Anti-Semitism debate is full of half-truths, suppositions and hyperbole

Jeremy Corbyn has faced accusations ranging from the irresponsible to the fantastical.

As someone with quite a large stake in the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (I was accused of it last year, and again in the national newspapers last month, despite being innocent of any wrong-doing) it dismayed me that I had to sit out some of the latest developments without comment.

I couldn’t do anything about it; I was a long way away from my desk, having been asked to act as a taxi service for a relative whose heart pacemaker needed checking.

I was dismayed by the news coverage I was able to catch.

The BBC seemed keen to go back as far as the Naz Shah affair, broadcasting the two images she tweeted that were allegedly anti-Semitic (but in fact weren’t) – once again allowing the fact that one of the images was of that most famous of civil rights campaigners, Martin Luther King, pass without comment. The segment also misreported Ken Livingstone’s defence of Ms Shah. While it was true that he said Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism in Germany in the 1930s, the report was misleading in that it encouraged the viewer to believe that this was not true. In fact, the Nazi party in Germany did indeed support the German Federation of Zionists at that time, in a plan to transport German Jews to what was then British Mandate Palestine (and is now Israel). If that had not happened, scores of thousands of Jewish people would not have escaped persecution and would almost certainly have died in the extermination camps. You see, just because they helped some Jews out of Germany (in a deal that improved their standing internationally), that didn’t mean the Nazis didn’t hate Jews.

The demonstrations outside Parliament on March 26 had been prompted by the sudden appearance on the news agenda of a Facebook post by Jeremy Corbyn from 2012 – six years ago – in response to a street artist complaining about the effect on free speech of his mural being removed. Without having seen the mural properly, and thinking this was a free speech issue, Mr Corbyn had asked why it was being done. This, in the minds of some, was enough to tar the Labour leader with the brush of anti-Semitism. Of course, it isn’t – but Mr Corbyn was quick to set the record straight. Nevertheless, opportunists among his critics organised a protest against what they described as his poor handling of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and Mr Corbyn received a strongly-worded letter from the Tory-supporting leader of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the leader of the Jewish Leadership Council (whose political stance remains unknown to me).

The letter freely mixed anti-Semitism with criticism of the government of Israel and with opposition to Zionism in a way that showed up its authors’ political motivations demonstratively – to the detriment of their argument.

But the falsehoods aren’t only on the accusers’ side, unfortunately:

But it is there. Labour’s disputes panel (a sub-committee of the National Executive Committee) deals with allegations of anti-Semitism all the time and there are plenty that are undeniable.

Like all large organisations, Labour attracts people who have many other opinions and beliefs, besides support for the party’s main policies. I recently met a man from southeast England who had been a Labour councillor (briefly), and who was also shockingly racist about people of colour, as I understand the current vernacular describes them.

Of course the party attracts anti-Semites. So does the Conservative Party; so do the Liberal Democrats. Labour is simply a far larger organisation, and may expect to have a larger number (although not necessarily a larger proportion) of anti-Semites among its ranks, to be weeded out.

I said as much in 2016, in response to a commenter to This Site called ‘Ben’: “I’m not pretending there isn’t a problem, though. I’m simply not pretending it’s a big problem.”

My words were then taken out of context by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, to claim that I said it wasn’t a big problem if Jews were omitted from a list of those who were persecuted and killed in the Holocaust. As you can see, this was a lie.

And it is why I take exception to Mike Katz, deputy chairman of the Jewish Labour Movement, who wrote on LabourList: “It’s certainly not something that any other minority group would be expected to tolerate[:] Not believing the victim in line with the Macpherson principle, but second-guessing their motivation.”

When someone takes my words and twists them in order to pretend that they mean something entirely contrary to their original meaning, I am entirely justified in guessing that their motivation is dishonest. That is what the Campaign Against Antisemitism did to me and if Mr Katz wants to be taken at his word, then he needs to take the matter up with his fellows in that organisation.

Let’s be fair – a lot of people turned up. Many supported the claim that anti-Semitism was a huge problem and that Jeremy Corbyn was ineffectual in combating it, but many others – including representatives of Jewish organisations – came to say the exact opposite.

Robert Peston – who fell foul of me a few weeks ago while discussing this subject, and had to read out a clarification in the following edition of his programme – entered the fray with the following:

I haven’t read the blog comments in question so I can’t really comment except to say that it would be a smear to suggest that Labour is riddled with anti-Semites, as I understand some people who should know better, such as Labour MP John Mann, are suggesting. Here’s Tom Clark of my fellow Leftie blog, Another Angry Voice:

Unfortunately there’s a false argument in there – as Mr Clark is effectively saying “But Tories!” He is right to point out that Conservatives are responsible for huge amounts of racism and bigotry – and that’s even if you remove Boris Johnson from your calculations – but the issue is Labour anti-Semitism and it would have been better (in This Writer’s opinion) if he had concentrated on the fact that the mainstream media have made a huge issue of this without actually showing any examples of Labour anti-Semitism at all.

Also damaging for the anti-Corbyn argument is the following:

This is, of course, grievously damaging to the anti-Corbyn, anti-Semitism accusers. The stereotype of the self-hating Jew is, of course, anti-Semitic in itself. So if anybody was suggesting Mr Corbyn’s Jewish supporters were anti-Semites, then they were themselves guilty of anti-Semitism. And it was noticed:

See the following, also:

When I voted, the tally stood at 99 per cent for “Yes, they can go lower”. Telling!

Possibly the most balanced comment on LabourList came from Joseph Finlay of Jewish Voice for Labour. He wrote: “Ideological individuals and groups, aided by the Conservative Party and the right-wing media have helped create a narrative in the Jewish community that Labour is riddled with antisemitism. This is not and has never been the case. There are undoubtedly individuals within Labour who have said or posted offensive things, and the party has rightly taken action against them.”

Yes – but Labour has also wrongly taken action against entirely innocent individuals such as myself, who have been attacked with lies. You can see that for yourself in the example I used in this very article.

That’s why, when Labour NEC member Rhea Wolfson, who happens to be a Jew, commented on Twitter about the current efforts to combat Labour anti-Semitism, I challenged her:

There had been no response at the time of writing.

That is a real shame because, for all Mr Katz’s posturing, there are plenty of false accusations flying about.

And false accusations tend to increase anti-Jewish sentiment; people see that innocents have been accused by people with a political motive, and react against that.

So a robust campaign against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party won’t achieve anything – until Labour acknowledges that false, malicious and opportunistic claims are also made, and launches a robust policy to root out, discredit and expel those who are responsible for them.

Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Here are four ways to be sure you’re among the first to know what’s going on.

1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the left margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.

2) Follow VP on Twitter @VoxPolitical

3) Like the Facebook page at

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

4) You could even make Vox Political your homepage at

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

If you have appreciated this article, don’t forget to share it using the buttons at the bottom of this page. Politics is about everybody – so let’s try to get everybody involved!

Buy Vox Political books so we can continue
fighting for the facts.

The Livingstone Presumption is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:


8 thoughts on “Anti-Semitism debate is full of half-truths, suppositions and hyperbole

  1. Neilth

    The history of the Labour Party is also partly the history of Jews in the UK. Many of the early members and the people writing about socialism and progressive politics were Jews and the Party owes a great debt to them. Our policies and beliefs are largely rooted in those radical ideas.
    Everyone is right that the Labour Party is no place for Antisemitism nor any other form of racism and we should root it out whenever it rears its head and consign those responsible to the cess pool that is the far right.
    Nor is the Labour Party a haven for apologists for regimes that ignore human rights, use the military to attack their own citizens, use their secret services to assassinate people both at home and abroad, annex territories from other nations,defy UN judgements and rulings, persecute people for their sexual preferences nor any of the multitude of human rights abuses we see perpetrated by governments around the world. We must be free to criticise these abuses when we see them. Criticism of a government policy or leadership excesses is not criticism of a race or ethnic group. Calling Trump a bigot and his support for police who shoot unarmed suspects is not anti American. Calling Duterte a murderous criminal for his admissions that he has personally thrown people out of helicopters for suspected drug offences is not anti Christian. Criticising individuals in the Saudi ruling family for corruption and their support for some of the nastier Sunni terrorists is not anti Arab. Criticising Putin for his homophobia, annexing Crimea, support for Ukrainian rebels etc is not anti Russian.
    A political party and its members must be free to criticise Governments and leaders who break international laws or abuse human rights without being accused of offences against a whole nation. An argument formed against, for example, Kim Jong Un, is not anti North Korean people but legitimate political commentary and to imply otherwise would be an attempt to stifle debate and smother freedom of speech.

  2. NMac

    Tories must be laughing their heads off – a perfect “divide & rule” smokescreen tactic to take the heat off their corruption and incompetence.

  3. Pat Sheehan

    In a free debating society these days it seems, nothing is so guaranteed to create obfuscation on so grand a scale as a co-ordinated, concentrated barrage of wildly inaccurate and widely offensive accusations of ‘anti-semitism’ leveled at one’s prime targets for ‘character assassination’. This is the current ‘political’ weapon of mass destruction of choice which certain campaigning groups choose to use with impunity: no license or special training required. It is so extraordinarily successful in use because even in the event of the ‘target’ being missed altogether the ‘fallout’ from the operation will have effectively suppressed an enormous amount of debate through ordinary individuals being too terrified to raise their heads above the parapet whilst the barrage is in progress for real fear of contamination!

  4. Zippi

    I hadn’t realised, until the other day, that this issue was more than half a decade old! Ridicluous (intentional spelling)! What I would like to know is what the artist was trying to say in the painting. Has anybody heard from them? It might, at first, appear to be saying something about Jews but who are the people underneath the board? What, exactly, is the story and the meaning behind it? It is anti Jewish, or anti-Capitalist? What is the meaning of all of the symbols? Are they Jewish, too? Who are the people at the board? Who are the woman and her child? Who is the man with the placard? Why images, which have been associated with Freemasonry? Why, if this image is as bad as has been reported, in recent days, is it plastered all of the internet and every newspaper and television channel? Inconsistency? So many unanswered – and unasked, it would appear – questions.
    I will keep saying this however; anti-Semitism, as a concept, needs to be jettisoned. Why should people hate Jews any more than they hate other people? Allowing this term to be used and for the concept to exist is setting Jews aside from the rest of humanity, it is making them alien, other; they are not! The only thing that makes sense to me is that somebody, or Body, is actively trying to separate Jews from the rest of humanity and in doing so, making them a target. I tell you, solemnly; if Jews were treated like everybody else, this wouldn’t be a problem. I ask, again, what other people, on the face of our planet, has its own term of abuse, or discrimination? Which? Of all of the peoples on the planet, why the Jews alone? They are not the only peoples in history to have suffered atrocities. What marks them out as different? Most of the Jews who I know to be Jews told me, because you can’t tell so, how are Jews being singled out? How are Jews such an easy target that they need their own special label, unless, of course, that is intended to make them one? Other ethnic groups and peoples are easy to distinguished but do they get their own special treatment? Why not? Has anybody ever thought to ask? Why is it that Jews seem to be disproportionately targeted? When I was growing up, in proper racist Britain, we never heard of Jews, except in the Bible; now, they are in the news almost every week, because of some alleged offence that has been committed against them. What is going on? I thought that we were all supposed to be equal under the law, so why should Jews have their own? Why are we allowing further separation? I blame the concept of anti-Semitism and I tell you that as long as it exists, Jews will be targeted, because it allows them to be.

Comments are closed.