It’s a classic anti-Semitic trope, or stereotype – and actually falls foul of Labour’s code of conduct: “Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group.” And it is being weaponised against the innocent by people claiming to be fighting anti-Semitism.
Look at the witch-hunt that has broken out against Labour NEC member Pete Willsman.
He was recorded at an NEC meeting – an unethical act as NEC meetings must be held in private – reacting to reports that 68 rabbis had written to a newspaper claiming that Labour had “chosen to ignore the Jewish community” by amending the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism to make it more suitable for use by the party in investigating allegations of anti-Semitism.
But Labour has not ignored “the Jewish community”. British Jews are a diverse body of people with wide-ranging opinions and not all of them support the IHRA definition.
As Professor Annabelle Sreberny said: “There is a public debate happening amongst Jews, about these issues – that’s important. There isn’t one Jewish community; there isn’t the Jewish community – there are many. And we all need our voice.”
It is a voice that is being denied to them by the 68 rabbis who claimed to speak for them all. This falls foul of Labour’s code of conduct because it denies Jews the right to self-determination and self-definition.
Let’s examine what Mr Willsman said. First, he said, “They can falsify social media very easily.” It is not clear who “they” are in this context but I think it would be reasonable to suggest that he meant people who want to spread fake claims of anti-Semitism, rather than those reporting it in good conscience. And there is evidence to suggest he is correct:
Lots of attack accounts appearing with low number of followers, incognito re pic & name. Goading members, be careful don't take the bait! pic.twitter.com/6UWA6tvLm6
— andyPsearson 🌹 (@andysearson) July 29, 2018
Then he said: “And some of these people in the Jewish community support Trump. They’re Trump fanatics and all the rest of it. So I am not going to be lectured to by Trump fanatics making up daft information without any evidence at all. So I think we should ask the 70 rabbis, ‘Where is your evidence of severe and widespread anti-Semitism in this party?”
Labour MP Luciana Berger was quick to alter Mr Willsman’s words for him: “Anyone listening to this recording will be appalled to hear the venom and fury directed by Mr Willsman at the British Jewish community. That he accuses the Jewish community of falsifying social media and being ‘Trump fanatics’ in order to deny the serious concerns of 68 rabbis beggars belief.”
Venom and fury at the British Jewish community? Where?
He said nothing at all about the British Jewish community.
He said he would not be lectured by supporters of Donald Trump within that community who are spreading lies. I would like to see his evidence for that, but I would certainly not wish to accuse him of anti-Semitism – as Ms Berger is clearly doing – without having done so and she clearly has not.
If she wanted to find evidence of Trump fanaticism within the Jewish community, she really wouldn’t have to look any further than Jonathan Arkush, former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as this Skwawkbox article demonstrates. But no. Ms Berger wanted to make a fuss without any evidence.
Furthermore, her claim that he was attacking the whole of British Jewry when he was in fact singling out only a tiny minority of it is anti-Semitic: “Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group.”
And, like the 68 rabbis, she is trying to deny a significant proportion of the British Jewish community the right to have their voices heard – in violation of Labour’s code of conduct.
Distortions like these form the basis of a series of anti-Semitism charges against This Writer – and are the reason I am crowdfunding to pay for legal action against my accusers. Please visit my JustGiving page for more information and to donate.
As for the demand by the current president of the Board of Deputies, Marie van der Zyl, for Mr Willsman to be expelled… Well. Isn’t she a Conservative?
Mr Willsman is currently up for re-election to Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee.
Is it beyond the realms of possibility that this scandal-in-a-teacup has been manufactured by Ms Berger, the Jewish Chronicle and the Board of Deputies purely to manipulate democracy to remove a Jeremy Corbyn-supporting left-winger from that organisation?
I don’t think so – but I would certainly recommend that all Labour Party members reading this should do the exact opposite and make sure you vote for Mr Willsman. His words show that he, at least, wants to see genuine evidence of anti-Semitism, rather than taking the fakers at face value.
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