7 July 2018

Labour’s Anti-Semitism Code of Conduct – Be careful of what you wish for

It’s time to go on the offensive and say it loud and clear ‘Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism’ and it’s not anti-Semitic to criticise the Apartheid State of Israel

Labour’s newly drawn up Anti-Semitism Code of Conduct has set the cat amongst the Zionist pigeons.  It has also caused confusion amongst those who are our allies such as Jewish Voice for Labour who have given the code a fulsome welcome.
I believe the reaction of JVL and others on the Left to the new Code is mistaken and naive.  It is based on the idea that you can ignore the Code’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, a definition whose sole purpose is to conflate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and nonetheless make a silk purse out of a sow. 
The fake anti-Semitism smear campaign was not driven by a lack of an anti-Semitism code or definition anti-Semitism. The expulsion of myself, Marc Wadsworth and Cyril Chilsom was the consequence of a political campaign by the representatives of the Israeli state inside  the Labour Party.  This code of conduct is not going to prevent the expulsion of Jackie Walker.
On the contrary, Jennie Formby, Jeremy Corbyn and Jon Lansman are going to be eager to demonstrate that even with this code Jackie is going to be expelled.  The case of Jackie Walker is going to be a litmus test as to whether this code rationalises false accusations of anti-Semitism.
Those who believe that this code marks the end of the false anti-Semitism campaign are sadly mistaken. They are guilty of wishful thinking. People are choosing to ignore the content of the Code and instead are  bowled over by vacuous phrases about ‘civility of language.’ This code deserves a much more rigorous analysis.
The fake ‘anti-Semitism’ attacks of the last 2 years have been about Israel, despite the howls of anguish whenever such a suggestion is made, this is what the leaders of British Zionism themselves say. In their Open Letter to Corbyn, the Presidents of the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, Jonathans Arkush and Goldstein were quite open about this:
Again and again’ they wrote, ‘Jeremy Corbyn has sided with anti-Semites rather than Jews. At best, this derives from the far left's obsessive hatred of Zionism, Zionists and Israel’. 

Arkush and Goldstein framed the anti-Semitism attacks within the context of ‘the far-left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism’. Arkush subsequently accused the Jewish group Jewdas, with whom Corbyn had shared a Seder night of being a ‘source of virulent anti-Semitism’. As a parting shot Arkush, who had effusively welcomed Trump’s election together with his anti-semitic entourage, when retiring as President of the Board of Deputies accused Corbyn of being an anti-Semite. Nonetheless Arkush had no difficulty in demanding that ‘Corbyn must ensure Labour branches adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which some hard-left activists have lobbied against.’
Katie Hopkins with war criminal Mark Regev - Israel's Ambassador to the UK - apparently Regev tops Katie's list of eligible bachelors - a marriage truly made in hell
Why have the Zionists demanded that Labour adopts the 250+ word IHRA definition of anti-Semitism? Well the events of the past few weeks in Palestine supply the answer.  There is a very simple definition of anti-Semitism drawn up Dr Brian Klug, in a lecture ‘Echoes of Shattering Glass’ at the Jewish Museum in Berlin in 2014. It consists of 21 words:
antisemitism is a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are.
Indeed even this is somewhat wordy.  The Oxford English Dictionary definition, ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews’  takes up just 6 words.  Why does the IHRA need 250+ words?  Because that is what you need in order to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.  Anyone who has any doubts should read the intemperate and barely literate attack on Labour’s Anti-Semitism Code by the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard
‘instead of adopting the definition as agreed by all these bodies, Labour has excised the parts which relate to Israel and how criticism of Israel can be antisemitic.’
This is the problem as far as Pollard and friends are concerned.  The new anti-Semitism code doesn’t specifically say that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism and therefore it is not kosher.
Marie Van der Zyl, Arkush’s successor and Goldstein complained this week that “It is for Jews to determine for themselves what antisemitism is. The UK Jewish community has adopted in full the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Definition of Antisemitism.  What this means is that there is no rational or objective basis to allegations of anti-Semitism.  It is whatever Israel’s supporters say it is. So if someone is accused of anti-Semitism then we can dispense with examining such trifles as evidence and move to the sentence.  Kafkaesque or what?
So if someone suggests that the behaviour of the Israeli state in seeking to ethnically cleanse the West Bank is no different in principle from that of the Nazis then that is anti-Semitic if someone thinks it is. Of course although Van der Zyl and Goldstein say it is for Jews to determine what anti-Semitism is, there are some Jews, such as anti-racist or anti-Zionist Jews who don’t count.  They are the ‘wrong sort of Jews’.  It is the racist and chauvinist Jews who get to decide.  By allocating one single view to the whole Jewish community Goldstein and Van der Zyl are unwittingly engaging in the very anti-Semitism they decry!
Palestinian children going to the soon to be demolished school in Khan al-Amar
The reasons for this obsession with definitions of anti-Semitism are not hard to find. You don’t have to look very far. This week saw a violent attack by Israel against the Palestinian village of Khan al-Amar, an exercise in ethnic cleansing. Now that is real racism. We have only recently witnessed the murder of 120 unarmed demonstrators by Israel in a clay pigeon shoot in Gaza, an action defended by Labour Friends of Israel.
This code is problematic because it is a continuation of the same muddled approach to what is a very simple problem, which is the weaponisation of anti-Semitism against critics of Israel and anti-Zionists.  Although in principle it concedes that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are separate and distinct, in practice it gives hostages to fortune. People are in danger of being deceived by the Code’s vague and deceptive wording into sacrificing agreed principles.
Of course the Code has led to the predictable denunciation by the apostles of intolerance and bigotry, prime amongst them Stephen Pollard, the Editor of the Jewish Chronicle. Anything other than a statement saying that anti-Semitism equals anti-Zionism would be unacceptable to Pollard or the Board of Deputies.
Pollard, in what even for him is a remarkably illiterate, angry article, Labour's new guidelines show it is institutionally antisemitic openly compares Jeremy Corbyn to a Nazi. He says that you would not accept a definition of antisemitism drawn up by Nazis. Ok, so who else would be on the shortlist of the least suitable people to draw up a definition of antisemitism? Perhaps you can tell where this is heading.’ Yes Stephen we do and ironically the comparison of people to Nazis is deemed anti-Semitic by the very definition he defends.
Ivor Caplin, the new Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement had a meeting with Jennie Formby and others this week, just before the announcement of the code and he was more than happy with it.  Not realising or understanding that one of the objectives of the anti-Semitism witch-hunt is that it should never end he declared himself quite happy with the Code.

One has to say of poor Mr Caplin, who got it in the neck from fellow Zionists, that he clearly doesn’t understand that the main target of the anti-Semitism smear campaign is Corbyn not anti-Semitism, which means that you can never reach agreement about anything other than the terms of surrender i.e. Corbyn’s resignation. Nothing else will suffice.

However if we were simply to take our guide from the Zionist reaction then yes, we should support the new Anti-Semitism Code of Conduct. However this would very foolish and I would summon in my support Comrade Leon Trotsky. In a ‘Friendly Suggestion to Certain Ultra Leftists’ entitled, appropriately Learn to Think’ he wrote
The policy of the proletariat is not at all automatically derived from the policy of the bourgeoisie, bearing only the opposite sign – this would make every sectarian a master strategist; no, the revolutionary party must each time orient itself independently in the internal as well as the external situation, arriving at those decisions which correspond best to the interests of the proletariat. This rule applies just as much to the war period as to the period of peace.
In other words, just because the Zionists say they oppose the new Code of Conduct, that is no reason to support it. Their argument is tactical. In fact Caplin is correct. The Zionists have got much of what they want. However it suits them to pretend that the Code is awful because in that way they can ensure that in its implementation it will be their interpretation of the Code that prevails.  We should heed Trotsky’s advice and learn to think and examine the Code from our perspective not theirs.
The Anti-Semitism Code of Conduct
The first thing to ask is whether or not this Code is going to stop the expulsion of Jackie Walker and lead to the reinstatement of those already expelled. If not then it is useless.  The witch-hunt is not about words on a piece of paper or abstract definitions of anti-Semitism but a state-driven politically motivated attack by the supporters of imperialism and Zionism.
Naturally Katie Hopkins was a guest at the Zionist Federation's annual dinner - she must have felt at home for once
The second thing to ask is why anti-Semitism?  Why should there be a separate definition of anti-Semitism? This focus on a form of racism which is a marginal form of prejudice is itself racist.  It is the victims of the Windrush scandal, the targets of mosque bombings and racial attacks, the hounding of Roma by vicious racists like John Mann MP and the police and state racism against Black and Asian people which should be the subject of Labour Party codes.  The focus on a privileged white group which suffers not at all from state racism is in itself racist. If there was a real problem of anti-Semitism today why would the very tabloid press which employed Katie  Hopkins and Richard Littlejohn stand opposed to anti-Jewish racism?  The fact that the Sun and the Mail oppose ‘anti-Semitism’ (whilst not hesitating to attack George Soros as an alien Jewish financier) should suggest what the real agenda is.
Thirdly the Anti-Semitism Code of Conduct, instead of rejecting outright the bogus IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism takes it as its starting point.  Yes it negates its most offensive examples but the fact is that it nonetheless adopts the definition, including many examples. It is unfortunate that the JVL and others didn’t reread the Opinion of Hugh Tomlinson QC:
‘The IHRA Definition does not purport to provide a legal definition of antisemitism. It does not have the clarity which would be required from such a definition.’
As Stephen Sedley said in Defining Anti-Semitism the IHRA ‘fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite.’  Not only that but it is ‘protean in character and as open-ended’.
Tomlinson observed that
‘The use of language is unusual and therefore potentially confusing. The phrase “a certain perception” is vague and unclear in the context of a definition. The use of the word “may” is also confusing. If it is understood in its usual sense of “possibility” then the definition is of little value: antisemitism “may be expressed as hatred towards Jews but may also be expressed in other (unspecified) ways”. This does not work as a definition.
The apparent confining of antisemitism to an attitude which is “expressed” as a hatred of Jews seems too narrow and not to capture conduct which, though not expressed as hatred of Jews is clearly a manifestation of antisemitism. It does not, for example, include discriminatory social and institutional practices.
Tomlinson goes on to argue that because it ‘lacks clarity and comprehensiveness’ it has a
‘potential chilling effect on public bodies which, in the absence of definitional clarity, may seek to sanction or prohibit any conduct which has been labelled by third parties as antisemitic without applying any clear criterion of assessment.’
Tomlinson’s third criticism revolves around the structure of the IHRA. Because the actual definition itself speaks of ‘hatred’ all the illustrative examples ‘must be regarded as examples of activity which can properly be regarded as manifesting “hatred towards Jews”.
Analysis of the Code of Conduct
1.             The Code begins with a lie in Para. 5: Labour is an anti-racist party.’ This is not true.  For most of the time that South Africa Apartheid was in existence Labour gave support to the white settlers. Labour was historically as much a party of Empire as the Conservatives. It was in this spirit that Poale Zion, the workers of Zion, who campaigned for a Boycott of Arab Labour were affiliated to the Labour Party in 1921.  This lie is best demonstrated by the Windrush scandal. This was a consequence of the 2013 Immigration Act which all but 8 Labour MPs supported (they abstained but when an Opposition abstains that can be treated as support).  All those ‘anti-Semitism’ activists, Ruth Smeeth, Luciana Berger, John Mann, Wes Streeting – all of them sat on their haunches and supported Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment policy.’
2.             The Code says of the 38 word IHRA definition:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

that ‘The IHRA definition captures the idea of hostile conduct towards individuals and institutions on the ground that they are Jewish.’ This is unmitigated rubbish. A lie.  The definition doesn’t even mention ‘hostile conduct’ – it defines anti-Semitism in terms of hatred not hostility – thus raising the bar to actual anti-Semitism.
Secondly you cannot be racist against institutions.  The inclusion of ‘Jewish community institutions’ is itself absurd as well as non-Jewish individuals.
3.             Although it is welcome that Para. 7 accepts that ‘the expression of even contentious views in this area will not be treated as antisemitism unless accompanied by specific antisemitic content (such as the use of antisemitic tropes) or by other evidence of antisemitic intent.’  It begs the question as to what ‘anti-Semitic tropes’ mean in  practice since experience so far is that anything can count as an anti-Semitic trope.  One only has to remember the way Joan Ryan, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel tried to set up Jean Fitzpatrick at the Labour Party conference two years ago to realise that.
Louise Ellman MP for Liverpool Riverside and Tel Aviv South
4.             The National Constitutional Committee  took exception to my statement that Louise Ellman MP was a supporter of Israeli abuse of Palestinian children despite her having intervened three times in a debate on Palestinian child prisoners to support the Israeli military’s treatment of these children. I was guilty of ‘incivility’ a concept that lies at the heart of this code.  There are times when people rightly get angry at those who support torture and abuse of children, as I was but according to this Code of Conduct my expulsion was justified and Ellman was innocent.
5.             The Code of conduct quotes approvingly the examples that the IHRA definition gives of anti-Semitism. For example ‘Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.’ Now one cannot dispute that calling for the killing or harming of Jews is anti-Semitic.  But why add ‘in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion’?  Would it be ok if it was in the name of a conservative ideology or a mainstream view of religion?  This formulation plays into the hands of Islamaphobes who contend that Islam is a murderous religion.
You might think that the example ‘Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective’ was uncontroversial but the reference to ‘Jews as a collective’ is a reference to Israel.  Israel is a nuclear state, a regional superpower.  So referring to Israel’s military might could be termed ‘anti-Semitic’ even though it is true. There has been much talk of the Jewish vote in places like Barnet recently.  Is this anti-Semitic since it refers to Jews collectively or is it only when supporters of Palestine refer to Jewish support for Israel that it is anti-Semitic?
Likewise ‘Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.’ Why mention the Israeli state? Isn’t it enough simply to define Holocaust denial as an example of anti-Semitism? Given the way Zionists use word association, referring to the blood  that Palestinians shed is quickly likened to the medieval blood libel. Is it too much to expect that references to Israel’ s use of the Holocaust as a propaganda weapon might also come under this illustration?
Then there is the example Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel’.  Yes this is anti-Semitic but Israel calls itself a Jewish state so that is precisely what it is doing – claiming that Jews throughout the world support its war crimes.
Paragraph 12 is particularly problematic because it states that ‘the Party is clear that the Jewish people have the same right to self-determination as any other people. To deny that right is to treat the Jewish people unequally and is therefore a form of antisemitism.’ Historically the idea of a Jewish state would have been held to be anti-Semitic.
Lucien Wolf, a leading member of the Board of Deputies and the Conjoint Committee, its Foreign Secretary before the first world war, noting that  the Zionists claimed that all the Jews as forming at the present moment a separate and dispossessed nationality’ , commented that
I have spent most of my life in combating these very doctrines, when presented to me in the form of anti-Semitism, and I can only regard them as the more dangerous when they come to me in the guise of Zionism.’
In short if the ‘Party is clear’  that Jewish people form a nation, which is what the right to self-determination means, then it is adopting an anti-Semitic position!  Only anti-Semites maintain that Jews are a nation apart rather than a member of the nations amongst whom they live.  Let us be charitable and assign this to political ignorance, it is nonetheless unacceptable that in a document supposedly devoted to combating anti-Semitism, at its heart lies an anti-Semitic postulate.  The whole basis of the world Jewish conspiracy theory rests on the idea that Jews are a nation apart.  Of course the Zionists agree with this because Zionism is a form of Jewish anti-Semitism.  As the founder of Political Zionism Theodor Herzl, who is buried in a grave on Mount Herzl in Israel, explained at the height of the Dreyfus Affair:
In Paris... I achieved a freer attitude towards anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognise the emptiness and futility of trying to 'combat' anti-Semitism.’
We should instead point out that far from anti-Zionism equalling anti-Semitism the exact opposite is the case.  Zionism shares with anti-Semites the belief that Jews do not belong in the diaspora.  Historically Zionism accepted most of the anti-Semitic libels against Jews, that they were asocial, absorbed in money and allied trades because they lacked a homeland.  Zionism was a movement of blood and soil nationalism.  It is a movement that never fought anti-Semitism, which is why the current crop of allegations of anti-Semitism are so comical.
It is the Zionist movement which argues that Jews should be loyal to Israel and Zionism and accuses anti-Zionists of being 'traitors' 
Paragraph 14 is politically incoherent. It states that ‘It is also wrong to accuse Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.’ In paragraph 12 Jews formed a separate nation of their own and two paragraphs later they are members ‘of their own nations.’  Furthermore it entirely reverses the dual loyalty principle. It is Zionism which holds that Jews should be more loyal to Israel than their own nations. One of the most repeated forms of abuse levelled at Jewish anti-Zionists is that they are ‘traitors’.  How can one be a traitor unless one’s first loyalty is to Israel?  It is Zionism which demands a dual loyalty.  That is why in October 2013 the American Embassy distributed to American Jews a Questionnaire asking themto indicate where their allegiance would lie if there was a crisis between the two countries.’
The Code states, quite correctly that it ‘is not permissible to use “Zionist” ... as a code word for “Jew”.  Which is true but in that case why is the Jewish Labour Movement allowed to call itself Jewish when it only represents Zionist Jews (& non-Jews)?  It is this hypocrisy and double standard that runs throughout this politically incoherent code.
Likewise the suggestion that the term ‘Zio’ ‘should have no place in Labour Party discourse’ is another concession to the Zionist narrative.  ‘Zio’ is short for Zionist. To suggest that it is anti-Semitic means that Labour is effectively saying that Zionist is equal to Jew, the very thing paragraph 15 warns against!
Paragraph 16’s statement that It is not antisemitism to criticise the conduct or policies of the Israeli state by reference to such examples unless there is evidence of antisemitic intent.’ is welcome but it is immediately contradicted by the reference to Chakrabarti’s comment that ‘Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine’ because they are ‘incendiary’. 
On the contrary people should feel free to make comparisons between Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and the Nazi practice in this regard.  If only to bring Israelis face to face with the consequence of their own policies and politics. Israeli politicians never hesitate to accuse their victims of being Nazis.  Why should we not compare e.g. the demonstration last week in Afula against the sale of a house to an Arab in a ‘Jewish city’ to when it was the policy of Nazi Germany that Jews should not live in ‘Aryan’ towns and villages?
Many on the Left will be tempted to welcome this document as being better than might be expected.  Perhaps it is, but unfortunately it goes down the road of confusing and conflating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.  We should be stating that today the advocates of Zionism are to be found holding hands with the far-Right including anti-Semitic politicians. 
Netanyahu's closest ally in Europe, Viktor Orban, wants to rehabilitate the pro-Nazi ruler who sent 437,000 Jews to Auschwitz
It is no accident that the Israeli government has just reached an accord with the Polish government over a Holocaust law which renders it an offence to publish books on Polish complicity in the crimes of the Nazi occupiers and on occasion it was Polish nationalists who initiated the attacks on Jews as was the case in Jedwabne in 1941 when villagers herded up to 1600 Jews into a barn which they then set alight.  Netanyahu has invited over, on a state visit in the summer, Viktor Orban of Hungary who not only waged an overtly anti-Semitic campaign against George Soros, but he has described the pro-Nazi dictator of Hungary during the war, Admiral Horthy, who presided over the deportation of nearly half a million Jews to Auschwitz, as an ‘outstanding statesman’. When Ken Livingstone pointed to the support of the Nazis for Zionism he forgot to say that this support was reciprocated. 
Le Pen combines antisemitism with Zionism
All over Europe anti-Semitic politicians and far-Right and fascist parties combine support Zionism and Israel with Islamaphobia.  From Marine Le Pen in France to Geert Wilders of The Netherlands to Germany’s Alternatives for Germany [Loathed by Jews, Germany’s far-right AfD loves the Jewish state, Times of Israel, 24.9.17] to neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, the founder of America’s alt-Right who describes himself as a White Zionist.
The implicit assumption running throughout this Code of Conduct is that there is a thin line dividing anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism and that anti-Zionism is often a cover for anti-Semitism.  Although this does occasionally happen what is far more frequent today is the reverse – it is anti-Semites who use support for Israel and Zionism as a cover for anti-Semitism.  No better example is there than Tommy Robinson, the British fascist who combines support for Israel with befriending anti-Semites and holocaust deniers.
The Anti-Semitism Code of Conduct is not the panacea that many people are hoping it will be.  By avoiding the topic of weaponisation of anti-Semitism my prediction is that it is going to prove all but useless in the battle against the false anti-Semitism smears.
Tony Greenstein

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please submit your comments below