On June 1st J4J’s Ian Saville was a guest speaker, on behalf of the Jewish Socialist Group, at a Brighton and Hove Momentum meeting on the current wave of expulsions and accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. The main speaker was Jackie Walker, fresh from being reinstated after her period of suspension by the Labour Party. Louise Purbrick, from StopMfE also spoke about the local campaign against far right and fascist groups who are active in the area. This is Ian’s account of that meeting.
My own contribution outlined the way in which antisemitism has been used as a weapon to attack Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the left.
I talked about how this had been a rolling campaign, brought up first to try to prevent Jeremy gaining the Labour leadership, continuing throughout his leadership, and stepped up significantly during the recent elections. And now continuing as we move towards the election of a new Labour NEC.
I explained how powerful the accusation of antisemitism is. As far as those running these witch hunts are concerned, if I say that my cat isn’t antisemitic, that proves that my cat is antisemitic, otherwise why would I be saying it? It also proves that I am antisemitic, as I am now defending an antisemitic cat.
It is irrelevant that I am Jewish and don’t have a cat.
I pointed out that there are a range of people and organisations working to attack the left, including those outside the Labour Party, like the Tories, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Chronicle and other apologists for Israel, and some factions on the right within the Labour Party.
Jackie spoke of the enormous blow to her of her suspension, and the undemocratic way in which it was accomplished. She also noted that the letter informing her of suspension was sent on the same day that a scurrilous article about her appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, so that it appears that there was some coordination between the paper and the Labour Party compliance unit.
She spoke of the awful abuse she had suffered on social media, and the attacks had not let up since she had been exonerated and reinstated by the party. She was still being subjected to abuse and calls for expulsion, and lies about her views were being spread by the right.
In fact, before the meeting an inaccurate and vicious leaflet about her was being handed out by right-wingers outside. She was subjected to people questioning the validity of her own heritage, which is offensive and unacceptable. Jackie explained the background to the private remarks on Facebook which had been objected to, which were part of a discussion with friends, one of whom, ironically, is an Israeli liberal Zionist.
Jackie stressed the need to oppose these attacks vigorously, and not appease the attackers, as this will just strengthen their hand. Her speech was greeted with great acclaim.
Discussion from the floor followed, with many people making points about the role of Israel in all of this, the role of groups like the Jewish Labour Movement within the Labour Party, and the dire situation of the Palestinians. Tony Greenstein, who is still under suspension from the party, contributed a fighting speech, to much applause.
There was some discussion of the events of that day, when a potential left candidate for the NEC, Rhea Wolfson, was blocked from standing after an intervention in the selection process by Jim Murphy, the right-wing former leader of the Scottish Labour Party.
Once again, the accusation of antisemitism had been brought up, despite the fact that Wolfson is Jewish, is supported by the Jewish Labour Movement, and is herself sympathetic to Zionism. This seems to demonstrate that, for the right, this accusation can be used in the most absurd situation, for the objective of gaining control of the Labour Party, and ensuring that Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas do not hold sway.
Following discussion of, and questions about the Jewish Labour Movement, I mentioned the initiative contained in our submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry, to set up a more inclusive Jewish organisation within the Labour Party which is not part of any Zionist federation.
The meeting finished on an upbeat note with the singing of the Red Flag, led by local singer Robb Johnson.
Unsurprisingly, within 24 hours, the meeting has already been written up in a negative way by the Jewish Chronicle.
Attached below is the text of a submission to Shami Chakrabarti’s report into alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party. It was submitted yesterday June 1st 2016 by a group of Jewish Labour Party members who include members/supporters of Jews for Jeremy, JFJFP, IJV, Jewish Socialists’ Group. There are currently 97 signatories.
The submission has now been made, but if you agree with the contents and want to help in the formation of the new group, let us know.
Here is the text:
Submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry
This submission has been drawn up by a group of Jewish Labour Party members who have been active within human rights organisations, anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns and training, refugee support, education in a range of contexts and at all levels, and have been involved in a range of Jewish organisations and projects such as: Jewish Socialistsʼ Group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Independent Jewish Voices, Jewish Cultural and Anti-Racist Project, Jewish Music Institute, Friends of Yiddish, Kehillah North London.
Our submission is relevant to all the terms of reference of the inquiry, but we focus particularly on those aspects that aim to:
• understand and address antisemitism in the wider context of racism in general;
• provide the most effective context for training on these issues at all levels of the party; and
• ensure that Jewish people are welcomed and integrated into the party alongside other minorities.
We feel strongly that the education and training of Labour Party members and officers on issues relating to antisemitism must be the responsibility of an inclusive and progressive Jewish group that is able to meet the demands of this role because it would be positively focused on Jews in the Labour Party here in Britain.
Before this Inquiry was announced, a number of us had been discussing the need for such a representative group as a permanent element within the Labour Party. The events during the run-up to the local and Mayoral elections, and the establishment of the Inquiry, have encouraged us to address this more urgently. With our long, deep and broad range of experience, we intend to help form such an inclusive group, along the lines stated in the following proposal.
Proposal on Jewish representation in the Labour Party
We wish to see the setting up of a broad-based organisation which can become a “Jewish Section” or an affiliated organisation of the Labour Party.
It will be open to all Jews who are members of the Labour Party.
Its guiding principles will be rights and justice for Jews everywhere without wrongs and injustice to other peoples anywhere.
Welcoming the fact that Jews are an international people with communities in many countries, its outlook will be internationalist and anti-racist and it will link the interests of Jewish people with those of other minorities and oppressed groups.
While individual members of the new group may have particular attitudes towards or connections with Israel/Palestine or any other country, it will not impose on its members a stance on proposed solutions to conflicts in the Middle East; instead it will encourage a free and respectful exploration of the issues from Labour/socialist perspectives, and will reserve the right to criticise any regime on the grounds of human rights violations.
Its purposes will be to:
• provide a platform to represent the concerns and interests of Jewish members at all levels of the Party;
• campaign against antisemitism and all forms of racism and discrimination, and assert a progressive Jewish identity as part of multicultural Britain;
• strengthen links between Jews and other ethnic minorities in Britain;
• uphold and continue the long tradition of Jewish involvement in struggles against oppression and for social justice, both locally and globally;
• act as a cultural and social hub, which can share the cultural resources of Jewish members and organise social and cultural events as well as political forums in which issues can be freely debated from various viewpoints;
• seek support for the Labour Party among the wider Jewish community.
Its constitution will affirm that its primary allegiance is to socialism and the values of the Labour Party.
Such a section or group would expect to be consulted by the Party leadership and the National Executive Committee where issues directly concerning Jewish members arise.
It would also expect to fulfil a training role in the Labour Party, and act as an advocate in cases where disputes arise concerning Jewish matters.
We do not feel that the Jewish Labour Movement (known until 2004 as Poʼale Zion, Workers of Zion) is the correct vehicle for this role because it has an explicitly Zionist constitution, is committed to promoting “the centrality of Israel in Jewish life”, and requires that its members adhere to a particular view of the Israel/Palestine conflict and Zionism. In doing so it excludes a large proportion of Jewish Labour Party members, including many of the signatories to this submission. We believe our Jewish perspective has a natural home in the Labour Party, but would not wish to sign up to the constitution of the Jewish Labour Movement, nor would we be welcome to join it.
If you wish to see the signatories, they are contained in the pdf below.
Jews for Jeremy attended the above meeting last night at London University Students’ Union with a great line-up of Tariq Ali, writer, journalist and filmmaker; John Rose, author of the Myths of Zionism; Leah Levane, Jews for Justice for Palestinians; Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism; Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition and Walter Wolfgang, veteran Labour Party activist. We were joined by our colleague Rania H academic, teacher, campaigner and broadcaster. Here are some reflections of hers we asked she contribute to the blog:
Antisemitism is still very much a problem in Britain. But not where the media is telling you it is. Antisemitism is alive and well where it has always lurked: in the machinations of right-wing politicians and media pundits who are happy to stoke fears and sow discord for their own ends. And there is one thing firmly in their sight; Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
With this in mind the public meeting ‘Antisemitsm, Zionism and the Left‘ was convened to discuss the current witch hunt waged by the right, both in the Labour party and beyond, on anyone who criticises Israel and calls for active support of the Palestinians through the BDS campaign .
Speakers included the veteran Labour party activist and NEC member Walter Wolfgang, who spoke about the liberation origins of Zionism and passionately defended Jewish values, especially against modern day Zionists. Leah Levanes from Jews for Justice for Palestinians also spoke about supporting Palestinian political and human rights including the establishment of an independent viable state of their own.
Lindsey German, from the Stop the war Coalition warned us againt the Islamphobia inherent in this witch hunt especially as it seeks to punish Muslim public figures who have shown support for the Palestinian cause. Both Lindsey and Weyman Bennett of Unite Against Fascism reminded the audience of the anti-racist credentials of some of those falsely accused of antisemitism, with Waymen urging all anti-fascists across the spectrum of faiths and ethnicities to unite, and asserting that the fight against Antisemitism is also the fight against the Islamophobia, Homophobia and Racism curretly spreading through Europe from right-wing groups
John Rose, Jewish author of The Myths of Zionism, brought the discussion back to the attempts to redefine antisemitism, not as a racial prejudice against Jews and Jewish fatih and culture, but as any political and civic action against the Israeli regime, including the call for a one state solution for Palestinians and Israelis. Tariq Ali, writer and film-maker, rounded off the speeches with a heartfelt appeal to support all those fighting oppression and not silence dissent and political expression by branding young people angry at Israel’s actions as antisemites .
The discussion that followed included contributions from the floor in support of the speakers but also a plea not to lose sight of the fact that we need to mount an effective defence of the Left and take the fight against racism, Islamophobia and Antisemitism to the right – where it belongs.
As is usual in these meetings a couple of Zionist decided to join the debate and that led to some heated exchanges including shouts by them that Sir Gerald Kaufman was an antisemite!
The most important message to take away is that we stand united against all forms of racism, prejudice and discrimination and for the rights of all minorities. The popular revolution that saw Jeremy Corbyn win the Labour leadership is the people’s mandate for real democratic change. Antisemitism is a disease of the right and we will name it and fight against it.
J4J adds: The whole room felt these attacks will not stop, so more co-ordination and meetings such as this will need to take place. We also believe we at J4J have a contribution to make at future meets, Socialists and anti-racists at the coal face.
Jeremy Corbyn’s critics forced to put possible coup bid on hold
Pollsters warn any challenge after this week’s national and local elections would fail as Labour members still firmly back leader
Jeremy Corbyn’s critics inside his party have set aside the possibility of a post-election leadership challenge in the face of warnings by pollsters that the party leader remains impossible to defeat in any vote of Labour members.
A day before polls are due to open in national and local elections, where Labour’s performance will come under intense scrutiny, MPs who are unhappy with Corbyn are indicating in private they do not believe it is the right time to mount a coup attempt.
Joe Twyman, head of political and social research at YouGov, said his data confirmed that Corbyn remained “a country mile” ahead of other potential candidates. “The bottom line is that those eligible to vote in the Labour party leadership election strongly supported Jeremy Corbyn last year and that has not significantly changed,” he said.
“So far no alternative candidate appears to have attracted anything like the kind of support and momentum needed to defeat him. Any challenger at this stage is only likely to be at best a stalking horse and at worse little more than a pursuant pony.”
The leader is also being shored up by the grassroots movement Momentum, which has compiled a database of more than 100,000 supporters that it believes could be used within days to help fight off any potential challenge. The group is preparing to set up phone banks to ensure that party members as well as registered or affiliated supporters can be recruited.
YouGov’s data has suggested that Corbyn would win 43% of first preference, rising to 62% when second and third preferences are taken into account.
The developments follow days of speculation about a potential challenge after Corbyn was plunged into an antisemitism row, with furious MPs accusing him of failing to act quickly enough to root out anti-Jewish sentiment within the party. On Friday, Corbyn set up an inquiry as it emerged that 16 members, including Ken Livingstone and the MP Naz Shah, had been suspended from the party.
Labour’s London mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, said the allegations had affected his campaign and he was “so unhappy” about the way Corbyn and his team had handled the claims. “The Labour leadership has got to get a grip,” he told the Evening Standard.
Across Labour there is disagreement about what constitutes success in Thursday’s elections across Scotland and Wales, as well as for local councillors in England and for the London mayoralty. A number of Labour MPs have claimed that anything less than 450 gains in council seats would amount to failure for Corbyn.
That is in sharp contrast to the expectations being set by the man running the party’s campaign, Jon Trickett. He has claimed that any improvement in Labour’s position when compared with the 2015 general election result would be positive, even though that could still see a significant fall in the number of Labour councillors in seats last contested four years ago.
Corbyn predicted that the party would not lose seats and said that rumours of a leadership coup had been whipped up by the “golden circle” of the media. At a campaign launch, the Labour leader said that the party was looking to “gain seats where we can” in the elections for local councils, regional assemblies and mayoralties.
A close ally of the leader agreed that he was being attacked unfairly. “There is a vocal minority in the PLP [parliamentary Labour party] who have deliberately set targets of council seats they know cannot be achieved. They want to set a hurdle that cannot be overcome, so they can say he has failed,” he said.
“If there is any challenge he will stand again and all the evidence suggests that he would win an even bigger majority among members than last year.”
Ben Bradshaw, Labour’s former culture secretary, said holding councils in the southern seats like his own in Exeter was vital for gaining power in 2020: “The polls are very discouraging. We should be 20 points ahead in the polls, with the Conservatives in disarray over Europe, destroying the NHS and education system. There is no reason we shouldn’t be 20 points ahead in the polls and winning hundreds of seats.”
It is also unlikely that any of the potential leadership alternatives who have the most support among MPs, such as Angela Eagle or Dan Jarvis, would want to see anything happen ahead of the EU referendum on 23 June. However, the only result that might trigger a quicker challenge would be Khan losing in London, where he is favourite to beat Zac Goldsmith.
But some Labour MPs think that even then Corbyn would be impossible to defeat, arguing that any manoeuvres against the leader should wait until 2018. “Being honest, I think that most of the party’s membership, if not enthusiastic, still thinks that he deserves more time,” said one politician who has been an outspoken critic of the leader.
Rumours that the veteran Labour MP Margaret Hodge could be used as a stalking horse challenger to Corbyn have emerged because some MPs think she fits the requirements for any challenger. They think a female MP who does not have any personal axe to grind and who is well respected would be best placed to take on the fight. Hodge could not be reached for comment.
In London Zac Goldsmith should be beaten in the polls by a country mile. Not only because he is bland, inexperienced and has run a lack-lustre campaign.
But because, as he has fallen further and further behind in the the polls, his tactics have become more and more distasteful and reprehensible.
Yesterday in the Mail, came words and images connecting Sadiq Khan with the terrorists bus bombings of 2007. Of course, if questioned, neither Goldsmith or the Mail would accept any such interpretation of what appears on the left here.
But what other interpretations can be given?
In the meantime, we include Owen Jones on Youtube talking about Goldsmith’s bottom of the barrel campaign style and (in the video at 6:45) the radicalisation it would promote should Khan NOT be elected:
Ken McCluskey talks about the Jews for Jeremy letter published in the Guardian this weekend. The proof of the pudding, folks, is in the eating. If 82 ordinary and longstanding Jewish members of Labour – teachers, academics, artists, historians, trade unionists, doctors and social workers – have never come across antisemitism in the Party, where is it?
Since then, there has been a steady flow of claims by Israel’s supporters that Corbyn has not done enough to combat anti-Semitism.
This has only accelerated in the lead-up to a major test for Corbyn, the UK local elections on 5 May.
Even as this story was in preparation, two more victims were claimed in the war against his leadership.
Lawmaker Naz Shah and the former mayor of London, long-time Palestine campaigner Ken Livingstone, were also suspended from the party – within hours of being accused of anti-Semitism.
But an investigation by The Electronic Intifada has found that some of the most prominent stories about anti-Semitism in the party are falsified.
The Electronic Intifada can reveal that a key player in Labour’s “anti-Semitism crisis” covered up his involvement in the Israel lobby.
Most Labour members so accused are in reality being attacked for expressing opinions in favor of Palestinian human rights and particularly for supporting the boycott of Israel.
Labour activists, many of them Jews, have told The Electronic Intifada that false accusations of anti-Semitismare being used as a weapon against Corbyn by the party’s right-wing.
Corbyn has been active in the Palestine solidarity movement for more than three decades. In an interview withThe Electronic Intifada last year, he endorsed key elements of the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel. For example, he urged an end to weapons trading with Israel.
His election represented a radical shift in Labour, a popular revolt at the grassroots membership level.
Although Labour’s membership has grown since Corbyn’s victory, he has been under constant attack from right-leaning politicians within the party. In an attempt to weaken his position, some of his critics have manufactured a “crisis” about alleged anti-Semitism.
Attacks on Corbyn have escalated in the lead-up to next week’s local elections. Poor results would be seized upon by his enemies within the party.
Charley Allan, a Jewish member of the party, and a Morning Star columnist, has described the current atmosphere in the press and Labour Party as a “witch hunt.”
It has reached such an absurd volume that any usage of the word “Zionist” is deemed to be anti-Semitic – although tellingly not when used by self-described Zionists.
Where real instances of anti-Jewish bigotry have come to light, the leadership and party machine have taken robust action.
According to The Spectator, the party’s general secretary Iain McNicol told a recent meeting of Labour lawmakers that everyone who had been reported for anti-Semitism had either been suspended or excluded.
Corbyn has responded to the media storm by repeatedly condemning anti-Semitism and saying that anyone making an anti-Semitic remark is “auto-excluded from the party.”
John McDonnell, the shadow finance minister and a long-standing Corbyn ally, told The Independent that any party member found by an investigation to be expressing anti-Semitic views should be expelled for life. “If people express these views, full stop they’re out,” McDonnell said.
Smears of anti-Semitism against Corbyn started even before he was elected.
During his leadership campaign in the summer of 2015, the establishment media worked itself into a frenzy of anti-Corbyn hysteria, led more than any other paper by the liberal Guardian.
One of the recurring themes in this campaign was Corbyn’s long-standing support for Palestinian human rights.
Because of this, attempts were made to say outright, or to imply, that Corbyn was a secret anti-Semite, or that he associated with, or tolerated “notorious” anti-Semites.
Although these hit jobs gained some traction, they were soon debunked, and ultimately seemed to have little impact on the leadership election.
This dishonest theme is now being revisited. In February, the slow drip of anti-Semitism scare stories burst into a flood.
An “anti-Semitism scandal” erupted in the Oxford University Labour Club – an association of student supporters of the party.
In a public Facebook posting Alex Chalmers, the co-chair of the club, resigned his position over what he claimed was anti-Semitic behavior in “a large proportion” of the student Labour club “and the student left in Oxford more generally.”
But as evidence he cited the club’s decision, in a majority vote, to endorse Oxford’s Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual awareness-raising exercise by student groups which support Palestinian rights.
This connection was clearly designed to smear Palestine solidarity activists as anti-Semites – a standard tactic of the Israel lobby.
In fact, the similarity was no coincidence.
The Electronic Intifada can reveal for the first time evidence that Chalmers himself has been part of the UK’s Israel lobby.
Chalmers has worked for BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre.
Funded by the billionaire Poju Zabludowicz, BICOM is a leading pro-Israel group in London.
Chalmers once listed an internship with BICOM on his LinkedIn profile, although the page was deleted some time in February.
But even were this key fact not known, Chalmers’ accusations were not credible.
No one specific was named in his Facebook posting. He claimed that shortening the word Zionist to “Zio” and expressing support for the Palestinian political party and resistance organization Hamas were enough to prove anti-Semitism.
Chalmers did not reply to an emailed request for comment. He set his Twitter profile to private the day after the email was sent by The Electronic Intifada.
One of his tweets from 2014 sought to smear The Electronic Intifada with “Islamism.”
Chalmers has also been accused of disseminating a false allegation that a left-wing Labour student at Oxford had organized people into a group to follow a Jewish student around campus calling her a “filthy Zionist,” and that he had been disciplined as a result.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the accused student said that he had reason to believe Chalmers may have been behind the dissemination of this smear.
Paul Di Felice, the current acting principal of the Oxford college in question, confirmed to The Electronic Intifada the authenticity of a statement from its late principal denying all the allegations. “I have found no evidence of any allegations being made to the college about” the student “involving anti-Semitism, or indeed anything else, during his time at the college,” the statement read.
The Electronic Intifada put all this to Alex Chalmers in an email, but he failed to reply.
The Oxford University Labour Club responded with a statement saying it was “horrified” at the accusations and would fully cooperate with an investigation launched by the party organization Labour Students.
It did not take long, however, for someone to leak names to the right-wing press.
Citing an anonymous “source at the club,” The Telegraph named two left-wingers at Oxford who were supposedly “being investigated over alleged anti-Semitism at Oxford University.”
Again, there were no further details. Chalmers’ dubious and obviously politicized accusations were raised in general terms.
One of the two, James Elliot, was a vocal advocate at Oxford University of BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, and was photographed in the Telegraph article sitting next to Corbyn.
But in an email to a Daily Mail journalist, seen by The Electronic Intifada, Chalmers privately admitted that Elliott wasn’t involved. “I haven’t heard any allegations relating to him,” Chalmers wrote.
Both activists named by The Telegraph are part of Momentum, the grouping founded by Labour left-wingers in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s election victory to support his leadership.
The Electronic Intifada has seen evidence of a whispering campaign against the activists at Oxford. A dossier of allegations against the student Labour club is said to have been filed with the union’s Jewish society.
That society has posted a summary of the dossier on Facebook.
Asked in an email if he had been behind the dossier or the press leaks, Chalmers did not reply.
Alex Chalmers’ Facebook post resigning from the Oxford University Labour Club was seized on by anti-Corbyn forces aiming to influence key internal elections to the Labour Party’s youth wing, in which the Momentum pair were both candidates.
But because such negative campaigning is against Labour rules, Beckett cautioned supporters to distance themselves from her. She asked her supporters to remove “twibbons” – promotional badges for her election campaign – from their social media accounts before making allegations against Elliot.
One supporter, Josh Woolas – son of former Labour MP Phil Woolas – cautioned it “needs to look like a genuine complaint about racism and not a smear campaign!”
In a Facebook group chat titled #TeamJB (viewable in full on the Labour blog Left Futures, edited by the chair of Momentum), Beckett encouraged other young Labour members to share unsubstantiated hit pieces on Elliot from right-wing media.
She asked “do you actually want an anti-Semite as NEC rep?” She suggested her friends “get a few people tweeting saying ‘shocked my union GMB are supporting James Elliot who is anti-Semitic’ or something.”
“Let’s just get it out there,” agreed Labour activist Tom Jennings. “We’ve got a huge opportunity … thus shaving off votes for him at [the Young Labour] conference.”
The complaint against Beckett was subsequently rolled into another investigation into Chalmers’ allegations of anti-Semitism at Oxford, one ultimately taken over by Janet Royall, the Labour leader in the House of Lords, the unelected upper chamber of the UK parliament.
Labour Students conducted a hasty investigation into the Oxford allegations. But, Labour activists told The Electronic Intifada, it was so obviously botched that it was not credible.
That investigation was led by Michael Rubin, Labour Students’ national chairperson – who happened to be the boyfriend of one of Beckett’s allies, Rachel Holland. Holland was part of Beckett’s dirty tricks campaign, expressing support for it in the #TeamJB group chat.
Elliot told The Electronic Intifada he could not comment until the Royall investigation is concluded.
That seems unlikely to happen until after the crucial local elections at the earliest, and probably not until the summer, the BBC says, when Beckett is due to take her seat on the NEC.
The witch hunt expanded.
In March, Huffington Posttalked up a “fresh row over Labour anti-Semitism.”
The website referred to how union official Jennie Formby had allegedly pointed out at a meeting of Labour’s NEC that Royall once took part in a sponsored trip to the Middle East organized by Labour Friends of Israel, a pressure group within the party.
Formby has successfully pushed at the NEC to have private security firm G4S banned from Labour conferences, due to its supply of equipment to Israeli prisons that practice torture against Palestinians.
The Jewish Chronicle claimed Unison’s Jennie Formby was “to be moved from her role partly as a result of her anti-Israel activism.” It cited no evidence.
The paper claimed the move represented a demotion by the union, the UK’s largest.
But the report was instantly denied by Formby and her union.
Formby said she never questioned Royall’s ability to conduct the investigation.
In fact, Formby said, she was appointed to the new job long before Chalmers made his allegations on Facebook.
The Jewish Chronicleswiftly edited the online text and headline of the article to water down its claims (a copy of the original can still be found online).
In March, the witch hunt reached Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-Zionist well known in Palestine solidarity circles.
Despite supporting other left-wing parties in the past, Greenstein had joined the Labour Party after the election of Corbyn, hoping it would take a new, leftward direction.
But on 18 March he received a letter from the party’s Compliance Unit (also known as the Constitutional Unit) saying that his membership had been suspended pending an investigation into a possible breach of party rules.
“These allegations relate to comments you are alleged to have made,” wrote John Stolliday, head of the unit. Greenstein asked to see the allegations against him, but his request was denied.
Although the party refused to let Greenstein know what he was being accused of, further vague allegations were leaked to the right-wing press.
In April, The Telegraphpublished a story citing Greenstein’s admittance to the party as the “latest anti-Semitism scandal” to hit Labour.
Greenstein says he is considering legal action.
The Telegraph later added a “clarification” saying it wanted “to make clear that we had not intended to imply that Tony Greenstein is anti-Semitic.”
It would, however, be difficult to read the article as intending to do anything else.
Ironically, Greenstein has been at the forefront of moves to combat genuine cases of anti-Semitism on the fringes of the Palestine solidarity movement.
“I’m going to fight”
For years Greenstein has been perhaps the most vocal foe in the UK of Gilad Atzmon – an Israeli jazz musician based in London who claims to express solidarity with Palestinians, even while opposing the BDS movement and relentlessly attacking activists.
Four years ago, Atzmon was criticized by prominent members of the Palestine movement over racism and anti-Semitism in his work.
“I’m going to fight it of course,” Greenstein told The Electronic Intifada. He also accused the Compliance Unit itself of being behind the leaks – The Telegraph article cited “evidence compiled” by the unit.
The visit was organized by the Israeli foreign ministry, which slandered the BDS movement as “evil.”
As an MP, Streeting has been consistently hostile to Corbyn.
Term of abuse
Streeting and Newmark are arguing for tougher action and changes to the party’s rules.
The head of Progress proposed rule changes in the Mirror which would put “a modern understanding of anti-Semitism” into the party. “It is not acceptable to use the term ‘Zionism’ as a term of abuse,” the article stated, arguing for people who did so to be expelled.
This proposal echoes efforts pushed by Israel lobby groups, including at the University of California, to legislate that opposition to Zionism – Israel’s state ideology – is itself a form of anti-Semitism.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Labour Party staffer told The Electronic Intifada that, even were the rule change to pass, such expulsions would still have to be approved by the NEC.
The staffer emphasized that for many within the party, concerns about incidences of anti-Semitism were genuine.
But the member of staff said that for the “non-Jewish Zionists” in groups like Progress, “anti-Semitism is just a tool” in “a field of battle” to “smash up Jeremy at all costs.”
“Whatever gets agreed will not be good enough” for them, the member of staff said.
Streeting did not reply to emails requesting comment.
Labour is a mass membership organization, which now has more than 380,000 full members, according to party figures.
The staff member said that, amid all the politicized attacks in recent months, there had been about five actual cases of alleged anti-Semitism within the party.
A 2015 survey by Pew found that seven percent of the UK public held “unfavorable” views of Jews. By contrast, about a fifth held negative views of Muslims and almost two-fifths viewed Roma people unfavorably.
There’s no evidence to suggest that such views are any more prevalent in the Labour Party – and the tiny number of anti-Semitism complaints suggests they may well be less so in a movement many of whose activists have been in the frontline of anti-racist struggles.
The staff member said that in the five or so cases that had come to its attention, the party had taken swift action to expel, or suspend the membership of those alleged to have made anti-Semitic comments.
One of the most prominent of these was Vicki Kirby, a Labour Party candidate in Woking who is alleged to have tweeted that Israel is “evil.”
She also reacted to Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza by tweeting in August: “Who is the Zionist God? I am starting to think it may be Hitler. #FreePalestine.”
Speaking to the media for the first time, Kirby told The Electronic Intifada that her choice of words had been “awful” and “appalling.” It was “a reaction. I didn’t think it through. I’m not a born politician,” she said.
Later, still under the leadership of Corbyn’s predecessor, Kirby’s suspension from the party was lifted. But, after Corbyn became leader, somebody leaked a photo of Kirby posing with Corbyn to the party’s enemies in the media.
The hard-right gossip blogger known as Guido Fawkes, then proceeded to trawl through her entire Twitter backlog. He found a Tweet from 2011, a time when Kirby says she was not even in the Labour Party.
Guido Fawkes then doctored a screenshot of the tweet, making it appear as if she had tweeted “What do you know abt Jews? They’ve got big noses and support spurs lol.” The screenshot of the Tweet on Guido’s site hasclearly been cropped.
The wider press then ran with the story and started to use Kirby as a stick to beat Corbyn.
Kirby says she has received “death threats” to her and “hate email” from around the world, including the wish that “your children get cancer and die.” She says she even had to take legal actions against a constant barrage of journalists door-stepping her and harassing her family.
Despite swift party action to suspend Kirby once again, the incident was still weaponized by the right.
“Jeremy Corbyn needs to answer some serious questions,” Streeting told the Mirror.
Stoking the flames
Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, Momentum founder Jon Lansman – a key Corbyn ally – said that “my Jewish identity and anti-Semitism are at the core of my left Labour politics and so I welcome an investigation into anti-Semitism at Oxford University.”
But Lansman cautioned that “within the Labour Party, some people have factional reasons for stoking the flames.”
He acknowledged that “racism, including anti-Semitism” had historically been part of the Labour movement. “It was not until the 1980s that the efforts to eradicate it became serious, and that was thanks in part to Ken Livingstone as leader of the Greater London Council,” Lansman added.
During that period, Livingstone, and what the right derided as the “looney left” in local government, became the prime targets of Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. But with her party unable to defeat Livingstone at the ballot box, she simply abolished London’s city-wide government altogether.
It wasn’t until the Blair years that the capital once again had a London-wide government and Livingstone was elected mayor. It would now seem that with his suspension, the Thatcherite campaign against Livingstone has resumed, but this time from within the Labour Party.
Ian Saville, who started the group Jews For Jeremy and then later joined the party, told The Electronic Intifada that “some in the Labour Party, who do not have an understanding of the complexities of the situation, take [the accusations of prejudice] at face value, and quite understandably wish to oppose anti-Semitism.”
He said that “unfortunately, this ‘opposition’ to anti-Semitism has support of Israel and Zionism bundled in with it, so it fulfills the double purpose of isolating the left and supporting Israel uncritically.”
Greenstein wrote that “false allegations of anti-Semitism are akin to the boy who cried wolf. They immunize people against the real thing. As a Jewish anti-Zionist my main experience of anti-Semitism is from Zionists … I have even been told that it was a pity I didn’t die in Auschwitz.”
In the Tony Blair years, the Labour Party took a major rightward shift.
Blair notoriously led the UK into a war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 – which even he later admitted was a major factor in the emergence of Islamic State.
Blair is also staunchly pro-Israel.
The 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon killed 1,191 Lebanese, “the overwhelming majority of them civilians”according to Amnesty International. But Blair stood strongly behind Israel in that war. He later admitted in his memoir this caused him political damage. “I suffered accordingly,” he wrote.
For career-minded, rising Labour MPs, joining Labour Friends of Israel was long seen as the place to be. That has been slowly changing.
Under Blair, Jeremy Corbyn was a backbench MP, and a gadfly of the big business and war-friendly clique that had captured Labour’s leadership. He voted against Blair’s party line hundreds of times.
The scale of Corbyn’s victory – almost 60 percent of 422,664 voters – last summer put the right on the back foot.
So now they are resorting to ever more desperate tactics, blaming alleged anti-Semitism in the party on Corbyn’s leadership.
Michael Levy, a Labour member of the House of Lords who was a key fundraiser for the party during the Tony Blair years, is a strong supporter of Israel. He has made a number of media appearances in recent weeksdenouncing Corbyn for supposedly not doing enough against anti-Semitism.
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a local Labour Party activist and founder of Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods, told The Electronic Intifada that it has become a “really pernicious … pincer movement” by the Israel lobby and the Labour right.
“Maybe the’ve overstepped themselves” this time, she said, before cautioning that what happens would depend on how well activists fought back and educated people on the true nature of anti-Semitism and Zionism.
For the moment, the manufactured anti-Semitism crisis shows no sign of abating.
The same day Ken Livingstone was suspended from the party, BICOM appealed to the mob, posting a tweet with the words: “save your pitch fork for Corbyn.”
It appears the witch hunt will not stop until it is either victorious or is defeated.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.
A letter to the Guardian from the Jews For Jeremy Facebook members. April 28th 2016
We are Jewish members and supporters of the Labour Party and of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, who wish to put our perspective on the “antisemitism” controversy that has been widely debated in the last few weeks.
We do not accept that antisemitism is “rife” in the Labour party. Of the examples that have been repeated in the media, many have been reported inaccurately, some are trivial, and a very few may be genuine examples of antisemitism. The tiny number of cases of real antisemitism need to be dealt with, but we are proud that the Labour Party historically has been in the forefront of the fight against all forms of racism. We, personally, have not experienced any antisemitic prejudice in our dealings with Labour Party colleagues.
We believe these accusations are part of a wider campaign against the Labour leadership, and they have been timed particularly to do damage to the Labour Party and its prospects in elections in the coming week.
As Jews, we are appalled that a serious issue is being used in this cynical and manipulative way, diverting attention from much more widespread examples of Islamaphobia and xenophobia in the Conservative and other parties.
We dissociate ourselves from the misleading attacks on Labour from some members of the Jewish community. We urge others, who may be confused or worried by recent publicity, to be sure that the Labour Party, under its present progressive leadership, is a place where Jews are welcomed in a spirit of equality and solidarity.
Miriam E. David
Professor Stephen Deutsch
Alex J. Goldhill
Charles Shaar Murray
Professor Mica Nava
Dr. Brian Robinson
Jeff Daniel Rollin
Dr. Ian Saville
It’s been an amazing campaign as you will all already realise. But it ain’t over til it’s over. If you do have any spare time in the coming week, check out this appeal from Kat and get on down and boogie.