Category Archives: Jeremy Corbyn

Anti-semitism bandwagon rolled out again

For a few months over the summer the British corporate media largely lost interest in smearing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-semite. Maybe they had begun to worry that the constant drum-beat of the past three years was deadening the public’s sensitivity to such claims.

But an election is now weeks away, and the anti-semitism smear bandwagon is being rolled out once again.

Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle (who also writes for the Tory-loving Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph newspapers) has yet again been terrifying readers as best he can, implying not so subtly that voting for Labour might risk a genocide of British Jews. After several years of painting Corbyn – preposterously – as some kind of unkempt, grey-bearded leader of a British Gestapo-in-the-making, Pollard spent the past few days highlighting in the corporate media the predictable results of the latest survey of Jewish public opinion. It suggests that a growing number of Jews are considering leaving Britain if Corbyn manages to oust Boris Johnson from power.

That we have reached the point where so many British Jews have been persuaded that Corbyn’s vocal criticism of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians means his entire party is infected with a supposed hatred of Jews needs some explaining. It is something I have been trying to do regularly, and in real time, as life has been breathed into these various slurs, both by a corporate media that detests the fairer society a Corbyn party promises and by an Israel lobby that identifies so closely with Israel that it has completely dehumanised Palestinians, to the extent that the crimes against them can be entirely overlooked – treated as no more significant than stepping on an ant.

In the figure of Pollard, we have a journalist who merges both outlooks, typified in this extraordinary tweet last year that at the time stunned even some of his followers but has now become a staple of the campaign against Corbyn and his democratic socialist politics. Efforts by the left to highlight the class war waged by an elite that’s been sucking the life out of the British economy to enrich itself have been maliciously recharacterised by Pollard and other rightwing journalists (some of whom ensconced themselves in the Labour party during Tony Blair’s rule) as an attack on Jews. But it is not the left that conflates the corporate elite with Jews, it is right wing journalists like Pollard.

We shall return to this issue later in the post.

Jonathan Freedland’s libel

An incident at the weekend helped to illustrate just how organised and malevolent the anti-semitism smears against Corbyn truly are.
Jonathan Freedland, a supposedly liberal columnist at the Guardian newspaper and a BBC regular, again proved how he has been a key
figure in weaponising this allegation against a Corbyn-led party. So eager is he to damage Labour and make sure it is no position to end a decade of Tory-imposed austerity that he threw aside all normal journalistic caution and published a libellous claim of anti-semitism against a potential Labour candidate in the coming general election.

There were several revealing aspects to this incident. Freedland defamed Majid Mahmood, a Labour local councillor in Birmingham, without making even the most rudimentary factual checks that the highly damaging claim was actually true – a basic journalistic duty. He simply relied on the word of a “previously reliable Labour source” – in other words, one of the many Blairite enemies of Corbyn within the Labour parliamentary faction and party bureaucracy who have been briefing against the leader for the past four years.

(It is worth recalling that a prominent anti-racism activist, Marc Wadsworth, was hounded from the party last year, accused of anti-semitism, for warning that Blairite MPs like Ruth Smeeth were briefing against their own leader to journalists in the right wing press. Smeeth accused Wadsworth of anti-semitism because she is Jewish, though Wadsworth says he did not know that – and, of course, her Jewishness is irrelevant to the issue of whether she was seeking to malign her own party’s leader through the media. Wadsworth’s mistake, it seems, was to assume that corporate “liberal” journalists like Freedland were not also part of those smear efforts.)

In Mahmood’s case, it was an egregious example of mistaken identity. Freedland and his “source” had confused the Birmingham councillor with a London lawyer of the same name who was fined over anti-semitic comments four years ago. Such confusion was clearly neither accidental nor innocent. Mahmood’s case highlighted something that was already patently obvious: that anti-Corbyn groups have been trawling the histories and social media posts of Labour members in an organised effort to weaponise anything they can find against the Labour leader. The defamation of Mahmood was simply the latest smear to emerge from this campaign.

Smears from within Labour

But Freedland’s “defence” was itself telling. The person relaying the smear to him was, he said, from inside Labour and had been “previously reliable”. That meant someone fairly senior in the party – thereby explaining Freedland’s readiness to believe him uncritically – and someone who had passed on similar damaging information before. It was irrefutable confirmation that Corbyn’s most venomous opponents are not in the Conservative party but drawn from Labour’s own top ranks. They want a Corbyn-led party destroyed even if it means keeping the Brexit-backing, austerity-loving, racism-indulgent Tories in power.

There was another ugly aspect to the behaviour of Freedland and his “source”. It looked suspiciously like both had uncritically accepted the unfounded claim against Mahmood because he had a Muslim name. They both appeared to have assumed that Muslims are more likely to be racist towards Jews and therefore accepted the claim with a much lower standard of evidence than they would have been expected in the case of anyone else.

In fact, the councillor’s name is a Muslim equivalent of “David Brown” or “George Smith”. Can we really imagine Freedland libelling someone with either of those names so casually, without making even cursory checks to be sure he had identified the right David Brown or George Smith?

This kind of behaviour has a name: it is called racism. And it is quite extraordinary to see Freedland so susceptible, after he has made a journalistic career out of exploring the intricacies of racism when it applies to Jews. It almost leaves one suspecting that this paragon of liberal journalism is really a hypocrite.

Fears the free lunch will end

The anti-semitism smear campaign is being revived in the corporate media for good reason. The stakes could not be higher for Britain’s ruling class. As worried as many of them are by Brexit, Corbyn is seen as a bigger threat. He might call time on the banquet they have been gorging on for four decades uninterrupted.

If Corbyn shunts Boris Johnson and the Tories out of power, the millionaires and billionaires who control both the British print and broadcast media, including the BBC, fear the good times could come to an abrupt end. The Brexit threat pales in comparison. That would simply shift our primary economic allegiance from Europe to the United States, leaving the predatory capitalism on which the corporate class has grown unimaginably rich as strong as ever.

A Corbyn government, by contrast, is an unknown quantity. The free-lunch might end, or at least start to feel more like an unsatisfying snack.

In truth, given the bitter divisions tearing apart his own party – between most of the mass membership, who are behind him, and the holdouts from the Blair-Brown era that still dominate the parliamentary party – it is hard to imagine Corbyn being able to do as much as his critics fear.

He may manage to curb the worst excesses of the neoliberal financial system, he may block further privatisation of the NHS, even reverse it a little, and he may bring a few vital national industries back into public ownership. He may manage too to redirect some of the cream the fat cats have been lapping up back into the public coffers for a New Green Deal. All of that would be a relief after so many years of Tory-designed austerity for the many and state socialism for the few.

But the corporate class are now so greedy, so used to getting their way, that even the smallest diminishment of their power and wealth is seen as an unbearable offence against what they divine as the natural order.

A tool of class war

They are not about to leave anything to chance. Corbyn must be tarred and feathered again. Four years of experimenting with various smears have selected anti-semitism as the weapon of choice. That false accusation can most easily be disguised to ensure it does not look like what it is intended to be when used against Corbyn and Labour: a tool of class war.

Claims of anti-semitism have worked ideally in damaging Corbyn because no real evidence has been needed. In fact, such claims succeed even when opposed to the known evidence (as we shall see). They work chiefly by innuendo and emotion. And better still, they work even when those accused like Corbyn and his allies deny the accusation. As in all good witch-hunts, denial is proof of guilt, as an ally of Corbyn’s, the MP Chris Williamson, has repeatedly found out. He has been barred from standing in the election, and has now resigned from the party, after correctly noting that Labour had in effect made the anti-semitism smears appear more credible by constantly apologising over evidence-free claims of anti-semitism from those seeking to harm the party’s image with voters.

This is a winning formula for the ruling class because anyone who tries to argue that Corbyn’s opponents are weaponising anti-semitism through the corporate media is thereby proved to be an anti-semite. The smears are entirely resistant to all evidence that they are smears.

Survey: little anti-semitism on left

That the anti-semitism claims are slurs has been demonstrated over and over again. But paradoxically the latest refutation came last week from the corporate elite’s house journal, the Economist – though, of course, it was not presented that way .

The magazine published a new survey of British public opinion showing that an ideological group it labelled as “very left wing” – presumably the people who share Corbyn’s views – were among the least likely to hold anti-semitic opinions, even though they also had by far the most critical views of Israel (an outlook the Economist mischievously termed “highly anti-Israel”).

In other words, those people on the left who firmly oppose Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians were unlikely also to harbour anti-Jewish views. The great majority could clearly distinguish between Israel and Jews, and did not hold Jews responsible for the crimes committed by the state of Israel.

The same could not be said, however, of either the centre or the right. Supporters of the right were less than half as likely to adopt critical views of Israel as the left but were three and a half times more likely to hold anti-semitic views. Meanwhile, only a small number of centrists were critical of Israel, and an almost identical number held anti-semitic views.

What the figures reveal is the very opposite of the Labour anti-semitism narrative – unless we wish to argue improbably that Labour and its 500,000 members (the largest party in Europe) are entirely unrepresentative of the wider public that shares their ideological worldview. The left overwhelmingly opposes Israeli colonial oppression of Palestinians but very few blame Jews for Israel’s behaviour. Israel is seen as a political project, one driven by an ugly ideology of settler colonialism, not a project representing all Jews. The latter is an anti-semitic position that, paradoxically, is supported and promoted by Israel itself.

Conversely, the same figures suggest that there is an identifiable problem of racism and anti-semitism on the right, and a potential one among centrists too. Whereas the left understands that Israel and Jews are entirely separate and distinct categories, both the centre and right appear to share a tendency of conflating Israel and Jews.

Racism rife on the right

In the case of the right, the figures show a close correlation between opposition to Israel and anti-Jewish feeling. A significant portion of the right either blame Jews collectively for Israel’s crimes or dislike Jews and so oppose the state that claims to represent them. Even though you would never know it from the media coverage, which concentrates exclusively on a supposed problem within the Labour party, anti-semitism is rife on the right in a way that simply isn’t true on the left.

The survey also hints at the possibility of a more veiled problem of racism and latent anti-semitism among “centrists”, a group presumably represented politically by the Lib Dems and the Blairite wing of the Labour party. Very few in this group express anti-Jewish sentiments – in fact, exactly the same small proportion as on the left. (Tellingly, despite these identical results, the Labour party has been smeared as “institutionally anti-semitic”, whereas the centrist Lib Dems have not.)

Nonetheless, there is a significant difference between the two political blocks – and one that could reflect much less well on the centrists than the left.

A much larger proportion of the centrist group appear to harbour sympathies for Israel, or at least view it uncritically, despite the ever mounting  evidence of Israel’s record of human rights abuses and intensifying oppression of Palestinians.

Remember that large numbers of the centrist Blairite faction of Labour MPs (though not the wider Labour membership) belong to Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and have proudly maintained their association with that organisation. They have continued to do so even after the LFI at first vigorously defended, then fell silent on Israel’s repeated massacres over the past 18 months of Palestinians protesters at the Gaza perimeter fence that encages them.

More than 220 Palestinians, including women, children, journalists, and medical staff, have been killed by Israeli snipers at the protests, while tens of thousands more have been maimed. But in a blatant example of anti-Arab racism, the LFI has blamed Hamas for these deaths, as though ordinary Palestinians in Gaza are simply pawns of Hamas and lack the volition to demand for themselves an end to an Israeli blockade that has imprisoned them for 12 years.

Centrists conflate Jews and Israel

Only a quarter as many centrists as leftists are critical of Israel, according to the Economist survey. In other words, a proportion of centrists appear to identify with Israel’s colonial oppression of Palestinians – possibly because they favour Jews over Arabs and Muslims (presumably as part of a “clash of civilisations” worldview) or maybe because they have positive feelings about Jews that translate into uncritical support for Israel, whatever it does to the Palestinians it rules over.

That could indicate a significant problem of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim prejudice among centrists, similar to the ugly assumptions made by Jonathan Freedland and his “source”. However, we can do little more than speculate on this point because the survey is concerned exclusively with Jews and Israel.

Nonetheless, the figures also allude to a potential anti-semitism problem in the ranks of the centrist camp. The stark lack of criticism of Israel among centrists, combined with little anti-semitism, suggests that a significant proportion of centrists, like right-wingers, consider Jews and Israel to be intimately connected – that they struggle to disentangle a political project (Israel) from an ethnic or cultural group (Jews).

There is only a narrow distinction between a right-winger who conflates Israel and Jews in a way that vilifies Jews and a centrist who conflates Israel and Jews in a way that venerates Israel.

Rejecting universal rights

The difference in the respective outcomes of this conflation could reflect differing understandings of what Israel does. Israel’s treatment of Palestinians – whether seen as justified or not – is then projected on to Jews. Once the conflation is accepted, Jews unfairly receive either credit (from centrists) or blame (from the right) for Israel’s actions.

Or, more likely, the right-wingers and centrists who conflate Israel and Jews – as a proportion appear to do – are equally indulgent of a particularist and regressive approach to rights. Instead of committing to universal human rights, shared by all alike, the particularists assign superior rights to those they think of as more like themselves. Right-wingers, it seems, tend to exclude Jews from this category, while centrists have a greater tendency to include them.

But the danger is that, if these centrists can be persuaded that Jews are not part of their in-group – for example, by undermining the idea of a supposed Judeo-Christian West, embodying the supposed values of “civilisation” – then they could be as susceptible as the right to a generalised Jew hatred. It is a commitment to universal human rights – a doctrine to which most on the left subscribe but which some on the right and the centre appear to reject – that provides the only sure-fire political inoculation against racism in general and anti-semitism in particular.

The Economist, of course, wishes to avoid drawing this very obvious conclusion, one implied by its findings, because that would wreck the narrative it and the rest of the corporate media have been constructing to damage Corbyn. In fact, the Economist poll echoes earlier research ignored by the corporate media, such as figures showing that instances of antisemitism in Labour amount to 0.08% of the membership,  and surveys demonstrating that the Tory party – and its “watermelon smiles” leader Boris Johnson – have a far bigger problem with racism, towards both Muslims and Jews.

Not a whiff of anti-semitism’

Not everyone in the political and media class is ready to dance to the same tune, as was made clear in an interview that gently turned the tables on Alastair Campbell, chief adviser to Tony Blair when he was Labour prime minister. Campbell helped Blair distort the intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003 that gave superficial credence to a different but equally confected story: both that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that those weapons were just a hair’s-trigger away from being fired at the UK. Up to 1 million Iraqis were killed as a result of that illegal war, and many millions more were driven from their homes.

Campbell, a man whose anti-Muslim, anti-Arab prejudices permitted him to help lay waste to another country on an entirely bogus pretext, and whose reputation in the corporate media suffered not a whit as a result, decided to use the interview to try to revive the Corbyn anti-semitism smears and undermine Labour’s chances of winning the election. Like other Blairites, Campbell has been an outspoken critic of Corbyn, even going public with the fact that he has started voting for the Lib Dems.

He asked his interviewee, John Bercow, the outgoing Speaker of the House of Commons and a Jewish member of the Conservative party, to comment on Corbyn and the anti-semitism allegations. Campbell’s transparent aim was to recruit Bercow to the smear campaign – both as a Jew and as someone who has come to be widely trusted since becoming House Speaker as an arbiter of an even-handed politics.

Bercow’s response was not what Campbell hoped for. The former Speaker answered cautiously, but observed: “I myself have never experienced anti-semitism from a member of the Labour party … I do not myself believe Jeremy Corbyn is anti-semitic … I have known him for the 22 years I have been in parliament … and I have never detected so much as a whiff of anti-semitism from him.”

Campbell’s face could barely conceal his disappointment.

The interview was another reminder that those leading the anti-semitism smear campaign often have, given their own histories, precisely zero credibility on the issue of racism, let alone class politics. Whatever they may think they believe, it is not racism that truly concerns Campbell or Freedland; it is their fear of a different kind of politics, one that requires from them an entirely different way of understanding British colonial history, of interpreting Britain’s role in the world, and of ending the UK’s gaping class divide. They, like so many others in the media and political elite, are frightened that a different kind of politics might force them to look in the mirror – and finally understand that long ago they chose to stand with the oppressors rather than the oppressed.

Unfree Media: State Stenography And Shameful Silence

A recent viral clip of Jeremy Corbyn featured vital truths about the corporate media that ought to be at the forefront of public consciousness in the approach to the UK General Election on December 12. The clip began:

A free press is essential to our democracy. But much of our press isn’t very free at all.

Corbyn continued:

Just three companies control 71 per cent of national newspaper circulation and five companies control 81 per cent of local newspaper circulation.

This unhealthy sway of a few corporations and billionaires shapes and skews the priorities and worldview of powerful sections of the media.

And it doesn’t stop with the newspapers, on and offline. Print too often sets the broadcast agenda, even though it is wedded so firmly to the Tories politically and to corporate interests more generally.

Corbyn’s words were not from a recent speech. They were actually delivered as part of his Alternative Mactaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival in August 2018. But they remain as relevant as ever; hence being picked up anew by ‘Tory Fibs‘, a grassroots socialist Twitter account.

Corbyn shone a spotlight on the BBC:

The BBC should be freed of government control, democratised and made representative of the country it serves to help it do that.

The BBC is meant to be independent, but its charter grants governments the power to appoint the chair and four directors of the board and set the level of the licence fee.

As regular readers will be well aware, Media Lens has long highlighted the BBC’s lack of independence and, more particularly, the insidious role of BBC News in protecting the establishment, promoting deference to the royal family and class system, as well as deflecting scrutiny of state and corporate crimes.

Corbyn concluded on the state of the media today:

We need to set journalists and citizens free to hold power to account, by breaking the grip of tech giants and billionaires on our media.

All this is arguably never more evident than when a General Election is looming. Right now, established power is fighting tooth and nail to maintain its control on society. Corporate media, including gatekeepers like the BBC and the Guardian – ‘thus far and no farther’, in the words of Noam Chomsky – play a central role in maintaining the destructive status quo.

Filtering Facts

The state-corporate management and manipulation of ‘the news’ relies on a subtle filtering process whereby leading journalists select – consciously or otherwise – which facts are ‘fit’ to be reported, and which can or should be ignored.

Consider an item on BBC News at Ten last Thursday when political editor Laura Kuenssberg reported Boris Johnson’s visit to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. She presented the Prime Minister in a favourable light, having amiable encounters with people in Addenbrooke’s. What the BBC did not show were the jeers of staff and patients ringing in Johnson’s ears as he left the hospital. Nor did Kuenssberg report on the young medical student who was ‘pushed aside by [a] Boris Johnson aide’ while attempting to challenge Johnson on the NHS and the climate crisis. Julia Simons, who is training at the hospital to become a doctor, called his visit a ‘PR stunt’.

We challenged the BBC political editor via Twitter:

Hello @bbclaurak,

Why did your @BBCNews at Ten piece on Boris Johnson’s visit to a Cambridge hospital omit the part where he left with jeers from staff and patients ringing in his ears?

Our tweet was ‘liked’ and retweeted hundreds of times, but there was no reply from Kuenssberg. Her Twitter bio states:

I know it’s fashionable, but even in 2019 there is nothing big or clever about shooting the messenger – tweets or retweets here aren’t necessarily my view

But, by heavily filtering the facts that Kuenssberg selects to tweet or retweet, ‘the messenger’ has transformed into an echo chamber and amplifier of government propaganda. This phenomenon of state stenography – which, of course, is far from new – was highlighted in an excellent article recently by Peter Oborne, former chief political commentator of the Daily Telegraph. Under the title, ‘British journalists have become part of Johnson’s fake news machine’, Oborne argued that:

From the Mail, The Times to the BBC and ITN, everyone is peddling Downing Street’s lies and smears. They’re turning their readers into dupes.

As Oborne noted, ‘mainstream’ political journalism too often relies upon whatever ‘a senior No 10 source’ says:

This modus operandi, which allow pro-government narratives to enter the public domain unmediated by proper interrogation, has become routine among political reporters since Johnson and his Vote Leave media team entered Downing Street.

Oborne observed:

There is an implicit deal. In return for access and information (much of it false) the political media spins a pro-government narrative.

As a recent example, Oborne pointed to the government’s deceitful response to the leaked ‘Yellowhammer dossier‘ setting out the damaging consequences of a no-deal Brexit on the UK – a news story that ‘deeply embarrassed’ Boris Johnson and senior ministers. Downing Street responded by feeding a false claim to compliant journalists that the leak happened on Theresa May’s watch; and that Remain-supporting ex-ministers led by Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer in May’s Cabinet, were responsible. Newspapers were full of convenient headlines and stories about the alleged leakers, distracting attention from the damaging analysis of the leaked dossier itself. As Oborne noted, it turned out that the leaked document was dated nine days after Johnson came to power: the leak had occurred under his watch, not May’s.

This issue of journalist access in return for maintaining a power-friendly narrative has long been known. The media’s heavy reliance on state and corporate sources is one of the five ‘news filters’ – along with corporate ownership, advertising, flak and ‘anti-Communism’ – in the propaganda model of the media introduced by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in ‘Manufacturing Consent’ (1988).

Focusing on the country’s two main political editors – the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg and Robert Peston of ITV News – Oborne added:

Political editors are so pleased to be given “insider” or “exclusive” information that they report it without challenge or question.

Oborne, as a senior journalist with experience and clout, was afforded follow-up media interviews to make his case. Perhaps the most noteworthy example was his fiery appearance on Radio 2 where he was interviewed by Amol Rajan, a former editor of the oligarch-owned Independent and now the BBC’s media editor. You do not get to such exalted positions in the corporate media, as Rajan has done, by being a thorn in the side of the establishment. In a remarkable exchange, not only did Oborne name and shame major political editors for cosying up to power, he directly, and correctly, accused Rajan of the same. (Click here, starting at around 1:09:20; or, once the BBC link has expired, listen to the relevant segment here)

Oborne commented:

You, yourself, when you were Independent editor, notoriously sucked up to power. You are a client journalist yourself…you were a crony journalist yourself. It’s time this system was exploded.

Rajan blustered:

It’s unbecoming of you, Peter, it’s unbecoming.

When Oborne added that Rajan had also ‘failed to notice’ stories as BBC media editor, there was a brief stunned silence.

In 2014, when Rajan was the Independent’s editor, he boasted of ‘our proud record on coverage of Iraq’. We responded at the time:

Sorry, we have analysed the Independent’s performance closely. Your record was and is shameful. Where to start?

Rajan did not reply. It was around this time that he blocked us on Twitter.

OPCW Whistleblowers Question The Douma Narrative

A further, grave example of present-day propaganda filtering involves the corporate media blanking of further proof that western powers, notably the US, have been manipulating the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Last month, WikiLeaks published evidence from an OPCW whistleblower showing that the international chemical watchdog had suppressed evidence suggesting that the Syrian government had not, in fact, mounted a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, on April 7, 2018. In other words, there is clear authoritative testimony from an OPCW insider contradicting the endlessly repeated narrative that ‘Assad used weapons against his own civilians’ in Douma. This state-approved script, propagated throughout the major western news media, served as the ‘justification’ for the US, UK and France to launch missile strikes on Syria seven days later.

Shockingly, as reported by WikiLeaks, a panel of experts convened by the Courage Foundation, an independent British civil society organisation, reported that:

Not only did the panel find that OPCW tampered with the evidence to produce an outcome desired by the geopolitical actors involved in this instance, it tried to silence its own senior civil servants.

One member of the panel, Richard Falk – an international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years – noted that the credibility of the panel’s conclusions were strengthened by having José Bustani, a former Director-General of the OPCW, among its members.

Falk added:

Not only is there a lack of transparency and accountability with respect to the undertakings of major national governments, but there is a deliberate manipulation of evidence and obstruction of procedures designed to protect the citizenry against abuses of state, and in the case of major states, especially the United States, to protect the public interest.

This new testimony added to the earlier revelations in May that Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW scientist, had written a detailed report, suppressed by OPCW, calling into question the official version of events in Douma. As our media alert at the time noted, very little media coverage was devoted to this expert evidence questioning the Washington-stamped ‘consensus’ view.

Robert Fisk’s article in the Independent ten days after the Douma incident was a vanishingly rare exception. He interviewed a Syrian doctor who told him that the victims of the alleged chemical attack had actually suffered from hypoxia – oxygen starvation in the dusty tunnels where they had taken refuge from bombing– and not gas poisoning. As we also observed in our media alert, BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati stated on Twitter that after almost six months of investigation he had concluded that:

I can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged.

Two days after the Douma attack, he had tweeted:

Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.

Dalati later deleted his tweet and set his Twitter account to ‘private’ status (it has since become accessible to the public again).

Typically, the BBC sought to minimise any public doubts about the official narrative on Douma by including only Syrian and Russian claims of ‘fabrication’. There was little, or no, coverage of sceptical Western voices. In similar fashion, in the run-up to the Iraq war of 2003, BBC News and other ‘mainstream’ outlets had relegated credible allegations that the ‘threat’ of ‘Iraqi WMD’ was fake news to the ‘evil dictator’ Saddam Hussein.

Readers may recall that award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh had difficulty publishing his in-depth, sceptical reporting about an earlier alleged Syrian government chemical weapons attack at Ghouta in 2013. In the end, he had to publish in the London Review of Books, of all places (here and here).

This is so often the fate of the best journalism: pushed to the margins where it can be safely ignored.

Corporate Eyes Averted And Tongues Bitten

The fact that a second OPCW whistleblower has now revealed extremely serious manipulation of evidence surrounding what happened at Douma has been greeted by a wall of corporate media silence. However, it was mentioned briefly by Jonathan Steele, a former senior Middle East correspondent for the Guardian, in a radio interview with Paul Henley on the BBC World Service on October 27, 2019 (listen here; from around 11:00; if no longer available from the BBC, listen to the extract archived here by Caitlin Johnstone and read her article):

Jonathan Steele: I was in Brussels last week … I attended a briefing by a whistleblower from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. He was one of the inspectors who was sent out to Douma in Syria in April last year to check into the allegations by the rebels that Syrian aeroplanes had dropped two canisters of chlorine gas, killing up to 43 people. He claims he was in charge of picking up the samples in the affected areas, and in neutral areas, to check whether there were chlorine derivatives there …

Paul Henley: And?

JS: … and he found that there was no difference. So it rather suggested there was no chemical gas attack, because in the buildings where the people allegedly died there was no extra chlorinated organic chemicals than in the normal streets elsewhere. And I put this to the OPCW for comment, and they haven’t yet replied. But it rather suggests that a lot of this was propaganda…

PH: Propaganda led by?

JS: … led by the rebel side to try and bring in American planes, which in fact did happen. American, British and French planes bombed Damascus a few days after these reports. And actually this is the second whistleblower to come forward. A few months ago there was a leaked report by the person [senior OPCW scientist Ian Henderson – mentioned earlier in this alert] who looked into the ballistics, as to whether these cylinders had been dropped by planes, looking at the damage of the building and the damage on the side of the cylinders. And he decided, concluded, that the higher probability was that these cylinders were placed on the ground, rather than from planes.

PH: This would be a major revelation…

JS: … it would be a major revelation …

PH: … given the number of people rubbishing the idea that these could have been fake videos at the time.

JS: Well, these two scientists, I think they’re non-political – they wouldn’t have been sent to Douma, if they’d had strong political views, by the OPCW. They want to speak to the Conference of the Member States in November, next month, and give their views, and be allowed to come forward publicly with their concerns. Because they’ve tried to raise them internally and been – they say they’ve been – suppressed, their views have been suppressed.

PH: Very interesting.

(Transcript courtesy of Tim Hayward of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.)

In May, when the suppressed engineering assessment report on Douma by the OPCW’s Ian Henderson was leaked, Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, agreed that this was ‘an important story’. Despite polite nudges from Media Lens, and others, she said no more on the matter. Did BBC colleagues have a quiet word in her ear?

Following revelations of a second whistleblower last week, we challenged her once more. She again ignored us, but she did reply to one of our Twitter followers:

Thanks Philip. I’ve been in Canada this month reporting on elections & in Afghanistan for most of Sept. I did forward the earlier information to programmes but was away during more recent news so other teams /programmes would have looked at it.

While it is heartening to see any reply – perhaps a measure of Doucet’s desire to give at least the impression of being accountable to the public – it is a very evasive reply. It is remarkable that for five months she had not been around to report vital testimony from OPCW insiders blowing a hole in the official, US-friendly narrative used to ‘justify’ missile attacks on Syria. Clearly, she had decided it was not that important after all.

And what does ‘so other teams /programmes would have looked at it’ actually mean? What evidence did they examine? And how closely? Where are the BBC headlines and major coverage these revelations deserve? As far as we can tell, there has been no mention of the OPCW whistleblowers on the BBC News website; nor has there been any coverage on the main BBC News programmes. Our challenges to Paul Royall, editor of the BBC News flagship News at Six and Ten programmes, and Nick Sutton, editor of the BBC News website, have gone unanswered.

Meanwhile, the General Election on December 12 may well be, as Jeremy Corbyn says:

a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country and take on the vested interests holding people back.

But time is rapidly running out for real change – whether that be on foreign policy, such as Syria, or the largest crisis now facing all of us. A global group of 11,000 scientists declared this week that the evidence is ‘clear and unequivocal’ that humanity is in a climate emergency. The stakes, then, are even higher than ‘once-in-a-generation’. As Extinction Rebellion have repeatedly warned, there may not be more than one new generation of humanity that will survive, given the severity of climate breakdown.

Brexit reveals Corbyn to be the True Moderate

If there is an upside to Brexit, it is this: it has made it increasingly hard to present Jeremy Corbyn, contrary to everything the corporate media has been telling us for the past four years, as anything but a political moderate. In truth, he is one of the few moderates left in British – or maybe that should be English – politics right now. The fact that still isn’t obvious to many in Britain is a sign of their – not his – extremism.

Brexit has brought into sharp focus, at least for those prepared to look, the fanatacism that dominates almost the entire British political class. Their zealotry has been increasingly on show since the UK staged a referendum in 2016 on leaving Europe that was won by the pro-Brexit camp with a wafer-thin majority.

The subsequent feud has usually been portrayed this way: The UK has split into two camps, polarising popular opinion between those who feel Britain’s place is in Europe (Remainers) and those who prefer that Britain makes its own way in the world (Brexiters). But it has actually divided the British political class into three camps, with the largest two at the political extremes.

On the one side – variously represented by the new prime minister Boris Johnson and many in his Conservative party, as well as Nigel Farage and his supporters – are those who want Britain to break from Europe and rush into the embrace of the United States, stripping away the last constraints on free-market, ecocidal capitalism. They aren’t just Brexiters, they are no-deal Brexiters, who want to turn their back on Europe entirely.

The other side – variously supported by many Labour MPs, including the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson, and the Liberal Democrats – are those who wish to stay in the secure embrace of a European bureacracy that is nearly as committed to suicidal capitalism as the US but, given the social democratic traditions of some of its member states, has mitigated the worst excesses of free-market fundamentalism. These UK politicians aren’t just Remainers, they are Remainists, who not only refuse to contemplate any weakening of the bonds between the UK and Europe but actually want those bonds to tighten.

Suspending parliament

And as the divide has deepened, it has become clear that neither side is prepared to pay more than lip service to democracy.

On the Brexit side, Johnson has suspended parliament, an institution representing the people, that is supposed to be sovereign. Like his predecessor, Theresa May, he has repeatedly found there is no legislative majority for a hard or no-deal Brexit. He has faced an unprecedented and humiliating series of defeats in parliament in the few days he has been prime minister. So now he has swept parliament out of the way in a bid to run down the clock on a no-deal Brexit without legislative interference.

Watson and the Remainists have been trying a counter-move, arguing that the referendum is no longer valid. They believe that new voters, youngsters more likely to support Remain, have come of age in the three years since 2016, and that more information about the true costs of Brexit have lately swung support to their side. They want to ignore the original referendum result and run the ballot again in the hope that this time the tide will turn in their favour.

The reality is that, if Johnson drives through a no-deal Brexit by ignoring parliament, or if Watson gets to quash the first referendum result to engineer a second, it is likely to trigger civil war in the UK.

The first option will drive Scotland out of the union, could very well reignite the sectarian “Troubles” of Northern Ireland, and will have English urban elites in open revolt. The second option will ensure that large sections of the English public who voted for Brexit because they feel marginalised and ignored are up in arms too. Their trust in politics and politicians will sink even further, and there is the danger that they will turn in droves to a crowd-pleasing autocrat like Johnson, Farage or worse.

Zealotry vs compromise

In these circumstances, anyone responsible would be looking to find common ground, to understand that political compromise is absolutely necessary to stop Britain breaking apart. And that is exactly what Corbyn and the largely ignored and maligned third camp have been trying to do.

They want to honour the spirit of the vote by leaving the EU but hope to do so in a way that doesn’t cut the UK adrift from Europe, doesn’t prevent the continuation of relatively free trade and movement, and doesn’t leave the UK exposed and vulnerable to serfdom under a new US master.

For many months Corbyn has been calling for a general election as a way for the majority of the public, having chosen in the referendum what they want to do, to now decide who they want to negotiate how Britain departs from Europe. But even that realistic compromise has not satisfied the fanatics within his own party.

Because the zealots of the right and the immoderate centre dominate the political and media landscape, this approach has barely registered in public debates. Corbyn’s efforts have been misrepresented as evidence of muddled thinking, ambivalence, or his covert opposition to Europe. It is none of those things.

Caught in the spider’s web

The common argument that Corbyn is a Brexit wolf in sheep’s clothing draws on the fact that, like many democratic socialists, such as the late Tony Benn, Corbyn has never been enamoured of the unelected European technocratic class that is misleadingly termed simply “Europe” or the “European Union”.

Rightly, socialists understood long ago that the more Britain was locked into Europe’s embrace, the more it would become caught like a fly in the spider’s web. At some level, most people have started to recognise this, if only because finding a way to leave Europe, even for Brexiters, has proved so inordinately difficult.

Just like banks were too big to fail in 2008 so they had to be bailed out with our public money to save them from their private malfeasance, the publics of Europe have incrementally had their sovereignty transferred to an unelected and centralised bureacracy all in the name of pursuing freedom – of movement and trade, chiefly for global corporations.

We haven’t noticed, it is true, because for decades our own domestic politics has come in one flavour only – support for our little corner of the global neoliberal empire. Till recently the consensus of Britain’s ruling elite, whether of the right or of New Labour centrists, was that being a player in Europe was the best way to protect their – though not necessarily our – interests on that global battlefield. Now, as the neoliberal empire enters a period of terminal decline, this same elite are bitterly divided over whether the US or Europe is the best guarantor of their wealth and influence continuing a little longer.

Iron fist in velvet glove

But Britain and the world’s problems – whether in the shape of impending economic meltdown or environmental collapse – cannot be solved from within the neoliberal paradigm, as becomes clearer by the day. New political structures are desperately needed: at the local level to foster new, more decentralised economic models, free of corporate influence, resource-stripping and unnecessary consumption; and at the global level to ensure that such models reverse rather than perpetuate the ecocidal policies that have dominated under neoliberal capitalism.

To start on that path will require the democratisation of Britain. The fear of Benn and others was that even if a truly socialist government was elected, its ability to make real, profound changes to the political and economic order – by bringing much of the economy back into public or cooperative ownership, for example – would be made impossible within the larger framework of European corporate managerialism.

We have been given glimpses of the iron fist Europe’s technocrats wield beneath the velvet glove in the treatment of Greece over its financial troubles and the Catalan independence movement in Spain.

The attitude of Corbyn and other democratic socialists to Brexit, however, has been wildly misrepresented by the other two camps of zealots.

In Benn’s time, it was still possible to imagine a world in which neoliberalism might be prevented from gaining a tyrannical grip on our political imaginations and on national economies. But things have changed since then. Now the issue is not whether Britain can stop being locked into a European neoliberal order. It is that the UK, like everyone else, is already in the stranglehold of a global neoliberal order.

Not just that, but Britain has willingly submitted to that order. As the zealotry of most of the political class demonstrates, few can imagine or want a life outside the neoliberal cage. The debate is about which corner of that suicidal, ecocidal global order we prefer to be located in. The Brexit row is chiefly about which slavemaster, America or Europe, will be kinder to us.

Inside the leviathan’s dark belly

In this context, there is no real escape. The best that can be done, as the moderates in both the Brexit and Remain camps realise, is loosen our chains enough so that we have room once again to contemplate new political possibilities. We can then breathe deeply, clear our heads and start to imagine how Britain and the the world might operate differently, how we might free ourselves of the tyranny of the corporations and heal our planet of the deep scars we have inflicted on it.

These are big matters that cannot be solved either by binding ourselves more tightly to European technocrats or by cutting loose from Europe only to chain ourselves to the US. The Brexit feud is an endless theatrical distraction from the real questions we need to face. That is one reason why it drags on, one reason why our political class revel in it, John Bercow-style.

Strangely, it is the Remainists of the immoderate centre – typified by commentary in corporate “liberal” media like the Guardian – who so often claim to lament the fact that the left has failed to offer a vision, a political future, that might serve as an alternative to neoliberalism. But how can such a vision emerge from deep inside the leviathan’s dark belly?

Hiding in ideological life-rafts

It goes without saying that the Atlantacists cheerleading Brexit are up to no good when they speak of “taking back control” and “reclaiming our sovereignty”. They demand those powers only so they can immediately surrender them to a US master.

But the much-maligned left wing, soft Brexit – a version that wishes to distance Britain from Europe without pretending that the UK can stand alone on the global neoliberal battlefield – also has use for such language.

This version of taking back control isn’t about spitting in the face of Europe, blocking the entry of immigrants, or reinventing the imagined halycon days of empire. It is about recognising that we, like the rest of humankind, are responsible for the crimes we have been, and still are, committing against the planet, against other species, against fellow human beings.

Chaining ourselves to an unelected, distant European technocratic class that simply follows orders – implementing the requirements of an economic system that must end in the destruction of the planet – is cowardice. We can more easily shelter from that truth when we cede our political and economic powers to those compelled to carry out the (il)logic of neoliberalism.

Standing a little outside Europe is probably the best we can hope to manage in current circumstances. But it might give us the political space – and, more importantly, burden us with the political responsibility – to imagine the deep changes that are urgently needed.

Change has to happen if we as a species are to survive, and it has to happen soon and it has to happen somewhere. We cannot force others to change, but we can recognise our own need to change and offer a vision of change for others to follow. That can begin only when we stop shielding ourselves from the consequences of our decisions, stop hiding in someone else’s ideological life-raft in the forlorn hope that it will weather the coming, real-world storms.

It is time to stop acting like zealots for neoliberalism, squabbling over which brand of turbo-charged capitalism we prefer, and face up to our collective responsibility to change our and our children’s future.

Brexit or Not?

Brexit deadline is 31 October 2019. On 23 June 2016, the British people voted 52% against 48% to leave the European Union. In England alone, the margin was somewhat higher, 53.4% for leaving the EU, against 46.6% for staying. In the meantime we know that this result was influenced by Cambridge Analytica, the same as the Trump Presidency was apparently helped by CA, and according to CA’s own account, more than 200 elections or referenda worldwide during the last 5 years or so were decided by CA.

CA is said to have disappeared; however, the knowledge on how to manipulate voters’ opinions – the algorithm to do so – is by now well known by Google, social media and, of course, by the world’s key secret service agencies, foremost CIA, NSA, MI6, Mossad, DGSE (France), BND (Germany) and others. Therefore beware of believing even in a shred of democracy in upcoming elections, anywhere in the world.

Will Brexit actually happen?  Chances are it will not. Almost three-and-a-half years after the UK vote, and two-and-a-half years after the UK started the exit process, the Brexit “soap opera”, as it is often called – leave or stay – continues.

Both, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, and so far, also the opposition Labor Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, have assured British people they will respect their choice; no new referendum, no Parliamentary vote; and instead, they foresaw negotiating a “deal” with Brussels. If there is “no deal”, then Brexit will take place as a “No Deal, or Hard Brexit” – so the erstwhile verdict – which could change, of course, as just about everything that has been said and agreed upon in the Brexit saga. But what exactly is meant by a “deal”, or a “no-deal”, for that matter?

Though, the definitions of a “deal” are vague, a “deal” refers basically to a UK exit from the EU under as smooth as possible conditions for both business and individuals, meaning that current relationships; i.e., business licenses, trading relations, residency permits, free exchange of labor, would not stop at once, but a transition period would allow to work out specific conditions. In fact, this is precisely included in the Withdrawal Agreement (WA). However, the WA has not yet been ratified by the House of Commons. Why not?  Is there a hidden agenda? Once the WA is ratified, there is no way back? Is that it?  The Parliament’s holdout for a 180-degree change from “leave” to “stay” despite the popular vote?

The WA provides for a period up to 31 December 2020 after Brexit actually happens, or longer, if negotiated, to hammer out the post-Brexit details of trade, future tariffs, business licenses, transit of labor and capital and more before the new UK/EU divorce rules would enter into force. This is plenty of time to negotiate individual trade and peoples (free movement) agreements with EU partner countries. Everything – the current UK-EU relations agreements – would stay in place during the transition period; i.e., for at least another 15 months (or longer, if more time is negotiated as necessary), if Brexit would take place on 31 October 2019.

Some of the possible post-Brexit bilateral negotiations have already started behind the scenes, notably with China and the US and most likely with others, like Germany and France. The UK could, for example, look at the Swiss model. Switzerland, not a member of the EU, is de facto an EU member, just without voting rights. Switzerland has currently more than 120 multi and bilateral agreements with Brussels and the 28 EU members. And this despite a three-time direct popular rejection of EU membership by referenda (1992 – against joining the European Economic Area, 50.3% against; in 1997, EU membership referendum – 74.1% against; and in 2001 on “EU access negotiations” – rejected by 76.8%). Yet, Switzerland is still looked upon as a model for ‘democracy’ – where people decide.

So, everything is possible, direct negotiations with a selection (or all) of EU countries, following the Swiss model, and/or a wider scale of by- and multilateral negotiations with countries or trading blocks around the world.  Actually, Brussels has already hinted to the UK leadership at starting bilateral negotiations with EU members, even though the official line is “leave” or “stay”. No doubt, Brussels as well as Washington would like to do everything possible to keep the UK within the EU bureaucracy. The UK has an implicit reputation of being Washington’s mole in the EU, representing Washington’s wishes in crucial decisions — like when 10 new Eastern European member candidates had to be admitted — or not.

Therefore, why the hype about a “no deal” Brexit?  Do people even understand what “no deal” means?  That it literally means all doors are open for negotiations during the transit period and that nothing changes during that period, which is even extendable, and, of course, that a myriad of options to negotiate new deals with new partners are open after the transit period, in the post-Brexit phase.

It’s all fearmongering, manipulation of public opinion — the stock market will crash, UK’s GDP will contract by between 2% and 4%  depending whom you ask, and who pretends having had all the details to calculate such nonsensical numbers; that unemployment will soar, especially as UK citizens will be expulsed from their EU host countries and come home to look for work, and so on. These threats emanating from Brussels, as well as from the UK elite, have, of course, only one goal in mind – No BREXIT; find a way to reverse the people’s opinion and Referendum decision.

Entering the realm of intimidation, the British Government warns in a “clandestine report” – “leaked” to the Sunday Times – that a Hard Brexit (a “No Deal” Brexit) will hit the UK with food, fuel and medicine shortages. RT reports this much-feared prospect is becoming increasingly likely since the changing of the guard in Downing Street. Yes, this is clearly part of spreading fear to coerce public opinion against Brexit. However, this could all be prevented by the British Parliament voting for the Withdrawal Agreement which is part of the sovereign deal – no approval from Brussels necessary – for any country wanting to leave the EU. How come, this is never mentioned in the media, thus preventing the public from knowing what the government could do to avoid a Hard Brexit havoc?

There are also other economic predictions, contradicting the fearmongers, and by all accounts of logic, more plausible ones; namely, that the UK would do much better after Brexit, free to deal and trade with whomever, no looking over the shoulders by Brussels, no impositions of complex and often very costly rules, frequently mere rules for the sake of rules by the European Commission. Regaining full sovereignty would do the UK good, both economically and socially.

The UK could also continue maintaining a relation at a distance with a body that is often mentioned in the same breath as corruption; a body that has shown little sympathy for solidarity among member countries. Examples abound. Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Portugal were all “sanctioned” with troika-imposed rescue packages (troika = EC, European Central Bank – ECB, and IMF). It is also clear that Brussels favors a set of nations, unofficially, of course, stronger, mostly northern nations that do not have to follow the strict ECB debt limitation rules imposed by the ECB and mostly applied to southern EU members. This amounts to an unspoken two-tier arrangement.  But these voices of reason, who would promote Brexit for the sheer long-term socioeconomic betterment of the British citizenry, are not allowed to come to the fore. The media are controlled by the “Stay” proponents.

Brexit, stay or leave, is a delicate matter. Labor, hence Jeremy Corbyn, has a tendency to favor “stay” – oddly, along with some of the conservative Tories, for all the false, scare-evoking reasons propagated – unemployment, reduction in GDP, gap in trading partners, and so on. Then there is the extreme right, represented by Nigel Farage, the boss of the very Brexit party, who supports Brexit for the wrong reasons — anti-immigration, racism, bordering on xenophobia, a similar reasoning as is used by Madame Le Pen in France, who also would like to exit the EU for stricter border control, anti-immigration and racism. Ditto, for Italy’s right-wing Lega Norte Deputy PM, Matteo Salvini. This controversy of reason is confusing to the general public – and possibly even to Jeremy Corbyn, who does not want to be associated with Nigel Farage, has to vouch for “stay” – perhaps against his better understanding of Brexit’s socioeconomic advantages for Great Britain.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to reverse the promises of former PM Teresa May’s and today’s PM, Boris Johnson’s assurances that the 2016 vote result will be respected. The easiest one would be for the British Parliament to revoke Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which gives member states the unilateral right to quit EU membership. That’s precisely what the UK did, trigger Article 50 by the Prime Minister’s decision after the Brexit Referendum. Once this process was set in motion, it was understood that it couldn’t be stopped except by a Parliamentary vote canceling application of Article 50.

Today, that option is fully on the table. It can be done equally unilaterally and sovereignly by the UK, without the approval of the remaining 27 EU member states. Should that happen, the status quo would win, the UK would remain a EU member. No change.

Labor Leader, Jeremy Corbyn has recently hinted about introducing a no-confidence vote against PM Johnson. If Parliament accepts it, and if he wins, he would become interim PM, calling for new elections which he expects to win. His support base in the UK is growing, despite increasing – false – accusations of anti-Semitism. If he would become PM, he could indeed call for a new Brexit referendum, or simply call for a vote against Article 50. Bingo! And the UK would remain a EU member. Knowing about Cambridge Analytica’s coercive methods applied to swing public opinion, a new Brexit Referendum would likely be manipulated in favor of “stay”.

By the way, since CA’s admitted interference in the Brexit vote, it is totally conceivable that the 2016 Referendum result could be annulled as invalid, and a new referendum be launched. It’s a miracle that so far, no politician, no media, nobody, has talked about it.

In summary, might it be possible that the outcome of the June 2016 Referendum came as a surprise for the British Authorities and elite? Hence, the result was simply not acceptable? Therefore, to preserve the illusion of “democracy”, could it be possible that an entire complex construct had be conceived and built over a period of some three years, in which public opinion had to be confused to the point of losing track of the details and of specific conditions for exiting the European Union so that it could be more easily swayed into the direction of the Master’s wishes, while still pretending to be democratic? Let’s wait and see, but no surprise, if Brexit doesn’t happen.

• First published at New Eastern Outlook (NEO)

The Campaign To Stop Corbyn: Smears, Racism And Censorship

The greatest fear of those holding the most power and wealth is that they will lose their exalted position in the world. They will resist any changes to the grossly unequal and unjust class structure that causes grievous damage to so many people; and to the planet itself. Even the threat of real change must be crushed. This, in a nutshell, underpins the astonishing and relentless campaign to stop Jeremy Corbyn, a moderate leftist, from ever becoming Prime Minister.

On July 10, BBC broadcast an episode of Panorama that purported to be an impartial investigation into the loaded question, ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic? It quickly became clear that the programme makers were not interested in a serious appraisal of the evidence and that the question was merely rhetorical. The thrust of the programme was that Labour is anti-semitic. The Labour Party response was scathing:

The Panorama programme was not a fair or balanced investigation. It was a seriously inaccurate, politically one-sided polemic, which breached basic journalistic standards, invented quotes and edited emails to change their meaning. It was an overtly biased intervention by the BBC in party political controversy.

An honest investigation into antisemitism in Labour and wider society is in the public interest. The Panorama team instead pre-determined an answer to the question posed by the programme’s title.

The programme was presented by BBC journalist John Ware who had previously made clear his antagonism towards Corbyn’s politics. As journalist Jonathan Cook wrote:

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.

Cook continued:

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 antisemitism – itself a Corbyn legacy”.

The Panorama programme was immediately followed by BBC News at Ten which gave it extensive coverage, pumping up the propaganda value of the fake ‘investigation’. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg intoned gravely:

Many party members have left, and if Labour can’t get a grip of racism in its own ranks, what might they lose next?

Consider her choice of words: ‘Many party members have left’ and ‘Labour can’t get a grip of racism in its own ranks’. The public is supposed to swallow the BBC’s implication of endemic Labour anti-semitism as impartial, objective reporting.

Kuenssberg continued:

This is a problem that has dogged the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, not for a few weeks, not just for a few months, but for several years now.

Many commentators, including Media Lens, have long argued that the issue of anti-semitism has been exploited to inflict as much damage on Corbyn as possible. But that rational perspective is systematically excluded from BBC News ‘journalism’. Instead, as ever, the BBC political editor continued to hammer home the requisite propaganda bullet points:

Corbyn has been unable, it seems, to crack down on it [anti-semitism] in the way he has promised to do, again and again.

In the BBC version of ‘neutral’ news reporting, there is no hint that Corbyn’s opponents – not least the corporate media, including the BBC – wish to destroy him and what he stands for. But then, from the very beginning, the BBC has been on the side of the establishment and the government of the day. As BBC founder John Reith confided in his diary during the 1926 General Strike:

They know they can trust us not to be really impartial.1

The experienced journalist Peter Oborne said via Twitter:

I proposed to the BBC a documentary on Tory Islamophobia three years ago. Zero interest.

It is possible that in over-reaching themselves, and presenting such a skewed perspective, Panorama and the BBC had inadvertently highlighted the manufactured nature of the ‘anti-semitism crisis’. As Asa Winstanley observed:

All the program proved was just how dishonest the British establishment and the Israel lobby have been in manufacturing this “Labour anti-Semitism crisis” for the past four years.

In a piece for The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah gave crucial background context, observing that the Israel lobby is working hard to split the left:

Influential Israel lobby groups are offering “rules” for how Jewish communal organizations can divide the left and break up emerging intersectional coalitions.

They also advocate for “delegitimizing” Jews deemed too supportive of Palestinian rights.

Israel and its lobby see the strengthening solidarity between Palestinians and other oppressed groups, especially Black people in the United States, as a major threat and they are determined to fight back.

Indeed, last year, Al Jazeera’s leaked undercover documentary The Lobby–USA revealed how the Israeli government and its lobby worked to disrupt the Black Lives Matter movement in retaliation for Black solidarity with Palestine.’

A central strategy of this pro-Israel campaign is to repeatedly state a false equivalence between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism. Abunimah explained:

Zionism, Israel’s state ideology, is racist because it grants superior rights to Jews enshrined in dozens of Israeli laws and holds that Palestinians expelled and exiled from their homeland should not be allowed to return to it solely and exclusively because they are not Jews.

Anti-Zionism, therefore, is not prejudice against Jews as Israel and its lobby groups claim.

Anti-Zionism, based in universal human rights principles, is anti-racism.

A new report by Israel’s Reut Institute and the US-based Jewish Council for Public Affairs warned ominously that ‘”Corbynization” is spreading through segments of the political left’ and that ‘UK-based anti-Israel groups have been inspiring liberal and progressive elite circles worldwide.’

This, says Abunimah, ‘underlines why Israel and its lobby view discrediting and removing Corbyn as a paramount priority.’

An ‘Unconstitutional Animas’ Against A Corbyn Government

Two weeks before the Panorama programme, The Times published a leak revealing that Corbyn is alleged by senior UK civil servants to be ‘too frail’ to become Prime Minister. He was not up to the job, ‘physically or mentally’. One anonymous figure at the Civil Service reportedly said:

When does someone say [he] is too ill to carry on as leader of the Labour Party, let alone prime minister? There must be senior people in the party who know that he is not functioning on all cylinders.

Corbyn promptly rebutted the ‘scurrilous’ story, dismissing it as ‘a farrago of nonsense’ and insisting he was a ‘very fit, very healthy, very active person’. Corbyn’s call for an independent investigation into the Civil Service leak to the press was predictably rejected by the government.

David Miller, Professor of Political Sociology at Bristol University, and a researcher in propaganda, noted that the Civil Service clearly has:

an unconstitutional animus against a potential Corbyn government and has been briefing against it one way or another through various agencies for some time now.

As an example, Miller pointed to the Integrity Initiative, set up by the government-funded Institute for Statecraft whose stated mission is to:

counter Russian disinformation and malign influence by harnessing existing expertise and establishing a network of experts, opinion formers and policy makers to educate national audiences in the threat and to help build national capacities to counter it.

In an article for the Morning Star, Labour MP Chris Williamson, pointed out that this supposed charitable body had ‘strayed into smearing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party’. Its official Twitter account had promoted tweets and articles attacking Corbyn, the Labour Party and their officials. One tweet quoted a newspaper article calling Corbyn a ‘useful idiot’. The article then continued:

His open visceral anti-Westernism helped the Kremlin cause, as surely as if he had been secretly peddling Westminster tittle-tattle for money.

Williamson warned:

The chilling manipulations of the Institute for Statecraft are straight out of the cold war playbook.

Through a series of parliamentary questions, Williamson discovered that the Foreign Office has given more than £2.2 million to the Institute for Statecraft’s Integrity Initiative. As David Miller says, ‘the use of taxpayers’ money to interfere in domestic politics [is] an affront to democracy’. A report by the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media – an independent network of academics that includes Miller – found that Facebook and Nato had provided funding too.

Establishment opposition to Corbyn also comes from UK military forces. In 2015, the Sunday Times published comments by a senior serving British Army general that Corbyn would face a mutiny as Prime Minister if he ever tried to cancel the Trident nuclear weapons system, withdraw from Nato or reduce the armed forces:

The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security.

‘Failing The Test Of Leadership’ = Failing To Protect Power

The fear of a ‘maverick’ ending up as leader of the country extends to the ‘liberal’ end of the permissible ‘spectrum’ of viewpoints. In our previous media alert, we highlighted the fakery behind accusations of anti-semitism levelled at Labour MP Chris Williamson, mentioned above. On July 8, a letter signed by more than one hundred prominent members of the Jewish community, including Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, was published by the Guardian. The letter stated:

Chris Williamson did not say that the party had been “too apologetic about antisemitism”, as has been widely misreported. He correctly stated that the Labour party has done more than any other party to combat the scourge of antisemitism and that, therefore, its stance should be less apologetic. Such attacks on Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters aim to undermine not only the Labour party’s leadership but also all pro-Palestinian members.

It continued:

The mass media have ignored the huge support for Chris both within and beyond the Labour party. Support that includes many Jews. The party needs people like him, with the energy and determination to fight for social justice. As anti-racist Jews, we regard Chris as our ally: he stands as we do with the oppressed rather than the oppressor. It should also be noted that he has a longer record of campaigning against racism and fascism than most of his detractors.

However, the letter was swiftly taken down following a complaint later the same day by the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD). The placeholder Guardian page initially said the letter had been removed, ‘pending investigation’. By the following day, the letter had been permanently deleted with this text given as the explanation:

A letter was removed from this page on 9 July 2019 due to errors in the list of signatories provided. We were contacted by an organisation which had not agreed to sign the letter; the organisers of the letter also acknowledge that there were other inaccuracies in the list of signatories.

The ‘explanation’ lacked detail, would have nonplussed many readers, and notably made no mention of the complaint from BoD. In a piece for The Canary, John McEvoy said that the complaint from BoD had:

rightly highlighted that one of the signatories – “Michael Morgan” – had made past racist and abhorrent remarks.

One of the letter’s co-authors, who wished to remain anonymous, told McEvoy that they regretted a lack of oversight over the signatories:

We were clear that the letter was supposed to be signed by only Jewish people. It was made public a couple of days ago, and received 292 signatures shortly after.

We tried to confirm which of the signatories were Jewish by contacting them. If we received no response, we took them off the list.

Michael Morgan replied and told us he was not Jewish, so we took him off the list. His name ended up back on it after transferring the document through different file formats, mistakenly using older files.

The inclusion of Michael Morgan was an accident and an oversight. His views do not reflect ours.

But, while there were issues with a few of the signatories, it was clear that the contents of the letter were entirely justified and appropriate. As the co-author of the letter told The Canary:

I think the letter itself is important, and also whether the Board of Deputies think the likes of Chomsky etc. are the “right kind of Jews” is neither here nor there.

Of course these Jews are not prominent in the Board of Deputies’ circles, but this is the issue: The Board of Deputies seem to want to define what “prominent Jew” means. And a lot of people who are Jewish and, like me, on the left, find that difficult to accept. Why is our Jewish identity being erased, and why do they get to define who is a Jew?

That the Guardian refused to reinstate the letter is deplorable; a symptom of the paper’s appalling role in fuelling the fake anti-semitism ‘crisis’. As journalist John Pilger noted via Twitter:

The Guardian has yet to apologise for two major fabrications: that Julian #Assange conspired with Moscow to escape Britain; and that he met Trump crony Paul Manafort plus Russians. The paper’s descent quickens with this censorship.

Last month, journalist Matt Kennard revealed the Guardian‘s collusion with UK security services in media censorship. Deputy editor Paul Johnson had been personally thanked by the Defence and Security Media Advisory Notice (or D-Notice) committee for ‘re-establishing links’ with the paper in the wake of its publication of material from CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. Johnson was one of three Guardian staffers who took part in the subsequent destruction of computer hard drives containing Snowden files in the Guardian‘s basement, overseen by two security officials from GCHQ. He then joined the D-Notice committee in 2014. The committee, run by the Ministry of Defence, issues ‘advisory warnings’ that are essentially attempts to gag the media from publishing information that might harm state interests.

D-Notice meeting minutes reveal that Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Vallance reported that the committee’s relationship with the Guardian has ‘continued to strengthen’ and that there were ‘regular dialogues’ with its journalists. Kennard suggested that the Guardian was rewarded for its acquiescence with security interests by being granted an unprecedented exclusive interview with a serving head of MI5 in 2016.

Yet another clear indication of the paper’s plummeting descent was the Guardian‘s publication of a full-page advertisement on July 17 from more than sixty Labour peers lambasting Corbyn:

You have failed to defend our party’s anti-racist values. You have therefore failed the test of leadership.

The party was ‘no longer a safe place for all members and supporters’, claimed the peers, ‘whatever their ethnicity or faith.’ The signatories, comprising around one-third of the party’s members in the House of Lords, included former Cabinet members Peter Mandelson, Peter Hain and John Reid from the discredited, blood-soaked years of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The advert was headed:

The Labour Party welcomes everyone* irrespective or race, creed, gender identity, or sexual orientation (*except, it seems, Jews). This is your legacy, Mr Corbyn.

In publishing the advert, the Guardian was once again complicit in promoting a false, elite-friendly narrative about an institutionally anti-semitic Labour Party under Corbyn. The advert itself generated considerable media coverage, just as the peers no doubt intended, with around thirty articles in the press. ‘Jews feel unsafe in “toxic” Labour, say 67 of party’s own peers’, blasted the Daily Mail. The Evening Standard carried the headline: ‘Corbyn “must show his shame on anti-Semitism”: Labour ex-minister Lord Robertson joins peers’ attack on leader’. The Express said: ‘Labour civil WAR: Corbyn accused of “failing leadership” by peers over anti-Semitism’. The overall message was clear: Labour is anti-semitic under Corbyn, and he is not fit to become Prime Minister.

Shredding any semblance of ‘impartiality’, Robert Peston, ITV’s political editor, tweeted:

What has it come to in the Labour Party when the only way Labour peers feel they can communicate with their leader @jeremycorbyn is to pay to take out an advert in @guardian! No major party has ever been this dysfunctional

Jonathan Cook responded appropriately:

What has it come to in the Labour party when its most establishment figures decide to destroy their party from within by fuelling the corporate media smears against a leader twice elected by members! No major party has ever been this leftwing before. (Fixed that for you Pesto!)

Thinking along similar lines to Peston, Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murty observed via Twitter:

The Labour Party is now unable to find anyone prepared to come on #c4news tonight to answer questions about antisemitism and the ad taken out by over 60 Labour Peers today telling Jeremy Corbyn he had failed to defend the party’s values.

As so often happens when a corporate journalist ventures forth into the world of social media, rebuttals flew in. Twitter user Jon Harding replied:

Members support Corbyn because he supports our values – community, equality, responsibility, solidarity and fairness

The media attack us everyday, calling us anti-Semitic. But Corbyn remains steadfast, and support for Corbyn is solid, because we can see through the smears

Another Twitter user replied to Guru-Murty:

Perhaps you should do a segment on how left wing Corbyn supporting Jews are being at best ignored, at worst, harassed, doxed & vilified by people who don’t agree with them, and how many are afraid to voice their opinions because of it!

As far as we could tell, the Channel 4 News man had nothing to say in response.

An article on the Skwawkbox website quoted Labour activists on Twitter saying that ‘the list of signatories reads like a “Who’s Who” of Blairite leftovers’. The article also noted that of the 64 Lords who signed the advert:

At least twenty-four are corporate lobbyists or on boards of hedge funds, banks, “global security consultancies” and, particularly, private health firms. Others have family links to similar enterprises.

In other words, these are the primary interests which are being protected in attacking Corbyn.

More Guardian Censorship

On the same day (July 17) that the Lords advert was published, a remarkable email from Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell was circulated on social media. Bell had sent it to a Guardian editor, possibly Katharine Viner herself. It is worth quoting in full:

Dear [Redacted]

After our bizarre telephone conversation yesterday, I feared you might not publish today’s strip, but still cannot understand why the attached should be more liable to legal challenge from Tom Watson than either of the previous two strips that you have already published. You said the ‘lawyers were concerned’, but what about? It’s not antisemitic nor is it libellous, even though it includes a caricature of Binyamin Netanyahu. If Watson chose to object it would make him look far sillier than he does in the cartoon.

I suspect that the real problem is that it contravenes some mysterious editorial line that has been drawn around the subject of antisemitism and the infernal subject of ‘antisemitic tropes’. In some ways this is even more troubling for me than specious charges of antisemitism. Does the Guardian no longer tolerate content that counters its editorial line?

Why in today’s paper has the Guardian published a highly partisan and personally insulting (to the leader of the Labour Party) advert on page 20 that uses the Labour Party logo, but is clearly not a Labour Party approved advert? I would have thought that there would be far more reason to expect a legal challenge on that than on my cartoon. Or is it that you don’t want to offend poor Tom but are quite happy to offend poor Jeremy?

Why on earth did the Guardian publish, then unpublish, a letter in support of Chris Williamson, signed by 100 people identifying themselves as Jewish, including Noam Chomsky? Were they the wrong kind of Jews? The paper’s contortions on this subject do not do it any credit. If there is a reasoned position on this contentious issue, then I would dearly like to see it laid out clearly so we can all see where we stand. Or are there some subjects that we just can’t touch?

Best wishes

Steve Bell

In his previous two strips on July 15 and July 16 of his long-running cartoon series, ‘If…’, Bell had depicted Labour deputy leader Tom Watson as the ‘Antisemite Finder General’, harking back to the Witchfinder General of the 17th century English Civil War. As Bell said in his email, these two earlier strips were obviously considered fit for publication. In the censored strip for July 17, deemed unacceptable by the Guardian, but then published exclusively by Socialist Worker, Watson’s horse sniffs out an ‘antisemitic trope’. Watson encounters Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu along with caricatures clearly meant as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.

As James Wright observed in a Canary piece about the Guardian‘s censorship, Bell appeared to be ridiculing a fundamental contradiction of the pro-Israel establishment. It is anti-semitic to suppose that a Jewish person must be a supporter of Israel. And yet, Netanyahu regularly claims that Israel speaks for all Jewish people. Thus, for example:

On this day, on behalf of the Jewish people, I say to those who have sought and still seek to destroy us: You have failed and you will fail.

Moreover, Netanyahu’s embrace of far-right nationalist leaders around the world (not least Trump), actually makes Jews ‘more vulnerable to anti-Semitism and hate crimes in their own countries’, warned racism researcher Rachel Shenhav-Goldberg. And author Zeev Sternhell noted in a piece for Foreign Policy that Israel under Netanyahu:

sees itself as an integral part of this anti-liberal bloc led by nativist xenophobes who traffic in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Boris Johnson, of course, has a long record of sexist, homophobic and racist remarks. He has referred to black people as ‘piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’ and likened Muslim women to letterboxes. As for Trump, he told US Jews that Netanyahu is ‘your Prime Minister’, thus conflating Jews with Israelis. It is worth adding that Trump recently told four Congresswomen of colour – Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashia Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley – to ‘go back’ and ‘help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came’. This is racism. Three of the politicians were born in the United States. The fourth, Omar, moved to the US with her family when she was ten years old after fleeing war in Somalia. Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, the two contenders to become Tory leader and thus the next Prime Minister, both refused to call Trump’s remarks racist, in stark contrast to Jeremy Corbyn.

On the same day that the Guardian censored the Bell cartoon strip, it provided Labour MP Margaret Hodge with a platform to once again abuse Jeremy Corbyn as ‘a racist and an antisemite’. The Guardian‘s editorial bias could hardly be more glaring.

Our searches of the ProQuest media database showed that not a single UK newspaper reported the Guardian‘s censorship of Steve Bell. Nobody should be surprised. After all, silence about uncomfortable topics is one of the operating principles of the corporate media.

We asked John Pilger to comment on Bell’s email. He told us:

Steve Bell’s reasoned protest to a gatekeeper on the Guardian, a newspaper often given credibility by his brilliance, is a warning. I wanted to write that it was a warning to journalists — but there are few who are not now cowed into silence or collaborators. They are not journalists any more, but functionaries, even awarded prizes for holding the line. Steve Bell’s memo is a warning to the wider society. His wonderfully anarchic satire is needed more than ever in this corporate, conformist world with its ever present intimidation.

The Guardian advertisement he refers to in effect demands the outlawing of dissent; in the United States, the firing of political cartoonists who cross the line is now routine. The accusation of anti-Semitism thrown at principled opponents of the longest, most brutal military occupation in modern times and the racism of the Israeli state, now enshrined in Israeli law, ought to be beyond contempt. Yet the Guardian’s “contortions”, as Steve Bell calls them, effectively peddle the lie that criticism of Israel and its Zionist ideology is anti-Semitic.This is no different from the lies the Guardian has told about Julian Assange. So beware. Not only is the campaign to destroy Jeremy Corbyn well advanced, so, too, is the consignment of real journalism, and truth, to a permanent underground.2

The root cause of this campaign to destroy Corbyn is to block any hope of systemic change for the benefit of the general population. Such a prospect is deemed unacceptable to established power. For the sake of society, and the larger battle to prevent climate breakdown, we urgently need to take back power from those who have stolen it.

  1. ‘The Reith Diaries’, edited by Charles Stewart, Collins, 1975; entry for 11 May, 1926.
  2. Email to Media Lens, July 19, 2019.

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.

Suspending Chris Williamson: The Fury And The Fakery

On June 26, the Labour Party lifted the suspension of pro-Corbyn MP Chris Williamson, triggering a maximum effort propaganda blitz designed to reverse the decision.

Williamson had been suspended on February 27, after footage emerged of him responding to claims of institutionalised anti-semitism in the Labour Party. This is what Williamson said:

The party that’s done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I’ve got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we’ve backed off far too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.

He added:

We’ve done more to actually address the scourge of anti-semitism than any other political party, any other political party. And yet we are being traduced.

Anyone watching the film can see that Williamson was passionate about combating the ‘scourge of anti-semitism’, was emphasising his pride in the Labour Party’s historical commitment to that cause and was frustrated by the failure of the Labour leadership to adequately defend that commitment. The blogger Jewish Dissident captured the reality exactly:

Whether one agrees with Chris or not, it’s hard to think of a single comparable instance where an innocuous comment of this sort has led to such a risible media circus, or to such a sustained campaign of personal and political vilification.

The treatment of good old Boris, our next Prime Minister, makes for an interesting contrast. The man who is apparently destined to lead our country has a clear track record of actual, as opposed to bogus, racism and bigotry. He’s the man who has talked about “watermelon smiles” and “piccaninnies”, described women as “hot totty”, professed his inability to distinguish between burka-clad women and letter boxes, and derided gay men as “bumboys”.

Jewish Dissident noted further:

Every single one of Johnson’s vile, bigoted comments has been allowed to pass by the media and the Westminster establishment. Because, after all, it’s just “good old Boris” talking.

And this really is the point – occasional comments and opinion pieces may express revulsion, but propaganda blitzes are not launched at Johnson, with half of his own party and all the opposition party, and all corporate media, shrieking for his head.

Johnson commented on Williamson that it was ‘shameful that Labour have reinstated this key Corbyn ally back into their party after his appalling remarks. We must never allow these apologists for anti-Semitism anywhere near government’.

This warning appeared in an ITV website article that also contained damning criticism from Labour MP Margaret Hodge, Labour MP Stella Creasy, Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, and anti-racism campaign group Hope Not Hate, with three pictured tweets highlighting and repeating their accusations. These six sources were not balanced by a single comment of any kind defending Williamson. This unarguably constitutes a form of extreme propaganda, rather than balanced journalism.

ITV could have turned for a comment to Jewish Voice for Labour, which said it welcomed the lifting of Williamson’s suspension, and criticised the media focus on the MP’s opponents:

There is huge support for Chris within and outside the party and this had not been reflected in the media coverage.

As we have previously noted, a key feature of a propaganda blitz is that accusations are accompanied by expressions of incandescent moral outrage:

The rationale is clear enough: insanity aside, in ordinary life outrage of this kind is usually a sign that someone has good reason to be angry. People generally do not get very angry in the presence of significant doubt. So, the message to the public is that there is no doubt.1

Thus, Labour MP Margaret Hodge, a key Corbyn opponent, said of the decision to lift Williamson’s suspension:

It is appalling, outrageous and unacceptable that he should be allowed back into the party. It’s a cynical move… and we will have Jew haters sitting as Labour MPs under Jeremy Corbyn.

Thus, also, columnist Rod Liddle, who wrote in the Sunday Times under this title:

Unless you’re anti‑semitic, walk away from Labour — it stinks from top to bottom

As we will show below, this is a completely fake claim. In true McCarthyite tradition, Liddle observed that Williamson, who is the democratically elected MP for Derby North, ‘looks, facially – to me at least – like a man called Reinhardt who has just been discovered hiding out in Argentina and might, if you shouted “Heil Hitler”, have great difficulty controlling the actions of his right arm’.

Liddle expressed his revulsion at ‘the fact that the Labour Party nowadays finds Jew-hating an agreeable and potentially vote-winning sideline and is riddled with it, from top to bottom’, concluding:

That Williamson is anti-semitic I have no doubt. But compared with Jeremy Corbyn he is an exemplar of anti-racist progressivism.

At the other end of the supposed media ‘spectrum’, in a piece titled, ‘Of all the hills to die on, why on earth has Labour chosen Chris Williamson?’, Guardian columnist Marina Hyde described Williamson as an ‘annoying prick in a black polo-neck’ who looks like a ‘boil-washed Terence Stamp’. Hyde lamented ‘Williamson’s long history of highly problematic statements’. Significantly, she did not cite from, or link to, any such long, ugly history. Apparently parroting Jon Lansman, Chair of Labour’s Momentum group, Hyde commented:

It’s notable that the returning Williamson didn’t even bother with a non-apology apology.

It’s unlikely that Hyde cared, or even knew, that Williamson had published a long, gracious message in February that began:

A personal message and sincere apology from me regarding my recent remarks on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

He added:

On a personal level, I have been an anti-racist all my life. As a former member of the Anti-Nazi League, I participated in direct action to confront foul anti-Semites in the streets… It pains me greatly, therefore, that anyone should believe that it is my intention to minimise the cancerous and pernicious nature of anti-Semitism.

These are not the words of a ‘Jew hater’. In addition to this apology, after he was briefly reinstated to the Labour Party, Williamson reaffirmed his commitment to fighting ‘racism in all its forms’, saying he would like to ‘work in tandem’ with the Board of Deputies of British Jews as ‘allies’.

Our July 4 ProQuest national newspaper search of articles appearing in 2019 found:

Chris Williamson’ and ‘anti-semitism’ = 608 hits

Chris Williamson’ and ‘anti-nazi’ = 5 hits

Examining the results more closely, it turns out that the fact that Williamson literally fought on the streets against anti-semites as part of the Anti-Nazi League has been mentioned twice in UK national newspapers this year.

More than 150 Labour MPs and peers – the infamously pro-war, Blairite section of the party – added to the propaganda blitz by protesting the decision to readmit Williamson in a statement led by the bitterly anti-Corbyn deputy leader Tom Watson.

Also in perfect accordance with our propaganda blitz theory, the propaganda coup de grace was supplied by leftists Owen Jones of the Guardian and Ash Sarkar of the ostensibly ‘alternative’ Novara Media. Williamson’s suspension was lifted on June 26. That day, Sarkar tweeted:

This outcome is indefensible.

On June 27, having presumably missed Williamson’s earlier apology, Jones wrote:

Chris Williamson could always show he’s learned why he’s caused distress and then acted on that: I’m yet to see evidence of it.

One day later, Williamson was suspended again. Jones recently claimed that Williamson ’causes relentless immense damage to the left’.

Asked if he would ‘stand with Chris Williamson’, leftist singer Billy Bragg responded this week:

Can’t do that Daniel. Labour needs to resolve the issue of anti-semitism within the party. Right now Williamson is part of the problem, not the solution.

We asked Bragg what specifically had led him to this conclusion; he did not reply.

Examining Williamson’s ‘Litany Of Unacceptable Behaviour’

Michael Segalov, who is Jewish and a contributing editor at Huck magazine, and who supported Williamson’s original suspension in February, wrote in the Guardian:

When I heard the reports in February about Labour MP Chris Williamson, and the offensive things he’d (once again) said, it was the final straw. The comments Williamson made to a meeting in Sheffield – that when it came to antisemitism, Labour had been “too apologetic” – made me despair. I looked back through each and every example of Williamson’s despicable behaviour: lending his support to a man who defends Holocaust deniers; sharing platforms with the likes of Ken Livingstone when MPs had been specifically asked not to; his support of controversial jazz musician Gilad Atzmon; his frankly disgraceful behaviour in the aftermath of the atrocious Pittsburgh shootings. It was a litany of unacceptable behaviour.

Let’s take a closer look at these apparently damning claims. The accusation that Williamson ‘lent his support to a man who defends Holocaust deniers’ refers to political writer and activist Miko Peled, who is the Jewish son of an Israeli general. Segalov linked to a Guardian article that quoted Peled:

This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.

As blogger Number 10 noted:

Peled didn’t actually defend Holocaust deniers, as much as defended the right to debate the issue, on free speech grounds (in the same way e.g. Noam Chomsky has).

In 1980, in a piece titled, ‘Some Elementary Comments on The Rights of Freedom of Expression,’ Chomsky commented that even when dealing with the views of a ‘rabid anti-Semite and fanatic pro-Nazi… this would have no bearing whatsoever on the legitimacy of the defense of his civil rights. On the contrary, it would make it all the more imperative to defend them since… it has been a truism for years, indeed centuries, that it is precisely in the case of horrendous ideas that the right of free expression must be most vigorously defended; it is easy enough to defend free expression for those who require no such defense’. (Our emphasis)

This is a highly principled and very sane position, because denying the right of free expression to genuinely ‘horrendous ideas’ runs the risk of Machiavellians manipulating and extending the definition of ‘horrendous’ to shut down free speech for political gain – exactly what is happening in Britain now. In other words, it lays the foundation for escalating censorship, witch-hunting, and in fact fascism.

As Number 10 commented:

Once again, you can disagree strongly with that notion. But it isn’t *inherently* antisemitic in and of itself.

Indeed, Segalov linked to a Guardian article quoting Peled:

The Holocaust was a terrible crime that we must study and from which we must all learn. I reject the idea that Holocaust deniers, foolish as they may be, should be treated as criminals… If we are to do justice to the memory of the millions of victims of the Holocaust, Jewish and Roma and many, many others, then we must engage in robust debate and education about the causes of current, ongoing violence and injustice.

Segalov also mentioned Williamson sharing a platform with former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who said:

When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.

Was this an anti-semitic statement? Jewish political analyst Professor Norman Finkelstein commented:

Livingstone maybe wasn’t precise enough, and lacked nuance. But he does know something about that dark chapter in history… The Nazis considered many “resettlement” schemes – the Jews wouldn’t have physically survived most of them in the long run – before they embarked on an outright exterminatory process. Livingstone is more or less accurate about this – or, as accurate as might be expected from a politician speaking off the cuff.

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook, who is based in Israel, said:

Livingstone’s mistake was both to express himself slackly in the heat of the moment and to refer to a history that was supposed to have been disappeared down the memory hole. But what he is saying is, in essence, true.

Segalov then mentioned Williamson’s ‘support of controversial jazz musician Gilad Atzmon’. But Williamson had already responded on Atzmon last December:

Earlier today I tweeted a petition about an Islington Council ban against the Blockheads performing with their chosen line-up. The council has blocked jazz musician Gilad Atzmon from playing with the group.

Since then I’ve learned that Atzmon, a former Israeli soldier, is not confined to the jazz world. I am told that in various blogs and in speeches he has adopted anti-Semitic language.

I wasn’t aware of this until after I tweeted the petition. As soon as I was informed, I deleted the tweet. I’ve always condemned all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, and strongly disassociate myself from Atzmon’s anti-Semitic views.

I therefore apologise for tweeting this petition and any distress or offence it may have caused.

Finally, Segalov mentioned Williamson’s ‘frankly disgraceful behaviour in the aftermath of the atrocious Pittsburgh shootings’. The ‘behaviour’ involved Williamson retweeting news that a Jewish organisation relentlessly smearing him and Corbyn as anti-semites had itself been accused of using an ‘anti-semitic trope’. Williamson commented:

Wow, well blow me down with a feather.

The tweet did not comment on the Pittsburgh massacre in any way – it was in reference to a different issue in a different country. British politicians regularly comment on – in fact, lie and dissemble about – countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria on the same days that terrible atrocities occur, which they actually caused by voting for illegal wars. Nobody even notices.

It could be that Williamson is secretly a vicious anti-semite, but this simply cannot be established on the basis of any of the claims currently made against him.

Finkelstein – ‘I Don’t Believe In Conspiracy Theories… But This Is A Conspiracy’

It is important to place the Williamson suspensions in context. This is described with rare honesty and courage by Norman Finkelstein, whose mother survived the Warsaw Ghetto, the Majdanek concentration camp and two slave labour camps. Finkelstein’s father was a survivor of both the Warsaw Ghetto and the Auschwitz concentration camp. In an interview with RT in May, Finkelstein commented:

Corbyn, he did not present a threat only to Israel and Israel’s supporters, he posed a threat to the whole British elite. Across the board, from the Guardian to the Daily Mail, they all joined in the new anti-semitism campaign. Now that’s unprecedented – the entire British elite, during this whole completely contrived, fabricated, absurd and obscene assault on this alleged Labour anti-semitism, of which there is exactly zero evidence, zero.

Indeed, an October 2016 report by the Commons home affairs committee found:

Despite significant press and public attention on the Labour Party, and a number of revelations regarding inappropriate social media content, there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other political party.

A September 2017 report by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research found:

Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population… The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing: the presence of antisemitic attitudes in this group is 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population.

The report noted that ‘the prevalence of antisemitism on the far right is considerably higher than on the left and in the political centre’.

Jonathan Cook described in February how a new Labour Party report had ‘decisively undercut’ the claims of Corbyn’s critics: allegations of anti-semitism had been made ‘against 0.08 percent of the 540,000-strong Labour membership. Hardly “endemic” or “institutional”, it seems.’

Finkelstein continued:

Yeah, there’s some fringe members of Labour who, you know, play the anti-semitic [interrupted by interviewer]… I read the polls, I read the data – it hovers between six and eight per cent are hardened anti-semites in British society. It’s nothing! Yeah, so there are a few crazies, but there’s no “institutionalised” anti-semitism in the British Labour Party. There’s no threat of anti-semitism in British society. I’ve read all the data, I’ve studied it closely. It just doesn’t exist. It’s all being designed and manipulated… I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, as you know, but this is a conspiracy.

Asked if there was a danger that false accusations might have a ‘cry wolf’ effect in undermining the credibility of genuine claims of anti-semitism, Finkelstein replied:

Well, there’s a bigger problem than that – there’s the boy who cried wolf, but I think there’s a bigger problem than that. If Corbyn loses, a lot of people in the Labour Party are going to blame it on those Jews who fabricated this whole anti-semitism witch-hunt hysteria. And that will be a problem, which… you know what the bigger problem there is? It’s true! Jews were the spearhead of this campaign to stop Corbyn. And so, there’s going to be a lot of anger within the Labour Party – that’s not anti-semitism, that’s factually based.

When reminded by his interviewer that Jews were hardly alone in promoting these accusations, Finkelstein responded:

Yes, but they play the most visible role and they play the most aggressive role. The British elites could not have gotten away with calling Corbyn an anti-semite unless they had the support, the visible support, of all the leading Jewish organisations. You have to remember that during the summer [of 2018. See here], all three major British publications, for the first time in British Jewish history, they all took out a common editorial denouncing Corbyn as an anti-semite and saying that we’re now standing on the verge of another Holocaust. They are the enablers of this concerted conspiracy by the whole of British elite society to destroy Jeremy Corbyn.

The point was made on July 2 when a small UK newspaper, Jewish News, chose to highlight a comment made in an interview with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt published the previous day:

When I went to Auschwitz I rather complacently said to myself, “thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that kind of thing happening in the UK” and now I find myself faced with the leader of the Labour Party who has opened the door to antisemitism in a way that is truly frightening.

Hunt’s words represent a level of moral depravity that almost defies belief. To use the Holocaust for political gain in faking the claim that Corbyn could open the door to a second Holocaust, is to do nothing less than exploit the deaths of the 6 million Jews who died under Nazi tyranny. It is truly astonishing that a Jewish newspaper would be willing to publish such a comment. Writer Michael Rosen, a Professor at Goldsmiths, University of London, commented:

A possible future prime minister has said something about Auschwitz which the political editor of the Jewish Chronicle has said on twitter is “offensive”. None of this is – apparently – news. What is it then?

Hunt’s comment generated massive, widespread outrage on social media. And yet, our July 4 ProQuest newspaper database search found a single mention in the entire UK press (in the Daily Mail) – the comment has simply been buried, presumably to avoid damaging the anti-semitism smear campaign targeting Corbyn.

In 2018, Noam Chomsky commented on this campaign:

The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally, while also authentically concerned with the rights of suffering and oppressed people throughout the world. Plainly an intolerable threat to order.2

The facts all fit with Finkelstein and Chomsky’s identification of a politically motivated smear campaign. Our July 4 ProQuest search of UK newspaper articles before and after Corbyn stood for the Labour leadership in May 2015 found these mentions:

‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘anti-semitism’ before 1 May 2015 = 18 hits

‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘anti-semitism’ after 1 May 2015 = 13,080 hits

None of the 18 articles accused Corbyn of anti-semitism. In his first 32 years as an MP, it was just not a theme. And not, as we have discussed, because Corbyn was not known or smeared – he was subjected to vile personal abuse by the press, just not in relation to any supposed anti-semitism.

Conclusion – Grounds For Expulsion

As Finkelstein noted, it is absurd and obscene to suggest that Jews in Britain are facing a second Holocaust under Corbyn; it is a monstrous fabrication. But if expressing anti-semitism merits expulsion from the Labour Party when there is no threat to Jewish people in British society, how are we to respond to the acts of politicians who personally vote to authorise illegal British and US wars in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria? These acts are not merely examples of prejudice, they do not merely offend – they kill, maim and displace literally millions of people, bringing whole countries to their knees.

The ethical demerit of mere words suggesting that the Labour Party has been too apologetic in defending its record on racism cannot possibly compare to political actions that launched wars causing almost unimaginable levels of human suffering. The very suggestion that they can be compared, or that the words are worse, can itself be viewed as a form of mass murder denial, of a fascistic disregard for ‘our’ crimes destroying human life.

And here, finally, we can find credible grounds for suspending Williamson. He, after all, ‘Generally voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.’

Notably, Williamson shamed himself by voting for the illegal war of aggression, the oil grab, that reduced Libya to a smoking ruin in 2011. But the same, of course, is true of almost all his Labour and Tory critics, who could all be suspended and expelled for the same reason.

  1. David Edwards and David Cromwell, Propaganda Blitz, Pluto Press, 2018, p. 6.
  2. Chomsky, email to Media Lens, 9 September 2018.

US Foreign Policy Exposed

Protest against US Foreign Policy in the Philippines (Source EPA)

In the last week, the realities of US foreign policy have been exposed by a leaked audio tape, a leak about a US attack on the Russian electrical grid, and US attempts to extradite Julian Assange. All the information points to a foreign policy that violates international law and standards, perpetrates wars and conflict and seeks to undermine press freedom in order to commit its crimes in secret.

This is not new information to those of us who closely follow US foreign policy, but these new exposures are broad and are in the mass media where many millions of people can view them and gain a greater understanding of the realities of US actions around the world. Join the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine this September.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses a closed-door meeting hosted by the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations on May 28, 2019 (Credit: Ron Przysucha/U.S. Department of State)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Exposes Himself To Jewish Leadership

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a foreign policy speech to the presidents of major Jewish organizations. The speech was remarkable because it shows the special attention this group receives. Very sensitive secrets of US foreign policy were provided to the audience. Thankfully, someone in the audience audio-taped the conversation, and as a result, millions of people in the US and around the world now know the truth about some critical US foreign policy issues. Here are some of the topics he discussed:

US Seeks To Stop Jeremy Corbyn Before He Is Elected:

The audio includesPompeo promising to do his “level best” to stop Corbyn from ever being elected as Prime Minister of the UK. Pompeo was responding to a question, “Would you be willing to work with us to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews in the UK?” This was about the false claim that Corbyn is anti-Semitic because he favors the rights of Palestinians and criticizes Israel. Pompeo responded:

It could be that Mr. Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected. It’s possible. 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.

The Secretary of State describing how the US would attempt to influence British elections comes despite all the claims of Russia allegedly influencing US elections. A Labour spokesman responded: “President Trump and his officials’ attempts to decide who will be Britain’s next prime minister are an entirely unacceptable interference in the UK’s democracy.”

US Coup in Venezuela not going well

In another US interference in democracy, Pompeo discussed the US coup in Venezuela. Pompeo described the opposition to Maduro as divided and acting in their own self-interest. He said: “Our conundrum, which is to keep the opposition united, has proven devilishly difficult.” Pompeo said in the meeting, the image of unity was really only useful as a “public” facade.

Pompeo also admitted that he has been working on the coup in Venezuela “since the day I became CIA director.” He explained creating unity among the opposition “was something that was at the center of what President Trump was trying to do.” Pompeo became CIA director on January 23, 2017.

Despite the US saying in public that Juan Guaido was president of Venezuela, he admitted in the audio tape that Maduro was still president and he could not predict the timing of when he would leave, but he assured the audience that the economic war and other actions against the government and against the Venezuelan population would result in his leaving.

The efforts of the Embassy Protection Collective continue in court. The US is seeking to convict four protectors of federal crimes that could result in one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. The US has unlimited resources, we need enough resources to put on a strong defense. A jury verdict acquitting us of these charges will be another blow against the US coup in Venezuela. Donate here.

Kushner Peace Plan Unlikely, Iran Too Sensitive To Discuss

Pompeo told Jewish leaders that the Trump administration’s soon-to-be-released Middle East peace plan will be considered “unworkable,” and might not gain traction. Pompeo acknowledged the plan’s perceived favoritism to Israel and was not optimistic saying, “It may be rejected. Could be in the end, folks will say, ‘It’s not particularly original, it doesn’t particularly work for me.’”

Pompeo was about to get into other Middle East issues like Iran but expressed concern that someone might be taping the conversation and the information could be too sensitive.

An oil tanker burns after the attack on 13 June in waters between Gulf Arab states and Iran (Photograph Reuters)

Iran Threats Heat Up Based On Unproven US Allegation

On June 13, two outbound tankers in the Gulf of Oman suffered from explosions on the side facing international waters. Iranian rescuers rushed to assist the two oil tankers, transferring all 44 crew members to Iran’s southern shores.

The US is claiming the attacks came from mines placed on the boats by Iran. The president of Kokuka Sangyo Marine, (shipowners), Yutaka Katada, said: “there is no possibility of mine attack as the attack is well above the waterline” and the crew described a flying object hitting the tanker.

The US blaming Iran gives us a “Remember the Maine!”/Gulf of Tonkin feeling, examples of false claims that led to war. The US provided a grainy, hard to understand video of a boat allegedly removing a mine from a tanker hours later. The US claims it was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard removing evidence of Iran’s involvement. There are many problems with this theory that raise more questions than answers.

The attack against the Japanese-owned tanker came at the moment that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The meeting was a historic one, the first Japanese leader to visit Iran since its revolution 40 years ago. Would Iran attack an oil tanker and sabotage its own meeting with the Japanese leader? This theory strains credulity. The US accusation against Iran seems designed to undermine Iran-Japanese diplomacy. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, said in a tweet, “Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning.”

These attacks seem to be against the interests of Iran as they provide an excuse for escalation against Iran by the US and its allies. Neocons and US armed regimes who oppose Iran, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, would all benefit from this attack.

Even though much of the media repeated the allegations, the suspicion that this was a false accusation against Iran was so strong that many media outlets noted the lack of evidence; e.g., the New York Times,  CNN, and NPR. The Saudi media immediately amplified the US accusation. US intelligence experts questioned the claim, raised doubts about the video and noted the US history in “ginning up” attacks for political purposes. Japan has asked for more proof, European governments questioned the claim. The lack of evidence for the US claim and the reality of how it makes little sense for Iran to make such an attack seem to be exposing the US more than undermining Iran.

A heating power plant in Moscow (Credit Maxim Shemetov for Reuters)

US Cyberattack on Russian Electrical Grid

On June 15, the New York Times reported on interviews with military officials over the last three months that showed the US stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid. The US has deployed computer code into the Russian electrical system for future cyber attacks. The actions are a warning to President Putin and a demonstration of how the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively, according to current and former government officials.

The Times reports the US “strategy has shifted more toward offense…with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before.”

Last year, new authorities were granted separately by the White House and Congress to United States Cyber Command, an arm of the Pentagon, to conduct offensive online operations without receiving presidential approval. The Times reports that Trump has not been briefed on the details of these actions for fear of his reaction. Trump denies the report and accused the Times of “a virtual act of treason.”

It is not clear how far the US has gone into the Russian electrical system. Could it cripple Russia’s electrical system or shut down its military? This may not be known until it is activated. Attacks on power grids by the US are not new, as shown in the attack on the Venezuelan electrical system in March, but boring into a system in preparation for war seems to be new.

US Behind Conviction Of Lula and others in Brazil

Glenn Greenwald obtained thousands of pages of communications between the people involved in the conviction of Lula da Silva, a popular politician in Brazil. It appears now that Lula was falsely convicted to prevent him from winning the presidency in 2018 and that the US was behind it. Brazilian judges are now calling for the conviction of Lula and many others who were targeted to be thrown out and an investigation into the massive corruption. Greenwald says there is more to come.

Assange extradition protested at Westminster Magistrates Court June 2019 (Photo by Gareth Corfield)

Officials in the US government and leaders of transnational corporations are well-aware that they are violating or skirting international and domestic laws. When an official is caught on tape in a private meeting, leaks of documents are provided to the media or an off-the-record interview reveals US strategies for war, the government gets upset.

We do not have to look any further to see this than the attempt to extradite Julian Assange to face prosecution in the United States. The US has issued a formal request for the extradition of Assange on 18 charges, 17 of which are violations of the Espionage Act, that could incarcerate him for the rest of his life. The Magistrate’s Court scheduled a five-day extradition hearing beginning on February 24, 2020.

The video in this tweet shows the hatred prominent people have for Julian Assange for merely publishing the truth about US war crimes, State Department operations, the Guantanamo Bay Prison and corporate corruption.

The facade is being lifted on US foreign policy. It is no longer possible for the US to get away with its crimes. And global power is shifting. Last week, Russia and China signed two major agreements, thus ending the US as the dominant superpower and creating a multipolar world. Alliances are changing – India may partner with Russia and China.

We are facing a historic crossroad. Will the US continue to try to dominate the world using economic, cyber and military weapons, further isolating itself and wasting resources that are needed to meet human needs and protect the planet, or will the US become a partner in good faith with other great powers? It is up to us to determine which path is taken. Join us this September during the United Nations General Assembly to call for the US to be held accountable in the People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine. Click here for more information.

Disinformation and False Accusations of Anti-Semitism

The smearing of George Galloway and widely reported disinformation that there was no evidence to support the claim that Viva Palestina delivered aid, raises serious concerns, not just in this case, but far beyond.

It is seriously disturbing how disinformation and lazy ‘cut and paste’ journalism has become common place within the monopoly media of the UK. One wonders where the professional and serious investigative reporting of old has gone.

With regard to the ‘possibly liable’ headlines of several national newspapers: Gaza charity ‘may have delivered no aid’ ‘no evidence of charitable activity’ and so forth…, as a participant of  the Viva Palestina Convoy 2009/10, I can confirm that not only was medical aid delivered to Gaza, there is significant evidence to support this. The medical supplies were, in fact, accurately documented as required and submitted to customs officials in the countries we passed through. So, why didn’t the charities commission, the government and the mainstream journalists find any evidence? Why didn’t they speak to any of the hundreds of witnesses who would likely be willing to testify in a court of law, were they called upon to do so.

My conclusion is that they didn’t look, which brings us to the more serious question: why didn’t they look?

It doesn’t take much imagination to consider why journalists and career politicians might have chosen not to look. It is frightening to consider how we have allowed ourselves to slide into this Orwellian condition of cognitive dissonance where investigative journalists and publishers are punished, criminalised and imprisoned for writing the truth, while the commonplace peddling of disinformation is rewarded.

To quote from George Orwell; “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” Julian Assange understands this more than most.

I’m not an investigative journalist; however, as a concerned citizen, my first question would be: Who were the people within the Charities Commission that instigated ‘Viva Palestina’ (a campaigning group), to register as a charity.

I remember that none of the participants of the convoy considered what we were doing as charity. Palestinians are not looking for charity. They want a political solution that offers dignity, freedom and justice. It was this political solution we were attempting to achieve by driving the convoy of politically decorated ambulances overland to Gaza. The symbolism of taking medical supplies was the powerful message that drew people from their homes to wave their support as we drove by.

Further questions we should all ask: “What was the motive in forcing a campaigning group to register as though it were a charity? Were those behind this move politically motivated in any way?”

Given all the false charges of anti-Semitism directed against George Galloway and many other outspoken critics of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians, it is credible to surmise that there ‘might’ have been political motives behind, not only forcing ‘Viva Palestina’ to fall under the power of the charities commission, but also the later investigation and false accusation – delivered ten years after the event: ‘of the probability that no aid was delivered’.

Seriously, such throw away meaningless phrases such as.., ‘may not have’ ‘high likely’ … whatever happened to evidence-based accusations?

The convoys of ambulances packed with medical supplies, (Viva Palestina 2009) grew out of an inspirational idea put forward by George Galloway. Both within the UK and indeed globally, individuals were/and continue to be shocked by the brutal attacks on a largely defenceless population living under siege in Gaza. The Israeli ‘Operation Cast Lead’ of 2008/9 left around 1,440 people dead and many more thousand injured. Ten years on, Gaza continues to face a slow genocide so the motivation to place blame on those who speak out about these outrageous war crimes and crimes against humanity, are well entrenched within the establishment and media.

The aims of Viva Palestina were threefold: besides delivering ambulances and medical supplies to Gaza by driving across Europe, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Egypt in convoy, our aim was to raise awareness as to the desperate plight of the Gazan people. The medical supplies will have been used up long ago; however, our intended aim of  raising awareness and demonstrating love and solidarity toward the Palestinians is enduring.

Viva Palestina was not one person. It was an inspirational campaigning umbrella for more than a hundred and ten different groups that comprised around 500 people from an international collective of around 17 different nationalities. The largest contingent participating in the convoy came from UK, followed by Turkey, Malaysia, and Jordanian doctors.

I was one of four who represented the people of York. Besides contributing our own money we fundraised locally and were responsible for our own financial accounting. Although it’s credible to believe that £1M was around the total sum of aid delivered, other than the international groups none of the local UK groups would have individually met the threshold of the £25,000.00 that was the excuse to force charity status on us. Our first purchase was an ambulance for which we paid £6,000.00. Having acquired the ambulance money came in more readily and we were able to purchase medical supplies, a defibrillator, and a second hand dialysis machine. This we handed over personally to doctors from the Red Crescent in Gaza. However spurious claims that we might have handed over aid (aid that we supposedly didn’t have) to ‘the ruling government’ are misleading and disingenuous. Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine. Just like our government which has a financial responsibility toward the NHS, Hamas finances the main Al Shifa Hospital, along with a responsibility for the health services of the population of Gaza. Had we handed our ambulance and medical supplies over to them, as many did, this would have been absolutely legitimate.

In a report put out by the UK government based on the charity commissions findings, it is stated that trustees of Viva Palestina were found lacking in their assessment of the risks. I should add that all participants were aware that there were risks. It was discussed prior to departure of the convoy and during the journey on several occasions. Given the Egyptian military siege that took place in El Arish against all participants of the convoy, it would have been comforting to think our government thought well enough of us, to have made some diplomatic gesture toward protecting us. The only response I am aware of from them was: “You were advised not to go. You are on your own.” Maybe behind the scenes they said something, but we were certainly not aware of it.

In contrast it was evident that the Turkish Government, the Malaysian Government and others, did take diplomatic steps to offer assistance to their citizens and as a result the military confrontation and siege ended with few casualties. Sadly this was not the case at the Rafa borders where Palestinians gathered in protest of our coming under siege by the Egyptian military. One Egyptian soldier was killed and a Palestinian was shot in the legs. If a reminder were needed, this tragedy reflects the brutality of conflict in this area of the world and what Palestinians in Gaza face on a daily basis.

We have normalised wars waged against civilians as though this were a natural condition of being human. Gaza continues to face a slow genocide, so the motivation for Palestinians during this current ‘Great March of Return’ arrives out of a sense of despair as they witness their country being steadily stolen away. Trump’s declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel simply added fuel to an already simmering anger. This desperate act of resistance arises in the belief that it is better to die in dignity than to die slowly on one’s knees.

The courage of the Palestinians comes from the belief that their individual death might trigger a global outrage that will finally bring justice and freedom for the children of their community. The realisation of this belief is slow in coming; however, it’s this faith in our common humanity that gives them the courage to transcend fear. It was this same faith that persuaded us to undertake the long journey across Europe and beyond in hopes of stirring a conscious awakening of decent people to this injustice.

In contrast to our good will, disinformation and labels function as a way of de-legitimising genuine resistance to injustice, resistance to the theft of one’s land, the theft of one’s freedom, and resistance to the theft of many lives… resistance to all that is inherently wrong.

Palestinians and their democratically elected government, Hamas, are frequently described as terrorists by Israel, UK and its politically ideological Zionist supporters; however, when Israel bombs Gaza and drops white phosphorous on its civilian population, it is stated that Israel is defending itself.

Labels and calculated disinformation function as a way of diverting attention  from legitimate outrage. People are afraid of the slurs and negative labels that might be attached to them; in the case of supporting Palestinians one is charged with being anti-Semitic. We just have to look at how these attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, George Galloway and the participants of Viva Palestina, to see how labels, false charges and calculated disinformation have become weaponised.

Labels don’t need truth to stick. Like lies they just have to be said often enough and with enough force to be intimidating and carry the power to turn a contrived falsehood into a popularly held truth. A false label is like the smelly stuff that clings to the bottom of your shoe if you are unfortunate enough to walk on the wrong part of the pavement. Evidently, George Galloway, like Jeremy Corbyn and all those of us on the Viva Palestina Convoy, have trodden in the wrong place by our physical endeavour to demonstrate an ongoing injustice and an unpalatable truth into the reaches of power.