Posts Tagged ‘Michael Rubin’

‘The Lobby’: Labour Friends of Israel’s Lies and Smears at Labour Conference

September 26, 2018

This is the third part of the Al-Jazeera documentary, ‘The Lobby’, on the Israel lobby in the UK. In this section, the Arab news agency’s undercover reporter went with Shai Masot and Mark Regev of the Israeli embassy to the Labour conference in Liverpool. There they met and advised Joan Ryan, the Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, and her parliamentary assistant, Alex Richardson, and Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Assistant for Labour Friends of Israel, on how to deal with supporters of the Palestinians. They also recorded Ryan smearing Jean Fitzpatrick as an anti-Semite, accusing her of saying something which she definitely did not. Ryan did so because Fitzpatrick had the temerity to ask her a question she could not answer about what the LFI was doing to advance a two-state solution to the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Israel’s Attack on the BDS Movement

The segment includes a clip of one of the Labour party’s Israel lobby saying that she could ‘take’ Jackie Walker. It then moves on to the challenge to Israel posed by the BDS movement, and Israel’s response to it. Netanyahu is shown saying to the camera that Israelis have to fight the BDS movement because it is morally wrong. Israel’s attack on the BDS movement is run by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which recruits mainly former Israeli secret agents. London is a major battleground in the conflict over the BDS movement. There’s a shot of Ilan Pappe, the Israeli historian and critic of Israel, stating that in many ways the BDS movement started in Britain. There’s another clip of someone from the Labour Friends of Israeli ominously declaring that they work closely with the Israeli embassy, ‘doing a lot behind the scenes’. The documentary’s director, Clayton Swisher, states that one of the main targets is the Labour party, as for the first time they have a leader, who is a champion of Palestinian rights. There is also a shot of Peter Oborne, the Telegraph journo, who himself made a Channel 4 documentary investigating and criticizing the Israel lobby, saying that Israel interference is an outrage, an affront to democracy and shouldn’t be allowed.

Mark Regev on What to Tell Supporters of the Palestinians

The video shows the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, telling a group of sympathetic Labour activists that people on the left today are likely to be pro-Palestinian and hostile to Israel, if not anti-Semitic. He tells them that to combat Progressives, they are to ask them why they are supporting reactionaries like Hamas and Hezbollah, and to say in the language of Social Democracy that they are misogynist, homophobic, racist anti-Semitic and reactionary. The chair of the Labour Friends of Israel, Jeremy Newmark, then talks to the crowd about how he used the argument to win over Clive Lewis, one of Corbyn’s close allies.

Jackie Walker: The Anti-Semitism Crisis Is Constructed to Unseat Corbyn

There is another clip of Jackie Walker stating that the anti-Semitism crisis is constructed and manipulated by parts of the Labour party, other parties and the media to discredit Corbyn and a number of his supporters. She makes it clear that she wants an argument between Zionism and anti-Zionism, instead of the fake conflict there is now. She also states that at a debate she had with Newmark, he turned his back on the audience and whispered to her that she was a ‘court Jew’, the Jewish equivalent of calling a Black person a ‘house n*gger’. A note at the end of the programme states that when they contacted Newmark, he denied he said any such thing and feels that it is not a fair description of Walker. When asked if she had told anyone, she replies that it’s hard to use the compliance system, because it’s so discredited.

Masot is also filmed boasting that the Israeli embassy had attended 50 events that year at universities, and that more than 100 events were organized by the Israel societies on campuses, eight receptions for young people at the embassy, and three receptions for more than 300 people from Parliament.

Jean Fitpatrick and Joan Ryan of Labour Friends of Israel

The video also interviews Jean Fitzpatrick about her encounter with Ryan and the Labour Friends of Israel. Fitzpatrick says that is was her first Labour conference, and that she wanted to use the opportunity to have a genuine dialogue with a group she felt had a lot of influence. She is shown asking Ryan and the others what they were doing about the Israeli settlements in Palestine. Ryan replies that they aren’t friends of Israel and enemies of Palestine, and that they believe in a two-state solution. Fitzpatrick asks how this will come about. Ryan simply comes out with more flannel about coexistence and self-determination for both peoples. Fitzpatrick states that she had no idea, who was on the stall, and what she wanted was straight answers not slogans. Fitzpatrick asked Ryan what they were doing about Israeli occupation. In reply Ryan restates that they’re in favour of a two-state solution, and Israeli security.

Swisher then follows, explaining that a two-state solution is impossible due to the way Israeli colonization has atomized the existing Palestinian villages and towns, separating them from each other. Fitzpatrick also states that she wanted reassurance that a two-state solution was still possible. Back to the video of Fitzpatrick and Ryan talking, where Ryan states that they have to be careful not to let their feelings morph into anti-Semitism. Fitzpatrick in reply says she’s not anti-Zionist.

Ben White, a journalist with the Middle East Monitor, appears on camera to state that it is clear that, whatever party is in power in Israel, the country has no desire to relinquish the territories seized after 1967. This throws up questions no-one wants to ask. Or don’t want to answer.

Ilan Pappe states that there are only two solutions to the problem. Either you support Israel, which is an ethnic apartheid state, or you support a change of regime in Israel, which means that the country would go through a process of genuine democratization like apartheid South Africa. There is no third option.

Back to the conversation between Fitzpatrick and Ryan, Ryan tries to end the conversation. Pappe observes that Fitzpatrick didn’t ask anything about Judaism or the existence of Israel. She just asked about the settlements, and how anyone who supported Israel justified them.

Ryan Calls Fitzpatrick Anti-Semitic

Fitzpatrick states she was interested to know how they would use whatever funds and influence they had to bring about a two-state solution. Fitzpatrick is shown saying to Ryan that they have a lot of money and prestige in the world. Ryan asks her where she got that from. Fitzpatrick replies that that is what she has heard. the Labour Friends of Israel is a stepping-stone to good jobs, and that the son of a friend of hers got a good job at Oxford university on the basis of working for the Labour Friends of Israel. Ryan then responds that this is anti-Semitic, which Fitzpatrick denies, stating that it’s a fact. Ryan then goes on about how it’s an ‘anti-Semitic trope’ and talks about ‘conspiracy theories’. Ryan then declares she’s ending the conversation, because she doesn’t want to talk further about getting jobs in university or the City through this, which is anti-Semitic.

Swisher then explains that Ryan falsely claimed that Fitzpatrick had spoken about getting jobs in the City, London’s financial centre. Pappe comments that Fitzpatrick wasn’t anti-Semitic, and Ryan and her friends knew it. She was simply an ordinary pro-Palestinian person concerned about Israel’s violation of their civil rights. Ryan continued talking about how Fitzpatrick had spoken about banking as she left the conference hall, even though Fitzpatrick had never mentioned it.

That evening, at a rally for the Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan described her day, claiming that there were three anti-Semitic incidents that day at the stand to the people staffing it. Which she believed showed the reality of anti-Semitism in the party.

Ryan, Angela Eagle, Jennifer Gerber and Chuka Umunna

Swisher states that by the following day the news had got out about the exchange on the stall. The video shows internet messages from LBC and the Labour Friends of Israel. Various MPs came by to express their views on the subject, including Angela Eagle, who is told by Ryan’s assistant, Michael Rubin, the Parliamentary Officer for Labour Friends of Israel, that they had someone talk to them, who said the anti-Semitism accusations were made up to attack Jeremy Corbyn. Chuka Umunna also turns up to hug Jennifer Gerber, the director of the LFI, and asks for an update on the anti-Semitic incidents. They tell him that a ‘nutter’ turned up to tell him that the coup was run by Jews, Jewish MPs and Jewish millionaires. They also say that Angela Eagle’s husband was Jewish to show how unpleasant this comment was. Ryan also tells Umunna that she reported ‘that woman’ and that Fitzpatrick had videoed her not answering the question. This has clearly upset Ryan. Ryan then goes on to say that she didn’t film her telling Fitzpatrick that she’s anti-Semitic, and that she’s made a formal complaint.

Fitzpatrick states that she’s angry about how Ryan misquoted her, and anxious about how she totally misinterpreted her words. Fitzpatrick says she has no idea how Ryan got from what she really said to getting good jobs in banking. ‘Maybe she believes her own trope’.

The video goes back to Gerber stating that she met someone who said that the anti-Semitism isn’t real, they haven’t seen it, their Jewish friends haven’t seen it and it’s really being used to crush Corbyn.

Pappe then says that it’s pathetic and worrying that such evidence is used every day to attack Corbyn, and get him to deny that he is anti-Semitic.

Alex Richardson: I Don’t Know If It’s Anti-Semitic Or Not, But It Made Me Uncomfortable, So It Is

And then were back Gerber telling the LFI that it’s upsetting to her as a Jew to hear about how anti-Semitism is being used to undermine Corbyn. But Gerber then goes on about how this person worries her more than the blatant anti-Semites, who talk about how Jews have big noses and control the world, because she doesn’t know whether she’s an anti-Semite. The conversation then moves on to a debate over which of these incidents was worse, with Rubin claiming it was Fitzpatrick’s conversation with Ryan. And Rubin himself is shown saying that he doesn’t know where the line is about anti-Semitism anymore. Alex Richardson, Ryan’s parliamentary assistant, then gives his opinion, that it’s anything that makes you uncomfortable. And so he reported Fitzpatrick’s comments as anti-Semitic, even though nothing anti-Semitic was said – but he’s sure there were undertones – simply because it made him feel uncomfortable.

Fitzpatrick observes that she tried to talk to them because she thought they were willing to talk about Palestine. Now it appears they are not, and if you try to talk about it, they will bring a charge of anti-Semitism against you.

Pappe observes that the LFI is really scraping the bottom of the barrel to find 2 1/2 cases of anti-Semitism, and that even they aren’t sure if 2 of their 3 cases are actually anti-Semitic.

Fitzpatrick Investigated

Fitzpatrick was unaware that a complaint of anti-Semitism had been lodged, and that the story had made the news. This part of the video shows the headline in Jewish News. Shortly afterwards, Ryan’s parliamentary assistant emailed Rubin asking him to be a witness to the supposed anti-Semitic incident. But Richardson says that Fitzpatrick’s comment was ‘on the line’, but he felt it was anti-Semitic, even though she didn’t mention Jews, but Israel instead, and was all about Jews controlling money and power. Richardson then speculates about how ‘that woman’ might be banned because she said something anti-Semitic.

Shortly after she left the conference, Fitzpatrick was contacted by someone from the Labour party, who only told her it was about ‘a serious incident’. She was left racking her brains wondering if she had seen a fire or an assault of some kind. She was then told that it was her conduct, that was being investigated, ‘which was a real bombshell’.

At the end of the programme, it is states that they contacted everyone involved for their opinion. Ryan stated that she believes that it is duty of all party members to report language that is racist or anti-Semitic, and that she believes that her actions were entirely appropriate.

She added that comments like those about certain groups having lots of money and prestige and helped to advance people’s careers appeared to evoke classic anti-Semitic tropes.

The documentary also states that neither Shai Masot nor the Israeli embassy responded to their findings.

Conclusion

This shows just how nasty and desperate the Israel lobby is, and I admit, it has changed my opinion about the Israel lobby. I’d previously assumed that the accusations were a cynical ruse to smear Corbyn and his supporters. But it seems from this that the people who make them, Labour Friends of Israel, the Jewish Labour Movement and others are so fanatical and blinkered, that they really do think that any who questions their views and Israel’s barbarous treatment of the Palestinians is an anti-Semite.

Of course, they can’t clearly tell you what is anti-Semitic about particular comments. As Ryan showed with her own faulty recollection of what she was asked by Fitzpatrick, if it’s not explicitly anti-Semitic, they won’t remember it properly and make it fit their existing prejudices. Anti-Semites think Jews are behind the banking system, so when Fitzpatrick talked about the prestige surrounding the LFI that got her friend’s son a job, Ryan altered it in her recollection of the event to be about banks. Even though banks weren’t mentioned.

Nor did Fitzpatrick say anything about Jews. And it may very well be that the board interviewing the young man for the job at Oxford University were impressed that he had worked for Labour Friends of Israel. But just because Fitzpatrick believed, or her friend’s son believed, that he had got the job because of this doesn’t make it anti-Semitic. Fitzpatrick did not say that Jews controlled education, only that working for the LFI got him a job. People are impressed by different things, and it is not remotely impossible that someone at the university, who was personally impressed by the LFI, would offer a job to someone, who had worked for them.

As for Regev telling the Labour Friends of Israel to ask supporters of the Palestinians why they are supporting reactionaries, it’s true that Hamas and Hizbollah are unpleasant organisations. But there are deeply reactionary, racist and misogynist organisations in Israel. Not every Palestinian supports Hamas, and the nature of that political organization does not justify Israel’s dispossession and persecution of the Palestinians, which started long before it arose.

It’s clear from this segment that the Israel lobby can’t justify it’s treatment of the Palestinians. Ryan couldn’t in her conversation with Fitzpatrick, and this embarrassed and angered her. Hence the smear. And with no arguments, Rubin and Richardson act like precious snowflakes demanding ‘safe spaces’ from being made uncomfortable.

And the use of anti-Semitic tropes to accuse decent people of anti-Semitism is contrived and deliberately constructed so that those making the accusation do not need to take any account of the reality of what they are being told. It’s a particularly nasty way of sticking their fingers in their ears, and saying ‘la-la-la, I’m not listening to you, and you’re an anti-Semite anyway for telling me things I don’t want to hear, can’t answer, and don’t want you to know.’

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