Today the Home Affairs Select Committee has endorsed the anti-Semitism smears, repeating the accusation, based on a very selective reading of the evidence, that anti-Semitism is rife in the Labour party has been for years. This accusation has been refuted time and again, but the establishment is determined to repeat due to their fears of Jeremy Corbyn and a properly socialist Labour party getting into power and actually doing something for the working class and reversing the wholesale looting of this country by the elite under Thatcherite neoliberal economics. Mike’s already put up an article this morning attacking the Committee and refuting their allegations.
But before this latest repetition of these baseless accusations, Mike had already put up an excellent piece on Saturday, commenting on and reblogging an extract of a piece on the Open Democracy site by Jonathan Rosenhead demolishing the anti-Semitism allegations and pointing the finger at exactly who is really responsible for them, and why. As has been pointed out countless times before, this is the Israel lobby, comprising Jeremy Newmark, now the chief prosecutor in this inquisition, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, and Ella Rose, who gave up her job as the Israeli embassy’s public affairs officer to become the Director of the JLM. Mr Rosenhead notes that organisation the JLM is at least in an informal partnership with the Labour Friends of Israel and the Blairites in a coalition to remove Tony Blair.
Mr Rosenhead is a member of a group, Free Speech on Israel, which coalesced out of a gathering of Jewish Labour party supporters. At their inaugural meeting, the group found that, although they had over 1000 years of experience as Labour members, they could not think of a single instance where they had experienced anti-Semitism within the Labour party, and only a handful of times they had experienced it in their lives.
He also attacks the whole notion that there has been a spike in anti-Semitism in Britain. He notes that while the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain increased by 15% in the first months of this year over those in 2015, they are still below the number recorded in 2014 during the Gaza Crisis. So, he concludes, no upsurge.
He also observes that the explanations for this non-existent massive culture of anti-Semitism in the Labour party is either explained by it being endemic on the Left, or that it is somehow due to the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader, are mutually contradictory. He states that in a previous discussion of this topic in another Open Democracy article, it had been shown that the comments and tweets that were treated as anti-Semitic and the basis for suspension were not about Jews, but about Israel and Zionism. He makes it clear that this is an invented crisis, and is about criminalising innocent behaviour. This is deliberately redefining criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism, in order to justify the territorial expansion of Israel and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians on one side and to leave the party securely in the hands of the Blairites on the other.
Jonathan Rosenhead himself is Emeritus Professor of Operational Research at the LSE, and Chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine. As with Tony Greenstein and the signatories of the letter to the Guardian protesting against Jackie Walker’s suspension, Prof Rosenhead is clearly extremely well-informed about these issues, and his original article contains much more highly relevant information.
He notes that while Holocaust Memorial Day is supposed to mark all the genocides that have occurred from the Shoah onwards, in practice it concentrates very much on the Jewish experience. It does not commemorate the 500,000 Roma (Gypsies) and the 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, who were also murdered by the Nazis. And in his words, it only pays lip-service to the genocide in Rwanda.
He also notes how convenient the cut-off date for the commemoration of genocides is for Britain and America. The Americans might be sensitive about their role in the slave trade and the ethnic cleansing of the Amerindians in the 18th and 19th centuries, just as Britain was also responsible for its role in the slave trade and the genocide of Aboriginal Australians. He states:
The absence from Holocaust Memorial Day of the millions of slaves who died on the Atlantic crossing and then through the brutal conditions of slave labour is no accident, no act of God. And it is no sacrilege for Jackie Walker to point up this glaring omission.
He also points out that Jackie Walker was, contra the impression you’re given by the mainstream media, quite correct in questioning the definition of anti-Semitism used by Mike Katz and the JLM, who were organising the training day at which Mrs Walker made the comments that have been used to suspend her as vice-chair of Momentum. Katz declared that the definition used was that of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, which had been taken over by the European Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee, which were both Zionist organisations. The main author of the EUMC definition was Kenneth Stern, an attorney, who was the American Jewish Committee’s expert on anti-Semitism and extremism. And his definition of anti-Semitism included anti-Zionism, because of Israel’s nature as a Jewish state. The result was a lengthy document of 500 words intended to criminalise criticism of Israel, produced not by the EU, but by an American Zionist organisation. Brian Klug, an Oxford academic specialising in the study of anti-Semitism, just sums it up in 21. This simply defines it as a hatred of Jews as Jews, in which they are seen as something they are not.
In fact, the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism has never been officially endorsed by the EU. The EU itself closed the EUMC down in 2007 and transferred its power to the Fundamental Rights Agency, which refused to endorse the definition and took it off its website.
The definition was taken up in 2006 by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism under its chair, Denis MacShane. But nine years later in 2015, the Group brought out another report under its new chair, John Mann, which did not use the definition. It commission another, sub-report, from Prof David Feldman, which used that of Brian Klug. Prof. Rosenhead also states that his own union, the UCU, resolved not to use the EUMC definition in 2011, and that in 2013 the BBC Trust declared that the EUMC definition had no standing.
Prof Rosenhead then goes on to discuss the history of the Jewish Labour Movement. This was formerly Poale Zion, which originated in the early 20th century amongst Jewish/Zionist and Marxist workers, and has been affiliated to the Labour party since 1920. After the colonisation of Israel, it suffered a series of splits and mergers in that country to produce two of that nation’s main parties, MAPAI and MAPAM. In the 1930s and 1940s Poale Zion in the UK had members and supporters such as Harold Laski, Ian Mikardo and Sidney Silverman. In 1946 it had 2000 members. However, over the last 50 years the organisation has shrunk immensely as Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians alienated many on the Left and, indeed, the Centre of British politics. In 2004 the organisation rebranded itself as the Jewish Labour Movement, and is also affiliated to the Israeli Labour party and the World Zionist Organisation. Its website remained inactive up to 2015, though it may have had an active email list. That year its chair, Louise Ellman, stepped down, as was replaced by Jeremy Newmark, who began a new, more aggressive phase of the organisation. There is no evidence from whence the JLM gets its funding, which is obviously very generous. As well as a member of his local Labour party, Newmark is executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, and has been Communications Director for the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sachs.
Prof Rosenhead also describes how Newmark presented evidence against the University and College Union before an Employment Tribunal in 2013, in which he accused it of anti-Semitic behaviour. The Tribunal utterly dismissed the claim, declaring
“We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.”
The panel also described one of his claims as ‘preposterous’ and found that one of his other statements, that ‘the union was no longer a fit arena for free speech’ was one “which we found not only extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing.”
Prof. Rosenhead final section, Making Unbelieve, concludes
The whole operation has been breath-takingly successful for the last 8 months. And it is not over. JLM, for example, is pressing for a change in the Labour Party’s constitution that would make it (even) easier to exclude people on suspicion of harbouring antisemitic tendencies. It has influence at the highest levels in the Labour Party. The very training session run by JLM that led to Jackie Walker’s second suspension was set up by the Labour Party bureaucracy in direct contradiction of the Chakrabarti inquiry. Their report recommended against such targeted training, and in favour of broader anti-racist education. But, hey, who’s counting? Not the Labour Party apparatus.
Free Speech on Israel aims to expose this soufflé of a Ponzi scheme. It rests on the shifting sands of unreliable evidence, and on assertions that contradict our (Jewish and non-Jewish) everyday experience. Not least, the claims about a Jewish community united in its alignment behind Israel is yet more make believe. The best survey evidence we have is that 31% of UK Jews describe themselves as ‘No, not Zionist’; and many of the remainder are deeply concerned over Israel’s policies.
We should suspend our belief.
This not just confirms and shows in greater detail the highly political nature of the allegations, but also the extremely tenuous existence of one of the organisation behind them. The Jewish Labour Movement was virtually moribund until it was taken over by Newmark. Like the Blairite group, ‘Labour Future’, it is well-funded, but the origins of its money is shrouded in mystery. It also appears to have very few members. It’s clearly an example of a numerically insignificant organisation trying to throw its weight around as if it were a mass-movement with undisputed authority, rather than the opposite.
This follows the pattern that Prof Finkelstein and others in the anti-Zionist movement in the US have observed about the Zionist movement in their country: that support for Israel amongst American Jews is waning. As the years pass, Israel may soon become completely irrelevant to young American Jews’ construction of their identities. Prof Rosenhead in this article points out that 31% of Jewish Brits say that they’re not Zionists, and many others are ambivalent or opposed to aspects of the regime and its policy towards the Palestinians. The British press, by contrast, has maintained that 75 per cent of British Jews state that Israel is ‘very important’ to their sense of identity. That was the claim repeated in the I, but as this paper is consistently anti-Corbyn, I take its claim here with more than a pinch of salt.
The Blairites and the Israel Lobby are both in a severe crisis, and are trying to hang on to power through the libelling of decent people, like Jackie Walker, who make perfectly reasonable comments. It is people like Newmark, who are trying to stifle democratic debate. We should not let them. The smearing should stop immediately. Those who have been vilified should be directly reinstated, including Jackie Walker as Momentum’s Vice-Chair.
And where it can be shown that those making the accusations have libelled their victims, they should be prosecuted and forced to pay for their malicious crimes.
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