Antisemitic misconduct – what it is and what it is not

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ANTISEMITIC MISCONDUCT

What it is – and what it is not

This document has been prepared by Jewish Voice for Labour and Free Speech on Israel as a contribution to the Labour Party’s consultation on its Code of Conduct on Antisemitism but has a wider significance. LAW fully supports this excellent contribution to the debate.

You can download this statement here.

_____________

There has been extended controversy over the adoption by the Labour Party of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. It has been widely recognised that the wording of that definition is so loose that it requires extensive interpretation if it is to be even potentially helpful for disciplinary purposes.

Our submission is based on an understanding of the nature of antisemitism which we believe avoids the obscurities and ambiguities of the IHRA working definition:

Antisemitism is a form of racism. It consists in prejudice, hostility or hatred towards Jews as Jews. It may take the form of denial of rights; direct, indirect or institutional discrimination; prejudiced-based behaviour; verbal or written statements; or violence. Such manifestations draw on stereotypes – characteristics which all Jews are presumed to share.

We believe that the following comments will be helpful to those drawing up Labour’s disciplinary code, and perhaps more widely.

_____________

Implications of taking this view of antisemitism

1. Stereotypes

Racism commonly stereotypes groups as inferior in ways that enable discrimination against them. Such stereotypes function by scapegoating a targeted group, deflecting blame for society’s problems from their real causes. Antisemitic stereotyping has historically been used to dehumanise Jewish people, giving licence to treat them in ways not otherwise acceptable. Use of such stereotypes is unarguably antisemitic conduct.

2. Expressions of antisemitism

Certain words and phrases that refer to Jews in a derogatory way are unquestionably antisemitic. Terms which associate Jews with malevolent social forces clearly fall into this category. Extreme examples are the blood libel (that Jews kill Christian children to use their blood in religious ceremonies), and the claimed existence of a powerful but secret Jewish cabal that controls the world.

Seemingly neutral or positive terms can also be used in antisemitic ways. For example, assertions that Jews are unusually clever or especially ‘good with money’ make the unwarranted assumption that all Jews share similar characteristics. Commonly, there is a negative, antisemitic edge to such views.

3. Terminology

Jews, Israelis and Zionists are separate categories that are too frequently conflated by both supporters and critics of Israel. This conflation can be antisemitic. Holding all Jews responsible for the actions of the Israeli government is antisemitic. Many Jews are not Zionist. The majority of Zionists are not Jewish but fundamentalist Christian Zionists. Over 20 percent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish.

4. Political discourse

Free speech is legally protected. Within these legal limits political discourse can be robust and may cause offence. There is no right not to be offended. The fact that some people or groups are offended does not in itself mean that a statement is antisemitic or racist. A statement is only antisemitic if it shows prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews.

The terms ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zionist’ describe a political ideology and its adherents. They are key concepts in the discussion of Israel/Palestine. They are routinely used, approvingly, by supporters of Israel, but critically by campaigners for Palestinian rights, who identify Zionist ideology and the Zionist movement as responsible for Palestinian dispossession. Criticising Zionism or Israel as a state does not constitute criticising Jews as individuals or as a people, and is not evidence of antisemitism.

There have been claims that any comparison between aspects of Israel and features of pre-war Nazi Germany is inherently antisemitic. Similar objections have been raised to likening Israel’s internal practices to those of apartheid South Africa. Drawing such parallels can undoubtedly cause offence; but potent historical events and experiences are always key reference points in political debate. Such comparisons are only antisemitic if they show prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews.

5. Boycott, divestment and sanctions

A common focus for allegations of antisemitism is the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) targeted on Israel. The three elements of BDS are internationally recognized as legitimate and non- violent strategies for securing political change. So advocating for BDS would only be antisemitic if accompanied by evidence that it is motivated not by this purpose but by racially-based hostility towards Jews.

6. When Antisemitism Is Alleged

As with any allegations of racism, accusations of antisemitism must be taken seriously and investigated. But principles of natural justice and due process must be respected and applied: the person accused should be accorded the normal presumption of innocence until the case is resolved. Allegations do not constitute proof.

Antisemitic attitudes may be more or less intense.* Some people are deeply antisemitic, others less so. Yet others whom it would be unreasonable to class as antisemitic may nevertheless hold some attitudes, in dilute form, which will make some Jews uncomfortable. Following a finding of antisemitism there remains a decision to be made about whether discussion and education, rather than a formal disciplinary approach, is more appropriate.

Indirect discrimination could inadvertently occur, where actions have the effect of selectively disadvantaging Jewish people even though no hostile motive towards Jews is present. Once a case of such discrimination comes to light, those responsible should take all reasonable steps possible to eliminate the problem. Unwillingness to take such steps would be evidence of antisemitism.

The systematic murder of millions of Jews (and so many others) is exhaustively documented. It is therefore inconceivable that Holocaust denial or expressions of doubt over its scale could be motivated by genuine investigatory scepticism. The implication of antisemitic intent is, for practical purposes, inescapable.

* See Institute of Jewish Policy Research report Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain, 2017

7. Overview

The understanding of antisemitism on which this analysis is based reaffirms the traditional meaning of the term. This is important in the light of attempts to extend its meaning to apply to criticisms often made of the state of Israel, or to non-violent campaigns such as BDS. A charge of antisemitism carries exceptional moral force because of the negative connotations rightly attaching to the term. It is illegitimate to make such claims to discredit or deter criticism, or to achieve sectional advantage. To do so is to devalue the term.

To be clear: conduct is antisemitic only if it manifests ‘prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews’.

Have you missed ‘The Lobby’?

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The Lobby – A Four-Part Investigation  

In the first of a four-part series, Al Jazeera goes undercover inside the Israel Lobby in Britain. We expose a campaign to infiltrate and influence youth groups, including the National Union of Students, whose president faces a smear campaign coordinated by her own deputy and supported by the Israel Embassy.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceCOhdgRBoc&list=PLzGHKb8i9vTzCgnbENCKuz7fqU12xNBce&index=1

In part two of The Lobby, our undercover reporter joins a delegation from the Israeli Embassy at last year’s Labour Party Conference. The programme reveals how accusations of anti-Semitism were made against key Labour Party members – and how a former official at the Israeli Embassy was upset when her background was revealed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vuk1EhkEctE&index=2&list=PLzGHKb8i9vTzCgnbENCKuz7fqU12xNBce

In part three of The Lobby, our undercover reporter travels to the Labour Party Conference, revealing how accusations of anti-Semitism by group within Labour targeted Israel critics and saw some investigated.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3dn-VV3czc&list=PLzGHKb8i9vTzCgnbENCKuz7fqU12xNBce&index=3

In part four of The Lobby, the senior political officer at the Israeli Embassy in London discusses a potential plot to ‘take down’ British politicians – including a Minster of State at the Foreign office who supports Palestinian civil rights.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pddH2sfNKNY&list=PLzGHKb8i9vTzCgnbENCKuz7fqU12xNBce&index=4

Anatomy of a Bomb scare – by Kevin Higgins

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Anatomy of a Bomb scare

for Jacqueline Walker

 

Tasks such as this are typically implemented

on deniable mobile phones,

ordered by a raised eyebrow or nod

fourth or fifth floor

of an unpainted, concrete building,

about which no more can be said because,

for reasons obvious to both

The Guardian and the Daily Star – though they

choose different language to say

so – the security services never comment on

operational matters.

 

It’s the unanimous advice of a committee

of twenty seven former Attorney Generals,

the Chair of the BBC board of governors, and all ex

Archbishops of Canterbury (living and dead)

that for reasons of national well being no record must be kept

of the twitchy eyebrow or official looking

nod of the head in question. Such things are done

by loyal servants of things as they must remain

when sending round Balaclavad policemen

(and women) might prove counterintuitive.

 

On rare occasions some independent maniac

in a top floor flat with hardly any windows

who generally speaking couldn’t organise

a butt rub at a tantric sex party,

to which he’d never be invited anyway,

inspired by the sweaty ravings

of our Twitter bots which unlike Russia’s

don’t exist, miraculously manages to plant a bomb,

and as at Bologna, Dublin, Monaghan

puts a mass of concrete and angle-grinders asunder,

leaves jaw and shin bones separate

from the heads and legs to which they were

until seconds ago attached, there

in the foyer for some rank and file cop

to collect, bag and label;

or drives a box of nine inch nails

into what we consider politically expendable eyeballs

at five hundred kilometres per hour.

Such actions are a bonus

and we welcome their contribution

to our ongoing struggle,

though they’re not officially sanctioned.

 

 

Mostly our task is to convince

people we don’t exist,

except in the minds of pink eyed conspiracists;

to tend the fungus doubt

that the likes of you,

dear victim,

probably divide your Mondays

between subsidised yoga and phoning in threats

against yourself.

 

KEVIN HIGGINS

Mark Serwotka: “we shouldn’t be frightened of calling it a racist state”

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Excellent contribution by PCS leader Mark Serwotka… article from The Independent

Labour antisemitism row was created by Israel to distract from ‘atrocities’, trade union boss suggests

PCS leader Mark Serwotka claims there is ‘something sinister going on’ behind ‘the most systematic attempt’ to shut down criticism of Israel

The leader of one of Britain’s main trade unions has suggested that Israel created the antisemitism row that has engulfed Labour over the summer.

Mark Serwotka, who leads the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and is a staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, told a fringe event at the Trades Union Congress conference that the Jewish state could have “created a story that does not exist” in order to distract attention from “atrocities” he said it has committed.

His comments were condemned by antisemitism campaigners, who said Mr Serwotka should resign over the “despicable” claims.

The comments risk reigniting the row over claims of anti-Jewish abuse in Labour, which has died down in recent days after the party’s ruling executive bowed to pressure to adopt an internationally recognised definition of antisemitism.

Speaking at an event organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Mr Sertwoka said he “deplored” antisemitism but claimed accusations against Mr Corbyn were the result of “something sinister going on”.

He told the event in Manchester: “I think it is unfortunate that the Labour Party allowed a lot of this to drag on in a way that actually did not help anybody.”

“In a year when Donald Trump has moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a year when dozens of Palestinians including children were gunned down – unarmed innocent civilians – by the Israeli military, in a year when the Americans are cutting off aid … isn’t it a vile world when, instead of being on the front foot, denouncing these atrocities, demanding an independent and sovereign state for the Palestinian people, we have had a summer of asking ourselves whether leading Labour movement people are in any way antisemitic?”

He added: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I’ll tell you what – one of the best forms of trying to hide from the atrocities that you are committing is to go on the offensive and actually create a story that does not exist for people on this platform, the trade union movement or, I have to say, for the leader of the Labour Party.”

Mr Corbyn has previously called Mr Serwotka his “friend”. The firebrand union leader was expelled by Labour in the 1990s for his membership of a left-wing group and banned from voting in the 2015 leadership contest because the party said he did not “share its aims and values”. He was allowed to rejoin after Mr Corbyn became leader.

Mr Serwotka told trade union members in Manchester there had been “the most systematic attempt to shut down all those advocating justice for the Palestinians in a way that should trouble all those who want to expose injustices”.

He added: “And we fast-forward to this year, and the dominating headline has not been the actions of the Israeli state; it is whether we as a movement have any form of antisemitism in our attitude to Palestinians.”

Euan Philipps, a spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, said: “Mark Serwotka’s speech is a stark illustration of how deeply embedded antisemitism is within the Labour movement.

“To intimate that the Israeli government is somehow responsible for the antisemitism crisis that has torn across the Labour Party this summer is a baseless lie.

He added: “It callously dismisses the serious and legitimate concerns of the Jewish community, while also drawing on antisemitic tropes (including dual loyalty and conspiracy theory) to draw attention from what is a recognised issue of discrimination against Jews across the political left.

“The suggestion that there is a malevolent power manipulating British politics is as absurd as it is offensive.

“With this speech Mr Serwotka has brought the entire TUC into disrepute. It deserves widespread condemnation and we he should resign as general secretary of the PCS.”

Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, said: “Mr Serwotka’s comments are despicable. There is a problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party because of antisemites and Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to deal with them, not because of Israel.

“For a general secretary of a major trade union to allude to conspiracy theories and blame Jews for their own persecution shows the extent of the problem we now see on the left.”

British Jews are leaving the country because of antisemitism, claims rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Mr Serwotka also used his speech to pay tribute to Hugh Lanning, a former PSC deputy general secretary who now works for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Speaking at the same event, Mr Lanning said Israel was a “racist state” and claimed the row over antisemitism in Labour had had a “chilling effect”.

He said: “It’s time to speak up and stand up for Palestine. And the situation Mark was describing, which has had this chilling effect across the whole trade union Labour movement.”

To loud applause, he added: “I take the view that if Israel wants to have racist laws, if it wants to have roads that only some people can go on, to have different laws and education systems based on race, we shouldn’t be frightened of calling it a racist state.”

“If it acts and behaves like an apartheid state, we should call it an apartheid state – and not be frightened of doing so.”

Mr Lanning said the row over antisemitism was “an opportunity” to focus people’s attention on Israel.

Calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish state, he told trade union members: “We’ve got to shift the tipping point within the Labour and trade union movement – and you are the shock troops who are able to do this.

“One of the things that’s happened over the summer is that Palestine has been brought into the political agenda probably more than it has been for a long time.

“We can take that as an opportunity … so what the people who wanted to keep us quiet end up doing is making us shout very loudly.”

A PCS spokesperson said: “Mark spoke at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign fringe event at the TUC – an organisation PCS is affiliated to.

“He made the point at the start of the meeting that we need to oppose antisemitism in society and within the labour movement.

“But we should not allow the issue of antisemitism to be used by people who are attempting to silence Palestinian voices as they legitimately struggle for their rights and a sovereign state.”

Labour declined to comment.

 

Excellent motion on IHRA, passed by branches in Kilburn and Hampstead CLP

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Conference notes that:

  • The IHRA is raised in the context of a campaign to demoralise and destroy the left, cut off solidarity with Palestine, provoke a Party split, and discredit Corbyn even comparing him to racist Tory Enoch Powell, slandering members as an “existential threat” to Jews;
  • The 4th September NEC refused Corbyn’s clause defending the right to criticise Israel.
  • Palestinian civil society and over 100 UK BAME groups condemned IHRA;
  • Israel was founded on the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians; its institutional racism was codified on 19 July 2018 by the Knesset’s Basic Law;
  • The Rule Book says, “The work of the Party shall be under the direction and control of Party conference”;

Conference believes that:

  • The implementation of IHRA will end free speech on Israel/Palestine, will not placate those hostile to Corbyn and the left, will not reduce antisemitism but undermine antiracism by prioritising one form of discrimination above all others, creating divisions among us;
  • Party members must be free to call Israel “a racist endeavour”;
  • This must be resolved by Conference.

Conference resolves to:

  • Call on the outgoing NEC to reverse its decision on IHRA and, in consultation with the Conference Arrangements Committee, to ensure time for delegates to resolve this matter on the Conference floor by vote;
  • Remove IHRA from the Code of Conduct regardless of NEC recommendations;
  • Promote free speech in the UK
  • Continue our solidarity with the Palestinian people by endorsing BDS and calling for a two-way arms embargo.

Labour disciplinary process: slightly reformed, but still as bad

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The wording of recent pre-disciplinary warning letters being sent to Labour Party members from Sophie Goodyear, “Head of Complaints” at Labour’s HQ in Southside, shows that the witch-hunt of socialists in the party continues unabated, albeit in a modified form – particularly against those who forthrightly challenge the racism inherent in Zionist ideology and Israel’s apartheid laws and practices.

Iain McNicol’s notorious “Complaints Unit” appears to have been replaced, under Jennie Formby and legal guru Gordon Nardell, by a “National Complaints Team” – but the stench of hypocrisy reminds us that a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.

Healthy discussion of political issues is still being blocked by chilling complaints which are, all too often, taken seriously. Instead of debating the content of differences, the right make complaints about the manner of expression. Instead of stating their views openly in the press, on social media and in party meetings, the right make cowardly complaints to party officials.

The good news is that automatic exclusions, disciplinary action before due process, appears to have ended – one of the key demands of Labour Against the Witchhunt at its formation in October 2017. At least in some cases, suspension from membership is no longer the first resort of the party’s apparatchiks.

Suspension normally involves removal from all posts. This not only removes the rights of the suspended member, but also directly negates the democratic rights of the party members who elected them to those posts. It also involves a ban on attending party meetings, thereby removing the best form of education and re-education – discussion of a member’s issues with their peers, their comrades in their local branch and constituency party.

The previous “Head of Disputes”, Sam Matthews, used to suspend you on the basis of “serious allegations” which had not yet been investigated. Sophie Goodyear, while not suspending you, nevertheless finds you guilty (presumably using comrade Nardell’s prescribed nostrums), as displayed in this exquisite example of ‘safe spaces’ double-think:

“It has been brought to the attention of the National Complaints Team that you have posted offensive comments on your social media, copies of these are included in this letter. These comments have caused offence.

“The Labour Party should be the home of lively debate, of new ideas and of campaigns to change society and we appreciate that this does lead to discussions where those involved hold differing opinions. For a fair debate to take place, people must be able to air their views in a safe space and an atmosphere of respect. Abuse of any kind – whether direct attacks or pejorative language which may cause offence – is not acceptable and will not be tolerated in our Party. Language that may be perceived as provocative, insensitive or offensive falls short of the standards expected of us as Party members.

“I am therefore writing to you to remind you that comments such as those below are not what we would expect from members of the party and ask that you refrain from making comments of this nature in future. Please be aware that any repeat of this conduct may lead to formal disciplinary action.”

Being found guilty without due processand threatened with future disciplinary action chills the heart of the accused, but leaves them none the wiser as to what exactly is deemed unacceptable in what they have said. Attaching copies of one’s “social media comments” still leaves one guessing, afraid and silenced.

What remedy is available to those who receive such a letter? I suggest:

(a) Publish the warning letter, for example by sending it to Labour Against the Witchhunt;

(b) Write a reply complaining of being found guilty without due process, asking who complained and precisely which words the complainant found unacceptable and why;

(c) Raise the issue in your party branch or constituency meeting.

Stan Keable
LAW Secretary

Geoffrey Robertson QC : IHRA definition “not fit for purpose”

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Press release by Palestinian Return Centre:

  • Geoffrey Robertson QC Opinion points out that many forms of anti-Semitism are not covered by IHRA definition including several influential forms that incite hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people generally 
  • Opinion criticises Government for adopting a non-binding and incomprehensible definition
  • Danger that definition will be used mistakenly to defame criticism of Israel
  • Parliamentary discussion should have been held before adoption and protections for free speech should have been recommended by Home Affairs committee
  • The government’s “adoption” of the definition has no legal effect and does not oblige public bodies to take notice of it.

31st August 2018

LONDON – The definition of antisemitism adopted by the government is not fit for the purpose of decision making, declares Geoffrey Robertson QC in an opinion published today. The opinion, which was produced to advise the Palestinian Return Centre, states that the definition does not cover the most insidious forms of hostility to Jewish people and the looseness of the definition is liable to chill legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel and coverage of human rights abuses against Palestinians.

Mr Robertson, an expert on freedom of speech and human rights, who has lectured on genocide at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has criticised Theresa May for adopting a definition which was not intended to be binding and which was not drafted as a comprehensible definition. By pivoting on expression that arouses hatred (a “very strong word”) it does not cover speech that arouses hostility, or which “politely spreads the poison of prejudice” against Jews as a race. He evinces surprise that Jewish organisations are advocating acceptance of the full definition by the Labour Party and other organisations have not realised that it fails to protect Jews from many prevalent kinds of antisemitism.

Mr Robertson examines all eleven “examples” attached to the definition and concludes that several of them are so loosely drafted that they are likely to chill criticism of action by the Government of Israel and advocacy of sanctions as a means to deter human rights abuses in Gaza and elsewhere. He says there is a particular danger that the definition will be used mistakenly, to defame criticisms of Israel by branding them as anti-Semitic.

Mr Robertson is particularly critical of the Government for “adopting” the definition without Parliamentary discussion and without the protection for free speech recommended by the Home Affairs Committee. Should any University or local council apply it, he says they should follow the Home Affairs Committee recommendation and add to it the clarification that “it is not anti-Semitic to criticise the Government of Israel without additional evidence to suggest anti-Semitic intent.” He adds that this should be added by any public bodies or organisations that adopt the full definition endorsed by the government.

Mr Robertson continues that “a particular problem with the IHRA definition is that it is likely in practice to chill free speech, by raising expectations of pro-Israeli groups that they can successfully object to legitimate criticism of Israel and correspondingly arouse fears in NGO’s and student bodies that they will have events banned, or else will have to incur considerable expense to protect them by taking legal action. Either way, they may not organise such events.”

The opinion concludes that whether under human rights law or the IHRA definition, political action against Israel is not properly characterised as anti-Semitic unless the action is intended to promote hatred or hostility against Jews in general.

Full legal opinion here. 

Must read: Jonathan Cook on why the Labour Party should not adopt the full IHRA definition

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first published on Truepublica
The Labour party, relentlessly battered by an organised campaign of smears of its leader, Jeremy Corbyn – first for being anti-semitic, and now for honouring Palestinian terrorists – is reportedly about to adopt the four additional working “examples” of anti-semitism drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

Labour initially rejected these examples – stoking yet more condemnation from Israel’s lobbyists and the British corporate media – because it justifiably feared, as have prominent legal experts, that accepting them would severely curb the freedom to criticise Israel.

The media’s ever-more outlandish slurs against Corbyn and the Labour party’s imminent capitulation on the IHRA’s full definition of anti-semitism are not unrelated events. The former was designed to bring about the latter.

According to a report in the Guardian this week, senior party figures are agitating for the rapid adoption of the full IHRA definition, ideally before the party conference next month, and say Corbyn has effectively surrendered to the pressure. An MP who supports Corbyn told the paper Corbyn would “just have to take one for the team”.

In a strong indication of the way the wind is now blowing, the Guardian added:

The party said it would consult the main [Jewish] communal bodies as well as experts and academics, but groups such as the pro-Corbyn Jewish Voice for Labour have not been asked to give their views.

No stomach for battle

The full adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism will be a major victory both for Israel and its apologists in Britain, who have been seeking to silence all meaningful criticism of Israel, and for the British corporate media, which would dearly love to see the back of an old-school socialist Labour leader whose programme threatens to loosen the 40-year stranglehold of neoliberalism on British society.

Besieged for four years, Corbyn’s allies in the Labour leadership have largely lost the stomach for battle, one that was never about substance or policy but about character assassination.

As the stakes have been constantly upped by the media and the Blairite holdouts in the party bureacracy, the inevitable has happened. Corbyn has been abandoned. Few respected politicians with career ambitions or a public profile want to risk being cast out into the wilderness, like Ken Livingstone, as an anti-semite.

This is why the supposed anti-semitism “crisis” in a Corbyn-led Labour party has been so much more effective than berating him for his clothes or his patriotism. Natural selection – survival of the smear fittest for the job – meant that a weaponised anti-semitism would eventually select Corbyn as its prime target and not just his supporters – especially after his unexpected strong showing at the polls in last year’s election.

Worse, Corbyn himself has conceded too much ground on anti-semitism. As a lifelong anti-racism campaigner, the accusations of anti-semitism have clearly pained him. He has tried to placate rather than defy the smearers. He has tried to maintain unity with people who have no interest in finding common ground with him.

And as he has lost all sense of how to respond in good faith to allegations made in bad faith, he has begun committing the cardinal sin of sounding and looking evasive – just as those who deployed the anti-semitism charge hoped. It was his honesty, plain-speaking and compassion that won him the leadership and the love of ordinary members. Unless he can regain the political and spiritual confidence that underpinned those qualities, he risks haemorrhaging support.

Critical juncture

But beyond Corbyn’s personal fate, the Labour party has now reached a critical juncture in its response to the smear campaign. In adopting the full IHRA definition, the party will jettison the principle of free speech and curtail critical debate about an entire country, Israel – as well as a key foreign policy issue for those concerned about the direction the Middle East is taking.

Discussion of what kind of state Israel is, what its policy goals are, and whether they are compatible with a peace process are about to be taken off the table by Britain’s largest, supposedly progressive party.

That thought spurred me to cast an eye over my back-catalogue of journalism. I have now been based in Nazareth, in Israel’s Galilee, since 2001. In that time I have written – according to my website – more than 900 articles (plus another few hundred blog posts) on Israel, as well as three peer-reviewed books and a clutch of chapters in edited collections. That’s a lot of writing. Many more than a million words about Israel over nearly two decades.

What shocked me, however, as I started to pore over these articles was that almost all of them – except for a handful dealing with internal Palestinian politics – would fall foul of at least one of these four additional IHRA examples Labour is about to adopt.

After 17 years of writing about Israel, after winning a respected journalism prize for being “one of the reliable truth-tellers in the Middle East”, the Labour party is about to declare that I, and many others like me, are irredeemable anti-semites.

Not that I am unused to such slurs. I am intimately familiar with a community of online stalkers who happily throw around the insults “Nazi” and “anti-semite” at anyone who doesn’t cheerlead the settlements of the Greater Israel project. But far more troubling is that this will be my designation not by bullying Israel partisans but by the official party of the British left.

Of course, I will not be alone. Much of my journalism has been about documenting and reporting the careful work of scholars, human rights groups, lawyers and civil society organisations – Palestinian, Israeli and international alike – that have charted the structural racism in Israel’s legal and administrative system, explaining often in exasperating detail its ethnocractic character and its apartheid policies. All of us are going to be effectively cast out, denied any chance to inform or contribute to the debates and policies of Britain’s only leftwing party with a credible shot at power.

That is a shocking realisation. The Labour party is about to slam the door shut in the faces of the Palestinian people, as well as progressive Jews and others who stand in solidarity with them.

Betrayal of Palestinians

The article in the Guardian, the newspaper that has done more to damage Corbyn than any other (by undermining him from within his own camp), described the incorporation of the full IHRA anti-semitism definition into Labour’s code of conduct as a “compromise”, as though the betrayal of an oppressed people was something over which middle ground could be found.

Remember that the man who drafted the IHRA definition and its associated examples, American Jewish lawyer Kenneth Stern, has publicly regretted their impact, saying that in practice they have severely curbed freedom of speech about Israel.

How these new examples will be misused by Corbyn’s opponents should already be clear. He made his most egregious mistake in the handling of the party’s supposed anti-semitism “crisis” precisely to avoid getting caught up in a violation of one of the IHRA examples Labour is about to adopt: comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.

He apologised for attending an anti-racism event and distanced himself from a friend, the late Hajo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor and defender of Palestinian rights, who used his speech to compare Israel’s current treatment of Palestinians to early Nazi laws that vilified and oppressed Jews.

It was a Judas-like act for which it is not necessary to berate Corbyn. He is doubtless already torturing himself over what he did. But that is the point: the adoption of the full IHRA definition will demand the constant vilification and rooting out of progressive and humane voices like Meyer’s. It will turn the Labour party into the modern equivalent of Senator Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee. Labour activists will find themselves, like Corbyn, either outed or required to out others as supposed anti-semites. They will have to denounce reasonable criticisms of Israel and dissociate themselves from supporters of the Palestinian cause, even Holocaust survivors.

The patent absurdity of Labour including this new anti-semitism “example” should be obvious the moment we consider that it will recast not only Meyer and other Holocaust survivors as anti-semites but leading Jewish intellectuals and scholars – even Israeli army generals.

Two years ago Yair Golan, the deputy chief of staff of the Israeli military, went public with such a comparison. Addressing an audience in Israel on Holocaust Day, he spoke of where Israel was heading:

“If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.”

Is it not a paradox that, were Golan a member of the Labour party, that statement – a rare moment of self-reflection by a senior Israeli figure – will soon justify his being vilified and hounded out of the Labour party?

Evidence of Israeli apartheid

Looking at my own work, it is clear that almost all of it falls foul of two further “examples” of anti-semitism cited in the full IHRA definition that Labour is preparing to adopt:

Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

and:

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

One hardly needs to point out how preposterous it is that the Labour party is about to outlaw from internal discussion or review any research, scholarship or journalism that violates these two “examples” weeks after Israel passed its Nation-State Basic Law. That law, which has constitutional weight, makes explict what was always implict in Israel as a Jewish state:

1. that Israel privileges the rights and status of Jews around the world, including those who have never even visited Israel, above the rights of the fifth of the country’s citizens who are non-Jews (the remnants of the native Palestinian population who survived the ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948).

2. that Israel, as defined in the Basic Law, is not a state bounded by internationally recognised borders but rather the “Land of Israel” – a Biblical conception of Israel whose borders encompass the occupied Palestinian territories and parts of many neighbouring states.

How, one might reasonably wonder, is such a state – defined this way in the Basic Law – a normal “democratic” state? How is it not structurally racist and inherently acquisitive of territory?

Contrary to the demands of these two extra IHRA “examples”, the Basic Law alone shows that Israel is a “racist endeavour” and that we cannot judge it by the same standards we would a normal western-style democracy. Not least, it has a double “border” problem: it forces Jews everywhere to be included in its self-definition of the “nation”, whether they want to be or not; and it lays claim to the title deeds of other territories without any intention to confer on their non-Jewish inhabitants the rights it accords Jews.

Demanding that we treat Israel as a normal western-style liberal democracy – as the IHRA full definition requires – makes as much sense as having demanded the same for apartheid South Africa back in the 1980s.

Unaccountable politics

The Labour party has become the largest in Europe as Corbyn has attracted huge numbers of newcomers into the membership, inspired by a new kind of politics. That is a terrifying development for the old politics, which preferred tiny political cliques accountable chiefly to corporate donors, leaving a slightly wider circle of activists largely powerless.

That is why the Blairite holdouts in the party bureaucracy are quite content to use any pretext not only to root out genuine progressive activists drawn to a Corbyn-led party, including anti-Zionist Jewish activists, but to alienate tens of thousands more members that had begun to transform Labour into a grassroots movement.

A party endlessly obsessing about anti-semitism, a party that has abandoned the Palestinians, a party that has begun throwing out key progressive principles, a party that has renounced free speech, and a party that no longer puts the interests of the poor and vulnerable at the centre of its concerns is a party that will fail.

That is where the anti-semitism “crisis” is leading Labour – precisely as it was designed to do.

UPDATE:

Here is a very good illustration of where the IHRA’s classification as “anti-semitism” of any comparison of Israel and the Nazis will lead – and how it will silence not just criticism of Israel, but even any historical understanding of the nature of belligerent occupations.

The Sun newspaper calls this very short video of a talk by Corbyn “shocking”. Consider how happy you would be to be in party that outlaws this kind of speech.

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001. He is the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Open letter from deputy chair of Greenwich Momentum to Momentum nationally

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I am writing to you, as deputy chair of Greenwich Momentum steering committee, in great anger at the way a disgusting media fed campaign by the anti-Corbyn right in the Labour Party has used grotesque charges of “antisemitism” against Jeremy and some of his long standing supporters in the Labour Party. Some in Momentum have lent their support to this in an outrageous betrayal of our own Jewish comrades – in organisations such as Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Voice for Labour and the Jewish Socialist Group among  others – who have campaigned so bravely against the racist, colonising and apartheid style policies of successive Israeli governments. And all of this in a month during which the Netanyahu government (under pressure from even extreme right wing pro settler factions) have succeeded in imposing a new Israeli state law which is openly racist and discriminatory against Palestinians, Druze and other minorities.

The object of this libelous campaign is to weaken and if possible force Jeremy Corbyn from the leadership of the Labour Party. It is a foretaste of what a left led Labour government can expect when it takes office. But what is more dispiriting is the appalling decision of some of the leading personalities for Momentum and the left (including John Lansman and Owen Jones) to do the job of the witch hunting right for them. Nothing that Pete Willsman said at the last NEC about the pro-Trump sympathies of some in the ‘leadership’ of the Jewish community was in any way ‘antisemitic.’ He should be elected to the NEC now more than ever. Those who say Labour should adopt unchanged the existing international code on antisemitism ignore the view of the man who write it – among others – that without amendment it can be a threat to legitimate free speech.
There IS a problem of anti-semitism in Britain and elsewhere in Europe – on the right. But notice that the Israeli government is happy to invite leaders of far right parties with an historic record of bitter antisemitism as honoured guests to Israel. They may be hostile to Jews but they are happy to ally with the likes of Yetanyahu and the Israeli government.
Meanwhile Steve Bannon has chosen a leading hard right Belgian Zionist to head up a new EU wide alliance to encourage the growth of racist and far right parties with a long historic record of antisemitism to help undermine the European Union .
Understandably there are reports of great anger among Momentum members at the actions of Lansman, Jones and others and some comrades are threatening to resign. This would be a serious mistake: the Momentum network is a valuable asset for the left and the cause of a Corbyn led Labour government and should not be the property of any proprietor. But the time has come to hold our own supine leadership to account for the disgraceful role they are playing.
John Palmer

Open letter to Jeremy Corbyn

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By Rose Le Warne, Labour Party member in the Channel Islands

Dear the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn

I am horrified by what I am witnessing once again in the Labour party, which is nothing more than a ideologically driven witch hunt, which includes the despicable targeting of Jews who do not identify with Israel nor the political ideology that enables it, including actual holocaust survivors of death camps, not even alive to defend themselves.

You cannot, Sir, win this by attempting to keep compromising and pandering, this minority, and it is a minority, will not be satisfied with anything less than you removed as our democratically elected leader, along with everyone who supports you and a party that will not even consider the right of Palestinians to be treated in accordance with international law and to live with freedom, dignity and self determination, a fundamental right of every human on this planet.

The only way forward is to say enough, everything that needs to be put in place to protect Jews from genuine antisemitism has been and will be reviewed as necessary, that is all you have to say on the matter. Someone needs to put a case together for defamation of character that sets a precedent, the lives of average people in our nation depend on a line being drawn in the sand.

The party cannot keep being held to ransom by a minority that, along with ignoring international law, disregard the rights of another people to not be subject to racially motivated ethnic cleansing and, with what has now been confirmed by its ‘Nation State’ bill, an Apartheid. Every time we allow someone to be silenced we are enabling that suffering and in addition are creating a situation, as identified by Robert Cohen a British Jew in his article (which I have attached a link for), which will inevitably cause a rise in actual antisemitism:

https://mondoweiss.net/2018/07/establishments-bringing-semitism/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

I am an international member of Labour based in the Channel Islands and I will tell you a little about our history and why I choose to fight for the rights of Palestinians.

In the Channel Islands we are brought up learning about how our grandparents suffered under Occupation in WW2 and every year we celebrate our Liberation, it is very much part of our identity and thus when I learned about the suffering of the Palestinians under occupation it struck a chord with me.

Our occupation was only for 5-years and is not comparable to the Palestinians occupation and blockade. We would have died, however, from starvation had it not been for the HMS Vega being allowed to deliver humanitarian aid from the Red Cross. To learn how Israel is violently stopping similar aid being delivered to a people far more desperate than we were, in contravention of international law, outrages me. People attempting to silence me on speaking about this and demanding the end to impunity does much more than that.

We must never forget the words of Sophie Scholl the young German student who passively resisted fascism and paid the ultimate price and use her words to motivate us:

“how can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause? Such a fine sunny day, and I have to go but what does my death matter if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

I appreciate you are very busy, but I respectfully request a response to this email so I know that it has been considered.

Kind regards

Rose Le Warne