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

Moshe Machover: Full and frank disclosure

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Full and frank disclosure

I met the late Dr Hans Joachim ‘Hajo’ Meyer, a  Jewish Dutch Physicist, on 19 November 2005 in Brussels, where we shared a platform at a meeting in defence of Palestinian human and national rights. At that meeting I heard him draw a comparison between Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the way he was treated by the Nazi regime.
I did not protest at the time or subsequently against him making this comparison, as I felt that he – as a surviver of Kristallnacht and Auschwitz – had a full right to express his view about his own experience.
 
I remained in touch with Hajo until his death, and counted him as a friend, a feeling that he reciprocated. I am honoured and privileged to have had that great man as a personal friend.
 
Moshé Machover

What I Told the Psychiatrist – for Pete Willsman, by Kevin Higgins

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What I Told the Psychiatrist

for Pete Willsman

 

The cat pads downstairs and its claws

take their hate out on me because

he’s been up there re-reading his copy

of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,

which, one of these days, I’ll find

if it kills me, which I expect it will.

 

Then the wife joins in with an unprovoked

“Are you really wearing that?”

against one of my more

avant-garde jumpers, and I realise

it’s a symptom of her

longstanding admiration for

the architecture of Albert Speer.

 

And there’s the shop assistant who

by her very body language accuses

me of being a veteran

of Yom Kippur and member

of Israel Military Intelligence,

each time she rings up my

Vichy bottled water.

 

And those who’ve previously

marched and written against

anti-Semitism but now give

tacit endorsement to the policies

of the General Government of Poland

(nineteen thirty nine to forty five)

by disagreeing with me

about the price of parsnips,

or deciding to support

Leicester City. Worst of all is when

 

bank holiday weekend traffic

gets suddenly constipated, and some

random driver takes his pain out on me

by mouthing horrible words

through his windscreen

because he knows I’m Jewish

 

even though no one in my family

ever previously was.

 

KEVIN HIGGINS

 

 

Momentum drops Pete Willsman – support the comrade!

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Pete Willsman, stalwart of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), is the latest Corbyn supporter in the crosshairs of the right in the Labour Party. Incredibly, in this witch-hunt they are supported by the likes of former left-winger Owen Jones, who calls on people not to vote for Willsman in the forthcoming NEC elections. To make matters worse, Momentum’s leadership has today (August 2) decided to withdraw support from comrade Willsman. It is bad enough dealing with the right in the party – but when the left gets involved in firing shots at its own side, we are in serious trouble!

Clearly, nothing Willsman said at the July NEC meeting was even vaguely anti-Semitic. He has been a staunch supporter of the left within the party for decades and deserves the full support of all genuine socialists and democrats in the Labour movement.

We urge all Labour Party members to vote for him in the current NEC elections. We find it more difficult to call for support for the other eight candidates put up by Momentum. But although we strongly criticise how undemocratically this slate has been put together and believe that quite a few of the candidates on the list have been supportive – or at least silent – on the ongoing witch-hunt, we cannot run the risk of giving the right another seat on the important leadership body.But clearly, the methods employed in choosing the candidates – and some of the candidates – stink to heaven.

If you are a member of Momentum, please send letters of protest to ncg@peoplesmomentum.com and laura.parker@peoplesmomentum.com

Below, a statement issued by Walter Wolfgang:

“I came to Britain as a refugee from Nazi Germany, with a strong and continuing commitment to Judaism, and still attend my synagogue regularly.  I have been a member the Labour Party for 70 years. As a former member of Labour’s National Executive Committee myself, I have served with Pete Willsman and know him to be a committed anti-racist and a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. I am dismayed that Pete is under attack at the very time when the ballot for the NEC is taking place, and despite his deep and public apology. Pete Willsman is a staunch champion of party democracy. I will be voting for him, and urge Labour Party members to do likewise.”

  • There have also been renewed attempts to expel from the Labour Party Moshé Machover, LAW’s honorary president and distinguished author on Palestinian rights. When they last expelled him, the party had to reinstate the comrade within the month.
  • Similarly outrageous is the charge against Sheffield Labour Party member Lee Rock, who is currently being investigated by Labour’s compliance unit for what might well be the most ridiculous disciplinary charge we have yet come across. The reason for the investigation is“your participation in an extended debate on a Facebook group, in which you argued in favour of masturbation in workplaces”. We have reproduced an article about this on our website. Clearly, this investigation needs to be shut down – accompanied by a public apology and action taken against those who have made this vexatious complaint. Tony Greenstein also commented on the affair in his pointedly titled article, Labour’s War Against Wankers.

Mr. Lansman comes to Tel Aviv

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“Jeremy Corbyn’s senior ally wants to restrict free speech on Israel” – interesting article on Mondoweiss:

http://mondoweiss.net/2018/06/lansman-corbyns-restrict/

Eminent Jewish figures condemn attempts to silence criticism of Israel

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https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/blog/clarity-not-conflation/

JVL introduction

A media statement from eminent Jewish figures says clarity about what antisemitism is, and what it is not, is essential to effectively combatting age-old prejudices against Jews. Their statement draws on work towards a definition of antisemitism intended to benefit government, political parties, public bodies and NGOs by avoiding the dangers inherent in conflating antisemitism with criticism of Israel.


EMINENT JEWISH FIGURES CONDEMN ATTEMPTS TO SILENCE CRITICISM OF ISRAEL

  • Statement from high profile Jewish figures reflects public concern about conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel

  • Signatories call for clarity in opposing antisemitism in all its forms while protecting the right to address unjust laws and policies of the State of Israel.

  • Moves to assist public bodies, by clarifying what antisemitism is and what it is not, follow Liberty AGM warning of threat to freedom of expression.

June 19, 2018 – A statement from 27 senior Jewish academic and cultural figures says clarity about what antisemitism is, and what it is not, is essential to effectively combatting age-old prejudices against Jews.

The signatories include eminent barrister Sir Geoffrey Bindman, film makers Mike Leigh and Peter Kosminsky, writers Gillian Slovo, Michael Rosen and Susie Orbach, four Fellows of the Royal Society and more than a dozen other leading academics.

They say: “Holocaust denial, the blood libel, conspiracy theories about supposed Jewish power or the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide – all are expressions of antisemitism… Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic unless motivated by anti-Jewish prejudice.”

The statement comes at a time when there is controversy about attempts to prevent criticism of Israel by promoting the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) “Working Definition of Antisemitism“. This was adopted by the UK government in December 2016 along with a set of guidance notes focused on Israel, and widely promoted as a tool for opposing hostility towards Jews.

However, the IHRA definition has been condemned for undermining the freedom to criticise Israel for its displacement of Palestinians and its denial of their rights. A legal opinion from Hugh Tomlinson QC described the document as “unclear and confusing” and having “no legal status or effect.”

Retired Appeal Court judge Sir Stephen Sedley has called it “a protean definition of antisemitism which is open to manipulation and capture”. It has been cited in many cases where public authorities, including universities, have refused to host speakers, cancelled room bookings and called off academic conferences.

Concerns about freedom of speech prompted Liberty, the leading civil liberties organisation in the UK, to pass a resolution condemning the IHRA definition at its Annual General Meeting on May 19. It warned public bodies not to adopt it, because its conflation between antisemitism and criticism of Israel blurred “the previously clear understanding of the nature of antisemitism,” risked “undermining the defences against it” and threatened freedom of expression.

Jewish activists are consulting with leading experts in the field to produce a new definition of antisemitism, designed to avoid these problematic issues for the benefit of government, political parties, NGOs and other public bodies.  This work has contributed to the statement published in the Guardian on June 15 (see full text and signatories below).

It is endorsed by Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Socialists’ Group and Jewish Voice for Labour.

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

 

1. The statement

There are disturbing signs round the world that age-old prejudices against Jews are reviving once more. We need to be clear in recognising them, and resolute in dealing with them. A precondition for fighting antisemitism effectively is clarity about what it is, and what it is not.

Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice or hostility against us because we are Jews. It is a form of racism. It may be manifested in violence, denial of rights, discriminatory acts, prejudice-based behaviour, verbal or written statements, negative stereotypes or scapegoating.

Holocaust denial, the blood libel, conspiracy theories about supposed Jewish power or the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide – all are expressions of antisemitism.

Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic unless motivated by anti-Jewish prejudice. Examples of this can include:

  • Holding all Jews accountable for the actions of the State of Israel

  • Engaging in conspiracy theories about the State of Israel, that draw upon antisemitic stereotypes about supposed Jewish power.

  • Accusing all Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than to the interests of their own nations.

Criticism of Israel, of its displacement of Palestinians and of its denial of their rights, is not antisemitic

Criticising laws and policies of the State of Israel as racist and as falling under the definition of apartheid is not antisemitic.

Calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel to oppose those policies is not antisemitic.

We call upon all public bodies and other organisations to apply these principles in addressing antisemitism within their own organisations and when challenging it within wider society.

 

2. The signatories

Sir Geoffrey Bindman

Ben Birnberg

Professor D.B.A. Epstein, FRS

Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Professor Harvey Goldstein

Dr Brian Klug

Peter Kosminsky

Mike Leigh

Professor Malcolm Levitt FRS

Professor Moshe Machover

Miriam Margolyes MBE

Susie Orbach

Professor Laurence Pearl FRS

Professor Jacqueline Rose FBA

Professor Steven Rose

Professor Michael Rosen

Professor Douglas Ross FRS

Professor Andrew Samuels

Professor Donald Sassoon

Alexei Sayle

Justin Schlosberg

Professor Lynne Segal

Professor Avi Shlaim

Gillian Slovo

Professor Annabelle Sreberny

Professor John S. Yudkin

Professor Nira Yuval-Davis

 

3. The Liberty resolution

This AGM reiterates:

its abhorrence of antisemitism as a repellent undercurrent which persists across the social and political spectrum; and Liberty’s support for effective measures to combat antisemitism and all other forms of racism;

notes:

the legal Opinion of Hugh Tomlinson QC which states that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’, adopted by the UK government in December 2016, is “unclear and confusing” and “has no legal status or effect”; and that the overriding legal duty of public authorities is to preserve freedom of expression; that the guidance that is attached to the definition conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism, that the definition is being interpreted as saying that to describe Israel as a state practising apartheid, or to call for Boycott or Sanctions to be applied in defence of Palestinian rights, is an inherently antisemitic act that should be prohibited; that the definition is being cited in attempts to deter, obstruct or prevent events that are critical of Israel, or support the legitimate rights of Palestinians;

resolves:

that by blurring the previously clear understanding of the nature of antisemitism, the IHRA definition risks undermining the defences against it; and that the definition’s conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel and legitimate defence of the rights of Palestinians is a threat to freedom of expression. It regrets that some local authorities have already adopted it, calls on those that have done so to apply it with extreme caution, and calls on other public bodies not to adopt the definition

 

ENDS

Alexei Sayle: I stand with Marc Wadsworth!

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Click here to download all messages of support in a PDF file: from Alexei Sayle, Ken Loach and Chris Williamson MP

I stand with Marc Wadsworth.

The Labour Party has – on the flimsiest of pretexts – expelled him from the Labour Party.

Marc is a veteran activist and anti-racist campaigner. He contributed to the Party through the Black Sections, co-founded the Anti-Racist Alliance, fought against the National Front and the BNP, was a leading supporter of the Stephen Lawrence Campaign: the list of his achievements in the field of fighting for racial equality and justice goes on and on.

And this is the man the Labour Party dares to say has “brought the party into disrepute”! The Party should walk over broken glass to beg people of Marc’s calibre to work with them – they are very few and Marc is one of the best. There is a battle going on to destroy and reverse the unexpected and amazing gains the left has made in the last three years. Marc is a casualty in that battle and I am joining the fight to see him re-instated to the front line.

I never believed we would see the prospect of a socialist Labour Party taking power in this country and the right, with their allies in the Israel Lobby, is doing everything it can to stop that. Marc has been victimised by them and that can’t be allowed to stand. Everyone on the Left – whether in or out of the Labour Party – needs to back Marc in this struggle.

Thank God I’m not in the Labour Party so I can say that all the Ruth Smeeths and Wes Streetings who are trying to destroy the prospect of a Socialist Labour Party taking power in Britain can fucking fuck off: I’m backing Marc Wadsworth!

Alexei will be speaking alongside Marc Wadsworth at the London launch of our national #Justice4Marc speaking tour – come along!

Statement on Marc Wadsworth’s expulsion by Africans For JC Values

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Grassroots Labour activist group Africans For JC Values (AFJCV) notes with concern the ruling of the National Constitutional Committee (NCC) regarding Marc Wadsworth.

We condemn all forms of discrimination – discrimination against Africans (Afriphobia), discrimination against Asians, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, etc.

The mainstream media seems to have been deliberately tarring Wadsworth’s name by associating it with anti-Semitism. They have continued to make the link in the headlines reporting Wadsworth’s expulsion, when in actual fact there was no evidence of anti-Semitism against Wadsworth, a veteran anti-racism activist.

At the launch of the Chakrabarti Report, Marc Wadsworth raised the lack of ethnic representation at the event.  Ruth Smeeth MP, heckled him, whilst he had been given the microphone to ask his question.

It is worrying that instead of concluding that based on the evidence, there was no anti-Semitisim on the part of Wadsworth, the NCC decided to find him guilty of breaching the catch-all “prejudicial” Rule 2.1.8 of the Labour Party’s 2016 Rule Book in order to expel him from the Party. The perception is that the decision was taken to expel Wadsworth, regardless of the evidence.

Interestingly, Africans For JC Values brought the conduct of John Mann MP to the attention of the Party, when he was shown on TV shamefully hurling abuse at Ken Livingstone. His conduct brought the Party to disrepute, but to date no action has been taken. Very disappointing, as one expects MPs to be held to a higher standard of account.

We believe the decision to expel Wadsworth is unfair. The only recourse for him to clear his name and fight the expulsion is through the courts, and we are confident that when he and his legal team decide to take up this option, his supporters and those who believe in fairness and justice will provide the necessary support.

Awula Serwah

AFJCV Secretary

Another must read: Jonathan Cook on the “anti-Semitism crisis”

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If you force me to choose – and tragically, the mischievious confection of an “anti-semitism crisis” in the Labour party does require me to choose, because it turns racism into a competition between worthier “victims” – Marc Wadsworth, a black activist and the founder of the Anti-Racist Alliance, is a much bigger victim of racism than Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth.

The proof is in the 50 Labour MPs who marched with her to an internal party hearing that they expect will expel Wadsworth. The MPs wanted to give the impression of serving as a bodyguard; in fact, they looked more like a lynch mob.

Wadsworth’s “crime” is his accusation at a meeting to unveil the Chakrabarti report nearly two years ago that Smeeth had been leaking stories to the rightwing press to harm Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

We can argue the facts about whether Wadsworth’s claim is true: whether Smeeth did indeed connive with the anti-Corbyn press. But even if he is wrong, that would not make his allegations anti-semitic.

Furthermore, the accusation itself is hardly far-fetched. The Blairite wing of the parliamentary party, of which Smeeth is very much a part, barely bothers any more to conceal its desire to oust Corbyn from the leadership.

In fact, the Blairites now seem determined to terminally wound not just Corbyn but their own party, as they did at the instigation of the Conservative government last week in a debate on anti-semitism. The opportunistic pummelling of Corbyn, jointly conducted by Labour and Conservative MPs, comes just days before local authority elections that were supposed to be Labour’s chance to seize the initiative from the government.

Smeeth and other Labour MPs have relied on personal anecdotes to argue that anti-semitism is far worse in Labour than any other party, and worse than in British society generally. That is the only possible meaning of the term “crisis”. But the actual statistics give the absolute lie to their claims.

Anti-semitism in Labour is so dire, so endemic, according to Smeeth and her allies, that the party must be eviscerated in public day after day, its energies sapped in the hunt to root out any traces of Jew hatred, and its political programme (and the chances of beating the Tories) set aside until the purges are complete.

But the Wadsworth case illustrates quite how sham the “anti-semitism crisis” is.

His attack on Smeeth was political, not racist. If she took offence, it should have been because she regarded his comments as a political insult, and an untrue one, not a racist insult.

But Smeeth preferred to mischaracterise the attack, not least because she would have been hard pressed to offer a political defence. Instead she weaponised anti-semitism to divert our attention from the real issue at the heart of the spat between herself and Wadsworth. She accused him of promoting “vile conspiracy theories about Jewish people”. Wadsworth pointed out that he did not even know Smeeth was Jewish until she brought the issue into play.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Smeeth believes, because she is Jewish, that any criticism of her is anti-semitic by definition. And she now has 50 MPs on her side, trying to bully Wadsworth out of the party – and by implication, not only him but anyone else who might try to unmask their McCarthyite tactics.

Smeeth, it should be remembered, is not a credible witness in the prosecution of Wadsworth. Unfortunately, I do not enjoy Smeeth’s parliamentary privilege, so I will have to be more circumspect in what I say than Smeeth makes a habit of being. But as I pointed out in an earlier post, at least one of her major claims cannot withstand the most cursory scrutiny, once it is fact-checked.

After her row with Wadsworth she claimed to have been inundated with anti-semitic abuse, some 25,000 messages, most of them on Twitter – though given her own inflated and egocentric ideas about what constitutes anti-semitism, she can hardly be viewed as a competent judge.

But you don’t need to rely on my scepticism. The Community Security Trust, a British Jewish lobby group ever-vigilant about anti-semitism, has discredited her claims too, even if in their case they did so inadvertently. Their study of anti-semitic activity on Twitter for a year-long period that included the few days in which Smeeth was supposedly overwhelmed with abuse found only 15,000 anti-semitic tweets – in a whole year, for the whole of the UK. Smeeth’s self-serving figures simply don’t add up.

But if Labour is now committed to witchhunts, as it seems to be, then it needs pointing out that there are more serious problems of racism in Labour than the current “anti-semitism crisis”?

How about Labour launching an investigation into its “anti-black racism crisis”? It should not be hard to identify. It is being led by the Blairite wing of the party, which has been using anti-semitism as a pretext to hound out of the party black anti-racism activists like Wadsworth and Jackie Walker who support Corbyn, also a lifelong anti-racism activist.

These targets are concerned about racism in all its guises, and about real victims in all their shades of colour. Not opportunists like Smeeth who have hijacked racism narrowly to serve their political cause.

Equally serious is Labour’s real anti-semitism crisis – the one no one talks about. That is being led by an unholy alliance of Labour’s Blairite MPs, rightwing Jewish establishment bodies like the Board of Deputies, and the corporate media to vilify individual Jews and Jewish organisations like Jewish Voice for Labour and Jewdas because they dare to be critical of Israel.

Again unmentioned, Jews are being hounded out of the party on the ridiculous pretext that they are anti-semites – just ask Moshe Machover, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker (black and Jewish!), Glyn Secker, Cyril Chilson and others.

The disturbing implication is that these are not “proper” Jews, that their voices not only don’t count but their arguments are dangerous and must be shunned. And further, that those who “consort” with them, as Corbyn has done, are contaminated and guilty by association.

Ruth Smeeth is not a victim of the Labour party “anti-semitism crisis”, because that crisis does not exist. It is a political construct. There are doubtless examples of anti-semites and other racists who are members of the Labour party, as there are in all walks of life, but there is no crisis.

Real victims of racism suffer because they are isolated, vulnerable and easily vilified. The Labour party should stand with such people. Instead it is allowing privileged MPs and party bureaucrats to promote the demonisation, abuse and persecution of black activists like Marc Wadsworth and anti-Zionist Jews like Cyril Chilson. We are living through a truly shameful period in Labour’s history.

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A must read: Len McCluskey’s counter-attack

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https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2018/04/corbyn-ultimatum

The Corbyn ultimatum

“Corbyn-hating” MPs must end their shameless smears – or face the consequences

Here are two truths about the state of the Labour Party today. First, there are a small number of members expressing entirely unacceptable anti-Semitic views and attitudes, especially on social media. The second is that this issue has joined a line of others in being used by a group of backbench Labour MPs to attack and undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the progressive leadership of the party.

The first issue is in a way easier to deal with. People holding anti-Semitic views have no place in the party, and they should be dealt with under rule as rapidly as possible. With Labour Party headquarters now under new management, I believe that this will at long last be done – that the backlog of complaints will be speedily addressed and that the Chakrabarti report will finally be implemented in full.

We should also see the high-profile cases such as that of Ken Livingstone, whose remarks linking Hitler with Zionism caused so much understandable offence, resolved. And a new political education programme will help members understand and identify anti-Semitism whenever it rears its head in future.

 Let me say that I accept there are anti-Semites in the Labour Party – few in number for sure, but any is too much – and that raising the issue of combating their views is not merely legitimate, but essential. When I said that I had never encountered such attitudes in my 47 years of party membership I was speaking the truth, but of course I accept that others, and Jewish members in particular, may well have had different experiences.

There is no doubt the advantages of social media in combating the right-wing media also carry with it the darker side of cowardly individuals feeling able to use vile insults with impunity – the sooner they are routed out the better. Certainly, cleansing Labour of any trace of anti-Semitism is critical. No party committed to equality can play host to this virus. I have fought anti-Semitism and anti-Semites all my life, including physically on the streets on occasion, and I need no lectures from anyone else on the subject. I am not sure that some of the voluble backbench critics of Jeremy Corbyn can say as much: just as it is legitimate to raise and combat anti-Semitic views, it is also legitimate to contextualise the attacks of right-wing MPs without being accused of minimalising or denying anti-Semitism.

That leads on to the second issue we have to grapple with – the activity of a few dozen Labour MPs who appear to wake up each morning thinking only: “how can I undermine Jeremy Corbyn today?”

I do not doubt they are sincere in their opposition to anti-Semitism, but they need to understand that if you attack your party leader about everything, it devalues your criticisms concerning anything in particular.

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If you look at the list of MPs who rebel on one issue after another you see the same names. There is, to say the least, a marked overlap between those who backed Theresa May in risking a new bloody intervention in the Middle East, and those who work overtime trying to present the Labour Party as a morass of misogyny, anti-Semitism and bullying.

How dare they try to toxify the Labour Party that has been the voice and hope of millions of ordinary working people for generations, including the nearly 13 million people who voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour in 2017? His critics enjoyed dramatic increases in their own votes – and I have to advise them that this was down to Corbyn’s campaign and his radical manifesto, not their own personal charisma.

Of course, they have a right to express their own views, a right Jeremy Corbyn exercised in his backbench days; but you would have to go back a long way to find such a sustained smearing by MPs of their own leader and their own party as we are seeing now. MPs such as Chris Leslie, Neil Coyle (my own MP), John Woodcock, Wes Streeting, Ian Austin, and others, have become a dismal chorus whose every dirge makes winning a Labour government more difficult.

Just recently Angela Smith MP moved seamlessly from not supporting Labour’s whip on the democratic issue of giving parliament a vote before government commits the country to war to rallying to the defence of the rip-off private water industry, attacking the manifesto commitment to renationalise on which she stood last June.

Their determination to divide the party into pro- and anti-Corbyn factions, despite the huge increase in Labour’s vote secured last year under Corbyn’s leadership, ultimately pollutes everything it touches. That includes the work against anti-Semitism, which is not helped by the frenzied hostility to the party leadership that is often displayed, when calm counsel would be the better option.

Take, for example, the utterly outrageous letter to Corbyn from the leader of the Israeli Labour Party, Avi Gabbay, severing relations with the Labour leader’s office. Gabbay denounced Jeremy Corbyn for “the hostility that you have shown to the Jewish community and the anti-Semitic statements and actions you have allowed”.

If no one else will say it, I will: Gabbay is guilty of a cynical and outrageous smear. The idea that Corbyn has ever shown hostility towards the Jewish community, or allowed anti-Semitic actions, is a disgusting libel of which Gabbay should be ashamed. In my view, withdrawing those remarks is essential for any resumption of normal relations with the Israeli Labour Party.

Yet I have not heard a single one of the Labour leader’s critics on this issue, including my friends in the Jewish Labour Movement, acknowledge that Gabbay had gone too far. It would seem that hostility to the party leadership trumps all other considerations, even to the point of allowing a malicious attack which could poison Labour’s standing among Jewish men and women to go unchallenged. For anyone to blame Corbyn for some vile comment made by a so-called Corbyn supporter is an affront to natural justice.

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Let me declare here my support for the Israeli state on the 1967 borders. But let me also say without hesitation that I oppose the most right-wing Israeli government in the same way I oppose all right-wing governments around the world. And I have much admiration for those Jewish socialists inside Israel who fight against their government and for peace and justice.

This all fits a pattern in which no attack on Jeremy Corbyn is considered too wild or outlandish to suffer even the mildest rebuke. I didn’t hear any criticism of outgoing general secretary, Iain McNicol, for not implementing the Chakrabarti Report – which was his responsibility. No, it was easier to blame Corbyn.

I didn’t hear any criticism over the EU referendum of Alan Johnson who was responsible for Labour’s Remain campaign. No, it was easier to blame Corbyn (even though Corbyn attended more Remain meetings than anyone).

I didn’t hear anyone question Margaret Hodge who, in the wake of the referendum, blamed Corbyn and moved a vote of no confidence against him when her own constituency, Barking, voted overwhelmingly to leave – one of only three London constituencies to do so – and whose actions were repudiated by 40 per cent of the British electorate at the first opportunity.

I am personally not in favour of mandatory reselection; I believe our present procedures for holding MPs to account are quite sufficient. However, I lost that argument overwhelmingly with the Unite executive council and at our policy conference in 2016 in the wake of the misjudged and cowardly coup against Corbyn by most of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).

I look with disgust at the behaviour of the Corbyn-hater MPs who join forces with the most reactionary elements of the media establishment and I understand why there is a growing demand for mandatory reselection.

I had hoped, after the great advances in last year’s general election under Jeremy’s leadership – advances that obviously stunned much of the PLP, even as they enjoyed their highest-ever votes in most cases – the issue could fade away. It seems I was wrong.

To watch as these so-called social democrats tried to demean and attack, in front of our enemy, a decent and honourable man who has fought racism and anti-Semitism all his life and who has breathed life and hope back into the hearts of millions, especially the young, made my stomach churn. To see Tory MPs cheer and applaud them was shameful.

Promiscuous critics must expect to be criticised, and those who wish to hold Corbyn to account can expect to be held to account themselves.

Len McCluskey is general secretary of Unite.