On Friday the thirteenth of December, the day after Boris Johnson’s Tory party devastated Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour in Britain’s bitterly-fought 2019 election, Lord John Mann, the government’s independent antisemitism adviser, tweeted the following:
I can this morning announce that as government advisor on antisemitism that I will be instigating an investigation this January into the role of the Canary and other websites in the growth of antisemitism in the United Kingdom.
The tweet was first reported by The Jewish Chronicle, which said that Mann would be targeting other “far left websites.” The news suggests that the weaponization of antisemitism that contributed to Corbyn’s defeat was now being redirected — Mann indeed tweeted that the election did not herald the end of his efforts.
The Canary website, Mann’s specific target, was founded in 2015 by its current editor-in-chief, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, with the credo “Independent Media/Campaigning Journalism.” The site has gained a substantial following for its “left” politics, and its investigative stories have included allegations of anti-Corbyn conspiracy, and of Tory voter fraud in 2015, the latter allegations having sufficient merit to be picked up by the Guardian. Mendoza is a veteran of Israel-Palestine and antisemitism as political issues – she was witness to an Israeli attack on Palestine during the Second Intifada, and has frequently sparred with Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland and BBC News political editor Laura Kuenssberg over alleged pro-Israel bias at those outlets.
Lord Mann was a Labour MP but resigned in September in protest over what he claimed was Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to tackle rampant antisemitism in the Labour Party. He chairs the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism (APPG) and is the author of a 2015 book, Antisemitism: The Oldest Hatred.
The author successfully contacted Lord Mann with two questions.
• What criteria led to The Canary being targeted for this probe?
• Lord Mann: Evidence based.
• The “Terms of Reference” for the Independent Antisemitism Adviser refer to “the Jewish community and institutions”. What comprises the “Jewish community” in this context, and what determines which Jewish institutions are engaged with?
• Lord Mann: All jewish [sic] communities.
[Update] The author has received the following statement from Kerry-Anne Mendoza of The Canary:
“It should worry everyone that one of the government’s first policy announcements was to attack the only section of the press currently holding it to account.
And unlike the establishment press, The Canary is independently regulated. If readers have an issue with anything we publish, they have a fair and impartial route to remedy that.
If John Mann was a true anti racist, he would be fighting the Johnson government with us. Instead, he is working for him. The government of Windrush, Grenfell, racist vans and racist language has no place lecturing anyone on racism.
Even worse Mr Mann, who is not Jewish, begins his attack on an outlet who’s co-founder is. We are a diverse newsroom led by a black, gay, working class woman.
During our four years, The Canary has fought tirelessly for progressive values: equality, diversity, the environment. We suggest that if Mr Mann wants to tackle hate sites, he begins with The Sun and the Daily Mail.”
According to its Terms of Reference, Lord Mann’s position as Independent Antisemitism Adviser is unpaid. However the Terms also stipulate that the UK government will contribute £100,000 a year to the Antisemitism Policy Trust, money which it will use “to support the Secretariat and cover reasonable travel and subsistence expenses”, though the meaning of “support” and “subsistence” is not defined. In 2019, the UK government provided £14 million to “the Protective Security Grant to protect Jewish schools and institutions”.
The Antisemitism Policy Trust is a registered charity affiliated with the APPG and whose stated mission is “to educate and empower parliamentarians, policy makers and opinion formers to address antisemitism”. Three UK organizations — these two, plus the better-known Campaign Against Antisemitism — were formed in the aftermath of Israel’s image-tarnishing “Protective Edge” assault against Gaza in the summer of 2014. Indeed first among the APPG’s “Terms of Reference”, the organization is “to consider the events of July/August 2014 and the causes and consequences of the highest-ever recorded number of antisemitic incidents during that period”.
Lord Mann has been publicly vocal in alleging confluence between antisemitism and criticism of the Israeli state. It was Mann who in 2016 confronted Ken Livingstone in a public stairwell in front of a news camera, calling the former London mayor a “Nazi apologist” for his clumsy but off-the-cuff reference to the Haavara Transfer Agreement between the Zionists and the Nazis. The publicity over the incident caused Livingstone’s highly-public expulsion from the Labour Party. In 2018, Mann cited a 2010 Holocaust Memorial Day event hosted by Corbyn as part of the “antisemitism” evidence against the Labour leader, because the event’s main speaker had compared Israeli attacks on Gaza to the Nazis. That speaker was the late Hajo Meyer, a survivor of Auschwitz.
1. Orlando Radice, “Government antisemitism adviser to launch hate probe into The Canary and other far-left websites”, in The Jewish Chronicle, December 13, 2019. link
2. • Independent Antisemitism Adviser “Terms of Reference”, here.
• UK gov funding, “Communities Secretary commits funding to tackle online hate”, UK gov press release, 15 September 2019. link
• Much of the money probably goes to another pro-Israel advocacy group, the Community Service Trust. See, e.g., Tony Greenstein’s “The Community Security Trust – Policeman of the Jewish Community”, here.
3. • Antisemitism Policy Trust here; Campaign Against Antisemitism here. (Note that their similar URLs may cause confusion.)
• Antisemitism Policy Trust charity listing, here.
• Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, February 2015, here.
4. For Hajo Meyer, see e.g., Sarah Marsh, “Corbyn apologises over event where Israel was compared to Nazis”, in The Guardian, August 1, 2018. link.