As Jewish people in Manchester, England, we resent the despicable racism shown towards the Palestinians by Guardian stalwarts such as Jonathan Freedland, Polly Toynbee, Jessica Elgott, Eddie Izzard, Nick Cohen, Marina Hyde and Gaby Hinsliff among others, all saturating comment sections on mainstream news websites with attacks designed to bring down the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and to protect Israel from accountability. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Anti-Semitism definition guidelines the Labour Party are correctly omitting, are designed by Israeli propagandists to aid their many mass lobby attempts to stop international solidarity with the Palestinians and to deny Palestinians the right to express the nature of Israel’s 70 years of violence and racism towards them.
We call on everyone to see that creating a largely-mythical anti-Semitism ‘crisis’ in the Labour Party is one of the few tools left to ailing and desperate establishment hacks wanting to smear Corbyn and maintain UK support for Israel, no matter how many Palestinians the Israeli army slaughters, or how many houses, schools, and hospitals Israeli jets destroy in Gaza. In the face of this, Zionist groups with a history of uncritical support for Israel claim that Corbyn presents an existential threat to British Jews? This is obscene, hypocritical scaremongering.
We’ve seen this pattern repeatedly; UK commentators take the morally defunct option of backing right wing mainstream Zionist organisations’ outrageous cries of ‘anti-Semitism’ the moment Corbyn’s Labour get ahead in the polls, or the moment there is a risk of serious public condemnation of Israel’s horrific crimes against the Palestinians. All of these organisations spend a disproportionate amount of time promoting Israel in the UK, and cynically covering up the State’s crimes, be it Israel’s sporadic mass-murders, such as the 500 Gazan children in 50 days in 2014, or the gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs that has happened since Israel came about in 1948.
In the months of the Great Return March, over 150 Palestinians have been shot and killed for protesting peacefully at the Gaza boundary – including young medics, clearly-marked journalists, disabled men in wheelchairs, and children – many children. And it was during these months of carnage that the UK media’s perpetual main story was that Jeremy Corbyn has created a ‘safe harbour’ in the Labour Party for anti-Semites, even though official figures suggest that rates of anti-Semitism in the party have decreased since Corbyn became leader.
There is a disproportionate media furore insinuating that Labour did not back some guidelines of an anti-Semitism definition drawn up by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The definition in question is completely unofficial, and is legally non-binding, but has clearly been exploited by pro-Israeli propaganda groups around the world to use as a rhetorical weapon against politicians, Universities, councils, companies and of course Labour party members; basically against anyone who dares to question the Apartheid system of control that Israel has violently imposed on the Palestinians for some seven decades.
Most disgusting of all was the ease with which people like Eddie Izzard, Polly Toynbee, Tom Watson and other Labour opponents of Corbyn, have happily adopted the most racist position imaginable against an oppressed people – by attempting to make Palestinians invisible from the whole debate. All four of the IHRA ‘examples’ that Labour dropped from their anti-Semitism guidelines were those that conflated Jews with Israel.
Why were Palestinians not consulted on the whole debate about Israel and anti-Semitism, when they are the people being slowly squeezed out of existence by Israel? Where are thePalestinian voices in the Guardian? If this public row was really about Jews, we would have the definition “Anti-Semitism is hostility to Jews as Jews”. It would be all we would require. But it is not just about hostility to Jews for being Jews, it has always been about protecting and validating Israel, it has always been about getting Corbyn out at all costs to prevent the UK from electing a pro-Palestinian Prime Minister, and that is why the definition has become corrupted. We, as Jews, will not mindlessly pretend that protecting the Jewish people and protecting Israel are the same thing, on the hopeless say-so of a crew of establishment hacks at the Guardian.
Countless cut-throat journalists and politicians have condemned Corbyn for letting this anti-Semitism saga run and run, accusing him of never getting to grips with the supposed omni-presence of Jew-hate within the Labour left. In truth, it is these cut-throats themselves who have propagated and prolonged the saga, largely by unquestioningly echoing the never-ending propaganda tirades of groups like the Board of Jewish Deputies (BoD). The BoD have made no bones about why they are against Corbyn. Jonathan Arkush, the outgoing BoD president has openly stated that, ultimately, Jeremy Corbyn’s position on the state of Israel are at the centre of his accusations against him.
According to the IHRA guidelines, for which every white liberal Guardian writer is screaming from the rooftops, a holocaust survivor like Marika Sherwood, a historian who survived the Budapest ghetto and says, “I can’t say I’m a Palestinian, but my experiences as a child are not dissimilar to what Palestinian children are experiencing now,” should be thrown out of the Labour Party on grounds of anti-Semitism.
We have no doubt the same pro-Israel/Zionist trolls would have no hesitation hunting down Marika Sherwood either, for being, like us, “the wrong kind of Jew.” They would impugn her integrity, no matter what her experiences were, no matter that her uncle died on the march to Auschwitz, no matter that she lost many other members of her extended family to the Holocaust. Indeed, hunt her down is precisely what they did when she spoke at the University of Manchester; with a campaign attacking her, the majority of email complaints including a manipulation of the IHRA definition. Even Israel’s UK ambassador got involved.
We as Jews are used to these relentless bullies, as we have faced the same barrage of abuse from them as we also chose to speak out against Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. But even worse has been the way the UK media establishment have not only parroted the attacks, they’ve actually taken them up a notch further. Most recently in unison they attacked a now deceased Holocaust survivor Dr Hajo Meyer who compared aspects of his own experiences under Nazi Germany to that of what the Palestinians were going through, in an event chaired by Jeremy Corbyn 8 years ago. Liam O’Brien on LBC radio was disgraceful enough to say that Dr Meyer, who was a prisoner at the Nazi death camp Auschwitz whilst his parents were gassed to death, had made his speech in support of the Palestinians behind the “camouflage” of being a Holocaust survivor.
We know what these smear merchants are doing, and so do many Jews across the UK who want no associations with an Israeli state that has officially proclaimed itself an Apartheid regime in all-but-name, with the passing of ‘The Jewish Nation State Law’. In truth, this Law only formalises what was already reality for decades. Absurdity is hitting unprecedented heights, notable when Britain’s three main Jewish newspapers called Corbyn, one of the most dedicated and consistent anti-racist campaigners in the country, an ‘existential threat’ to British Jews. No mention of the existential threat faced by the Palestinians, only paranoid claims of a fictitious existential threat faced by British Jews.
While the real European threat, the far right, rises and rises, hand-in-hand with the far right of Israel (especially in the Knesset), we can only hope that more Jews come to perceive just how ridiculous this controversy is becoming.
Jonathan Freedland, one of the UK’s most effective propagandists for Israel, while giving Palestinians occasional lip service so he and the other liberal elitists can make doubtful claims to ‘impartiality’, has been the most relentless in his attacks on Corbyn. Freedland routinely uses his opinion editorial position in the Guardian to do more than most to ‘strong-arm’ the Labour Party into backing the whole IHRA definition, flawed examples and all. It is unsurprising that he would push for the guideline, “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour” to be included as anti-Semitic trope, given he is on record excusing the crime against humanity that was Israel’s foundational act -the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population in 1947/1948. Racism appears to be an unspoken requirement for becoming comments editor at the Guardian – how much Freedland would love to bury that part of Israel’s history though an IHRA guideline.
With the full IHRA definition, it would be ‘anti-Semitic’ for Palestinians to describe their brutal dispossession. Worse, a Palestinian member of the Labour Party would be barred from even condemning the father of modern Israel, Ben Gurion, for saying in 1937, “We must expel the Arabs and take their place” – 11 years before he and his fellow Zionists carried it out. There is no ‘moral collapse’ in criticising this absurdity. The only such collapse taking place here is in the normalisation of an entire people becoming officially ‘disposable’ – both in Israel’s physical treatment of the Palestinians, and in Zionist attempts to blot out Palestinian history.
Did Israel’s most fervent supporters, who are pushing this definition, believe that no one would actually read these examples and think for themselves?
Kenneth Stern, the American who drafted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, has said himself that the definition had been abused on US university campuses to “restrict academic freedom and punish political speech”, and had the effect of “chilling pro-Palestinian speech”. Stern described how the misuse of the definition had led to the cancellation of “Israeli Apartheid Week” in the UK at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston (UCLAN), due to an enormous censorship campaign that exploited these guidelines, even though the University had not even signed up to them. The unsuspecting University executive folded under pressure, panicked by the barrage of threats, no matter how empty and misdirected.
Were the IHRA examples to be universally adopted, Israel’s lobbyists, lawyers, paid-up trolls, and diplomats, who openly boast about their work of suppression, would be free to go into overdrive. We can then expect to see a lot more Israeli Apartheid Weeks banned, for one thing, despite countless Black South Africans such as Mandela and Tutu visiting Palestine andcomparing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with how the White South African Apartheid regime treated them.
Judging by Freedland’s latest efforts to distort this whole picture, this suppression seems to be something he and many other liberal Zionists are happy to overlook.
We as Jews know keenly the suffering of our ancestors. We have family members who survived concentration camps, relatives who escaped Pogroms, relatives who were shot dead for being Jewish while playing on the streets in Warsaw, relatives forced to live in Ghettos, relatives who were part of resistance movements helping to hide Jewish refugees, endangering their own lives. We will not allow our shared history of the Shoah and other campaigns of anti-Semitic oppression to be manipulated in this cynical way, just to get Western governments to turn a blind eye to Israeli massacres of innocent people who demand only freedom and dignity. We know injustice, and we know that there is nothing moral, or even Jewish, about ferreting around the UK, policing the thoughts of other people, bullying them into supporting Israel, or portraying some of the most committed anti-racist campaigners around as the complete opposite.
We do not believe that any of the high-profile members suspended by the Labour Party – Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth or Tony Greenstein, are anti-Semitic. Jackie and Tony are Jewish, as were Moshe Machover, Glyn Secker and Cyril Chilsom, who were initially suspended until a campaign brought them back. Not only was what they said not in any way racist, but knowing our Jewish dinner chats, there is not a single Jew who would still be in the Labour Party if every word we uttered was historically scrutinised in the way theirs have. The common thread here is that they were all people who have fought tirelessly their entire lives against racism, much more consistently than their accusers have, and they were not afraid, like so many others in Labour, to criticise the horrors committed by Israel against the Palestinians.
Are there anti-Semites in the Labour Party? It’s impossible for there not to be, given that there are anti-Semites in all walks of life. Should they be clamped down upon when they are discovered? Of course, that should happen at every turn, as with any form of racism.
But when the Pew report and UK parliamentary committee found there was no disproportionate amount of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, and indeed it was much more prevalent on the right, under no circumstances should this “Labour rife with anti-Semitism” lie be propagated.
While this Labour red herring of widespread anti-Semitism persists, the really dangerous anti-Semites are resurfacing. It will be too late to call out the real anti-Semitism of these people, when the term’s meaning will have been utterly compromised by those exploiting it to protect the Israeli state. For the record, our group has no links to the media, does not strive for world dominance, and far from hogging lots of money, we are all pretty skint.
The real racists in the Labour Party are the Labour friends of Israel, who released a statement blaming the deaths of over a hundred Palestinian protesters in Gaza on Hamas, not the Israeli soldiers who shot and killed them. No uproar in being a friend of an apartheid regime.
The spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn had it exactly right when he said, “We have concerns about one half of one of the IHRA’s 11 examples, which could be used to deny Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel and their supporters, their rights and freedoms to describe the discrimination and injustices they face in the language they deem appropriate.”
As a Jewish organisation, we cannot and will not accept any more of these mainstream Zionist organisations’ claiming to speak on our behalf, always without consulting us. We will not accept the complete censoring of Palestinian voices in the mainstream media and the ongoing racism directed towards them. We call for a boycott and divestment of Israel, and for sanctions to be imposed on the country until Palestinians get the same human rights as the Jewish population. We call on Jews, not just in the UK but around the world, to look at how Israel has persecuted the Palestinians for decades, to hear and amplify Palestinian voices, and to say together in one voice, “Not in Our Name”.