Thursday, 16 August 2018
Wednesday, 15 August 2018
It is Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement who should apologise for:
1. Supporting the Siege of Gaza
2. Supporting the Murder of 160 Unarmed Demonstrators
3. accusing supporters of the Palestinians of 'antisemitism' and thus belittling the experiences of those Jews who have suffered from antisemitism
4. refusing to condemn Netanyahu for inviting Hungary’s Anti-Semitic Prime Minister Viktor Orban to Israel!
5. For not being honest in declaring that they operate inside the Labour Party on behalf of the Israeli Embassy and work with war criminal Ambassador Mark Regev
6. For failing to criticise the Jewish Nation State Law that openly declares that Israel is an Apartheid State
I wrote this before I left for on vacation! I'm pleased to hear that in my absence Corbyn may finally be starting to understand that you don't respond to attacks by mad dogs and Zionists by apologising but by going on the attack.
|Instead of Corbyn apologising to the Zionists it is they who should be apologising for the killing, torture and imprisonment of children such as this|
A few weeks ago when it was announced that Labour had taken a four point lead in the polls I joked on Twitter that this meant that the false anti-Semitism allegations would start up again. Almost on cue that is what happened. ‘News’, if that is what it can be called, emerged of an 8 year old meeting organised by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist organisation. The meeting was chaired by Jeremy Corbyn. The guest speaker was the late Hajo Meyer who compared the bombing and murder by Israel in Gaza to Nazi attacks on civilian populations.
|Meet the author of Labour's witchhunt of socialists - Senator Joe McCarthy|
Jeremy Corbyn, completely unnecessarily, apologised. I assume he was advised to do so by Seamus Milne. If so Milne should resign as he is clearly not up to the job. It doesn’t take many brain cells to work out that apologising to your enemies weakens you not strengthens you. The goal of our racist adversaries is not to secure an apology and move on but to remove Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
It doesn’t take many brain cells to work out that apologising to your enemies weakens you not strengthens you. The goal of our racist adversaries is not to secure an apology and move on but to remove Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
Shortly after news emerged of John McDonnell, who has done his best to appease the Zionist lobby, telling people he ‘weeped’ about the anti-Semitism that had sprung up in the Labour Party, having sponsored the launch of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Organisation in an EDM.
Of course all of this could just be coincidental. People just keep stumbling over meetings and events that Corbyn and McDonnell used to speak at. However there is another explanation. Which is that a lot of work is going on, no doubt being funded generouisly via the slush funds of the Israeli Embassy, into systematically going through the records of everything that Corbyn and McDonnell have ever done.
|The Jewish Chronicle, edited by racist Stephen Pollard has nonetheless apologised to them|
|However much McDonnell tries to row back on his past he is going to be condemened by the right-wing press so he should stop appeasing racist Zionists|
I’m sure that between the Israeli Embassy, the Zionist Federation, the Community Security trust and Board of Deputies copious files have been kept. When I did a Subject Access Request of the CST I got back a file of over 300 pages, of events I had long forgotten. I could write my memoirs based on this stuff!
The only way this can be dealt with is by Corbyn and McDonnell defending their past not running away from it. The Zionists are not interested in apologies and none should be given. Corbyn did over Israel what he did over South Africa which is to oppose the actions of an Apartheid State.
That is why Corbyn’s acceptance of the IHRA was so damaging. This bogus definition should never have been accepted. Britain’s delegate to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is none other than Sir Eric Pickles the former Tory Cabinet Minister. Pickles is an out and out racist.
Eric Pickles defended the Tory link in the European parliament with the anti-Semitic Polish Law & Justice Party and the far-right Latvian Fatherland and Freedom Party/LNNK (Nationalist Alliance). They have one MEP, Robert Zile who, every March goes on a walkabout around the centre of the capital Riga with veterans of the Latvian SS. Even more appallingly Pickles defended the Waffen SS.
|Jonathan Freedland is not so much a journalist as a propagandist|
Even arch-Zionist Jonathan Freedland, wrote that
‘The party chairman, Eric Pickles, offered an appalling defence, telling the BBC last month that the Latvian Waffen-SS were only conscripts fighting for their country, and to say otherwise was a Soviet smear. Again, this misses the fact that a substantial minority of the Latvian Waffen-SS were eager volunteers, including veterans of pro-Nazi death squads who had already taken part in the first phase of the Holocaust – and that should be enough to decide that those who march in celebration of men who fought with Hitler, and against Britain and its allies, are beyond the pale.’ [Once no self-respecting politician would have gone near people such as Kaminski]
Kaminski was the anti-Semitic MEP for Law & Justice Party whom the Tories were allied with in the European Conservative Reform group yet he was defended by none other than the Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, the far-Right Stephen Pollard. Poland's Kaminski is not an antisemite: he's a friend to Jews
However today both Freedland and the Board of Deputies have forgotten about the Tories anti-Semitic allies in the European parliament. They are more concerned with Corbyn and McDonnell’s ‘anti-Semitism’.
|Even the Sun, the paper wot employed vile racist Katie Hopkins, is horrified by having a survivor of Auschwitz address a Holocaust Memorial Day meeting on remembering the lessons of the Holocaust|
Anyone with half a brain, which is clearly half more than Seamus Milne or Corbyn’s advisers possess, would realise that the aim of the Zionists and the Board of Deputies is not to secure apologies but the resignation of Corbyn. Because they are worried that McDonnell may step into his shoes they are also digging up dirt on him too.
|Two peas in a pod - murderers both|
That is why it is essential that Corbyn stops apologising and starts standing up to his accusers. Secondly he takes a firm stand that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which he stupidly supported in the wake of Theresa May’s adoption of this formula, is not allowed to suppress free speech on Israel. Which means that the treacherous Lansman has to be confronted. See A Vote for Jon Lansman is a Vote for the Right.
For two years I have spoken at meetings up and down the country with a simple message. The witchhunt is not about me, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth or Ken Livingstone. It’s about Corbyn. Unfortunately Corbyn and his advisers believed that they could appease the Board of Deputies, a ridiculous organisation that represents nothing but a group of small businessmen and synagogue goers. It doesn’t represent secular Jewry. If Corbyn had stood up to these blackmailers 3 years ago they would have faded away. Instead he encouraged them, pleaded with them and humiliated himself.
|In a disgusting example of Zionist antisemitism the Zionists changed this slogan to 'For the many not the Jew'|
I don’t pretend that it is easy to see a way out of this situation now. Corbyn has conceded so much ground. However the first task is that Corbyn and those around him recognise what the motives of his Zionist accusers are. They are not concerned about anti-Semitism, which is a historic low but the welfare of the State of Israel.
Corbyn he will find it difficult given that he has made a rod for his own back. The first thing to do is not to accept the advice of those who are saying the IHRA must be accepted in its entirety. If necessary he must appeal over the heads of Jon Lansman and Dave Prentis of UNISON. Prentis was always a fair-weather friend.
The leader of the Israeli Labour Party Avi Gabbay has brokenoff links with Corbyn. It is a sign that they want Corbyn out hence they are refusing to deal with him. That is fine. It should be the cue to disaffiliate what is the overseas wing of the ILP, the Jewish Labour Movement which describes itself as the ILP’s ‘sister party’.
The Israeli state and the USA have been aghast at the fact that a perceived enemy like Corbyn was ever elected in the first place. It is unacceptable that an opponent of American imperialism, who rejects NATO and is sympathetic to liberation movements leads the second major party in Britain, the US’s closest ally. Israel is the US’s racist rottweiller in the Middle East and it is clearly undertaking the task of removing a perceived enemy of the US. It is this which Corbyn and apparently Seamus Milne don’t understand. It is difficult to believe that Corbyn and McDonnell haven’t had a strategy meeting to plan a response. Unbelievably that seems to be the case. It is the problem of reformism that it really does believe that the state is neutral despite all the evidence to the contrary (e.g. the bias of the BBC).
|Katie Hopkings - a strong supporter of the Zionists and a spokesman for antisemites everywhere|
The time to fightback is now. The opponents of Corbyn and McDonnell will stop at nothing to prevent a Labour government. That means saying no to the IHRA, saying no to Lansman and insisting that the members of Momentum regain control of their organisation from the millionaire property developer who is currently in charge.
|This is a roll call of Corbyn haters|
Below are a number of links to some really good articles by Richard Silverstein and Asa Winstanley concerning what is happening. I have also copied 2 really excellent articles by the legendary Jewish folk singer Leon Rosselson and Media Lens.
Educate, organiser and agitate. The Left leadership of the Labour Party is in peril as the representatives both of the British, American and Israeli states are determined to prevent a radical reforming socialist government from taking power in Britain.
Richard Silverstein’s The Israel lobby is leading a witch hunt against Corbyn. It has to stop
Is Labour’s Jon Lansman capitulating to the Israel lobby?, Asa Winstanley
Singer/songwriter, children’s author. Here you will find provocative musings on songwriting, politics and life’s little ironies. http://leonrosselson.co.uk
Though we resist oppression, still our dream is peace
Theirs is the mask of hatred, ours the human face
Then let not our suffering turn our souls to ice
So that we do to strangers what was done to us.
Theirs is the mask of hatred, ours the human face
Then let not our suffering turn our souls to ice
So that we do to strangers what was done to us.
It is not with conquering armies I belong
Their bloody retribution I disown
Their songs of triumph I will never sing
For the god they worship turns them into stone.
Their bloody retribution I disown
Their songs of triumph I will never sing
For the god they worship turns them into stone.
If any teach their children how to hate and hurt
Though they are Jews they do not live inside my heart.
Though they are Jews they do not live inside my heart.
(From ‘The Song of Martin Fontasch’)
Jonathan Freedland’s article in the Guardian of Saturday 28 July (Jewish anger is about Labour’s failure to listen with empathy) is a good example of the devious arguments and outright lies used to defend the IHRA definition of antisemitism and the accusations being levelled against Corbyn and the Labour Party.
It starts with the obligatory reference to the Holocaust. This has no logical connection with his arguments but is designed to soften you up. It’s a kind of emotional blackmail. Cynical? Perish the thought. That Israel and its supporters have, since the war of 1967 when Israel began to lose control of the narrative, exploited the Holocaust to give Israel victim status and thus to shield it from criticism is a truism. Norman Finkelstein, whose parents were Holocaust survivors, has written a book about it called The Holocaust Industry. The former Labour MP, Gerald Kaufman, was excoriated for saying: ‘The Israelis use the Holocaust: they use the murder of six million Jews to justify their murder of thousands upon thousands of Palestinians’. The accuracy of his observation, however, was not disputed.
But while the Holocaust has served as a shield to deflect attacks on Israel, actual Holocaust survivors can be more problematic. Some of them have inconvenient views. Dr Hajo Meyer, who died in 2014, is now at the centre of a media storm for having seen parallels between his own experience at the hands of the Nazis and the crimes committed against Palestinians under Israeli occupation. How odd that the mindless views of Margaret Hodge and her abusive accusations are somehow sanctified by the fact that some of her relatives were murdered by the Nazis while an actual Holocaust survivor is vilified and his experience negated. Clearly the wrong sort of Holocaust survivor.
Dr Meyer is not alone. In March 2017, Marika Sherwood was due to give an open
talk at Manchester University entitled A Holocaust survivor’s story and the
Balfour Declaration: You’re doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to me.
She commented: ‘I was just speaking of my experience of what the Nazis did to
me as a Jewish child…. I can’t say I’m a Palestinian but my experiences as a
child are not dissimilar to what Palestinian children are experiencing now’.
After protests from the Israeli Embassy that this violated the IHRA definition,
the University insisted the subtitle be removed, that academics chosen to chair
the meeting should be replaced by university appointees and attendance limited
to university students and staff. And in August 2014, a letter signed by 40
Holocaust survivors — including Dr Meyer — and 287 of their descendants was
published in the NY Times. It condemned the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza
and called for a total boycott of Israel.
|The original flyers for Hajo Meyer's meeting|
|Why has despicable racist Luke Akehurst, who justified Israel's murder of unarmed Palestinians not been suspended for justifying murder? This animal has instead been allowed to stand for Labour's NEC|
The Holocaust may have moved centre stage in the consciousness of the Jewish community but the appalling treatment by Israel of its Holocaust survivors is still a dirty secret. An estimated 60,000 survivors live below the poverty line in abysmal conditions. Germany has paid to the Israeli government nearly 80 billion dollars as reparation to Jewish survivors of Nazi persecution but much of that never reached individual Holocaust survivors. A recent report revealed that 20,000 survivors in Israel have never received the government support due to them.
For Dora Roth, an 86-year-old survivor, the report was a watershed moment. This was the first time in her life that she’d heard an Israeli official claim any shred of responsibility or remorse on behalf of the government. As one of the most outspoken critics of Israel’s treatment of Holocaust survivors, Roth made headlines in 2013 when she memorably shouted down members of a committee at a hearing in the Israeli parliament.
“Ben-Gurion made a pact, promising we would receive money for the rest of our lives,” Roth demanded, in reference to Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. “What have you done with the money?” she screamed, pointing her finger at the seemingly unfazed politicians. “Seeing a Holocaust survivor who can’t afford to heat his home in the winter and can’t afford to buy food or medicine is your disgrace. I don’t care about your committees. They mean nothing to us. I came all the way here to ask you one thing: Let us die in dignity.”
|On March 26th the Zionists held an 'antiracist' demonstration outside Parliament - it was attended by the racist Democratic Unionist Party MPs and even Norman Tebbit, author of the 'cricket test'|
Roth was 7 years old when she entered the Warsaw ghetto. She went on to Vilna, and then to the Stutthof concentration camp, where her mother died of hunger and her sister was sent to the gas chamber. She was 15 when the war ended, and she moved to Israel alone. Echoing the accounts of other survivors, Roth said that when she arrived, Israelis treated Holocaust survivors as if what happened to them was somehow their fault. “I heard many times that we went like sheep to the slaughter,” Roth told me. Yet, she continued, the Israeli government was happy to take money from the German government for the suffering she and millions of others endured.
An article in Ha’aretz in November 2006 observed that ‘it is better today to be a Holocaust survivor in the United States or France, not to mention Germany, than to be one in Israel’. I look forward to Freedland’s investigative article on this scandal.
After introducing us to the Holocaust, Freedland embarks on a remarkable piece of obfuscation. You can’t, he says, draw a clear line between ‘the idea of Israel and Zion and Jerusalem’ (which, he says, is embedded in Jewish tradition) and the concrete reality, so that you can’t hate Israel without showing hostility to Jews. This is nonsense. Pure sophistry. It’s not a question of hating Israel but of holding it to account for its crimes and you can certainly do that without showing any hostility to Jews. In any case, the yearning for a return to Zion is a yearning for a home somewhere over the rainbow which is not particular to Jews but is part of being human. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Zionist state. Rabbinical law forbids a return to the Holy Land until the messiah comes; political Zionism is a secular ideology, not based on a religiously authorised return to Zion but on the belief that antisemitism cannot be combatted and Jews do not belong in the countries they have lived in over the centuries. Both Ben-Gurion and Theodore Herzl were militantly anti-religious.
What’s next? Next is an assertion that the Jewish community, whoever they are, have had problems with the Labour Party for a long time. “Churning inside are deep incomprehension and distrust brewed over many years, if not decades.” What is he talking about? Is he suggesting that under the arch Zionist and Israel lover Tony Blair, antisemitism was even then rife in the Labour Party? How come then that the issue only emerged into the open when Corbyn was elected leader? Just coincidence? Nothing to do with the fact that Corbyn has been a campaigner for Palestinian rights. Of course not.
And then he comes to the nitty-gritty of the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The charge that the IHRA definition conflates legitimate criticism of Israel with antisemitism ‘makes plenty of Jews want to slam their heads on their desks in frustration’, he says. Well, I’m really looking forward to seeing a display of synchronised head-banging by members of the Jewish Labour Movement, orchestrated presumably by Mark Regev, because that’s exactly what the definition does. That’s why 36 international Jewish groups have rejected it and Liberty and two eminent lawyers have described it as a threat to free speech. And, as Freedland will know, it has already been used to close down discussion in universities and suspend Israel’s critics from the Labour Party.
Freedland argues that the text explicitly says that if you criticise Israel the way you criticise other countries it ‘cannot be regarded as antisemitic’. What the example actually says is: ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’. As I’ve pointed out, the italicised phrase puts limits on what you can say in criticising Israel’s actions and policies. Israel is a criminal state, a racist state, an apartheid state. At what point do those appellations become antisemitic? And who is to decide? In any case, why is Israel being given this special protection? No-one suggests that there should be limits placed on criticism of, for example, Myanmar on the grounds that it could be anti-Buddhist.
|Uri Avnery - veteran Israeli peace activist|
The only pro-Palestinian who needs to fear the IHRA, Freedland says, is ‘the one who wants to say Jews are disloyal to their own countries, that Jews are Nazis and that the very idea of Jews having a homeland of their own is ‘a racist endeavour.’ All those three examples are distortions of what the IHRA definition actually says. There is nothing about calling Jews Nazis. In any case, that would be covered by hate speech.The example it actually gives is ‘Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis’ which is exactly what Dr Meyer did and what other Holocaust survivors have done. And what many Israelis have done. And there is nothing antisemitic about that. If the parallels are there, why are we not allowed to say so? Israel is a state. It has committed atrocities, not least in the war of 1947/48. In December 1948, the Agricultural minister referred to some of those atrocities as ‘Nazi acts’. He wasn’t being antisemitic. Hannah Arendt compared the Nuremburg laws to Israel’s marriage laws. She wasn’t being antisemitic. Recently the veteran Israeli journalist Uri Avnery compared the way Israel’s population was being brainwashed with Nazi propaganda and the dehumanisation of Palestinians with ‘the creation of Untermenschen in the Nazi lexicon’. There is nothing antisemitic about that.
His interpretation of another IHRA example of antisemitism — ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination , eg by claiming that a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’ — is equally dishonest. He claims that it’s ‘the very idea of Jews having a homeland of their own’ that is being protected by the definition, not the actual state of Israel. What chutzpah! The example refers to a state not a homeland or a ‘refuge’, a word he uses later on. The two are very different. Many Jews — Martin Buber, Judas Magnes, Hannah Arendt, Albert Einstein — were in favour of a homeland but vigorously opposed a Jewish state in Palestine, for obvious reasons. And his emphasis on the word ‘a’ is absurd. It is clear that the example refers to the actual state of Israel, not to some fictitious entity, and that it is the existing racist state of Israel that the example is trying to protect from being called racist.
In short, this article is a devious, dissembling, dishonest piece of special pleading that shames both Freedland and the Guardian.
And frankly I am sick and tired of these arguments. We have a government with a wafer thin majority lurching from disaster to catastrophe, tearing itself to pieces over Brexit, failing dismally in the face of crisis after crisis — the NHS, housing, immigration, the railways, air pollution, education, Universal Credit — embarking on dangerous and deluded policies — nuclear power, Trident renewal, fracking — . Surely one concerted push would topple it into oblivion. So what is the Labour Party, the supposed opposition, doing? It is arguing about definitions. This is insane. And why is it doing this? Because the ‘Jewish community’ is unhappy that the Labour Party hasn’t accepted the IHRA definition in full, or, at least , that is the pretext. So Corbyn concedes and Corbyn apologises and the more he concedes and the more he apologises the weaker his position becomes and still the pressure grows and the attacks continue because this is not really about antisemitism and definitions but about getting rid of Corbyn or undermining him to the point where he is powerless.
The ones who should apologise are those in the Jewish community who were silent when Israel was gunning down unarmed civilians in Gaza or, like the Board of Deputies, tried to justify it. They are the racists.
For my parents Judaism meant bearing witness, raging against injustice and foregoing silence. It meant compassion, tolerance and rescue. These were the ultimate Jewish values.
(Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and daughter of Holocaust survivors)
Israel Is The Real Problem, Media Lens
In a thoroughly-researched article, writer and academic Gavin Lewis has mapped a deliberate pro-Israel campaign to create a 'moral panic' around the issue of antisemitism. The strategy can be traced all the way back to the horrendous Israeli bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014. A UN report estimated that 2,252 Palestinians were killed, around 65 per cent of them civilians. The death toll included 551 children. There was global public revulsion at Israel's war crimes and empathy with their Palestinian victims. Support rose for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS) which campaigns 'to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law'.
As Lewis observes, BDS came to be regarded more and more as a 'strategic threat' by Israel, and a campaign was initiated in which Israel and its supporters would be presented as the world's real victims. In the UK, the Campaign Against Antisemitism was established during the final month of Israel's 2014 bombardment of Gaza. Pro-Israel pressure groups began to bombard media organisations with supposed statistics about an 'antisemitism crisis', with few news organisations scrutinising the claims.
In particular, as we noted in a media alert in April, antisemitism has been 'weaponised' to attack Corbyn and any prospect of a progressive UK government critical of Israel. Around this time in Gaza, there were weekly 'Great March of Return' protests, with people demanding the right to reclaim ancestral homes in Israel. Many were mown down by Israeli snipers on the border firing into Gaza, with several victims shot in the back as they tried to flee. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a total of 155 Palestinians were killed in the protests, including 23 children and 3 women. This is part of the brutal ongoing reality for Palestinians.
|Even Ken Stern, who drew up the IHRA definition, argues against its incorporation in the battle to suppress free speech|
|Lansman, an arch-Zionist has destroyed Momentum's democracy and is now lobbying for the IHRA|
|McDonnell is now being subject to the same treatment as Corbyn despite kissing Zionist feet|
Two days ago, Jewish Voice for Labour delivered a letter of complaint to the BBC, condemning a 'lack of impartiality and inaccuracies' in its reporting of Hodge's allegations against Corbyn. Her accusations were 'repeated numerous times without denial or opposing views' by BBC News. Moreover, Hodge's assertion that she represents the entire 'Jewish community' has been allowed to pass unchallenged.
Trashing A Dedicated Anti-Racist
Last month, the UK's leading Jewish papers - Jewish News, Jewish Chronicle and Jewish Telegraph – all carried the same front page on 'the community's anger over Labour's anti-Semitism row'. They had taken this unprecedented step because of:'the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government. We do so because the party that was, until recently, the natural home for our community has seen its values and integrity eroded by Corbynite contempt for Jews and Israel.'
|It is touching to know that vile racist bigot has secured a job on The Torygraph|
These outrageous claims were rejected by Stephen Oryszczuk, foreign editor of Jewish News. He told The Canary:
'It's repulsive. This is a dedicated anti-racist we're trashing. I just don't buy into it at all.'
He made three vital points:
1) Jeremy Corbyn is not an antisemite, and the Labour Party does not represent an 'existential threat' to Jewish people
2) The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism threatens free speech, and Labour was right to make amendments
3) The 'mainstream' Jewish media is failing to represent the diversity of Jewish opinion
The corporate news media itself is undoubtedly 'failing to represent the diversity of Jewish opinion'. Worse, it has, in fact, been a willing accomplice in promoting and amplifying the pro-Israel narrative of a 'Labour antisemitism crisis'. Consider a recent powerful piece by Manchester Jewish Action for Palestine, published in Mondoweiss:
'As Jewish people in Manchester, England, we resent the despicable racism shown towards the Palestinians by Guardian stalwarts such as Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee, Jessica Elgott, Eddie Izzard, Nick Cohen, Marina Hyde and Gaby Hinsliff among others, all saturating comment sections on mainstream news websites with attacks designed to bring down the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and to protect Israel from accountability.'
|Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement should apologise for this|
'UK commentators take the morally defunct option of backing right wing mainstream Zionist organisations' outrageous cries of "anti-Semitism" the moment Corbyn's Labour get ahead in the polls, or the moment there is a risk of serious public condemnation of Israel's horrific crimes against the Palestinians.'
The article continued:
'Why were Palestinians not consulted on the whole debate about Israel and anti-Semitism, when they are the people being slowly squeezed out of existence by Israel? Where are the Palestinian voices in the Guardian?'
'We, as Jews, will not mindlessly pretend that protecting the Jewish people and protecting Israel are the same thing, on the hopeless say-so of a crew of establishment hacks at the Guardian.'
The Manchester-based Jewish group singled out one prominent Guardian columnist, and former comment editor, for particularly heavy criticism:
'Jonathan Freedland, one of the UK's most effective propagandists for Israel, while giving Palestinians occasional lip service so he and the other liberal elitists can make doubtful claims to "impartiality", has been the most relentless in his attacks on Corbyn. Freedland routinely uses his opinion editorial position in the Guardian to do more than most to "strong-arm" the Labour Party into backing the whole IHRA definition, flawed examples and all. It is unsurprising that he would push for the guideline, "claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour" to be included as anti-Semitic trope, given he is on record excusing the crime against humanity that was Israel's foundational act - the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population in 1947/1948.'
One of Freedland's Guardian articles that the group must have had in mind was published last month under the title, 'Yes, Jews are angry – because Labour hasn't listened or shown any empathy'. Leon Rosselson, a children's author and singer-songwriter whose Jewish parents were refugees from Tsarist Russia, argued that the article:
'is a devious, dissembling, dishonest piece of special pleading that shames both Freedland and the Guardian.'
Earlier this month, Corbyn himself had a piece in the Guardian in which he wrote:
'I do acknowledge there is a real problem [of antisemitism] that Labour is working to overcome. [...] We were too slow in processing disciplinary cases of antisemitic abuse, mostly online, by party members. And we haven't done enough to foster deeper understanding of antisemitism among members.'
A Telegraph editorial typified the corporate media's reaction to Corbyn's article:
'he respond[ed] with Soviet-esque institutional lethargy... just the latest in a long line of obfuscations that betray a central fact: Labour's leader is unhealthily obsessed with Israel, and tainted by association with fanatics.'
Corbyn cannot do anything right in the eyes of the corporate media. As Rosselson said:
'Corbyn concedes and Corbyn apologises and the more he concedes and the more he apologises the weaker his position becomes and still the pressure grows and the attacks continue because this is not really about antisemitism and definitions but about getting rid of Corbyn or undermining him to the point where he is powerless.'
Sadly, the Labour leader has failed to properly address this relentless and vicious campaign, focusing instead on trying to fend off accusations of antisemitism. By sticking within this narrative framework set up by the powerful Israeli lobby, a twisted framework that can only be maintained with corporate media connivance, he and his colleagues have made a serious mistake. Asa Winstanley put it bluntly back in March:
'Jeremy Corbyn must stop pandering to Labour's Israel lobby.'
Winstanley pointed out that the campaign has been going on for years, and he expanded:
'Too many on the left seem to think: if we throw them a bone by sacrificing a few token "extremists," the anti-Semitism story will die down and we can move on to the real business of electing a Labour government.
'But years later, Labour is still being beaten with the same stick.
'Any close observer of Israel and its lobby groups knows this: they cannot be appeased.'
Other commentators have made the same point. An OffGuardian article in April, titled 'Corbyn should learn his lesson: compromise with the devil is not an option', observed:
'Corbyn seems to think a few little compromises will get him accepted in the mainstream media. It pains me to say it, but this is fundamentally untrue. You can't compromise with someone who wants nothing but your total destruction. Hopefully Corbyn has learned this lesson by now.'
Sadly not, it appears. A Morning Star editorial correctly observes that Corbyn and his advisers:
'fail to appreciate the ruthlessness of his opponents or the unrelenting nature of their goals.'
Earlier this week, Winstanley published an article revealing yet another element of Israel's intense campaign against Corbyn: the use of an app to promote propaganda messages via social media accusing Corbyn of antisemitism. The app is a product of Israel's strategic affairs ministry which 'directs Israel's covert efforts to sabotage the Palestine solidarity movement around the world.'
As Jonathan Cook cogently explains on his website:
'Labour is not suffering from an "anti-semitism crisis"; it is mired in an "Israel crisis".'
To those who bemoan that Corbyn and his team are not sufficiently 'media-savvy', that he has not done enough to present himself as 'PM material' via the press and television, David Traynier has written a strong rebuttal. Two essential facts need to be understood, he says: first, the corporate media 'filter' and distort the news as described by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their 'propaganda model' of the media, introduced in 'Manufacturing Consent'. Second, journalists and editors are themselves subjected to a 'filtering' process as they rise up the career ladder. They are selected for positions of ever-increasing responsibility only if they have demonstrated to corporate media owners, managers and senior editors that they can be trusted to say and do the 'right' things; even think the 'right thoughts'. As Chomsky famously said to Andrew Marr, then the young political editor of the Independent and now with the BBC:
'I'm sure you believe everything you're saying. But what I'm saying is that if you believed something different, you wouldn't be sitting where you're sitting.'
In short, says Traynier:
'the idea that a socialist party simply needs to manage the press better is a nonsense. The corporate media is not there to be won over, it can't be "managed" into giving Corbyn a fair hearing. In fact, once one understands how the media works, the burden of proof would rest with anyone those who claimed that it wouldn't be biased against Corbyn.'Despite the intense campaign against Corbyn - and perhaps, in part, because of its obviously cynical and manipulative nature - many people are perceptive enough to see what is going on. Israel is the real problem.
Jonathan Cook’s 8 August 2018
If there is indeed an anti-semitism problem in the UK’s Labour party, it is not in the places where the British corporate media have been directing our attention. What can be said with even more certainty is that there is rampant hatred expressed towards Jews in the same British media that is currently decrying the supposed anti-semitism of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Here is a piece of what I hope is wisdom, earnt the hard way as a reporter in Israel over nearly two decades. I offer it in case it helps to resolve the confusion felt by some still pondering the endless reports of Labour’s supposed anti-semitism “crisis”.
Racism towards Palestinians
In the first year after my arrival in Israel in late 2001, during the most violent phase of Israel’s suppression of the Palestinians’ second intifada, I desperately tried to make sense of the events raging around me. Like most new reporters, I searched for experts – at that time, mostly leftwing Israeli analysts and academics. But the more I listened, the less I understood. I felt like a ball in a pinball machine, bounced from one hair-trigger to the next.
My problem was exacerbated by the fact that, unlike my colleagues, I had chosen to locate myself in Nazareth, the largest Palestinian city in Israel, rather than in a Jewish area or in the occupied territories. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians seemed much more complex when viewed through the prism of Palestinian “citizens” living inside a self-declared Jewish state.
The Israeli experts I contacted deplored the brutality of the occupation unequivocally and in ways it was difficult not to admire, given the morass of anti-Palestinian sentiment and self-righteousness into which the rest of Israeli society was rapidly sinking. But each time I latched on to such an Israeli in the hope of deepening my own understanding, something they said would knock me sideways.
As readily as they condemned the occupation, they would laud the self-evidently bogus liberal democratic credentials of a Jewish state, one that I could see from my location in Nazareth was structurally organised to deny equal rights to its Palestinian citizens. Or the experts would echo the Israeli government’s inciteful claims that this largely quiescent Palestinian minority in Israel – a fifth of the population – was at best a demographic threat to the Jewish majority, and at worst a Trojan horse secretly working to destroy the Jewish state from within.
The very racism towards Palestinians in the occupied territories these experts eschewed, they readily flaunted when discussing Palestinians inside Israel. Were they really leftists or covert ethnic chauvinists?
Appearances can be deceptive
It was many months before I could make sense of this puzzle. An answer was only possible when I factored in the Israeli state’s official ideology: Zionism.
Israeli leftists who were also avowed Zionists – the vast majority of them – saw the conflict exclusively through the colonial prism of their own ethnic privilege. They didn’t much care for Palestinians or their rights. Their opposition to the occupation was barely related to the tangible harm it did to the Palestinian population.
Rather, they wanted an end to the occupation because they believed it brutalised and corrupted Israeli Jewish society, seeping into its pores like a toxin. Or they wanted the occupation to end because the combined populations of Palestinians in “Greater Israel” – in the occupied territories and inside Israel – would soon outnumber Jews, leading, they feared, to comparisons with apartheid South Africa. They wanted Israel out of all or most of the occupied territories, cutting off these areas like a gangrenous limb threatening the rest of the body’s health.
Only later, when I started to meet anti-Zionist Jews, did I find an opposition to the occupation rooted in a respect for the rights and dignity of the Palestinians in the territories. And because their position was an ethical, rights-based one, rather than motivated by opportunism and self-interest, these anti-Zionist Jews also cared about ending discrimination against the one in five Israeli citizens who were Palestinian. Unlike my experts, they were morally consistent.
I raise this, because the lesson I eventually learnt was this: you should never assume that, because someone has adopted a moral position you share, their view is based on the moral principles that led you to adopt that position. The motives of those you stand alongside can be very different from your own. People can express a morally sound view for morally dubious, or even outright immoral, reasons. If you ally yourself with such people, you will invariably be disappointed or betrayed.
There was another, more particular lesson. Ostensible support for Palestinians may in fact be cover for other ways of oppressing them.
And so it has been with most of those warning of an anti-semitism “crisis” in Labour. Anti-semitism, like all racisms, is to be denounced. But not all denunciations of it are what they seem. And not all professions of support for Palestinians should be taken at face value.
The vilification of Corbyn
Most reasonable observers, especially if they are not Jewish, instinctively recoil from criticising a Jew who is highlighting anti-semitism. It is that insulation from criticism, that protective shield, that encouraged Labour MP Margaret Hodge recently to publicly launch a verbal assault on Corbyn, vilifying him, against all evidence, as an “anti-semite and racist”.
It was that same protective shield that led to Labour officials dropping an investigation of Hodge, even though it is surely beyond doubt that her actions brought the party “into disrepute” – in this case, in a flagrant manner hard to imagine being equalled. This is the same party, remember, that recently expelled Marc Wadsworth, a prominent black anti-racism activist, on precisely those grounds after he accused Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth of colluding with rightwing newspapers to undermine Corbyn.
The Labour party is so hamstrung by fears about anti-semitism, it seems, that it decided that an activist (Wadsworth) denigrating a Labour MP (Smeeth) was more damaging to the party’s reputation than a Labour MP (Hodge) vilifying the party’s leader (Corbyn). In this twisted set of priorities, a suspicion of possible racism towards a Jewish MP served to justify actual racism against a black party activist.
But the perversion of Labour party values goes much further. Recent events have proven that party officials have decisively prioritised the rights of diehard supporters of Israel among British Jewry to defend Israel at all costs over the right of others, including Jews, to speak out about the continuing brutalisation of Palestinians by Israel’s occupation regime.
Hodge and the other Labour MPs trumpeting anti-semitism might be entitled to the benefit of the doubt – that they truly fear anti-semitism is on the rise in the Labour party – had they not repeatedly indulged in the kind of anti-semitism they themselves have deplored.
What do I mean?
When they speak of an anti-semitism “crisis” in the party, these Labour MPs – and the fervently pro-Israel lobby groups behind them like the Jewish Labour Movement – intentionally gloss over the fact that many of the prominent activists who have been investigated, suspended or expelled for anti-semitism in recent months – fuelling the claim of a “crisis” – are in fact Jewish.
Why are the “Jewish” sensitivities of Margaret Hodge, Ruth Smeeth or Louise Ellman more important than those of Moshe Machover, Tony Greenstein, Cyril Chilson, Jackie Walker or Glyn Secker – all Labour activists who have found their sensitivities, as Jews opposing the abuse of Palestinians, count for little or nothing among Labour officials? Why must we tiptoe around Hodge because she is Jewish, ignoring her bullygirl tactics to promote her political agenda in defence of Israel, but crack down on Greenstein and Chilson, even though they are Jewish, to silence their voices in defence of the rights of Palestinians?
‘Wrong kind of Jews’
The problem runs deeper still. Labour MPs like Hodge, Smeeth, Ellman and John Mann have stoked the anti-semitic predilections of the British media, which has been only too ready to indict “bad Jews” while extolling “good Jews”.
That was only too evident earlier this year when Corbyn tried to put out the fire that such Labour MPs had intentionally fuelled. He joined Jewdas, a satirical leftwing Jewish group that is critical of Israel, for a Passover meal. He was roundly condemned for the move.
Jewdas were declared by rightwing Jewish establishment organisations like the Board of Deputies and by the British corporate media as the “wrong kind of Jews”, or even as not “real” Jews. In the view of the Board and the media, Corbyn was tainted by his association with them.
How are Jewdas the “wrong kind of Jews”? Because they do not reflexively kneel before Israel. Ignore Corbyn for a moment. Did Labour MPs Hodge, Ellman or Smeeth speak out in the defence of fellow Jews under attack over their Jewishness? No, they did not.
If Greenstein and Chilson are being excommunicated as (Jewish) “anti-semites” for their full-throated condemnations of Israel’s institutional racism, why are Hodge and Ellman not equally anti-semites for their collusion in the vilification of supposedly “bad” or “phoney” Jews like Jewdas, Greenstein and Chilson.
It should be clear that this anti-semitism “crisis” is not chiefly about respecting Jewish sensitivities or even about Jewish identity. It is about protecting the sensitivities of some Jews on Israel, a state oppressing and dispossessing the Palestinian people.
Policing debates on Israel
When the Guardian’s senior columnist Jonathan Freedland insists that his Jewish identity is intimately tied to Israel, and that to attack Israel is to attack him personally, he is demanding the exclusive right to police the parameters of discussions about Israel. He is asserting his right, over the rights of other Jews – and, of course, Palestinians – to determine what the boundaries of political discourse on Israel are, and where the red lines denoting anti-semitism are drawn.
This is why Labour MPs like Hodge and journalists like Freedland are at the centre of another confected anti-semitism row in the Labour party: over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-semitism and an associated set of examples. They want all the IHRA’s examples adopted by Labour, not just most of them.
There are very clear, existing definitions of anti-semitism. They are variations of the simple formulation: “Anti-semitism is the hatred of Jews for being Jews.” But the IHRA takes this clear definition and muddies it to the point that all sorts of political debates can be viewed as potentially anti-semitic, as leading jurists have warned (see here and here).
That is only underscored by the fact that a majority of the IHRA’s examples of anti-semitism relate to Israel – a nuclear-armed state now constitutionally designed to privilege Jews over non-Jews inside its recognised borders and engaged in a half-century of brutal military occupation of the Palestinian people outside its borders.
To be fair to the drafters of the IHRA guidelines, these examples were supposed only to be treated as potentially anti-semitic, depending on the context. That is the express view of the definition’s drafter, Kenneth Stern, a Jewish lawyer, who has warned that the guidelines are being perverted to silence criticism of Israel and stifle free speech.
And who are leading precisely the moves that Stern has warned against? People like Jonathan Freedland and Margaret Hodge, cheered on by large swaths of Labour MPs, who have strongly implied that Corbyn and his allies in the party are anti-semitic for sharing Stern’s concerns.
Hodge and Freedland are desperate to strong-arm the Labour party into setting the IHRA guidelines in stone, as the unchallengeable, definitive new definition of anti-semitism. That will relieve them of the arduous task of policing those discourse boundaries on the basis of evidence and of context. They will have a ready-made, one-size-fits-all definition to foreclose almost all serious debate about Israel.
Want to suggest that Israel’s new Nation-State Law, giving Jewish citizens constitutionally guaranteed rights denied to non-Jewish citizens, is proof of the institutional racism on which political Zionism is premised and that was enshrined in the founding principles of the state of Israel? Well, you just violated one of the IHRA guidelines by arguing that Israel is a “racist endeavour”. If Freedland and Hodge get their way, you would be certain to be declared an anti-semite and expelled from the Labour party.
Revealing how cynical this manoeuvring by Hodge, Freedland and others is, one only has to inspect the faux-outrage over the latest “anti-semitism crisis” involving Corbyn. He has been forced to make a grovelling apology – one that deeply discredits him – for hosting an anti-racism conference in 2010 at which a speaker made a comparison between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the Nazis’ treatment of Jews. That violated another of the IHRA examples.
But again, what none of these anti-semitism warriors has wanted to highlight is that the speaker given a platform at the conference was the late Hajo Meyer, a Jewish Holocaust survivor who dedicated his later years to supporting Palestinian rights. Who, if not Meyer, deserved the right to make such a comparison? And to imply that he was an anti-semite because he prioritised Palestinian rights over the preservation of Israel’s privileges for Jews is truly contemptible.
In fact, it is more than that. It is far closer to anti-semitism than the behaviour of Jewish critics of Israel like Greenstein and Chilson, who have been expelled from the Labour party. To intentionally exploit and vilify a Holocaust survivor for cheap, short-term political advantage – in an attempt to damage Corbyn – is malevolence of the worst kind.
Having stoked fears of an anti-semitism crisis, Hodge, Freedland and others have actively sought to obscure the wider context in which it must be judged – as, in large part, a painful debate raging inside the Jewish community. It is a debate between fervently pro-Israel Jewish establishment groups and a growing body of marginalised anti-Zionist Jewish activists who wish to show solidarity with the Palestinians. Labour is not suffering from an “anti-semitism crisis”; it is mired in an “Israel crisis”.
In their silence about the abuses of Meyer, Jewdas, Greenstein, Chilson and many others, Freedland and Hodge have shown that they do not really care about the safety or sensitivities of Jews. What they chiefly care about is protecting their chosen cause of Israel, and crippling the chances of a committed supporter of Palestinian rights from ever reaching power. They are prepared to sacrifice other Jews, even victims of the Holocaust, as well as the Labour party itself, for that kind of political gain.
Hodge and Freedland are behaving as though they are decent Jews, the only ones who have the right to a voice and to sensitivities. They are wrong.
They are like the experts I first met in Israel who concealed their racism towards Palestinians by flaunting their self-serving anti-occupation credentials. Under the cover of concerns about anti-semitism, Freedland and Hodge have helped stoke hatred – either explicitly or through their silence – towards the “wrong kind of Jews”, towards Jews whose critical views of Israel they fear.
It does not have to be this way. Rather than foreclose it, they could allow a debate to flourish within Britain’s Jewish community and within the Labour party. They could admit that not only is there no evidence that Corbyn is racist, but that he has clearly been committed to fighting racism all his life.
Don’t want to take my word for it? You don’t have to. Listen instead to Stephen Oryszczuk, foreign editor of the Corbyn-hating Jewish News. His newspaper was one of three Jewish weeklies that recently published the same front-page editorial claiming that Corbyn was an “existential threat” to British Jews.
Oryszczuk, even if no friend to the Labour leader, deplored the behaviour of his own newspaper. In an interview, he observed of this campaign to vilify Corbyn: “It’s repulsive. This is a dedicated anti-racist we’re trashing. I just don’t buy into it at all.” He added of Corbyn: “I don’t believe he’s antisemitic, nor do most reasonable people. He’s anti-Israel and that’s not the same.”
Oryszczuk conceded that some people were weaponising anti-semitism and that these individuals were “certainly out to get him [Corbyn]”. Unlike Freedland and Hodge, he was also prepared to admit that some voices in the Jewish community were being actively silenced: “It’s partly our fault, in the mainstream Jewish media. We could – and arguably should – have done a better job at giving a voice to Jews who think differently, for which I personally feel a little ashamed. … On Israel today, what you hear publicly tends to be very uniform.”
And that is exactly how Hodge and Freedland would like to keep it – in the Labour party, in the Jewish community, and in wider British society.
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The New Statesman has performed the role of the enemy of the Corbyn leadership in the Labour Party. A typical examle of an article from this poisonous home for the Labour Right is the following vacuous nonsense. Even its title is a give away - it assumes that the Labour Party has ever had the trust, whatever that means, of British Jews. British Jews haven't voted in their majority for the Labour Party since the 1950's with the possible exception of the Blair era. Why? Because they have moved upwards socially. It certainly didn't begin with Corbyn. Exactly the same complaints were made about Ed Miliband. See for example The Spectator's How Ed Miliband lost the Jewish vote
How did Labour lose the trust of Britain’s Jews? New StatesmanArguably, Labour's current malaise began not with Corbyn, but his predecessor, Ed Miliband.
“How did we get here?” That is the question is on the lips of Labour MPs, councillors, members, and voters this summer. As the party’s anti-Semitism crisis deepens, seemingly inexorably, it is asked with increasing anguish and despair.
How did an officially anti-racist party – a mantle which, despite the ignominy of recent months, its warring factions still cling to – come to be feared and loathed by swathes of Britain’s Jewish community?
How did it become the subject of anti-racism protests in Parliament Square, rather than their natural leader? How did Labour MPs reach the point where they are prepared to argue that their party is no longer an anti-racist one?
And how did the prospect of its return to government become so foreboding that it was labelled an “existential threat” to British Jews by the community's three biggest newspapers?
Most commentators alight on a simple answer: Jeremy Corbyn. Since his implausible election in 2015, the Labour leader has developed a knack for defying political gravity, for confounding expectations, for taking his party where it has never gone before. So it is with anti-Semitism.
Under Corbyn, Labour has defied expectation in a singularly unedifying way.
Anti-Semitism has always found a happy home on the fringes of the left, where anti-imperialism meets conspiracy. Labour’s leftward tack after Corbyn was elected as leader saw its membership swell to over half a million. Almost overnight, those fringes were subsumed by the mainstream. It is often said that Labour’s transformation into a mass movement, inspired by Corbyn, has transformed its finances and campaigning power. But an influx of members whose prejudices for so long went unchecked in little-read pamphlets and poorly-attended meetings has been just as significant.
Even a non-exhaustive list of controversies makes for grim reading. The 2016 Chakrabarti Report into anti-Semitism within Labour merely gave critics more ammunition: it was dismissed as a whitewash and discredited when its "independent" author, the human rights activist Shami Chakrabarti, was handed a peerage by Labour soon after.
In 2017, Ken Livingstone, the former London Mayor, avoided expulsion for comments in which he suggested that Adolf Hitler “had been a Zionist before he went mad and killed six million Jews”. This March, it was discovered that Corbyn, before his election as leader, had defended the existence of a mural depicting hook-nosed bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of the world’s poor (he has since expressed his regret for doing so; a spokesperson said he had initially objected to its removal on the grounds of free speech).
In attempting to mitigate the impact of these controversies and the individual cases of grassroots anti-Semitism that have punctuated them, Labour has merely sunk deeper into a toxic mire. There is no visible escape. Its well-intentioned but misjudged attempts to find a way to draw out the poison have made things worse, like its failure to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Association definition of anti-Semitism in its new code of conduct. Far from repairing its relationship with the Jewish community, it has merely pushed the party close to the point of no return.
Indeed, British Jewry – whose internal divisions, diversity, and differences of cultural, political and religious opinion are far more numerous and significant than the divided left’s – has been united to a degree that would have once been dismissed as impossible. Their community is not, and has never been, a homogenous bloc (although on some issues, like the right of Israel to exist, they are overwhelmingly united). Last month, 68 rabbis overcame such small differences, such as not believing one another to be rabbis, to accuse Labour of ignoring the community over the IHRA definition. Britain’s three biggest Jewish newspapers followed with an unprecedented joint front-page editorial, which spoke of “the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Jeremy Corbyn-led government”.
At Westminster, the impact has been just as corrosive. The uneasy truce between the leadership and the vast majority of MPs – tacitly brokered in the wake of last year’s election – has broken down. The Parliamentary Labour Party has voted, in defiance of the party's ruling national executive, to adopt the full IHRA definition.
Some of them have almost literally come to blows with the party leadership. One row, first reported in the New Statesman, saw arch-Corbynsceptic Ian Austin allegedly brand Ian Lavery, Labour's chair, a “fucking bastard” and “wanker” over the party's handling of anti-Semitism in the division lobby. Corbyn himself was accused of being an “anti-Semite and a racist” behind the Speaker's chair in the Commons chamber by Margaret Hodge, the veteran Jewish MP. Both are now subject to internal party investigations.
Members of the shadow cabinet and Labour staff are exasperated. Most strikingly, the leader and his closest and oldest political ally, John McDonnell, are singing from different hymn sheets – this week, the shadow chancellor has been markedly more forthcoming and trenchant in his criticism of Labour’s handling of the saga than his leader (he has denied they are anything but united). Some fear the damage has already been done: several council seats, most notably in Barnet, North London, have fallen amid the controversy.
Pessimistic party sources predict whatever Labour does on anti-Semitism will be too little, too late. Those tasked with defending the party do so with increasing resignation. For many, anti-Semitism is as the front page of this week’s Jewish News describes it: “The nightmare that never ends.”
Labour’s running sore is festering. Corbyn has failed to cauterise it. But to argue that he inflicted the wound would be to indulge a consoling fiction. The story of how Labour’s relationship with the Jewish community deteriorated to the point of collapse does not start with Corbyn. It is longer, and its dramatis personae broader, than the factional imagination or headlines often let on. So how just how did Labour get here?
Arguably, Labour's current malaise began not with Corbyn, but his predecessor, Ed Miliband. Though he was the party’s first Jewish leader, and expressed a desire to become the “first Jewish prime minister”, his relationship with the community was neither warm nor easy.
That Labour has historically been the “natural home” for British Jews is often invoked when expressing disbelief over anti-Semitism in its ranks. Less frequent are acknowledgements of the community's support for Thatcher, or even – shock horror – that British Jews do not think or vote as one.
Under Miliband, however, something changed: under his leadership, support for Labour among the Jewish community began to crater. The last poll of Jewish voters that gave the party a lead over the Conservatives was taken in the early days of his tenure. By its end, in 2015, polling showed just 14 per cent of Jewish voters were willing to back Labour (just one per cent more than its poll rating under Corbyn ahead of the 2017 election).
As with Corbyn, the roots of the problem can be traced to the Middle East. Miliband, the son of Holocaust refugees, did not grow up in the Jewish community but nonetheless made a concerted attempt to connect with it. His first overseas visit as leader was to Israel. Its conflict with Palestine would prove to be the issue that rendered his efforts pointless. His decision to whip Labour MPs to vote for a backbench motion in favour of recognising the state in October 2014 proved toxic.
This decision also compounded damage done during Operation Protective Edge three months previously, which saw Miliband direct fierce criticism at the Israeli government over its conduct in Gaza. “I defend Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks,” he told Labour’s National Policy Forum. “But I cannot explain, justify, or defend the horrifying deaths of hundreds of Palestinians, including children and innocent civilians. And as a party we oppose the further escalation of violence we have seen with Israel’s invasion of Gaza.”
His rhetoric was criticised by Jewish community leaders. The Jewish Chronicle accused him of “knee-jerk criticism of a nation defending itself from terrorism”, while Kate Bearman, a former director of Labour Friends of Israel, quit the party in protest. The backlash presaged a bigger headache caused by the vote to recognise Palestine’s statehood in October, when the actress Maureen Lipman – a Labour supporter of several decades’ vintage – denounced Miliband in a headline-grabbing protest.
“Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse,” Lipman wrote in a polemic for Standpoint magazine that November. “Just when the anti-Semitism in France, Denmark, Norway, Hungary is mounting savagely, just when our cemeteries and synagogues and shops are once again under threat. Just when the virulence against a country defending itself, against 4,000 rockets and 32 tunnels inside its borders, as it has every right to do under the Geneva Convention, had been swept aside by the real pestilence of IS, in steps Mr Miliband to demand that the government recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.”
Revealing she would not vote for Labour, she added: “I'm an actress, Ed, and I am often commended for my timing. Frankly, my dear, yours sucks.” So did the timing of her attack, as far as Labour’s electoral prospects were concerned. Several Jewish donors deserted the party. At the general election the following May, several north London marginals with large Jewish populations stayed stubbornly blue: Harrow East, Hendon, Finchley and Golders Green.
The lacklustre term of the party’s first Jewish leader – who has maintained a studious silence on the current crisis (aside from a single tweet calling for Labour to adopt the full IHRA definition) – ended with support among the Jewish community at its lowest for two decades. His rhetoric and shift in policy on the Israel-Palestine conflict was nonetheless welcomed by some British Jews – who, as commentary on Labour’s woes often neglects, are by no means universally supportive of the Israeli government. A 2015 poll found that 73 per cent thought Israel's approach to peace was damaging its standing in the world, with 71 per cent backing a two-state solution.
Around the time of Operation Protective Edge, Miliband's criticism of Israel was accompanied by an unequivocal condemnation of anti-Semitism. Calling for a “zero-tolerance approach”, he said: “The recent spate of incidents should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who thought the scourge of anti-Semitism had been defeated and that the idea of Jewish families fearful of living here in Britain was unthinkable.
“Some have told me how, for the first time in their lifetime, they are scared for their children’s future in our country. Others have expressed a general unease that this rise in anti-Semitism could signal that something has changed – or is changing – in Britain.”
As parlous as Labour’s standing in the Jewish community was by the end of Miliband’s tenure, none could have predicted that, within the space of three years, it would be using eerily similar language to describe his successor – and that that successor would be Jeremy Corbyn.
On a gloomy election night for Labour in 2015, Naz Shah’s victory was one of precious few silver linings. A survivor of a forced marriage, she had beaten George Galloway after a bitter, grubby and arguably sexist campaign in Bradford West and arrived in Westminster a hero. As one of the stars of her Labour’s new intake, she was lauded by the party’s great and good and promotion was swift: just nine months after her election, she was appointed parliamentary private secretary to John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor.
She soon fell abruptly to earth. In April 2016 it emerged that, the year before her election, she had shared a Facebook post that called for the “transportation” of all Israelis to America. In another, she warned friends: “The Jews are rallying”. Shah, who later issued a full apology, was suspended from the whip, and Jeremy Corbyn criticised her remarks as “offensive and unacceptable”.
Shah, who was appointed shadow equalities minister last month, atoned for her sins. She made public apologies in the Commons and to her constituency’s Jewish community (the party had to deny it had edited a statement issued by Shah to remove the term “anti-Semitic”, as well as references to issues around anti-Semitism on the left). In 2017, Jonathan Arkush, then president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said she was “one of the only people involved in Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis who has sought to make amends for her actions, and for this we commend her and now regard Naz as a sincere friend of our community.”
For Labour, however, the controversy would only escalate. The events that followed Shah’s suspension led the party to where it is today – to the point where some in the Jewish community believe it is institutionally incapable of making amends for its failings.
Ken Livingstone is no stranger to accusations of anti-Semitism. A veteran of Labour’s hard left, the former London mayor’s career is peppered with controversies sparked by comments on Israel, the Nazis, and Jewish people (and sometimes all three at once). In 1982, while leader of the Greater London Council, he wrote in a piece for the left-wing Labour Herald weekly newspaper on Palestine that Jewish MPs were a “distortion running right the way through British politics”. In comments the following year, he compared the conduct of British troops in Northern Ireland to the Nazis, while in 1984 he was labelled “very dangerous” by Colin Shindler, the Jewish academic, for suggesting Jews were “a tribe of Arabs”.
Two decades on in 2005, he was suspended for four weeks from his role of Mayor of London after he accused Oliver Finegold, a Jewish Evening Standard journalist, of behaving like a “German war criminal” and “concentration camp guard”. His unsuccessful campaign for re-election in 2012 was similarly marred when he used a BBC Newsnight interview to claim that the Jewish community voted Tory because it was predominantly rich. “As the Jewish community got richer, it moved over to voting for Mrs Thatcher as they did in Finchley,” he said.