Jon Lansman posts on Twitter that “People who support the campaign to deny or diminish the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party need to read what this fellow supporter has to say about “Zionism” https://t.co/dpq83QNGc2”
First, it is wrong to describe challenging the narrative that there is widespread antisemitism within the Labour Party and that Chris Williamson has said anything antisemitic as a ‘campaign to deny or diminish the problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party’
Second it is grossly insulting and ludricous to describe the cretin who posted a Jew blaming, Holocaust denying, racist, anti-communist, anti-socialist far right piece of garbage as in any way a ‘fellow supporter’ of any Labour Party member.
The anonymous tweeter that Lansman cites accuses Jews of “lobby[ing] for mass immigration, miscegenation and cultural marxism in every country on earth.” How could anyone in their right mind make the equation that Lansman does?
Still, this is an example of what genuine antisemitism, racism and clear hate speech looks like. And this will grow while Lansman and his fellow travellers turn all their efforts to destroying Corbyn and his supporters.
After I attended a protest on Wednesday morning against having the arms fair at the Excel Centre in Newham I watched the Shadow World documentary. It’s well worth seeing the whole documentary but I pulled out this clip and it should have us asking why this terrible man Blair is still in the Labour Party and not in jail.
It was revealed this week that Ms Forbes had liked a post saying Theresa May had a “Zionist Slave Masters agenda” alongside a video of children praying after the New Zealand terrorist attack.
I don’t know what bearing the comment about Zionist slave masters had on the video but this sort of hyperbolic comment is hardly unusual in today’s political discourse and it’s well known that Israeli lobbying has a tremendous influence on both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.
By 2009, according to the Channel 4 documentary Dispatches – Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby, around 80% of Conservative MPs were members of the CFI. In 2013, the Daily Telegraph’s chief political commentator, Peter Oborne, called CFI “by far Britain’s most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group.”
It seems to me that Lisa Forbes has been accused of antisemitism and forced to apologise on the grounds that she did not express outrage rather than sympathy. It seems too that it is antisemitic to enjoy reading a thread that discusses assertions widely recognised as true.
It is mystifying that Ms Forbes should be accused of being antisemitic because she enjoyed reading assertions that are accepted to be true. It is worrying and it is an attack not only on Ms Forbes and the Labour Party but also on freedom of thought, freedom of dialogue and on truth.
However, as worrying as these accusations are, what is more worrying is their endorsement by figures with the Labour party itself:
Labour former minister Dame Margaret Hodge, who has clashed with Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism, wrote on Twitter: “Seriously mixed feelings about the Peterborough result. I never want to see Nigel Farage’s party in Parliament. “But Lisa Forbes & the Labour Party have a lot to answer for. We must learn lessons & never have a repeat of this. Have formally raised concerns with party leadership.”
Shadow policing minister Louise Haigh, who worked on Lisa Forbes’ campaign, wrote that it was “extremely upsetting for all of us involved when the posts that Lisa had mistakenly engaged in came to light.
“They were thoroughly unacceptable and I know she sees that and is truly sorry.”
This is a response that would be easy to characterise as ‘slavish’. It is a response that shows a shocking lack of courage and a wholesale disregard for the truth.
Prior to and during the 2016 Referendum Corbyn declared that he was pro Remain. He supported triggering Article 50 after the Referendum result as did Parliament by 498 votes to 114 – Perhaps he thought that if you hold a Referendum it is proper to respect the decision while trying to make it work. Yet this is being presented as a dishonourable position. His position on this and on the EU are constantly misrepresented. Corbyn has worked consistently for a social, moral and just Europe.
He has never been against immigration and the free movement of labour. It was not Corbyn who produced Labour’s infamous anti-immigration mug. The EU has indicated its willingness to negotiate on the widely different basis that Corbyn would be offering as this would be avantageous to both sides. Further Corbyn’s policy and the Labour Party’s policy is now to have a confirmatory ballot on any deal. I really don’t see how these is a better option for Remainers.
I’ve collated three BBC pre-referendum interviews with Corbyn, partly for my own amusement, to remind people of Corbyn’s position before the referendum and of the consistency of his social goals. The only thing that has fundamentally changed (and for the better) is his dress sense.
When people of the calibre of Norman Finkelstein, Naomi Klein, Ken Loach, Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and many other intellectuals and activists (many of them Jewish) are supporting Jeremy Corbyn and characterising the allegations of antisemitism laid against him and allegations of widespread antisemitism Labour Party as contrived it is bizarre that an MP like Chris Williamson should be suspended for making the same characterisation which every honest and informed person knows to be correct.
Attacks by people claiming to be ‘on the Left’ on Gilad Atzmon are attacks on freedom of expression. They are part of an irrationalism within the party and the so called ‘Left’ but they do not represent the Labour Party or any true Left any more than the CAA represents Jewish people. This is my response on YouTube to Atzmon’s understandable counter attack.
This is a completely unnecessary battle that is damaging for all concerned. I disagree with your view concerning JVL. While I do not like the notion of identity based political groups I understand that they may be necessary in particular circumstances. And when the Board of Deputies, JLM, CAA and LFI are powerful voices claiming to speak on behalf of the ‘Jewish community’ there is surely a need for a JVL to counter that claim. If I were Jewish and groups like JLM and CAA were claiming to speak for me I would take it personally and would wish to have my voice heard as a Jew.
You are of course entitled to your view. I have read your writings and have found nothing hateful, racist or antisemitic in them though not everyone may understand your use of irony and humour and you do not seem to make concessions to people’s sensitivities. It is not surprising that some people like Owen Jones and the leadership of Momentum jump on the Jewdas bandwagon in condemning you for being you but I have not heard of any attacks on you from either Corbyn or JVL.
It seems clear that the Labour party has been a pro-Zionist and latterly neoliberal party and that those elements are powerful within it. What we are experiencing is a kickback against Corbyn’s challenge to their power. With the excrable Tom Watson organising a ‘counter revolution’ within Labour and with a MSM almost wholly ranged against him, Corbyn’s strategy of keeping his eyes on the prize of a democratic socialist government is highly intelligent. It is right to resist and expose the empty irrationalism of those who are attacking you and freedom of expression but we should also understand the fight that Corbyn and his allies like Chris Williamson are engaged in. Very few of us could stay the course under that sort of pressure. Corbyn continues to do so and Corbyn continues to deserve our support.
Racism of any kind is wrong and utterly stupid. As a form of racism, antisemitism is wrong and stupid. Any notion that any ethnic group can be characterised on the basis of the behaviour some of its members is logically flawed and the notion that individual members of that group should then be judged on the basis of that logically flawed characterisation is doubly absurd.
I believe that we are socially conditioned to accept the absurdities of racism and may other absurdities and that this often distorts our ability to think in a way that is logically coherent.
Antisemitism exists to a greater or lesser degree in all populations and it will exist to some degree in the population of Labour Party members. I do not know if it exists to a greater or lesser degree than anti black, anti Muslim, anti Asian or indeed anti white sentiment but since we are talking about a group of people it would be absurd to maintain that it, and all of those other sentiments do not exist to any degree. What I will say however is that because of its socialist, humanitarian and compassionate underpinnings I would expect all of these sentiments to exist in the Labour Party membership to a far lesser degree than in the general population. My experience as a Black member of the Labour party has not disabused me of this notion.
At the same time, because the Labour Party is a party of social justice, I would expect, and hope, that there is greater willingness among party members to condemn injustice wherever they find it, at home or abroad, without fear or favour and with a greater willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed. It is right that the regime in Israel should be condemned for its racist behaviour and apalling treatment of the Palestinians. Israel is by no means a unique locus of evil. We should have no hesitation in condemning the behaviour of other states such as Saudi Arabia for their disgusting treatment of women, religious minorities and sexual minorities, or certain African states for wars and oppressions based on tribalism, or India for the perpetuation of caste based prejudice or the US for the slavery that still exists in its prison system. Israel is not uniquely evil but it should be called out for its unique or commonplace evils.
The Labour party has a history of being a pro Israel party, but growing awareness and dissatisfaction with Israeli oppression is leading to strong opposition towards Israeli policies and actions. Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are seen as being at the forefront of this shift. It is hardly surprising that they should be attacked by the Israeli government and its supporters inside and outside the Labour Party. To exaggerate the issue of antisemitism and to extend its definitions to cover any criticism of Israel and its supporters is clearly a strategem that is being used with the utmost cynicism and dishonesty. I do not believe that Israel is the sole source of these attacks I believe that Corbyn is also seen as a threat to neoliberal interests and to the interests of Western imperialism and that theses interests too are supporting the wholly unsubstantiated myth of widespread antisemitism in the Labour Party.
It is right that we all recognise what it going on and that antisemitism is being used as a deliberate tool by those who wish to maintain power. We should be angry but never in our anger be unfair or irrational. We should never when charged with antisemitism respond by becoming in any way genuinely antisemitic. The struggle is not against Jewish people and there should be no presentation or expression that is or can reasonably be taken to be antisemitic. I say this because for the first time in an online forum, today, I saw a cartoon which represented a Jewish caricature figure as being behind the antisemitism slurs. This pained me because over the past few years it has becen obvious that Jewish people of all stations have been among the bravest and most active in opposing these slurs and they have been among those paying the highest price for their courage and honesty. It is essential that we do not allow the ‘Goebellian liars’ (to borrow Galloway’s apt phrase) to make us irrationally fearful or irrationally angry or push us towards the ranks of the haters. We should speak the truth without fear and without resentment. We should never be afraid to debate or to be wrong and to be corrected if we are wrong. It is liars who personalise the battle and run away from examination and fearing the light of open debate seek to close it down. It is the liars and the haters who are careless with accusations and resort to invective and force rather than reason. We are not that, we are not haters and anyone who becomes a hater excludes themselves from what we are.
There is so much wrong with this article that it is difficult to know where to start or where to stop, but I’ll take just this passage about Derrick Hatton’s allegedly antisemitic tweet:
She said that she voted Green and had never agreed with Derek Hatton but, as a supporter of the Palestinians, she couldn’t see what was wrong with his tweet. Had she read it? “A summary of it, yes.”
The original wasn’t long. It stated: “Jewish people with any sense of humanity need to start speaking out publicly against the ruthless murdering being carried out by Israel!”
Essentially, Hatton did what the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance defines as a concrete example of antisemitism: “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”
His tweet rendered them guilty until proven innocent. If they didn’t condemn Israel, they had no humanity. And what happens in history when we strip a minority of its humanity?
A few points:
Stating that Jews need to speak out about Israel’s actions IS NOT the same as holding Jews collectively responsible for for Israel’s actions. If I said to anyone that them need to speak out against a particular evil it does not equate to them being responsible in the sense of being culpable for that evil.
Hatton’s statement DOES suggest that Jews have a particular responsibility for speaking up against the particular abuses perpetrated by the state of Israel. I do not accept that Jews have such a responsibility because they are Jews. I believe that we all have equal responsibility in this matter because we are equally human and rational beings. It is true however that Jewish groups such as JVL and JVP appear to come together on the premise that they, as Jews, have a particular role to play in opposing the abuses. It is also true that Muslims are often urged to take responsibility in the sense of speaking out against and identifying Islamist terrorism and ‘radicalisation’. Indeed there are government programmes that seek to engage Muslims in such activity. If Hatton had tweeted (after seeing an Isis beheading) “Muslim people with any sense of humanity need to start speaking out publicly against the ruthless murdering being carried out by Isis and other Jihadist groups” I might, for the reasons I gave above, question that formulation but I would not say that he was Islamophobic because of it. Hatton would be equally wrong in saying this but I suspect that he would not receive the same degree of censure.
Saying that Jews with ‘any sense of humanity’ ought to speak out against the brutal acts of Israel does not imply that those who do not speak out against such acts have no sense of humanity much less that they have no humanity. It may be argued that Hatton meant this to be inferred but this is not logically implicit in what he said.
In conclusion while I consider statements like Hatton’s to be flawed because they incorrectly assign responsibility for moral action to people on the basis of their belonging to a particular group rather than on the basis of them being rational beings, I understand that this as a matter of erroneous (though common) speech rather than antisemetic or racist intent.
Is the Labour Party now the party of Witchfinders and Inquisitions? I think that the last three years make this a reasonable question.
Jon Lansman says:
“I do think we have a major problem and it always seems to me that we underestimate the scale of it.
“I think it is a widespread problem. It’s now obvious we have a much larger number of people with hardcore antisemitic opinions which, unfortunately, is polluting the atmosphere in a lot of constituency parties and, in particular, online.
“We have to deal with those people and I think it’s a responsibility of everyone in the Labour Party, from the top to the bottom, to report cases.”
453 members (out of approximately 550,000 — so around 0.08 per cent) who had expressed views concerning Jews that were judged as requiring further investigation and disciplinary action.
Some received suspensions, others formal/written warnings about their behaviour, while just 12 were expelled.
Without even taking into consideration the fact that some of the expressions ‘requiring further investigation’ must have been found to not require disiplinary action it does not seem to me that the ‘expressed views’ of 0.08% of the membership of the party can be taken to constitute the general culture of the party or can be considered a ‘major problem’.
Perhaps Landsman is cognisant of the contradiction between his assertion that there is a ‘major problem’ and the statistics that suggest otherwise. Perhaps that is why he has ‘called on Labour to be more “proactive in going out and seeking cases” of antisemitism within the party’.
We know what Landsman does think: “I do think we have a major problem” and “I think it is a widespread problem” but we have no idea why he and Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna and Jess Phillips and Uncle Tom Watson and all think these things. Landsman’s call for ‘Labour’ to be “proactive in going out and seeking cases” chilled me and then filled me with revulsion. Two words came to mind and I looked up the Wikipedia articles on them:
The first word is ‘Witchfinder General’.
Matthew Hopkins (c. 1620 – 12 August 1647) was an English witch-hunter whose career flourished during the English Civil War. He claimed to hold the office of Witchfinder General, although that title was never bestowed by Parliament. His witch-hunts mainly took place in East Anglia.
Hopkins’ witch-finding career began in March 1644 and lasted until his retirement in 1647. He and his associates were responsible for more people being hanged for witchcraft than in the previous 100 years, and were solely responsible for the increase in witch trials during those years. He is believed to have been responsible for the executions of 300 alleged witches between the years 1644 and 1646.
The second word is ‘Inquisition’.
The Wikipedia article notes that:
The Inquisition was a group of institutions within the government system of the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. It started in 12th-century France to combat religious dissent
But the passage I found most interesting was this:
The 1578 edition of the Directorium Inquisitorum (a standard Inquisitorial manual) spelled out the purpose of inquisitorial penalties: … quoniam punitio non refertur primo & per se in correctionem & bonum eius qui punitur, sed in bonum publicum ut alij terreantur, & a malis committendis avocentur (translation: “… for punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit”).
Is the Labour Party now the party of Witchfinders and Inquisitions? I think that the last three years make this a reasonable question. I very much like Jeremy Corbyn and his project but I understand that that project is considered heretical and dangerous among sections of his party. I understand that they are determined to end that heresy even at the cost of gravely damaging their own party and the future of their country. Chuka Umanna talks of wanting to establish an ‘evidence based’ party as an alternative to Labour but his assertions regarding antisemitism and those of his fellow travellers have been remarkable in having no evidential basis. I very much want Labour to be the party of evidence and reason as well as compassion. The Conservatives are not, Umanna’s party is not, nor are the LibDems. But to be a party of reason and evidence Labour it must give far less weight to its grand panjandrums and doctrinal orthodoxies and much more to evidence, reason and open conversation with and between ordinary members.