Posts Tagged ‘‘Who Runs Britain’’

Israel Lobbyists Smear Mike Again, Run Away When Refuted

March 7, 2018

Mike on Monday put up another piece, describing how he was smeared once again as an anti-Semite in an article, ‘Labour’s Anti-Semitism Problem’, by a couple of hacks called Kieron Monks and Gary Spedding. This was over what Mike had written about the belief that Blair had been unduly influenced by a group of Jewish advisers. Mike went on the attack to defend his reputation, and pointed out that he had not written what Monks’ claimed he had, and that he had in any case taken his words out of context. Monks tried arguing back, but when the force of Mike’s argument proved too much for him, retreated and went silent. He ran away, leaving his mate Spedding to try and defend his libel. Spedding didn’t fare any better either, and this resulted in Spedding not only abandoning the argument, but blocking Mike on Twitter.

You can read about the incident at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/03/05/another-article-alleges-anti-semitism-about-me-author-refuses-to-acknowledge-his-mistake/

Mike makes several very good points in his article about it, not least that all the relevant information about these claims and accusations is up on his blog, if the writers of such articles would actually care to read what he has to say.

But they don’t, because they’ve already decided that Mike’s an anti-Semite. And it’s not because of any genuine concern for anti-Semitism. Monks’ real motivation in writing the article is clearly shown in the title, and in one of the people he hashtags at the bottom of his tweet about it, Dave Rich.

The title of Monks’ piece is the same as a book written by Dave Rich, and published last year by Biteback. This claimed that there was a rising tide of anti-Semitism on the Left, ever since the Liberal party had got involved in an anti-Israeli politics in the 1970s. I can’t remember where I found it, but I read a review somewhere that pointed out that Rich was another prominent member of the Israel lobby, and that what really concerned him was that the Left were taking the side of the Palestinians against Israel. In short, he’s another Zionist upset that people are criticising and protesting about the Israeli state’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, and trying to shut them down by libelling them as anti-Semites. Ditto for Monks and Spedding, who obviously share his views.

As for the accusation that Blair was unduly influenced by a group of Jewish advisers, it is true that Blair received much funding during the run-up to the Iraq invasion from businessmen connected to the Israel lobby, though a campaign run by Lord levy and Peter Mandelson. John Booth describes this in his ‘Labour, Corbyn and Anti-Semitism’ in Lobster 74. He writes

In contrast, this is Jon (now Lord) Mendelsohn speaking to Jewsweek.com on 8 September 2002: ‘[Tony] Blair has attacked the anti-Israelism that had existed in the Labour Party . . .Labour was cowboys-and-Indians politics, picking underdogs. The milieu has changed. Zionism is pervasive in New Labour. It is automatic that Blair will come to Friends of Israel meetings.’ Mendelsohn was speaking during the build-up to the Iraq war. At the time Corbyn was indulging in what the New Labour fundraiser would probably style ‘cowboy-and Indian politics’ by helping create the Stop the War Coalition. 7 Mendelsohn was a close associate of Michael (now Lord) Levy in drawing down funds from Israel supporters, a programme also well described in Robert Peston’s Who Runs Britain?. The ITN political editor in his informative 8 chapter ‘Democracy for Sale’ makes clear that a good deal of that funding was not from Labour supporters, but from those, including previous Conservative backers, who identified with Blair and his support for Israel and the Iraq war.

He also goes on to discuss the connections between the Israeli embassy and the various Friends of Israel organisations, which have been making the accusations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn and his supporters.

Mendelsohn is a former chairman of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), membership of which, as he says, attracted many of the New Labour intake in 1997 and which resembled a passport to promotion for many of them. Not all have stayed in party politics since Labour’s 2010 defeat. Former Cabinet minister and chairman of LFI James Purnell is now a senior BBC executive and is talked of as a possible future director-general. LFI supporter Lorna 9 Fitzsimons, formerly Parliamentary Private Secretary to Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, became chief executive of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) after losing her parliamentary seat in 2005. Most of the LFI supporters still in Parliament or subsequently elected to it were opposed to Corbyn’s 2015 election as leader and tried to unseat him the following year. From their ranks – some of them here supporting LFI chair Joan Ryan – have come many of the well-publicised claims of anti-semitic 10 abuse that has attended Corbyn’s rise. 11 As the Al Jazeera documentary series, The Lobby, exposed earlier this year, there is a very close working relationship between the Israel embassy in London and the Friends of Israel groups in Parliament, including the one chaired by Enfield North MP Ryan. 12 There is also a strong link between the embassy and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) that has led criticism of Corbyn and was very active on the ‘anti-semitism’ issue at the Brighton conference. Two JLM officials, Jeremy 13 Newmark and Mike Katz, were backed by Yvette Cooper, a Corbyn rival for the leadership in 2015, when they unsuccessfully stood as Labour candidates in the general election.

And no, before anyone asks, Booth’s article is not remotely anti-Semitic. It begins by describing the warm welcome given to Jewish speakers at Labour’s Brighton Conference last year, including Naomi Klein, Naomi Wimbourne-Idrissi, who declared that the party did not have a problem with Jews, and, of course, Ed Miliband. Wimbourne-Idrissi later that day went on to launch Jewish Voice for Labour, along with a number of other, very prominent Jewish activists, including a former member of the Israeli Defence Force.

The article also discusses the close relationship between the Blairites and the Israel lobby, and how the rise of Corbyn and the leftward turn of the party threaten the Thatcherite entryists, and their backers in the media, such as the Groaniad. It challenges their views on the neoliberal consensus, as well as their political careers. Hence they have resorted to smearing their opponents as anti-Semites. And before Booth talks about Mandelson, he writes about how Marek Edelman, a hero of the Warsaw Ghetto, was persona non grata in Israel because he supported the Palestinians. He stated that to be a Jew means that you always side with the oppressed.

Edelman’s a true hero, and Rich, Monks and Spedding are definitely siding with the oppressors. Hence their participation in the smearing of Labour members and supporters, who criticise Israel’s maltreatment of the Palestinians, or who, like Mike, simply defend those, who do, on grounds of historical accuracy.

Lobster 74 is at https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/issue74.php

Go and read the whole article to find out what these mendacious accusations are really about, and the noxious politics behind them.

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The Privileged Class Background of BBC Staff, and the Problem of Oxbridge Public School Elitism

August 26, 2017

Earlier this week I put up a piece reviewing Tom Mills’ The BBC – Myth of a Public Service. This contributes immensely to the debate about the Corporation’s bias by showing how it consistently allies with the elite against the left and the working class.

And Mills makes a very strong case that, apart with the institutional methods of control the government exercises over the Beeb through the license fee and the appointment of its governors, the BBC also sides with the elite because of the elite, upper and very middle class origins of its managers and staff. Mills describes this background on pages 29 and 30. He writes

A 2014 report of the quasi-official Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission had no qualms about identifying these top BBC executives, and over a hundred other senior BBC managers, as members of ‘Britain’s elite’ – along with politicians, civil servants, the super-rich, FTSE 350 CEOs, newspaper columnists and other groups. The Commission’s survey of 125 BBC executives found that 26 per cent had attended private school (compared with 7 per cent of the population), 33 per cent had attended Oxbridge (compared with just 0.8 per cent of the population) and 62 per cent had attended one of the Russell Group of leading universities (compared with 11.4 per cent of the population) – figures which were comparable with those for other factions of Britain’s power elite, as the report shows. Senior BBC managers are also extremely well paid: in 2014/15, the seven executive members of the BBC’s Executive Board earned an average of over £424,000. Meanwhile, around eighty BBC executives are thought to earn over £150,000, even after policy measures were put in place to reduce executive pay following fierce criticism from the press. Among this executive cadre are around a hundred or so senior managers in editorial policy who on average earn just over £100,000, and the most senior of whom can earn two or three times that.

Below these senior editorial managers, we see similar patterns of privilege. In 2006, the Sutton Trust examined the educational backgrounds of 100 leading news journalists in the UK, of whom 31 worked at the BBC. It found that 54 per cent were privately educated and a remarkable 45 per cent had attended Oxbridge. Educational background is of course an indicator of shared class background. But it is also in itself a profoundly important basis for elite cohesion, forging along with other formative experiences, if not a shared set of ideas, then at least a shared demeanour and set of dispositions. Elitist recruiting practices – which are naturally justified in meritocratic terms, even if they are recognized to create serious problems in terms of legitimacy – thus create subtle forms of institutional and cross-institutional cohesion.

This bears out a comment made by one of the television directors Mike and I heard speak over two decades ago at a Doctor Who convention here in Bristol. He stated that it was very difficult to become a director at the Beeb unless you had been to Oxford or Cambridge. If you hadn’t, it was very difficult. If you had, on the other hand, it was very easy.

As for Oxbridge, I’m currently reading Gregory Benford’s SF novel Timescape (London: Gollancz 1980). The novel’s plot is split between the devastated Britain of 1998 and the optimistic California of 1963, as a group of scientists in Cambridge attempt to use tachyons to carry a message back to their counterparts in La Jolla to warn them of the coming ecological crisis which is gradually causing global civilization to collapse. Benford is an American, and one of the team of Cambridge scientists, Gregory Markham, also hails from across the Pond. The book therefore includes descriptions and meditations on Britain’s relationship to its past, compared with America, and the class structure of British society. On page 182, Benford comments on the educational segregation at Cambridge High Table.

He walked back towards the colleges, letting this feel of the press of time seep into him. He and Jan had been to High Table at several of the colleges, the ultimate Anglophile experience. Memorial plate that gleamed like quicksilver, and crested goblets. In the after-dinner room of polished wood, gilt frames held glowering portraits of the college founders. In the great dining hall Jan had been surprised to find de facto segregation: Etonians at one table, Harrovians at another, the lesser public schools’ alumni at a third, and, finally, state school graduates and everyone else at a motley last table. To an American in such a citadel of education, after the decades of ferocious equality-at-all-costs politics, it seemed strange. There persisted a reliance on inherited advantages, and even the idea that such a system was an inherited virtue as well.

This is not too far removed from the description of outright class snobbery Thackeray describes in his Book of Snobs. Casting his eye about England’s great, and at the time, only universities, he noted the way the class system affected even the type of gowns undergraduates wore:

If you consider, dear reader, what profound snobbishness the University system produced, you will allow that it is time to attack some of those feudal middle-age superstitions. If you go down for five shillings to look at the ‘College Youths’, you may see one sneaking down the court without a tassel to his cap; another with a gold or silver fringe to his velvet trencher; a third lad with a master’s gown and hat,, walking at ease over the sacred College grass-plats, which common men must not tread on.

Me may do it because he is a nobleman. Because a lad is a lord, the University grants him a degree at the end of two years which another is seven in acquiring. Because he is a lord, he has no call to go through an examination. Any man who has not been to College and back for five shillings [the price of the train fare to Oxford and Eton], would not believe in such distinctions in a place of education, so absurd and monstrous do they seem to be.

The lads with gold and silver lace are sons of rich gentlemen, and called Fellow Commoners; they are privileged to feed better than the pensioners, and to have wine with their victuals, which the latter can only get in their rooms.

The unlucky boys who have no tassels to their caps, are called sizars – servitors at Oxford – (a very pretty and gentlemanlike title). A distinction is made in their clothes because they are poor; for which reason they wear a badge of poverty, and are not allowed to take their meals with their fellow-students.(pp. 60-61).

One of the other, British characters in Benford’s novel, Renfrew, who has the idea of using tachyon radiation to transmit to the past, is also an outsider. He’s the son of a working class Yorkshireman, and because of this is also an outsider amongst the public schoolboys. At one point Renfrew remembers how, as an undergraduate walking down Oxford’s corridors, he passes another pair in gowns. One of these says very loudly in an Oxbridge drawl, ‘Oh God, not another oik come up on a scholarship!’

Oxford has been under considerable pressure to make its more democratic, and Robert Peston has said in his book, Who Runs Britain, that there’s an element of hypocrisy amongst some of the Scots universities, who tried to capitalize on the class scandals that have erupted over Oxbridge in recent years. Some of the Scots universities, particularly St. Andrews’, are even more elite and class-ridden.

It’s tempting to think of those days of class snobbishness as having vanished along with scholarships. However, as the Tories are intent are privatizing the British school system, and really, desperately, want to bring back grammar schools if they can get away with it, as well as cut away the last vestiges of the student grant to the poor, it’s likely that they’ll come back.