McCluskey Jewish News interview

December 21, 2017 at 10:36 am (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, israel, labour party, Middle East, palestine, posted by JD, Unite the union, zionism)

Len McCluskey was recently interviewed by the Jewish News: given Unite the Union’s influence within the Labour Party, and McCluskey’s recent comments on the question of anti-Semitism within the Labour movement, we feel it’s important that his views, as expressed here, are more widely known. By linking to this interview, Shiraz is not necessarily endorsing what McCluskey says, or the commentary of his interviewer:

EXCLUSIVE interview with Len McCluskey: ‘Ken’s comments were indefensible’

Leader of Unite tells Jewish News he’s ‘uncomfortable’ about part of his union’s boycott policy and how Prime Minister Corbyn would have purchase with Hamas

By Stephen Oryszczuk December 14, 2017


Above: an earlier interview that Len now says could “be taken the wrong way”

Len McCluskey is big in size and influence, but his voice is soft and his messaging simple. The country’s top trade union leader, the boss of Unite was ‘what won it’ for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership, as the undisputed power broker in left-wing politics, with 1.5 million members. Whatever you think of him, his views count, so it’s interesting to talk to him about Jews, Israel, beating up anti-Semites, talking to terrorists, and what Jeremy Corbyn would do as prime minister. I ask how long we have. “As long as it takes,” he says. The others can wait.

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We start on Trump’s Jerusalem embassy announcement – “not in the slightest bit helpful to Israel” – although he understands why Netanyahu would welcome it. His main issue is that “it makes the process of bringing both parties together – of peace – that much further away”. Has the US relinquished its role as peace broker? “I think so. I mean, how can [Trump] offer an olive branch to both Israel and the Palestinians and say ‘come to Camp David’ when he has done this? Even when Russia recognised West Jerusalem, I think the world sees East Jerusalem as a legitimate Palestinian area. I just think this is so sad. It makes peace more difficult.”

The British government criticised it, to no effect, just as it does Israeli settlement building, so what would a Jeremy Corbyn government do differently, if anything? Nobody has a magic wand, he says, adding that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is perhaps the world’s biggest problem today. “It’s about trying to create a process, climate and culture where people can sit down and – in a reasonable and realistic fashion – try to see if there’s a way forward.” To that end, he says Labour should recognise a State of Palestine, because “we all agree about a two-state solution,” although he acknowledges growing calls for a one-state solution.

Read the full interview here

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Distinctions on left antisemitism

November 29, 2017 at 8:42 pm (anti-semitism, AWL, israel, labour party, left, palestine, posted by JD, Racism, stalinism, zionism)

Left antisemitism

By Martin Thomas (also published in the present issue of Solidarity and at the Workers Liberty website)

Workers’ Liberty has been debating theories of racism and their relationship to left anti-semitism. This contribution is a response to Carmen Basant (Solidarity 454).

Modern political antisemitism consists in damning the very existence of the Israeli state (however modified) as inescapably racist and imperialist, and thus damning all Jews who fail to renounce connection to or sympathy with Israel (however critical) as agents of racism and imperialism.

More traditional racial antisemitism consists in damning Jews, as a hereditary supposed “race”, as constitutionally malevolent and disruptive.

There is no Chinese wall between these forms of antisemitism, or indeed between either of them and other forms of antisemitism in history (Christian, reactionary anti-capitalist, etc.) However, there are distinctions, and it is important to understand these if we are to convince left-minded people influenced by strands of antisemitism rather than only cursing them.

I adduce five reasons for distinguishing between political antisemitism and racial antisemitism.

1. The term “racism” has acquired a diffuse width of meaning, and at the same time come to be cognate with crimes and immoralities rather than with erroneous (or hurtfully erroneous) ideologies. When we are arguing with people who have strands or traits in their thinking of political antisemitism, but who (by their own lights) abhor racial antisemitism, to call them “racist” cuts short the argument. It conveys to them that we do not wish to dispute political ideas with them, but instead to brand them as criminal.

2. Antisemitism is much older than racism. It is possible, of course, to stretch the term racism by back-defining it to cover many phenomena from centuries before the term existed. But to do that blurs rather than clarifies. In particular, it blurs the ways in which antisemitism operates quite differently from general racism (or, if you insist on putting it that way, from other racism).

3. It is indeed, as Carmen points out, disorienting to identify racism exclusively or overwhelmingly as an offshoot of European colonialism. But it is equally disorienting to identify it as a characteristic offshoot of nationalism, presumably of irredentist and revanchist Arab nationalism. Political antisemitism has a dynamic different from both nationalism and racism.

4. Being Jewish does not license antisemitic views, any more than being a woman licenses hostility to feminist demands. But the high-profile Jewish political antisemites are clearly not “self-hating Jews”, either.

5. If we abandon the distinction between political antisemitism and racism, then that makes us no longer able to point out and denounce where people drift over the line. Read the rest of this entry »

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Len McCluskey, Unite and Jewish Voice for Labour

November 19, 2017 at 5:41 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, Jim D, labour party, Unite the union, zionism)


Len has never witnessed anti-Semitism: 4.16

Len McCluskey (BBC Newsnight 26/10/2017): “I’ve never recognized [that Labour has a problem with anti-Semitism]. I believe it was mood music that was created by people trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. In 47 years of membership of the Labour Party, I’ve never been at a meeting where there was any anti-Semitic language or any attacks on the Jews. They would have had short shrift in any meeting I was at.”

“Unfortunately, at the time there were lots of people playing games. Everybody wanted to create this image that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour had become misogynistic and anti-Semitic because they wanted to bring Jeremy Corbyn down.”

Shami Chakrabarti (replied): “With the greatest of respect to Len, I was the person charged with investigating this. It wasn’t Len,” she said. “I have seen things which Len hasn’t seen. I would ask Len to read my report.

“There are real reasons why someone like Len may not have experienced racism and anti-Semitism. There is an obvious reason why he may not have experienced it. I was charged with investigating by Jeremy and the National Executive and I set out my findings, warts and all.”

In the same week as making those ill-advised comments on anti-Semitism, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey attended the launch meeting of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) at this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Describing itself as a “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party”, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) already had the backing of such absolute anti-Zionist outfits as the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign and the ‘Electronic Intifada’ website; at the meeting, McCluskey and Aslef’s  Tosh McDonald seemed to affiliate their unions to JVL.

JVL’s chair is Jenny Manson, described in a JVL press release as “a retired tax inspector”, the Garden Suburb branch chairperson in Finchley and Golders Green CLP, an active supporter of Jews for Palestine, and editor of two books (one of them on consciousness: What It Feels Like To Be Me).

Manson was one of the five Jewish Labour Party members who submitted statements in support of Ken Livingstone in March of this year. According to her statement:

“… These actions by Ken were not offensive, nor anti-Semitic in any way, in my view.

 … In my working life as a Tax Inspector I saw a (very) few instances of anti-Semitism, such as the characterisation of ‘Jewish Accountants’ as accountants who skated close to the edge. I have never witnessed any instances of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

 Anti-Semitism has to be treated as a serious issue, which is entirely separate from the different views people take on Israel and Zionism.”

 The JVL’s brief “Statement of Principles” includes the following:

“We uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities, such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. We oppose attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews.”

A JVL press release likewise states that the new organisation:

“Rejects attempts to extend the scope of the term ‘antisemitism’ beyond its meaning of bigotry towards Jews, particularly when directed at activities in solidarity with Palestinians such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.”

In other words, this “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party” will be campaigning in support of the ‘right’ to boycott Jews, and in favour of restricting the definition of antisemitism so as to exclude the most common forms in which contemporary antisemitism manifests itself: Perhaps this is why McCluskey felt it appropriate to affiliate Unite without having consulted the Executive of the union – supposedly the highest decision-making body of Unite (which prides itself upon being a “lay member-led union”).

The JVL website (well worth visiting if you want an insight into the true politics of this organisation), hailed McCluskey’s support as a major breakthrough, but when I commented:

“Did Len consult anyone (even the Exec) before stating that Unite supported JVL? … Ironically, many of those associated with JVL are very keen on democracy elsewhere, and under other circumstances, within the labour movement”

… I was admonished by the “JVL’s webperson” thus:

“No need to be snide, Jim. Len knew that it would have to go to Unite approval [sic]. That process is in train” 

… which would seem to suggest that McCluskey and JVL had done a deal in advance, without consulting the Unite Exec, or any other Unite body.

McCluskey no doubt thought he was doing Jeremy Corbyn a favour by backing an organisation whose main objective seems to be to deny that Labour has any kind of problem with anti-Semitism, beyond that of false accusations cooked up by right wingers and agents of the Israeli embassy. Unfortunately, as Chakrabarti’s response to his foolish Newsnight comments, demonstrates, McCluskey’s hasty and undemocratic backing of JVL is likely to cause Corbyn a lot of embarrassment.

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Machover cites a Nazi as a reliable source against “the Zionists”

November 9, 2017 at 5:56 pm (anti-semitism, conspiracy theories, CPGB, fascism, history, labour party, Livingstone, posted by JD, zionism)

Moshe Machover’s expulsion from the Labour Party has been rescinded and he is once again a member. The expulsion was not due to the contents of the leaflet discussed below, and neither is his re-instatement. His expulsion was due to concerns about his relationship with the so-called ‘Labour Party Marxists’, the CPGB and the Weekly Worker paper: these concerns have now been cleared up.

Reinhard Heydrich worldwartwo.filminspector.com
Above: Machover’s source

Dale Street comments on the leaflet:

Had it not been distributed as a leaflet at this year’s Labour Party conference, Moshe Machover’s article “Anti-Zionism Does Not Equal Anti-Semitism” would have been just another turgid and distasteful article which had found a natural home for itself in the pages of the Weekly Worker.

A longer version of the same article – entitled “Don’t Apologise – Attack” – had been published in the Weekly Worker four months earlier. According to that article:

• Anyone who thought that a retweet by Naz Shah MP – which had suggested that Israel (and, presumably, its population) should be relocated to the USA – “was anything but a piece of satire should have their head examined.”
• Jackie Walker “has been suspended for saying that there was not only a Jewish holocaust but also a black African one too.” (Wrong: that was not the reason for her suspension.)
• There was nothing antisemitic about NUS President Malia Bouattia describing Birmingham University as “something of a Zionist outpost”.
• Ken Livingstone was “certainly inaccurate” in having said that Hitler supported Zionism until he went mad. At the same time, “the point he was making was basically correct”.

The inclusion of a shorter version of the article in a “Labour Party Marxists” bulletin distributed at Labour Party conference rescued it from obscurity.

Overnight, Machover’s article became a cause célèbre for left antisemites (and antisemites in general).

Zionism is essentialised. Machover unceasingly refers to “the Zionists … the Zionists … the Zionists.” Unlike any other nationalism, Zionism is portrayed as a uniformly negative monolith.

Legitimate complaints about antisemitic arguments and ways of thinking are dismissed as a Zionist concoction: “And so the Zionists and their allies decided to launch the ‘Anti-Zionism equals Anti-Semitism’ campaign.”

This “campaign” is an international (cosmopolitan) one: “The whole campaign of equating opposition to Zionism with antisemitism has been carefully orchestrated with the help of the Israeli government and the far right in the United States.”

Antisemitism is defined in such a way that its existence in the labour movement can simply be denied as being of no account:

“The handful of people of the left who propagate a version of the ‘Protocols of Zion’ carry no weight and are without any intellectual foundation.”

Unlike others who share his current politics, Machover does not define Zionism as a form of antisemitism. But he does portray collusion with antisemitism as inherent in Zionism: “You can also attack Zionism because of its collusion and collaboration with antisemitism, including up to a point with Nazi Germany.”

This brings Machover round to the trope of Zionist-Nazi collaboration: “Let us now turn to the Zionist-Nazi connection. … The Zionists made overtures to the Nazi regime, so how did the Nazis respond? … In other words, a friendly mention of Zionism, indicating an area of basic agreement it shared with Nazism.”

The “friendly mention of Zionism” cited by Machover is a quote from an article written in 1935 by Reinhard Heydrich, published in the Das Schwarze Korps, the in-house magazine of the Nazi SS:

“National socialism has no intention of attacking the Jewish people in any way. The government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, so-called Zionism.”

Heydrich was a hardened antisemite from the early 1930s onwards. He was one of the architects of the Final Solution. Only a few months earlier he had made clear his attitude towards Jews in another article in Das Schwarze Korps:

“In order to preserve our people, we must be harsh in the face of our enemy, even at the cost of hurting an individual or being condemned as rabble-rousers by some probably well-meaning people. …

“If someone is our enemy, he is to be vanquished subjectively and without exception. If, for example, out of false compassion, every German should make an exception for ‘only one decent’ Jew or Freemason whom he knows, we would end up with 60 million such exceptions.”

Ten years before Heydrich’s article Hitler had already dismissed a Jewish state as “a central organisation for their (Jews’) world swindling … a haven for convicted scoundrels and a university for budding crooks.”

Thus, to illustrate the “basic agreement” which Zionism supposedly shared with the Nazis, Machover quotes an architect of the Holocaust, from an article in the magazine of the organisation which played a leading role in carrying out the Holocaust.

It is not about supporting the Palestinians. Machover says explicitly: that’s not enough. You must also demonise “the Zionists” as an evil essence running through history to link Jews today back to the taint of the Nazis.

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The Balfour Declaration after 100 years

November 2, 2017 at 10:04 am (anti-semitism, history, imperialism, israel, Middle East, nationalism, palestine, posted by JD, zionism)

Balfour and Lloyd George in London before World War I. (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)Balfour and Lloyd George in London before World War I. (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)

By Paul Hampton (very slightly adapted)

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, the promise made by the British government to support a Jewish state in Palestine. The anniversary is already the subject of letters to the Guardian and no doubt will prove a fillip for discussion on the self-defined “anti-imperialist” left. Criticism of British colonial policy is entirely justified, but this should not lead us to argue that the there was simply an inexorable, linear, mechanical line from the Balfour declaration to the creation of Israel, never mind to the current injustice towards the Palestinians.

On 2 November 1917, British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour sent a letter to Lord Rothschild, one of the leaders of the British Jews, which stated:
“I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy which has been submitted to and approved by the Cabinet: His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The novelist Arthur Koestler wrote that the Balfour declaration was one nation promising another nation the land of a third nation. Similarly Edward Said argued that it was a prime example of “the moral epistemology of imperialism”. The declaration was made: “(a) by a European power, (b) about a non-European territory, (c) in flat disregard of both the presence and the wishes of the native majority resident in the territory, and (d) it took the form of a promise about this same territory to another foreign group, so that this foreign group might, quite literally, make this territory a national home for the Jewish people” (The Question of Palestine, 1979).

Read the rest of this entry »

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What does ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ actually stand for?

September 29, 2017 at 7:50 pm (anti-semitism, Free Speech, israel, Jim D, labour party, palestine, reformism, Unite the union, zionism)


_____________________

Describing itself as a “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party”, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) had its official launch at this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton.

JVL chair is Jenny Manson, described in a JVL press release as “a retired tax inspector”, the Garden Suburb branch chairperson in Finchley and Golders Green CLP, an active supporter of Jews for Palestine, and editor of two books (one of them on consciousness: What It Feels Like To Be Me).

Manson was one of the five Jewish Labour Party members who submitted statements in support of Ken Livingstone in March of this year. According to her statement:

“… These actions by Ken were not offensive, nor anti-Semitic in any way, in my view.

 … In my working life as a Tax Inspector I saw a (very) few instances of anti-Semitism, such as the characterisation of ‘Jewish Accountants’ as accountants who skated close to the edge. I have never witnessed any instances of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

 Anti-Semitism has to be treated as a serious issue, which is entirely separate from the different views people take on Israel and Zionism.”

 The JVL’s brief “Statement of Principles” includes the following:

“We uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities, such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. We oppose attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews.”

A JVL press release likewise states that the new organisation:

“Rejects attempts to extend the scope of the term ‘antisemitism’ beyond its meaning of bigotry towards Jews, particularly when directed at activities in solidarity with Palestinians such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.”

In other words, this “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party” will be campaigning in support of the ‘right’ to boycott Jews, and in favour of restricting the definition of antisemitism so as to exclude the most common forms in which contemporary antisemitism manifests itself.

JVL already has the backing of the “Free Speech on Israel” campaign, the “Electronic Intifada” website and Len McCluskey of Unite (who claims never to have encountered anti-Semitism within the labour movement), and Tosh McDonald of Aslef, both of who have taken it upon themselves to affiliate their unions to JVL.

Last Monday at the Labour conference there was a fringe meeting of the so-called ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign (prop: Anthony Greenstein esq) at the Friends Meeting House in Brighton.  It was chaired by Jenny Manson.

The Mirror reported on the meeting:

Israeli-American author Miko Peled told a conference fringe meeting Labour members should support the freedom to “discuss every issue, whether it’s the holocaust, yes or no, whether it’s Palestine liberation – the entire spectrum.

And you can listen to the clip here.

Was he – and the Labour members sitting in the room – really suggesting that the historical reality of the Holocaust is a legitimate topic for debate? Did Jenny Manson agree with him? We cannot say, because Ms Manson has made no comment (as far as I’m aware) on the matter.

However, Ms Manson does have a letter in today’s Guardian that takes the paper’s John Crace to task for confusing JVL’s fringe meeting with the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ fringe meeting (understandably, one might think, given Ms Manson’s prominent role at both):

Jewish Voice is not an anti-Zionist group
John Crace, whose contributions are always good value, has got it wrong (Sketch, 27 September). I chaired the meeting of Jewish Voice for Labour he mentions in passing. What he discusses in his sketch is in dispute but, in any event, it happened at an entirely separate meeting – not ours. JVL is not, as he claims, an anti-Zionist group, nor was the Holocaust mentioned, let alone questioned at our hugely popular launch on Monday evening at the Labour party conference, attended by close on 300 people.

Our mission is to contribute to making the Labour party an open, democratic and inclusive party, encouraging all ethnic groups and cultures to join and participate freely. The sole ideological commitments members make is to broadly support what is contained in our statement of principles. These include a commitment “to strengthen the party in its opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism”. Describing JVL as “anti-Zionist” fundamentally misrepresents us. Our statement of principles makes no mention at all of Zionism. Rather our objective is simply to uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities. I gave an assurance from the chair that, in accordance with our statement of principles, you need hold no position on Zionism – for, against or anything else – to join and work with us.
Jenny Manson
Chair, Jewish Voice for Labour

There are two obvious points to make about this letter:

(1) Anti-Zionism is, in itself, a perfectly respectable ideology, and the Bund has an honourable history (even though the holocaust proved it to be, eventually, on the wrong side of history) so why does the Chair of the anti-Zionist JVL seek to deny the obvious?

(2) Why didn’t Ms Manson take the opportunity to clarify the links between JVL and ‘Free Speech on Israel’, whose meeting she chaired and at which the controversial comments on the holocaust were made?

A much more detailed – and honest – description of the politics of JVL was given in a speech by David Rosenberg, published in today’s Morning Star.

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Contemporary Left Antisemitism: a review

August 25, 2017 at 2:35 am (anti-semitism, civil rights, conspiracy theories, labour party, left, reformism, stalinism, zionism)


Above: Dave Hirsh on left anti-Semitism and the Chakrabarti Inquiry 

Dale Street reviews Contemporary Left Antisemitism by Dave Hirsh (Routledge).


This is the third book on the theme of left antisemitism to have been published in less than twelve months. It follows Dave Rich’s The Left’s Jewish Problem – Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism (published in September 2016) and Antisemitism and the Left – On the Return of the Jewish Question by Bob Fine and Phil Spencer (published in February 2017).

Different aspects of left antisemitism and how it manifests itself today are covered in different chapters of Hirsh’s book: The “Livingstone Formulation”; the Labour Party since Corbyn’s election as party leader; the campaign for an academic boycott of Israel; conflicts over definitions of antisemitism; the nature of contemporary antizionism; and antizionism within the Jewish community. (Hirsh’s orthography is deliberate. He uses the terms “antizionism”, not “anti-Zionism”, to make a political point. What passes itself off today as a critique of Zionism has got nothing to do with real-world Zionism. As such, it is not anti-Zionism, nor even a form of anti-Zionism.)

Although discreet aspects of contemporary left antisemitism are covered in the different chapters of the book, a number of common themes run through all of them. Hirsh locates today’s left antisemitism within the broader context of the political degeneration and ossification of (broad layers of) the left. That left exists in a binary political universe: good nations and bad nations; oppressor and oppressed nations; imperialism and “anti-imperialism”; white people and people of colour. The universality of class politics has been replaced by the politics of “campism”. Rational political argument has been replaced by a “politics of position”.

Anyone positioned in the wrong “camp” is to be denounced rather than reasoned with. This, argues Hirsh, represents a reversion to the political practices of early-twentieth-century totalitarian movements. Such a world view is conducive to a particular interpretation of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which, in turn, is conducive to antisemitic ways of thinking and antisemitic consequences.

Israel is in the camp of bad, white, imperialist, oppressor nations. Palestinians constitute the antithesis of Israel. To be “of the left” is to be on the side of the Palestinians and against Israel — not just the policies pursued by its government but its very existence. This demonisation of Israel — which itself constitutes an expression of left antisemitism — opens the door to traditional antisemitic tropes. Jews are uniquely cruel — they murder children in particular and are committing genocide of the Palestinians. They are uniquely powerful — they control US foreign policy and the global media. And they are uniquely dishonest — they cry “antisemitism” to avoid being called to account for their crimes. Indeed, they are so uniquely evil that they alone of all the peoples of the world cannot be allowed to exercise national self-determination.

Of all the states in the world, the Jewish one alone is singled out for (the traditional antisemitic “strategy” of) boycott and ghettoisation. Similarly, of all of the nationalisms in the world, the Jewish one — Zionism — is uniquely evil. It is racist, genocidal and akin to Nazism. Hirsh uses the expression “flattening”: The different currents within Zionism, the historical context of the emergence and development of Zionism, and the distinction which socialists otherwise make between state and people are all “flattened” in order to create an essentialist interpretation of Zionism and “the Zionist state”.

But the result is not a critique of real-world Zionism. It is an ideology of antizionism which justifies its politics by reference to a “Zionism” of its creation. Hirsh also makes the point that there is a world of difference between opposition to Zionism before and after the creation of Israel. The former was opposition to a political idea. The latter entails opposition to the existence of the state in which the Zionist project has been realised.

Arguments that such an approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict are antisemitic in substance and in consequence are brushed aside by their opponents through invocation of the “Livingstone Formulation”, to which Hirsh devotes an entire chapter. (Named after Ken Livingstone. Not because he invented it — he did not — but because of the level of egregiousness and notoriety which his use of the Formulation has achieved.) The “Livingstone Formulation” can be summed up as “I am not antisemitic and have not done or said anything antisemitic. You are accusing me of such things only because of my entirely legitimate criticisms of Israel.”

This is not simply a modern manifestation of an antisemitic trope (that Jews raise accusations of antisemitism in bad faith). It also shuts down any space for rational argument — because it rules out a priori any need to assess the validity of this “bad-faith” claim of antisemitism.

Corbyn’s election as Labour Party leader makes this left antizionist antisemitism a contemporary issue, not in some general sense but in a very immediate sense, for three particular reasons. Corbyn himself belongs, at least in part, to that tradition, as is evidenced by his support for the “anti-imperialist” Stop the War Coalition, his involvement in the “Deir Yassin Remembered” campaign, his defence of Raed Salah and Steven Sizer, and his attitude to Hamas and Hizbollah. A broad layer of Corbyn’s rank-and-file supporters share to some degree the left antizionist approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict and its antisemitic consequences. Some of them do more than just share that approach. They energetically promote it. And the Labour Party under Corbyn has to date failed to politically confront the issue, as is exemplified in particular by the Chakrabarti Inquiry of 2016.

Chakrabarti’s superficial conclusion was that manifestations of antisemitism in the Labour Party were just the classic case of a few bad apples, rather than something rooted in a widely shared set of political assumptions.

Hirsh describes his book as “among other things, a gathering together and a distillation of the work I have been doing over the last decade.” The fact that some readers will already be familiar with the book’s arguments from earlier articles by its author does not reduce its political value. In fact, some of the most damning material in the book is not Hirsh’s general political analysis of left antisemitism but the “micro-descriptions” of the abuse and harassment meted out to members of the UCU trade union who argued against an academic boycott of Israel. But there are some issues in the book which are either open to challenge or would have merited further exploration and explanation.

Hirsh rightly points to the prevalence of left antisemitism on the British left and in the broader labour movement. But he goes a lot further: “It is not accidental that the issue of antisemitism has become pivotal to this process of defining who is inside (‘the community of the good’, to use Hirsh’s expression) and who is not.” Hirsh seems to be saying that an acceptance of antizionism has become the decisive test for membership of the left. But this claim does not stand up to scrutiny.

Just as antizionism essentialises Zionism, so too Hirsh seems to be essentialising the contemporary left. Hirsh hints at a dystopic future for the Labour left and the Labour Party. The Corbyn phenomenon is “not currently a physically violent movement.” Opponents of antizionism are “not yet, in the Corbyn Labour Party, (dealt with) by physical violence.” Corbyn’s election as Prime Minister “might” see an increase in “the denouncing of most Jews as pro-apartheid or as defenders of racism and neoliberalism.” If these sibylline musings are meant seriously, they should surely have been substantially expanded upon. As they stand, they merely provide an easy target for those who want to condemn the book without engaging with its core arguments.

These momentary visions of the use of totalitarian physical violence to crush political dissent and the unleashing of government-sanctioned antisemitic campaigns also sit uneasily with Hirsh’s lesser-evilist approach to the election of a Labour or a Tory government: “In this context (of a choice between two variants of populism), of course, it is quite legitimate to prefer Labour populism to Tory populism.”

In dealing with antizionism within the Jewish community Hirsh tends to focus on individuals who have been prominent in debates in academia. Antizionist Jews with a high profile in promoting left antisemitism in the labour movement are hardly mentioned (save in relation to the UCU). Tony Greenstein, for example, escapes scrutiny entirely, even if he makes an anonymous appearance at page 113 of the book: “Some of those activists who had already been making the same speeches about Israel for thirty years suddenly found themselves being given huge standing ovations at union conferences for speeches in favour of boycotting Israel.” And while it is understandable that a senior lecturer in sociology might want to sing the praises of sociology, the chapter which portrays sociology as a key to understanding antisemitism (“Sociological Method and Antisemitism”) really makes little contribution to an understanding. (In any case, it would have been more appropriately entitled: “I Used To Be a Trotskyist. But Then I Discovered Sociology.”)

Like any other writer, Hirsh could use only the material available to him at the time of writing his book. Thus, the Ken Livingstone of his book is simply someone who thinks that Hitler supported Zionism (until he went mad). Jackie Walker did no more than use some unfortunate turns of phrase in a Facebook post and in an intervention at a Labour Party fringe meeting. And Bongani Masuku is a heroic South African trade unionist unjustly accused of antisemitism. But by the time of the book’s publication earlier this month, things had moved on.

Livingstone was alleging “real collaboration” between Nazis and Zionists, with the big-hearted Nazis supposedly acceding to Zionist requests for help with training camps, weapons and banning sermons in Yiddish. Walker was likening her treatment to that of a black lynching in the Jim Crow states, claiming that she had been targeted (by Zionists, of course) in “an attempt to destroy Jeremy Corbyn and an entire political movement.” And Bongani Masuku had been found guilty of antisemitic hate speech by the South African Equality Court, while the trade union federation of which he was an employee surreally denounced the verdict as an attack on “workers’ rights to offer solidarity.”

That’s sums up the problem with writing a book about contemporary left antisemitism: By the time of its publication, the examples which it cites have become examples of yesterday’s left antisemitism. Hirsh’s book is a valuable contribution to understanding the forms and nature of left antisemitism. It provides not just a better understanding of the phenomenon but also a political challenge to its influence. His book is the third book on the same theme in less than a year. It would be surprising if it was not followed by at least another three over the next twelve months.

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“I’m staying in the Labour Party … to campaign against antisemitism in the Party”

June 14, 2017 at 12:18 am (anti-semitism, Guest post, labour party, zionism)


Above: Livingstone, an unrepentant antisemite

By Richard Gold (on Facebook):

Here’s a couple of comments I wrote that sum up how I feel about the debate in the Labour Party re the Jewish community. I’m not going to address all the comments this post may get as I think it’s been fully debated and I think maybe people should spend more time actually doing something rather than just posting on Facebook.

I’m staying in the Labour Party and will continue to campaign against antisemitism in the Party. It’s a party I’ve been in for a long time and I’m not going to leave it to the antisemites. All I can do is try and educate people, challenge people and try and ensure that people with sensible views on the issue are elected.

This is one of the two main parties and one day it will be in government again. As we have seen over the last few years things can happen very quickly in politics nowadays. To walk away is to give up. Will I succeed, is it always pleasant? Not always (though it’s fine in my ward) but I’ll be where the fights taking place and not just having Facebook discussions with like minded people. Without the Labour Party I have nobody to vote for.

A few examples over the last month or so: a Momentum organiser told me that I’d changed his mind when he had previously used the excuse that there’s antisemitsm in all parties. A Manchester councillor said she was struggling with the argument that there was no problem and I helped her with the arguments. I have helped an MP to be re-elected who is one of the main opponents of antisemitism in the Party. Other things as well, such as working with and developing links between the JLM and Labour Students. I’ve been asked to speak on antisemitism at another 3 constituency meetings and a university Labour Students group. It isn’t the kind of thing that I particularly look forward to but it’s necessary and I will always challenge and educate.

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Naz Shah subjected to anti-semitic heckling

June 2, 2017 at 3:47 pm (anti-semitism, campaigning, elections, israel, labour party, posted by JD, reactionay "anti-imperialism", zionism)


Naz Shah was taunted with anti-Semitic abuse after defending the Jewish state, during a hustings in Bradford.

An audience member during the event appears to shout “Jew Jew Jew” at the Labour candidate for the Bradford West, after she reiterated her belief in Israel’s right to exist.

The MP, who is campaigning to retain the seat at the general election, was suspended by Labour last year for an anti-Semitic Facebook post. She has since apologised and been widely praised for her efforts to learn more about the Jewish community and Israel.

Shah said during the hustings, after being branded a ‘Zionist’ for her reformed views: “Do I believe in Israel’s right to exist? I continue to stand by my statement that I believe in Israel’s right to exist”.

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‘Free Speech on Israel’: a bunch of incompetents unwilling to challenge antisemitism

April 14, 2017 at 5:49 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, conspiracy theories, fascism, Guardian, Human rights, israel, labour party, Livingstone, Middle East, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", stalinism, zionism)

Greenstein: claims “ideological symmetry” between Zionism and Nazism

By Dale Street

Yesterday’s Guardian (13th April) published a statement from the so-called ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign. The text of the letter and the full list of signatories is at:

http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/letter-guardian-reject-call-expulsion-ken-livingstone/#more-3000

According to the letter:

“There is nothing whatsoever antisemitic about this [i.e. Livingstone’s statement that Hitler was supporting Zionism before he went mad].  Francis Nicosia, the Raul Hilberg Professor of Holocaust Studies at Vermont University wrote in his book “Zionism and Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany” (p. 79):

Throughout the 1930s, as part of the regime’s determination to force Jews to leave Germany, there was almost unanimous support in German government and Nazi party circles for promoting Zionism among German Jews’   

Is telling the truth also antisemitic?”

But Nicosia’s book does not corroborate Livingstone’s claim that Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s (nor his other recent claims, such as that there was “real collaboration” between German Zionism and the Nazis “right up until the start of the Second World War”).

Nicosia writes that by the beginning of the twentieth century most German antisemites “had come to view Zionism as representative of much of what they considered the more dangerous and abhorrent characteristics of the Jews as a people.”

He further writes: “For most antisemites in Germany, including the Nazis prior to 1941, their willingness to use Zionism and the Zionist movement was never based on an acceptance of the Zionist view of itself, namely that it represented a force for the common good and for the renewal of the Jews as a people in the modern world.”

He is explicit that the purpose of his book is not to “equate Zionism with National Socialism, Zionists with Nazis, or to portray that relationship as a willing or collaborative one between moral and political equals.”

He dismisses as “ahistorical assertions” arguments which “simplistically dismiss Zionism as yet another example of racism, the substance of which has not been very different from German National Socialism.”

He rejects claims that “Zionists collaborated with the Nazi regime in Germany in an effort to secure their own narrow self-interest at the expense of non-Zionist Jews before and during the Holocaust.”

The ‘Free Speech on Israel’ statement quotes a single sentence from page 79 of Nicosia’s book. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the author of the statement has also read pages 1-78.

But all of the above quotes are taken from pages 1-78 of Nicosia’s book. The author of the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ statement has therefore ignored everything in Nicosia’s book which does not suit his own political standpoint and instead picks on a single sentence.

People who engage in selective quoting are not telling the truth. They are lying. In this case, they are lying for a political purpose.

The first signatory to the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ statement is Tony Greenstein, who is also probably the author of the statement itself.

Ever since the early 1980s – when he was a member of the ‘British Anti-Zionist Organisation’, which claimed that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis and encouraged antisemitism to benefit Israel – Greenstein has claimed that there was an “ideological symmetry” between Zionism and Nazism, and that Zionism was “a movement of collaboration” with Nazism.

Like Livingstone himself, Greenstein is a great admirer of the writings of Lenni Brenner, another charlatan who specialises in the art of selective quoting. According to Greenstein, Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators is “the most complete account, from an anti-Zionist perspective, of Zionist collusion with the Nazis.”

Greenstein has written a review of Nicosia’s book, tellingly entitled “Review – Francis Nicosia and Zionist Collaboration with Nazi Germany”. Greenstein’s review denounces the book:

“[The book is] an appalling apologia for the collaboration of the Zionist movement in Germany with the Nazi government. …

Nicosia is an author at war with his own evidence. He is determined to reach conclusions at variance with the evidence. …

His thesis that the Zionist movement had to do deals with the Nazis in order to rescue German Jews fails to explain the ideological symmetry between them. …

Nicosia’s problem is that he has little understanding of Zionism, past or present, still less how its racial theories translated into practice in Palestine. …”

So, on the one hand, says Greenstein, Nicosia has little or no understanding of Zionism. He is at war with his own evidence. And he fails to explain the “ideological symmetry” between Zionism and Nazism.

But now, in April of 2017, the same Tony Greenstein puts his name to a statement (which he probably wrote as well) which cites the same Francis Nicosia as a credible historian (“the Raul Hilberg Professor of Holocaust Studies at Vermont University”) and invokes the same book  (albeit by way of total misrepresentation) in support of Livingstone’s statements.

The ‘Free Speech on Israel’ statement argues that Livingstone is not under attack for having made antisemitic statements – Livingstone has merely been telling the truth.

The statement concludes with the unsubstantiated claim: “What the campaign against Livingstone is really about is his long-standing support for the Palestinians and his opposition to Zionism and the policies of the Israeli state.”

It is therefore reasonable to assume that the statement’s signatories can distinguish between antisemitic statements and statements of legitimate criticism of Zionism and Israeli policies. (Leaving aside the fact that a number of the statement’s signatories do not just criticise Israeli policies but the very existence of Israel).

But signatories to the statement include Paisley Labour councillor Terry Kelly. Kelly is clearly incapable of making that distinction. He is the author of statements such as:

“Israel decided that the children and old and sick would continue to suffer and die, this is being done by the survivors of the Holocaust, it beggars belief that the Jewish people who suffered so much could treat innocent children this way but that’s what they are doing.”

“What I would like to see (but won’t) is justice done by restoring pre-1948 Palestine, the return of all refugees and an end to the crime that is Israel. Jews along with anyone else who applies successfully to live there would be welcomed, as Palestinians.”

“Have you stopped to ask why [the Obama White House is silent]? It’s because the American Jewish Lobby is extremely powerful and it has its boot on Obama’s neck that is why America still bankrolls Israel despite its crimes against humanity.”

“There is a powerful Jewish lobby campaigning against the film [The King’s Speech] because of its historical inaccuracy about Hitler and the antisemitism which it studiously ignores.”

“[The American academic] Finkelstein was also fired from a university in that apparent home of democracy America following a vicious campaign by the all-powerful American Jewish Lobby.”

Kelly now has a piece on his blog entitled “Ken Livingstone is Innocent and So Was I”.

But in Terry Kelly’s political universe, accusing the Jewish people of collective guilt, advocating the elimination of Israel, and repeated references to ‘the American Jewish lobby’, ‘the powerful Jewish lobby’ and ‘the all-powerful American Jewish lobby’ are all examples of ‘innocence’.

In another sense, though, Kelly is correct: Livingstone is as innocent (or as guilty) as Kelly himself.

And the fact that the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign includes Kelly as a signatory to its statement is itself a measure of that campaign’s own competence and willingness (or incompetence and unwillingness) in matters of recognising and challenging antisemitism.

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