10 April 2016

Andrew Neil's BBC’s Sunday Politics Show is Devoted to Proving Labour ‘anti-Semitism’

Ironically a Programme Devoted to ‘anti-Semitism’ is itself anti-Semitic as Neil talks of the ‘Jewish’ Vote

Andrew Neil - the BBC's Conservative Interviewer who failed to critically question John Mann MP at any stage
It was a show which began with a question from its presenter Andrew Neil: 
John Mann - The non-Jewish MP who makes a good living out of 'anti-Semitism' - Mann believes he has the right to accuse Jewish opponents of Zionism and Israeli racism of 'anti-Semitism'
‘Now does Labour have a problem dealing with allegations of anti-Semitism?'

Having asked the question, Neil immediately assumed that the question was ‘yes’ and he proceeded accordingly,
James Schneider of Momentum was allowed 25 seconds to oppose Neil's argument - a mere 16 times less than his opponents
Andrew Neil is a devoted Tory.  He is a former editor of Murdoch’s Sunday Times for 11 years, the right-wing Spectator as well as a former member of the Conservative club at Glasgow University and a research assistant for the Conservative Party.  In other words he is a died in the wool Tory and, as is natural these days, with Tories, a Zionist supporter to the tips of his socks, as are the overwhelming majority of Tories.
Gerry Downing of the tiny 'Trotskyist' group Socialist Fight who has been played like a violin by the Right for indulging in anti-Semitic theories of Jewish capitalists controlling foreign policy
It was therefore a bit too much to expect neutrality from Neil on March 3rd when the Sunday Politics show which he presents examined the question of ‘Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.’
John Mann MP the right-wing windbag and friend of racists 
What followed was a non-stop propaganda broadcast for the Zionist Federation and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.  The transcript for the programme can be found here.

I covered the episode shortly after it was broadcast.   The broadcast can be seen on i-player.
Under cross-examination in an Employment Tribunal Mann fell to pieces - he was unable to explain what the anti-semitism was that he complained of and characterised any boycott of Israel as 'anti-Semitic'

The tone of the programme was set by the voice over which asked:
‘Does Jeremy Corbyn support 4 causes like the Palestinians or Stop the War mean he’s not tough enough when there are allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour.’

Jeremy Newmark - Chair of the 'Jewish Labour Movement' i.e. the overseas wing of the racist Israeli Labour Party was branded a liar by the employment tribunal in Fraser v UCU
There was no explanation why supporting the Palestinians should mean hostility to Jews and even less reason to suppose that opposition to war means anti-Semitism, unless it is being suggested that Jews are war-like.  Itself an anti-Semitic assumption.
The Tribunal brands Jeremy Newmark a liar and is extremely critical of Mann, who 'enjoyed making speeches' but 'eschewed the opportunity to locate it (anti-Semitism) for us.'
We then had a reference to two alleged incidents of ‘anti-Semitism’ at Oxford University Labour Club which had supported Israel Apartheid Week and whose Zionist activist Chair Alex Chalmers had walked out and at the LSE where a Labour club candidate for an election had talked about Zionists wanting to take over the student union and make it right-wing again.  Neither of these seem to have anything to do with hatred of Jews either.
Wes Streeting - the mediocre far-right Labour MP
There then followed an interview with the bonkers Gerry Downing of Socialist Fight who believes that Zionist or Jewish capitalists, he doesn’t seem to distinguish between them, are responsible for the West’s support for Israel.  An anti-Semitic theory without doubt but is hardly proof that the Labour Party is anti-Semitic.

Wes Streeting, a particularly unpleasant right-wing Labour MP, who would feel equally at home in the Conservative Party, was given 45 seconds for an uninterrupted tirade which tied in Downing with the anti-war left which he said was not ‘so much stop the war as stop the West, people who seem to hate their country more than they hate the people who attack us.’  I must confess I wasn’t aware Britain was under attack.  The ISIS attacks in Paris and Brussels can be directly traced back to the American and British invasion of Iraq.  ISIS was born out of Al Qaeda in Iraq, a group that was unknown before the 2003 invasion. 

There then followed a 25 second response from James Schneider, a Momentum supporter defending Jeremy Corbyn but not saying very much else. 

It was then the turn of John Mann, the Zionist MP and Chair of the so-called Parliamentary Anti-Semitism Committee, who is of the opinion that those who support a boycott of Israel are inherently and automatically anti-Semitic.  He was given 6 minutes and 4 seconds.  In other words those arguing that the LP was saturated with anti-Semitism had a mere 16 times as much time as the person who defended Corbyn.  Schneider didn’t even tackle the question of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, because he didn’t have any time.  The idea of having someone directly confront John Mann is obviously an alien concept to the BBC and Andrew Neil.

In my previous post I described Neil’s questions as ‘softball questions’.  In fact even that underplays the fact that they were really an attempt to encourage Mann to even greater heights of vacuous rhetoric.  Mann’s message, which he was allowed to repeat ad nauseum is that anti-Semitism is a big problem in the Labour Party and Corbyn is doing nothing about it.  What he wasn’t asked, at any stage, was the slightest bit of evidence to support his arguments. 

Neil asked 6 questions:

The first question was to ask is there a problem with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.  An interviewer with any scruples or sense of balance of fairness would have asked ‘Why do you say there is an anti-Semitism problem… ‘ or ‘what is the evidence for your assertion that…’

Unsurprisingly Mann waffled and engaged in empty  rhetoric but provided not a scrap of evidence for his assertion.  But Neil was anxious to help Mann develop his argument.

The second question was no better.  It assumed there was a problem of anti-Semitism. Why has it come back and his third question simply focussed the question, why in the Labour Party.  Again no challenge to the central thesis.

Neil’s next question shows exactly where this Murdoch hack is coming from.  He refers to Corbyn’s ‘friends in Hamas and Hezbollah’ which is a repetition of the lies that were told in the summer.  Corbyn chaired a meeting at which he referred to the speakers as ‘friends’ in a general and polite sense.  That was all.  They weren’t his personal friends.

Neil then suggests that Corbyn shares platforms with people hostile to Israel and whether that is anti-Semitic.  Notice the sleight of hand.  Hostility to the Zionist state is therefore anti-Semitic.

His fifth question was no different.  Are you doing enough about this – there’s no pretence as to whether or not ‘this’ is actually happening.

But it was Neil’s 6th question which is the beauty.  Irony of irony – having paid homage to the idea that there is a problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, Andrew Neil demonstrates that the only problem with anti-Semitism lies with people like himself.  He asks about that old canard, the ‘Jewish vote’ as if there is a block Jewish vote to begin with.

If Neil had bothered to get the programme assistants to do a bit of background research they could have done worse than read Geoffrey Alderman’s book of 35 years ago ‘The Jewish Community in British Politics’ which showed conclusively that, even then, the Jewish community predominantly voted Conservative because Jews had risen socio-economically up the ladder.  There is no reason to believe that Jewish people vote Tory because of anti-Zionism.  His statements that ‘Historically JM the Labour Party has done well from the Jewish vote,  The Jewish vote over time has tended to vote Labour.’ is simply untrue.

Alderman showed that even in the 1970's there was a significant number of Jews voting for the racist and fascist National Front, even though they were anti-Semitic and denied the holocaust, because their racism was directed at Black people.  Since the 1950’s as Jews have become progressively better off, having moved from the East End to the suburbs, their voting patterns have switched from Labour to Tory.

We have a non-Jew John Mann MP, who travels the world and makes a good living out of ‘anti-Semitism’ telling Jewish opponents of Israel, people who follow the prophetic tradition of opposing injustice whoever commits it, that they are anti-Semitic!  The word ‘chutzpah’ comes to mind.  But that is understandable because the most enthusiastic Zionists have always been non-Jewish reactionaries and imperialists.

We should not forget however that even by normal political standards, John Mann is a particularly dishonest and disingenuous politician who wouldn’t know what the truth is if it bit him in his thinking parts.  The employment tribunal in Fraser v University College Union got the measure of this windbag who likes the sound of his own voice.

John Mann MP was a good friend of the former Labour Minister Phil Woollas, a racist MP who was disqualified by an electoral court  because of the lies he told about his Lib-Dem political opponent.  He deliberately tried to stir up what his associates called the ‘white vote’ portraying caricatures of Muslims on his leaflets as jihadists and himself as the dam holding back the barbarian tide.  By their friends shall he know them.

This is one more example of BBC Bias at its Best. 

Below is the Appeal I sent to the BBC on April 8th.

Reference CAS-3747932-2H1W9P

In your response to my complaint you said you hoped that your reply would go some way to allaying my concerns.  Rest assured that it did not.

The BBC’s complaint system has a reputation for a knee jerk defence of its presenters.  In this case you have exceeded even your own abysmal standards.

i.           I complained that although the subject of the programme was whether Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party had a problem with anti-Semitism, not once did you probe or question whether this was true.  The interviewers & Andrew Neil, assumed the very question that was the subject of the programme, i.e. whether there was anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and on the left. 

ii.          You state that the programme was an ‘analysis of whether or not the Labour Party has problems with anti-Semitism… (and) if there were problems of anti-Semitism in the Left.’  Unfortunately it wasn’t an analysis.  No evidence was presented at any stage of the programme.

iii.         The vast majority of the programme consisted of a monologue by MPs John Mann and Wes Streeting, both of whom were convinced of the prevalence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, backed up by the interviewer Andrew Neil.  Yet there was no evidence produced whatsoever.  All we had was assertion and in Mann’s case a generalised anecdote. 

iv.        One indication of bias was that there was a fleeting appearance by James Schneider, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn for 25 seconds.  Contrast this with the 45 seconds for Streeting and the 6 minutes and 4 seconds devoted to Mann.

v.         At no point did Neil challenge what Mann said, he merely asked him to clarify and expand on his points.  John Mann should have been treated vigorously and subject to cross-examination, instead Neil’s questioning took his statements for granted and developed them.

vi.        John Mann is a discredited witness.  When he gave evidence as a witness at the Fraser v University College Union employment tribunal in 2012 [Case No:  2203290/2011].  The Tribunal  found that

The parliamentarians did not provide any detail and did not genuinely respond to that inquiry [by the UCU] at all. Mr Mann led for them and the more conciliatory tone of Dr MacShane gave way to a somewhat hostile display in which Mr Mann made no bones about his view that the union was operating in an anti-Semitic way…. He did not explain what the anti-Semitic behaviour was supposed to have consisted of besides referring to the boycott debate and characterising any boycott of Israel or Israeli institutions as itself anti-Semitic.’ [para. 84]

‘He [John Mann] told us that the leaders of the Respondents were at fault for the way in which they conducted debates but did not enlighten us as to what they were doing wrong or what they should be doing differently…. And when it came to anti-Semitism in the context of debate about the Middle East, he announced, “It’s clear to me where the line is …” but unfortunately eschewed the opportunity to locate it for us. Both parliamentarians clearly enjoyed making speeches. Neither seemed at ease with the idea of being required to answer a question not to his liking. [Para. 148]

vii.       John Mann was tested under cross-examination in the Employment Tribunal.  He was not tested at all by Andrew Neil because Neil shared Mann’s prejudices.  At no stage were there any probative questioning which would have tested Mann’s arguments.  I shall explain. 

a.      Neil’s first question was ‘Why has it [anti-Semitism] come back?  The obvious question to have asked would have been to challenge if anti-Semitism had come back, where’s the evidence etc.

b.      Neils second question was ‘But why in the LP has it come back?’  This question too did not question the underlying assumption.

c.      The third question showed where the prejudices of Neil lay.  He asked: ‘Well is the Labour leader doing enough?  The fact that he’s talked about his friends in Hamas and Hezbollah and shared platforms with people who are very hostile to Israel and so on.  Is that a disadvantage.  Is that encouraging anti-Semitism or is it not relevant.’ 
Note how Neil refers to Hamas and Hezbollah, who have after all been elected by their respective constituencies, as ‘his friends’ thus completely distorting Corbyn’s use of the term ‘friends’ which was a general reference in the context of a public meeting he was chairing with Hamas and Hezbollah speakers.  In other words a complete distortion.
Note also how Neil links people who are hostile to Israel (whatever that means) to ‘encouraging anti-Semitism’ thus your point about ‘It wasn’t a look at the Israel/Palestine situation’ is invalid because the comparison was made by Neil as interviewer.

d.      Neil’s 4th question asks, in the context of the inquiry into Oxford university Labour Club ‘But is your party doing enough about this?  Because I understand that these inquiries may be subsumed into a much bigger enquiry bullying and so on.’  What Neil never does is to query the ‘this’ – all Neil’s questions assume that the allegations of anti-Semitism are correct.  Not once does Neil question the basic premise.

e.      Neil’s next question was a gem.  He asks ‘Historically the Labour Party has done well from the Jewish vote,  The Jewish vote ov’er time has tended to vote Labour.  If this anti-Semitism continues in your party are you in danger of losing the Jewish vote.’  It is priceless because in the course of asking a question about ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party, Neil indulges in one of the worst anti-Semitic tropes himself!  Priceless.  The suggestion of a Jewish vote is on a par with the suggestion of ‘Jewish money’ and the hidden hand of Judah.  The idea that Jews vote according to Jewish interests.   Even John Mann ignores Neil’s idiocy.

f.       Even by the biased and bigoted standards of the BBC this interview has set  new standards.  At no time did Andrew Neil even once challenge the basic assumptions of John Mann.  Instead the advocates of the idea that anti-Semitism is a major problem in the Labour Party had approximately 16 times more time than the spokesman for Momentum.  I ignore the idiocy of Gerry Downing.

g.      By way of distraction your response to my complaint said that ‘The item did not suggest that Jeremy Corbyn was “racist”.  Neither did my complaint suggest this.  However by your presenter suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn tolerates anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, he went a long way to suggesting exactly this.

Unsurprisingly I therefore want to appeal.
Tony Greenstein

The reply below which I received to the above complaint  naturally did not deal with my complaint  - it ludicrously says that it 'wasn't a look at the Israel/Palestine situation' despite the question from Neil which covered just that

Dear Mr Greenstein

Reference CAS-3747932-2H1W9P

Thanks for getting in touch and please accept our apologies for the delay in replying.
The 13 March edition of ‘Sunday Politics’ specifically looked at allegations of anti-Semitism amongst some Labour student members at specific universities. This was an analysis of whether or not the Labour Party has problems with anti-Semitism, and looking at if there were problems of anti-Semitism in the Left. It wasn’t a look at the Israel/Palestine situation, and we did not conflate the actions of Israel with all Jewish people.

The item did not suggest that Jeremy Corbyn was “racist”. A representative from Momentum, James Schneider, was included in the item. We hear him say that Corbyn is attacked for his long-standing commitment to anti-war, anti-imperialism, peace in the Middle East, before adding that “he does absolutely condemn anti-Semitism...there is not a shred of anti-Semitism in his personal make-up”. He robustly said that Mr Corbyn condemns anti-Semitism, and is not at all anti-Semitic.

While we hope this goes some way to allaying your concerns, we’d thank you for going to the trouble to let us know your thoughts on this. Your feedback is valued. Your comments have been sent to the right people.

Kind regards

Stuart Webb
BBC Complaints

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