This is actually a good idea: Labour has set up a website to explain the party leadership’s attitude to anti-Semitism; what it is, how it manifests itself, and how to recognise it.
I think it is reasonable for the site to claim, in its introduction, that “a small number of Labour members hold antisemitic views and a much larger number don’t recognise antisemitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories”.
So, as a former member who was expelled, allegedly over anti-Semitic views, I thought I’d read through the site to find what the Labour Party considers to be anti-Semitic and try to work out how it could possibly have been related to me.
In the introductory paragraphs we are told: “The worst cases of antisemitism in our party have included Holocaust denial, crude Jewish-banker stereotypes, conspiracy theories blaming Israel for 9/11 or every war on the Rothschild family, and even one member who appeared to believe that Hitler had been misunderstood.”
I was accused of Holocaust denial by The Sunday Times, but that newspaper had to retract the claim in the most humiliating way after IPSO upheld my complaint against it.
In the light of recent revelations, I have contacted Labour to find out whether the accusation was prompted by leaked information from Sam Matthews and the party’s disputes team (I know it was a Labour leak; I just don’t know who leaked it). No response.
A report to Labour’s NEC had mentioned Holocaust denial. Interestingly, when my case finally went before the National
Kangaroo Court Constitutional Committee, this accusation had been removed.
None of the other cases apply to me – unless the last is a reference to my acknowledgement that Ken Livingstone was correct to say the German Federation of Zionists entered an agreement with the Nazi government in the early 1930s, enabling the immigration of German Jews from that country to what was then British Mandate Palestine. But this is historical fact and I would struggle to see how this equates to an assertion that Hitler was misunderstood.
The section on Antisemitic conspiracy theories is interesting. I was accused of promoting such theories, so let’s see…
“Capitalism and imperialism as the product of plots by a small shadowy elite rather than a political, economic, legal and social system”? No. Didn’t suggest that.
“George Soros’ control of world affairs”? No. “A Jewish plot to facilitate ‘white genocide'”? Seriously? No.
“Israel as controlling the world’s media and finances”? No.
“Israeli responsibility for 9/11 or control of ISIS”? No.
“Blaming Israel’s faults on its Jewish identity”? No. I note that some people have tried to turn this around, as an excuse to suggest criticism of Israel’s faults is anti-Semitic.
“Holding all Jews in the UK and elsewhere responsible for what Israel does”? No. Again, this should not be used to suggest that people in the UK (Jewish or Gentile) should not be held responsible if they are found to be acting for the current Israeli government, against the interests of the UK.
But I was accused of “perpetuating ancient and insidious stereotypes about Jews” because I wrote articles about former Israeli embassy employee Shai Masot, who genuinely conspired (look up the definition of conspiracy; it means “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful) with people based in the UK to “take down”, among others, Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan.
Nowhere on the website can I find a claim that discussion of a genuine conspiracy involving an Israeli diplomat is anti-Semitic.
I was also accused of conspiracy theorising because I had told a commenter to This Site that he had not provided enough information about an alleged case of anti-Semitism for anyone to make a supportable decision on it.
A commenter calling him- or herself “Ben” had asked me to state whether I thought that a claim by the late Tam Dalyell, that Tony Blair had been influenced by “a cabal of Jewish advisors” was anti-Semitic. My response was that I had not been provided with enough contextual information to make an informed judgement. Who were Mr Blair’s advisors at the time? How did they influence him? I didn’t know. So I stated: “I would point out that (without further information) concerns that Tony Blair was being “unduly influenced” by “a cabal of Jewish advisors” may have been entirely justified.” And they may have been. If I had heard such a claim, evidence-less, then I would have been worried about it, at least until I had information to prove or disprove it.
The next section is about Zionism, anti-Zionism and antisemitism and states that Zionism was originally the aim to have Jewish self-determination in a Jewish state and, since the state of Israel was founded in 1948, it means the maintenance of that state.
It fails to mention that Zionism was supported by some anti-Semites prior to the creation of Israel, as it signified the removal of Jews from other countries, to be rehomed in a land of their own, somewhere else. I refer you again to the agreement between the Nazis and the German Federation of Zionists in the 1930s.
Nor does it mention that atrocities committed against Palestinians have been carried out in the name of Zionism and in the belief that these people, who originally inhabited land now claimed aggressively by the current Israeli government, should be forcibly removed in order to create an exclusively Jewish state. This is, of course, a racist endeavour – although, again, it should be emphasized that the existence of Israel itself is not (or was not intended to be).
“That does not mean limiting legitimate criticism of the Israeli state or its policies or diluting support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for justice, their own state, and the rights of refugees and their descendants,” the website states, but in practise, Labour has not conformed to this statement.
For example, Labour claimed that an image of Israel, transplanted to within the United States of America, was anti-Semitic as it seemed to demand that “the all-Jewish state” be forcibly removed from the Middle East to cohabit with the country considered to be its most loyal supporter.
But context is everything: The image had been created in response to a plan that would have removed all Palestinians from the area the Israeli government claims as its own – including Gaza and the West Bank. Those who claimed the image was anti-Semitic had no argument against the racism inherent in this idea.
So, despite the fact that the image was clearly legitimate criticism of a particular proposal to the Israeli government, Labour used it as a reason to expel me.
And this means the following words… “The impact that the creation of Israel had and still has on the Palestinian people means the struggle for justice for them and an end to their dispossession is a noble one; Labour supports Palestinian statehood and a two-state solution to the conflict” … ring hollow. Labour must give more than lip-service to support for a Palestinian state and the two-state solution, and should not treat such support as anti-Semitic.
One can see also the problem with the following statement: “Opposition to the Israeli government must never use antisemitic ideas, such as attributing its injustices to Jewish identity.” What if the injustices are committed by people who consider them to be a consequence of their own Jewish identity? This conflation of Judaism, Zionism and the state of Israel has never been adequately untangled by organisations like Labour, despite the fact that it causes much of the antagonism around false claims of anti-Semitism.
The website says opposition to the Israeli government must not include “demanding that Jews in Britain or elsewhere answer for its conduct” – which is accurate – unless such people are found to be colluding with the Israeli government in such conduct, of course.
And the site says opposition to the Israeli government must not include “comparing Israel to the Nazis”. This can be extremely difficult in certain situations. Consider the apparent ghetto-isation of Palestinian settlements, their people trapped behind walls and fences, and forced to rely on Israel for power and water that can be removed on a whim. How about the way the Israeli Defence Force seems able to take Palestinians off the street and subject them to interrogation for no apparent reason? Worst of all, what about the shooting – to death – of Palestinians, both adults and children, by IDF volunteers? This site shared sickening video evidence of IDF members joking as they shot at least one Palestinian through the head while that person was going about their daily business.
“Arguing for one state with rights for all Israelis and Palestinians is not antisemitic, but calling for the removal of Jews from the region is,” the site says. This is true, although the connection of the former statement with the latter is unhelpful as they are not directly comparable. It would be better to say that “Calling for the removal of Jews from the region is anti-Semitic, in the same way that removing Palestinians from the region is clearly discriminatory against those people.”
“Anti-Zionism is not in itself antisemitic,” states the website belonging to a party with some members who accused Richard Burgon of anti-Semitism for his own words of criticism against aggressive Zionism.
“And some Jews are not Zionists. Labour is a political home for Zionists and anti-Zionists. Neither Zionism nor anti-Zionism is in itself racism,” states the website belonging to a party that suspended Tony Greenstein – a Jew – for opposing Zionism.
And that’s the lot.
What about the accusations levelled at me, that weren’t featured on this website? Let’s examine them:
First, there’s the ridiculous case of the “anti-Semitic quotation marks”. I headlined an article Accusation games: It’s all falling apart for the knee-jerk ‘anti-Semitism’ accusers and Labour’s disputes team said this was anti-Semitic.
“To put ‘antisemitism’ in quotation marks implies that Jews are using the term falsely which diminishes the term and denies Jewish people the language to describe their own oppression,” the charge read. Except, of course, I was referring to false accusations of anti-Semitism.
My article quoted another in which it was alleged that “the primary function of the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and other pro Israel groups in the UK working with the Israeli embassy was smearing Palestinians and their supporters with charges of anti Semitism and other nefarious ad hominem claims… [Ella Rose] reveals a trajectory of what could be perceived as a strategy of accusation (of anti semitism), a gotcha focus with the objective of trapping people, as a means of one-upsmanship so as to advance the profile of the Jewish Labour Movement on the right flank of Labour”.
So I clearly was not denying Jewish people the language to describe their own oppression. I was pointing out that liars (members of LFI and JLM don’t have to be Jewish) were smearing innocent people with falsehoods and as these were only said to be anti-Semitism, I was right to put quotation marks around the phrase.
Next, after I pointed out that some people have claimed the Nazi Holocaust exclusively for Jews, Labour claimed that this “is dismissive of antisemitism. There are very few, if any campaigners who ‘claim the Nazi holocaust exclusively for Jews’. Stating this discredits and diminishes antisemitism and the work done by campaigners.“
The trouble is, I had mentioned two such campaigners who ‘claim the Nazi holocaust exclusively for Jews’ in the article about which my accusers were complaining; all they had to do was read on.
In addition to Elie Wiesel and Lucy Dawidowicz, in my written defence against the accusations I mentioned Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, who stated [italics mine]: “The Holocaust, the murder of 6 million Jews, is, for us, a very recent memory: part of our own lived experience, barely one generation away.” In fact, the Holocaust murdered 13 million people.
I also listed the Jews who wrote in a letter supporting Jackie Walker against the accusations of anti-Semitism against her: “It has always been a principle of the Zionist movement that the Nazi Holocaust was exclusive to the Jews. Yehuda Bauer, professor of Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, has argued that ‘the Nazis only attempted to annihilate one people, the Jews’. According to Bauer, ‘the Holocaust is very much a unique case’.”
And for good measure I also mentioned people who had tweeted the same inaccuracy to me. It seems clear that in this matter, I was right and my Labour Party accusers were wrong.
Moving on, Labour took issue with my comment that the Jewish Labour Movement “is not a movement that represents Jews; it represents Jewish Zionists”. “The Jewish Labour Movement does not represent Jews who are not Zionists. It persecutes them”. The claim was firstly that I was saying the JLM does not represent Jews. Obviously this is inaccurate; I was saying that, rather than representing all British Jews, it merely represents Jewish Zionists. That is clear from the above-quoted words, that were used by my Labour Party accusers, so they should have known what I meant.
But in a staggering display of ignorance, the accusation claimed: “To state that the Labour Party’s official Jewish affiliate does not represent Jews denies Jews the right to self-define.”
My comment was accurate. The Jewish Labour Movement represents Jewish Zionists, and I can prove it. The organisation was originally called Poale Zion, which means “Workers of Zion”. And I quoted from the JLM’s own website in the article my accusers were trying to use against me, as follows: “The Jewish Labour Movement is also affiliated to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Zionist Federation of the UK, and organise within the World Zionist Organisation… Our objects: To maintain and promote Labour or Socialist Zionism as the movement for self-determination of the Jewish people within the state of Israel.”
“Zionist”… “Zionist”… “Zionism”… “within the state of Israel”. What about British Jews who aren’t Zionists? There’s no mention of them so they very clearly are not represented by the JLM.
All of this was in the article my accusers were trying to use against me. Once again, all they had to do to disprove their own allegations was read down a few paragraphs.
Finally, Labour accused me over a line in an article where I asked, “If Jews in the UK identify with the state of Israel, why aren’t they Israeli citizens?“.
Apparently, “This comment implies that Jews cannot have multiple facets of their identity and specifically that a British Jew cannot identify with Israel without wanting Israeli citizenship. This denies Jewish people the right to self-define and suggests that those Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the UK.”
The line was taken from a comment-column dialogue with another pseudonymous commenter, ‘Raffie’, who was replying to my assertion that the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism (as it was then known) was flawed because it confuses the state of Israel with the movement known as Zionism, and seeks to label anybody who criticises either of them as an anti-Semite when it is perfectly possible to do so without wishing harm on Jewish people.
‘Raffie’ suggested: “You’re wrong. Most Jews in the UK identify with the state of Israel in some way.”
I replied: “If Jews in the UK identify with the state of Israel, why aren’t they Israeli citizens? As I understand it, there’s nothing to stop them from signing up.”
But I was asking the question in order to induce ‘Raffie’ and other commenters to provide their genuinely-held opinions – as you can tell very clearly by the fact that, a few hours later, I posted: “How about applying the most simple answer: They aren’t Israeli citizens because they don’t identify with the state of Israel, to anything like the degree required. Possibly because they actually disagree with the actions of the Israeli government.”
So, yet again, my accusers were wrong – and would have discovered that if they had only read my words in context, rather than simply pulling out what they wanted and creating a false scenario out of that.
In conclusion, what are we to make of Labour’s No Place For Antisemitism website?
It’s okay – as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.
And it won’t – until Labour admits its own shortcomings in making ridiculously false accusations of anti-Semitism and using them to expel the innocent.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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