All posts by Jonathan Cook

Sur Baher Home Demolitions illustrate a Vicious Spiral of Oppression in Palestine

Recent events have shone a spotlight not only on how Israel is intensifying its abuse of Palestinians under its rule, but the utterly depraved complicity of western governments in its actions.

The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House two-and-a-half years ago has emboldened Israel as never before, leaving it free to unleash new waves of brutality in the occupied territories.

Western states have not only turned a blind eye to these outrages, but are actively assisting in silencing anyone who dares to speak out.

It is rapidly creating a vicious spiral: the more Israel violates international law, the more the West represses criticism, the more Israel luxuriates in its impunity.

This shameless descent was starkly illustrated last week when hundreds of heavily armed Israeli soldiers, many of them masked, raided a neighbourhood of Sur Baher, on the edges of Jerusalem. Explosives and bulldozers destroyed dozens of homes, leaving many hundreds of Palestinians without a roof over their heads.

During the operation, extreme force was used against residents, as well as international volunteers there in the forlorn hope that their presence would deter violence. Videos showed the soldiers cheering and celebrating as they razed the neighbourhood.

House destructions have long been an ugly staple of Israel’s belligerent occupation, but there were grounds for extra alarm on this occasion.

Traditionally, demolitions occur on the two-thirds of the West Bank placed by the Oslo accords temporarily under Israeli control. That is bad enough: Israel should have handed over what is called “Area C” to the Palestinian Authority 20 years ago. Instead, it has hounded Palestinians off these areas to free them up for illegal Jewish settlement.

But the Sur Baher demolitions took place in “Area A”, land assigned by Oslo to the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting – as a prelude to Palestinian statehood. Israel is supposed to have zero planning or security jurisdiction there.

Palestinians rightly fear that Israel has established a dangerous precedent, further reversing the Oslo Accords, which can one day be used to justify driving many thousands more Palestinians off land under PA control.

Most western governments barely raised their voices. Even the United Nations offered a mealy-mouthed expression of “sadness” at what took place.

A few kilometres north, in Issawiya, another East Jerusalem suburb, Israeli soldiers have been terrorising 20,000 Palestinian residents for weeks. They have set up checkpoints, carried out dozens of random night-time arrests, imposed arbitrary fines and traffic tickets, and shot live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets into residential areas.

Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights group, calls Issawiya’s treatment a “perpetual state of collective punishment” – that is, a war crime.

Over in Gaza, not only are the 2 million inhabitants being slowly starved by Israel’s 12-year blockade, but a weekly shooting spree against Palestinians who protest at the fence imprisoning them has become so routine it barely attracts attention any more.

On Friday, Israeli snipers killed one protester and seriously injured 56, including 22 children.

That followed new revelations that Israeli’s policy of shooting unarmed protesters in the upper leg to injure them – another war crime – continued long after it became clear a significant proportion of Palestinians were dying from their wounds.

Belatedly – after more than 200 deaths and the severe disabling of many thousands of Palestinians – snipers have been advised to “ease up” by shooting protesters in the ankle.

B’Tselem, another Israeli rights organisation, called the army’s open-fire regulation a “criminal policy”, one that “consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans”.

Rather than end such criminal practices, Israel prefers to conceal them. It has effectively sealed Palestinian areas off to avoid scrutiny.

Omar Shakir, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, is facing imminent deportation, yet more evidence of Israel’s growing crackdown on the human rights community.

A report by the Palestinian Right to Enter campaign last week warned that Israel is systematically denying foreign nationals permits to live and work in the occupied territories, including areas supposedly under PA control.

That affects both foreign-born Palestinians, often those marrying local Palestinians, and internationals. According to recent reports, Israel is actively forcing out academics teaching at the West Bank’s leading university, Bir Zeit, in a severe blow to Palestinian academic freedom.

Palestinian journalists highlighting Israeli crimes are in Israel’s sights too. Last week, Israel stripped one – Mustafa Al Haruf – of his Jerusalem residency, tearing him from his wife and young child. Because it is illegal to leave someone stateless, Israel is now bullying Jordan to accept him.

Another exclusion policy – denying entry to Israel’s fiercest critics, those who back the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement – is facing its first challenge.

Two US congresswomen who support BDS – Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who has family in the West Bank – have announced plans to visit.

Israeli officials have indicated they will exempt them both, apparently fearful of drawing wider attention to Israel’s draconian entry restrictions, which also cover the occupied territories.

Israel is probably being overly cautious. The BDS movement, which alone argues for the imposition of penalties on Israel until it halts its abuse of Palestinians, is being bludgeoned by western governments.

In the US and Europe, strong criticism of Israel, even from Jews – let alone demands for meaningful action – is being conflated with antisemitism. Much of this furore seems intended to ease the path towards silencing Israel’s critics.

More than two dozen US states, as well as the Senate, have passed laws – drafted by pro-Israel lobby groups – to limit the rights of the American public to support boycotts of Israel.

Anti-BDS legislation has also been passed by the German and French parliaments.

And last week the US House of Representatives joined them, overwhelmingly passing a resolution condemning the BDS movement. Only 17 legislators demurred.

It was a slap in the face to Ms Omar, who has been promoting a bill designed to uphold the First Amendment rights of boycott supporters.

It seems absurd that these curbs on free speech have emerged just as Israel makes clear it has no interest in peace, will never concede Palestinian statehood and is entrenching a permanent system of apartheid in the occupied territories.

But there should be no surprise. The clampdown is further evidence that western support for Israel is indeed based on shared values – those that treat the Palestinians as lesser beings, whose rights can be trampled at will.

How the Goliath of the Jerusalem Settler Movement Persuaded the World It’s Really David

JERUSALEM — Israeli police forced out the Siyam family from their home in the heart of occupied East Jerusalem last week, the final chapter in their 25-year legal battle against a powerful settler organisation.

The family’s defeat represented much more than just another eviction. It was intended to land a crushing blow against the hopes of some 20,000 Palestinians living in the shadow of the Old City walls and Al Aqsa mosque.

Dozens of families in the Silwan neighbourhood have endured the same fate as the Siyams, and the Israeli courts have approved the imminent eviction of many hundreds more Palestinians from the area.

But, unlike those families, the Siyams’ predicament briefly caught public attention. That was because one of them, Jawad Siyam, has become a figurehead of Silwan’s resistance efforts.

Mr Siyam, a social worker, has led the fight against Elad, a wealthy settler group that since the early 1990s has been slowly erasing Silwan’s Palestinian identity, in order to remake it as the City of David archeological park.

Mr Siyam has served as a spokesman, drawing attention to Silwan’s plight. He has also helped to organise the community, setting up youth and cultural centres to fortify Silwan’s identity and sense of purpose in the face of Israel’s relentless oppression.

However, the settlers of Elad want Silwan dismembered, not strengthened.

Elad’s mission is to strip away the Palestinian community to reveal crumbling relics beneath, which it claims are proof that King David founded his Israelite kingdom there 3,000 years ago.

The history and archeological rationalisations may be murky, but the political vision is clear. The Palestinians of Silwan are to be forced out like unwelcome squatters.

An Israeli human rights group, Peace Now, refers to plans for the City of David as “the transformation of Silwan into a Disneyland of the messianic extreme right wing”.

It is the most unequal fight imaginable – a story of David and Goliath, in which the giant fools the world into believing he is the underdog.

It has pitted Mr Siyam and other residents against not only the settlers, but the US and Israeli governments, the police and courts, archaeologists, planning authorities, national parks officials and unwitting tourists.

And, adding to their woes, Silwan’s residents are being forced to fight both above and below ground at the same time.

The walls and foundations of dozens of houses are cracking and sinking because the Israeli authorities have licensed Elad to flout normal safety regulations and excavate immediately below the community’s homes. Several families have had to be evacuated.

Late last month Elad flexed its muscles again, this time as it put the finishing touches to its latest touristic project: a tunnel under Silwan that reaches to the foot of Al Aqsa.

On Elad’s behalf, the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, wielded a sledgehammer to smash down a symbolic wall inaugurating the tunnel, which has been renamed the Pilgrimage Road.

Elad claims – though many archaeologists doubt it – that in Roman times the tunnel was a street used by Jews to ascend to a temple on the site where today stands the Islamic holy site of Al Aqsa.

The participation of the two US envoys in the ceremony offered further proof that Washington is tearing up the peacemaking rulebook, destroying any hope the Palestinians might once have had of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr Friedman called the City of David complex – at the core of occupied Palestinian Jerusalem – “an essential component of the national heritage of the State of Israel”. Ending the occupation there would be “akin to America returning the Statue of Liberty”.

While Israel, backed by the US, smashes Silwan’s foundations, it is also dominating the sky above it.

Last month Israel’s highest planning body approved a cable car from Israeli territory in West Jerusalem into the centre of Silwan.

It will connect with the City of David and a network of boardwalks, coffee shops and touristic tunnels, such as like the Pilgrimage Road, all run by Elad settlers, to slice apart Silwan.

And to signal how the neighbourhood is being reinvented, the Israeli municipality enforcing the occupation in East Jerusalem recently named several of Silwan’s main streets after famous Jewish rabbis.

Former mayor Nir Barkat has said the goal of all this development is to bring 10 million tourists a year to Silwan, so that they “understand who is really the landlord in this city”.

Few outsiders appear to object. This month, the tourism website TripAdvisor was taken to task by Amnesty International for recommending the City of David as a top attraction in Jerusalem.

And now, Elad has felled the family of Jawad Siyam in a bid to crush the community’s spirits and remaining sense of defiance.

As it has with so many of Silwan’s homeowners, Elad waged a decades-long legal battle against the family to drain them of funds and stamina.

The Siyams’ fate was finally sealed last month when the Israeli courts extended the use of a 70-year-old, draconian piece of legislation, the Absentee Property Law, to Silwan.

The law was crafted specifically to steal the lands and homes of 750,000 Palestinian refugees expelled in 1948 by the new state of Israel.

Ownership of the Siyams’ home is shared between Jawad’s uncles and aunts, some of them classified by Israel as “absentees” because they now live abroad.

As a result, an Israeli official with the title Custodian of Absentee Property claimed ownership of sections of the house belonging to these relatives, and then, in violation of his obligations under international law, sold them on to Elad. Police strong-armed the family out last week.

To add insult to injury, the court also approved Elad seizing money raised via crowdfunding by more than 200 Israeli peace activists, with the aim of helping the Siyams with their legal costs.

Palestinians such as Jawad Siyam exist all over the occupied territories – men and women who have given Palestinians a sense of hope, commitment and steadfastness in the face of Israel’s machinery of dispossession.

When Israel targets Jawad Siyam, crushes his spirits, it sends an unmistakable message not only to other Palestinians, but to the international community itself, that peace is not on its agenda.

  • A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.
  • Israel’s Machinery of Dispossession has crushed the Hopes of an Inspirational Family

    Israeli police forced out the Siyam family from their home in the heart of occupied East Jerusalem last week, the final chapter in their 25-year legal battle against a powerful settler organisation.

    The family’s defeat represented much more than just another eviction. It was intended to land a crushing blow against the hopes of some 20,000 Palestinians living in the shadow of the Old City walls and Al Aqsa mosque.

    Dozens of families in the Silwan neighbourhood have endured the same fate as the Siyams, and the Israeli courts have approved the imminent eviction of many hundreds more Palestinians from the area.

    But, unlike those families, the Siyams’ predicament briefly caught public attention. That was because one of them, Jawad Siyam, has become a figurehead of Silwan’s resistance efforts.

    Mr Siyam, a social worker, has led the fight against Elad, a wealthy settler group that since the early 1990s has been slowly erasing Silwan’s Palestinian identity, in order to remake it as the City of David archeological park.

    Mr Siyam has served as a spokesman, drawing attention to Silwan’s plight. He has also helped to organise the community, setting up youth and cultural centres to fortify Silwan’s identity and sense of purpose in the face of Israel’s relentless oppression.

    However, the settlers of Elad want Silwan dismembered, not strengthened.

    Elad’s mission is to strip away the Palestinian community to reveal crumbling relics beneath, which it claims are proof that King David founded his Israelite kingdom there 3,000 years ago.

    The history and archeological rationalisations may be murky, but the political vision is clear. The Palestinians of Silwan are to be forced out like unwelcome squatters.

    An Israeli human rights group, Peace Now, refers to plans for the City of David as “the transformation of Silwan into a Disneyland of the messianic extreme right wing”.

    It is the most unequal fight imaginable – a story of David and Goliath, in which the giant fools the world into believing he is the underdog.

    It has pitted Mr Siyam and other residents against not only the settlers, but the US and Israeli governments, the police and courts, archaeologists, planning authorities, national parks officials and unwitting tourists.

    And, adding to their woes, Silwan’s residents are being forced to fight both above and below ground at the same time.

    The walls and foundations of dozens of houses are cracking and sinking because the Israeli authorities have licensed Elad to flout normal safety regulations and excavate immediately below the community’s homes. Several families have had to be evacuated.

    Late last month Elad flexed its muscles again, this time as it put the finishing touches to its latest touristic project: a tunnel under Silwan that reaches to the foot of Al Aqsa.

    On Elad’s behalf, the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, wielded a sledgehammer to smash down a symbolic wall inaugurating the tunnel, which has been renamed the Pilgrimage Road.

    Elad claims – though many archaeologists doubt it – that in Roman times the tunnel was a street used by Jews to ascend to a temple on the site where today stands the Islamic holy site of Al Aqsa.

    The participation of the two US envoys in the ceremony offered further proof that Washington is tearing up the peacemaking rule book, destroying any hope the Palestinians might once have had of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

    Mr Friedman called the City of David complex – at the core of occupied Palestinian Jerusalem – “an essential component of the national heritage of the State of Israel”. Ending the occupation there would be “akin to America returning the Statue of Liberty”.

    While Israel, backed by the US, smashes Silwan’s foundations, it is also dominating the sky above it.

    Last month Israel’s highest planning body approved a cable car from Israeli territory in West Jerusalem into the centre of Silwan.

    It will connect with the City of David and a network of boardwalks, coffee shops and touristic tunnels, such as like the Pilgrimage Road, all run by Elad settlers, to slice apart Silwan.

    And to signal how the neighbourhood is being reinvented, the Israeli municipality enforcing the occupation in East Jerusalem recently named several of Silwan’s main streets after famous Jewish rabbis.

    Former mayor Nir Barkat has said the goal of all this development is to bring 10 million tourists a year to Silwan, so that they “understand who is really the landlord in this city”.

    Few outsiders appear to object. This month, the tourism website TripAdvisor was taken to task by Amnesty International for recommending the City of David as a top attraction in Jerusalem.

    And now, Elad has felled the family of Jawad Siyam in a bid to crush the community’s spirits and remaining sense of defiance.

    As it has with so many of Silwan’s homeowners, Elad waged a decades-long legal battle against the family to drain them of funds and stamina.

    The Siyams’ fate was finally sealed last month when the Israeli courts extended the use of a 70-year-old, draconian piece of legislation, the Absentee Property Law, to Silwan.

    The law was crafted specifically to steal the lands and homes of 750,000 Palestinian refugees expelled in 1948 by the new state of Israel.

    Ownership of the Siyams’ home is shared between Jawad’s uncles and aunts, some of them classified by Israel as “absentees” because they now live abroad.

    As a result, an Israeli official with the title Custodian of Absentee Property claimed ownership of sections of the house belonging to these relatives, and then, in violation of his obligations under international law, sold them on to Elad. Police strong-armed the family out last week.

    To add insult to injury, the court also approved Elad seizing money raised via crowdfunding by more than 200 Israeli peace activists, with the aim of helping the Siyams with their legal costs.

    Palestinians such as Jawad Siyam exist all over the occupied territories – men and women who have given Palestinians a sense of hope, commitment and steadfastness in the face of Israel’s machinery of dispossession.

    When Israel targets Jawad Siyam, crushes his spirits, it sends an unmistakeable message not only to other Palestinians, but to the international community itself, that peace is not on its agenda.

    With Panorama’s Hatchet Job on Labour Antisemitism, BBC Has Become the Tory’s Attack Dog

    It is difficult to describe as anything other than a hatchet job the BBC Panorama special this week that sought to bolster claims that the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become “institutionally antisemitic”.

    The partisan tone was set from the opening shot. A young woman whose name was not revealed tearfully claimed to have been abused with antisemitic taunts at a Labour Party conference.

    The decision not to disclose the interviewee’s identity is understandable. It would have discredited the whole narrative Panorama was trying so hard to build.

    The woman’s name is Ella Rose, a senior official in the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), an organisation representing Jewish and non-Jewish members of Labour at the forefront of attacks on Corbyn. Rose has a secret past too: she once worked at the Israeli embassy in London.

    Self-fulfilling prophecy

    Two years ago she and other JLM officials were exposed collaborating with Shai Masot, an Israeli embassy official. He had to be hurriedly removed from the UK after an undercover Al Jazeera documentary showed him plotting with activists in the Labour and Conservative parties to discredit British politicians seen as a threat to Israel.

    Most observers believe that Masot was operating within the embassy as part of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, which in turn has been running black ops against western critics of Israel. Corbyn, we can safely assume, is high on that list.

    Rose is on record as saying she was a close friend of Masot’s.

    Her emotional, quavering voice as she spoke to Panorama presented a very different image from her appearances in Al-Jazeera’s undercover footage. There she is shown threatening to use physical violence – employing Krav Maga, a martial arts technique developed by the Israeli army – against another Jewish party member prominent in support of Corbyn.

    Panorama chose to follow in the footsteps of the rest of the British media in ignoring Al Jazeera’s revelations, even though they provide vital context for challenging claims of a supposedly growing “antisemitism crisis” in Labour. For the past three years, the media have produced little more than anecdotal evidence, like Ella Rose’s, to support this narrative.

    In a self-fulfilling prophecy, however, the more the media has fear-mongered about antisemitism in Labour – despite the absence of objective data to back up such claims – the more polls have shown British Jews panicking at the propsect of Corbyn reaching power.

    The Panorama investigation, titled “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”, will undoubtedly have further stoked such fear by interviewing a handful of disgruntled former employees involved in the party’s handling of antisemitism complaints.

    Bitter feuds

    Stripped of context, these testimonies offer a superficially plausible argument that the Labour leadership sought to minimise, or even indulge, antisemitism in the party. But the comments made by these ex-staff have to be viewed in terms of a wider power-play raging in Labour since Corbyn was elected leader.

    The party has been riven by bitter, very public feuds between an old guard, which dominated under Tony Blair, and the rapid rise of the party’s left wing under Corbyn, buoyed by massive support from the wider membership.

    Panorama referenced these rifts only to dismiss them as a conspiracy theory. Instead, the programme refashioned the split as a culture war between those presented as anti-racist centrists, like the disputes team’s former staff, and a supposed influx of anti-Israel, Jew-hating “Marxists” cultivated by Corbyn.

    The mass purge

    Some of the former members of the disputes staff interviewed by Panorama appear to have served effectively as a Trojan horse within Labour’s head office, assisting the Blairites in damaging Corbyn.

    Though it was not mentioned by Panorama, these staff members were caught repeatedly violating the party rulebook by excluding thousands of Corbyn supporters during the two leadership contests, in 2015 and 2016. These mass purges had nothing to do with antisemitism. People were ousted for “offences” such as retweeting posts by the Green Party or, in one case, praising the band the Foo Fighters.

    It was the enormous backlog created by these exclusions that overwhelmed the party machinery, leaving it incapable of handling disciplinary matters involving antisemitism.

    Labour officials note that, even after Corbyn was secure as leader, the obstruction continued. A small number of staff – the people Panorama interviewed – actively blocked the rapid resolution of high-profile antisemitism cases, dragging them out to embarrass the leadership.

    Since a new general secretary, Jennie Formby, was brought in and a new and larger disputes team appointed, including staff with legal training, the speed of handling antisemitism complaints is reported to have increased four-fold.

    The paradox is that those telling Panorama that Labour is “institutionally antisemitic” are the very people who failed to deal effectively with antisemitism complaints when they were in charge.

    Fears of a stitch-up

    The most astounding and intentional omission from the programme, however, are the countervailing voices in support of Corbyn. The Labour leader himself and senior staff like his chief strategist, Seumas Milne, declined to be interviewed. That is understandable. They had strong grounds to suspect that Panorama planned a stitch-up.

    Interviews of Labour leaders denying “institutional antisemitism” set against footage of tearful Jewish party members like Ella Rose speaking of abuse would have been a bad look.

    But what was undoubtedly inexcusable was Panorama’s failure to interview even one of the many Jewish Labour members who deny the antisemitism narrative, or to note that many of the most high-profile party members suspended or expelled for antisemitism are, in fact, themselves Jewish.

    Jewish members expelled

    One of the expulsions briefly mentioned by Panorama was Jackie Walker, who is herself Jewish, as well as black.

    The fact that Jewish activists have been disciplined for their criticisms of Israel or disputing the Labour antisemitism narrative suggests that the furor, in part at least, represents the redrawing of battle-lines within the Jewish community about who gets to speak for Jews about Israel.

    This was vital, but missing, context for understanding one of Panorama’s central charges: that Corbyn’s inner circle had interfered in the complaints process by offering advice to the disputes team.

    What Panorama failed to mention was that the advice was actually sought by the disputes staff. And it related to the need to handle sensitively the issue of the party being seen to take disciplinary action against Jewish members accused of antisemitism by other Jewish members.

    Labour administrators were effectively being asked to take sides in an ideological fight between different kinds of Jewish activists – hardline Zionists and anti-Zionists.

    ‘Wrong kind of Jews’

    Why, one can reasonably ask, did Panorama ignore Jewish Voice for Labour in this supposed “investigation” of Labour and anti-semitism? The group was specifically set up by Jewish members to counter the claims being made by activists like Rose.

    Groups like the Jewish Labour Movement have implied that Jewish supporters of Corbyn are the “wrong kind of Jews” – an extremely ugly insinuation that Panorama appeared to endorse by entirely sidelining them. This was one of the reasons the Labour leadership censured the programme-makers in a 50-page document presented to BBC boss Tony Hall, in which it argued that Panorama had “pre-determined the outcome of its investigation”.

    As Corbyn’s office noted, Panorama had cherrypicked and distorted evidence, presented only one side of the story, and relied almost exclusively on staff who have very large axes to grind.

    Score-settling may make for lively TV, but it is execrable journalism.

    As a public service broadcaster, the BBC is subject to an editorial policy requiring it to be impartial. Its guidelines also state that audiences should not be able to infer “the personal prejudices of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.”

    But the fact that Panorama made no attempt at even-handedness or fairness in its programme on Labour should have come as no surprise. The man in charge of the investigation was John Ware, a former Sun journalist. He cannot be considered dispassionate either about Corbyn or the prospects of Labour defeating the Conservative Party at a general election, which may be just around the corner.

    Strident supporter of Israel

    Two years ago, Ware wrote a lengthy article for a right-wing magazine warning of the danger of Corbyn reaching power. He was a politician, wrote Ware, “whose entire political career has been stimulated by disdain for the West, appeasement of extremism, and who would barely understand what fighting for the revival of British values is really all about”.

    Shortly after Corbyn’s leadership election victory in 2015, Ware headed a Panorama documentary that sought to malign the new leader.

    Ware is also a strident supporter of Israel and of its state ideology, Zionism. In a 2005 edition of Panorama he suggested that Muslims in Britain who spoke out about Israel’s crimes against Palestinians were “extremists”.

    In an article in the Jewish Chronicle last year Ware concluded that anti-Zionism had “morphed into anti-Semitism – itself a Corbyn legacy”.

    But that claim – that criticism of Israel is equivalent to antisemitism – needed to be interrogated rather than, as it was, assumed to be true by the Panorama special. It lies at the heart of both the split between the right and left wings of Labour, and the divisions within Labour’s Jewish membership.

    ‘Witch-hunt against Muslims’

    Equally disturbing is Ware’s apparent view that some kinds of racism matter far more than others. This appears to be what he means by “British values”.

    While he has repeatedly expressed concern about criticism of Israel, and has himself conflated it with antisemitism, his work has shown an apparent indulgence of Islamophobia. Over nearly two decades Ware has produced reports for the BBC that have antagonised Britain’s Muslim community.

    In 2003 David Blunkett, Labour’s home secretary of the time and no ally of Corbyn’s, compared a programme by Ware on asylum seekers to the notoriously racist hate speech of Enoch Powell back in the 1960s.

    Two years later the Muslim Council of Britain accused a Panorama documentary headed by Ware of amounting to a “witch-hunt against British Muslims”.

    Islamophobia ‘rational’

    In 2013 Ware claimed that Islamophobia, or what he called the “I-word”, was stopping people – though not himself, it seems – from talking about Muslim “extremism”. Ware argued that Islamophobia, unlike antisemitism, was rational and justified – or in his words, hatred of Muslims was simply “reactive”.

    He wrote in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper: “It is surely Muslim radicals who have brought it [anti-Muslim bigotry] on their fellow Muslims – by their promotion of Islam as a political ideology, and by invoking Islamophobia to close down criticism of this ideology.”

    Imagine how that would sound if one replaces “radical Muslims”, “political Islam” and “Islamophobia” with the equivalents of “Israel zealots”, “hardline Zionism” and “anti-semitism”. Let’s try it:

    “It is surely Israel zealots who have brought it [anti-Jewish bigotry] on their fellow Jews – by their promotion of hardline Zionism as a political ideology, and by invoking anti-semitism to close down criticism of this ideology.”

    Suggesting that Jews are to blame for the racism they face because some extremists among them are fanatical supporters of Israel and its oppression of Palestinians would surely amount to antisemitism in most people’s view.

    Skewed political priorities

    The relevance of this is that Ware and the BBC made a highly politicised decision to choose to focus exclusively on Labour and antisemitism, while ignoring the well-documented racism of the Conservative Party. That choice matches Ware’s own skewed political priorities.

    The BBC’s flagship political documentary assumed that Labour suffers from an “antisemitism crisis” so severe that it needed to be the sole focus of an investigation into racism in British politics.

    The decision to ignore the more visible issue of racism in the Conservative Party smacks of dangerous interference by the state broadcaster in the democratic process.

    Panorama’s choice is even more astonishing given that the objective data – again overlooked by the programme – indicates that Labour has much less of a racism problem than the ruling Conservative party.

    A survey this week confirmed what was already widely known: that Islamophobia – racism towards Muslims and Arabs – is rampant in Conservative ranks. A YouGov poll showed an astounding 56 per cent of party members believe Islam threatens the “British way of life”.

    The Tory party’s former chair, Sayeeda Warsi, has long been ringing the alarm about senior officials, warning that they are indifferent to, or supportive of, Islamophobia in the party.

    Rampant Tory racism

    In addition to rampant Islamophobia, figures show that the Conservatives also have a greater problem than Labour with antisemitism.

    While Corbyn has been critical of antisemitic world leaders, the Conservative leadership has been cosying up to figures like Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, who is known for his Jew-baiting and expressions of support for former Hungarian pro-Nazi leaders.

    Boris Johnson, the Conservative MP widely expected to become the next prime minister when Theresa May steps down, has a long track record of making inciteful, racist statements.

    Anti-semitism data ignored

    While the Conservatives’ undeniable racism problem has failed to attract any sustained media attention, the Labour Party’s much less serious antisemitism problem has been blown out of all proportion.

    The Panorama team ignored the most elementary facts undermining the now-pervasive narrative of a Labour “antisemitism crisis”.

    First, surveys show Labour voters are less likely to hold antisemitic views than the wider general public or Conservative voters, and the proportion of Labour supporters expressing such views has fallen dramatically under Corbyn. The data clearly refute suggestions that Corbyn has made the party more attractive to antisemites.

    Second, Labour’s disciplinary process has found that instances of discernible antisemitism is marginal, at 0.06 per cent of its half a million members. And that is after Corbyn’s political enemies have been scouring party members’ accounts seeking evidence of antisemitism.

    And third, much of the media coverage has attributed often anonymous hate speech on social media targeting Jews, including Labour MPs, to Labour activists when no evidence exists to support such attribution. The politicised climate is such now that far-right antisemitism is also being blamed on Corbyn.

    Questions for the BBC

    Corbyn’s critics, of course, have been trying to deflect criticism of the BBC, Panorama and Ware by arguing that Labour’s complaint is some kind of Trumpian attack on journalism. That is patent nonsense.

    The BBC is a public service broadcaster paid for by British taxpayers. Its credibility and legitimacy depends on it being seen to maintain strict neutrality and a commitment to evidence, not become a media attack dog in the hands of the ruling party.

    The question is why did the BBC’s flagship political investigations show decide that the marginal problem of racism in Labour was a much more urgent matter than the provable and significant racism in the Conservative Party?

    Unlike Labour, the Conservatives are actually in power and, through policy-making, are in a position to improve or damage the fabric of life for minority communities in Britain.

    This isn’t about protecting Corbyn. It is an expectation that the BBC sticks by its commitment to assess dispassionately British political life rather than interfere, as it did with the Panorama special, in an overt, partisan manner.

    • First published in Middle East Eye.

    How Evangelical Christians Risk Setting the Middle East on Fire

    The recent arrival of Africa’s most popular televangelist preacher, TB Joshua, to address thousands of foreign pilgrims in Nazareth produced a mix of consternation and anger in the city of Jesus’s childhood.

    There was widespread opposition from Nazareth’s political movements, as well as from community groups and church leaders, who called for a boycott of his two rallies. They were joined by the council of muftis, which described the events as “a red line for faith in religious values”.

    Joshua’s gatherings, which included public exorcisms, took place in an open-air amphitheatre on a hill above Nazareth that was originally built for papal masses. The site was used by Pope Benedict in 2009.

    The Nigerian pastor, who has millions of followers worldwide and calls himself a prophet, aroused local hostility not only because his brand of Christianity strays far from the more traditional doctrines of Middle Eastern churches. He also represents a trend of foreign Christians, driven by apocalyptic readings of the Bible, interfering ever more explicitly in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories – and in ways that directly aid the policies of Israel’s far-right government.

    Much-needed tourism boost

    Nazareth is the largest of the Palestinian communities in Israel that survived the Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948, which forced most of the native population out of the bulk of their homeland and replaced it with a Jewish state. Today, one in five Israeli citizens are Palestinian.

    The city and its immediate environs include the highest concentration of Palestinian Christians in the region. But it has long suffered from the hostility of Israeli officials, who have starved Nazareth of resources to prevent it from becoming a political, economic or cultural capital for the Palestinian minority.

    The city has almost no land for growth or industrial areas to expand its income base, and Israel has tightly constrained its ability to develop a proper tourism industry. Most pilgrims pass through briefly to visit its Basilica of the Annunciation, the site where the angel Gabriel reputedly told Mary she was carrying Jesus.

    Nazareth’s municipal officials leapt at the chance to exploit the publicity, and income, provided by Joshua’s visit. The municipality’s longer-term hope is that, if the city can attract even a small proportion of the more than 60 million Christian evangelicals in the US and millions more in Africa and Europe, it will provide an enormous boost to the city’s economy.

    Recent figures show evangelical tourism to Israel has been steadily rising, now accounting for about one in seven of all overseas visitors.

    Playing with fire

    But as the fallout over Joshua’s visit indicates, Nazareth may be playing with fire by encouraging these types of pilgrims to take a greater interest in the region. Most local Christians understand that Joshua’s teachings are not directed at them – and, in fact, are likely to harm them.

    The Nigerian pastor chose Nazareth to spread his gospel, but faced vocal opposition from those who believe he is using the city simply as the backdrop to his bigger mission – one that appears entirely indifferent to the plight of Palestinians, whether those living inside Israel in places such as Nazareth, or those under occupation.

    Political factions in Nazareth noted Joshua’s “ties to far-right and settlers circles in Israel”. He is reported to have had meetings about opening operations in the Jordan Valley, the reputed site of Jesus’ baptism but also the agricultural backbone of the West Bank. The area is being targeted by the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu for settlement expansion and possible annexation, thereby dooming efforts to create a Palestinian state.

    A view of Armageddon

    During his visits to Israel, Joshua has also enjoyed access to key government figures such as Yariv Levin, a close ally of Netanyahu’s, who has been in charge of two portfolios viewed as critical by the evangelical community: tourism, and the absorption into Israel of new Jewish immigrants from the US and Europe.

    Many in the evangelical community, including Joshua, believe it is their duty to encourage Jews to move from their home countries to the Promised Land to bring forward an end-times supposedly prophesied in the Bible.

    This is the Rapture, when Jesus returns to build his kingdom on earth and righteous Christians take their place alongside him. Everyone else, including unrepentant Jews, it is implied, will burn in Hell’s eternal fires.

    The cliff above the Jezreel Valley where Joshua and his disciples congregated offers views over Tel Megiddo, the modern name of the biblical site of Armageddon, where many evangelicals believe the end of the world will soon happen.

    Speeding up the second coming

    These Christians are not simply observers of an unfolding divine plan; they are active participants trying to bring the end-times closer.

    In fact, the traumas of the Israel-Palestine conflict – the decades of bloodshed, violent colonisation and expulsions of Palestinians – cannot be understood separately from the interference of Western Christian leaders in the Middle East over the past century. In many ways, they engineered the Israel we know today.

    The first Zionists, after all, were not Jews, but Christians. A vigorous Christian Zionist movement – known then as “restorationism” – emerged in the early 19th century, predating and heavily influencing its subsequent Jewish counterpart.

    The restorationists’ peculiar reading of the Bible meant that they believed the Messiah’s second coming could be accelerated if God’s chosen people, the Jews, returned to the Promised Land after 2,000 years of a supposed exile.

    Charles Taze Russell, a US pastor from Pennsylvania, travelled the world from the 1870s onwards imploring Jews to establish a national home for themselves in what was then Palestine. He even produced a plan for how a Jewish state might be created there.

    He did so nearly 20 years before the Jewish Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl published his famous book outlining a Jewish state.

    The secular Herzl didn’t much care where such a Jewish state was built. But his later followers – deeply aware of the hold of Christian Zionism in western capitals – focused their attention on Palestine, the biblical Promised Land, in the hope of winning powerful allies in Europe and the US.

    Rallying cry for Herzl’s followers

    Imperial Britain’s support was especially prized. In 1840, Lord Shaftesbury, who was connected through marriage to Lord Palmerston, a later prime minister, published an advert in the London Times urging the return of Jews to Palestine.

    Christian Zionism was an important factor influencing the British government in 1917 to issue the Balfour Declaration – effectively a promissory note from Britain that became the blueprint for creating a Jewish state on the ruins of the native population’s homeland.

    Writing of the declaration, Israeli historian Tom Segev has observed: “The men who sired it were Christian and Zionist and, in many cases, anti-Semitic.” That was because Christian Zionism took as its premise that Jews should not integrate into their own countries. Rather, they should serve as instruments of God’s will, moving to the Middle East so that Christians could achieve redemption.

    Edwin Montagu was the only British cabinet minister to oppose the Balfour Declaration, and he was also its sole Jewish member. He warned – for good reason – that the document would “prove a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country in the world”.

    ‘Struggle until the Rapture’

    While Jewish Zionists looked to the imperial powerhouse of Britain for sponsorship a century ago, today, their chief patron is the US. The standard-bearers of Christian Zionism have been enjoying growing influence in Washington since the Six-Day War of 1967.

    That process has reached its apotheosis under President Donald Trump. He has surrounded himself with a mix of extreme Jewish and Christian Zionists. His ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, are fervent Jewish supporters of the illegal settlements. But so too, it seems, are key Christians in the White House, such as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

    Before he entered government, Pompeo was clear about his evangelical beliefs. Back in 2015, he told a congregation: “It is a never-ending struggle … until the Rapture. Be part of it. Be in the fight.”

    This past March, he backed the idea that Trump might have been sent by God to save Israel from threats such as Iran. “I am confident that the Lord is at work here,” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

    Pence, meanwhile, has said: “My passion for Israel springs from my Christian faith … It’s really the greatest privilege of my life to serve as vice-president to a president who cares so deeply for our most cherished ally.”

    Sleeping giant awakens

    Trump’s relocation last year of the US embassy to Jerusalem, pre-empting any negotiated settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict, was designed to pander to his Christian Zionist base. Some 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for him in 2016, and he will need their support again in 2020 if he hopes to be re-elected.

    Not surprisingly, the new US embassy in Jerusalem was consecrated by two prominent televangelist pastors, John Hagee and Robert Jeffress, known for their fanatical support for Israel – as well as occasional antisemitic outbursts.

    More than a decade ago, Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, told delegates at a conference organised by AIPAC, Israel’s main political lobby in Washington: “The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened. There are 50 million Christians standing up and applauding the state of Israel.”

    The Hagee group’s activities include lobbying in Congress for hardline pro-Israel legislation, such as the recent Taylor Force Act that slashes US funding to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting. The group is also active in helping to push through legislation at the state and federal levels, penalising anyone who boycotts Israel.

    For US evangelicals, and those elsewhere, Israel is increasingly a key issue. A 2015 poll showed some three-quarters believe that developments in Israel were prophesied in the Bible’s Book of Revelation.

    Many expect Trump to complete a chain of events set in motion by British officials a century ago – and more and more of them are getting directly involved, in hopes of speeding along that process.

    Closer ties to settlers

    Israel’s vision of an “ingathering of the exiles” – encouraging Jews from around the world to move to the region under the Law of Return – fits neatly with Christian Zionism’s beliefs in a divine plan for the Middle East.

    The efforts of extremist Jewish settlers to colonise the West Bank, the bulk of any future Palestinian state, also chimes with Christian Zionists’ understanding of the West Bank as the “biblical heartland”, an area Jews must possess before Jesus returns.

    For these reasons, evangelicals are developing ever-closer ties with Israeli Jewish religious extremists, especially in the settlements. Recent initiatives have included online and face-to-face Bible studies programmes run by Orthodox Jews, often settlers, targeted specifically at evangelical Christians. The tutorials are designed to bolster the settlers’ narrative, as well as demonising Muslims and, by extension, Palestinians.

    The most popular course offered by Root Source, one such venture, is titled “Islam – Insights and Deceptions”. It uses the Old and New Testaments to make the case that Islam “is extremely dangerous”.

    A few months ago, Haaretz, Israel’s leading liberal newspaper, published an investigation into the growing flow of evangelical volunteers and money into the West Bank’s illegal settlements – the chief obstacle to achieving a two-state solution.

    One US organisation alone, Hayovel, has brought more than 1,700 Christian volunteers over the past 10 years to help in a settlement close to Nablus, in the heart of the West Bank.

    Evangelical money pours in

    An increasing number of similar initiatives have been aided by new rules introduced last year by the Israeli government to pay Christian Zionist groups such as Hayovel to advocate abroad for the settlements.

    It is much harder to know exactly how much evangelical money is pouring into the settlements, because of a lack of transparency regarding US donations made by churches and charities. But the Haaretz investigation estimates that over the past decade, as much as $65m has flowed in.

    Ariel, a settler town sitting in the very centre of the West Bank, received $8m for a sports centre from John Hagee Ministries a decade ago. Another evangelical outfit, J H Israel, has spent $2m there on a national leadership centre.

    Other Christian charities that have historically funded projects inside Israel are reported to be increasingly considering assisting the settlements too.

    Should a Trump peace plan – touted for publication later this year – back annexation of parts of the West Bank, as is widely expected, it would likely unleash a new and even greater wave of evangelical money into the settlements.

    Immune to reason

    This is precisely the problem for Palestinians, and the wider Middle East. Christian Zionists are meddling yet again, whether they be government officials, church leaders or their congregations. Evangelical influence is to be found from the US and Brazil to Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.

    Western governments typically have more practical and pressing concerns than realising biblical prophecy to justify divide-and-rule policies in the Middle East. Chiefly, they want control over the region’s oil resources, and can secure it only by projecting military power there to prevent rival nations from gaining a foothold.

    But the uncritical support of tens of millions of Christians around the world, whose passion for Israel is immune to reason, makes the job of these governments selling wars and resource grabs all the easier.

    Both Israel and the West have benefited from cultivating an image of a plucky Jewish state surrounded by barbaric Arabs and Muslims determined to destroy it. As a result, Israel has enjoyed ever greater integration into a Western power bloc, while Western governments have been offered easy pretexts either to interfere in the region directly or delegate such interference to Israel.

    The payoff for Israel has been unstinting support from the US and Europe, as it oppresses and drives the Palestinians off their lands.

    With an evangelical base behind him, Trump has no need to offer plausible arguments before he acts. He can move the US embassy to Jerusalem, or approve the annexation of the West Bank, or attack Iran.

    Standing against Israel’s enemies

    Seen this way, any enemy Israel claims to have – whether the Palestinians or Iran – automatically becomes the sworn enemy of tens of millions of evangelical Christians.

    Netanyahu understands the growing importance of this uncritical overseas lobby as his and Israel’s standing drops precipitously among liberal US Jews, appalled by the rightward lurch of successive governments.

    In 2017, Netanyahu told a crowd of evangelicals in Washington: “When I say we have no greater friends than Christian supporters of Israel, I know you’ve always stood with us.”

    For Palestinians, this is bad news. Most of these evangelicals, such as T B Joshua, are largely indifferent or hostile to the fate of the Palestinians – even Palestinian Christians, such as those in Nazareth.

    A recent editorial in Haaretz noted that Netanyahu and his officials were now “endeavoring to make evangelicals – who support Israel’s hawkish rejectionism regarding the Palestinians – the sole foundation of American support for Israel.”

    The truth is that these Christian Zionists view the region through a single, exclusive prism: whatever aids the imminent arrival of the Messiah is welcomed. The only issue is how soon God’s “chosen people” will congregate in the Promised Land.

    If the Palestinians stand in Israel’s way, these tens of millions of foreign Christians will be quite happy to see the native population driven out once again – as they were in 1948 and 1967.

    • Previously published in Middle East Eye

    Entry Ban at Israeli City Park provokes Apartheid Warnings

    The barring of a lawyer and her infant from a public park in the Galilee last week has triggered a legal battle over whether local authorities in Israel can segregate citizens on a racial basis.

    Human rights groups have warned that the ban marks a growing trend by local authorities representing the Jewish majority towards explicit separation of public space in ways reminiscent of apartheid South Africa.

    An Israeli court will have to decide whether it is reasonable for Afula, a city in the country’s north, to deny non-residents entrance to the main local park, which includes a playground, a small zoo, basketball courts and a running track.

    The restriction amounts to a ban on Palestinian citizens from surrounding communities using a public resource, according to Adalah, a legal human rights group representing Israel’s Palestinian minority, one in five of the country’s population.

    These 1.8 million Palestinian citizens are the remnants of the native population expelled from their lands in 1948 during the creation of Israel – what Palestinians call their Nakba, or catastrophe.

    ‘Conquest’ of the park

    Afula’s mayor, Avi Elkabetz, has done little to hide his motivation in closing the park to non-residents.

    He won a local election late last year on a platform that he would stop what he termed the “conquest of the park” by Palestinian citizens and has urged Afula’s residents to “proudly hoist Israeli flags throughout the park and play music in Hebrew”.

    In addition, Adalah observed, Elkabetz and other Afula officials have waged a battle over the past three years to block Palestinian citizens from moving to Afula from overcrowded, neighbouring communities like Nazareth.

    The mayor has been involved in a series of demonstrations against Palestinian families trying to buy homes in Afula, including one last month arranged by a far-right, anti-Arab group.

    After local elections last year, councillors were made to swear a revised oath that they would “preserve the city’s Jewish character”. Despite protests, the interior ministry did not oppose the change of wording.

    Mother and son denied entry

    Fady Khoury, an Adalah lawyer overseeing a petition to Nazareth’s district court to repeal Afula’s decision, said it was important to understand that this was not an isolated incident.

    “There has always been a lot of racially based segregation in Israel, but it was done quietly, mostly out of view in rural communities and concealed with ostensibly neutral language so that such policies would not arouse scrutiny or criticism,” he told Middle East Eye.

    “But now the discrimination is moving centre-stage, into the big cities. It is being done transparently, even proudly. It is a sign of the right’s ever-greater confidence.”

    Adalah launched the case after another of its lawyers was barred from the park last week. Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi, a resident of Nazareth, had hoped to take her one-year-old son there to play.

    The guard refused them entry after asking her where she lived. Nazareth, the largest Palestinian community in Israel, is a short distance from Afula.

    She noted that land shortages, following widespread government confiscations decades ago, meant Nazareth and other Palestinian communities lacked green spaces and public parks.

    Shehadeh-Zoabi told MEE: “It was shocking and humiliating to be told to leave, especially when Jews were being allowed to enter the park without showing any form of identification. It is clear the policy is designed to prevent Arab citizens alone from entering.”

    She added: “It starts with a ban on entering parks, but if we don’t challenge this policy of segregation based on ethnicity it will quickly escalate to bigger things.”

    Courts wary to intervene

    The Afula municipality declined to comment. A spokesman, Kfir Bazak, told MEE that it was not speaking to journalists because the Israeli media had in the past misrepresented its policy.

    Adalah hopes it can overturn the park ban using two laws: one that denies municipalities the right to collect fees for public parks, and another that prohibits the denial of services based on various criteria, including place of residence.

    Khoury said that, paradoxically, the residency non-discrimination clause was added by the parliament in a 2017 amendment designed to prevent companies from denying services to settlers.

    Many Jewish communities in Israel, he added, placed residency restrictions on access to public facilities, such as swimming pools and sports centres, that were covertly designed to exclude Palestinian citizens. The courts had usually been reluctant to intervene.

    “In those cases, there is limited space so there is an argument for prioritising local residents. Parks, on the other hand, cannot be treated as an exclusive space.

    “The land is given by the state to the municipality and it is designated in city plans as an open area. It’s like a public highway. It can’t be treated as private property.”

    He said if the court backed Adalah’s argument, those that are denied entry could sue the municipality.

    City of ‘Arab haters’

    On a visit to the park at the weekend, however, Afula residents were mostly supportive of the mayor’s move.

    Tal Kauffman, aged 41, said he took his young daughter regularly to the park during the summer.

    “It’s better this way. This city is known for being full of Arab-haters,” he told MEE. “I’m not against living together but the reality here is that mixing will lead to tension and fights.

    “It’s just recognising how people are raised here – to hate Arabs. We have to separate the ideals of politics and real life.”

    Most others, however, were more reluctant to ascribe the policy directly to racism.

    Tal Cohen, aged 30, who grew up in Afula but now lives in Tel Aviv, was visiting his parents with his wife and children. He said the restriction was necessary because of “bad people”.

    “It’s not about Arabs and Jews. It’s to stop troublemakers coming here and using the park. There’s a problem with alcohol and rubbish.”

    ‘Socially unsuitable’

    Adi Aviram, aged 34, was watching over her three young children playing on a slide. She believes non-residents should not be banned but should pay a fee to use the park.

    Referring to the widespread segregation in housing between the Jewish majority and Palestinian minority, she said it was good for children from different ethnic groups to meet in the park.

    “The fact is if they don’t mix here, they won’t come across each other until they’re grown-ups when they have already developed prejudices. It’s good for the kids to meet each other, play together, hear different languages.”

    Some 90 percent of Israelis live in communities that are almost completely segregated on a racial basis, noted Hana Swaid, a former Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament who now heads the Arab Centre for Alternative Planning.

    Hundreds of smaller Jewish communities employ admissions committees to bar Palestinian citizens from living there, he added, using the pretext that they are “socially unsuitable”.

    “Even the rest who live in the larger, so-called ‘mixed cities’ – like Jerusalem, Haifa, Acre, Lod and Jaffa – are mostly living under a system of partial segregation, with Jewish and Palestinan citizens divided into separate neighbourhoods,” he told MEE.

    Fear of mixing

    According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, Palestinian citizens comprise less than 1 percent of Afula’s population.

    However, small numbers of arrivals from neighbouring Palestinian communities over the past three years have triggered a backlash. The mayor has capitalised on fears among Afula residents that the city is in danger of becoming mixed.

    That has effectively happened close by, in Nazareth Ilit, a Jewish city built in the 1950s on the lands of neighbouring Nazareth, the reputed site of Jesus’ childhood and the only Palestinian city to survive the Nakba.

    Swaid said the proportion of Palestinian citizens living in Nazareth Ilit may now be as high as 25 percent. Israeli authorities have been reluctant to issue official figures.

    Last month, residents of Nazareth Ilit voted to rename their city Nof Hagalil (View of the Galilee) in a move the city’s mayor described as distancing the Jewish city from its neighbour.

    Nazareth Ilit’s mayors have refused to build a school teaching in Arabic in violation of Israel’s Education Law – forcing Palestinian parents to send their children to Nazareth’s schools. Education is almost entirely segregated in Israel.

    Compared to immigrants

    A father with his children in Afula’s park who would only give his name as Nick said he lived in Nazareth Ilit for a time after arriving from Russia in 1992 before moving to Afula.

    He warned that Afula would face a similar influx of Palestinian citizens if it did not act to stop it quickly, and compared the native Palestinian population to immigrants.

    “Here is like everywhere else. People in London don’t want immigrants coming to their city. We feel the same.”

    Last year, Afula city council voted down a move to incorporate in its municipal boundaries the small Palestinian village of Dahi, saying it wanted to “preserve the city’s character”. Beforehand, Elkabetz had referred to the council vote as “one of its most critical meetings ever”.

    Judaising the Galilee

    Swaid said Afula and other nearby Jewish cities were traditionally seen as “Judaising” – or making more Jewish – the Galilee, a region that had remained dominated by its Palestinian population since 1948.

    “The problem is that after decades of government discrimination Palestinian communities like Nazareth lack lands for future housing,” he said.

    “Residents have no choice but to seek solutions elsewhere. First they started moving to Nazareth Ilit, now it is Afula. That is provoking a reaction.”

    Swaid and Khoury noted that Afula’s officials felt more confident excluding Palestinian citizens after the parliament passed the Nation State Basic Law last year, which has a constitutional-like status.

    According to Article 7 of the law, “the state considers the development of Jewish settlement a national value, and will work to encourage and promote its establishment and strengthening”.

    Swaid said: “The intention behind the law is to make it possible for cities like Afula to implement segregation.”

    Disturbed by Arabic

    Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian and editor of a recent book comparing Israel and apartheid South Africa, said there was widespread support among Israeli Jews for apartheid-style segregation.

    A public survey last December revealed that 74 percent were disturbed to hear conversations in Arabic, the mother tongue of a fifth of the population. And 88 percent would be worried if their son befriended an Arab girl.

    “The reality today is that you will not a find a single cabinet minister who would be prepared to denounce what Afula is doing,” Pappe told MEE.

    “Not only that but all of them would understand or support its actions.”

    A Haaretz editorial last summer, during protests in Afula against house sales to Palestinian citizens, noted that not even Israel’s centre-left parties had voiced criticism of the involvement of the mayor and other city officials.

    “In Israel … expressions of hatred for Arabs are met with total indifference at best or encouragement at worst,” it observed.

    Template for future

    Pappe said it was inevitable that with Israeli politicians no longer even paying lip-service to a two-state solution, policies inside Israel would grow more like those in the occupied territories.

    “The right’s argument is that there is no difference between the parts of Palestine seized in 1948, which are today Israel, and those occupied in 1967,” he told MEE. “For them, they are the same, they are all Greater Israel.

    “The result is that policies towards Palestinian citizens increasingly look the same as those faced by Palestinians under occupation. All will face the same kind of apartheid. The Nation State Law was a template for the future.”

    Last year, Kfar Vradim, another Jewish community in the Galilee, halted an auction for land for house-building after several plots were bought by Palestinian citizens.

    Some 50 municipal rabbis issued an edict in 2010 against Jews renting or selling homes to Palestinian citizens.

    And around the same time the deputy mayor of the city of Karmiel in the central Galilee was implicated in setting up a hotline for residents to inform on neighbours suspected of selling to Palestinian citizens.

    Back at Afula’s park, one man admitted to being a Palestinian citizen – from the nearby village of Daburriya. Only giving his name as Abdullah, he said he had been employed by Afula as a park-keeper for four years. He declined to comment on the mayor’s new policy.

    • First published at Middle East Eye

    Guilt of anti-semitism now needs no evidence

    A deadly serious tweet at the weekend from Armando Iannucci, the comedy writer responsible for the hugely popular Westminster TV satire show The Thick of It, reveals something significant about the problem of resolving the so-called Labour anti-semitism “crisis”. In response to a tweet by a follower discussing my recent blog post entitled “The plot to keep Corbyn out of power”, Iannucci observed: “Fresh insight on the Labour antisemitism story. It’s all a lie stoked up by Jews.”

    It is very unlikely that Iannucci had actually read my post beyond the headline. If he did, it would suggest he has significant problems with basic comprehension. More likely he was simply demonstrating his own misunderstanding of what those of us who challenge the narrative of a Labour anti-semitism “crisis” are actually saying.

    There is much nonsense written about how we all now live in our own echo chambers. That may still be largely true if your opinions fit neatly inside the so-called Overton window, which in the UK spans the short leap from Blairism to Conservatism. Stick within this narrow manufactured consensus of supposedly rational policy – neoliberal orthodoxy at home, and neoconservative warmongering abroad – and you will rarely be exposed in depth to any other ideas unless you consciously seek them out.

    Cocooned from real debate

    But those of us whose politics are considered “radical” or “dissident” are confronted with the ideas of these consensus-enforcers almost every waking moment. There is no escape from the BBC, or the topical TV shows recycling the issues dominating the pages of the billionaire-owned press, or the policy agendas of a political class owned by the global corporations that now run our societies, or the conversations of friends and family shaped by these upholders of the status quo.

    Unlike those in the political centre who are reassured each day by the consensus telling them that they are sensible, responsible, sane people, those on the supposedly “radical fringes” of politics must listen to a public discourse that characterises them as deluded and dangerous, as prey to wild conspiracy theories and populism, and now – after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has threatened to break one side of the Overton window’s frame by rejecting neoliberalism and endless foreign wars – as unconscionable anti-semites.

    Those in the centre may have spent a lifetime cocooned from real political debate but in recent years they have faced two massive disruptions to their peace of mind: the entry of a “radical”, in the form of Corbyn, into mainstream politics; and the partial democratisation of public debate with the growth of social media. Both developments have proved most unwelcome to the centrists.

    They are now horrified to hear other kinds or voices saying things that once would never have been allowed near a newspaper or micophone. When they are exposed to critical voices on new media platforms, they react by characterising them as “offensive”, “populism”, “fake news” or “demonisation”. Their instinct is to impugn their critics’ credibility and motives rather than engage with their arguments, and to shut down or limit the platforms where these alternative opinions can be aired.

    Shouting into the wind

    Although they have been brought superficially into contact with these ideas, like most people used to the comforts of privilege they can afford not to listen. They understand enough to know that we disagree with them, but they do not care to make sense of why. They hear our noise, they fear it even, but they do not stay quiet long enough to learn anything about what we have to say.

    And for that reason we are shouting into the wind, our words carried far off where they can do no harm. When we fall silent, all we hear is a caricature of the arguments we have articulated clearly.

    This could not be more evident than in the case of Chis Williamson, a political ally of Corbyn’s who like so many others has found himself consumed by the evidence-free consensus that, when Corbyn was elected party leader four years ago, Labour became “institutionally anti-semitic” overnight.

    Corbyn’s commitment to tackling all kinds of racism, of course, risks smashing the consensus on Israel, a country that has been indulged by European and US leaders for decades. Israel has long been firmly in the west’s privileged fold – provided with diplomatic, financial and military assistance – even though, under Netanyahu, it no longer tries to conceal its ever more repressive policies towards the Palestinians.

    Incredibly, Israel’s easily documented policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid are not only still unpunished but it has become ever harder to talk about them. Month by month, more western states move towards outlawing the world’s first major solidarity movement with the Palestinians – an entirely non-violent one – which calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it concedes the same rights to Palestinians as it does to Jews in the region.

    Not daring to listen

    The consensual public narrative about Williamson is that he made an anti-semitic remark to Labour party members. All wings of the UK media, including supposedly liberal outlets like the Guardian, have reported that Williamson was caught saying Labour had been “too apologetic” about anti-semitism. The fact that a video recording of his statement is all over social media, showing that he didn’t say anything of the sort, is of no significance to them. The centrists aren’t interested in the evidence. They are determined to keep the privilege of their echo chamber.

    The problem for the so-called “radical” is that the unwillingness of the centrists to listen is compounded by a deeper problem – that like Iannucci, they dare not listen. The mischaracterisation of Williamson’s statement can help us understand why.

    What Williamson said was not that Labour had been “too apologetic” about anti-semitism, but that Labour had been “too apologetic” in the face of smears that party members were anti-semitic. He wasn’t minimising anti-semitism, he was defending the membership from a campaign of demonisation that portrays them as anti-semites – something you might think delicate centrists, so ready to take offence, might have understood.

    But the centrists aren’t listening to what Williamson actually said. They hear only what they need him to have said for their worldview to continue making sense.

    Trapped in an echo chamber

    Here is what Iannucci, Billy Bragg, Owen Jones, Tom Watson and Margaret Hodge apparently believe Williamson said:

    We in Labour are not interested in the fact that Jews experience racism from our party. We are determined to ignore the problem of anti-semitism they have identified. Instead of taking responsibility for our racism, we are going to blame Jews for the problem. When we say anti-semitism has been weaponised, what we mean is that Jews are plotting against our party. We are writing a new Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    Seen like this, Williamson and most of the Labour membership are anti-semites. But only someone trapped in their own echo chamber could really believe this is a view anyone in Labour has actually endorsed. Williamson and the members who support him aren’t saying Jews are behind the smearing of Labour. They are saying the dominant forces of our society are.

    And this is where the real chasm between the centrists and the radicals opens up. The issue of anti-semitism has become a shadow play for centrists, offering them a supposed moral high ground, as they try to hold the fort against the ideological barbarians at the gate.

    Two views of social conflict

    There are two ways of understanding conflict in our societies.

    The centrists have adopted as their own an understanding of the world cultivated for them by a lifetime of listening to, and trusting in, the state-corporate media. It presents conflict as a battle between personalities, individual and collective: between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt; between Republicans and Democrats; between Trump and Antifa; between Julian Assange and two Swedish women; between Apple Mac and Windows; between men from Mars and women from Venus; between social conservatives and the LGBT movement; between blacks and whites; between Brexiteers and Remainers; between Jews and anti-semites.

    This understanding of the world – as a battle between personalities, and the ideas and values they embody – is the one we are encouraged to focus on by the political and media class. That is for three reasons. First, presenting politics as exclusively a battle between people and ideas keeps most of us divided and feuding rather in solidarity with each other. Second, it has been relatively easy to determine the winners of this kind of conflict when the narrative can be controlled through the state-corporate media. And third, the focus on personalities stops us thinking about a much more profound and meaningful way of viewing conflict – as a class-based, economic struggle.

    This way of understanding conflict sees it as structural, as a battle between those with money and power and those without. On this view, society is structured by the powerful to maintain and expand their power. This theory of conflict regards the corporate media not as a neutral platform for debating ideas and values, but as a weapon, one designed to cultivate only those ideas and values that preserve the power of the existing elite. This is what Noam Chomsky and others have called “brainwashing under freedom” by the western media.

    The brutal logic of power

    The structural nature of power should be obvious, if we hadn’t been so brainwashed to think otherwise by our media. To gain some perspective, consider a different historical time such as the feudal period. It would sound preposterous to offer an analysis that society then was shaped chiefly by whether the king and his barons were nice people or bad. There weren’t dramatic, structural changes every time a new prince ascended to the throne. There was a great deal of continuity and consistency over many centuries because each king and his courtiers had the same economic motive to justify a system preserving their wealth and privilege. A king could tinker with the system in ways suited to his personality, but the ruthless, brutal core of the system had to be maintained. Any king who lacked these steely qualities would be toppled by someone who didn’t.

    The same applies today to the heads of major corporations. So long as it proves profitable, Exxon is not going to stop despoiling the planet to extract hydrocarbons, whoever is appointed CEO. Exxon could never appoint a “nice” CEO in the sense of someone prepared to forgo profit and shareholder value – not so long as the current neoliberal economic model dominates. Even were a ruthless CEO to have a Damascene conversion in the job, suddenly becoming a serious  environmentalist, he or she would be removed before they could take any decisions that might jeopardise the corporation’s profits.

    That is why genuine radical leftists are much less interested in who becomes the figurehead of a corrupt and corrupting political system than they are in finding ways to challenge the system and thereby highlight how power operates in our society. The goal is fundamental change, now of a kind that is needed to save us as a species, rather than continuing image management.

    Corbyn’s rise is so important because he threatens to lift the veil on the power structure, either because he is forced into a clash with it as he tries to implement his policies or because he is crushed by it before he can pursue those policies. Corbyn offers a unique opportunity to hold up a mirror to British society, stripping away the beautified mask to see the ugly skeleton-face below. He risks making the carefully concealed structure of power visible. And this is precisely why he is so dangerous to the status-quo-supporting centrists.

    No single Jewish view

    But still, aren’t Williamson and Labour members suggesting that “Jews” are the ones behind this, as Iannucci infers? When we speak of plots by the powerful, global corporations, the banks and capitalists, aren’t we really using coded language for “Jews”? And if we aren’t, how do we explain the fact that Jews are so certain that Labour is mired in “institutional anti-semitism”?

    “Jews”, however, are not of one mind on this issue, except in the imagination of centrists pursuing the “Labour is institutionally anti-semitic” narrative. Certainly, there are lots of different views among British Jews about Labour. It’s just that only one strand of opinion is being given a platform by the political and media class – the one against Corbyn. That should hardly surprise us if, as I explained, the corporate media are not there to reflect different constituencies of opinion, but to enforce a consensus that serves the powerful.

    The problem with Iannucci’s implicit argument that Jews should be left to decide whether Labour is anti-semitic – and that denying them that right is itself anti-semitic – is not only that it assumes Jews are of a single view. It makes two further dubious assumptions: that those who have been given a voice on the subject have actually experienced anti-semitism in Labour, and that they have no other identifiable motives for making such a claim. Neither assumption withstands scrutiny.

    When the largely conservative leadership of the Board of Deputies is given centre-stage as spokesperson for British Jews on the issue of Labour and Corbyn, it can speak with no meaningful authority. Its previous leader, Jonathan Arkush, was not only an unabashed supporter of the Conservative Party, but openly welcomed its governing alliance with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, extreme Protestant loyalists, as “positive news” for Jews. His successor, Marie van der Zyl, argues that the Board exists “to promote a sympathetic understanding of Israel” – a position that necessarily drives her and the Board into a profound ideological clash with Corbyn and much of the Labour membership behind him.

    Examples crumble on inspection

    Those Jews inside Labour vociferously promoting claims of a supposed anti-semitism “crisis” in Labour, chiefly the Jewish Labour Movement and a handful of Labour MPs,  have been much less forthcoming with actual examples. There is no doubt, as we are often reminded, that former Labour MP Luciana Berger received death threats, but it is much less often noted that those threats did not come from Labour members, they came from the far right. Dossiers like the one submitted by MP Margaret Hodge have shown to be cluttered with cases of alleged anti-semitism that have nothing to do with the Labour party. And MP Ruth Smeeth’s infamous claims of an anti-semitic remark against her by black anti-racism activist Marc Wadsworth crumbled on closer inspection, as did her claim to have received 25,000 anti-semitic comments in a matter of days.

    The motives of the leadership of the Jewish Labour Movement need questioning too, as an Al-Jazeera undercover investigation revealed two years ago. It exposed the fact that the JLM was working closely with Shai Masot, an agent inside the Israeli embassy whose job was to help mobilise opposition to Corbyn. Again unsurprisingly given that the media serves the interests of power, Al-Jazeera’s investigation received negligible coverage and made almost no impression outside pro-Palestinian circles despite its shocking findings.

    As self-confessed Zionists, and hardline ones at that, the leaders of the JLM – representing only a few hundreds members, some of them not Jewish – regard Israel as a supremely important issue, and seem largely indifferent to what Israel is doing to the Palestinians. The JLM and its allies in Labour Friends of Israel have been central to efforts to force the Labour party to adopt a new definition of anti-semitism that conflates strong criticism of Israel with Jew hatred. Jewish supporters of Corbyn inside Labour, who have been highly critical the JLM and Labour Friends of Israel, such as Jewish Voice for Labour, have been mostly sidelined in media coverage or dismissed as the “wrong kind of Jews”.

    In other words, when we hear from Jewish organisations, it is specifically the ones that have an agenda deeply at odds with Corbyn’s – either for his left wing politics or for his adamant opposition to Israeli oppression. Supposed “Jewish” opinion on Labour has simply become another echo chamber, one selected for amplification because its message is the one centrists want to hear: that Corbyn and his supporters are very bad people who must not be allowed near power.

    Polls reveal ugly racism

    But even if all that is true, polls suggest a significant number of ordinary Jews think there is a problem with anti-semitism in Labour. How can we dismiss or denigrate their views?

    Well, if only one view of Labour and anti-semitism is being aired in the media, it is almost certain that a majority of Jews will end up believing the truth of a supposed “Corbyn threat”. Jews are no different from the rest of us. No smoke without fire, they’ll say. If the media keep telling them that Williamson said Labour was “too apologetic” about anti-semitism, even though it is documented that he didn’t, then most – those who listen to the BBC and read the papers rather than doing the hard work of their own research – will come to believe it must be true he said it. The evidence is irrelevant if a consensus has been manufactured in spite of the evidence.

    Further, the fact that a majority believe something is true quite obviously doesn’t make it true – or right. And that applies to Jews just as much as any other group. If you doubt me, consider this. Polls of Israeli Jews consistently show them holding views that would appall most people in Britain, including British Jews. One survey published in December and conducted by Israeli Channel 10 TV showed that 52 per cent of Israeli Jews are prepared to admit that they think Jews are better than non-Jews, with only 20 per cent disagreeing with the statement. Some 88 per cent are disturbed at the idea of their son befriending a girl from the fifth of Israel’s population who are Arab. And three-quarters are worried by hearing a public conversation held in the mother tongue of this large, quiescent Arab minority.

    So if Israeli Jews can be so obviously wrong in their beliefs and values, if the ugliest forms of racism are rife in their society after long exposure to simple-minded Arab hatred from their own political and media class, why should we expect more from British Jews – or from ourselves – after long exposure to a similar media-constructed consensus? To believe otherwise would be to assume that most of us are capable of building our own value systems from scratch, that we can develop a worldview in total isolation from the information and narratives we are bombarded with every day by the media and our politicians.

    Whipping up fear

    There is a plot against Corbyn to stop him getting anywhere near power. It is a very obvious one, as I documented in my last post. It has taken many forms over the past four years, but has settled on anti-semitism as the most effective smear because it is such a difficult accusation to deny if the actual evidence is not taken into account, as in Williamson’s case – and so many other examples – illustrate.

    Is it not telling that the media, while going to such lengths to alert audiences to the Jewish identity of those offended by Labour anti-semitism, have so rarely mentioned that many of those supposedly doing the offending – including those suspended and expelled by Labour for anti-semitism – are Jewish themselves?The media and status-quo-enforcing politicians on both sides of the aisle have whipped up fear over anti-semitism among a portion of British Jews, just as their US equivalents did among a majority of Americans during the McCarthy witch hunts for Communists and during round-ups of Asians during World War Two.

    They have done so because Corbyn poses a genuine threat, not to Jews but to a power structure the political and media establishment are deeply invested in – ideologically, financially and emotionally. This class is at war with ordinary people, Jews and non-Jews alike. And it will use any means necessary to prevent disrupting the continuing dominance of turbo-charged neoliberalism, an economic system that threatens all our futures on this planet.

    One day, if we survive as a species, when neoliberalism looks as archaic and outmoded as feudalism does to us today, all of this will look much clearer. By then, we may finally understand that we were played for fools – all of us.

    The Plot to Keep Corbyn out of Power

    In the latest of the interminable media “furores” about Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed unfitness to lead the Labour party – let alone become prime minister – it is easy to forget where we were shortly before he won the support of an overwhelming majority of Labour members to head the party.

    In the preceding two years, it was hard to avoid on TV the figure of Russell Brand, a comedian and minor film star who had reinvented himself, after years of battling addiction, as a spiritual guru-cum-political revolutionary.

    Brand’s fast-talking, plain-speaking criticism of the existing political order, calling it discredited, unaccountable and unrepresentative, was greeted with smirking condescension from the political and media establishment. Nonetheless, in an era before Donald Trump had become president of the United States, the British media were happy to indulge Brand for a while, seemingly believing he or his ideas might prove a ratings winner with younger audiences.

    But then Brand started to look rather more impressive than anyone could have imagined. He took on supposed media heavyweights like the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman and Channel 4’s Jon Snow and charmed and shamed them into submission – both with his compassion and his thoughtful radicalism. Even in the gladiatorial-style battle of wits so beloved of modern TV, he made these titans of the political interview look mediocre, shallow and out of touch. Videos of these head-to-heads went viral, and Brand won hundreds of thousands of new followers.

    Then he overstepped the mark.

    Democracy as charade

    Instead of simply criticising the political system, Brand argued that it was, in fact, so rigged by the powerful, by corporate interests, that western democracy had become a charade. Elections were pointless. Our votes were simply a fig-leaf, concealing the fact that our political leaders were there to represent not us but the interests of globe-spanning corporations. Political and media elites had been captured by unshored corporate money. Our voices had become irrelevant.

    Brand didn’t just talk the talk. He went out and started committing to direct action. He shamed our do-nothing politicians and corporate media (the devastating Grenfell Tower fire had yet to happen) by helping gain attention for a group of poor tenants in London who were taking on the might of a corporation that had become their landlord and wanted to evict them to develop their homes for a much richer clientele. Brand’s revolutionary words had turned into revolutionary action.

    But just as Brand’s rejection of the old politics began to articulate a wider mood, it was stopped in its tracks. When Corbyn was unexpectedly elected Labour leader, offering for the first time in living memory a politics that listened to people before money, Brand’s style of rejectionism seemed a little too cynical, or at least premature.

    But while Corbyn’s victory marked a sea-change, it is worth recalling that it occurred only because of a mistake. Or perhaps two.

    The Corbyn accident

    First, a handful of Labour MPs agreed to nominate Corbyn for the leadership contest, scraping him past the threshold needed to get on the ballot paper. Most backed him only because they wanted to make the election look fair and open. After his victory, some loudly regretted having assisted him. None had thought a representative of the tiny and besieged left wing of the parliamentary party stood a chance of winning – not after Tony Blair and his acolytes had spent more than two decades remaking Labour, using their own version of entryism to eradicate any vestiges of socialism in the party. These “New Labour” MPs were there, just as Brand had noted, to represent the interests of a corporate class, not ordinary people.

    Corbyn had very different ideas from most of his colleagues. Over the years he had broken with the consensus of the dominant Blairite faction time and again in parliamentary votes, consistently taking a minority view that later proved to be on the right side of history. He alone among the leadership contenders spoke unequivocally against austerity, regarding it as a way to leech away more public money to enrich the corporations and banks that had already pocketed vast sums from the public coffers – so much so that by 2008 they had nearly bankrupted the entire western economic system.

    And second, Corbyn won because of a recent change in the party’s rulebook – one now much regretted by party managers. A new internal balloting system gave more weight to the votes of ordinary members than the parliamentary party. The members, unlike the party machine, wanted Corbyn.

    Corbyn’s success didn’t really prove Brand wrong. Even the best designed systems have flaws, especially when the maintenance of the system’s image as benevolent is considered vitally important. It wasn’t that Corbyn’s election had demonstrated that Britain’s political system was representative and accountable. It was simply evidence that corporate power had made itself vulnerable to a potential accident by preferring to work out of sight, in the shadows, to maintain the illusion of democracy. Corbyn was that accident.

    Brainwashing under freedom’

    Corbyn’s success also wasn’t evidence that the power structure he challenged had weakened. The system was still in place and it still had a chokehold on the political and media establishments that exist to uphold its interests. Which is why it has been mobilising these forces endlessly to damage Corbyn and avert the risk of a further, even more disastrous “accident”, such as his becoming prime minister.

    Listing the ways the state-corporate media have sought to undermine Corbyn would sound preposterous to anyone not deeply immersed in these media-constructed narratives. But almost all of us have been exposed to this kind of “brainwashing under freedom” since birth.

    The initial attacks on Corbyn were for being poorly dressed, sexist, unstatesmanlike, a national security threat, a Communist spy – relentless, unsubstantiated smears the like of which no other party leader had ever faced. But over time the allegations became even more outrageously propagandistic as the campaign to undermine him not only failed but backfired – not least, because Labour membership rocketed under Corbyn to make the party the largest in Europe. As the establishment’s need to keep him away from power has grown more urgent and desperate so has the nature of the attacks.

    Redefining anti-semitism

    Corbyn was extremely unusual in many ways as the leader of a western party within sight of power. Personally he was self-effacing and lived modestly. Ideologically he was resolutely against the thrust of four decades of a turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism unleashed by Thatcher and Reagan in the early 1980s; and he opposed foreign wars for empire, fashionable “humanitarian interventions” whose real goal was to attack other sovereign states either to control their resources, usually oil, or line the pockets of the military-industrial complex.

    It was difficult to attack Corbyn directly for these positions. There was the danger that they might prove popular with voters. But Corbyn was seen to have an Achilles’ heel. He was a life-long anti-racism activist and well known for his support for the rights of the long-suffering Palestinians. The political and media establishments soon learnt that they could recharacterise his support for the Palestinians and criticism of Israel as anti-semitism. He was soon being presented as a leader happy to preside over an “institutionally” anti-semitic party.

    Under pressure of these attacks, Labour was forced to adopt a new and highly controversial definition of anti-semitism – one rejected by leading jurists and later repudiated by the lawyer who devised it – that expressly conflates criticism of Israel, and anti-Zionism, with Jew hatred. One by one Corbyn’s few ideological allies in the party – those outside the Blairite consensus – have been picked off as anti-semites. They have either fallen foul of this conflation or, as with Labour MP Chris Williamson, they have been tarred and feathered for trying to defend Labour’s record against the accusations of a supposed endemic anti-semitism in its ranks.

    The bad faith of the anti-semitism smears were particularly clear in relation to Williamson. The comment that plunged him into so much trouble – leading twice to his suspension – was videoed. In it he can be heard calling anti-semitism a “scourge” that must be confronted. But also, in line with all evidence, Williamson denied that Labour had any particular anti-semitism problem. In part he blamed the party for being too ready to concede unwarranted ground to critics, further stoking the attacks and smears. He noted that Labour had been “demonised as a racist, bigoted party”, adding: “Our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion … we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”

    The Guardian has been typical in mischaracterising Williamson’s remarks not once but each time it has covered developments in his case. Every Guardian report has stated, against the audible evidence, that Williamson said Labour was “too apologetic about anti-semitism”. In short, the Guardian and the rest of the media have insinuated that Williamson approves of anti-semitism. But what he actually said was that Labour was “too apologetic” when dealing with unfair or unreasonable allegations of anti-semitism, that it had too willingly accepted the unfounded premise of its critics that the party condoned racism.

    Like the Salem witch-hunts

    The McCarthyite nature of this process of misrepresentation and guilt by association was underscored when Jewish Voice for Labour, a group of Jewish party members who have defended Corbyn against the anti-semitism smears, voiced their support for Williamson. Jon Lansman, a founder of the Momentum group originally close to Corbyn, turned on the JVL calling them “part of the problem and not part of the solution to antisemitism in the Labour Party”. In an additional, ugly but increasingly normalised remark, he added: “Neither the vast majority of individual members of JVL nor the organisation itself can really be said to be part of the Jewish community.”

    In this febrile atmosphere, Corbyn’s allies have been required to admit the party’s institutionalised anti-semitism, to distance themselves from Corbyn and often to submit to anti-semitism training. To do otherwise, to deny the accusation is, as in the Salem witch-hunts, treated as proof of guilt.

    The anti-semitism claims have been regurgitated almost daily across the narrow corporate media “spectrum”, even though they are unsupported by any actual evidence of an anti-semitism problem in Labour beyond a marginal one representative of wider British society. The allegations have reached such fever-pitch, stoked into a hysteria by the media, that the party is now under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission – the only party apart from the neo-Nazi British National Party ever to face such an investigation.

    These attacks have transformed the whole discursive landscape on Israel, the Palestinians, Zionism and anti-semitism in ways unimaginable 20 years ago, when I first started reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then the claim that anti-Zionism – opposition to Israel as a state privileging Jews over non-Jews – was the same as anti-semitism sounded patently ridiculous. It was an idea promoted only by the most unhinged apologists for Israel.

    Now, however, we have leading liberal commentators such as the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland claiming not only that Israel is integral to their Jewish identity but that they speak for all other Jews in making such an identification. To criticise Israel is to attack them as Jews, and by implication to attack all Jews. And therefore any Jew dissenting from this consensus, any Jew identifying as anti-Zionist, any Jew in Labour who supports Corbyn – and there are many, even if they are largely ignored – are denounced, as by Lansman, as the “wrong kind of Jews”. It may be absurd logic, but such ideas are now so commonplace as to be unremarkable.

    In fact, the weaponisation of anti-semitism against Corbyn has become so normal that, even while I was writing this post, a new nadir was reached. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary who hopes to defeat Boris Johnson in the upcoming Tory leadership race, as good as accused Corbyn of being a new Hitler, a man who as prime minister might allow Jews to be exterminated as happened in the Nazi death camps.

    Too ‘frail’ to be PM

    Although anti-semitism has become the favoured stick with which to beat Corbyn, other forms of attack regularly surface. The latest is a comment by an unnamed “senior civil servant” reported in the Times alleging that Corbyn is too physically frail and mentally ill-equipped to grasp the details necessary to serve as prime minister. It barely matters whether the comment was actually made by a senior official or simply concocted by the Times. It is yet further evidence of the political and media establishments’ anti-democratic efforts to discredit Corbyn as a general election looms.

    One of the ironies is that media critics of Corbyn regularly accuse him of failing to make any political capital from the shambolic disarray of the ruling Conservative party, which is eating itself alive over the terms of Brexit, Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union. But it is the corporate media – which serves both as society’s main forum of debate and as a supposed watchdog on power – that is starkly failing to hold the Tories to account. While the media obsess about Corbyn’s supposed mental deficiencies, they have smoothed the path of Boris Johnson, a man who personifies the word “buffoon” like no one else in political life, to become the new leader of the Conservative party and therefore by default – and without an election – the next prime minister.

    An indication of how the relentless character assassination of Corbyn is being coordinated was hinted at early on in comments – also reported by The Times, and also made anonymously – by a British military general immediately after Corbyn’s election in 2015. He told the paper there would be “direct action”, what he termed a “mutiny”, by the armed forces should Corbyn ever get in sight of power. The generals, he said, regarded Corbyn as a national security threat and would use any means “fair or foul” to prevent him implementing his political programme.

    Running the gauntlet

    But this campaign of domestic attacks on Corbyn needs to be understood in a still wider framework, which relates to Britain’s abiding Transatlantic “special relationship”, one that in reality means that the UK serves as Robin to the United States’ Batman, or as a very junior partner to the global hegemon.

    Last month a private conversation concerning Corbyn between the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the heads of a handful of rightwing American Jewish organisations was leaked. Contrary to the refrain of the UK corporate media that Corbyn is so absurd a figure that he could never win an election, the fear expressed on both sides of that Washington conversation was that the Labour leader might soon become Britain’s prime minister.

    Framing Corbyn yet again as an anti-semite, a US Jewish leader could be heard asking Pompeo if he would be “willing to work with us to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the UK”. Pompeo responded that it was possible “Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected” – a telling phrase that attracted remarkably little attention, as did the story itself, given that it revealed one of the most senior Trump administration officials explicitly talking about meddling directly in the outcome of a UK election.

    Here is the dictionary definition of “run the gauntlet”: to take part in a form of corporal punishment in which the party judged guilty is forced to run between two rows of soldiers, who strike out and attack him.

    So Pompeo was suggesting that there already is a gauntlet – systematic and organised blows and strikes against Corbyn – that he is being made to run through. In fact, “running the gauntlet” precisely describes the experience Corbyn has faced since he was elected Labour leader – from the corporate media, from the dominant Blairite faction of his own party, from rightwing, pro-Israel Jewish organisations like the Board of Deputies, and from anonymous generals and senior civil servants.

    ‘We cheated, we stole’

    Pompeo continued: “You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”

    So, Washington’s view is that action must be taken before Corbyn reaches a position of power. To avoid any danger he might become the UK’s next prime minister, the US will do its “level best” to “push back”. Assuming that this hasn’t suddenly become the US administration’s priority, how much time does the US think it has before Corbyn might win power? How close is a UK election?

    As everyone in Washington is only too keenly aware, a UK election has been a distinct possibility since the Conservatives set up a minority government two years ago with the help of fickle, hardline Ulster loyalists. Elections have been looming ever since, as the UK ruling party has torn itself apart over Brexit, its MPs regularly defeating their own leader, prime minister Theresa May, in parliamentary votes.

    So if Pompeo is saying, as he appears to be, that the US will do whatever it can to make sure Corbyn doesn’t win an election well before that election takes place, it means the US is already deeply mired in anti-Corbyn activity. Pompeo is not only saying that the US is ready to meddle in the UK’s election, which is bad enough; he is hinting that it is already meddling in UK politics to make sure the will of the British people does not bring to power the wrong leader.

    Remember Pompeo, a former CIA director, once effectively America’s spy chief, was unusually frank about what his agency got up to when he was in charge. He observed: “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses.”

    One would have to be remarkably naive to think that Pompeo changed the CIA’s culture during his short tenure. He simply became the figurehead of the world’s most powerful spying outfit, one that had spent decades developing the principles of US exceptionalism, that had lied its way to recent wars in Iraq and Libya, as it had done earlier in Vietnam and in justifying the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, and much more. Black ops and psyops were not invented by Pompeo. They have long been a mainstay of US foreign policy.

    An eroding consensus

    It takes a determined refusal to join the dots not to see a clear pattern here.

    Brand was right that the system is rigged, that our political and media elites are captured, and that the power structure of our societies will defend itself by all means possible, “fair or foul”. Corbyn is far from alone in this treatment. The system is similarly rigged to stop a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders – though not a rich businessman like Donald Trump – winning the nomination for the US presidential race. It is also rigged to silence real journalists like Julian Assange who are trying to overturn the access journalism prized by the corporate media – with its reliance on official sources and insiders for stories – to divulge the secrets of the national security states we live in.

    There is a conspiracy at work here, though it is not of the kind lampooned by critics: a small cabal of the rich secretly pulling the strings of our societies. The conspiracy operates at an institutional level, one that has evolved over time to create structures and refine and entrench values that keep power and wealth in the hands of the few. In that sense we are all part of the conspiracy. It is a conspiracy that embraces us every time we unquestioningly accept the “consensual” narratives laid out for us by our education systems, politicians and media. Our minds have been occupied with myths, fears and narratives that turned us into the turkeys that keep voting for Christmas.

    That system is not impregnable, however. The consensus so carefully constructed over many decades is rapidly breaking down as the power structure that underpins it is forced to grapple with real-world problems it is entirely unsuited to resolve, such as the gradual collapse of western economies premised on infinite growth and a climate that is fighting back against our insatiable appetite for the planet’s resources.

    When we colluded in the manufactured consensus of western societies, the system operated without challenge or meaningful dissent. A deeply ideological system destroying the planet was treated as though it was natural, immutable, the summit of human progress, the end of history. Those times are over. Accidents like Corbyn will happen more frequently, as will extreme climate events and economic crises. The power structures in place to prevent such accidents will by necessity grow more ham-fisted, more belligerent, less concealed to get their way. And we might finally understand that a system designed to pacify us while a few grow rich at the expense of our own and our children’s future does not have to continue. That we can raise our voices and loudly say: “No!”

    The Plot to Keep Corbyn out of Power

    In the latest of the interminable media “furores” about Jeremy Corbyn’s supposed unfitness to lead the Labour party – let alone become prime minister – it is easy to forget where we were shortly before he won the support of an overwhelming majority of Labour members to head the party.

    In the preceding two years, it was hard to avoid on TV the figure of Russell Brand, a comedian and minor film star who had reinvented himself, after years of battling addiction, as a spiritual guru-cum-political revolutionary.

    Brand’s fast-talking, plain-speaking criticism of the existing political order, calling it discredited, unaccountable and unrepresentative, was greeted with smirking condescension from the political and media establishment. Nonetheless, in an era before Donald Trump had become president of the United States, the British media were happy to indulge Brand for a while, seemingly believing he or his ideas might prove a ratings winner with younger audiences.

    But then Brand started to look rather more impressive than anyone could have imagined. He took on supposed media heavyweights like the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman and Channel 4’s Jon Snow and charmed and shamed them into submission – both with his compassion and his thoughtful radicalism. Even in the gladiatorial-style battle of wits so beloved of modern TV, he made these titans of the political interview look mediocre, shallow and out of touch. Videos of these head-to-heads went viral, and Brand won hundreds of thousands of new followers.

    Then he overstepped the mark.

    Democracy as charade

    Instead of simply criticising the political system, Brand argued that it was, in fact, so rigged by the powerful, by corporate interests, that western democracy had become a charade. Elections were pointless. Our votes were simply a fig-leaf, concealing the fact that our political leaders were there to represent not us but the interests of globe-spanning corporations. Political and media elites had been captured by unshored corporate money. Our voices had become irrelevant.

    Brand didn’t just talk the talk. He went out and started committing to direct action. He shamed our do-nothing politicians and corporate media (the devastating Grenfell Tower fire had yet to happen) by helping gain attention for a group of poor tenants in London who were taking on the might of a corporation that had become their landlord and wanted to evict them to develop their homes for a much richer clientele. Brand’s revolutionary words had turned into revolutionary action.

    But just as Brand’s rejection of the old politics began to articulate a wider mood, it was stopped in its tracks. When Corbyn was unexpectedly elected Labour leader, offering for the first time in living memory a politics that listened to people before money, Brand’s style of rejectionism seemed a little too cynical, or at least premature.

    But while Corbyn’s victory marked a sea-change, it is worth recalling that it occurred only because of a mistake. Or perhaps two.

    The Corbyn accident

    First, a handful of Labour MPs agreed to nominate Corbyn for the leadership contest, scraping him past the threshold needed to get on the ballot paper. Most backed him only because they wanted to make the election look fair and open. After his victory, some loudly regretted having assisted him. None had thought a representative of the tiny and besieged left wing of the parliamentary party stood a chance of winning – not after Tony Blair and his acolytes had spent more than two decades remaking Labour, using their own version of entryism to eradicate any vestiges of socialism in the party. These “New Labour” MPs were there, just as Brand had noted, to represent the interests of a corporate class, not ordinary people.

    Corbyn had very different ideas from most of his colleagues. Over the years he had broken with the consensus of the dominant Blairite faction time and again in parliamentary votes, consistently taking a minority view that later proved to be on the right side of history. He alone among the leadership contenders spoke unequivocally against austerity, regarding it as a way to leech away more public money to enrich the corporations and banks that had already pocketed vast sums from the public coffers – so much so that by 2008 they had nearly bankrupted the entire western economic system.

    And second, Corbyn won because of a recent change in the party’s rulebook – one now much regretted by party managers. A new internal balloting system gave more weight to the votes of ordinary members than the parliamentary party. The members, unlike the party machine, wanted Corbyn.

    Corbyn’s success didn’t really prove Brand wrong. Even the best designed systems have flaws, especially when the maintenance of the system’s image as benevolent is considered vitally important. It wasn’t that Corbyn’s election had demonstrated that Britain’s political system was representative and accountable. It was simply evidence that corporate power had made itself vulnerable to a potential accident by preferring to work out of sight, in the shadows, to maintain the illusion of democracy. Corbyn was that accident.

    Brainwashing under freedom’

    Corbyn’s success also wasn’t evidence that the power structure he challenged had weakened. The system was still in place and it still had a chokehold on the political and media establishments that exist to uphold its interests. Which is why it has been mobilising these forces endlessly to damage Corbyn and avert the risk of a further, even more disastrous “accident”, such as his becoming prime minister.

    Listing the ways the state-corporate media have sought to undermine Corbyn would sound preposterous to anyone not deeply immersed in these media-constructed narratives. But almost all of us have been exposed to this kind of “brainwashing under freedom” since birth.

    The initial attacks on Corbyn were for being poorly dressed, sexist, unstatesmanlike, a national security threat, a Communist spy – relentless, unsubstantiated smears the like of which no other party leader had ever faced. But over time the allegations became even more outrageously propagandistic as the campaign to undermine him not only failed but backfired – not least, because Labour membership rocketed under Corbyn to make the party the largest in Europe. As the establishment’s need to keep him away from power has grown more urgent and desperate so has the nature of the attacks.

    Redefining anti-semitism

    Corbyn was extremely unusual in many ways as the leader of a western party within sight of power. Personally he was self-effacing and lived modestly. Ideologically he was resolutely against the thrust of four decades of a turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism unleashed by Thatcher and Reagan in the early 1980s; and he opposed foreign wars for empire, fashionable “humanitarian interventions” whose real goal was to attack other sovereign states either to control their resources, usually oil, or line the pockets of the military-industrial complex.

    It was difficult to attack Corbyn directly for these positions. There was the danger that they might prove popular with voters. But Corbyn was seen to have an Achilles’ heel. He was a life-long anti-racism activist and well known for his support for the rights of the long-suffering Palestinians. The political and media establishments soon learnt that they could recharacterise his support for the Palestinians and criticism of Israel as anti-semitism. He was soon being presented as a leader happy to preside over an “institutionally” anti-semitic party.

    Under pressure of these attacks, Labour was forced to adopt a new and highly controversial definition of anti-semitism – one rejected by leading jurists and later repudiated by the lawyer who devised it – that expressly conflates criticism of Israel, and anti-Zionism, with Jew hatred. One by one Corbyn’s few ideological allies in the party – those outside the Blairite consensus – have been picked off as anti-semites. They have either fallen foul of this conflation or, as with Labour MP Chris Williamson, they have been tarred and feathered for trying to defend Labour’s record against the accusations of a supposed endemic anti-semitism in its ranks.

    The bad faith of the anti-semitism smears were particularly clear in relation to Williamson. The comment that plunged him into so much trouble – leading twice to his suspension – was videoed. In it he can be heard calling anti-semitism a “scourge” that must be confronted. But also, in line with all evidence, Williamson denied that Labour had any particular anti-semitism problem. In part he blamed the party for being too ready to concede unwarranted ground to critics, further stoking the attacks and smears. He noted that Labour had been “demonised as a racist, bigoted party”, adding: “Our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion … we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”

    The Guardian has been typical in mischaracterising Williamson’s remarks not once but each time it has covered developments in his case. Every Guardian report has stated, against the audible evidence, that Williamson said Labour was “too apologetic about anti-semitism”. In short, the Guardian and the rest of the media have insinuated that Williamson approves of anti-semitism. But what he actually said was that Labour was “too apologetic” when dealing with unfair or unreasonable allegations of anti-semitism, that it had too willingly accepted the unfounded premise of its critics that the party condoned racism.

    Like the Salem witch-hunts

    The McCarthyite nature of this process of misrepresentation and guilt by association was underscored when Jewish Voice for Labour, a group of Jewish party members who have defended Corbyn against the anti-semitism smears, voiced their support for Williamson. Jon Lansman, a founder of the Momentum group originally close to Corbyn, turned on the JVL calling them “part of the problem and not part of the solution to antisemitism in the Labour Party”. In an additional, ugly but increasingly normalised remark, he added: “Neither the vast majority of individual members of JVL nor the organisation itself can really be said to be part of the Jewish community.”

    In this febrile atmosphere, Corbyn’s allies have been required to admit the party’s institutionalised anti-semitism, to distance themselves from Corbyn and often to submit to anti-semitism training. To do otherwise, to deny the accusation is, as in the Salem witch-hunts, treated as proof of guilt.

    The anti-semitism claims have been regurgitated almost daily across the narrow corporate media “spectrum”, even though they are unsupported by any actual evidence of an anti-semitism problem in Labour beyond a marginal one representative of wider British society. The allegations have reached such fever-pitch, stoked into a hysteria by the media, that the party is now under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission – the only party apart from the neo-Nazi British National Party ever to face such an investigation.

    These attacks have transformed the whole discursive landscape on Israel, the Palestinians, Zionism and anti-semitism in ways unimaginable 20 years ago, when I first started reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then the claim that anti-Zionism – opposition to Israel as a state privileging Jews over non-Jews – was the same as anti-semitism sounded patently ridiculous. It was an idea promoted only by the most unhinged apologists for Israel.

    Now, however, we have leading liberal commentators such as the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland claiming not only that Israel is integral to their Jewish identity but that they speak for all other Jews in making such an identification. To criticise Israel is to attack them as Jews, and by implication to attack all Jews. And therefore any Jew dissenting from this consensus, any Jew identifying as anti-Zionist, any Jew in Labour who supports Corbyn – and there are many, even if they are largely ignored – are denounced, as by Lansman, as the “wrong kind of Jews”. It may be absurd logic, but such ideas are now so commonplace as to be unremarkable.

    In fact, the weaponisation of anti-semitism against Corbyn has become so normal that, even while I was writing this post, a new nadir was reached. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary who hopes to defeat Boris Johnson in the upcoming Tory leadership race, as good as accused Corbyn of being a new Hitler, a man who as prime minister might allow Jews to be exterminated as happened in the Nazi death camps.

    Too ‘frail’ to be PM

    Although anti-semitism has become the favoured stick with which to beat Corbyn, other forms of attack regularly surface. The latest is a comment by an unnamed “senior civil servant” reported in the Times alleging that Corbyn is too physically frail and mentally ill-equipped to grasp the details necessary to serve as prime minister. It barely matters whether the comment was actually made by a senior official or simply concocted by the Times. It is yet further evidence of the political and media establishments’ anti-democratic efforts to discredit Corbyn as a general election looms.

    One of the ironies is that media critics of Corbyn regularly accuse him of failing to make any political capital from the shambolic disarray of the ruling Conservative party, which is eating itself alive over the terms of Brexit, Britain’s imminent departure from the European Union. But it is the corporate media – which serves both as society’s main forum of debate and as a supposed watchdog on power – that is starkly failing to hold the Tories to account. While the media obsess about Corbyn’s supposed mental deficiencies, they have smoothed the path of Boris Johnson, a man who personifies the word “buffoon” like no one else in political life, to become the new leader of the Conservative party and therefore by default – and without an election – the next prime minister.

    An indication of how the relentless character assassination of Corbyn is being coordinated was hinted at early on in comments – also reported by The Times, and also made anonymously – by a British military general immediately after Corbyn’s election in 2015. He told the paper there would be “direct action”, what he termed a “mutiny”, by the armed forces should Corbyn ever get in sight of power. The generals, he said, regarded Corbyn as a national security threat and would use any means “fair or foul” to prevent him implementing his political programme.

    Running the gauntlet

    But this campaign of domestic attacks on Corbyn needs to be understood in a still wider framework, which relates to Britain’s abiding Transatlantic “special relationship”, one that in reality means that the UK serves as Robin to the United States’ Batman, or as a very junior partner to the global hegemon.

    Last month a private conversation concerning Corbyn between the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and the heads of a handful of rightwing American Jewish organisations was leaked. Contrary to the refrain of the UK corporate media that Corbyn is so absurd a figure that he could never win an election, the fear expressed on both sides of that Washington conversation was that the Labour leader might soon become Britain’s prime minister.

    Framing Corbyn yet again as an anti-semite, a US Jewish leader could be heard asking Pompeo if he would be “willing to work with us to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the UK”. Pompeo responded that it was possible “Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected” – a telling phrase that attracted remarkably little attention, as did the story itself, given that it revealed one of the most senior Trump administration officials explicitly talking about meddling directly in the outcome of a UK election.

    Here is the dictionary definition of “run the gauntlet”: to take part in a form of corporal punishment in which the party judged guilty is forced to run between two rows of soldiers, who strike out and attack him.

    So Pompeo was suggesting that there already is a gauntlet – systematic and organised blows and strikes against Corbyn – that he is being made to run through. In fact, “running the gauntlet” precisely describes the experience Corbyn has faced since he was elected Labour leader – from the corporate media, from the dominant Blairite faction of his own party, from rightwing, pro-Israel Jewish organisations like the Board of Deputies, and from anonymous generals and senior civil servants.

    ‘We cheated, we stole’

    Pompeo continued: “You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best. It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.”

    So, Washington’s view is that action must be taken before Corbyn reaches a position of power. To avoid any danger he might become the UK’s next prime minister, the US will do its “level best” to “push back”. Assuming that this hasn’t suddenly become the US administration’s priority, how much time does the US think it has before Corbyn might win power? How close is a UK election?

    As everyone in Washington is only too keenly aware, a UK election has been a distinct possibility since the Conservatives set up a minority government two years ago with the help of fickle, hardline Ulster loyalists. Elections have been looming ever since, as the UK ruling party has torn itself apart over Brexit, its MPs regularly defeating their own leader, prime minister Theresa May, in parliamentary votes.

    So if Pompeo is saying, as he appears to be, that the US will do whatever it can to make sure Corbyn doesn’t win an election well before that election takes place, it means the US is already deeply mired in anti-Corbyn activity. Pompeo is not only saying that the US is ready to meddle in the UK’s election, which is bad enough; he is hinting that it is already meddling in UK politics to make sure the will of the British people does not bring to power the wrong leader.

    Remember Pompeo, a former CIA director, once effectively America’s spy chief, was unusually frank about what his agency got up to when he was in charge. He observed: “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. It’s – it was like – we had entire training courses.”

    One would have to be remarkably naive to think that Pompeo changed the CIA’s culture during his short tenure. He simply became the figurehead of the world’s most powerful spying outfit, one that had spent decades developing the principles of US exceptionalism, that had lied its way to recent wars in Iraq and Libya, as it had done earlier in Vietnam and in justifying the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, and much more. Black ops and psyops were not invented by Pompeo. They have long been a mainstay of US foreign policy.

    An eroding consensus

    It takes a determined refusal to join the dots not to see a clear pattern here.

    Brand was right that the system is rigged, that our political and media elites are captured, and that the power structure of our societies will defend itself by all means possible, “fair or foul”. Corbyn is far from alone in this treatment. The system is similarly rigged to stop a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders – though not a rich businessman like Donald Trump – winning the nomination for the US presidential race. It is also rigged to silence real journalists like Julian Assange who are trying to overturn the access journalism prized by the corporate media – with its reliance on official sources and insiders for stories – to divulge the secrets of the national security states we live in.

    There is a conspiracy at work here, though it is not of the kind lampooned by critics: a small cabal of the rich secretly pulling the strings of our societies. The conspiracy operates at an institutional level, one that has evolved over time to create structures and refine and entrench values that keep power and wealth in the hands of the few. In that sense we are all part of the conspiracy. It is a conspiracy that embraces us every time we unquestioningly accept the “consensual” narratives laid out for us by our education systems, politicians and media. Our minds have been occupied with myths, fears and narratives that turned us into the turkeys that keep voting for Christmas.

    That system is not impregnable, however. The consensus so carefully constructed over many decades is rapidly breaking down as the power structure that underpins it is forced to grapple with real-world problems it is entirely unsuited to resolve, such as the gradual collapse of western economies premised on infinite growth and a climate that is fighting back against our insatiable appetite for the planet’s resources.

    When we colluded in the manufactured consensus of western societies, the system operated without challenge or meaningful dissent. A deeply ideological system destroying the planet was treated as though it was natural, immutable, the summit of human progress, the end of history. Those times are over. Accidents like Corbyn will happen more frequently, as will extreme climate events and economic crises. The power structures in place to prevent such accidents will by necessity grow more ham-fisted, more belligerent, less concealed to get their way. And we might finally understand that a system designed to pacify us while a few grow rich at the expense of our own and our children’s future does not have to continue. That we can raise our voices and loudly say: “No!”

    In Bahrain, the Horizon of Peace stretched Further Away from Palestinians

    Donald Trump’s supposed “deal of the century”, offering the Palestinians economic bribes in return for political submission, is the endgame of western peace-making, the real goal of which has been failure, not success.

    For decades, peace plans have made impossible demands of the Palestinians, forcing them to reject the terms on offer and thereby create a pretext for Israel to seize more of their homeland.

    The more they have compromised, the further the diplomatic horizon has moved away – to the point now that the Trump administration expects them to forfeit any hope of statehood or a right to self-determination.

    Even Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and architect of the peace plan, cannot really believe the Palestinians will be bought off with their share of the $50 billion inducement he hoped to raise in Bahrain last week.

    That was why the Palestinian leadership stayed away.

    But Israel’s image managers long ago coined a slogan to obscure a policy of incremental dispossession, masquerading as a peace process: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

    It is worth examining what those landmark “missed opportunities” consisted of.

    The first was the United Nations’ Partition Plan of late 1947. In Israel’s telling, it was Palestinian intransigence over dividing the land into separate Jewish and Arab states that triggered war, leading to the creation of a Jewish state on the ruins of most of the Palestinians’ homeland.

    But the real story is rather different.

    The recently formed UN was effectively under the thumb of the imperial powers of Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union. All three wanted a Jewish state as a dependent ally in the Arab-dominated Middle East.

    Fueled by the dying embers of western colonialism, the Partition Plan offered the largest slice of the Palestinian homeland to a minority population of European Jews, whose recent immigration had been effectively sponsored by the British empire.

    As native peoples elsewhere were being offered independence, Palestinians were required to hand over 56 per cent of their land to these new arrivals. There was no chance such terms would be accepted.

    However, as Israeli scholars have noted, the Zionist leadership had no intention of abiding by the UN plan either. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding father, called the Jewish state proposed by the UN “tiny”. He warned that it could never accommodate the millions of Jewish immigrants he needed to attract if his new state was not rapidly to become a second Arab state because of higher Palestinian birth rates.

    Ben Gurion wanted the Palestinians to reject the plan, so that he could use war as a chance to seize 78 per cent of Palestine and drive out most of the native population.

    For decades, Israel was happy to entrench and, after 1967, expand its hold on historic Palestine.

    In fact, it was Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat who made the biggest, unreciprocated concessions to peace. In 1988, he recognised Israel and, later, in the 1993 Olso accords, he accepted the principle of partition on even more dismal terms than the UN’s – a state on 22 per cent of historic Palestine.

    Even so, the Oslo process stood no serious chance of success after Israel refused to make promised withdrawals from the occupied territories. Finally, in 2000 President Bill Clinton called together Arafat and Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak to a peace summit at Camp David.

    Arafat knew Israel was unwilling to make any meaningful compromises and had to be bullied and cajoled into attending. Clinton promised the Palestinian leader he would not be blamed if the talks failed.

    Israel ensured they did. According to his own advisers, Barak “blew up” the negotiations, insisting that Israel hold on to occupied East Jerusalem, including the Al Aqsa mosque, and large areas of the West Bank. Washington blamed Arafat anyway, and refashioned Israel’s intransigence as a “generous offer”.

    A short time later, in 2002, Saudi Arabia’s Peace Initiative offered Israel normal relations with the Arab world in return for a minimal Palestinian state. Israel and western leaders hurriedly shunted it into the annals of forgotten history.

    After Arafat’s death, secret talks through 2008-09 – revealed in the Palestine Papers leak – showed the Palestinians making unprecedented concessions. They included allowing Israel to annex large tracts of East Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ expected capital.

    Negotiator Saeb Erekat was recorded saying he had agreed to “the biggest [Jerusalem] in Jewish history” as well as to only a “symbolic number of [Palestinian] refugees’ return [and a] demilitarised state … What more can I give?”

    It was a good question. Tzipi Livni, Israel’s negotiator, responded, “I really appreciate it” when she saw how much the Palestinians were conceding. But still her delegation walked away.

    Trump’s own doomed plan follows in the footsteps of such “peace-making”.

    In a New York Times commentary last week Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, candidly encapsulated the thrust of this decades-long diplomatic approach. He called on the Palestinians to “surrender”, adding: “Surrender is the recognition that in a contest, staying the course will prove costlier than submission.”

    The peace process was always leading to this moment. Trump has simply cut through the evasions and equivocations of the past to reveal where the West’s priorities truly lie.

    It is hard to believe that Trump or Kushner ever believed the Palestinians would accept a promise of “money for quiet” in place of a state based on “land for peace”.

    Once more, the West is trying to foist on the Palestinians an inequitable peace deal. The one certainty is that they will reject it – it is the only issue on which the Fatah and Hamas leaderships are united – again ensuring the Palestinians can be painted as the obstacle to progress.

    The Palestinians may have refused this time to stumble into the trap, but they will find themselves the fall guys, whatever happens.

    When Trump’s plan crashes, as it will, Washington will have the chance to exploit a supposed Palestinian rejection as justification for approving annexation by Israel of yet more tranches of occupied territory.

    The Palestinians will be left with a shattered homeland. No self-determination, no viable state, no independent economy, just a series of aid-dependent ghettos. And decades of western diplomacy will finally have arrived at its preordained destination.

    • First published in The National