12 January 2020

Open Letter to Rebecca Long-Bailey – Your acceptance of the Board of Deputies’s 10 Pledges means there is no real difference between you and Keir Starmer

Socialists, Anti-racists and Anti-imperialists Cannot Support a Candidate Who Supports Israeli Apartheid and Racial Supremacy in the name of opposing ‘anti-Semitism'

Dear Rebecca,
50 years ago, when I was 16, the first demonstration I took part in was against the visiting Springbok Rugby tour from South Africa. The demonstrations had been organised by Peter (now Lord) Hain.
Those who refused to support the Boycott of South Africa included the Wilson government. It seems we have come circle with your cuddling up to the Board of Deputies, who have supported every war and every attack against the Palestinians. Palestine is the South Africa of today.
In 1994 Apartheid officially ended as Nelson Mandela was elected President. Unfortunately Apartheid remains in Greater Israel where Jewish only settlements, linked by Jewish only roads, dominate.
In Israel where the far-Right reigns supreme, the structures of apartheid are just as real as in South Africa. 93% of Israeli land is off-limits to Israel’s Arab citizens who are confined to 2% of the land. In over 70 years not one single Israeli Palestinian town or village has been built in Israel despite a 10-fold increase in population.
The 10 Pledges that RBL has signed up to - all she needs is a pair of handcuffs
Zionist settler colonisation proceeds apace. One half of Israel’s Arab villages are ‘unrecognised’ i.e. liable to instant demolition. In January 2017 hundreds of Israeli Police invaded the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev evicting its residents. Their ‘crime’? They weren’t Jewish. In their place has been constructed the Jewish only town of Hiran. This is what the Board of Deputies ‘pledges’ is designed to defend and what you have signed up to.
In 2010 the Chief Rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliyahu issued an edict forbidding Jews to rent or sell homes to Arabs. Eliyahu is a paid official of Israel. When this racist edict was criticised dozens of Israeli rabbis supported it. That too is what the pledges are about.
I could give you dozens of similar examples. In 2011 the Reception Committee Law was passed allowing hundreds of Jewish villages to exclude Israeli Arabs. The passing of the Jewish Nation State Law in 2018 defining Israel as a Jewish state meant, in the words of Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel is ‘not a state of all its citizens’.
This is why veterans of the struggle in South Africa have declared that Israeli Apartheid is even worse than it was in South Africa, especially in the West Bank where there is a strict regime of pass controls, state violence and land theft.
In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, ‘Their [Palestinian] humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government." That is why Tutu supports the BDS campaign.  Mandla Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela was even more forthright:
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... in some respects, Israel’s regime of oppression is even worse.
This is the purpose of the Board of Deputies pledges. It is what lay behind the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign for the last 4 years which ended with Jeremy Corbyn himself being accused of ‘anti-Semitism’.
This was the Board of Deputies warning when genuine anti-Semites were around - keep away, do nothing
The Board of Deputies, have never fought anti-Semitism. My father, like Jeremy’s mother, took part in the 1936 Battle of Cable Street against Moseley’s British Union of Fascists. The Board of Deputies told him and other Jews to stay at home.
The BOD repeated the same trick in the 1970’s. When the Anti-Nazi League was confronting the National Front, the BOD attacked it with ‘all the fervour of a kamikaze pilot’ according to the Searchlight anti-fascist magazine.
The 500+ word IHRA ‘definition’ that you support is not even a definition. In the words of Stephen Sedley, a Jewish former Court of Appeal Judge, it is ‘open ended’. Its only purpose is to portray opposition to Zionism as ‘anti-Semitic’. That is why 7 of its 11 illustrations of ‘anti-Semitism’ relate to Israel not Jews.
Why should you need a definition of anti-Semitism unless it is to close down free speech? My dad did not need a definition of anti-Semitism to oppose it. Anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews not support of Palestinians or opposition to Apartheid.
Not one word of condemnation of Israel for shooting at unarmed demonstrators including children - this is the real agenda of the Board of Deputies
Even American academic Kenneth Stern, who drafted the IHRA, has testified that it ‘chills’ free speech. I suggest you read Stern’s article in The Guardian I drafted the definition of antisemitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it.’ Even Donald Trump has just issued an Executive Order on Anti-Semitism incorporating the IHRA. This is the man who called neo-Nazis ‘fine people’!
It is no accident that anti-Semites such as Trump, Johnson, and Hungary’s Viktor Orban love the IHRA. The IHRA redefines opposition to the United States’s watchdog in the Middle East as ‘anti-Semitism’.
The least one can expect of a candidate for Leader of the Labour Party is an unequivocal commitment to free speech. Your willingness to bow to the demands of the Zionist lobby, the people who defend bombing UN schools with white phosphorous, renders you unfit to become Leader.
The Board of Deputies concern about 'antisemitism' doesn't extend to the civilian victims of Israeli sniper fire
The Board of Deputies is NOT the representative of British Jews. It is a pro-Israel advocacy group. It represents 30% at best of British Jews. This is the same Board which supported Israel’s use of snipers against unarmed demonstrators in Gaza killing to date over 70 children.
The demand that you only talk to the most reactionary section of the Jewish population in this country is outrageous.
The first victims of the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign were Jewish. Both Jackie Walker and myself were expelled. Others were suspended. Just as White opponents of Apartheid in South Africa were vilified by other Whites so too are Jewish opponents of Zionism. It is a pity that you are unable to muster the courage to tell supporters of Israeli Apartheid where to go.
When it comes to a genuine racist who uses terms such as 'banana smiles' and 'pikeys' then the Board of Deputies welcomes them warmly
If the Board of Deputies were seriously concerned about anti-Semitism then instead of profusely welcoming Boris Johnson as Prime Minister (‘We have had a long and positive relationship with Mr Johnson’) they would have queried his comments in 72 Virgins about Jews controlling the media, as well as other racist comments. Johnson described a Jewish character as an unethical businessman with a large nose, who exploits immigrant workers and black women’. The Mogg described opponents of Brexit as ‘illuminati’ a term beloved of anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.
I am not concerned at your pathetic attempts to portray yourself, a prosperous solicitor living in a posh part of Salford, as someone who is working class. No one is fooled bar you.
What is concerning is that you don’t seem to have an anti-racist bone in your body. You are oblivious to what imperialism means at a time when the United States is on the warpath. You are seemingly unaware of the fact that Trump, fresh from telling 4 Black Congresswomen to go home then accuses them of being ‘anti-Semites’ and ‘haters of Israel’ (at least he is honest enough not to make a distinction).
In view of your decision to get into bed with the most right-wing, racist section of British Jews, whilst having nothing to say about genuine racism in British society such as the Windrush Scandal, there seems no reason why socialists should support you.
What first alerted me to your lack of principle was when you told the Jewish Labour Movement, which is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation, (it has a land theft division), that you ‘did not know how he had not already been expelled’ referring to Chris Williamson and said that if you could you would have signed Tom Watson’s petition to have him (unlawfully) resuspended.
Socialism is about solidarity. It is about defending the oppressed not the oppressor. Chris Williamson refused to bow to a baying mob of right-wing Labour backbenchers. Unfortunately you ran for cover.
Our experience of fake left candidates like Kinnock is that they can be worse than honest right-wingers. You may be the candidate of Jon Lansman but you are no socialist.

I’ll leave you with one thought.  If Jews in Britain experienced even a fraction of the discrimination that Palestinians do in Israel then they would indeed have cause to cry ‘anti-Semitism’. As it is they don’t.
In solidarity,
Tony Greenstein

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