anti-Semitism. When criticism is made of documented examples of settlers poisoning Palestinian water sources, this is compared to medieval allegations that Jews poisoned wells. As Finkelstein notes:
Israeli hasbara (propaganda) itself promiscuously exploits the ‘blood libel’ charge (i.e., that Jews murdered Christian children for ritual purposes) in order to silence critics by reversing its sting. mere mention of Palestinian children killed by Israel typically prompts accusations of a ‘Global Blood Libel against Israel’
Richard says that another example ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination’ could be antisemitic.’ I disagree. There is no scenario in which this is anti-Semitic. It is the concept of a single Jewish people, in practice a Jewish race, which is anti-Semitic.
In what is a far more well thought out analysis of the IHRA Finkelstein argues that socialists, who for too long have sought to restrict free speech on the grounds of not ‘hurting the feelings’ of one group or another or because of a desire to achieve a ‘safe space’ (are there any under capitalism?) have colluded with the government’s attacks on free speech.
It is on the grounds of free speech that the Left should have made its stance, instead of being the censorious, nannying busy bodies that too many on the left have become. Instead of banning or expelling people for transphobia we should have encourage debate on the issue.
Finkelstein quotes Marx saying that ‘You must have doubts about everything’. This should be emblazoned on the Left’s banners.
Finkelstein also points to the problems with Brian Klug’s alternative definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ as
‘a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are’.
I agree that anti-Semites often take issue with Jews for what they are, not for what they are not.  So someone who hates Jews for being too clever or good businessmen is not anti-Semitic! Brian’s definition is too clever by half and we would do better to rely on the OED definition of anti-Semitism: ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews.’
Only Antony Lerman makes the point in When Jews Are Just Fodder for the Tory Propaganda Machine that when Tories, like Jacob Rees-Mogg make reference to Jews as the ‘Illuminati’ pulling the strings, a genuinely anti-Semitic remark, no one criticises him. The same could be said of Boris Johnson’s book 72 Virgins which is replete with racist and anti-Semitic comments. This and the Tories support for Viktor Orban in the European Parliament
Jeremy Gilbert’s trite Antisemitism, Cosmopolitanism and the Politics of Labour’s ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Right-Wings is another Xmas stocking filler. Jeremy tells us that ‘there will be no more suspensions of party members simply because they support Corbyn and the party machinery think they can get away with suspending them.’ Where has Jeremy been?
Tom Mills and David Miller’s article for Ceasefire ‘Notes on Power, Elites, and Anti-Racism’ is a useful corrective to the idea that seems to have gotten hold that criticising elites in society is now anti-Semitic (presumably because Jews make up most of the elites!). According to Siobhan McDonagh MP, not the sharpest tool in the Labour Right’s toolbox, anti-capitalism is anti-Semitic because Jews are capitalists!  Thus the fake ‘anti-Semitism’ comes full circle.
The final article is ‘Jews, Antisemitism and the Law’ by Naomi Wayne who works for the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland. It is a timely reminder of the pending investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, who have made a partisan political intervention in Labour’s internal affairs launching an Inquiry into the accusations of anti-Semitism. 
When all the candidates for Labour leadership have committed themselves to accepting the EHRC investigation report we should be clear that this is a ruling class stitch-up.
Unfortunately this Ebook is less than the sum of its parts. I recommend that those interested in this subject read Bad News for Labour, whose book launch the Zionists tried unsuccessfully to stop at the Labour Party Conference and the earlier Labour’s Anti-Semitism Wars, to which I contributed.
Tony Greenstein


[1]               Philo, Berry Schlosberg, Lerman & Miller, Bad News for Labour, p. vii,Pluto Press, London, 2019.
[3]           Ruth Linn, Escaping Auschwitz: A Culture of Forgetting - p. 108.
[5]           You can read Eisen’s article here and a response by Joel Finkel here. You will not that at this stage Finkel did not call Eisen a holocaust denier but it was clear, not least from his defence of Israel Shamir, that he was on the road to becoming one.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Israel, is the only state in the world where torture is legal

Israeli Doctors are Actively Complicit in Aiding and Abetting Torture but according to Emily Thornberry that IS WHY Israel a ‘beacon of freedom’


According to Emily Thornberry “Modern Israel is a beacon of freedom, equality and democracy”. Israel is also the only state in the world where torture is legal. See It’s now (even more) official: torture is legal in Israel
In 1987 the Landau Commission, which was set up as a result of the Bus 300 Affair, when two Palestinian prisoners were murdered by senior officers (one General Yitzhak Mordechai was later promoted to Command of the Southern Region), found that the use of violence, or ‘moderate physical pressure’ as they termed it, against prisoners was an acceptable method of interrogation. They argued, in the light of what they called "the concept of the lesser evil", that
Elyakim Rubinstein, Supreme Court Justice who approved of the use of torture
"actual torture . . . would be perhaps be justified in order to uncover a bomb about to explode in a building full of people . . . whether the charge is certain to be detonated in five minutes or in five days."
"To put it bluntly, the alternative is: are we to accept the offence of assault entailed in slapping a suspect's face, or threatening him, in order to induce him to talk and reveal a cache of explosive materials meant for use in carrying an act of mass terror against a civilian population, and there by prevent the greater evil which is about to occur? The answer is self evident."[15]
This was the justification that the Nazis used for torture. Defence of the State against its enemies. Chaired by Supreme Court Judge Moshe Landua, the Commission's Report stated:
Israeli torture victim
"The effective interrogation of terrorist suspects is impossible without the use of means of pressure, in order to overcome an obdurate will not to disclose information and to overcome the fear of the person under interrogation that harm will befall him from his own organization, if he does reveal information."[16]
"The means of pressure should principally take the form of non-violent psychological pressure through a vigorous and extensive interrogation, with the use of stratagems, including acts of deception. However, when these do not attain their purpose, the exertion of a moderate measure of physical pressure cannot be avoided."
In 1999 the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court, ruled in Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v the Government of Israel, PD 73(4) 817 (1999) that the law does not permit the use of torture. However they also ruled that in a ‘ticking bomb’ case the use of such methods might not  cause the torturers to be legally culpable.

Prof. Yuval Shany explained in Back to the ‘Ticking Bomb’ Doctrine how the decision of Israel’s High Court in December 2017 in Abu Ghosh v. Attorney-General effectively reinvigorated the ‘ticking time bomb’ defence of Israel’s torturers.

The result is, as Btselem documents, that Shin Bet have continued to use torture as a routine method of interrogation with the connivance of the Israel’s Supreme Court. Since 1967 73 prisoners have been tortured to death.
Last December a Report from Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoner Support Unit and Legal Aid Group stated that
The occupation authorities, in particular, the Israeli intelligence agency “Shabak” resorts to torture and ill-treatment as standard operating procedure in a systematic and wide-scale approach against Palestinian detainees. Over the past three months, the intelligence agency subjected a number of detainees at Israeli interrogation centers to severe physical and psychological torture without any form of monitoring and protection.
The reaction of the Israeli state to Addameer’s Report was to impose a ‘gag order’ preventing them from printing details of the case of torture.  This too, as Emily will explain is another example of Israeli democracy at its best!
Other examples include 21-year-old Palestinian student Mays Abu Ghosh who is currently in an Israeli jail cell and a victim of torture. Mays, who was arrested for her activism, has been interrogated so violently that her parents could barely recognize her – yet this horrific story is being met with no huge outcry and very little media attention.
On August 29, Mays was arrested in her home during a sweep of Palestinian student activists and detained under trumped-up charges. 
Demonstration protesting at the death under torture of Arafat Jaradat in an Israeli G4S prison
As a student journalist, Mays has been a vocal advocate of Palestinian rights. Now she’s being tortured for her lifelong resistance to displacement, and being labeled a “major terrorist” for her work organizing with fellow students against Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Her “crimes” include participating in a conference about the Palestinian right of return in Lebanon, and speaking about her late brother on a radio program.
When her parents were finally allowed to visit, Mays was so bruised and visibly wounded she was almost unrecognizable. Her mother couldn’t hug her because her body was in too much pain.
Addameer describes some of the torture techniques:
The Banana Position - Israel's own invention
·         Positional torture (stress positions): Israeli intelligence officers forced the detainees into a number of stress positions such as the banana position,[2] the frog position, sitting on an imaginary chair, squatting and many other different positions. Almost in all of these stress positions, the detainees would lose their balance and fall on the ground, which would lead to a harsh beating by the officers and then forcing the detainee back into the stress position. Other used stress positions included standing on their toes while their hands were shackled above their heads to a wall. Another position included sitting on a chair while handcuffed to the back, where the hands were positioned on a table behind the detainee’s chair. A third position involved the detainee laying on the ground with his/her hands chained to each other with iron cuffs and positioned behind his/her back. This position also includes officers sitting on the detainee to place pressure on his/her body while beat him/her ferociously.  
Illustrative use of torture
·         Harsh beatings: Israeli occupation intelligence officers used extreme methods of beatings against the detainees using their hands, legs, knees and even their fingers. The officers hit, slapped, punched, poked (using their fingers), and kicked the detainees. These methods resulted in severe and life-threatening injuries that included broken ribs, inability to walk, brutal bruises, swelling marks on the skin, ulcer wounds…etc. The officers, who exceeded five in number in some cases used to blindfold the detainees’ eyes so they would not expect the beating or know where it is coming from. Several of those detainees appeared in their court sessions with marks on their bodies, expressing severe pain, or in some cases arrived on wheelchairs. In one of the cases, the harsh beating was committed with the intention to kill the detainee, who was in fact transferred to the hospital in serious condition after around 30 hours of severe and extreme methods of beatings. In another case, the harsh beating aimed at injuries caused by a police dog during the arrest, the interrogators intended to target those previously obtained injuries, which were mainly on the detainee’s genital area causing the wounds to re-open twice. Also, in many other cases, the method of pulling the facial hair from its roots causing injuries and swelling marks was used.
An actor plays the role of torture victim
·         Sleep deprivation: this technique was implemented through different methods, in some cases the detainees spent around twenty days sleeping from one to three hours a day. Even when those detainees were sent to their cells to sleep, they would be disturbed with loud and eerie sounds made by the prison guards, the voices of other detainees being harshly beaten or the sound of knocking on their cell doors. In some cases, sleep deprivation ranged from 30 to 60 continuous hours, where the detainee would not be sent to sleep at all during these hours and would be woken up if he/she falls asleep during the interrogation. Some detainees were harshly slapped on their faces to wake up, others were also splashed with water. Detainees described the slaps as extremely severe causing them to feel dizzy.
·         The use of family members (emotional blackmailing): psychological torture and ill-treatment were used on the majority of these detainees, focusing on threats against their family members, and loved ones. Israeli occupation forces used the policy of collective punishment through arresting and bringing in some of the family members mostly to al-Mascobiyya interrogations center and Ofer prison. Eight family members for seven different detainees were arrested, and another ten family members were brought in for questioning. Some of these relatives were kept for a number of days while others were kept for hours. In all the cases, family members and loved ones were mainly brought in to pressure the detainees themselves. The interrogators made the detainees assume that their relatives got arrested and will be tortured as well. Relatives included fathers, mothers, brothers, daughters, wives, etc.
Palestinians dressed up as torture detainees
·         Interrogation at Israeli secret prisons: at least one of the detainees Addameer has documented their cases have stated that they were taken to unknown centers. The detainee said that the interrogators at this center were all face-covered and wearing a different uniform than the known usual uniforms. It has been revealed in the past that Israel has secret prisons that are removed from maps and airbrushed aerial photographs.[3]
Others such as Samir Arbeed have been left permanently disabled as a result of their experiences See Israel/ OPT: Legally-sanctioned torture of Palestinian detainee left him in critical condition
What is particularly reprehensible is the involvement of Israeli doctors and physicians in the use of torture. Doctors who monitor prisoners in order that they can help the torturers decide how far to go, who declare when a prisoner is fit enough for further torture and who deliberately lie in medical reports in order to cover for the torturers. Comparisons with American doctors who collaborated with the CIA in water boarding and SS doctors spring to mind.  See the article below How Israeli doctors enable the Shin Bet’s torture industry.
And far from the Israeli Medical Association opposing this they give the green light for such doctors to continue what they are doing. See for example the article by John Yudkin, Emeritus Professor at University College, London.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has stated that if the IMA refused to allow doctors to serve in security units commonly deploying torture the practice would come to a halt. The medical presence in these units offers moral legitimation to Israel’s interrogators. See Global medical watchdog complicit with Israeli abuses.
Yoram Blachar
In 2009 more than 700 doctors from around the world called for the Israeli President of the World Medical Association, Yoram Blachar, to step down, calling him “unfit for office” and claiming that he had turned a blind eye to the “institutionalised involvement of doctors” in torture in Israel.
In a letter they said that the appointment of Blachar, who was President of the Israeli Medical Association as president of the WMA was “a matter of grave concern.” The signatories, who included professors and doctors from 43 countries, said that the appointment
“makes a mockery of the principles on which the WMA was founded in 1947, which was a response to egregious abuses by Germany and Japan in World War Two.”
Other prominent doctors who 
support Israel’s use of torture include Sir Michael Marmot, former President of the WMA and a Professor at UCL.
Last November Heba al-Labadi and Abdul Rahman Mi’ri, two Jordanians who had been savagely tortured, were released from Administrative Detention (i.e. imprisonment without trial), Heba went on a 40 day hunger strike and this forced the Jordanian government to insist on the release of its nationals or face a freeze or worse in their diplomatic relations. The arrest of Labadi Mi’ri, a cancer survivor, was a major PR disaster for Israel. See A lesson for the Palestinian leadership: Real reasons behind Israel’s arrest and release of Labadi, Mi’ri
Tony Greenstein
By +972 Magazine October 7, 2019
From approving brutal interrogation techniques to writing false medical reports, doctors in Israel have taken an active role in the torture of Palestinian prisoners.
By Ruchama Marton
Illustrative photo of an Israeli soldier blindfolding a Palestinian prisoner. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
If the Shin Bet runs a school for its agents and interrogators, the curriculum most certainly includes a class on how to tell a lie. The texts taught, it seems, do not change with the years. In 1993, responding to accusations that the Shin Bet brutally tortured Palestinian detainee Hassan Zubeidi, then Commander of the IDF Northern Command Yossi Peled told Israeli journalist Gabi Nitzan that “there is no torture in Israel. I served for 30 years in the IDF and I know what I am talking about.”
Twenty-six years later, Deputy Chief of the Shin Bet and former Shin Bet interrogator, Yitzhak Ilan repeated the same line to news presenter Ya’akov Eilon on national television while speaking about Samer Arbeed, a 44-year-old Palestinian who was hospitalized in critical condition after he had been reportedly tortured by the Shin Bet. Arbeed is suspected of organizing a deadly bombing that killed a teenage Israeli girl and wounded her father and brother at a spring in the West Bank in August. Ilan bristled at the notion that the Shin Bet was somehow responsible for Arbeed’s condition.
Putting aside these absurd forms of denial, as a doctor and founder of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, I have always been troubled by how Israeli doctors cooperate with and enable Israel’s torture industry.
In June 1993, I organized an international conference in Tel Aviv on behalf of PHR against torture in Israel. At the conference, I presented a Shin Bet medical document that had been discovered by chance by Israeli journalist Michal Sela. In the document, the Shin Bet doctor was asked whether the prisoner in question had any medical restrictions when it came to keeping them in isolation, whether they could be tied, whether their face could be covered, or whether they could be made to stand for prolonged periods of time.
The Shin Bet denied such a document ever existed. “There is no document. It was simply an experimental paper that is not in use,” the agency claimed. Four years later, a second document, suspiciously similar to the first, came to light. That document asked doctors to sign off on torture in accordance with several previously agreed-upon clauses.
The first document, along with other findings, were published in the book titled “Torture: Human Rights, Medical Ethics and the Case of Israel.” The book cannot be found in Israel; Steimatzky, Israel’s oldest and largest bookstore chain, has banned its sale. Perhaps this is further proof that there is no torture in Israel.
After the document was uncovered, PHR turned to the Israel Medical Association and asked it to join the struggle against torture. The IMA requested that PHR hand over the names of the Shin Bet doctors who signed off on the document so that they could be dealt with internally.
I refused to hand over the names and told the IMA attorney that I was not interested in going after rank-and-file doctors — I wanted to change the entire system. That meant doing away with legitimacy granted to confessions exacted under torture, educating IMA members about non-cooperation with torturers, and particularly providing active help to those doctors who do report on suspicion of torture or brutal interrogations.
Back then, the IMA was satisfied with putting our statements while doing nothing to prevent the Shin Bet’s doctors from cooperating with torture. Furthermore, the organization failed to fulfill its obligation to establish a forum for doctors to report on suspected torture.
An ethical, moral, and practical failure
But it is not only doctors in the Shin Bet and the Israel Prison Service that collaborate with torture. Doctors in emergency rooms across Israel write false medical opinions in accordance with the demands of the Shin Bet. Take, for example, the case of Nader Qumsieh from the West Bank city of Beit Sahour. He was arrested in his home on May 4, 1993 and was brought to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva five days later. There a urologist diagnosed him a hemorrhage and a torn scrotum.
Qumsieh testified that he was beaten during his interrogation and kicked in his testicles.
Ten days later, Qumsieh was brought before the same urologist for a medical examination, after the latter had received a phone call from the Israeli military. The urologist wrote a retroactive letter (as if it had been written two days earlier), without actually conducting an additional examination of the patient, in which he said that “according to the patient, he fell down the stairs two days before he arrived in the emergency room.” This time, the diagnosis was “superficial hematoma in the scrotal area, which corresponds to local bruises sustained between two and five days prior to the examination.” The urologist’s original letter, written after the first examination, disappeared from Qumsieh’s medical file.
History teaches us that doctors everywhere easily and effectively internalize the regime’s values, and many of them become loyal servants of the regime. That was the case in Nazi Germany, in the United States, and in various countries in Latin America. The same goes for Israel. Qumsieh’s case, along with countless others, reflects the ethical, moral, and practical failure of the medical establishment in Israel vis-à-vis torture.
Already back in the 18th century, jurists — rather than doctors — published legal opinions accompanied by proof that there is no connection between causing pain and getting to the truth. Thus, both torture and confessions exacted through pain were legally disqualified. One can only assume that the heads of the Shin Bet, the army, and the police know this bit of history.
And yet, torture — which includes both mental and physical cruelty — continues to take place on a large scale. Why? Because the real goal of torture and humiliation is to break the spirit and body of the prisoner. To eliminate his or her personality.
The legal understanding for forbidding torture is based on the utilitarian idea that one cannot arrive at the truth through inflicting pain . But doctors are committed — first and foremost — to the idea that anything that causes physical or mental harm to a patient is prohibited.
The Shin Bet medical eligibility document allows for sleep prevention, it allows interrogators to expose prisoners to extreme temperatures, to beat them, to tie them for long hours in painful positions, to force them to stand for hours until the vessels in their feet burst, to cover their heads for prolonged periods of time, to sexually humiliate them, to break their spirits by severing their ties to family and lawyers, to keep them in isolation until they lose their sanity.
The Shin Bet’s medical eligibility form is not the same as the one used to check eligibility to join the air force or even to drive a car. This kind of “eligibility” leads the prisoner directly into the torture chamber — and the doctor knows this. The doctor knows to what kind of systematic process of pain and humiliation he or she is lending their consent and approval. It is doctors who oversee the torture, examine the tortured prisoner, and write the medical opinion or the pathology report.
The white robe passes through the torture chamber like a lurking shadow during interrogations. A doctor who cooperates with Israel’s torture industry is complicit in that very industry. If a prisoner dies during interrogation, the doctor is an accomplice to his or her murder. Doctors, nurses, medics, and judges who know what is taking place and prefer to remain silent are all accomplices.
We must unconditionally oppose all forms of torture — without exceptions. We, citizens of a democratic state, must refuse to cooperate with the crime of torture, and all the more so when it comes to doctors.
We must also not hide behind the idea that torture is a symptom of the occupation while telling ourselves that the practice will disappear when the occupation ends. Torture is a worldview according to which human rights have no place or value. It existed well before the occupation and it will continue to exist if we do not change that worldview.
Violent and cruel investigative practices do not benefit national security even if they are committed on its behalf. Torture causes a spiraling destruction of our very social fabric. Not only do those who carry out this terrible kind of “work” lose the values of morality, human dignity, and democracy, but also all those who remain silent, unwilling to know. In fact, all of us.
Dr. Ruchama Marton is the founder of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

Israel/ OPT: Legally-sanctioned torture of Palestinian detainee left him in critical condition

30 September 2019, 16:58 UTC
Updated: 30 October 2019, 12:07 UTC
The legally-sanctioned torture of a Palestinian detainee during interrogation by officers from Shin Bet, Israel’s Security Agency, further exposes the complicity of Israel’s authorities, including its judiciary, in the systematic violation of the human right to be free from torture, said Amnesty International today.
Samir Arbeed was arrested on 25 September on suspicion of being involved in the killing of a 17-year-old Israeli girl Rina Shnerb.
According to Israeli media reports and Samir’s lawyer, a “judicial body” granted Shin Bet special permission to “use exceptional ways to investigate” in his case, effectively sanctioning the use of methods amounting to torture during his interrogation.
“It is utterly outrageous that the use of torture during interrogations continues to be sanctioned by the Israeli authorities, from the Shin Bet, through the executive branch and all the way to the Supreme Court,”
said Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.
“Under international treaties, which legally bind Israel, the use of torture cannot be justified under any circumstances. This case exposes Israel’s claims that its judiciary upholds human rights as a complete sham.”
The use of torture cannot be justified under any circumstances. This case exposes Israel’s claims that its judiciary upholds human rights as a complete sham