Barry Gilheany in the first of a two part series writes on Antisemitism: How The Oldest Hatred Became The New Discourse Of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Racism and its longest variant, antisemitism or Judeophobia, no longer comes dressed in black shirts, jackboots, Ku Klux Klan robes or bearing a swastika. Since Jeremy Corbyn came from apparently nowhere to become leader of the British Labour Party in September 2015, the Party - long held to be a natural home for British Jews - has been convulsed with a series of never-ending scandals around alleged antisemitism amongst its membership particularly among the tens of thousands who flocked to Labour, many taking advantage of the £3 registered supporter category introduced by the previous Labour leader Ed Miliband, to back Corbyn in two successful leadership contests. 

These allegations have led to three internal party enquiries, a putative London Metropolitan Police criminal investigation[1] and the announcement of an enquiry by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to establish whether the Labour Party has acted in an institutionally anti-Semitic manner towards its complainants. They have also led to a near breakdown in relations between the Labour Party and the principal UK Jewish community organisations; protests by and demonstrations in favour of Jewish Labour MPs allegedly victims of particularly appalling abuse including death and rape threats. 

Most recently, the perception that the Labour Party’s alleged institutional antisemitism had become irredeemable and that this antisemitism is party of wider culture of bullying and intolerance was to be one of the factors that led to the departure of seven Labour MPs to join the newly created Independents Group (now constituted as a new political party, Action UK) in the House of Commons. One of these MPs, Luciana Berger, required police protection at the 2018 Labour Party conference held in Liverpool where her constituency is. (One other Jewish MP, Ian Austin, and the Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan, have also left the Parliamentary Labour Party but have not joined the Independents/Action UK). It has opened a new front in the struggle for the soul of the Labour Party between Corbyn acolytes who dominate the Party membership and the vast majority of the Parliamentary Party who can reasonably be termed “Corbynsceptics”.

Antisemitism: A Thumbnail Sketch

Antisemitism involves a core demonology about Jews: they are powerful, malign and conspiratorial (Johnson: 2019). But the forms assumed by this supposed Jewish malignity has mutated radically down the centuries.

The Community Security Trust (CST) defines antisemitism as ‘hatred, bigotry, prejudice or discrimination against Jews’. It noted that the word “antisemitism” came into use in the late nineteenth century to describe pseudo-scientific racial discrimination against Jews. Now it generally describes all forms of discrimination, prejudice or hostility towards Jews throughout history. (Johnson: p.15)

Antisemitism has shape-shifted through history. It has created and used interchangeably these spectral figures of Jews: 

➽ The betrayer and killer of the universal God, drainer of gentile blood, poisoner of the wells, etc (Christian antisemitism);

The tribal anachronism, the enemy of the Age of Reason (Enlightenment antisemitism);

The rootless cosmopolitan, everywhere the enemy of and fifth column within organic nations (Counter-Enlightenment antisemitism);

 The biologically programmed threat to all races, to be eliminated to the last child (Nazi antisemitism);

 The sons of apes and pigs who will be killed on a Day of Judgment (some forms of Islam and modern Islamist antisemitism);

 The arch-capitalist exploiter – to be hung from the lampposts as German Communist Ruth Fischer put it (Left antisemitism);

In addition to all of the above, Johnson describes a new form of antisemitism which is largely constitutive of contemporary Left antisemitism and which has been the consequence of the development and demonization of the State of Israel. He writes that ‘Zionism’, “properly understood as a movement of national liberation for the Jewish people”, is demonised through the antisemitic ideas of the ‘The Zios’, ‘The Zionists’, ‘Global Zionism’, and ‘the all-powerful Jewish lobby. In tandem with earlier forms of antisemitism, these conceptions of Zionism see the Zionists as still malign, still controlling the world for Jewish purposes, and still string-pulling. In this narrative, they are “still uniquely evil, the modern-day Nazis” (Johnson: p.17)

How this form of modern antisemitism has evolved and its relationship to the trajectory of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is central to analysis and discussion of the antisemitism conflicts that have raged in the Labour Party.

The specificity of alleged Labour antisemitism lies in a fundamental antagonism (and many would say obsession) towards the State of Israel as a political entity and its legitimising ideology - Zionism. For much of the conflict over antisemitism within Labour has concerned the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance (IHRA) definition has centred around its clauses concerning whether defining the circumstances of the creation of the State of Israel as a “racist” or “settler-colonial enterprise”; invoking Nazi and Apartheid comparisons with Israel with accompanying epithets such as “Zio-Nazi” and holding Israel to different standards of behaviour from other states and the use of traditional anti-Semitic tropes such as conspiracy theories involving Jewish control of money and financial institutions; of the media and control of other governments. At this point I would state that no state anywhere should be immune from criticisms of its actions but that such criticism should be articulated in universalist language of human rights and ethical standards of behaviour not by a priori and stereotypical (to say nothing of prejudicial and racist) assumptions about the intrinsic wrongness of the state’s predominant culture and foundational values.


Timeline of Labour’s Antisemitism Crisis

The first overt manifestation of alleged antisemitism in the Labour movement was signalled by the resignation in February 2016 by Alex Chalmers as co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club giving as his reason the allegedly anti-Semitic behaviour of some of its senior members. The Facebook post in which Chalmers (who is not Jewish) announced his resignation gives a snapshot of how modern antisemitism can manifest and has manifested itself:

Whether it be members of the Executive throwing around the term ‘Zio’ (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan) with casual abandon, senior members of the club expressing their ‘solidarity’ with Hamas and explicitly defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians, or a former Co-Chair claiming that ‘most accusations are just the Zionists crying wolf’. A large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews (Rich, 2018).

The last straw for Chalmers was the decision by the Labour Club to endorse the forthcoming Israel Apartheid Week a frequent fixture on UK campuses which invariably heightens tension and, on occasions generates conflict between Jewish students and the pro-Palestinian lobbies. Other allegations then emerged from members of the university Jewish society including that Labour Club members mocked the television coverage of the funerals of the victims of the jihadi terrorist attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015 and that one member called Auschwitz a ‘cash cow’. (Rich: pp.247-48)

There is the nub of the Labour’s Jewish problem. A cross fertilisation of far left and far right hostility to Zionism; solidarity with Israel’s enemies (regardless of ideological complexion) and casual dismissal of Jewish concerns as “Zionists crying wolf”. Note the similarity with the age-old patriarchal and male misogynist dismissal of rape allegations by women as “crying wolf”. A perfectly apt comparison considering the revelations of the torrent of degrading sexist abuse including rape and death threats online from the legions of Corbynista trollers (as well as from the usual far-right suspects) against Jewish and/or pro-Israeli women: Labour MPs (Berger, Ruth Smeeth, Ryan) as well as against anyone deemed to violate the Corbynite “community of the good” credo; the latest such offender being Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary, who after praising the performance of former PM, Tony Blair the embodiment of evil for Labour’s former lunatic fringe, in an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show had to install panic alarms in her home after getting online rape and death threats.

After receiving a report from Labour Students on the OULC controversy, the National Executive Committee (NEC), the Party’s supreme governing body, instead of acting upon it, decided to institute another inquiry under veteran Labour front bench peer, Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon, This inquiry concluded that although the OULC did not suffer from institutional antisemitism, it did have a ‘cultural problem’ that meant ‘some Jewish members did not feel comfortable attending the meetings, let alone participating’. She did recommend that two members of the OULC be referred for disciplinary action. However, this was not the full story. In May 2016, the NEC deemed it necessary only to publish the Executive Summary of Baroness Royall’s report and to withhold the main text. In August the full text was leaked to the Jewish Chronicle who published it on their website which fully amplified her comments about the culture of the Labour Club and the evidence of antisemitic behaviour which did not appear in the Executive Summary of the Report. In January 2017, it emerged that the NEC had decided to drop the investigation into the behaviour of the two OULC members cited in the Report (Rich: pp.286-87). It was a pattern of behaviour by senior Labour decision makers that antisemitism campaigners inside and outside the Party would become familiar with.

More revelations of apparently anti-Semitic content by Labour Party members, activists and officials nationwide. I have space for only a few; a recent research study by Johnson cited 134 examples of antisemitism by Labour Party elected reps, party officers and election candidates[2] (including my own Constituency Labour Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate). Vicki Kirby, the vice-chair of Woking Constituency Labour Party, was accused of tweeting ‘Who is the Zionist God? I am starting to think it may be Hitler #Free Palestine.’ Salim Mulla, former Mayor of Blackburn and Labour councillor, allegedly wrote that ‘Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity’ and posted conspiracy theories suggesting that Israel was behind ISIS terror attacks in Europe and school shootings in America. Shah Hussain, a Labour councillor in Burnley, appeared to have tweeted to the Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun: ‘you and your country doing the same thing that hitler did to ur race in ww2. Veteran Trotskyist and party member Gerry Downing posted an article on his own website on ‘Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question.' (Rich: pp.248-49)


Ken Livingstone and the Long, Hot Spring and Summer of 2016 for Labour

But Labour’s problems with antisemitism really exploded into public view with the suspensions of Naz Shah MP and the former Mayor of London and left-wing icon Ken Livingstone. Naz Shah, elected to serve the constituency of Bradford West in the General Election of 2014 by defeating the anti-Israeli firebrand George Galloway[3], was suspended after Facebook posts came to light that she had made as a pro-Palestinian campaigner in Bradford during the Israel-Hamas conflict in the summer of 2014 calling for Israel to be ‘relocated’ to the United States and for people to defeat ‘the Jews’. This comment, unnoticed during the febrile, angry online atmosphere of the time, was discovered (as have many other comments of the same vintage) by the conservative Guido Fawkes blog to shattering impact (Rich: pp.251-52)

Naz Shah used her three-month suspension to recant from these offensive posts and through engagement with her local Jewish community and national Jewish organisations to develop an understanding of modern antisemitism. In her acknowledgement to the BBC that her comments were anti-Semitic and offensive but argued that this was due to ignorance and ‘subconscious biases’ rather than conscious hatred of Jewish people. It should be acknowledged that the issue of whether people in the Labour Party who express anti-Semitic views are actually anti-Semites or are just ignorant (as indeed with anyone who expresses racist or other prejudiced views) is never easy to assess. A clue lies in the response of those accused of expressing racist or anti-Semitic views. Naz Shah was clearly speaking from a position of ignorance. It is almost impossible to say the same for the next high profile Labour figure to be accused of antisemitism – Ken Livingstone.

The day after the suspension of Naz Shah from the Labour Party, Ken Livingstone was interviewed about it on BBC Radio London. He said:

I’ve been in the Labour party for forty-seven years. I’ve never heard anything anti-Semitic. I’ve heard a lot a criticism of Israel and its abuse of the Palestinians, but I’ve never heard someone be anti-Semitic … Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy was then that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism. [He then] went mad and ended up killing six million Jews .. There has been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anyone who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic … Frankly there has been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates, as anti-Semitic from the moment he became leader. (Rich: pp.254-55)

This was a restatement in the strongest way of “The Livingstone Formulation” formulated by the sociologist David Hirsh in 2006 after his counter-response to accusations of antisemitism (after he had accused the Jewish Daily Mail reporter David Feingold of acting like a “concentration camp guard” after he had allegedly been door-stepped by Feingold. The Livingstone Formulation – the counter-allegation of Zionist conspiracy (or Israeli lobbying) which treats discussion of antisemitism as though it were a vulgar, dishonest and tribal fraud (Hirsh, 2018) – is a constant staple of contemporary left antisemitism and has been, along with the parallel narrative of perpetual undermining of Corbyn, has been the standard refutation by Jeremy Corbyn’s allies and supporters of allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

But by far the most inflammatory statement in that passage is that Hitler supported Zionism. To evidence what many saw this outlandish claim, Livingstone cited the hitherto obscure Haavara Agreement struck between German Zionists and the Nazi regime to enable 60,000 German Jews to leave Germany with some of their possessions rather than losing everything. At the time it was criticised by other German Jewish organisations who wanted a total boycott of Germany. (Rich: p.258). That the Haavara Transfer Agreement represented a mere coincidence of interests between the Nazis and German Zionists was something that Livingstone appeared to be wilfully blind to.

After his initial suspension, Livingstone added further fantastical (and in most Jewish eyes outrageous) claims: that the Zionist movement collaborated with Nazi Germany by agreeing to buy German goods, thus undermining an international boycott; that Nazi Germany armed the Zionist underground in British-controlled Mandate Palestine; that the SS set up training camps for Zionist Jews in Nazi Germany and that the ‘Zionist flag’ was the only permitted flag to be flown in Nazi Germany apart from the swastika. Even though eminent scholars of the Holocaust such as Professors Timothy Snyder, Yehuda Bauer, Rainer Schultze and Deborah Lipstadt have all proven these allegations wrong, Livingstone never apologised for making them, unlike Naz Shah. He eventually received a two-year suspension in 2018 for bringing the Labour Party into disrepute not, significantly, for anti-Semitic behaviour.

Livingstone’s repetitive claims about Nazis supporting Zionism derived from the work of an obscure Trotskyist historian Leni Brenner in his book Zionism in the Age of the Dictators. A particularly explosive claim by Brenner was that Zionist leaders collaborated in the deportation of 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in 1944 in order to ensure more Jewish emigration to Palestine. This led to a dramatic moment in British theatrical history when in January 1987 when “Perdition”, a play by the Scottish Trotskyist playwright Jim Allen, which sought to substantiate these allegations, was suddenly withdrawn 24 hours before it was due to be staged at the Royal Court Theatre after a libel allegation against the author and producers of the play. Central to the libel action was the gross distortion of history attested to by the Holocaust specialists Martin Gilbert and David Cesarani. Allen lost; a salutary lesson on the dangers of playing fast-and-loose with the historical record in the interest of a supposed freedom of expression and a lesson which the Holocaust-denying, neo-Nazi “historian” David Irving was to deservedly learn in his libel action against the renowned Jewish scholar Deborah Lippstadt in 2002.

The assertion that Zionism was prepared to collaborate in the extermination of European Jewry in order to advance its goal of a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine is a staple of Soviet antizionism which sought to deny any claims by Jews to a distinct ethnic identity and concomitantly to national self-determination which thorough its mutations was to become a foundational claim of antizionist discourse particularly in the years after the Six Years War and subsequent (and internationally condemned) Israeli occupation of the West Bank of the Jordan and Gaza Strip.

The Chakrabarti “Whitewash”

To return to the time line of alleged antisemitism under Corbyn. The rows over the suspension of Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone led to the establishment by Labour of another inquiry led by the former direct of the civil rights campaign group Liberty and now Labour peer, Shami Chakrabarti. The terms of reference (TOR) of the inquiry were surprising; they established that it would look ‘at antisemitism and other forms of racism including Islamophobia ‘even though the inquiry was set up in response specifically to antisemitism concerns and that there had been no concerns expressed about the extent of incidences of the other two forms of prejudice itemised in the TOR.

The inquiry’s prospects were further compromised in the eyes of its detractors by the decision of Shami Chakrabarti to join the Labour Party on the day that she agreed to lead the inquiry explaining to Labour members and supporters in her Report “that my Inquiry would be conducted, any my recommendations made, in the Party’s best interests." Thus, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that where the party’s interests collided with those of the Jewish populace, those of the party would take priority (Rich: p.289).

Over 80 submissions were received by the inquiry from groups ranging from Jewish and pro-Israel groups, pro-Palestinian groups, Labour Party and trade union branches and anti-racist organisations. Several of the lengthy submissions from Jewish activists and organisations insisted that the party’s problems were part of a wider culture of antisemitism in parts of the left, rather than simply a case of individuals making inappropriate and ill-judged remarks. In his submission, Dr David Hirsh, sociology lecturer, prominent campaigner against left antisemitism and now former member of the Labour Party, defined the type of antisemitism found in the party as ‘institutional racism and cultural racism’ involving ‘racist ways of thinking, racist outcomes, racist norms and practices, discrimination and structural power imbalances’ rather than one of conscious dislike or hatred of Jews simply on account of their Jewishness. He explained the connection between the ‘broad culture of emotional, disproportional and irrational hostility to Israel’ found in sections of the left and the cases of antisemitism increasingly being found amongst Labour members”. He presciently warned that:

If the party leadership cannot move Labour back into the mainstream democratic consensus on Israel and on antisemitism than this issue will continue to throw up crisis after crisis and it will continue to alienate most of the Jewish community; no doubt it will alienate many swing voters too. (Rich: pp.289-90)

The failure of Labour to wrest control of the London Borough of Barnet where many Jews reside from an unpopular Tory administration in the English local government elections of 2018 has been widely attributed to its loss of its Jewish voters with many reports of doors being slammed in the face of Labour canvassers at Jewish households because of anti-Semitic perceptions of the Labour Party. This author has heard anecdotal accounts of similar reactions to Labour on the doorsteps of Jewish homes in Swindon (electorally a highly marginal town). Labour ‘s failure to establish any sort of lasting lead in the polls over the worst Conservative government in living memory must at least be partly attributable to its chronic issues with antisemitism.

On the plus side of the ledger, Chakrabarti Report did recommend the banning of the abusive ‘Zio’ epithet, that ‘racial or religious tropes and stereotypes about any group of people should have no place in our modern Labour Party’ and that comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany should be avoided. The Report did acknowledge that stereotypes about Jews being ‘wealthy or interested in wealth or finance or political or media influence’ are present in the Labour Party. (Rich: pp.291-92)

But the debit side - there was no engagement with the totality of anti-Semitic politics, or the specificity of left antisemitism or how and why intense anti-Israel campaigning can incubate anti-Semitic thoughts and behaviour. There was no discussion of the past associates of Corbyn and his allies even though this was the behaviour, flagged up in the Jewish Chronicle shortly before he became Party leader, that had first triggered concerns about antisemitism under his leadership. Even the recommendations banning the use of the word “Zio” and Israel-Nazi comparisons were not because they are anti-Semitic but to encourage ‘kindness, politeness or good advocacy’ and ‘constructive debate. Some of its disciplinary recommendations risked undermining the party’s power to deal with anti-Semitic members. For example, there should be no life bans; some cases should be dealt with informally with no sanction at all and that it was often unnecessary to suspend members under investigation for antisemitism and suspensions shouldn’t be made public. (Rich: pp: 291-92).

Confidence in the efficacy of the Chakrabarti Report was further undermined by the character of and incidents at its launch. Taking place as it did in July 2016 in the febrile atmosphere after the vote for Brexit in the EU referendum, the resignation of David Cameron as PM and the coup against Corbyn’s leadership launched by almost the entire Shadow Cabinet and the vast majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party met by the counter-mobilisation of thousands of Corbyn supporters outside Parliament, the launch had more the character of a political rally than of a sober report launch. Corbyn was cheered on his entry into the room; questions from journalists on his leadership were met with boos. Marc Wordsworth, a veteran hard-left activist, was distributing press releases calling for the deselection of ‘traitor’ MPs. He refused to give one to Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish Labour MP who was later handed one by a Daily Telegraph journalist. Wordsworth proceeded to speak up during Corbyn’s address to declare: ”I saw the Telegraph handed a copy of a press release to Ruth Smeeth MP, so you can see who’s working hand in hand with the media”. This direct attack on a Jewish Labour MP couched in the conspiratorial, anti-Semitic trope of Jewish influence over the media caused uproar and Ruth Smeeth departed the launch in tears (Rich: pp.294-95) Despite his disapproval of the word “traitor”, Corbyn made no effort to come to the aid of his fellow MP and was seen talking happily to Wordsworth sending a not-so-subtle message that his duty of care as Party Leader appears to lie with activists not MPs. Subtle bias towards and even direct intervention by Corbyn and his allies in the Leader’s Office in favour of alleged offenders has been a constant theme in the story of how Labour party top brass has handled the Party’s antisemitism crisis in the eyes of Corbyn’s Jewish detractors.

Within five weeks of publishing her Report, Corbyn had made Chakrabarti a Baroness; a few weeks after that he appointed her to his Shadow Cabinet (whatever happened to Labour opposition to the unelected House of Lords. In the opinion of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, it was a ‘whitewash for peerages’ scandal.

As I shall argue in future articles, the Royall and Chakrabarti Reports have served as templates for Labour Party institutional inertia on dealing with its chronic antisemitism problem; a problem that had been incubating for years in academia, the student movement and on the fringe left but which has been catapulted into full vide since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party. This has happened because of Corbyn’s immersion in the milieu of far left activism centring on the Palestinian cause (but which has also feasted on in its inimitable inverse colonialist manner on Venezuela, Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Northern Ireland – any cause which ticks the anti-Western box regardless of the democratic credentials of the actors they cheer on). The next article takes us to the breaking point between the Labour Party and the critical mass of UK Jewry.

Notes

[1] Three suspects including a former Labour Council candidate and a former activist have now been arrested on suspicion of distributing material likely to stir racial hatred. “Suspects with Labour links held in antisemitism inquiry” The Times 29 March 2019.

[2] Professor Alan Johnson “Institutional Antisemitism. Contemporary Left Antisemitism and the Crisis in the British Labour Party” A Fathom Publication March 2019.

[3] Ironically, in his usually personal and unpleasant manner of campaigning, Galloway, elected to the seat for the now defunct Respect Party in a by-election in 2012, tried to portray Naz Shah with her record of pro-Palestinian campaigning as an Israeli stooge. Three weeks before polling day, Galloway had tweeted an image of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, smiling with his arms outstretched, captioned with ‘Thank you Bradford West for electing Naz Shah! Our campaign worked. In his concession speech he said ‘The venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists will all be celebrating’. (Rich: p.253). This use of the ‘Zionist’ dogwhistle to cast out of the community of the good those deemed to violate its values is a favoured tactic by the regressive left with Galloway a vocal practitioner of it such as his targeting of the veteran Labour Friends of Israel stalwart Louise Ellman as “Israel’s representative on Merseyside” in 2005 on top of his shameless courting of the Bengali Muslim community in the notorious Bow and Bethnal Green contest in GE 2005 and reference to the skin colour of Oona King as part of his successful campaign to oust this female MP of mixed race, Jewish heritage. More recently as MP for Bradford West, “Gorgeous George” promised to make Bradford “an Israel-free zone”

Bibliography


(1) Bower, Tom (2019) Dangerous Hero. Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot for Power London: William Collins

(2) Hirsh, David (2018) Contemporary Left Antisemitism London: Routledge

(3) Johnson, Alan Prof (2019) Institutionally Antisemitic. Contemporary Left Antisemitism and the Crisis in the British Labour Party Fathom Publications.

(4) Lipstadt, Deborah (2019) Antisemitism. Here and Now. London: Scribe.

(5) Rich, Dave (2018) The Left’s Jewish Problem. Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Antisemitism. Fully Updated London: Biteback Publishing.


⏩  Barry Gilheany has joined the Jewish Labour Movement as an affiliate member and encourages fellow labour movement colleagues concerned about Labour’s Antisemitism problem to do the same.

The Emergence Of Labour Antisemitism 2015-2016


Barry Gilheany in the first of a two part series writes on Antisemitism: How The Oldest Hatred Became The New Discourse Of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Racism and its longest variant, antisemitism or Judeophobia, no longer comes dressed in black shirts, jackboots, Ku Klux Klan robes or bearing a swastika. Since Jeremy Corbyn came from apparently nowhere to become leader of the British Labour Party in September 2015, the Party - long held to be a natural home for British Jews - has been convulsed with a series of never-ending scandals around alleged antisemitism amongst its membership particularly among the tens of thousands who flocked to Labour, many taking advantage of the £3 registered supporter category introduced by the previous Labour leader Ed Miliband, to back Corbyn in two successful leadership contests. 

These allegations have led to three internal party enquiries, a putative London Metropolitan Police criminal investigation[1] and the announcement of an enquiry by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to establish whether the Labour Party has acted in an institutionally anti-Semitic manner towards its complainants. They have also led to a near breakdown in relations between the Labour Party and the principal UK Jewish community organisations; protests by and demonstrations in favour of Jewish Labour MPs allegedly victims of particularly appalling abuse including death and rape threats. 

Most recently, the perception that the Labour Party’s alleged institutional antisemitism had become irredeemable and that this antisemitism is party of wider culture of bullying and intolerance was to be one of the factors that led to the departure of seven Labour MPs to join the newly created Independents Group (now constituted as a new political party, Action UK) in the House of Commons. One of these MPs, Luciana Berger, required police protection at the 2018 Labour Party conference held in Liverpool where her constituency is. (One other Jewish MP, Ian Austin, and the Chair of Labour Friends of Israel, Joan Ryan, have also left the Parliamentary Labour Party but have not joined the Independents/Action UK). It has opened a new front in the struggle for the soul of the Labour Party between Corbyn acolytes who dominate the Party membership and the vast majority of the Parliamentary Party who can reasonably be termed “Corbynsceptics”.

Antisemitism: A Thumbnail Sketch

Antisemitism involves a core demonology about Jews: they are powerful, malign and conspiratorial (Johnson: 2019). But the forms assumed by this supposed Jewish malignity has mutated radically down the centuries.

The Community Security Trust (CST) defines antisemitism as ‘hatred, bigotry, prejudice or discrimination against Jews’. It noted that the word “antisemitism” came into use in the late nineteenth century to describe pseudo-scientific racial discrimination against Jews. Now it generally describes all forms of discrimination, prejudice or hostility towards Jews throughout history. (Johnson: p.15)

Antisemitism has shape-shifted through history. It has created and used interchangeably these spectral figures of Jews: 

➽ The betrayer and killer of the universal God, drainer of gentile blood, poisoner of the wells, etc (Christian antisemitism);

The tribal anachronism, the enemy of the Age of Reason (Enlightenment antisemitism);

The rootless cosmopolitan, everywhere the enemy of and fifth column within organic nations (Counter-Enlightenment antisemitism);

 The biologically programmed threat to all races, to be eliminated to the last child (Nazi antisemitism);

 The sons of apes and pigs who will be killed on a Day of Judgment (some forms of Islam and modern Islamist antisemitism);

 The arch-capitalist exploiter – to be hung from the lampposts as German Communist Ruth Fischer put it (Left antisemitism);

In addition to all of the above, Johnson describes a new form of antisemitism which is largely constitutive of contemporary Left antisemitism and which has been the consequence of the development and demonization of the State of Israel. He writes that ‘Zionism’, “properly understood as a movement of national liberation for the Jewish people”, is demonised through the antisemitic ideas of the ‘The Zios’, ‘The Zionists’, ‘Global Zionism’, and ‘the all-powerful Jewish lobby. In tandem with earlier forms of antisemitism, these conceptions of Zionism see the Zionists as still malign, still controlling the world for Jewish purposes, and still string-pulling. In this narrative, they are “still uniquely evil, the modern-day Nazis” (Johnson: p.17)

How this form of modern antisemitism has evolved and its relationship to the trajectory of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is central to analysis and discussion of the antisemitism conflicts that have raged in the Labour Party.

The specificity of alleged Labour antisemitism lies in a fundamental antagonism (and many would say obsession) towards the State of Israel as a political entity and its legitimising ideology - Zionism. For much of the conflict over antisemitism within Labour has concerned the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance (IHRA) definition has centred around its clauses concerning whether defining the circumstances of the creation of the State of Israel as a “racist” or “settler-colonial enterprise”; invoking Nazi and Apartheid comparisons with Israel with accompanying epithets such as “Zio-Nazi” and holding Israel to different standards of behaviour from other states and the use of traditional anti-Semitic tropes such as conspiracy theories involving Jewish control of money and financial institutions; of the media and control of other governments. At this point I would state that no state anywhere should be immune from criticisms of its actions but that such criticism should be articulated in universalist language of human rights and ethical standards of behaviour not by a priori and stereotypical (to say nothing of prejudicial and racist) assumptions about the intrinsic wrongness of the state’s predominant culture and foundational values.


Timeline of Labour’s Antisemitism Crisis

The first overt manifestation of alleged antisemitism in the Labour movement was signalled by the resignation in February 2016 by Alex Chalmers as co-chair of the Oxford University Labour Club giving as his reason the allegedly anti-Semitic behaviour of some of its senior members. The Facebook post in which Chalmers (who is not Jewish) announced his resignation gives a snapshot of how modern antisemitism can manifest and has manifested itself:

Whether it be members of the Executive throwing around the term ‘Zio’ (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan) with casual abandon, senior members of the club expressing their ‘solidarity’ with Hamas and explicitly defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians, or a former Co-Chair claiming that ‘most accusations are just the Zionists crying wolf’. A large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews (Rich, 2018).

The last straw for Chalmers was the decision by the Labour Club to endorse the forthcoming Israel Apartheid Week a frequent fixture on UK campuses which invariably heightens tension and, on occasions generates conflict between Jewish students and the pro-Palestinian lobbies. Other allegations then emerged from members of the university Jewish society including that Labour Club members mocked the television coverage of the funerals of the victims of the jihadi terrorist attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015 and that one member called Auschwitz a ‘cash cow’. (Rich: pp.247-48)

There is the nub of the Labour’s Jewish problem. A cross fertilisation of far left and far right hostility to Zionism; solidarity with Israel’s enemies (regardless of ideological complexion) and casual dismissal of Jewish concerns as “Zionists crying wolf”. Note the similarity with the age-old patriarchal and male misogynist dismissal of rape allegations by women as “crying wolf”. A perfectly apt comparison considering the revelations of the torrent of degrading sexist abuse including rape and death threats online from the legions of Corbynista trollers (as well as from the usual far-right suspects) against Jewish and/or pro-Israeli women: Labour MPs (Berger, Ruth Smeeth, Ryan) as well as against anyone deemed to violate the Corbynite “community of the good” credo; the latest such offender being Angela Rayner, Shadow Education Secretary, who after praising the performance of former PM, Tony Blair the embodiment of evil for Labour’s former lunatic fringe, in an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show had to install panic alarms in her home after getting online rape and death threats.

After receiving a report from Labour Students on the OULC controversy, the National Executive Committee (NEC), the Party’s supreme governing body, instead of acting upon it, decided to institute another inquiry under veteran Labour front bench peer, Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon, This inquiry concluded that although the OULC did not suffer from institutional antisemitism, it did have a ‘cultural problem’ that meant ‘some Jewish members did not feel comfortable attending the meetings, let alone participating’. She did recommend that two members of the OULC be referred for disciplinary action. However, this was not the full story. In May 2016, the NEC deemed it necessary only to publish the Executive Summary of Baroness Royall’s report and to withhold the main text. In August the full text was leaked to the Jewish Chronicle who published it on their website which fully amplified her comments about the culture of the Labour Club and the evidence of antisemitic behaviour which did not appear in the Executive Summary of the Report. In January 2017, it emerged that the NEC had decided to drop the investigation into the behaviour of the two OULC members cited in the Report (Rich: pp.286-87). It was a pattern of behaviour by senior Labour decision makers that antisemitism campaigners inside and outside the Party would become familiar with.

More revelations of apparently anti-Semitic content by Labour Party members, activists and officials nationwide. I have space for only a few; a recent research study by Johnson cited 134 examples of antisemitism by Labour Party elected reps, party officers and election candidates[2] (including my own Constituency Labour Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate). Vicki Kirby, the vice-chair of Woking Constituency Labour Party, was accused of tweeting ‘Who is the Zionist God? I am starting to think it may be Hitler #Free Palestine.’ Salim Mulla, former Mayor of Blackburn and Labour councillor, allegedly wrote that ‘Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity’ and posted conspiracy theories suggesting that Israel was behind ISIS terror attacks in Europe and school shootings in America. Shah Hussain, a Labour councillor in Burnley, appeared to have tweeted to the Israeli footballer Yossi Benayoun: ‘you and your country doing the same thing that hitler did to ur race in ww2. Veteran Trotskyist and party member Gerry Downing posted an article on his own website on ‘Why Marxists must address the Jewish Question.' (Rich: pp.248-49)


Ken Livingstone and the Long, Hot Spring and Summer of 2016 for Labour

But Labour’s problems with antisemitism really exploded into public view with the suspensions of Naz Shah MP and the former Mayor of London and left-wing icon Ken Livingstone. Naz Shah, elected to serve the constituency of Bradford West in the General Election of 2014 by defeating the anti-Israeli firebrand George Galloway[3], was suspended after Facebook posts came to light that she had made as a pro-Palestinian campaigner in Bradford during the Israel-Hamas conflict in the summer of 2014 calling for Israel to be ‘relocated’ to the United States and for people to defeat ‘the Jews’. This comment, unnoticed during the febrile, angry online atmosphere of the time, was discovered (as have many other comments of the same vintage) by the conservative Guido Fawkes blog to shattering impact (Rich: pp.251-52)

Naz Shah used her three-month suspension to recant from these offensive posts and through engagement with her local Jewish community and national Jewish organisations to develop an understanding of modern antisemitism. In her acknowledgement to the BBC that her comments were anti-Semitic and offensive but argued that this was due to ignorance and ‘subconscious biases’ rather than conscious hatred of Jewish people. It should be acknowledged that the issue of whether people in the Labour Party who express anti-Semitic views are actually anti-Semites or are just ignorant (as indeed with anyone who expresses racist or other prejudiced views) is never easy to assess. A clue lies in the response of those accused of expressing racist or anti-Semitic views. Naz Shah was clearly speaking from a position of ignorance. It is almost impossible to say the same for the next high profile Labour figure to be accused of antisemitism – Ken Livingstone.

The day after the suspension of Naz Shah from the Labour Party, Ken Livingstone was interviewed about it on BBC Radio London. He said:

I’ve been in the Labour party for forty-seven years. I’ve never heard anything anti-Semitic. I’ve heard a lot a criticism of Israel and its abuse of the Palestinians, but I’ve never heard someone be anti-Semitic … Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy was then that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism. [He then] went mad and ended up killing six million Jews .. There has been a very well-orchestrated campaign by the Israel lobby to smear anyone who criticises Israeli policy as anti-Semitic … Frankly there has been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates, as anti-Semitic from the moment he became leader. (Rich: pp.254-55)

This was a restatement in the strongest way of “The Livingstone Formulation” formulated by the sociologist David Hirsh in 2006 after his counter-response to accusations of antisemitism (after he had accused the Jewish Daily Mail reporter David Feingold of acting like a “concentration camp guard” after he had allegedly been door-stepped by Feingold. The Livingstone Formulation – the counter-allegation of Zionist conspiracy (or Israeli lobbying) which treats discussion of antisemitism as though it were a vulgar, dishonest and tribal fraud (Hirsh, 2018) – is a constant staple of contemporary left antisemitism and has been, along with the parallel narrative of perpetual undermining of Corbyn, has been the standard refutation by Jeremy Corbyn’s allies and supporters of allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

But by far the most inflammatory statement in that passage is that Hitler supported Zionism. To evidence what many saw this outlandish claim, Livingstone cited the hitherto obscure Haavara Agreement struck between German Zionists and the Nazi regime to enable 60,000 German Jews to leave Germany with some of their possessions rather than losing everything. At the time it was criticised by other German Jewish organisations who wanted a total boycott of Germany. (Rich: p.258). That the Haavara Transfer Agreement represented a mere coincidence of interests between the Nazis and German Zionists was something that Livingstone appeared to be wilfully blind to.

After his initial suspension, Livingstone added further fantastical (and in most Jewish eyes outrageous) claims: that the Zionist movement collaborated with Nazi Germany by agreeing to buy German goods, thus undermining an international boycott; that Nazi Germany armed the Zionist underground in British-controlled Mandate Palestine; that the SS set up training camps for Zionist Jews in Nazi Germany and that the ‘Zionist flag’ was the only permitted flag to be flown in Nazi Germany apart from the swastika. Even though eminent scholars of the Holocaust such as Professors Timothy Snyder, Yehuda Bauer, Rainer Schultze and Deborah Lipstadt have all proven these allegations wrong, Livingstone never apologised for making them, unlike Naz Shah. He eventually received a two-year suspension in 2018 for bringing the Labour Party into disrepute not, significantly, for anti-Semitic behaviour.

Livingstone’s repetitive claims about Nazis supporting Zionism derived from the work of an obscure Trotskyist historian Leni Brenner in his book Zionism in the Age of the Dictators. A particularly explosive claim by Brenner was that Zionist leaders collaborated in the deportation of 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in 1944 in order to ensure more Jewish emigration to Palestine. This led to a dramatic moment in British theatrical history when in January 1987 when “Perdition”, a play by the Scottish Trotskyist playwright Jim Allen, which sought to substantiate these allegations, was suddenly withdrawn 24 hours before it was due to be staged at the Royal Court Theatre after a libel allegation against the author and producers of the play. Central to the libel action was the gross distortion of history attested to by the Holocaust specialists Martin Gilbert and David Cesarani. Allen lost; a salutary lesson on the dangers of playing fast-and-loose with the historical record in the interest of a supposed freedom of expression and a lesson which the Holocaust-denying, neo-Nazi “historian” David Irving was to deservedly learn in his libel action against the renowned Jewish scholar Deborah Lippstadt in 2002.

The assertion that Zionism was prepared to collaborate in the extermination of European Jewry in order to advance its goal of a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine is a staple of Soviet antizionism which sought to deny any claims by Jews to a distinct ethnic identity and concomitantly to national self-determination which thorough its mutations was to become a foundational claim of antizionist discourse particularly in the years after the Six Years War and subsequent (and internationally condemned) Israeli occupation of the West Bank of the Jordan and Gaza Strip.

The Chakrabarti “Whitewash”

To return to the time line of alleged antisemitism under Corbyn. The rows over the suspension of Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone led to the establishment by Labour of another inquiry led by the former direct of the civil rights campaign group Liberty and now Labour peer, Shami Chakrabarti. The terms of reference (TOR) of the inquiry were surprising; they established that it would look ‘at antisemitism and other forms of racism including Islamophobia ‘even though the inquiry was set up in response specifically to antisemitism concerns and that there had been no concerns expressed about the extent of incidences of the other two forms of prejudice itemised in the TOR.

The inquiry’s prospects were further compromised in the eyes of its detractors by the decision of Shami Chakrabarti to join the Labour Party on the day that she agreed to lead the inquiry explaining to Labour members and supporters in her Report “that my Inquiry would be conducted, any my recommendations made, in the Party’s best interests." Thus, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that where the party’s interests collided with those of the Jewish populace, those of the party would take priority (Rich: p.289).

Over 80 submissions were received by the inquiry from groups ranging from Jewish and pro-Israel groups, pro-Palestinian groups, Labour Party and trade union branches and anti-racist organisations. Several of the lengthy submissions from Jewish activists and organisations insisted that the party’s problems were part of a wider culture of antisemitism in parts of the left, rather than simply a case of individuals making inappropriate and ill-judged remarks. In his submission, Dr David Hirsh, sociology lecturer, prominent campaigner against left antisemitism and now former member of the Labour Party, defined the type of antisemitism found in the party as ‘institutional racism and cultural racism’ involving ‘racist ways of thinking, racist outcomes, racist norms and practices, discrimination and structural power imbalances’ rather than one of conscious dislike or hatred of Jews simply on account of their Jewishness. He explained the connection between the ‘broad culture of emotional, disproportional and irrational hostility to Israel’ found in sections of the left and the cases of antisemitism increasingly being found amongst Labour members”. He presciently warned that:

If the party leadership cannot move Labour back into the mainstream democratic consensus on Israel and on antisemitism than this issue will continue to throw up crisis after crisis and it will continue to alienate most of the Jewish community; no doubt it will alienate many swing voters too. (Rich: pp.289-90)

The failure of Labour to wrest control of the London Borough of Barnet where many Jews reside from an unpopular Tory administration in the English local government elections of 2018 has been widely attributed to its loss of its Jewish voters with many reports of doors being slammed in the face of Labour canvassers at Jewish households because of anti-Semitic perceptions of the Labour Party. This author has heard anecdotal accounts of similar reactions to Labour on the doorsteps of Jewish homes in Swindon (electorally a highly marginal town). Labour ‘s failure to establish any sort of lasting lead in the polls over the worst Conservative government in living memory must at least be partly attributable to its chronic issues with antisemitism.

On the plus side of the ledger, Chakrabarti Report did recommend the banning of the abusive ‘Zio’ epithet, that ‘racial or religious tropes and stereotypes about any group of people should have no place in our modern Labour Party’ and that comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany should be avoided. The Report did acknowledge that stereotypes about Jews being ‘wealthy or interested in wealth or finance or political or media influence’ are present in the Labour Party. (Rich: pp.291-92)

But the debit side - there was no engagement with the totality of anti-Semitic politics, or the specificity of left antisemitism or how and why intense anti-Israel campaigning can incubate anti-Semitic thoughts and behaviour. There was no discussion of the past associates of Corbyn and his allies even though this was the behaviour, flagged up in the Jewish Chronicle shortly before he became Party leader, that had first triggered concerns about antisemitism under his leadership. Even the recommendations banning the use of the word “Zio” and Israel-Nazi comparisons were not because they are anti-Semitic but to encourage ‘kindness, politeness or good advocacy’ and ‘constructive debate. Some of its disciplinary recommendations risked undermining the party’s power to deal with anti-Semitic members. For example, there should be no life bans; some cases should be dealt with informally with no sanction at all and that it was often unnecessary to suspend members under investigation for antisemitism and suspensions shouldn’t be made public. (Rich: pp: 291-92).

Confidence in the efficacy of the Chakrabarti Report was further undermined by the character of and incidents at its launch. Taking place as it did in July 2016 in the febrile atmosphere after the vote for Brexit in the EU referendum, the resignation of David Cameron as PM and the coup against Corbyn’s leadership launched by almost the entire Shadow Cabinet and the vast majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party met by the counter-mobilisation of thousands of Corbyn supporters outside Parliament, the launch had more the character of a political rally than of a sober report launch. Corbyn was cheered on his entry into the room; questions from journalists on his leadership were met with boos. Marc Wordsworth, a veteran hard-left activist, was distributing press releases calling for the deselection of ‘traitor’ MPs. He refused to give one to Ruth Smeeth, a Jewish Labour MP who was later handed one by a Daily Telegraph journalist. Wordsworth proceeded to speak up during Corbyn’s address to declare: ”I saw the Telegraph handed a copy of a press release to Ruth Smeeth MP, so you can see who’s working hand in hand with the media”. This direct attack on a Jewish Labour MP couched in the conspiratorial, anti-Semitic trope of Jewish influence over the media caused uproar and Ruth Smeeth departed the launch in tears (Rich: pp.294-95) Despite his disapproval of the word “traitor”, Corbyn made no effort to come to the aid of his fellow MP and was seen talking happily to Wordsworth sending a not-so-subtle message that his duty of care as Party Leader appears to lie with activists not MPs. Subtle bias towards and even direct intervention by Corbyn and his allies in the Leader’s Office in favour of alleged offenders has been a constant theme in the story of how Labour party top brass has handled the Party’s antisemitism crisis in the eyes of Corbyn’s Jewish detractors.

Within five weeks of publishing her Report, Corbyn had made Chakrabarti a Baroness; a few weeks after that he appointed her to his Shadow Cabinet (whatever happened to Labour opposition to the unelected House of Lords. In the opinion of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, it was a ‘whitewash for peerages’ scandal.

As I shall argue in future articles, the Royall and Chakrabarti Reports have served as templates for Labour Party institutional inertia on dealing with its chronic antisemitism problem; a problem that had been incubating for years in academia, the student movement and on the fringe left but which has been catapulted into full vide since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party. This has happened because of Corbyn’s immersion in the milieu of far left activism centring on the Palestinian cause (but which has also feasted on in its inimitable inverse colonialist manner on Venezuela, Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Northern Ireland – any cause which ticks the anti-Western box regardless of the democratic credentials of the actors they cheer on). The next article takes us to the breaking point between the Labour Party and the critical mass of UK Jewry.

Notes

[1] Three suspects including a former Labour Council candidate and a former activist have now been arrested on suspicion of distributing material likely to stir racial hatred. “Suspects with Labour links held in antisemitism inquiry” The Times 29 March 2019.

[2] Professor Alan Johnson “Institutional Antisemitism. Contemporary Left Antisemitism and the Crisis in the British Labour Party” A Fathom Publication March 2019.

[3] Ironically, in his usually personal and unpleasant manner of campaigning, Galloway, elected to the seat for the now defunct Respect Party in a by-election in 2012, tried to portray Naz Shah with her record of pro-Palestinian campaigning as an Israeli stooge. Three weeks before polling day, Galloway had tweeted an image of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, smiling with his arms outstretched, captioned with ‘Thank you Bradford West for electing Naz Shah! Our campaign worked. In his concession speech he said ‘The venal, the vile, the racists and the Zionists will all be celebrating’. (Rich: p.253). This use of the ‘Zionist’ dogwhistle to cast out of the community of the good those deemed to violate its values is a favoured tactic by the regressive left with Galloway a vocal practitioner of it such as his targeting of the veteran Labour Friends of Israel stalwart Louise Ellman as “Israel’s representative on Merseyside” in 2005 on top of his shameless courting of the Bengali Muslim community in the notorious Bow and Bethnal Green contest in GE 2005 and reference to the skin colour of Oona King as part of his successful campaign to oust this female MP of mixed race, Jewish heritage. More recently as MP for Bradford West, “Gorgeous George” promised to make Bradford “an Israel-free zone”

Bibliography


(1) Bower, Tom (2019) Dangerous Hero. Corbyn’s Ruthless Plot for Power London: William Collins

(2) Hirsh, David (2018) Contemporary Left Antisemitism London: Routledge

(3) Johnson, Alan Prof (2019) Institutionally Antisemitic. Contemporary Left Antisemitism and the Crisis in the British Labour Party Fathom Publications.

(4) Lipstadt, Deborah (2019) Antisemitism. Here and Now. London: Scribe.

(5) Rich, Dave (2018) The Left’s Jewish Problem. Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Antisemitism. Fully Updated London: Biteback Publishing.


⏩  Barry Gilheany has joined the Jewish Labour Movement as an affiliate member and encourages fellow labour movement colleagues concerned about Labour’s Antisemitism problem to do the same.

6 comments:

  1. Barry - a well presented piece but ultimately I found the argument unpersuasive. There is just too much of what you feel is anti-Semitism that is simply critique. We should set our face like stone against anti-Semitism while placing where possible a clear demarcation line between it and criticism of the brutal Israeli state.

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Anthony.

    Criticism of the actions of Israel in the West Bank and of Netananyu should never be construed as antisemitic; the demonisation and deligitimisation of the State of Israel and the denial of its right to exist as a Jewish homneland using antisemitic tropes such as holding British Jews responsible for whatever Israel does; Zionist/Jewish control of money and mdedia (the Rothschilds conspiracy theories) and the use of Israeli/Nazi anologies are aspects of contemporary left antisemitism.

    Thanks for publishing it.

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  3. Barry - I think you need to separate the delegitimization of Israel from the anti-Semitic tropes sometimes used for that purpose. It is a wholly legitimate position to feel there should no more be a Jewish state than there should be a Islamic state or a Catholic state. When Israel behaves like Nazis and uses Nazi methods such as child murder, it is wholly legitimate to draw comparisons with Nazis.

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  4. Anthony

    Secular Zionism was the legitimising ideology behind the creation of the State of Israel not theocratic versions of Judaism. There is no comparison either in planning, intent or scope between what Israel does and the industrialised genocides perpetrated by the Nazis. Far worse atrocities have been perpetrated by Arab and Islamist regimes and terror groups than those by Israel (which I condemn) but I do no believe it is appropriate to use Nazi comparisons with their crimes. Unlike Catholics or Muslims, Jews are a race/ethnicity with diasporic experiences who are indigenous to historic Palestine and that is the basis for a national Jewish homeland there. This and the fact that Palestinian Arabs are also indigenous to that region are the basis for a two-state solution.

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  5. Barry - again you fail to separate when you should.

    When you do so you create a one size fits all perspective which rarely works.

    It is wrong to isolate the Nazi/Israeli comparisons to "planning, intent or scope between what Israel does and the industrialised genocides perpetrated by the Nazis."

    There are many comparisons that fall outside that bracket and easily justify the comparison. When Israel targets and murders children and the Nazis did the same, where is the comparison invalid? Pre 1938 Nazi society was arguably less oppressive than Israeli policy in Gaza. What is wrong with saying so? How is it anti-Semitic to say so? Is it only wrong because Israel does not like its hypocrisy being exposed given the moral justification it has used for its war crimes being rooted in the Nazi experience. And if observers feel(as I do) that Assad has done many things that the Nazis did, it is absolutely fine to make that observation. You seem to avoid wanting to make it because you are aware of where it leads to - it makes it harder to defend the Israelis from the same observation.

    It is merely an opinion that the Jews are a race and wholly wrong to label an alternative opinion anti-Semitic. I don't think they are a race. A culture for sure but I don't subscribe to a cultural relativism that ends up becoming racist itself because it excuses errant behaviour on the grounds of culture. When I hear it said an English state for an English people, I immediately find it racist, just as I would were the same to be said about an Irish state for an Irish people. Yet, you want some sort of exemption for a Jewish state that is racist because it is designed to put down and discriminate against Palestinian people. How about a democratic secular state for all the citizens? No Jewish states, no Catholic states, no Hindu states, No Muslim states?

    I just hope no one ever relies on your logic to tell me that Ireland should be a Catholic state for a Catholic people given what the British did to the Irish Catholics during the enforced famine.

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  6. To be blunt.....absolute horseshit....

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