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Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Better Late than Never - Jewish Socialists Group Finally Supports Jackie Walker

Unfortunately the statement is extremely weak and it fails to come to terms with Jewish racism
Well it was a long time coming and followed a particularly tetchy response by David Rosenberg to queries by Debbie Fink as to why the JSG was not supporting Jackie Walker.  Our questions were reasonable ones to ask of a group that calls itself socialist.  Why, when the Jewish Labour Movement, the British wing of the racist Israeli Labour Party, had engineered Jackie's suspension from the Labour Party, had the JSG said nothing about either that or Jon Lansman, who was a JSG member and who had been actively complicit in the campaign against Jackie? The latter question is still unanswered.
Gideon Falter - Racist Chair of the racist 'charity' Campaign Against Antisemitism and Trustee/Director of the Jewish National Fund UK, who has been spearheading the attack on Jackie Walker and other anti-Zionists
It would be easy for this blog to claim credit for the fact that we have embarrassed the JSG leadership into finally, reluctantly agreeing to write to the Labour Party supporting Jackie Walker.  However this is a pyrrhic victory in many ways.

i.           The JSG have not publicised their support for Jackie.
ii.          The JSG have not disowned Lansman
iii.         The JSG have still treated aspects of the ‘anti-Semitism witch-hunt’ as bona fide rather than as a disgusting racist witch-hunt of Black and Asian people.

The racist nature of the witch-hunt has been largely ignored.  We can see this in the disgusting attacks on Malaka Mohammed by the McCarthyite Campaign Against Antisemitism.  [see Character assassination as a tool to silence a Palestinian activist].  Malakha is a student from Gaza at Exeter University who has been subject to the same character assassination by the CAA as many other people.  She is someone who has experienced  particular traumas as a result of her experiences at the hands of a self-declared 'Jewish' state.   

Character assassination as a tool to silence a Palestinian activi - See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/03/character-assassination-palestinian/#sthash.s74QmIp7.dpuf
Character assassination as a tool to silence a Palestinian activi - See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2017/03/character-assassination-palestinian/#sthash.s74QmIp7.dpuf
For a long time the JSG has basked in the golden warmth of a Jewish group seen to say the right things and make the right noises on Israel in progressive circles whilst rarely getting its hands dirty.  It has largely remained absent from the fight for BDS, against Zionism and for Palestine solidarity in this country, apart from carrying its banner at different demonstrations.  It has in particular failed to understand that much of what is called 'anti-Semitism' is a product of the fact that the role of the organised Jewish community institutions and its representatives in this country has been to undermine the Palestine solidarity movement.  
Ian Saville speaking in May 2016 at a Momentum/LRC meeting in Brighton in support of Jackie (pictured)
Despite having a nominally good position on the false anti-Semitism campaign in practice the JSG have not contributed to the campaign.  The first reaction of Dave Rosenberg to questions about what its position on Jackie was that such inquiries were:
‘‘based on ignorance and vituperation, they were not worth responding to. The JSG is solely accountable to its members, not to you, nor to FSOI, nor to any other groups we may or may not be connected with or work with.’ 
Realising that this was hardly adequate, David then issued a ‘Statement of Clarification re Debbie Fink’s questions re JSG, Jews for Jeremy, and John Lansman. This is for information. We won’t be making further comment on this matter as we have more important work to do.
David Rosenberg - has issued the JSG's a succession of statements concerning the JSG's position on the witch hunt
Unfortunately the 'Statement of Clarification' was anything but clear.  Apart from informing us that 'Our group is anti-Zionist but does not go in for gratuitous and childish demonisation of those who identify as Zionists', which in practice has meant avoiding the subject altogether and defending its removal of critics from both the JSG's own Facebook page and that of Jews for Jeremy it said very little.

David wrote that 'we have, reluctantly, had to block people for misusing our page by posting anti-Corbyn material, abusive sectarian political material, or re-posting material by those who they know have been blocked from the page. [me!] It is for these reasons that J4J collectively decided to block Debbie Fink.'  It would be churlish to even try to unpick this but J4J has never decided anything 'collectively' unless that means David, Julia and Ian Saville having a conversation!

The inadequacy of this statement meant that despite saying it was the last word on the subject, it clearly wasn't, thus why the statement below was issued.  It seems however that the JSG have decided to keep its circulation to the minimum. It is titled ‘For information (and to dispel misinformation which continues to be put about)’ which makes it clear that its purpose is not one of solidarity but an attempt to protect the JSG's reputation.

The first paragraph is unexceptionable but it really doesn’t seem to grasp the magnitude of the problem, as the Al Jazeera programmes ‘The Lobby illustrated.  What we have seen is an exercise in state-sponsored destabilisation of the Labour Party and we are also witnessing a wholesale attack on the Palestine solidarity movement using the weapon of 'anti-Semitism'
Julia Bard - has been the policewoman of both the JSG and J4J Facebook groups removing anyone who dissented from or criticised the JSG's refusal to speak up over the racist witch-hunt of Jackie Walker
Julia Bard's instruction to JSG anti-racist activist Ruth Appleton not to associate the JSG with opposition to Lansman's witch-hunt of Jackie Walker - it has taken nearly 5 months for the JSG to make up their mind
The statement says that ‘there are a small number of cases of genuine antisemitism expressed by Labour party members that the Party must deal with firmly’.  I have seen no expressions of explicit anti-Semitism or Holocaust denial.  Where people have expressed themselves clumsily using anti-Semitic language or concepts this is entirely due to the fact that the Zionist propaganda campaign deliberately conflates the Jewish community and Israel.  It is not surprising that if you consistently associate Jews with Israeli war crimes and tell people that to oppose Zionism or support the Palestinians is anti-Semitic, that some people, very few, will make that false choice and take them at their word. 

For example I picked up a comrade in Brighton who attended a Momentum meeting for his belief that the Rothchilds were behind the dirty tricks campaigns and the anti-Semitism witch-hunt.  The person concerned was not in any way anti-Jewish or hostile and he would have been horrified to be accused of anti-Semitism.  Nonetheless he had imbibed this particular piece of nonsense, as have a number of other people, as a way of explaining the powerful attack by the Zionists on people like Jackie.
Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement has worked in close collaboration with the Israeli Embassy in furthering the 'anti-Semitism' witch-hunt
The present campaign, led by the Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism to tar all Palestine solidarity work with the brush of anti-Semitism is nothing less than a defence of white privilege and racism.  That is the meaning of an alliance that includes  Theresa May, Eric Pickles, figures on the Labour Right such as Chuka Ummuna and Tom Watson, Jeremy Newmark of the JLM and Gideon Falter of the CAA.  I classify someone like C Ummuna as White politically. Included for example in the dossier against Jackie Walker is a statement of condemnation by five figures from the Zionist community including Gideon Falter of the CAA, an out and out racist who is a trustee of the Jewish National Fund.    

This alliance also includes the Police establishment who have happily adopted the Zionists' IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.  It is a campaign that carries the full support of the British state and unfortunately Jeremy Corbyn.  Corbyn’s support for the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is disgraceful and should have been called out long before.  Corbyn’s acceptance of the IHRA definition and the legitimacy of the false anti-Semitism campaign is a weapon that will  and has been used against him.   
Free Speech of Israel picket of Momentum meeting where Jon Lansman, a JSG member, moved the removal of Jackie Walker as Momentum Vice Chair - JSG statement doesn't mention Lansman's role
To try to suppress criticism of Corbyn on this and other matters does not strengthen, it weakens the Corbyn leadership.  In the 'Statement of Clarification' David Rosenberg wrote that 
'The J4J page is NOT a place for those who wish to attack, disparage, abuse or insult Corbyn and the political stance he represents.... On a very few occasions since then we have, reluctantly, had to block people for misusing our page by posting anti-Corbyn material,'
What that means in practice is that as Corbyn has retreated over Zionism and Palestine, going along with the witch hunt whilst assuring people that he himself is not anti-Semitic, it has been impossible on the J4J FB page to criticise him because the whole political purpose of the page, as defined by a small coterie of JSG leaders, is to engage in nothing more than sycophantic adulation of Corbyn.  Regardless of whether his going along with the anti-Semitism witch hunt is actually harming his position, no one is allowed to criticise this.  It has meant that there has been no pushback in a group that could have been influential.  J4J could have put to Corbyn that the 'anti-Semitism' that Falter, Arkush and co. was talking about had nothing to do with discrimination against or hostility to Jews as Jews.

The campaign around the false ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign represent white privilege and white racism in this society and the fact that the JSG have finally, belatedly, come on board suggests that they still don’t get it.  Opposition to anti-semitism is an establishment form of anti-racism.  It is an anti-racism entirely divorced from how society operates and is organised. It is a depoliticised form of racism, which substitutes difference for oppression and exploitation.  It counterposes the identity of White minorities like Jews to the very real oppression of migrants, refugees and students from Palestine.

It is no coincidence that those most affected by it have been Black members of the Labour Party and Black Connexions - people like Marlene Ellis and Marc Wadsworth.  Wadworth was set up at the Chakrbarti press conference by that disgusting State agent Ruth Smeeth MP.  

As Asa Winstanley notes in an article for Electronic Intifada, a 2009 US embassy cable from London, revealed by Chelsea Manning and published by Wikileaks, states that Smeeth is a source they should “strictly protect.”  Speaking to the Telegraph in 2011, Smeeth admitted to being at a breakfast meeting in the embassy but said “I have no recollection of saying what has been attributed to me. I would not consider myself to be a source for the US government.”  Perhaps not but clearly the US consider her a source!

There have been numerous Asian activists and councillors such as Cllr. Obaid Khan, who have been targeted as part of this witch hunt.  Yet JSG fails to acknowledge that the witch-hunt was racist and seems to ascribe to it benevolent albeit mistaken intentions.  Part of the reason for this is that they put Jewish people in Britain on the same pedestal as Black people when it comes to racism.  As part of the idea of not having a 'hierarchy of oppression' this results in there being no differences between the oppressed and oppressors.  All difference is oppression.

British Jews however are not the victims of racism or imperialism.  They are White and possessors of privilege in this society.  They are not subject to or victims of state racism in this society.  They are very marginal victims of fascist or far-Right groups and there are many examples of where Zionist activists openly work with far-Right individuals and groups despite their anti-Semitism.  I have pointed before to the collaboration between Jonathan Hoffman, the former co-Vice Chair of the Zionist Federation and the English Defence League.  

To use fake racism against Jews in order to perpetuate a very real racism directed at e.g. Palestinian students in this country is unforgivable.  It is also unforgivable that David Rosenberg on behalf of the JSG has treated the Jewish Labour Movement as some kind of counter culture cuddly Jewish group.  

As Chair of the Cable Street commemorations he clearly had a hand in the fact that the JLM had a speaker at these anti-fascist celebrations despite the lamentable role of the Zionist movement in 1936 at the Battle of Cable Street.  Most Zionist organisations supported the Board of Deputies position of opposition to the anti-fascist mobilisation, not least because they were part of the Board although not yet nominally in control of it.  The Labour  Zionists of Poalei Zion and Dror did not oppose the policy of not confronting the British Union of Fascists although a few Zionists were participants in the Jewish Peoples Council against Fascism and Anti-Semitism.

Yet when supporters of IJAN heckled the JLM speaker, Sarah Sackman, David criticised them not her.  Likewise his position on the JLM sponsored letter criticising Jonathan Arkush of the Board of Deputies for welcoming for Trump was entirely misplaced.  The JLM has a need to strike a radical pose as a way of legitimising their role in the witch hunt of anti-racists.  This so-called letter was a PR exercise.  It was a one-off. The JLM, which never officially endorsed it, has never called out the welcome by Israel Herzog of the Israeli Labour Party, its self-declared 'sister party' for Trump's election.  The JLM is a hostile, reactionary organisation, not an organisation of progressives.

The very fact that the Tory establishment has pioneered the acceptance of a definition of anti-Semitism that conflates anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism whilst demonising opposition to Israel as anti-Semitic, suggests that anti-Semitism in practice is a marginal form of prejudice in this society.  That is why it has become the false anti-racism of the Right, used to beat the real victims of racism such as Malaka Shwaikh, a student from Gaza, who is at Exeter University.  Malaka is the latest victim of this ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt perpetrated by groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.

Although the JSG statement supporting Jackie Walker is welcome, it is unfortunate that it had to be dragged out of the JSG.  In particular the last sentence suggests that they resent having to do the right thing: 
We hope too that us sharing this information will dispel misinformation/conspiracy theories about our group that have been spread for malicious and dubious purposes, and which can only serve those who have a political interest in attacking and discrediting Jewish leftists.’
It is to be hoped that the statement supporting Jackie is the first and not the last and that the JSG doesn’t fail to protest Jewish racism too. 

Tony Greenstein

Jewish Socialists Group Statement on Jackie Walker and anti-Semitism 

The Jewish Socialists’ Group in its public statements, articles by members, and submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry, has consistently opposed the false and distorted charges of antisemitism targeted at Labour members. We have decribed most of these charges as being weaponised by forces hostile to the Labour Party to damage Labour (especially its democratically elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn), and to undermine free speech by Labour Party members on the Israel/Palestine conflict.

We have acknowledged that there are a small number of cases of genuine antisemitism expressed by Labour party members that the Party must deal with firmly, but stated that the majority of cases we were aware of fell into the categories of being forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and are not antisemitic; or Incidents where genuine critics of Israeli policy unintentionally blur distinctions between Jews and Zionists or between the Israeli government and Israeli people; or unknowingly borrow and apply traditional antisemitic tropes to Israel and its supporters. In such instances argument and education were far more appropriate responses than severe disciplinary measures such as expulsions, suspensions or bans. 

We expressed our support for the Chakrabarti Report based on the Inquiry, which we and many others made submissions to, especially with regard to: 

• its insistence that members against whom complaints are made are absolutely entitled to a transparent, fair and just process; 
• that free speech within the party must be protected, 
• and that conflicts and disagreements are to be approached primarily through education.

Last week the JSG made a submission to the Labour Party with regard to Jackie Walker’s case in which we called for her suspension to be lifted.

In that submission we explained that our group has a long record of opposing antisemitism and other forms of racism from whichever corner; that we reject the equation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism (and indeed acknowledged that certain forms of pro-Zionism sit happily with antisemitism);and reiterated the positions and principles above. 

We stated that we did not believe that Jackie Walker has been treated to a transparent, fair and just process and condemned the manner in which “evidence” against her was collected by secretly filming comments she made in an exploratory workshop, and presenting them in a manner where they are removed from their context, and open to distortion.

We stated that although there was no consensus within our group on the merits of Jackie Walker’s statements with regard to slavery, Holocaust Day commemorations, or the security requirements of Jewish schools,  and that her interventions did not necessarily reflect the tone in which we would comment on such matters, we feel that it is legitimate to discuss such issues.

We added that through our involvement in anti-racist/antifascist activism, we are aware of Jacqueline Walker’s impressive record in this sphere, especially with regard to her work against UKIP in Kent.

We hope our submission will help to bring about the right result at the hearing. We hope too that us sharing this information will dispel misinformation/conspiracy theories about our group that have been spread for malicious and dubious purposes, and which can only serve those who have a political interest in attacking and discrediting Jewish leftists. 

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