Brighton was the venue for shameful scenes when a gang of bullying bigots managed to get an event at a local bookshop cancelled with a campaign of intimidation. When it was moved to another venue, they launched another campaign of hatred against that.
Why did these bigots intimidate staff at Waterstones Brighton – and try to shut down the rescheduled event at the Rialto Theatre?
Simple. It was the launch of a book by academics examining the “anti-Semitism” crisis in the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader – and the bigots opposing it are dedicated to shutting down any discourse on this subject that doesn’t support their own position.
You see, these are people who claim to speak for the UK’s Jewish community – but don’t. It is a role they have assumed for their own political ends.
They claim that the people they are trying to silence are peddling hate – but the only hatred on display comes from them.
Consider the book whose launch they were trying to stop: Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller.
Publishers Pluto Press describe it as “a ground breaking study revealing how accusations of antisemitism damaged the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”
Its promotional copy states: “During the summer of 2018, numerous members of the Labour Party were accused of anti-Semitic behaviour by their detractors. The controversy reached fever pitch amid claims that the Labour Party had become ‘institutionally racist’ under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and that the prospect of a Corbyn-led government posed an ‘existential threat’ to Jewish life in Britain.
“This book clears the confusion by drawing on deep and original research on public beliefs and media representation of antisemitism and the Labour Party, revealing shocking findings of misinformation spread by the press, including the supposedly impartial BBC, and the liberal Guardian.
“Bringing in discussions around the IHRA definition, anti-Zionism and Israel/Palestine, as well as including a clear chronology of events, this book is a must for anyone wanting to find out the reality behind the headlines.”
The event at Waterstones was set to feature a discussion of the book by its authors, joined by film director Ken Loach.
And who were the authors? From the hatred directed at them, they must be a disreputable gang of anti-Semites – right?
Greg Philo is Professor of Communications and Social Change at the University of Glasgow, and Director of the Glasgow University Media Unit. Mike Berry is a lecturer in the Journalism School at Cardiff University. Justin Schlosberg is a media activist, researcher and lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a former Chair of the Media Reform Coalition and Edmund J Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University. Antony Lerman is Senior Fellow at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations at Southampton University. He has written on multiculturalism, racism, antisemitism, and Israel/Palestine for the Guardian, Independent, New York Times, Haaretz, Prospect, Jewish Chronicle and London Review of Books. And David Miller is Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol. He is a founder director of Public Interest Investigations and a director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies.
So: No – not anti-Semites. Academics.
Still, the campaigners against their book managed to get the Waterstones event shut down, as Skwawkbox elaborated yesterday:
“An event this evening near Labour’s conference in Brighton, to launch a book by five academics that examines the wider context of antisemitism allegations against the Labour Party, has been cancelled by bookseller Waterstones after a ‘vicious’ and threatening campaign by the party’s opponents.
“The event was scheduled to start at 7.30pm and would have featured a panel discussion including the authors and world-famous film director Ken Loach. An organiser of the launch described the campaign as ‘vicious, large-scale and threatening’.
“Brighton was also the scene of threats – including in person – that forced two venues to cancel a recent event involving suspended Labour MP Chris Williamson. Staff were so traumatised by the sinister campaign that at least one was unable to resume work.”
Pluto Press put the cancellation as mildly as it could – but it was still clear that the “external pressure” put on the store was intimidation.
— Pluto Press (@PlutoPress) September 23, 2019
Then the Rialto Theatre, which has hosted other Labour conference fringe events, stepped in:
We are happy to announce that @Rialto_Brighton will host tonight's launch of 'Bad News For Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief', tonight 8.30pm.
We'd like to extend our thanks to all at the Rialto theatre!
— Pluto Press (@PlutoPress) September 23, 2019
And the campaign of intimidation and accusation started again – on the social media as much as anywhere else. This is quite handy, really – as it means we can put names to the bigots:
— Board of Deputies of British Jews (@BoardofDeputies) September 20, 2019
We are very concerned that @Rialto_Brighton is hosting a roster of people expelled & suspended from @UKLabour for antisemitism. This is not about freedom of speech, it’s about racism & hate. We wonder if they would be so quick to host homophobes or other bigots? pic.twitter.com/3h3GjVA74D
— Sussex Jewish Rep Council (@SussexJewishRep) September 20, 2019
Ah, moving to the Jew-haters' venue of choice, I see. Makes sense.
— #JC4🚽 (@Ahasuer37452648) September 23, 2019
— Neil Barstow (@nsbarstow) September 23, 2019
Shame on Rialto for hosting a group of antisemites x2. Perfectly clear now which side they stand on so we can drop the ‘neutral’ nonsense.
— Natalia Sloam 👁 (@natscs18) September 23, 2019
Neo-nazis find a safe space in Rialto.
— Nobody Norman Esq. (@NobodyNorman) September 23, 2019
I'm happy @Waterstones decided not to legitimise antisemitism and instead you've been forced to join the who's who of #LabourAntisemitism at the morally decrepit @Rialto_Brighton. Shame on you Pluto Press for enabling Jew-hate.
— Heidi Bachram (@HeidiBachram) September 23, 2019
What a surprise, racists are happy to announce, that a racist promoting venue, are hosting fellow racists. Sums up Brighton, to be frank. #BrightonNotForJews
— Ian Mackintosh (@IanMackintosh04) September 23, 2019
of course they have – used to hosting another toxic and vile gathering – going to do their image wonders. Def steer clear of that place
— Jane Habib (@JaneHabib) September 23, 2019
You must be so proud of yourselves. Will you be promoting violence against us too?
— CurryFleury💦🏀 (@saucycurry2019) September 23, 2019
Just a note; when this debacle of a conference is over, I & the 3000 people who make up the Jewish community will be left in a city that has tolerated, accepted & encouraged antisemitism. @Rialto_Brighton @Waterstones will never again be places I feel welcome. #DontHostHate
— Fiona Sharpe (@SharpeFiona) September 21, 2019
I would like to see all of the above interviewed by the police, in relation to the threats suffered by staff at Waterstones and the Rialto. Such behaviour is illegal and must not be tolerated.
It is especially abhorrent when it is being carried out by people who are claiming the moral high ground, accusing their victims of anti-Semitism and threatening violence to prevent those victims from presenting a case that could exonerate them.
I was particularly interested in the tweet by Gary Spedding, highlighted here by Jackie Walker – another innocent victim of the bigots’ smear campaign. Mr Spedding co-wrote a particularly virulent online article, falsely accusing me of anti-Semitism. When I wrote to him, pointing out the errors and asking him to take it down, he and his co-author refused, flinging a few personal insults at me along the way.
These were the threats to a meeting where Jews, blacks, whites and socialists met to object to book burning. No one turned up for @GarySpedding's threats – apart from Christian Zionists telling Jews about God's purpose for them…it was a great meeting Gazzer. We laughed a lot pic.twitter.com/EmoESw05hg
— Jackie walker (@Jackiew80333500) September 24, 2019
I am pleased that he has implicated himself in this hate campaign and hope that Sussex Police contact him at their earliest possible opportunity.
Don’t get me wrong – I have maintained, from the moment I first started writing about it, that anti-Semitism does exist, in the Labour Party and throughout UK society.
But it doesn’t exist in the book that these bigots have been attacking, and it doesn’t exist in the academics who wrote it. I’m unfamiliar with staff at Waterstones Brighton or the Rialto, but I’ll hazard a guess that they don’t spend their days consumed with hatred for Jews either.
On the other hand, I’m willing to bet that the authors of the hate-filled tweets you’ve just read do spend their days consumed with hatred – and vent that hatred on anyone they can shoehorn into their enormously wide definition of anti-Semitism.
It simply isn’t acceptable.
These aren’t campaigners fighting prejudice against Jews.
They are vicious, hate-filled bigots.
And they need to be stopped before they seriously harm somebody.
One more thing – they did get an aspect of their campaign right: the slogan “Don’t host hate”. That’s a good slogan, and it can very clearly be applied to these bigots.
So I’m having it. If you see these people, or anyone else pushing their message, then flag it up with #DontHostHate
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