31 March 2019

Ha’aretz's War Against Jeremy Corbyn – Gideon Levy & Amira Hass are the exceptions not the rule

This article was first printed in Middle East Monitor. Stanley Heller, a friend and comrade from the USA, sent me an article by Alona Ferber in Ha'aretz . At his prompting I wrote a response to Ferber’s article which Ha’aretz refused to print.  Stanley subsequently put my article up on the Struggle.  Like the Guardian here, Ha'aretz refused to print an article that went against the dominant narrative of  'Labour antisemitism'.
Tony Greenstein
When You Scratch a Liberal Zionist You Find a Racist – Ha’aretz is simply more subtle and intelligent than the most of the Zionist press - but it is still a Zionist paper
Ha’aretz occupies much the same position as the Rand Daily Mail did in South Africa. It is the lone voice of liberalism in the world’s most racist state.
Except that there is one important difference. Whereas theRand Daily Mail opposed Apartheid, Ha’aretz is a supporter of Zionism. Ha’aretz believes that Israel can be humanised and yet remain a Zionist state.  Essentially that you can have a non-racist version of Zionism. It believes a Jewish state can also be a democratic state. It is an oxymoron masquerading as a political philosophy.
Alona Ferber repeated the lie that Ken Livingstone had said 'Hitler was a Zionist' whereas he stated that 'Hitler supported Zionism' a rather different thing - when this was pointed out to Ha'aretz they simply ignored repeated complaints
In Israel the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ take on a different meaning to that which is normally understood by these terms. In Israel Left and Right define one’s attitude to the Palestinian question. In normal democratic societies, in states that claim not to discriminate between their citizens on the basis of religion or colour, Left and Right defines one’s position in respect of class and economic issues. Politics in Israel are polarised around Jew v Arab and questions of race and racism. This is why the Israeli Labour Party fails to meet the criteria of a left-wing party on both counts!
That is why former leader, Shelly Yacimovich declared that it was a ‘historic injustice’ to characterise the ILP as a left-wing party. The ILP"has always drawn its power from being a centrist party. There have been both hawks and doves within its ranks.’  As someone opposed to historic injustices I have no intention of calling the Israeli Labor Party left-wing or socialist.  Which is one reason why I want their bastard offspring in Britain, the Jewish Labour Movement, to be disaffiliated from the Labour Party.
Where Yacimovich was being economical with the truth was in her statement that Labor has always drawn its power from advocating peace, but pragmatically," There isn’t a single Israeli war that the ILP hasn’t supported. Its record of murdering Palestinian refugees seeking to return to their lands in the 1950’s (they were characterised as ‘infiltrators’) bears comparison with anything Likud has achieved.
On economic matters Ha’aretz is a free market paper. Its Defence Correspondent Amos Harel is close to Israel’s security establishment as was his predecessor Zeev Schiff (which didn’t prevent Moshe Dayan trying to have him fired!). But above all Ha’aretz is loyal to the Israeli state.  It is signed up to the Zionist agenda even if it permits a couple of anti-Zionist journalists, Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, to write for it.  Hass and Levy are the exceptions that prove the rule.
Ha’aretz is certainly the most astute of Israeli newspapers. It realises that an Israel drifting inexorably to the Right is haemorrhaging political support in the West and that Israel, even more than South Africa before it, is dependent on political support in the United States. That is why the growth of support for the Palestinians in the Democrats is so worrying for the more intelligent Zionists, who can see beyond the end of their nose.
The usual meaningless Zionist statistics - even assuming 85% of British Jews think Corbyn is anti-semitic I doubt if even 1% can explain coherently why this is so - all these polls do is to measure the effectiveness of the mass media
Ha’aretz has a depth of coverage of Israel which shows some, at least, of the reality of what Zionism means in practice. It is sincere in wanting a Jewish state that treats its Arab citizens equally. The problem it faces is that a Jewish State, by definition, cannot help but treat its minorities as tolerated guests. Zionism, for which Israel is a Jewish state above all, cannot all for equality or democracy.
That is why Ha’aretz, despite its criticisms of the consequences of Zionism as they play out in Israel is still loyal to the idea of a Jewish state. Like the Rand Daily Mail it too is opposed to BDS and sanctions.
The rise of Jeremy Corbyn, an avowedly socialist leader of Britain’s Labour Party, has tested liberals not only in Britain but Israel too. When it comes to socialism, then liberals are no less hostile to the ideas of the common ownership of wealth than conservatives. That is why in Britain it is the Guardian and its Zionist Senior Journalist Jonathan Freedland who have led the charge against Jeremy Corbyn.
Ha’aretz’s attitude to Jeremy Corbyn has also been hostile. With a few exceptions, notably Gideon Levy and Israel's most famous poet, Yitzhak Laor, their coverage has been universally hostile. Ha’aretz correspondents have bought into the idea that Corbyn and the Labour Left are anti-Semitic.
The Jewish Voice for Labour and Labour Against the Witchhunt Counter Demonstration to the Zionists' 'anti-racist' demonstration
Alona Ferber recently wrote an article in Ha'aretz titled ‘Corbyn’s Labour Will Never Stop Gaslighting Jews’ (20 February).
The title alone demonstrated its bias and where it was coming from. It made no attempt to be even handed. It read like an ill digested propaganda tract that went from one untruth to another with gay abandon. To Ferber support for the Palestinians is ‘gaslighting Jews’.
Ferber’s article consisted of a series of assertions unsupported by anything in the way of evidence. In what has become a hackneyed metaphor, Jews were the ‘canary in the mine’ a tired and clichéd analogy. I suggested that on the contrary, anti-Semitism in the Labour Party was the dog that didn’t bark in the night! (Sherlock Holmes/Silver Blade)
Ferber began with the resignation of the ‘7 Dwarfs’, right-wing MPs (later to become 8) all pro-Zionist who decided to form an Independent Group.  Ferber even repeated the myth that Ken Livingstone had said that ‘Hitler was a Zionist’ even though this has been debunked repeatedly. A cursory search on Google turns up the transcript  which describes Hitler as ‘supporting Zionism’ something which is accepted as fact even by Zionist historians such as David Cesarani and Lucy Dawidowicz.
No reason was given but one assumes it is perhaps because the accepted narrative must not be contradicted
I therefore sent in an article by way of reply. Ha’aretz’s Opinion Editor, Esther Solomon sent a curt response ‘Thanks for this, Tony, but we'll pass.’ I sent a somewhat longer response:
Dear Esther,
I'm sorry that you don't feel courageous enough to carry a reply to Alona Ferber's article 'Corbyn’s Labour Will Never Stop Gaslighting Jews'. It would appear that anything from a Jewish anti-Zionist perspective that challenges the mainstream narrative about Labour 'antisemitism', a narrative which Ha'aretz has been plugging away at for the past few years, not least from Ms Ferber, is off limits.  For all Ha'aretz's liberal credentials, there are limits to the debate you are willing to entertain.  It suggests that Gideon Levy and Amira Hass notwithstanding, you are not willing to challenge the Zionist consensus as to what constitutes 'antisemitism' abroad. 
There is of course nothing unusual in this.  Both the Labour and Conservative parties in Britain, like the Republicans and the Democrats, whatever their domestic disagreements maintain a policy of bipartisanship overseas. It is interesting to see that you follow in their footsteps.
I am not surprised that you have failed to given any reason for your decision not to accept my piece.  It is of the same length as the original and certainly more substantive and well argued, I have said I would forego any fee and as a prominent Jewish victim of this fake antisemitism crisis in Britain's Labour Party I am able to offer an unrivalled perspective as to what has actually been happening. Ms Ferber's piece is, by contrast, little more than second hand gossip and hearsay, a hackneyed repetition of all the old cliches and phrases.
What is happening in the Labour Party is, at least in part, a product of the dirty-tricks operations of Gilad Erdan's Ministry of Strategic Affairs. This was documented in Al Jazeera's film The Lobby where Erdan's operative, Shai Masot, was seen to be heavily involved in internal Labour Party affairs and working closely with Labour Zionist groups. 
Once again if you scratch a liberal you find a conservative underneath and if you scratch a liberal Zionist then you find a mainstream Zionist lurking.
Kind regards
I then sent a second message re the Livingstone inaccuracy:
Further to my previous email.  Do you think you can correct Alona Ferber's repetition of a lie, a lie that has been pointed out many times previously, that Ken Livingstone said that 'Hitler was a Zionist'. It is not true.
Again this is an example of the Goebbels technique of repeating a lie until it becomes the accepted truth.   What Livingstone actually said was:
' Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews. '
The whole transcript can be found in The Independent of 28th April 2016. It would have taken about one minute to find it with Google yet this brazen liar prefers to go with a version of what Livingstone said which is wholly untrue. His allegation that Hitler, i.e. the Nazis supported Zionism in Germany prior to 1939 is, as I pointed out in my response, supported by most holocaust historians.  I am sorry you are too cowardly to print a full rejoinder but you might at least correct obvious untruths and lies. 
At least I assume that Ha'aretz has some concern with correcting inaccuracies?
Again I received no reply. Checking the article a couple of days later I sent another response pointing out that they still had not corrected Ferber’s lie. Checking again a day later there still has not been any correction and it still reads:
‘Usual suspect Ken "Hitler was a Zionist" Livingstone reiterated his belief that he has never (ever) seen any anti-Semitism in the party (ever).’ It would appear that Opinion Editor Esther Solomons is none too concerned about errors and inaccuracies in  the articles she carries.
Below are a sample of the articles that Ha’aretz has carried on the Labour Party’s ‘anti-Semitism’ smears.
There is an article by Adam Langleben of the Jewish Labour Movement which contains his usual hysterical anti-Corbyn invective:
There are then a whole series of articles on the same theme.
Anti-Semitism Was Symptom and Catalyst of U.K. Labour Party Split, Not Root Cause Anshel Pfeffer 18th February, a particularly hostile columnist who writes ‘Jewish MP Luciana Berger, who was the target of years of racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic abuse and physical threats – much of it from Corbyn loyalists.’
This is totally untrue. Corbyn supporters have not subjected Luciana Berger to racist abuse nor has any evidence been produced to substantiate this.
This is ostensibly about a phone call between Alexander Ocasio-Cortez, the new left-wing Congresswoman from New York. 
In International Holocaust Remembrance Day Was a Mistake Anshel Pfeffer stated that In London, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who’s never met an anti-Semite he didn’t like, made a big show of signing a book of Holocaust remembrance in the UK parliament and then attending another remembrance event in his Islington constituency.’  31.1.19.
In Jeremy Corbyn Could Learn Some Statesmanship on Palestine Azriel Bermant asks ‘Will the UK Labour leader remain a pro-Palestinian protestor, shunning leftwing Israeli Jews but engaging with Hamas? Or can he develop the political maturity and integrity needed to become a real force for change?’ There’s nothing like a neutral sub-headline!
Then there is On Israel-Palestine, Jeremy Corbyn Is No 'Peacemaker' by Colin Shindler 20.9.18. Shindler is a Zionist academic in Britain who was formerly associated with the left-Zionist group Mapam and another article by Pfeffer (3.8.18.) Why Corbynism Is a Threat to Jews Throughout the Western World
The only balancing articles I could find were Who Put Out a Contract on Jeremy Corbyn?  By Yitzhak Laor 27.8.18. ‘Slander by the right doesn’t justify the Israeli left’s malice and interference in British politics ‘in the name of the Jewish people’
Gideon Levy also made his admiration for Corbyn clear when he wrote that Corbyn “is an icon of the left, a man who had spent a lifetime fighting for the values he believed in’  8.9.18. in Hebrew not English.
If you want fair coverage of the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn you need to turn to +972 Magazine with articles such as Yes, Corbynism poses a threat — but not to Britain's Jews where Matan Kaminer writes that ‘Smearing Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite has become a popular hobby among members of the British establishment — perhaps because what he stands for is a direct threat to their ideological and economic interests.’ Unfortunately it’s not only the British Establishment but the Israeli one too, including its liberal ‘opponents’ in Ha’aretz.
Tony Greenstein

My Reply that Ha’aretz Refused to Print
British Labour and anti-Semitism – When it’s the truth that you are gaslighting – reply to Alona Ferber
Alona Ferber, in her article on ‘Labour anti-Semitism’, refers to "Goebellian lies" before proceeding to give us a good demonstration of what this means. The bigger the lie and the more times it is repeated, the more likely it is to be believed.
According to Ferber, Jews in the Labour Party, especially divas like Luciana Berger, are in need of police protection because of the level of anti-Semitism. I am reminded of Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried wolf. The moral of the story was that ‘"Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!" As I wrote in the Guardian’s Comment is Free
‘like the boy who cried wolf, the charge of "anti-semitism" has been made so often against critics of Zionism and the Israeli state that people now have difficulty recognising the genuine article.’
That is the real danger of the wide and wholly unsubstantiated assertions of anti-Semitism by people like Ms Ferber against genuine and committed anti-racists like Jeremy Corbyn. You devalue the currency and thereby allow real anti-Semites a free pass. When everyone you don’t agree with is an anti-Semite then no one is.  That is the real crime that I accuse Ms Ferber and her friends of.
Let me declare an interest. I am Jewish. I am a proud anti-Zionist. I oppose Jewish exclusivism or exceptionalism. I have spent most my life opposing racism and fascism. I was one of the founders of Brighton and Hove Anti-fascist Committee in 1976, Secretary of Brighton and Hove Anti-Nazi League in the early 1980’s and on the Executive of Anti-Fascist Action in the 1980’s. I have also written a history of the Fight Against Fascism in Brighton and the South Coast.
However none of that stopped me from being suspended, in March 2016, as part of the Labour Party’s ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt, for comments ‘you are alleged to have made.’ It was only two weeks later when the story of my suspension was leaked to The Times and Telegraph that I realised that I had been caught up in the bogus allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’ being made against supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.
Amongst the charges levelled against me at my investigation hearing was that I had accused the Israeli state of waiting for the Holocaust survivors to die so that it could save on the meagre benefits that it paid.  The allegation was dropped when I pointed to an article in Ha’aretz which said exactly this! Another allegation was that I had compared Israel’s marriage laws and the absence of civil marriage to the Nazis’ Nuremburg Laws until I explained that this was a direct quote from Hannah Arendt’s book Eichmann in Jerusalem’ This was the level of evidence concerning my ‘anti-Semitism’.
Nonetheless in February 2018 I was expelled. Not for anti-Semitism but for criticism of people like Louise Ellman MP for her support for Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children. To this day my accusers have sheltered behind the veil of anonymity.
Ferber cites the case of Luciana Berger MP who has just resigned from the Labour Party alleging anti-Semitism. What is remarkable, for all the publicity surrounding her case, is that no evidence has ever been produced that she has been the subject of any anti-Semitic or misogynist abuse by Labour Party members. All those convicted are known fascists. Ms Berger was threatened with deselection by Wavertree Labour Party, not because she is Jewish or a woman, but because she was on the Blairite pro-war wing of the Labour Party.
What Ferber never mentions is the abuse that Jewish anti-Zionists have experienced from Zionists. Apart from the usual taunts of ‘traitor’self hater’ and ‘kapos’ I have received messages telling me that it was a pity that I hadn’t died in the Holocaust. Jackie Walker, a Black-Jewish anti-racist who is currently suspended has received the vilest racist abuse wishing she had been lynched and burnt alive as she documents in her film The Witchhunt.
Ms Ferber also failed to mention that Berger was Director of Labour Friends of Israel for three years and Parliamentary Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, an overtly Zionist group. LFI is a front for the Israeli Embassy. Supporters of Zionism and the Israeli state in the Labour Party are located almost wholly on the anti-Corbyn right.
Berger resigned this week along with a number of other Labour MPs, all of them pro-Israel, all of them supportive of the war in Iraq, which was the main dividing line in the Labour Party. It was the legacy of the Iraq war that led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn.
The idea that Berger and those who left Labour with her are concerned about racism is fanciful. None of them have ever displayed the slightest interest in racism or the plight of refugees. The real scandal in British politics is not anti-Semitism but racism against Black people, in particular the ‘hostile environment policy’ that Theresa May pioneered with the 2014 Immigration Act. This led to the Windrush scandal and the deportation of hundreds of Black people who had come to Britain from the West Indies with SS Windrush in 1948 onwards.  They have been deported, despite being British citizens, because the Home Office put the onus on them to prove their right to be in Britain whilst at the same time destroying the very documentation that could have proved their entitlement.
In 2014 just 6 Labour MPs including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, voted against this Act. Neither Berger nor her parliamentary friends were amongst them. They with the rest of Labour’s MPs abstained which means they supported the government. Amongst those abstaining was another MP who resigned, Joan Ryan, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel and a former Home Office Minister. Ms Ryan had administered New Labour’s vehemently hostile policy towards refugees and asylum seekers. The idea that Berger or Ryan are motivated by any form of anti-racism is for the birds.
It is no surprise that one of the 9 Labour MPs who resigned this week, Angela Smith, misspoke’ when describing Black and Asian people as having ‘a funny tinge.’ The fact that this died-in-the-wool racist is still part of Berger’s ‘Independent’ Group speaks volumes.
Jewish anti-Zionists have been amongst the main targets of the ‘anti-Semitism’ witchhunt.  When I was expelled the Board of Deputies of British Jews called my expulsion ‘a step in the right direction.’ Why? Because I am a fierce critic of the racism which is on display in Israel’s current general election.
Ha’aretz is rightly respected abroad for the being a brave and lonely voice in an Israel which is rushing headlong ever further to the far-Right. We admire writers such as Gideon Levy, Amira Hass and Chemi Shalev. That is why it is regrettable that you are giving credence to this false ‘anti-Semitism’ narrative whose only purpose is to legitimise the hold of Israel’s far-Right. There is no truth in the suggestion that Britain’s Labour Party or the Left is institutionally anti-Semitic. It is Israel’s own actions which feed the anti-Semites because they are carried out in the name of all Jews.
Those who act as apologists for Israel and Gilad Erdan’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs in Britain do a disservice to anti-racist and democratic Israelis who are fighting for justice and equality amidst a nationalist maelstrom. Luciana Berger, Margaret Hodge and Joan Ryan are not brave fighters in the battle against anti-Semitism.  They are Netanyahu’s accomplices.  They whitewash the crimes of the Israeli state from the snipers at the Gaza fence to the demonstrators in Afula protesting about the sale of a house to an Israeli Arab.  When Labour Friends of Israel tweeted its support for the mowing down of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza none of these brave fighters against racism resigned as patrons of LFI.
Ken Livingstone is right to say that he has never heard an anti-Semitic remark in his time in Labour. What is remarkable about the anti-Semitism allegations is that no-one has ever heard an anti-Semitic remark. That is why hundreds of Jewish Labour Party members support Jeremy Corbyn. Zionist Jews are in a distinct minority as the formation of Jewish Voice for Labour has demonstrated. The main backbone in the Labour Party of the false anti-Semitism campaign is the non-Jewish Right who are weaponising ‘anti-Semitism’ in order to destroy Jeremy Corbyn.
Ken Livingstone incidentally, who was Mayor of London twice, has once again been traduced.  Ferber should know by now that he did not say that ‘Hitler was a Zionist’. What he did say was that the Nazis supported Zionism in the pre-Holocaust days. Eminent Zionist historians such as David Cesarani and Lucy Dawidowicz reached precisely the same conclusion.
The real racism in British society is not anti-Semitism. It is Black and Muslim people, not Jews who face deportation, police violence, deaths in custody, false imprisonment and a legal system riddled with racism as well as economic discrimination. Jews in Britain are living in a golden age. They do not suffer from state racism. If Jews in Britain suffered even a tenth of the discrimination that Palestinians in Israel experience then they would have cause enough to complain of anti-Semitism.
Britain is nominally a Christian state. However imagine that I decided to rent a house in an English village only to be told that only Christians could live there or that Jews were not allowed to rent Christian houses because this was ‘national’ land.  There would rightly be an outcry and yet in Safed Jews are subject to a rabbinical edict not to rent to Arabs. In Israel there are hundreds of communities where non-Jews are excluded legally.  It is to this state of affairs that Luciana Berger has dedicated her career.
The statistics on anti-Semitism that Ferber quoted should be treated with a hefty pinch of salt. As Mark Twain observed there are lies, damned lies and statistics. The Community Security Trust’s Anti-Semitic Incidents Report 2018 purports to show an increase of 16% from 2017 to 2018, some 1,652 incidents.  Let us leave aside the fact that the CST is not a neutral body. Hidden away in the statistics is the admission that there was a 17 per cent decrease in the number of violent antisemitic assaults, from 149 in 2017 to 123 in 2018. Equally strange is the fact that the number of violent incidents was some 8% of the total whereas normally in cases of racial incidents the proportion is about one-third. There is no oversight of the CST, an admittedly Zionist group.
It is ironic that where anti-Semitism is increasing, as we witnessed in the United States with the murder by a White Supremacist of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh, Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett rushes over to reassure American Jews that not only is there nothing to fear but the person responsible for ratcheting up the level of racism, Donald Trump, is ‘a great friend of the Jews.’
Ms Ferber says that anti-Semitism is the canary in the mine. I suggest that it is more a case of the dog that didn’t bark in the night.
Tony Greenstein

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