Today I received a telephone call from a newspaper reporter, saying the paper had been contacted by an organisation calling itself the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which had claimed that I (Mike Sivier) should be deselected as a council candidate because I’m an anti-Semite and hate Jews.
For the record, I’m not, and I don’t. Obviously.
Admittedly, the story seems likely to run only in a local(ish) newspaper, the Powys County Times, but the timing is significant as, if a negative story about me goes to press in this weekend’s edition (the paper is a weekly), there will be no time for corrections before people go to the polls on May 4. I believe this is intentional on the part of these Campaign Against Anti-Semitism people.
The organisation seems to be more concerned with defending the reputation of the state of Israel than anything else – according to Powerbase, the “online guide to networks of power, lobbying… deceptive … public relations and the communications activities of governments and other interests”, member (or former member, it’s hard to tell) Joseph Cohen founded the Israel Advocacy Movement – which concerns itself with countering “the increasing hostility Israel suffers at the hands of the British public, caused by huge volumes disinformation circulated by Israel’s enemies”.
For the record, I’m not one of Israel’s enemies. I have no objection to there being a state of Israel. I do, however, object to hostile activities authorised and enacted by its government, where Israel is the aggressor. I would object to those activities if they were carried out by any country or government, and I would hope that you would feel the same.
For information, the Israel Advocacy Movement has “campaigns” against the UK charity War on Want, singling out its support for the boycott movement against Israel, and the pro-Palestinian Palestine Return Centre. And a local newspaper in Kent reported that Kent Anti-Racism Network accused the IAM of having a hand in the controversial suspension by the Labour Party of longstanding anti-racist activist Jackie Walker, for allegedly anti-Semitic comments.
According to the Charity Commission, Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is a “volunteer-led charity dedicated to exposing and countering antisemitism through education and zero-tolerance enforcement of the law.” This seems to mean that it is an organisation dedicated to bringing private prosecutions against individuals it accuses of anti-Semitic activity, claiming that the Crown Prosecution Service “has failed to take action, so now we must act instead”.
An alternative interpretation, of course, as used by one blogger currently being prosecuted by this organisation, is that the CAA attempts “to use the law to silence dissenters”.
No trustees are listed on the Charity Commission’s website. Why not? What reason do they have for secrecy?
The organisation’s website is registered at 167-169 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5PF. It must be pretty cramped as apparently Companies House has 1,109 firms registered there, all on the 2nd floor.
Is anything about this starting to seem a little suspicious to you?
Perhaps we should consider the article about me, which is headlined Labour Council candidate Mike Sivier defends far-left antisemites and quotes far-right Holocaust denier. So I’m a supporter of both the far left and the far right at the same time, it seems. Am I now a contortionist?
You may wonder what point this headline is trying to make. Hopefully, all will be revealed.
The text claims “He [meaning me] enthusiastically supports the hard ‘Corbynite’ left within Labour, referring to those who formerly led the Party as ‘neoliberals’.” Indeed. New Labour did follow neoliberalism and I’m not the only person to have mentioned this.
“He writes prolifically on issues relating to Zionism and Jews…” No, I don’t. Vox Political has published 8,686 posts (this is the 8,687th), of which around 40 mention Zionism or Judaism. Most of these are related to the controversy last year around Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone, and detail my attempts to find the facts, even as others tried to obscure them with claims about anti-Semitism.
“… and is an ardent defender of members of the Labour Party who are suspended or expelled over allegations of antisemitism.” Again, no. I’ll defend people I think are wrongly accused, but I don’t support everybody who is suspended or expelled for this reason. Note the ambiguity in the language used, though: I am said to be a “defender of members of the Labour Party who…” etc. You are meant to believe this means all of them, but the author could easily say they only meant some. Of course, there’s no getting out of the fact that the article wrongly claims I defend these people, whether the accusation is correct or not.
Case in point:
“He has defended Jackie Walker, particularly for her comments that Jews were the chief financiers of the the slave trade.” This is a lie. Jackie Walker did not say that, but organisations like CAA still repeat it.
Here‘s Ms Walker explaining what she did say: “Yes, I wrote “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”. These words, taken out of context in the way the media did, of course do not reflect my position. I was writing to someone who knew the context of my comments. Had he felt the need to pick me up on what I had written I would have rephrased – perhaps to “Jews (my ancestors too) were among those who financed the sugar and slave trade and at the particular time/in the particular area I’m talking about they played an important part.” The Facebook post taken by itself doesn’t, and can’t possibly reflect the complexity of Jewish history, of the history of Africa, the history of people of the African diaspora and the hundreds of years of the slave trade. The truth is while many peoples were involved in this pernicious trade it was the rulers of Christian Spain and Portugal that ordered the massacre and expulsion of thousands of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula who forced Jewish communities to seek refuge in the New World and the Caribbean. It was European and American Christian empires that overwhelmingly profited from the kidnap, enslavement and death of millions of Africans and I’m happy to make explicit and correct here any different impression my Facebook post gave. The shame is, at a time when antisemitism has been weaponised and used against certain sections of the Labour Party, nobody asked me before rushing to pin the racist and antisemitic label on me.”
She continues: ““If my historical understanding is shown to be wrong by future research I will of course adapt and change my views as necessary. For the record, my claim, as opposed to those made for me by the Jewish Chronicle, has never been that Jews played a disproportionate role in the Atlantic Slave Trade, merely that, as historians such as Arnold Wiznitzer noted, at a certain economic point, in specific regions where my ancestors lived, Jews played a dominant role “as financiers of the sugar industry, as brokers and exporters of sugar, and as suppliers of Negro slaves on credit, accepting payment of capital and interest in sugar.””
“He endorses the late Tam Dalyell’s slander saying: “…concerns that Tony Blair was being ‘unduly influenced’ by ‘a cabal of Jewish advisors’ may have been entirely justified.”” This one has been taken out of context. Responding to criticism of that claim, I said that, without further information – to prove or disprove the claim – anyone hearing it may have been justified to feel concerned about what it was saying. I was pointing out that the commenter to whom I was replying had not made his case; I wasn’t saying that there was any factual accuracy either way. In any case, the claim had been made and disproved years before and the discussion was therefore an academic exercise.
“He has defended the antisemitic tweets of Naz Shah, despite that MP accepting that what she had said was indeed antisemitic.” Not true. Naz Shah was right to apologise for her tweet stating “The Jews are rallying” in response to an online poll about Israel’s military activities. I believe her intention was to suggest that people who were pro-Israel were trying to skew the result of the poll, but her use of the word “Jews” instead certainly skews any interpretation of her tweet towards anti-Semitism. So she was right to apologise for it.
The images posted by Ms Shah were a different matter. One – showing a map of Israel overlaid onto a map of the United States – was a response to a plan to forcibly move Palestinians from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and anywhere else they still had settlements, and move them to Jordan, or Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. The image posed the simple question: “How would you like it?” Ms Shah was using it for a different purpose, in response to Operation Protective Edge, the conflict between the Israeli military and a number of militant Palestinian groups in Gaza, in which Israel’s military superiority resulted in obscenely disproportionate Palestinian casualties and deaths – to suggest that the United States, whose Congress had expressed “vigorous” support for Israel, was too closely implicated in the conflict. Hence her “Problem solved!” comment – which should never have been taken as a serious expression of a desire to force all of the Israeli state to move to the American mainland.
The other – showing a police ‘mug shot’ of a black man, overlaid with the words “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal” – was widely misinterpreted. The man in the photograph was civil rights icon Martin Luther King and his words were intended to show that an act can be perfectly legal and still be wrong. In this context, Ms Shah (and others, I’m sure) was using it to show that Israel’s military action against Palestinians in mid-2014 was legal – and wrong. The fact that it mentions Hitler is regrettable because of the obvious connotation for Jewish people, but the point was valid.
Ms Shah did admit, under pressure of the accusations against her, that all the tweets were made with anti-Semitic intent, and this had the unfortunate knock-on effect of bringing into disreput the images that didn’t actually display anti-Semitism in these two tweets. In any case, I did not defend Ms Shah’s admitted anti-Jewish sentiment, once it had been made clear.
“He has asserted that the SWP’s claim that only thousands — not millions — of Jews died in the Holocaust reflected that party’s need to be “politically correct”…” This is another lie. I stated that I wasn’t “going to comment on “thousands” instead of “millions” because I don’t know [why it was said]” – as anyone can see if they follow the link provided in the article. The commenter to whom I was responding had said “In 2008, the SWP issued an explanation of the Holocaust that … omitted any reference to Jews” – and I was responding to that, pointing out that “the Nazi holocaust involved many other groups as well as Jews, and it seems likely that the SWP was simply being “politically correct” [in using an umbrella term – “victims” – to cover them all]. That is a matter of opinion, not fact – note my use of the word “seems” – and not an assertion at all.
“… and defended NUS President Malia Bouattia’s reference to the “Zionist-led media”.” Again, a lie. I didn’t defend the comment at all; the commenter was attempting to establish a spurious connection between opposition to Zionism and anti-Semitism. As I stated at the time: “Your comment about Maalia Bouattia conflates Zionism with Judaism and so I discount it out-of-hand. The two are not the same and unless you have performed extensive research into what she meant and why she meant it, you have no business making such a suggestion.”
Mr Sivier explicitly states that he believes that there is a “conspiracy” by Jews: “…it is a conspiracy, have no doubt about that” and those who would defend them in the UK.” Another lie. The article referenced here is about the exposed attempt by the (now-former) Israeli Embassy staffer Shai Masot to influence the top level of UK politics – and it was a conspiracy. But it was a conspiracy by agents of a foreign government, manipulating (or working with) people here in the UK. Their religion or ethnicity was neither here nor there. I don’t even know whether everybody involved was Jewish or not, as it has no bearing on the story.
“In the same breath as naming leading Jewish figures, Labour MPs and British journalists he says: “We are being told that agents of a foreign country have infiltrated our institutions”.” Agents of a foreign country. Again, whether they were Jewish or not is irrelevant; this was about a foreign country trying to influence UK politics for its own ends.
The next part of the article discusses my defence of Ken Livingstone, which I have covered in great detail elsewhere on This Site. I do not intend to cover that ground again here. Suffice it to say that Mr Livingstone’s words of 2016 were historically accurate and were not anti-Semitic – he was not even accused of this when the Labour Party disciplinary panel met at the end of March. He was found to have brought the party into disrepute – but this is a measure of opinion – not fact. And opinion had been skewed against him by people who had, for example, misquoted him as saying Hitler was a Zionist (he never said it) and who had misinterpreted the images that had been posted by Naz Shah.
Moving on, the article attacks me for quoting from a website called Redress Online, because it publishes the work of Gilad Atzmon who, it is claimed, is a notorious anti-Semite.
I did, indeed, refer to that website – I understood at the time that it was the origin of the image of Israel superimposed on the American Midwest. There was no way to state this without referring to Redress Online! Further investigations have revealed that the image had been created before it was used on that site – its origin remains unknown – so its use there has no bearing on the original intention behind it, one way or the other.
The reasons for the image’s creation still appear to be as described in my article and have nothing to do with anti-Semitism but are, in fact, satirical.
Gilad Atzmon, any anti-Semitism of his, and any use of my work by him, are entirely irrelevant to those facts. I can’t help what other people do with my work – as the Campaign Against Antisemitism article clearly demonstrates.
I really wasn’t all that bothered when James Mendelsohn criticised me on Twitter for referring to the Atzmon-connected site, partially for the reasons listed above, and also because Mr Mendelsohn is a persistent troll who has spent months sending abusive tweets, Facebook comments and blog comments in my direction.
Considering his behaviour, perhaps my response, “You’re the one claiming he’s a neo-Nazi so I’m not all that bothered”, is more understandable.
Okay, we’re on the home stretch.
“He is not only antisemitic on several counts under the terms of the International Definition of Antisemitism, but, en route, defends many of the leading individuals responsible for it.” Obviously the claim that I defend anti-Semites isn’t true, for reasons laid out above.
The so-called ‘International Definition of Antisemitism’ is highly controversial because it prohibits legitimate criticism of the human rights record of the Israeli Government by attempting to bring criticism of Israel into the category of anti-Semitism, and does not sufficiently distinguish between criticism of Israeli actions and criticism of Zionism as a political ideology, on the one hand, and racially based violence towards, discrimination against, or abuse of, Jews. It tries to blur the distinctions between Israel, Zionism and Judaism in an unacceptable way.
So, in the end, we have confirmation of what may have been suspected at the beginning: The Campaign Against Antisemitism is really nothing of the sort – it is a campaign against criticism of, not Israel, but merely the current Israeli government.
I am being attacked under a false flag – because anti-Semitism is much more emotive than opposition to political decisions by a foreign government.
The attack on me is also libelous, because an assertation of anti-Semitism is likely to lower me in the estimation of right-thinking members of the public generally.
Considering the fact that the claim is likely to be published in a newspaper, I may need to take legal advice on this matter.
NOTE: This article was edited on July 17, 2021 to clarify some of the arguments.
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