19 October 2018

Brighton and Hove Council Ignores Black and Anti-racist Organisations and Votes To Adopt a Definition of Antisemitism that is both Racist and Antisemitic

Brighton Council Leader Daniel Yates compared the IHRA to the Theft Act – He has a point! - Unlike the Greens Who Had No Point!

Below is an extract from the debate on the IHRA at a meeting of Brighton & Hove Council on Thursday. The full debate can be seen here. I have omitted the contribution of Sussex Friends of Israel's Fiona Sharpe since she had nothing to say. Neither she nor Labour leader Daniel Yates defended the IHRA in its own terms. Their only argument was that it was supported by the Jewish community. 
Even were that true then one group cannot 'self define' in terms of the rights and oppression of another group.  If Jews in Britain define their own identity in terms of the repression of the Palestinians then that definition is illegitimate and opposition to it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. 7 of the 11 illustrations in the IHRA relate to Israel not anti-Semitism. This is something that Phelim McCafferty of the Greens failed to comprehend in his pathetic speech trying to reconcile opposites. In reality the IHRA has nothing to do with Jewish ‘self definition’. The IHRA was written in Israel, at the behest of the Israeli state by Kenneth Stern, who now admits that its main purpose was to chill, if not suppress, their political speech’.

Brighton and Hove Council voted to adopt the full IHRA Definition of ‘Anti-Semitism’ by 46 votes for with 1 abstention (Penny Gilbey, Labour).

Outside the building anti-racist organisations, trade unionists and Palestine Solidarity Campaign demonstrated.  Present were the banners of UNISON and Brighton and Hove Trades Council. 
Contrary to what we had expected there was no Zionist counter-demonstration. There was Simon Cobbs, who kept to himself, of Sussex Friends of Israel filming the demonstration and racist Lukey Stanger of ‘Roma are a social blight’ fame.  There was also a Zionist delegation, led by Fiona Sharpe of the far-Right SFI who were accompanied into Hove Town Hall by Daniel Yates, Council leader. Grinning like a cat Yates avoided discussing with Black and Muslim demonstrators why he was supporting a racist definition of ‘anti-Semitism’.
The meeting started at 4.30 and I was down first for a question. My question was simplicity itself, which was just as well because I was facing 47 Brighton and Hove councillors. Why, I asked, does the Council need to adopt a definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ that is over 500 words when there is a simple one, in the Oxford English Dictionary viz. ‘Hostility to or prejudice against Jews’.

Unsurprisingly Yates was unable to answer because that would have involved telling the truth, i.e. ‘we are adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism because that is the best way to defend the world’s only apartheid state, Israel.’
Instead and quite amazingly Yates, who to be fair is not the most cerebral of leaders to have led the Labour Group, treated us to the fact that Theft is not all it seems and the Theft act has many varied definitions of things like Deception, Fraud and Extortion. All of which is true but all of which is irrelevant.  Theft is a criminal act (except when the rich commit it).  Anti-Semitism is a political act or crime whose definition is as simple as ABC.
I am not aware that there is any mention of the State of Israel in the Theft Act!  There are however repeated mentions of Israel in the IHRA.  That is the difference that Yates was unable to explain. 
When I responded, as I’m allowed to with a supplementary question, I immediately made the point that the IHRA begins by stating it is a ‘non-legal definition’ so the comparison with legislation was absurd.  
Trades Council and Brighton & Hove Momentum banners
The main point that I tried to get across was that this was not about anti-Semitism but about Israel.  The IHRA was there to defend Israel not Jewish people.

I then explained, to the evident irritation of some Tory and Labour councillors that I had lived in Brighton for over 40 years and I had never experienced anti-Semitism.  It is all but non-existent.
Daniel Yates - Leader of the Labour Group - not the brightest tool in the box
I also explained, but I’m not sure that Yates and his New Labour friends understood, that far from defending Jewish people the IHRA actually left them more exposed because it defines anti-Semitism in terms of hatred not hostility. I gave the example of someone who says they don’t want their daughter to marry a Jew even though they have nothing personally against Jews.  That is hostility not hatred and is therefore not covered by the IHRA.
I quoted what Nkosi Zwelivelile, the grandchild of Nelson Mandela wrote in The Guardian a week ago. It should be imprinted upon the mind of every Labour Councillor.
Like Madiba and Desmond Tutu before me, I see the eerie similarities between Israel’s racial laws and policies towards Palestinians, and the architecture of apartheid in South Africa. We South Africans know apartheid when we see it. In fact, many recognise that, in some respects, Israel’s regime of oppression is even worse.
The IHRA contains 11 examples, 7 of which refer to Israel. I quoted the preamble to the illustrations that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.’ and made the point that Israel was not like any other country.  No normal western liberal democracy demolishes villages and houses of one ethnic group, Arabs, in order to replace them with another ethnic group, Israeli Jews as Israel does to Palestinian villages such as Um al-Hiran and Khan al Ahmar.
Hove Town Hall - the venue for the Council meeting
My final flourish was to welcome the opposition of the Tory group to anti-Semitism and contrast it with when they opposed the right to immigrate to Britain for Jewish refugees from Czarist pogroms and anti-Semitism like my father’s family. I pointed out that they had introduced the first Immigration Act  the Aliens Act in 1905 to keep Jews out of Britain. I also noted that when Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany tried to enter this country the Tories opposed them as ‘bogus’ asylum seekers, just as they oppose asylum seekers today.
I also remarked on the pathetic spectacle of the Green group and Phelim McCafferty lining up behind the two other major parties. Let no one think that the Greens represent any radical alternative to New Labour, be it in Brighton or nationally. During my speech a Council flunkey had turned my mike off, not that it mattered as my voice carries anyway!  However I simply turned it back on!
Racists unite - Lukey Stanger of Red Road and Simon Cobbs of Sussex Friends of Israel, recently accused by fellow Zionists of blackmail
I was followed by Nadia Edmond, a member of the University College Union and a well known anti-racist who headed a delegation of Black, Muslim and anti-racist groups including Stand Up to Racism.  In the 5 minutes allotted to her she coherently explained why the IHRA was an attack on free speech and how it added nothing to the fight against anti-Semitism or racism.  She quoted Oxford academic Brian Klug who said that when everything and everyone is anti-Semitic then no one is.
There was a reply by Fiona Sharpe of Sussex Friends of Israel, a far-Right group that pretends that it represents Brighton and Hove’s 3,000 Jews.  I hope it doesn’t because SFI is a racist group that has worked with fascist groups and which invited an advocate of rape in war, Mordechai Kedar, to speak at one of their meetings. Sharpe committed perjury in Brighton magistrates court when a member of Brighton PSC, Yasser, a Palestinian, was charged with public order offences. After video of the events were played the magistrates chose not to believe her.
Ms Sharpe’s main argument was that the Jewish community was entitled to ‘self define’ anti-Semitism and that it had chosen the IHRA.  This is wrong on many levels.  Anti-Semitism is not subjective but objective. The idea that any group can define their own oppression is simply wrong and assumes that all Jews think the same way.  In other words it is anti-Semitic. Not all Jews are of the same opinion as to what constitutes anti-Semitism so what the Council and New Labour was doing was adopting the viewpoint of the most racist and reactionary of Jews.
Secondly if anti-Semitism exists then it should be possible to define it in clear and explicit language and argument and not rely on a ‘right’ of those affected to define it as they wish.  It is thus a racist argument because it assumes all Jews are of one and the same mind.
But the third and most powerful reason is that no group has the right to define their own ‘oppression’ if it affects the rights of others.  The definition of anti-Semitism in the IHRA directly prevents Palestinians from defining Israel as a racist entity.  That alone makes the IHRA illegitimate.
The fact is that Jews in Britain are not oppressed. Anti-Semitism statistics are not reliable and given that the collation of them has been taken over by the Israeli state via organisations like the Community Security Trust no reliance should be placed on those figures, indeed there are very good reasons for not trusting them. [See The Myth of Increased Anti-Semitic Attacks & the Creation of a False Media Narrative]
The racism faced by Black, Asian, Muslim and Roma people is simply not the same, qualitatively or quantitatively as that faced by Jews.  Jews are a privileged and prosperous White community. They suffer no economic disadvantage. They do not suffer state racism. There are no reports of Jewish deaths in custody or violence by the Police against Jews. There are no Jewish victims of Windrush or deportation of Jews. Anti-Semitism today is a marginal prejudice.

That is why Jews, who are a minority, vote overwhelmingly for parties of the Right. When they or their representatives define anti-Semitism they do it along class lines and they see their enemies as those who are not privileged. That is why the ruling class and establishment in this country use ‘anti-Semitism’ and Jews in order to effectively bolster and legitimise their own foreign policy support which involves support for Israel as part of the special relationship with the United States. 
The Tories didn’t even bother to speak to the motion. The most pathetic speech came from the Leader of the Greens, Phelim McCafferty, an ex-resident of Derry, who should understand what colonialism means. A wannabe member of the local establishment Phelim was conscious of how he has ratted out on the cause of Palestine. He went to some lengths to argue that his support of the IHRA did not affect his support for the Palestinians which is absurd because this is its main purpose. He accepted that the IHRA has already been used to close down debate.  In effect he was saying that he supported the Palestinians and he supported anti-Semitism being used as the main weapon against supporters of the Palestinians.  Totally incoherent and totally unprincipled.  Phelim and Brighton’s Greens are simply politically irrelevant. 
Full credit should also be given to Penny Gilbey, the North Portslade Labour Councillor, who abstained and thereby ensured that the decision of the Council was not unanimous.  
Tony Greenstein

And if Daniel Yates and the leadership of the Council is serious about taking all forms of racism seriously they might now investigate the management of Knoll House in Hove where UNISON has been complaining there has been systematic racist bullying of staff - Black and East European. So far the Council has done nothing, an independent investigation having been blocked by the management's union, the GMB.

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