Category Archives: UK Hypocrisy

After 70 Years of Abuse, a Definition of Anti-Palestinian Racism

What is the matter with the Palestine solidarity movement? Since 1948 (and before that, even) the Palestinians have been viciously abused and dispossessed while the perpetrators and their supporters have continually played the anti-Semitism card.

Bemused spectators have been bored witless by the long and ludicrous propaganda campaign to vilify Jeremy Corbyn, bully the Labour Party into accepting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism as a cornerstone in their code of conduct and stifle discussion of Israel’s crimes against  the Palestinian people. The expected riposte never came.

Anti-Palestinian Racism

Now Jewish Voice For Labour, of all people, have struck back with a useful looking definition of Anti-Palestinian Racism which they decribe as “hatred towards or prejudice against Palestinians as Palestinians”. In a document faintly mocking the pronouncements on anti-Semitism they suggest that manifestations of anti-Palestinian racism might include the denial of Palestinian rights to a state of Palestine as recognised by over 130 member countries of the United Nations and blaming Palestinians for their own plight under brutal military occupation and lock-down. Here’s how they put it:

Contemporary examples of anti-Palestinian racism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  1. Denying the Palestinian people their right to self-determination and nationhood, or actively conspiring to prevent the exercise of this right.
  2. Denial that Israel is in breach of international law in its continued occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  3. Denial that Israel is an apartheid state according to the definition of the International Convention on Apartheid.
  4. Denial of the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba and of their right, and the right of their descendants, to return to their homeland.
  5. Denial that Palestinians have lived in what is now the land of Israel for hundreds of years and have their own distinctive national identity and culture.
  6. Denial that the laws and policies which discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel (such as the recently passed Nation State Law) are inherently racist.
  7. Denial that there is widespread discrimination against Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories in matters of employment, housing, justice, education, water supply, etc, etc.
  8. Tolerating the killing or harming of Palestinians by violent settlers in the name of an extremist view of religion.
  9. Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Palestinians such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth of a Palestinian conspiracy to wipe Israel off the map.
  10. Justifying the collective punishment of Palestinians (prohibited under the Geneva Convention) in response to the acts of individuals or groups.
  11. Accusing the Palestinians as a people, of encouraging the Holocaust.

I am not sure how Palestinians, as genuine Semites living there for thousands of years, will react to No.5 which claims their homeland is “now the land of Israel”. Despite being illegally occupied by an apartheid entity most of whose members have no ancestral links to the ancient “land of Israel” it is still Palestine.

For decades activists have been telling the Israel lobby to look in the mirror and address their own racial hatred towards the Palestinians. You must truly hate people to deny them their freedom and even their right to return to their homes and livelihoods. Why has it taken so long for such a simple and obvious weapon to be produced? Doesn’t it make you wonder about the true agenda of those in charge of Palestine solidarity? And why has it taken a group of Jews (bless ’em) to do it?

The question now is how best to deliver this somewhat delayed riposte. It might have been best delivered while the iron was hot, at the height of the anti-Semitism witch-hunt and media onslaught. Many activists wanted Corbyn to turn on his tormentors and tell them to mend their own vile attitude towards Palestinian Arabs before daring to smear others with accusations of  anti-Semitism.

On the other hand it will benefit from careful honing, cool planning and the massing of pro-Palestinian support to make the hit really count.

For reasons we know only too well our politicians won’t adopt it as eagerly as they embraced the IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism. But it is at least a starting point in the fight-back especially if deployed by a coalition of genuine pro-Palestine groups and the BDS movement as the centrepiece of their new, combined campaign strategy.

Lies, damned lies….

Meanwhile I hope all those who allowed themselves to be suckered by the Israel lobby will hang their heads in shame when they read this report by the Media Reform Coalition: Labour, Antisemitism and the News – A disinformation paradigm.

The Executive summary says that an analysis of over 250 articles and news segments from the largest UK news providers (online and television) showed:

  • 29 examples of false statements or claims, several of them made by anchors or correspondents themselves, six of them surfacing on BBC television news programmes, and eight on TheGuardian.com
  • A further 66 clear instances of misleading or distorted coverage including misquotations, reliance on single source accounts, omission of essential facts or right of reply, and repeated assumptions made by broadcasters without evidence or qualification. In total, a quarter of the sample contained at least one documented inaccuracy or distortion.
  • Overwhelming source imbalance, especially on television news where voices critical of Labours code of conduct were regularly given an unchallenged and exclusive platform, outnumbering those defending Labour by nearly 4 to 1.

In all, there were 95 clear-cut examples of misleading or inaccurate reporting on mainstream television and online news platforms, with a quarter of the total sample containing at least one such example. On TV two thirds of the news segments contained at least one reporting error or substantive distortion.

The report points to “a persistent subversion of conventional news values”. Furthermore, coverage of Labour’s revised code of conduct during the summer of 2018 often omitted critical discussion of the ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism promoted by the IHRA and wrongly described it as universally adopted. “We established through background case research that although the IHRA is an international body with representatives from 31 countries, only six  of those countries have, to date, formally adopted the definition themselves.

  • In spite of a call for local authorities to adopt the definition by the UKs central government in early 2017, less than a third of councils have responded and several of those have chosen not to include any of the controversial examples contained within the working definition.
  • Several high-profile bodies have rejected or distanced themselves from the working definition, including the EUs Fundamental Rights Agency (a successor to the body that drafted the original wording on which the definition is based) and academic institutions including the London School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies.
  • Mainstream academic and legal opinion has been overwhelmingly critical of the IHRA definition, including formal opinions produced by three senior UK barristers and one former appeals court judge. Virtually none of this essential context found its way into news reports of the controversy. Instead, the Labour Party was routinely portrayed by both sources and correspondents as beyond the pale of conventional thinking on the IHRA definition.

Which all goes to show that Britain’s mainstream media has a hill to climb to get back its self-respect.

Blanket Silence: Corporate Media Ignore New Report Exposing Distorted And Misleading Coverage of Corbyn

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the 17 years since Media Lens began, it’s that media professionals generally hate being challenged, critiqued or criticised. This fierce antipathetical belligerence underlies the corporate media’s total refusal to mention, far less discuss, a recent damning report on how the corporate media have been misreporting Labour and its supposed ‘problem’ with antisemitism.

The report was published last week by the Media Reform Coalition (MRC), set up in 2011 in the wake of the News International phone hacking scandal, to promote debate about the media and democracy. The MRC coordinates effective action by civil society groups, academics and media campaigners, and is currently chaired by Natalie Fenton, Professor of Communication and Media at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The urgent need for such a media initiative is highlighted by the disturbing reality that Britain has one of the most concentrated media environments in the world, with just three companies in control of 71% of national newspaper circulation and five companies running 81% of local newspaper titles.

In the careful MRC study, articles and news segments on Labour and antisemitism from the largest UK news providers, both online and television, were subjected to in-depth analysis. The research was undertaken by Dr Justin Schlosberg, Senior Lecturer in Journalism and Media at Birkbeck, University of London, together with Laura Laker, an experienced freelance journalist.

In their study, Schlosberg and Laker identified:

myriad inaccuracies and distortions in online and television news including marked skews in sourcing, omission of essential context or right of reply, misquotation, and false assertions made either by journalists themselves or sources whose contentious claims were neither challenged nor countered. Overall, our findings were consistent with a disinformation paradigm.

In other words, the corporate media have been pumping out reams of ‘fake news’ promoting a narrative that Corbyn and Labour are mired in an ‘antisemitism crisis’.

Out of over 250 articles and news pieces examined by Schlosberg and Laker, fully 95 examples were found of misleading or inaccurate reporting. In particular, there were (our emphasis):

• 29 examples of false statements or claims, several of them made by news presenters or correspondents themselves, six of them on BBC television news programmes, and eight on the Guardian website.

• A further 66 clear instances of misleading or distorted coverage including misquotations, reliance on single -source accounts, omission of essential facts or right of reply, and repeated value-based assumptions made by broadcasters without evidence or qualification. In total, a quarter of the sample contained at least one documented inaccuracy or distortion.

Overwhelming source imbalance, especially on television news where voices critical of Labour’s code of conduct on antisemitism were regularly given an unchallenged and exclusive platform, outnumbering those defending Labour by nearly 4 to 1. Nearly half of Guardian reports on the controversy surrounding Labour’s code of conduct featured no quoted sources defending the party or leadership.

This is, to say the least, totally unacceptable from any supposedly responsible news outlet. It is even more galling when it comes from the Guardian and BBC News, both with large global audiences, who constantly proclaim their credentials for ‘honest and balanced reporting’.

Much recent corporate media coverage has focused on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of ‘antisemitism’. Corporate media across the spectrum have argued that in refusing to accept the IHRA definition in total, with all of its accompanying examples, Corbyn has promoted antisemitism, alienated Britain’s Jewish community and divided his own party.

Philip Collins wrote in The Times of Corbyn (our emphasis):

He has, for some reason he cannot articulate, insisted that the Labour Party should be just about the only institution that does not accept the definition of antisemitism approved by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

In July, a Times editorial stated of Labour’s National Executive Committee (our emphasis):

Instead of adopting a standard definition of antisemitism formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, and endorsed by governments around the world, the NEC has amended it in unacceptable ways… Let there be no doubt: these are unconscionable and antisemitic accusations.

In September, another Times leader opined (our emphasis):

Labour’s national executive committee will vote today on whether to adopt the internationally recognised definition of antisemitism. It is essential that it does. Governments and organisations worldwide have adopted the carefully worded text developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Jeremy Corbyn’s hamfisted attempt to rewrite it, without consultation and with the apparent aim of protecting certain activists, shames his party.

The Times added:

British Jews are well placed to define what constitutes racism towards them, just as any minority deserves the last word in the debate as it applies to them. Gordon Brown has called for Labour to “unanimously, unequivocally and immediately” adopt all the examples. Anything less would mark a dark day indeed for the party.

Noting that three leading British Jewish newspapers had declared that a Corbyn-led government would pose ‘an existential threat to Jewish life in this country’, senior Guardian columnist and former comment editor Jonathan Freedland asked:

How on earth has it come to this?

Part, but not all, of the problem, Freedland suggested, was (our emphasis):

Labour’s failure to adopt the full text of the near universally accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including all its illustrative examples.

He added:

When Jews hear that the IHRA is not good enough, they wonder: what exactly is it that Labour wants to say about us?

And yet, as the MRC report [pdf] makes clear, although the IHRA is an international body with representatives from 31 countries, only six of those countries have, to date, formally adopted the definition themselves. Several high-profile bodies have rejected or distanced themselves from the working definition, including the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency – a successor to the body that drafted the original wording on which the definition is based – and academic institutions including the London School of Economics and School of Oriental and African Studies. Moreover, academic and legal opinion has been overwhelmingly critical of the IHRA definition, including formal opinions produced by four leading UK barristers.

But, note Schlosberg and Laker:

Virtually none of this essential context found its way into news reports of the controversy. Instead, the Labour Party was routinely portrayed by both sources and correspondents as beyond the pale of conventional thinking on the IHRA definition.

Nearly 50% of Guardian reports failed to include any quotes from those critiquing the IHRA definition or defending Labour’s code of conduct on antisemitism. In fact, media reporting (our emphasis):

effectively gave those attacking Labour’s revised code and championing the IHRA definition a virtually exclusive and unchallenged platform to air their views. By comparison, their detractors – including a number of Jewish organisations and representatives of other affected minorities – were systematically marginalized from the coverage. Furthermore, Labour MPs adopting even moderate positions defending the code were subjected to far more aggressive questioning from interviewers than those adopting extreme positions attacking it.

In a calm, methodical and rigorous manner, the MRC has exposed to public view the blatant anti-Corbyn bias of even the ‘best’ media outlets: the BBC and the Guardian.

Response to the Media Reform Coalition Report

Our searches using the ProQuest newspaper database reveal that there has not been a single news article or editorial published about the report. This is a remarkable symptom of the glaring tendency of the media to reject, or simply blank, reasoned, well-researched criticism.

When The Canary website published an article about the MRC report, they approached both the Guardian and the BBC for comment. The Guardian‘s response was boilerplate rhetoric – ‘The Guardian has featured a wide range of voices in this debate’, etc – that failed to acknowledge the paper’s unambiguous distortions and omissions. The BBC did not even provide a comment.

The sole newspaper mention to date is a letter in the Guardian which may only have been published because Noam Chomsky is one of the signatories, along with high-profile figures such as Brian Eno, Yanis Varoufakis, Ken Loach and a number of media academics. They make a crucial point that relates to criticism of the Guardian itself (mentioned earlier):

‘In relation to the IHRA definition of antisemitism that was at the heart of the dispute, the research found evidence of “overwhelming source imbalance” in which critics of Labour’s code of conduct dominated coverage, with nearly 50% of Guardian reports, for example, failing to include any quotes from those defending the code or critiquing the IHRA definition.’

The letter also notes the MRC researchers’ conclusion that media distortions and inaccuracies:

were not occasional lapses in judgment but “systematic reporting failures” that served to weaken the Labour leadership and to bolster its opponents within and outside of the party.

Chomsky and his co-signatories add:

In covering the allegations that Labour is now “institutionally antisemitic”, there have been inaccuracies, clear distortions and revealing omissions across our most popular media platforms. We believe that significant parts of the UK media have failed their audiences by producing flawed reports that have contributed to an undeserved witch-hunt against the Labour leader and misdirected public attention away from antisemitism elsewhere, including on the far right, which is ascendant in much of Europe.

Given the Guardian‘s appalling record of boosting fake news of a Labour ‘antisemitism crisis’, and given its vehement opposition to Corbyn’s brand of moderate socialism, it is no wonder that #DumpTheGuardian and #BoycottTheGuardian were trending in the UK last Friday as part of a dedicated Twitter campaign.

Pro-Corbyn Labour MP Chris Williamson tweeted his support in response to the MRC report:

My reference to McCarthyism vindicated by this report. The Guardian newspaper’s deplorable contribution explains why so many people are saying #BoycottTheGuardian

Last Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn gave a speech to the Labour Party conference in which he dared to criticise the British corporate media who have been gunning for him ever since he became the party’s leader:

It turns out that the billionaires who own the bulk of the British press don’t like us one little bit.

Now it could be because we’re going to clamp down on tax dodging. Or it may be because we don’t fawn over them at white tie dinners and cocktail parties.

He added:

We must, and we will, protect the freedom of the press to challenge unaccountable power.

Journalists from Turkey to Myanmar and Colombia are being imprisoned, harassed or sometimes killed by authoritarian governments and powerful corporate interests just for doing their job.

But here, a free press has far too often meant the freedom to spread lies and half-truths, and to smear the powerless, not take on the powerful.

You challenge their propaganda of privilege by using the mass media of the 21st century: social media.

Pippa Crerar, Guardian deputy political editor, responded with the standard kneejerk conflation of Corbyn’s reasoned comments with the idiotic ‘fake news’ mantra of Trump. She tweeted:

Corbyn criticises some parts of British media, claiming they “smear the powerless, not take on the powerful”. As a journalist, makes me very uncomfortable to hear him leading attack on our free press. Dangerous, Trumpian territory.

We responded:

Honest, rational criticism is not an “attack”, and it is not “dangerous”. A corporate press that refuses to listen or respond to this kind of reasonable criticism is itself dangerous. If anyone has a right to criticise media smears, it is @jeremycorbyn.

The level of popular support for this view is indicated by the fact that our tweet has so far received 518 retweets and 1,222 likes; a massive response by our standards.

To her credit, Crerar did engage with us reasonably, unlike the vast majority of her media colleagues over many years:

Totally agree media has to reflect/listen. Not for a minute saying we’re perfect (some elements extremely *imperfect*). But orgs also do invaluable work eg Windrush, grooming scandal, MPs expenses so just not true to say we don’t hold power to account.

We answered:

Thanks for replying, Pippa, very much appreciated. Glad you agree “media has to reflect/listen”. Doesn’t that mean taking Corbyn’s thoughtful, reasoned criticism seriously, rather than lumping it in with Trump’s awful tub-thumping? Corbyn and Milne really aren’t “dangerous”.

Her follow-up:

I’ve sat back today & watched pile-on. I’d always rather engage but not when abusive. Like I said, media far from perfect, but I fear JC’s comments ignored excellent journalism that does exist & undermined journalists who produce it. Of course, nowhere near as extreme as Trump.

And our reply:

Our response generated nearly 800 [now 1,700] likes and retweets – that gives an idea of the strength of feeling. Like other media, the Guardian‘s smearing of Corbyn has gone way too far. It’s time to start listening to your readers @KathViner.

To date, there has been no further exchange; and certainly not a peep out of Guardian editor, Katharine Viner; which is typical for this extraordinarily unresponsive media professional.

Justin Schlosberg, lead author of the MRC report, told The Canary:

Neither the Guardian nor the BBC have acknowledged or even directly responded to the myriad reporting failures highlighted in our research. It is completely inadequate to offer blanket dismissals or simply kick into the long grass of their respective complaints procedures.

Schlosberg pointed out:

The failure to answer to these allegations is even more serious than the reporting failures themselves.

Conclusion

As a further, related example of bias, consider the corporate media’s stunning indifference to the bomb threat that interrupted the screening of a new film, The Political Lynching of Jackie Walker, in Liverpool on September 25. Walker is a former Momentum Vice-Chair who was suspended from the Labour party as part of a propaganda blitz attempting to silence critics of Israel. The screening was organised by Jewish Voice for Labour which has been supportive of Jeremy Corbyn.

If the corporate media were genuinely motivated by concerns about alleged rising antisemitism, this shocking threat would have generated headline coverage. Instead it was met by a blanket of silence. A brief online Guardian piece was, to say the least, ambiguous in its narrative. Ex-Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook noted:

Another “fake news” master-class from the Guardian. A bomb hoax to stop Corbyn-supporting, Jewish Labour members screening a film about how Labour’s “anti-semitism crisis” has been manufactured is framed as *more* evidence of Jew hatred in the party!

According to our ProQuest database search, the only mentions in the print press have been in the Liverpool Echo and The Times of Israel. Where are all the editorials and major comment pieces in the Guardian, The Times and elsewhere?

As for the Media Reform Coalition report itself, it is no surprise that the BBC, the Guardian and the rest of the corporate media should brush away detailed reasoned criticism of their biased reporting, or pretend such clear evidence does not exist. These media outlets sell themselves as publicly accountable; or, at least, as defenders of the public interest; a valiant fourth estate standing up for the truth and honest, neutral news coverage. And yet, when the alternative media makes a mistake, or says ‘the wrong thing’, there are angry howls and screaming mockery from the corporate commentariat. The hypocrisy is staggering, and, again, entirely predictable.

• Authors’ Note:  Propaganda Blitz, the new Media Lens book, has just been published by Pluto Press

Will the real anti-Semites please stand up

Amongst the highly prolific author HG Wells’ many publications is a less well-known book titled A Short History of the World. Given the potential immensity of such a subject, the fact that Wells produced a book of very modest length (my copy is a mere 350 pages or so) no doubt would encourage some to dismiss it as trite and superficial. Obviously it’s superficial, but it might be reasonable to say the same of something twenty or fifty times longer – depending on how well it’s written. But Wells’ book is truly remarkable for its economy of language, with hardly a single unnecessary word used; and it’s also remarkable for its scholarship.

Wells studied biology before he became a writer, and carved a meagre existence for himself as a teacher for almost ten years. Perhaps the early discipline of scientific method, together with the need to communicate new ideas to young minds, influenced much of his later writing style, because what he created with Short History is an amazingly compact and very readable collection of short essays covering a multitude of historical events from the creation of the Earth, through discussions on all the main religions, to the Russian Revolution – which took place a mere five years before he published his book.

Few of the sixty-seven chapters exceed four pages in length, yet each chapter is packed with such a wealth of information that it’s difficult not to be impressed with the depth of Wells’ scholarship, because to write as informatively and concisely as he does in each chapter implies a huge depth of knowledge. Like a few other great thinkers, Wells was an autodidact and acquired most of his knowledge by charting his own course, free of the constraints that hinder many of those restricted to lives of formal education.

Of particular interest in these times where the expression “anti-Semitism” is seldom out of the mainstream fake-news for any length of time, are a couple of chapters Wells devotes to the early history of the Middle East. It’s necessary to repeat the important point that Wells wrote this book in the early 1920s. Israel did not exist at that time, yet the word that Wells seems to use most often when referring to the natives of the massive area stretching roughly from where Iran is today to Tunisia in the West, Egypt in the South, and Turkey in the North, is “Semite”:

We have already noted the appearance of the Semitic people as wanderers and nomads in the region of Syria and Arabia, and how they conquered Sumeria and set up first the Akkadian and then the Babylonian Empire. In the west these same Semitic peoples were taking to the sea. They set up a string of harbour towns along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, of which Tyre and Sidon were the chief; and by the time of Hammurabi in Babylon, they had spread as traders, wanderers and colonizers over the whole Mediterranean basin. These sea Semites were called the Phoenicians.1

Now he clearly did not believe that these people were all Jewish, for he refers specifically to them as:

[A] little Semitic people, the Hebrews, in the hills behind the Phoenician and Philistine coasts.2

And then he devotes a whole chapter to “The Early History of the Jews”, whose importance to the history of mankind Wells clearly understands and appreciates, as the chapter opens:

And now we tell of the Hebrews, a Semitic people, not so important in their own time as in their influence upon the later history of the world.3

(He couldn’t begin to know how prophetic those words would become.)

Note that Wells points out that the Hebrews were “a” Semitic people, not “the” Semitic people, and remember once again that he was writing before Israel had been invented. The importance that Wells rightly assigns to the Hebrews:

is due to the fact that they produced a written literature, a world history… which became at last what Christians know as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible. This literature appears in history in the fourth or fifth century BC.3

Sometime around 600BC the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar ordered the destruction of Jerusalem, which had been the Hebrew capital for at least 400 years, and

The remnant of the people was carried off captive to Babylon [where] they remained until Cyrus took Babylon (538BC). He then collected them together and sent them back to resettle and rebuild the walls and temple of Jerusalem.3

Wells notes that the period of time that the Hebrews spent in Babylon was highly significant, because:

It civilized them and consolidated them. They returned aware of their own literature, an acutely self-conscious and political people.4

And very interestingly,

[Hebrew] accounts of the Creation of the World, of Adam and Eve and of the Flood, with which the Bible begins [and which vast numbers of westerners still believe to this day] run closely parallel with similar Babylonian legends; they seem to have been part of the common beliefs of all the Semitic peoples. So too the stories of Moses and of Samson have Sumerian and Babylonian parallels.4

So it appears that the original Semitic people were very different to what most of the world thinks today:

In the seventh century BC it would have seemed as though the whole civilised world was to be dominated by Semitic rulers. They ruled the great Assyrian empire and they had conquered Egypt; Assyria, Babylon, Syria were all Semitic, speaking languages that were mutually intelligible. The trade of the world was in Semitic hands. Tyre, Sidon, the great mother cities of the Phoenician coast, had thrown out colonies that grew at least to even greater proportion in Spain, Sicily and Africa. Carthage, founded before 800 BC, had risen to a population of more than 1 million.5

Now Wells did not invent the word “Semite”, nor did he invent this interpretation of their history. He simply related what would have been common understanding of history at the time. And this understanding survived for quite a long a time afterwards. Because in my edition of The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (an interesting use of the word “shorter”, as my two-volume copy is nearly 4,000 pages long), the word “Semite” is defined as:

A member of any of the peoples supposedly descended from Shem, son of Noah (Gen. 10:21 – 31) including esp. the Jews, Arabs, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Phoenicians.6

And my edition of this dictionary was published in 1993, over seventy years after Wells wrote his book. So in relatively recent times, the definition of the word “Semite” has been almost totally transformed from what was in common usage for many, many years to a new definition, widely promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which is now being used to refer only to Jewish people generally, and Zionists in particular. All of the other hundreds of millions of other people living in Semitic lands, as they’ve done for thousands of years, are simply removed from the new definition.

Now that publication date of 1993 is quite interesting, because it is a date after the First Gulf War, which took place in 1991. This war, which doesn’t deserve to be dignified with the word “war”, as it was more like a mass slaughter of defenceless people, was not only a massive abomination, it was also a massively illegal abomination, for it not only ignored numerous international laws, it also ignored the constitution of the very country that was mostly responsible for the abominations – the United States of America.

Ramsey Clark who, as a former attorney general of the US, knows a little bit about the law. His superb book The Fire This Time: US Crimes in the Gulf relates much of the detail of the monstrous crimes perpetrated by the US and its allies – and provides a comprehensive account of some of the various laws which were contemptuously ignored.

Clark describes just how one-sided this so-called war was:

Before 1991 was over, more than 250,000 Iraqis and thousands of other nationals were dead as a result of the attack. Most were civilian men, women, children, and infants.

US war casualties, including those who died from U.S. “friendly fire,” totalled 148, we are told. Out of an acknowledged 109,876 air sorties, total U.S. aircraft losses were 38, less than the accident rate during war games without live ammunition…

Iraq had no capacity to either attack or defend… The U.S. did not lose a single B52 in combat, as these planes dropped 27,500 tons of bombs. No Iraqi projectile penetrated a single Abrams tank, while the U.S. claimed to destroy 4,300 Iraqi tanks and 1,856 armored vehicles…7

U.S. forces buried thousands of Iraqi soldiers alive, wounded, dying, and dead. Miles of trenches with Iraqi troops in them were bulldozed over with sand. The United States refused to count, locate, identify or honor the dead. General [Colin] Powell said of the death count that it was “not a number I am terribly interested in.”8

General William G. Pagonis, stating proudly that this was the first war in modern time where every screwdriver and every nail was accounted for, simultaneously defended General Schwarzkopf’s policy against counting enemy dead. The generals knew but never mentioned that the Geneva Convention of 1949 required them not merely to count enemy dead, but to identify and honor them as well.9

Now there’s nothing unusual in the United States ignoring international law whenever it feels so inclined. After all, it’s knowingly been committing war crimes since Korea, and even one of its own Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger, freely admitted in the 1970s that:

The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer.10

But the relevance to this particular discussion is around the question of anti-Semitism. Now I think I’ve established that for many, many years, and up until at least 1993, it was commonly understood that Semites were people with ethnic roots stretching from Iraq to North Africa.

However, in 2001 it was decided at the very highest levels of US government to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.

The catastrophic destruction that had already been wreaked on Iraq – one of the earliest Semitic lands – ten years earlier was not enough. Nowhere near enough Semitic people had suffered enough. Tens of millions of other Semitic people would have to be killed, injured and made homeless. And true enough we have indeed seen the destruction of what was left of Iraq, then Libya. Syria has been made to suffer terribly, and were it not for the intervention of Russia would likely have gone the same way as Iraq and Libya. All Semitic countries.

For much of Jeremy Corbyn’s time in office as leader of Britain’s Labour Party, he has been persistently accused of anti-Semitism. He has been accused of “not doing enough” to purge the party of anti-Semitism, and he has been accused of being an anti-Semite himself, most notably by the senior and highly respected Labour MP Margaret Hodge who allegedly called him a fucking anti-Semite. Yet hard evidence to justify the accusations are very difficult to find – which is quite extraordinary if it’s such a serious problem in the Labour Party generally, and with Jeremy Corbyn in particular. Much media comment was recently made about a remark Corbyn is said to have made – six years ago – about a wall mural depicting a group of bankers and which was, apparently anti-Semitic. This is about the best Jeremy Corbyn’s accusers can do in terms of providing hard evidence of his supposed anti-Semitism. The fact that Corbyn has spent much of his political career fighting for justice for cruelly oppressed Palestinians – a Semitic people – is not only ignored, it’s now considered further evidence of his anti-Semitism, thanks to IHRA’s new definition of the expression.

So the question is what is real anti-Semitism? Is it really a refusal to condemn a wall painting? Is that really the best Corbyn’s enemies can come up with? And even if it is, how does it compare when measured against the illegal murder of millions of Semitic people across the Middle East and North Africa, the destruction of countless thousands of Semitic homes, and forcing millions of semites to become refugees in alien and unwelcoming countries?

  1. A Short History of the World, HG Wells, p. 74.
  2. Ibid, p. 79.
  3. Ibid, p. 92.
  4. Ibid, p. 93.
  5. Ibid, p. 98.
  6. New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, p. 2772.
  7. The Fire This Time, Ramsey Clark, p. 206/7.
  8. Ibid, p. 178.
  9. Ibid, p. 208.
  10. The Wikileaks Files, Verso, 2015 edition, p. 66.

Charges “Without Merit”: Jeremy Corbyn, Antisemitism, Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky

Last week, Peter Brookes tweeted his latest cartoon for The Times, commenting:

#Novichok not the only poison being spread around Britain. #LabourAntisemitism #Corbyn.

Referencing allegations that two Russian agents had been responsible for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4, the cartoon depicted a British policeman holding up mugshots of a menacing, bug-eyed ‘Jeremy Korbynski’ (wearing an ‘I Love Hamas’ badge) and a vampiric, evil-looking ‘Seumasov Milne’ (wearing a ‘Down With Israel’ badge), with the policeman saying:

THESE TWO MEN ARE SUSPECTED OF SPREADING POISON AROUND BRITAIN…

As Brookes made clear in his tweet, the alleged ‘poison’ Corbyn and Milne, Labour’s director of communications, are supposedly spreading is, of course, antisemitism.

We have always been struck by the sense of complete unreality surrounding this debate and decided to check when and how often Corbyn has been accused of antisemitism since first being elected as an MP in 1983.

Labour was defeated in the general election of May 7, 2015, causing leader Ed Miliband to resign. On June 3, the BBC reported that Corbyn had joined the contest to replace him. We monitored this period closely and it is simply unarguable that Corbyn was portrayed by journalists, and even party political foes, as a basically decent person. He was depicted as a left relic, certainly – irrelevant and ridiculous – but also as sincere and well-intentioned. There was no sense whatever in ‘mainstream’ media coverage that Corbyn was a malign individual.

In July, we conducted a ProQuest newspaper database search, which found the following hits for UK press articles mentioning:

‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ before May 2015 = 18 hits

‘Jeremy Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ after May 2015 = 6,133 hits

None of the 18 mentions before May 2015 included any accusation that Corbyn was antisemitic. And it was not, as some people have claimed, that Corbyn, a leading anti-war MP, was unknown or unworthy of attention. ProQuest found 3,659 hits for ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ before May 2015.

Writing for the Medium website last month, Patrick Elliot described his own research confirming these results. Elliot noted that the first story ever to be published in a UK national newspaper with the words ‘Corbyn’ and ‘antisemitism’ in the same sentence appeared in the Guardian on August 13, 2015, reporting an accusation the previous day in The Jewish Chronicle. The voting process for the Labour leadership election began one day later, on August 14. Elliot wrote:

During the three years of Corbyn’s Labour leadership, the association of antisemitism with the Labour Party has been a relentless media narrative. The 2,087 articles published in that time have come at an average of nearly two per day.

Yet in more than six and a half years prior to his election, just 178 articles were published associating the Party with antisemitism, at an average of one every fortnight. Is antisemitism 25 times more prevalent in the Party now?

Freedland’s ‘Game Changer’

In the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland – now into his fourth year of relentlessly attacking Corbyn – highlighted the Labour leader’s ‘2013 attack on a group of “Zionists” he’d encountered’. In fact, Corbyn did not ‘attack’ them; they had berated the Palestinian ambassador after he delivered a speech at a meeting in Parliament. Freedland noted that Corbyn said of these activists that despite ‘having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony’. Freedland explained the significance:

The implication of that remark is clear – and it has nothing to do with defending Palestinians. It’s that Corbyn sees Jews as fundamentally alien, foreigners who might live here a long time, might even be born here, but are still essentially other. People who will never be truly English.

Political analyst Alex Nunns had already exposed the fallacy of the same argument made in an article by Guardian columnist Simon Hattenstone, to which Freedland linked with the comment:

For many, including some [like Hattenstone] who’d long defended the Labour leader, that was a game changer.

Nunns pointed out the absurdity of Hattenstone’s logic:

This is an inversion of what Corbyn said. He compared a group of pro-Israel activists to the Palestinian ambassador whose talk they attended, saying the latter had a better grasp of irony. That only makes any sense if he was saying the activists WERE actually “properly English.”

Nunns spelled it out:

In clearer language, the point Corbyn made was: “Despite being English, these particular pro-Israel activists have a poorer sense of irony than the Palestinian ambassador whose speech they attended”.

Corbyn was making a wry comment about a non-native English speaker understanding nuances in the language better than native English speakers – the exact opposite of what Hattenstone/Freedland were suggesting.

The Guardian’s George Monbiot tweeted a response to Hattenstone’s piece:

It dismays me to say it, as someone who has invested so much hope in the current Labour Party, but I think @shattenstone is right: Jeremy Corbyn’s 2013 comments about “Zionists” were antisemitic and unacceptable.

This reminded us strongly of Monbiot’s investigation into a ‘malign intellectual subculture’ on the left, comprised of Edward Herman, John Pilger, Media Lens and others who were guilty of ‘belittling the acts of genocide committed by opponents of the western powers’. Monbiot was again dismayed:

And, to my great distress, as I rate him very highly, #NoamChomsky doesn’t come out of it too well either.

Monbiot confidently denounced Corbyn’s ‘antisemitic’ comments in several tweets. One day later, having learned of Alex Nunns’ analysis, Monbiot tweeted:

For fairness, here is another explanation of what Jeremy Corbyn said, which casts it in a very different light.

Was this Monbiot performing another of his famous U-turns? It’s difficult to say. Responding to the suggestion that he perhaps should have highlighted Nunns’ analysis, not Hattenstone’s, Monbiot responded with sarcasm.

Freedland went on:

Similar was the mural of hooked-nose bankers, counting their money on the backs of the poor. The artist himself said he had depicted Jews, but when Corbyn heard it was to be removed his response was “Why?” He literally could not see anything wrong with it. Again, that’s nothing to do with opposing Israel. That’s just old school antisemitism.

The key comment here: ‘The artist himself said he had depicted Jews.’

The deceptiveness of this version of events becomes clear when we look a little closer. Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook wrote in March:

Not that anyone is listening now, but the artist himself, Kalen Ockerman, has said that the group in his mural comprised historical figures closely associated with banking. His mural, he says, was about “class and privilege”, and the figures depicted included both “Jewish and white Anglos”. The fact that he included famous bankers like the Rothschilds (Jewish) and the Rockefellers (not Jewish) does not, on the face of it, seem to confirm anti-semitism. They are simply the most prominent of the banking dynasties most people, myself included, could name. These families are about as closely identified with capitalism as it is possible to be.

In his outstanding essay, ‘The chimera of British anti-Semitism (and how not to fight it if it were real)’, Norman Finkelstein, Jewish author of The Holocaust Industry and the son of Holocaust survivors, comments:

The degree of anti-Semitism infecting British society has been the subject of numerous polls over a sustained period of time. These surveys have uniformly, consistently, and unambiguously concluded that anti-Semitism (1) has long been a marginal phenomenon in British society, infecting under 10 percent of the population, (2) is far less salient than hostility to other British minorities, and (3) is less pronounced in the UK than almost anywhere else in Europe.

Finkelstein argues that Jews have considerable power within British society. Indeed, the intensity and longevity of the campaign targeting Corbyn’s ‘antisemitism’ in part reflect that influence:

Jews are incomparably organized as they have created a plethora of interlocking, overlapping, and mutually reinforcing communal and defense organizations that operate in both the domestic and international arenas. In many countries, not least the US and the UK, Jews occupy strategic positions in the entertainment industry, the arts, publishing, journals of opinion, the academy, the legal profession, and government. “Jews are represented in Britain in numbers that are many times their proportion of the population,” British-Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer notes, “in both Houses of Parliament, on the Sunday Times Rich List, in media, academia, professions, and just about every walk of public life.”

As Finkelstein says, ‘it cannot be right to deny (or suppress) critical socioeconomic facts’ of this kind. Noting them has nothing to do with ugly, racist fantasies about Jews controlling the world. He adds:

Jeremy Corbyn is the democratically elected head of the Labour Party. His ascendancy vastly expanded and galvanized the party’s ranks. Corbyn has devoted a lifetime to fighting racism; like eponymous labor organizer Joe Hill, where workers strike and organize, it’s there you’ll find Jeremy Corbyn. By British and even global leadership standards, he cuts a saintly figure. On the opposite side, mostly unelected Jewish bodies have dragged Corbyn’s name through the mud, slandering and defaming him. They have refused to meet with Corbyn, even as he has repeatedly extended olive branches and offered substantive compromises. Instead they issue take-it-or-leave-it ultimatums.

Finkelstein summarises accurately:

The transparent motive behind this cynical campaign is to demonize Corbyn, not because he’s a “fucking anti-Semite,” [the words of former Labour minister Margaret Hodge] but because he’s a principled champion of Palestinian rights’, although ‘a broad array of powerful entrenched social forces, acting on not-so-hidden agendas of their own’ are all seeking to destroy Corbyn.

Indeed, no rational observer can see this as anything other than an extension of the relentless establishment attack on Corbyn, the mild socialist threatening to let democracy loose from its box.

The objective of the antisemitism moral panic is obvious, writes Lindsey German of Stop the War:

removing Corbyn from the Labour leadership and his replacement with someone much more amenable to the needs of British capital, whether in the arena of foreign policy or in terms of domestic policies.

David Hearst, a former Middle East editor at the Guardian, concurs:

The Labour leader’s opponents don’t care about anti-Semitism. They’ll just do anything to remove Corbyn.

Hearst argues that Corbyn’s opponents are using:

the tactics of fascists – smearing, libelling, intimidating.

Unable to put up a candidate capable of defeating him by democratic means, at the ballot box, unable to attack him on his polices for which there is majority support in the country, Corbyn’s detractors have methodically and consistently set about the task of character assassination.

We asked Noam Chomsky for his view on these issues. He replied:

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.1

The Lobby

While much of the media focuses on alleged Russian attempts to undermine Western democracy, Asa Winstanley, an investigative journalist with Electronic Intifada, recently reported evidence that Israel is running a campaign to undermine Corbyn. Human rights activists have now lodged a freedom of information request under Israeli law, seeking to release documents about the campaign. Last year, Al Jazeera broadcast a four-part investigation titled ‘The Lobby’ into the Israel lobby’s activities in the UK. It revealed that Israeli embassy spy Shai Masot was working with front organizations in Labour to smear critics of Israel as ‘antisemitic’. Masot worked closely with two important pro-Israel groups in Labour, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel. The latter includes 80 Labour MPs. He has since returned to Israel.

In ‘The Lobby USA’, a follow-up to ‘The Lobby’, Al Jazeera also investigated the activities of the Israeli lobby in the US where it has been instrumental in smearing and silencing pro-Palestinian voices. However, the film was suppressed after strong Israeli pressure on Qatar, the state owners of Al Jazeera, and has never been shown. Electronic Intifada has now obtained leaked excerpts of the film. As Winstanley notes:

The film has been censored even though it addresses matters of considerable public interest, including covert efforts on behalf of a foreign state to spy on, harass or prevent Americans from engaging in activities protected by the First Amendment.

The corporate media are playing a major role in this insidious campaign to stifle democratic choice. It is no surprise that Corbyn and his advisers are calling for big changes to the ‘free press’. In his recent Alternative Mactaggart Lecture on the state of the media, Corbyn noted that:

We must break the stranglehold of elite power and billionaire domination over large parts of our media. Just three companies control 71% of national newspaper circulation and 5 companies control 81% of local newspaper circulation.

He added:

For all the worry about new forms of fake news, most people think our newspapers churn out fake news day in, day out. It’s hardly a surprise in the last 4 years one political earthquake after another has been missed by most of our media.

In summary:

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.

Conclusion: Very, Very Serious Problems

Finkelstein accepts that Jews are subject to racial prejudice, but questions whether this ‘ranks a “very, very serious problem” in the UK’, as claimed. He places the prejudice in context:

Yes, Jews must endure the reputation of being stingy, pushy, and clannish—but Muslims are profiled as terrorists and misogynists, Blacks are despised as chronically lazy and genetically stupid, and Roma/Sinti are loathed as dirty beggars and thieves.

It really is remarkable that Corbyn’s speeches and off-the-cuff comments are being scoured far into the past in search of signs of racism when a far more lethal form of prejudice is clearly informing current US-UK foreign policy devastating entire countries. It is a prejudice that views the lives of brown-skinned people in Afghanistan Iraq, Iran, Libya, Palestine, Syria, Venezuela and elsewhere as far less important than the lives of white, European and US people.

In his book, A Different Kind Of War – The UN Sanctions Regime In Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, wrote that during ‘phase V’ of the Oil-For-Food programme, from November 1998 to May 1999, each Iraqi citizen received a food allocation worth $49, or 27 cents per day. Von Sponeck commented that ‘the UN was more humane with its dogs than with the Iraqi people’: $160 was allocated for food for each UN dog over the same period.2

As a result, 500,000 Iraqi children lost their lives. The price was deemed to be ‘worth it’ by Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State. But what is really telling is just how little impact this mass death had on Western politics and journalism. The same is true of the one million Iraqis who died as a result of the 2003 invasion. It is true of the Afghan civilians forced to eat grass to survive in the wake of 9/11, when US threats to bomb Afghanistan, and then the invasion itself, shut down aid convoys. It is true of the horrendous impact of sanctions on Iran, renewed and worsened under Trump. It is true of the ongoing destruction of Palestinian society along with regular massacres, the destruction of Libyan society, the destruction of Syrian society, and so on…

The fact that none of this matters, that it puts not the slightest dent in the political-media enthusiasm for war, that it is not even considered relevant in a national discussion on racism, is itself the result of a deeply toxic racism. It is a form of cultural arrogance and contempt for human lives quite obviously deemed far less important, far less valuable.

The mostly fraudulent, politically expedient nature of the endless expressions of concern about antisemitism in the Labour party is indicated by the striking lack of interest in asking exactly what can be done about this kind of prejudice. It seems clear that stifling free speech, expelling party members and castigating the guilty does little to address the real causes of hatred and bias in the human heart and deluded mind.

Deeper answers lie, firstly, in understanding that racist prejudice is ultimately a function of individual and collective egotism – the desire to raise oneself above others, to perceive oneself as ‘special‘. An antidote to this illusion lies in recognising that happiness and suffering are equal – ‘my’ happiness simply cannot be deemed more important than ‘your’ happiness. Likewise, the welfare of ‘this’ group of people versus the welfare of ‘that’ group of people. The self-evident logic of this assertion can help equalise our perception of others – ‘their’ happiness is not worth less than ‘ours’, no matter how different from us they may appear to be.

We can also reflect on evidence indicating that treating others with generosity, kindness and compassion is extremely positive for our own welfare. This is not mere wishful thinking, modern science is catching up on the ancient assertion that caring for others is the basis and cause of genuine happiness. It turns out that happiness truly is not found in cynical selfishness, in viewing women, Jews, blacks, LGBT people, Muslims and so on as ‘lesser’ people. To view others this way is to burden ourselves with a closed, shrunken, miserable heart.

No-one should take any of this on trust, which is why a meaningful response to prejudice involves verifying the truth of these observations through introspection and meditation. It quickly becomes clear, for example, that thoughts of hostility and contempt for others are absolutely poisonous to our sense of well-being.

  1. Noam Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 9, 2018.
  2. Hans von Sponeck, A Different Kind of War, Bergahn Books, 2006, p. 38.

Gullible, Gutless and Gagged

Jeremy Corbyn, knifed by his senior lieutenants and failed by his media team, is on the danger list and now looks isolated.

At the fatal NEC (National Executive Committee) meeting this week to discuss whether the party should adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in full, with all its examples, he prepared and presented a 500-word statement to water down the definition but this met with an angry reaction from most NEC members and he dropped it.

According to the Guardian the most controversial passage in Corbyn’s draft statement said:

It cannot be considered racist to treat Israel like any other state or assess its conduct against the standards of international law. Nor should it be regarded as antisemitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact, or to support another settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

That these words caused such a rumpus tells us all we need to know about the mentality of the modern Labour Party. It is surely self-evident that the Israel project was racist from the start and confirmation, if any were needed, is provided by the discriminatory nation state laws, emphasising Jewish supremacy, recently passed by the Knesset. Why deny the glaring truth? And last time I checked there was no ‘settlement’ of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the two-state idea endlessly talked about but never energetically pursued was stone-dead.

At the  end of a stormy meeting the NEC accepted the IHRA definition and all its examples but added a statement “which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians.”

But the Israel lobby were still not satisfied and renewed their whinging. The Jewish Leadership Council’s chief executive, Simon Johnson, said Corbyn had “attempted shamefully to undermine the entire IHRA definition”, adding that the free speech caveat “drives a coach and horses” through that definition. “It is clearly more important to the Labour leader to protect the free speech of those who hate Israel than it is to protect the Jewish community from the real threats that it faces.”

A false dichotomy, of course. And if their case cannot withstand free speech it must have been bullsh*t in the first place.

Richard Angell, director of the centre-left Progress group, said:

The Jewish community made it clear and simple to Labour: pass the IHRA definition in full – no caveats, no compromises. Jeremy Corbyn and the Momentum-dominated NEC have just failed the most basic test. A ‘right to be racist’ protection when debating the Middle East is not just wrong, it harms the cause of peace but it will also continue a culture where Jewish people cannot feel at home in Labour.

Today’s decision is an insult. Labour does not know better than Jewish people about antisemitism.

He was backed up by another Progress director, Jennifer Gerber, who is also a director of Friends of Israel. She said:

It is appalling that the Labour party has once again ignored the view clearly and repeatedly stated by the Jewish community: that it should adopt the full IHRA definition without additions, omissions or caveats.

The IHRA definition has been adopted in full by 31 countries, including the UK, as well as over 130 UK local councils, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary. A ‘freedom of expression on Israel’ clause is unnecessary and totally undermines the other examples the party has supposedly just adopted.

The recurring message is that free speech is a threat and doesn’t seem to have a place in their world.

Re-frame anti-Semitism accurately – don’t accept the skewed version by the Israel lobby

So let’s get this straight: DNA research confirms that the great majority of those calling themselves Jews are not of Semitic blood. So does anti-Semitism mean what it says? Shouldn’t it mean that if we outlaw anti-Semitism we outlaw being nasty to the genuine Semites of the Holy Land; i.e. the indigenous people who include Palestinians whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish? And are they not terrorised and persecuted by the Israeli regime which is the chief perpetrator of anti-Semitism and which has oppressed, dispossessed, impoverished and slaughtered those people for 70 years?

Corbyn and his New Look Labour Party were in a position to lead a move to ‘unskew’ the definition of anti-Semitism and re-frame it accurately – with, of course, the help of the various campaign and BDS groups worldwide. But now they’ve effectively muzzled themselves.

And for some strange reason Corbyn and his team, throughout the unpleasant warfare in his party over anti-Semitism, completely ignored the warnings issued by legal experts Hugh Tomlinson QC, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Sir Stephen Sedley and others which explained how:

  • the IHRA definition is “too vague to be useful” and conduct contrary to it is not necessarily illegal. Public bodies are under no obligation to adopt or use it and, if they do, they must interpret it in a way that’s consistent with their statutory obligations and with the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
  • the right of free expression is now part of UK domestic law by virtue of the Human Rights Act;
  • Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights bestows on everyone “the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference…”;
  • the IHRA definition is open to manipulation. “What is needed now is a principled retreat on the part of Government from a stance which it has naively adopted,”says Sedley;
  • calling Israel an apartheid state or advocating BDS against Israel cannot properly be characterized as anti-Semitic. Furthermore, any public authority seeking to apply the IHRA definition to prohibit or punish such activities “would be acting unlawfully”;
  • it is “not fit for any purpose that seeks to use it as an adjudicative standard. It is imprecise, confusing and open to misinterpretation and even manipulation”.

Robertson adds:

The Governments ‘adoption’ of the definition has no legal effect and does not oblige public bodies to take notice of it. The definition should not be adopted, and certainly should not be applied, by public bodies unless they are clear about Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which is binding upon them, namely that they cannot ban speech or writing about Israel unless there is a real likelihood it will lead to violence or disorder or race hatred.

Crucially, freedom of expression applies not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive, but also to those that “offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population” – unless they encourage violence, hatred or intolerance.

What’s more, the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee recommended adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism subject to the inclusion of these two caveats:

(1) It is not antisemitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

(2) It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

The Government in adopting the IHRA definition dropped these caveats saying they weren’t necessary. But you’d expect that from an administration brazenly stuffed with members of the Zionist Tendency.

These top legal opinions are lethal ammunition. Had Corbyn and his media team deployed them to good effect the baying attack dogs would have been stopped in their tracks.

So the IHRA definition is not something a sane organisation would incorporate into its Code of Conduct – certainly not as it stands. It contravenes human rights and freedom of expression. But when did the admirers of apartheid Israel ever care about other people’s rights?

The Israel Lobby’s Non-stop Attacks on Corbyn will Backfire

Back in the 1950s, the US intelligence community coined a term: “blowback”. It referred to the unintended consequences of a covert operation that ended up damaging one’s own cause.

There are mounting indications that the intensifying campaign by the Israel lobby in the UK against Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the parliamentary opposition, is starting to have precisely such self-harming repercussions.

A campaign of smears

In the three years since he was elected to lead the Labour party, Corbyn has faced non-stop accusations that his party has an endemic “anti-Semitism problem”, despite all evidence to the contrary. Of late, Corbyn himself has become the chief target of such allegations.

Last month the Daily Mail led a media mauling of Corbyn over disparaging comments he made in 2013 about a small group of pro-Israel zealots who had come to disrupt a Palestinian solidarity meeting. His reference to them as “Zionists”, it was claimed, served as code for “Jews” and was therefore anti-Semitic.

Mounting evidence in both the UK and the US, where there has been a similar escalation of attacks on pro-Palestinian activists, often related to the international boycott movement (BDS), suggests that the Israeli government is taking a significant, if covert, role in coordinating and directing such efforts to sully the reputation of prominent critics.

Corbyn’s supporters have argued instead that he is being subjected to a campaign of smears to oust him from the leadership because of his very public championing over many decades of the Palestinian cause.

Israel lobbyists

Al-Jazeera has produced two separate undercover documentary series on Israel lobbyists’ efforts in the UK and US to interfere in each country’s politics – probably in violation of local laws. Only the UK series has been aired so far.

It showed an Israeli embassy official, Shai Masot, both plotting to “take down” a Conservative government minister seen as too sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and helping to create an anti-Corbyn front organisation in the Labour party.

Masot worked closely with two key pro-Israel groups in Labour, the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel. The latter includes some 80 Labour MPs.

Under apparent pressure from the Israel lobby in the US, the series on the US lobby was suppressed.

Last week Alain Gresh, the former editor of Le Monde diplomatique, published significant quotes from that censored documentary after viewing it secretly in Dubai. The US lobby’s aims and practices, as reported by Gresh, closely echo what has happened in the UK to Corbyn, as he has faced relentless allegations of anti-Semitism.

The US documentary reportedly shows that Israel’s strategic affairs ministry has taken a leading role in directing the US lobby’s efforts. According to Gresh, senior members of the lobby are caught on camera admitting that they have built up a network of spies to gather information on prominent critics of Israel.

In Gresh’s transcripted excerpts, Jacob Baime, executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, a group of organisations fighting BDS, states: “When I got here a few years ago, the budget was $3,000. Today it’s like a million and a half [dollars], or more. … It’s a massive budget.”

“It’s psychological warfare,” he adds, noting how the smears damage the targeted groups: “They either shut down, or they spend time investigating [the accusations against them] instead of attacking Israel. It’s extremely effective.”

David Hazony, a senior member of another lobby group, The Israel Project, explains that a pressing aim is to curb political speech critical of Israel:

What’s a bigger problem is the Democratic Party, the Bernie Sanders people, bringing all the anti-Israel people into the Democratic Party. Then being pro-Israel becomes less a bipartisan issue, and then every time the White House changes, the policies towards Israel change. That becomes a dangerous thing for Israel.

No discussion

These reported quotes confirm much of what was already suspected. More than a decade ago scholars John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt wrote a book examining the composition and role of the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US.

But until the broadcasting of the Al-Jazeera documentary last year no comparable effort had been made to shine a light on the situation in the UK. In fact, there was almost no discussion or even acknowledgment of the role of an Israel lobby in British public and political life.

That is changing rapidly. Through its constant attacks on Corbyn, British activists are looking less like disparate individuals sympathetic to Israel and more recognisably like a US-style lobby – highly organised, on-message and all too ready to throw their weight around.

The lobby was always there, of course. And, as in the US, it embraces a much wider body of support than right-wing Jewish leadership organisations like the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, or hardline lobbyists such as the Community Security Trust and BICOM.

The earliest Zionists

That should not surprise us. The earliest Zionists were not Jews but fundamentalist Christians. In the US, the largest group of Zionists by far are Christian evangelicals who believe that the return of Jews to the Promised Land is the key to unlocking the second coming of the Messiah and an apocalyptic end-times. Though embraced by Israel, many of these Christian fundamentalists hold anti-Semitic views.

In Britain, there is an unacknowledged legacy of anti-Semitic Christian support for Zionism. Lord Balfour, a devout Christian who regularly voiced bigotry towards Jews, was also the man who committed the British government in 1917 to create a home for Jews in Palestine. That set in motion today’s conflict between Israel and the native Palestinian population.

In addition, many British gentiles, like other Europeans, live with understandable guilt about the Holocaust.

One of the largest and most effective groups in Corbyn’s parliamentary party is Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), most of whose members are not Jewish. LFI takes some of the party’s most senior politicians on all-expenses-paid trips to Israel to wine and dine them as they are subjected to Israeli propaganda.

Dozens of Labour MPs have remained loyal to LFI even as the organisation has repeatedly refused to criticise Israel over undeniable war crimes.

When Israeli snipers executed dozens of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza in May, the LFI took to Twitter to blame Hamas for the deaths, not Israel. After facing a massive backlash online, the LFI simply deleted the tweet.

A double whammy

Historically the Israel lobby could remain relatively low-profile in the UK because it faced few challenges. Its role was chiefly to enforce a political orthodoxy about Israel in line with Britain’s role as Washington’s foreign policy junior partner. No British leader looked likely to step far from the Washington consensus.

Until Corbyn.

The Israel lobby in the UK now faces a double whammy.

First, since Donald Trump entered the White House, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dropped any pretence that Israel is willing to concede a Palestinian state, whatever the Palestinians do. Instead, Israel has isolated the Palestinian leadership diplomatically while seeking to terrorise the Palestinian population into absolute submission.

That was all too clear over the summer when those Israeli snipers picked off demonstrators each week in Gaza. As a result, the Israel lobby stands more exposed than ever. It can no longer buy time for Israeli expansionism by credibly claiming, as it once did, that Israel seeks peace.

Second, Israel’s partisans in the UK were caught off-guard by the unexpected rise of Corbyn to a place that puts him in sight of being the next prime minister. The use of social media by his supporters, meanwhile, has provided a counter-weight to the vilification campaign being amplified by the British media.

The media have been only too willing to assist in the smearing of the Labour leader because they have their own separate interests in seeing Corbyn gone. He is a threat to the corporate business interests they represent.

But not only has the messenger – the Israel lobby – now come under proper scrutiny for the first time, so has its message.

Lack of irony

The success of the lobby had depended not only on it remaining largely out of view. It also expected to shore up a largely pro-Israel environment without drawing attention to what was being advocated, beyond unquestioned soundbites. In doing so, it was able to entirely ignore those who had paid the price for Israel’s diplomatic impunity – the Palestinians.

The campaign against Corbyn has not only forced the lobby to come out into the open, but the backlash to its campaign has forced the lobby to articulate for the first time what exactly it believes and what is at stake.

The latest furore over Corbyn concerns a Youtube video of him speaking at a pro-Palestinian meeting in 2013, two years before he became Labour leader. He has been widely denounced in the media for making disparaging remarks about a small group of hardline pro-Israel partisans well-known for disrupting such meetings.

He referred to them as “Zionists” and suggested that the reaction of this particular hardline group to a speech by the Palestinian ambassador had betrayed their lack of appreciation of “English irony”.

Israel’s lobby, echoed by many liberal journalists, has suggested that Corbyn was using “Zionist” as code word for “Jew”, and that he had implied that all Jews – not the handful of pro-Israel zealots in attendance – lacked traits of Englishness.

This, they say, was yet further evidence of his anti-semitism.

Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s former chief rabbi, told the New Statesman last week that Corbyn’s comment was “the most offensive statement made by a senior British politician since Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech”. In that notorious speech, the right-wing politician sought to incite race hatred of immigrants.

Calling Corbyn an “anti-Semite”, Sacks added: “It undermines the existence of an entire group of British citizens by depicting them as essentially alien.”

Treacherous words

In a now familiar pattern to lobby claims, Sacks relied on the false premise that all Jews are Zionists. He conflated a religious or ethnic category with a political ideology. The Labour leader has held his ground on this occasion, pointing out that he was using the term “in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people”.

Others have noted that his accusers – many of them senior journalists – are the ones lacking a sense of irony. Corbyn was not “otherising” Jews, he was highlighting a paradox not confirming a prejudice: that a small group of Britons were so immersed in their partisan cause, Israel, that it had blinded them to the “English irony” employed by a foreigner, the Palestinian ambassador.

However, the terms “anti-Semitism” and “Zionism” are likely to prove more treacherous to weaponise against Corbyn than the lobby thinks. As the anti-Semitism controversy is constantly reignited, a much clearer picture of the lobby’s implied logic is emerging, as illustrated by the hyperbolic, verging on delusional, language of Rabbi Sacks.

The argument goes something like this:

Israel is the only safe haven for Jews in times of trouble – and the only thing that stands between them and a future Holocaust. The movement that created Israel was the Zionist movement. Today most Jews are Zionists and believe Israel is at the core of their identity. Therefore, if you are too critical of Israel or Zionism, you must wish bad things for the Jewish people. That makes you an anti-Semite.

Problematic premises

It probably doesn’t require a logician to understand that there are several highly problematic premises propping up this argument. Let’s concentrate on two. The first is that it depends on a worldview in which the non-Jew is assumed to be anti-Semite until proven otherwise. For that reason Jews need to be eternally vigilant and distrustful of those outside their “tribe”.

If that sounds improbable, it shouldn’t. That is exactly the lesson of the Holocaust taught to children in Israel from kindergarten onwards.

Israel derives no universal message from the Holocaust. Its schools do not teach that we must avoid stigmatising others, and discourage sectarian and tribal indentifications that fuel prejudice and bigotry. How could it? After all, Israel’s core ideology, political Zionism, is premised on the idea of tribal and sectarian exclusivity – the “ingathering of exiles” to create a Jewish state.

In Israel, the Holocaust supplies a different lesson. It teaches that Jews are under permanent threat from non-Jews, and that their only defence is to seek collective protection in a highly militarised state, armed with nuclear weapons.

This idea was encapsulated in the famous saying by the late Israeli general Moshe Dayan: “Israel must be seen as a mad dog; too dangerous to bother.”

A ‘globalised virus’

Israel’s ugly, self-serving tribal reading of history has been slowly spreading to Jews in Europe and the US.

Fifteen years ago, a US scholar, Daniel J Goldhagen, published an influential essay in the Jewish weekly Forward titled “The Globalisation of anti-Semitism”. In it, he argued that anti-Semitism was a virus that could lie dormant for periods but would always find new ways to reinfect its hosts.

“Globalized anti-Semitism has become part of the substructure of prejudice in the world,” he wrote. “It is relentlessly international in its focus on Israel at the center of the most conflict-ridden region today.”

This theory is also known as the “new anti-Semitism”, a form of Jew hatred much harder to identify than the right-wing anti-Semitism of old. Through mutation, the new anti-Semitism had concealed its hatred of Jews by appearing to focus on Israel and dressing itself up in left-wing garb.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given his latest comments about Corbyn, that is also an approximation of the argument made by Rabbi Sacks in a 2016 essay in which he writes: “Anti-Semitism is a virus that survives by mutating.”

In a sign of how this kind of paranoia is becoming slowly normalised in Europe too, the Guardian published a commentary by a British journalist last month explaining her decision, Israel-style, to teach her three-year-old daughter about the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. That, she hoped, would prepare her child for eventualities such as Corbyn becoming prime minister.

But the increasing adoption of Israel’s tribalist doctrine among sections of the British Jewish community – and the related weaponisation of anti-Semitism – is likely to shed further light on what kind of a state hardline Zionists uphold as at the core of their identity.

Paradoxically, the new anti-Semitism turns the tables by legitimising – in fact, necessitating – Jewish racism towards gentiles. Rather than Corbyn stigmatising Jews – except in some feverish imaginations – it is the pro-Israel lobby stigmatising non-Jews, by claiming that they are all tainted by Jew hatred, whether they know it or not.

The more the lobby kicks up a hysteria about Corbyn’s supposed anti-Semitism, the clearer it becomes that the lobby regards much of the non-Jewish public as suspect too.

Palestinians made invisible

The other obvious lacuna in the lobby’s logic is that it only works if we completely remove the Palestinians from the story of Zionism and Israel. The idea of a harm-free Zionism might have been credible had it been possible to establish a Jewish state on an empty piece of land, as the early Zionists claimed Palestine to be. In reality there was a large native population who had to be displaced first.

Israel’s creation as a Jewish state in 1948 was possible only if the Zionist movement undertook two steps that violate modern conceptions of human rights and liberal democratic practice. First, Israel had to carry out large-scale ethnic cleansing, forcing more than 80 per cent of the native Palestinian population outside the new borders of the Jewish state it created on the Palestinians’ homeland.

Then, it needed to deny the small surviving community of Palestinians inside Israel the same rights as Israeli Jews, to ghettoise them and stop them from bringing their expelled relatives back to their homes.

These weren’t poor choices made by flawed Israeli politicians. They were absolutely essential to the success of a Zionist project to create and maintain a Jewish state. The ethnic cleansing of 1948 and the structural racism of the Jewish state were unmentionable topics in “legitimate” public debates about Israel until very recently.

That has been changing, in part because it has become much harder to conceal what kind of state Israel is. Its self-harming behaviour includes its recent decision to make explicit the state’s institutionalised racism with the passage in July of the Nation-State Basic Law. That law gives constitutional weight to the denial of equal rights to a fifth of Israel’s population, those who are Palestinian.

The backlash against Corbyn and other Palestinian solidarity activists is evidence of the lobby’s fears that they can no longer hold the line against a growing realisation by western publics that there was a cost to Zionism’s success.

That price was paid by Palestinians, and there has yet been no historical reckoning over their suffering. By veiling the historical record, Israel and the Zionist movement have avoided the kind of truth and reconciliation process that led to the ending of apartheid in South Africa. The lobby prefers that Israel’s version of apartheid continues.

Loss of moral compass

If there is one individual who personifies the loss of a moral compass in the weaponisation of anti-Semitism against Corbyn and Israel’s critics, it is Rabbi Sacks.

Asked by the New Statesman what he thinks of the new Nation-State Basic Law, the normally erudite Sacks suddenly becomes lost for words. He asks a friend, or in his case his brother, for the answer: “I’m not an expert on this. My brother is, I’m not. He’s a lawyer in Jerusalem. He tells me that there’s absolutely nothing apartheid about this, it’s just correcting a lacuna… As far as I understand, it’s a technical process that has none of the implications that have been levelled at it.”

Sacks, it seems, cannot identify apartheid when it is staring him the face, as long as it is disguised as “Jewish”. Similarly, he is blind to the history of Zionism and the mass dispossession of Palestinians in the 1948 Nakba.

He tells the New Statesman: “Jews did not wish to come back to their land [Palestine] to make any other people [Palestinians] suffer, and that goes very deep in the Jewish heart.” Not so deep, it seems, that Sacks can even identify who had to suffer to make possible that Jewish “return”.

In a critique of Sacks’ lengthy 2016 essay on anti-Semitism, a liberal Jewish commentator Peter Beinart noted that the rabbi had mentioned the “Palestinians” by name only once.

He berated Sacks for equating anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism:

By denying that [Palestinians] might have any reason besides bigotry to dislike Zionism, it denies their historical experience and turns them into mere vessels for Jew-hatred. Thus, it does to Palestinians what anti-Semitism does to Jews. It dehumanizes them.

Topsy-turvy world

In a world that was not topsy-turvy, it would be Sacks and the Israel lobby that were being publicly upbraided for their racism. Instead Corbyn is being vilified by a wide spectrum of supposedly informed opinion in the UK – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – for standing in solidarity with Palestinians.

It is, remember, the Palestinian people who have been the victims of more than a century of collusion between European colonialism and Zionism, and today are still being oppressed by an anachronistic ethnic state, Israel, determined to privilege its Jewishness at all costs.

The lobby and its supporters are not just seeking to silence Corbyn. They also intend to silence the Palestinians and the growing ranks of people who choose to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians. But while the lobby may be winning on its own limited terms in harming Corbyn in mainstream discourse, deeper processes are exposing and weakening the lobby. It is overplaying its hand.

A strong lobby is one that is largely invisible, one that – like the financial and arms industries – has no need to flex its muscles. In making so much noise to damage Corbyn, the Israel lobby is also for the first time being forced to bring out into the open the racist premises that always underpinned its arguments.

Over time, that exposure is going to harm, not benefit, the apologists for Israel.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Is UK Labour Now Zionist-occupied Territory?

The National Executive Committee of the Labour Party will vote tomorrow (Tuesday) on whether to bow to the bullies and adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism even though it has been roundly criticised by legal experts as unworkable. If they do, it will be hailed as a mighty victory for the dark forces behind the pro-Israel lobby in their bid to shut down criticisim of that racist state.

More than two years ago Gilad Atzmon was viewing the Labour Party’s crazed witch hunt for “anti-Semites” with misgiving. He declared, in his usual robust way, that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn was not so much a party as a piece of Zionist-occupied territory.

Writing in his blog about Corbyn and McDonnell’s servile commitment to expel anyone whose remarks might be interpreted by the Zionist Tendency as hateful or simply upsetting to Jews, he concluded: “Corbyn’s Labour is now unequivocally a spineless club of Sabbos Goyim [which I take to mean non-Jewish dogsbodies]. The Labour party’s policies are now compatible with Jewish culture: intolerant to the core and concerned primarily with the imaginary suffering of one people only. These people are not the working class, they are probably the most privileged ethnic group in Britain…. I did not anticipate that Corbyn would become a Zionist lapdog.  Corbyn was a great hope to many of us. I guess that the time has come to accept that The Left is a dead concept, it has nothing to offer.”

Amen to that last bit.

And more recently Miko Peled, former Israeli soldier and the son of a Israeli general, warned that Israel was going to “pull all the stops, they are going to smear, they are going to try anything they can to stop Corbyn” and the reason anti-Semitism is used is because they have no other argument.

Sinced then we’ve had a queue of high profile Labourites and others sticking the knife into Corbyn. Last week it was the former Chief Rabbi and Zionist extremist Lord Sacks. Then the much-respected MP Frank Field, a maverick who finally quit Labour in noisy fashion giving anti-Semitism as a reason but having grumbled for a long time about a culture of intolerance, nastiness and intimidation within the party. Yesterday we had to suffer ex-prime minister Gordon Brown mouthing off  about how the IHRA definition “is something we should support unanimously, unequivocally and immediately.” He urged Corbyn to remove the “stain” of prejudice from Labour by writing the definition and all of its examples into the party’s new code of conduct.

That’s a particularly dumb thing to say considering the Home Office Select Committee urged two caveats be included and eminent legal minds Hugh Tomlinson QC and Sir Stephen Sedley pointed out how it is trumped by our right to free expression, which is part of UK domestic law by virtue of the Human Rights Act (something every Labour member ought to know and uphold), and by other conventions. Geoffrey Robertson QC also warns that it is “not fit for any purpose that seeks to use it as an adjudicative standard. It is imprecise, confusing and open to misinterpretation and even manipulation”.

Robertson adds:

The Governments ‘adoption’ of the definition has no legal effect and does not oblige public bodies to take notice of it. The definition should not be adopted, and certainly should not be applied, by public bodies unless they are clear about Article 10 of the EHCR (European Convention on Human Rights) which is binding upon them, namely that they cannot ban speech or writing about Israel unless there is a real likelihood it will lead to violence or disorder or race hatred.

But Brown won’t be listening. He’s a dedicated pimp for Israel and a dyed-in-the-wool Zionist. In 2008, in the first speech by a British prime minister to the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, he told Israeli MPs: “Britain is your true friend. A friend in difficult times as well as in good times, a friend who will stand beside you whenever your peace, your stability and your existence are under threat.”

Unlike Corbyn, Gordon Brown wouldn’t talk to Hamas because warmongers in the White House had branded them ‘terrorists’. But that’s their opinion. The state of Israel was founded by terror groups like the one that murdered 91 in an attack on the British mandate government in the King David Hotel and carried out the Deir Yassin massacre. Israel is the expert in terror. As Norman Finkelstein has remarked, “It is more than a rogue state. It is a lunatic state… The whole world is yearning for peace, and Israel is constantly yearning for war.”

The Israeli government itself was described by one of Brown’s own (Jewish) MPs, Sir Gerald Kaufman, as a ‘gang of amoral thugs’.

Brown, the son of a Church of Scotland minister, would have done well (as would all the other critics of Jeremy Corbyn and his ‘funny’ friends) to mull over the words of Gaza’s Catholic priest, Father Manuel Musallam, who told a journalist friend Mohammed Omer: “Palestinian Christians are not a religious community set apart in some corner. We are part of the Palestinian people. Our relationship with Hamas is as people of one nation. Hamas doesn’t fight religious groups. Its fight is against the Israeli occupation.”

When asked about Western media reports that Islamic oppression was forcing Gaza’s Christians to consider emigrating, Father Manuel said that if Christians emigrate it’s because of the Israeli siege, not the Muslims. “We seek a life of freedom — a life different from the life of dogs we are currently forced to live.”

Turning the tables

Corbyn isn’t the problem. Zionists are. They are the enemy within. Corbyn’s election to party leader was a surprise brought about by a sudden influx of new supporters weary of sterile and corrupt politics. They had no time to groom him, not that he’s capable of being tamed like previous leaders. Corbyn has a long record of support for the Palestinians and other justice causes and that doesn’t sit well with the ’emininence grise’ pulling the strings. As a loose cannon in a carefully controlled political battlefield he had to be disabled.  One way to do that was to pick off his allies one by one and, with the help of a compliant media, derail his party’s election prospects.  That is what they’ve been doing with considerable success by weaponising so-called anti-Semitism against Labour’s naive and easily scared troops.

But why take allegations of anti-Semitism seriously from bully-boys who themselves practise or support racism? There’s a simple two-word response to such hypocrites.  Admittedly there are within Labour’s ranks too many who say idiotic things about Jews to the detriment of the campaign for justice in the Holy Land. I’ve heard remarks that are so stupidly provocative that one suspects the people responsible are Zionist plants. What is the point of bringing up Hitler and the Holocaust when there are more Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity than you can shake a stick at?

Corbyn should have acted swiftly on genuine complaints and rejected the trumped up ones. He didn’t. Outside interference should never have been tolerated. It has been and still is. The best way to deal with professional moaners like the Board of Deputies of British Jews is to politely give them the BDS treatment – ignore and refuse to engage until they change their intimidating tone. And tell them this is the British Labour Party not a flagpole of the Knesset.

Furthermore it is long past time to question Labour’s Friends of Israel about their shameless support for the criminal state and its racist leaders and the land-grabbing Zionist Project. There is no place in a socialist organisation, or in British public life at all, for people who cannot bring themselves to condemn a regime that behaves so viciously towards its neighbours, defies international law, thinks it’s exempt from the norms of decent behaviour and shows no remorse. What does aligning with apartheid Israel really say about them? And, by the way, who gave permission to use the party as a platform to promote the interests of a foreign military power?

If people holding public office put themselves in a position where they are influenced by a foreign power, they flagrantly breach the Principles of Public Life. There are far too many Labour and Conservative MPs and MEPs who fall into that category.

Strange how the upsurge in carefully orchestrated allegations of anti-Semitism coincided with the  arrival of Mark Regev, former chief of Israel’s propaganda machine, spokesman for Israel’s extremist prime minister and a shameless liar, as Israel’s new ambassador in London.

Corbyn’s other option is to leave Labour, take his supporters with him and let the party stew in its own juice. Let’s face it, the party as it stood then and stands today is dysfunctional, a thing of the past and quite unsuited to the 21st century. There may still be time to build a new, clean, fit-for-purpose political party and get it established before the next general election. In it, though probably not leading it, Corbyn could at least be true to himself.

The Labour Party has repeatedly promised to review its rules to send a clear message of zero-tolerance on anti-Semitism, assuming it knows what that means and who the genuine Semites are. For balance, of course, it should match this with zero-tolerance of those who use the party as a platform for promoting the criminal Israeli regime and its obscene territorial ambitions.

And remember, in 1949 the UN took Israel to its bosom on condition that it accepted the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees and complied with General Assembly Resolution 194. Noting the declaration by the new State of Israel that it “unreservedly accepts the obligations of the United Nations Charter and undertakes to honour them from the day when it becomes a Member”, the General Assembly admitted Israel as “a peace-loving State which accepts the obligations contained in the Charter and is able and willing to carry out those obligations”.

Has Israel ever honoured its membership obligations or acted as a peace-loving State?

Jeremy Corbyn is Being Destroyed …

The latest “scandal” gripping Britain – or to be more accurate, British elites – is over the use of the term “Zionist” by the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the opposition and possibly the country’s next prime minister.

Yet again, Corbyn has found himself ensnared in what a small group of Jewish leadership organisations, which claim improbably to represent Britain’s “Jewish community”, and a small group of corporate journalists, who improbably claim to represent British public opinion, like to call Labour’s “anti-semitism problem”.

I won’t get into the patently ridiculous notion that “Zionist” is a code word for “Jew”, at least not now. There are lots of existing articles explaining why that is nonsense.

I wish to deal with a different aspect of the long-running row over Labour’s so-called “anti-semitism crisis”. It exemplifies, I believe, a much more profound and wider crisis in our societies: over the issue of trust.

We now have two large camps, pitted against each other, who have starkly different conceptions of what their societies are and where they need to head. In a very real sense, these two camps no longer speak the same language. There has been a rupture, and they can find no common ground.

I am not here speaking about the elites who dominate our societies. They have their own agenda. They trade only in the language of money and power. I am speaking of us: the 99 per cent who live in their shadow.

First, let us outline the growing ideological and linguistic chasm opening up between these two camps: a mapping of the divisions that, given space constraints, will necessarily deal in generalisations.

The trusting camp

The first camp invests its trust, with minor reservations, in those who run our societies. The left and the right segments of this camp are divided primarily over the degree to which they believe that those at the bottom of society’s pile need a helping hand to get them further up the social ladder.

Otherwise, the first camp is united in its assumptions.

They admit that among our elected politicians there is the odd bad apple. And, of course, they understand that there are necessary debates about political and social values. But they agree that politicians rise chiefly through ability and talent, that they are accountable to their political constituencies, and that they are people who want what is best for society as a whole.

While this camp concedes that the media is owned by a handful of corporations driven by a concern for profit, it is nonetheless confident that the free market – the need to sell papers and audiences – guarantees that important news and a full spectrum of legitimate opinion are available to readers.

Both politicians and the media serve – if not always entirely successfully – as a constraint on corruption and the abuse of power by other powerful actors, such as the business community.

This camp believes too that western democracies are better, more civilised political systems than those in other parts of the world. Western societies do not want wars, they want peace and security for everyone. For that reason, they have been thrust – rather uncomfortably – into the role of global policeman. Western states have found themselves with little choice of late but to wage “good wars” to curb the genocidal instincts and hunger for power of dictators and madmen.

Russian conspiracies

Once upon a time – when this camp’s worldview was rarely, if ever, challenged – its favoured response to anything difficult to reconcile with its core beliefs, from the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the 2008 financial crash, was: “Cock-up, not conspiracy!”. Now that there are ever more issues threatening to undermine its most cherished verities, the camp’s response is – paradoxically – “Putin did it!” or “Fake news!”.

The current obsession with Russian conspiracies is in large part the result of the extraordinarily rapid rise of a second camp, no doubt fueled by the unprecedented access western publics have gained through social media to information, good and bad alike. At no time in human history have so many people been able to step outside of a state-, clerical- or corporate-sanctioned framework of information dissemination and speak too each other directly and on a global stage.

This new camp too is not easy to characterise in the old language of left-right politics. Its chief characteristic is that it distrusts not only those who dominate our societies, but the social structures they operate within.

This camp regards such structures as neither immutable, divinely ordained ways for ordering and organising society, nor as the rational outcome of the political and moral evolution of western societies. Rather, it views these structures as the product of engineering by a tiny elite to hold on to its power.

These structures are no longer primarily national, but global. They are not immutable but as fabricated, as man-made and replaceable, as the structures that once made incontestable the rule of a landed aristocracy over feudal serfs. The current aristocracy, this camp argues, are globalised corporations that are so unaccountable that even the biggest nation-states can no longer contain or constrain them.

Illusions of pluralism

For this camp, politicians are not the cream of society. They have risen to the surface of a corrupted and corrupting system, and the overwhelming majority did so by enthusiastically adopting its rotten values. These politicians do not chiefly serve voters but the corporations who really dominate our societies.

For the second camp, this fact was well illustrated in 2008 when the political class did not – and could not – punish the banks responsible for the near-collapse of western economies after decades of reckless speculation on which a financial elite had grown fat. Those banks, in the words of the politicians themselves, were “too big to fail” and so were bailed out with money from the very same publics who had been scammed by the banks in the first place. Rather than use the bank failures as an opportunity to drive through reform of the broken banking system, or nationalise parts of it, the politicians let the banking casino system continue, even intensify.

Likewise, the media – supposed watchdogs on power – are seen by this camp as the chief propagandists for the ruling elite. The media do not monitor the abuse of power, they actively create a social consensus for the continuation of the abuse – and if that fails, they seek to deflect attention from, or veil, the abuse.

This is inevitable, the second camp argues, given that the media are embedded within the very same corporate structures that dominate our societies. They are, in fact, the corporations’ public relations arm. They allow only limited dissent at the margins of the media, and only as a way to create the impression of an illusory pluralism.

Manufactured enemies

These domestic structures are subservient to a still-bigger agenda: the accumulation of wealth by a global elite through the asset-stripping of the planet’s resources and the rationalisation of permanent war. That, this camp concludes, requires the manufacturing of “enemies” – such as Russia, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and North Korea – to justify the expansion of a military-industrial machine.

These “enemies” are a real foe in the sense that, in their different ways, they refuse to submit to the neoliberalising reach of the western-based corporations. But more significantly, they are needed as an enemy, even should they want to make peace. These manufactured enemies, says the second camp, justify the redirection of public money into the private coffers of the military and homeland security industries. And equally importantly, a ready set of bogeymen can be exploited to distract western publics from troubles at home.

The second camp is accused by the first of being anti-western, anti-American and anti-Israel (or more mischievously anti-semitic) for its opposition to western “humanitarian interventions” abroad. The second camp, it says, acts as apologists for war criminals like Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, portraying these leaders as misunderstood good guys and blaming the west for the world’s ills.

The second camp argues that it is none of these things: it is anti-imperialist. It does not excuse the crimes of Putin or Assad, it treats them as secondary and largely reactive to the vastly greater power a western elite with global reach can project. It believes the western media’s obsession with crafting narratives about evil enemies – bad men and madmen – is designed to deflect attention from the structures of far greater violence the west deploys around the world, through a web of US military bases and Nato.

Putin has power, but it is immeasurably less than the combined might of the profit-seeking, war-waging western military industries. Faced with this power equation, according to the second camp, Putin acts defensively or reactively on the global stage, using what limited strength Russia has to uphold its essential strategic interests. One cannot reasonably judge Russia’s crimes without first admitting the west’s greater crimes, our crimes.

While the whole US political class obsess over “Russian interference” in US elections, this camp notes, the American public is encouraged to ignore the much greater US interference not only in Russian elections, but in many other spheres Russia considers to be vital strategic interests. That includes the locating of US military bases and missile sites on Russia’s borders.

Different languages

Two camps, two entirely different languages and narratives.

These camps may be divided, but it would seriously misguided to imagine they are equal.

One has the full power and weight of those corporate structures behind it. The politicians speak its language, as do the media. Its ideas and its voice dominate everywhere that is considered official, objective, balanced, neutral, respectable, legitimate.

The other camp has one small space to make its presence felt – social media. That is a space rapidly shrinking, as the politicians, media and the corporations that own social media (as they do everything else) start to realise they have let the genie out of the bottle. This camp is derided as conspiratorial, dangerous, fake news.

This is the current battlefield. It is a battle the first camp looks like it is winning but actually has already lost.

That is not necessarily because the second camp is winning the argument. It is because physical realities are catching up with the first camp, smashing its illusions, even as it clings to them like a life-raft.

The two most significant disrupters of the first camp’s narrative are climate breakdown and economic meltdown. The planet has finite resources, which means endless growth and wealth accumulation cannot be sustained indefinitely. Much as in a Ponzi scheme, there comes a point when the hollow centre is exposed and the system comes crashing down. We have had intimations enough that we are nearing that point.

It hardly needs repeating, except to climate deniers, that we have had even more indications that the Earth’s climate is already turning against humankind.

Out of the darkness

Our political language is rupturing because we are now completely divided. There is no middle ground, no social compact, no consensus. The second camp understands that the current system is broken and that we need radical change, while the first camp holds desperately to the hope that the system will continue to be workable with modifications and minor reforms.

It is on to this battlefield that Corbyn has stumbled, little prepared for the heavy historic burden he shoulders.

We are arriving at a moment called a paradigm shift. That is when the cracks in a system become so obvious they can no longer be credibly denied. Those vested in the old system scream and shout, they buy themselves a little time with increasingly repressive measures, but the house is moments away from falling. The critical questions are who gets hurt when the structure tumbles, and who decides how it will be rebuilt.

The new paradigm is coming anyway. If we don’t choose it ourselves, the planet will for us. It could be an improvement, it could be a deterioration, it could be extinction, depending on how prepared we are for it and how violently those invested in the old system resist the loss of their power. If enough of us understand the need for discarding the broken system, the greater the hope that we can build something better from the ruins.

We are now at the point where the corporate elite can see the cracks are widening but they remain in denial. They are entering the tantrum phase, screaming and shouting at their enemies, and readying to implement ever-more repressive measures to maintain their power.

They have rightly identified social media as the key concern. This is where we – the 99 per cent – have begun waking each other up. This is where we are sharing and learning, emerging out of the darkness clumsily and shaken. We are making mistakes, but learning. We are heading up blind alleys, but learning. We are making poor choices, but learning. We are making unhelpful alliances, but learning.

No one, least of all the corporate elite, knows precisely where this process might lead, what capacities we have for political, social and spiritual growth.

And what the elite don’t own or control, they fear.

Putting the genie back

The elite have two weapons they can use to try to force the second camp back into the bottle. They can vilify it, driving it back into the margins of public life, where it was until the advent of social media; or they can lock down the new channels of mass communication their insatiable drive to monetise everything briefly opened up.

Both strategies have risks, which is why they are being pursued tentatively for the time being. But the second option is by far the riskier of the two. Shutting down social media too obviously could generate blowback, awakening more of the first camp to the illusions the second camp have been trying to alert them to.

Corbyn’s significance – and danger – is that he brings much of the language and concerns of the second camp into the mainstream. He offers a fast-track for the second camp to reach the first camp, and accelerate the awakening process. That, in turn, would improve the chances of the paradigm shift being organic and transitional rather than disruptive and violent.

That is why he has become a lightning rod for the wider machinations of the ruling elite. They want him destroyed, like blowing up a bridge to stop an advancing army.

It is a sign both of their desperation and their weakness that they have had to resort to the nuclear option, smearing him as an anti-semite. Other, lesser smears were tried first: that he was not presidential enough to lead Britain; that he was anti-establishment; that he was unpatriotic; that he might be a traitor. None worked. If anything, they made him more popular.

And so a much more incendiary charge was primed, however at odds it was with Corbyn’s decades spent as an anti-racism activist.

The corporate elite weaponised anti-semitism not because they care about the safety of Jews, or because they really believe that Corbyn is an anti-semite. They chose it because it is the most destructive weapon – short of sex-crime smears and assassination – they have in their armoury.

The truth is the ruling elite are exploiting British Jews and fueling their fears as part of a much larger power game in which all of us – the 99 per cent – are expendable. They will keep stoking this campaign to stigmatise Corbyn, even if a political backlash actually does lead to an increase in real, rather than phoney, anti-semitism.

The corporate elites have no plan to go quietly. Unless we can build our ranks quickly and make our case confidently, their antics will ensure the paradigm shift is violent rather than healing. An earthquake, not a storm.

Is Israel’s Hidden Hand behind the Attacks on Jeremy Corbyn?

Has Israel been covertly fueling claims of an “anti-Semitism crisis” purportedly plaguing Britain’s Labour Party since it elected a new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, three years ago?

That question is raised by a new freedom of information request submitted this week by a group of Israeli lawyers, academics and human rights activists.

They suspect that two Israeli government departments – the ministries of foreign affairs and strategic affairs – have been helping to undermine Corbyn as part of a wider campaign by the Israeli government to harm Palestinian solidarity activists.

The Israeli foreign affairs ministry employs staff of the country’s embassy in London, which was at the centre of suspicions of meddling in UK politics provoked by an Al Jazeera undercover documentary aired last year.

Eitay Mack, an Israeli lawyer, has written to both ministries requesting information on Israel’s contacts and possible funding of anti-Corbyn activities by pro-Israel lobby groups in the UK. The letter specifically seeks information on possible ties with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Community Security Trust, Labour Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Israel.

It also requests information on any efforts by the two Israeli ministries and the Israeli embassy to influence journalists and civil society groups in the UK.

The move follows an outburst by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on social media last week, in which he accused Corbyn of laying a wreath at a cemetery in Tunisia in 2014 for a Palestinian faction that took hostage Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. Eleven Israelis were killed during a bungled rescue bid by the German security services.

Netanyahu’s high-profile intervention followed days of similar claims in the British media against Corbyn.

The Labour leader has insisted that the wreath was laid for Palestinian and Tunisian victims of an Israeli attack on Tunisian soil in 1985, an operation that was denounced by most Western leaders at the time.

‘War against the Jews’

The suggestion that Corbyn supported Palestinian terrorists is an escalation in long-running allegations of a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism in the Labour Party since he became leader. Such claims have been rife despite statistics showing that the party has less of a problem with anti-Semitism than both the ruling Conservative Party and British society generally.

While initial charges of anti-Semitism in the party targeted mostly Corbyn supporters, the focus has increasingly shifted to the Labour leader himself.

This week Labour MP Joan Ryan, who heads Labour Friends of Israel, wrote a commentary in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper directly blaming Corbyn for the party’s so-called anti-Semitism crisis. She said the party’s problems had grown out of his “past associations with ‘Holocaust deniers, terrorists and some outright anti-Semites’”.

Fellow MP Margaret Hodge had earlier called Corbyn “an anti-Semite and racist”.

Marie Van Der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, appeared this week on i24, an Israeli English-language channel, to berate Corbyn: “It’s like Jeremy Corbyn has declared war on the Jews. … We as the Jewish community are spending our time fighting the leader of the opposition.”

A recently created British group, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, solicited testimony this week from British Jews in a case it has submitted to the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission alleging “institutional racism” in the Labour Party.

Meddling by Israel

Netanyahu’s tweet is far from the first example of public meddling by Israel in Labour politics. Last December Gilad Erdan, Israel’s strategic affairs minister and a close ally of Netanyahu’s, all but accused Corbyn of being an anti-Semite.

He was reported saying: “We recognise and we see that there are anti-Semitic views in many of the leadership of the current Labour Party.”

An Israeli app developed by Israel’s strategic affairs ministry was reportedly used this month to amplify erroneous criticism of Corbyn on social media for making supposedly anti-Semitic comments at a 2010 meeting.

A “mission” issued to Israel lobbyists urged them to spread claims that Corbyn had compared Israel to Nazi Germany, based on a misreading of a report in Britain’s Times newspaper. In fact, Corbyn had attended an anti-racism event at which a Holocaust survivor, Hajo Meyer, made such a comparison.

But while these interventions have angered Corbyn and many of his supporters, there are suggestions that, behind the scenes, Israel has been playing a much larger role in helping to stoke the party’s “anti-Semitism crisis,” as the freedom of information request suggests.

Dirty tricks unit

The main source of Labour’s current woes looks to be Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, which has been headed by Erdan since 2015.

It was set up in 2006, mainly as a vehicle to prevent far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman from breaking up the governing coalition. Lieberman and his successors used it chiefly as a platform from which to stoke concerns either about Iran building a nuclear bomb or about a supposed problem of “Palestinian incitement”.

But more recently, Netanyahu has encouraged the ministry to redirect its energies towards what he terms “delegitimisation”, chiefly in response to the growing visibility of the international BDS movement, which promotes boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel.

As a result, the strategic affairs ministry has moved from being a relative backwater inside the government to playing a starring role in Israel’s struggle on the world stage against “enemies” damaging its image.

It is hard to determine precisely what the ministry is up to, so sensitive is its work. Even the names of many of its staff are classified.

In the summer of 2016, it advertised a position for an intelligence operative to head a “tarnishing” – or dirty tricks – unit. Its role, according to Amir Oren, a commentator on Israel’s security services, was to “establish, hire or tempt nonprofit organisations or groups not associated with Israel, in order to disseminate the sullying material”.

The ministry now has an annual budget of tens of millions of dollars, and there are clues aplenty that it is playing a leading, if covert, role in shaping public perceptions of Israel around the world.

‘Civil targeted eliminations’

Erdan’s number two, Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former military intelligence officer, told a parliamentary committee in 2016 that most of the ministry’s activities had to stay “under the radar” because of “sensitivities”.

“I can’t even explain in an open forum why there are such sensitivities,” she said.

The ministry’s job, she added, was to build a “community of warriors”.

Yossi Melman, a veteran Israeli analyst who has spent decades covering Israel’s intelligence services, reported at the time that the ministry was receiving help from a “special unit” of military intelligence to run “black ops” that might include “defamation campaigns” and “harassment”.

The ministry’s underhand methods were alluded to two years ago, at a conference in Israel against BDS. A colleague of Erdan’s, intelligence minister Yisrael Katz, called for “targeted civil eliminations” of high-profile proponents of BDS.

That could be achieved, he suggested, by drawing on information provided by the Israeli intelligence services he oversees.

Katz used language intended to play on the term “targeted assassinations” – how Israel describes its extrajudicial execution of Palestinian leaders. Katz appeared to be calling for “black ops” designed to character-assassinate Israel’s leading critics.

Plan to marginalise critics

If Israel regards it as necessary to go to such lengths against BDS activists, it seems reasonable to ask: what is it prepared to do to undermine Corbyn, who heads the largest political party in Europe and was in sight of winning last year’s British general election?

If Corbyn eventually becomes prime minister, he would be the first European leader to prioritise the cause of justice for Palestinians over Israel’s continuing occupation.

Clues are provided in a report written last year by two prominent pro-Israel lobby groups, the Anti-Defamation League and the Reut Institute, in collaboration with Israeli government “experts” and endorsed by the ministry of strategic affairs. The report was leaked to the Electronic Intifada website.

It warned that solidarity with Palestinians had “migrated into mainstream left-wing parties in Europe”. The damage could be curtailed, according to the report, by “driving a wedge” between what it termed “harsh critics” and “soft critics” of Israel.

It proposed “professionalising” the existing network of pro-Israel lobby groups and improving “information-gathering” to target Palestinian solidarity activists – or what it called a “delegitimisation network”. Such work needed to be done “covertly” and “uncompromisingly,” the authors stated.

Harsh critics, the report concluded, could then be “marginalised to a point where it [their criticism] is considered socially inappropriate”.

The report praises the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs for having “inserted a great degree of sophistication and creativity to the pro-Israel network”.

Vaknin-Gil, the ministry’s director-general, is quoted in the document as endorsing its findings: “I am glad to see that we share a very similar point of view regarding the challenge and desired strategy.”

‘Sowing divisions’

Whether connected or not, much of the report reads like a playbook for what Israel lobbyists have been doing to promote the idea of an “anti-Semitism crisis” in the Labour Party. The issue has indeed driven a wedge between “harsh critics” of Israel – Corbyn and his supporters – and much of the rest of the party bureaucracy.

Asa Winstanley, an investigative journalist who has extensively covered the claims of an anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour Party for the Electronic Intifada, argues that Corbyn is viewed by Israel as effectively the “figurehead of the delegitimisation network”.

“They hope that by taking action against him, they can decapitate what they see as the most powerful figure in this network,” he told Middle East Eye. “By making an example of him, they can sow division, spread fear and suppress speech on Israel.”

Certainly, Israel’s fingerprints look to be present in the current claims of an anti-Semitism crisis supposedly revolving around Corbyn.

Active interference by the Israeli government in British politics was highlighted last year in a four-part undercover documentary produced by the Qatari channel Al Jazeera. It secretly filmed the activities of an operative in Israel’s embassy in London named Shai Masot.

The Al Jazeera investigation provoked numerous complaints that it breached broadcasting rules relating to anti-Semitism, bias, unfair editing and invasions of privacy. However, Ofcom, the British broadcasting regulator, cleared the programme of all charges.

What little coverage there was of the documentary in the British media focused on Masot’s meetings with pro-Israel activists in the Conservative Party. Masot is shown plotting to “take down” a junior foreign office minister, Alan Duncan, who was seen by Israel as too sympathetic to the Palestinians.

But the documentary itself concentrated on Masot’s much more extensive meetings with pro-Israel activists in the Labour Party. One of his main efforts was to establish a front organisation, a youth wing of Labour Friends of Israel that would have been opposed to Corbyn.

Complaints of bias

Masot was also filmed collaborating with two key Israel lobby groups within the party, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and Labour Friends of Israel – membership of the latter includes dozens of Labour MPs.

Winstanley, of the Electronic Intifada, observed that the JLM had in recent years become a largely defunct organisation until it was revived in February 2016 – just as claims of an anti-Semitism crisis in Labour took off.

Those who have tried to investigate how the JLM expanded its operations so rapidly say its funding sources are “completely opaque”.

Shortly after the JLM became more active, a new director, Ella Rose, was appointed. It was Winstanley who revealed that Rose had been recruited straight from Israel’s London embassy, where she worked as its public affairs officer.

Although the JLM has argued it represents the diversity of Jewish opinion in the Labour Party, that has come under challenge since the Al Jazeera investigation. A new faction, Jewish Voice for Labour, has since been established with a declared intention to show that many of the party’s Jewish members are supportive of Corbyn.

“It looks suspiciously like the JLM has become a proxy of the Israeli state,” Winstanley said.

“It is not an organic grassroots movement, as it likes to claim. And it is no accident that it has been the driving force behind the claims of an anti-Semitism problem under Corbyn.”

Both Ella Rose and the JLM were contacted for comment on these allegations, but neither had responded at the time of publication.

Turf war in London

Who was Masot working for? Perhaps not surprisingly, Israeli officials and the Israeli media have downplayed his significance, portraying him as a minor player at the embassy who pursued a rogue, personal policy.

That view appeared to be accepted by the British government and the British media, which allowed the controversy to quickly die down after Masot was sent back to Israel.

But there is considerable evidence that Masot’s collaborative work with British pro-Israel organisations against Corbyn was being carried out at the direction of the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs.

In September 2016, as Al Jazeera was filming its undercover documentary, Haaretz reported on a growing turf war in Britain between the Israeli foreign ministry and the ministry of strategic affairs, the two groups targeted in the freedom of information request.

In a leaked cable sent to the Israeli foreign ministry and obtained by Haaretz, its senior staff at the London embassy complain that Erdan’s strategic affairs ministry is “operating” British Jewish organisations behind the embassy’s back.

The embassy’s apparent concern is that such operations are likely to break British law and could have “dangerous” repercussions for the embassy’s work. “Britain isn’t the US!” the cable states.

Haaretz explained the concern behind the cable: “The potential legal problem stems from the fact that most British Jewish organisations are defined as charities. As such, they are barred from activity of a political nature unless it is directly connected to the organisation’s charitable goals.”

According to the Haaretz report, strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan had visited Britain two weeks earlier to try to iron out differences. His advisers in the UK had promised “not to pose as the embassy,” though the cable identifies an incident shortly afterwards when one such adviser did so.

Was Masot another of Erdan’s “advisers” in the UK, operating out of the embassy? His covert operations – caught on camera – are of precisely the kind his own embassy was complaining about.

At one point during Al Jazeera’s many weeks of secret filming, Masot dramatically changes direction. He announces to the undercover reporter that he can no longer be directly involved in creating a Labour youth movement and must remain in the background. He is seen winking at the reporter.

His sudden change of tune appears to coincide with the spat between the embassy staff and the strategic affairs ministry.

Problems over anti-Semitism

One Labour activist, who did not wish to be named given the purges taking place inside the party, told MEE: “Corbyn is up against an unholy, ad hoc alliance of right-wing MPs in both the Labour and Tory parties, the Israeli government and its lobbyists, the British security services and the media.

“They have settled on anti-Semitism as the best weapon to use against him because it is such a taboo issue. It’s like quicksand. The more he struggles against the claims, the more he gets sucked down into the mire.”

That has been all too evident in months of wrangling inside Labour about how to define anti-Semitism. Under pressure from Corbyn’s critics, the party approved a new code of conduct in July based on a highly controversial “working definition” drafted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The adoption of the IHRA definition, however, did nothing to placate Jewish leadership organisations, such as the Board of Deputies, or the JLM. They objected because Labour’s code of conduct excluded four of the IHRA’s 11 possible “examples” of anti-Semitism – the main ones that relate to Israel.

Labour officials feared that including them would severely curtail the party’s ability to criticise Israel.

Experts agree. David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Birkbeck College, London University, has warned of “a danger that the overall effect will place the onus on Israel’s critics to demonstrate they are not anti-Semitic”.

Under pressure from pro-Israel groups, however, Labour looks close to adopting all of the IHRA examples.

Creating a new definition

Israel’s fingerprints are evident in these recent efforts to redefine anti-Semitism in a way that moves the centre of gravity away from hatred of Jews towards criticism of Israel.

That shift inevitably ensnares any political leader who, like Corbyn, wishes to express solidarity with Palestinians.

The IHRA’s definition is itself based on one proposed in 2004 – and discarded after much criticism – by a now-defunct European Union body called the Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).

That definition was derived from the work of Israeli academics such as Dina Porat, who was part of an Israeli foreign ministry delegation to an anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. At that time Israel was facing a barrage of criticism for its use of lethal force to put down a Palestinian uprising.

Nathan Thrall, an analyst in Jerusalem with the International Crisis Group, has noted that the aim of Porat and others was to create “a new definition of anti-Semitism that would equate criticisms of Israel with hatred of Jews”. They were largely responsible for the way the EUMC’s “working definition” was formulated.

But Israel and its lobbyists were frustrated by the definition’s failure to gain traction. That began to change in 2015.

A conference in Jerusalem sponsored by the Israeli foreign affairs ministry, the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism, recommended that year that the working definition of anti-Semitism “be reintroduced into the international arena with the aim of giving it legal status”.

The task was taken up by a senior pro-Israel lobbyist, Mark Weitzman, of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre. As chair of the IHRA’s committee on anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, he lobbied on behalf of the discredited EUMC definition. The IHRA formally adopted it in 2016.

In a new book, Cracks in the Wall, analyst Ben White points to an Israeli government document that approved the change of emphasis in the definition. The document states: “The main innovation in the working definition is that it also includes expressions of anti-Semitism directed against the state of Israel, when it is perceived as a Jewish collective.”

‘Open season’ on Corbyn

A tool originally intended to suppress student debates about Israel and block Israel anti-apartheid week on campus has now been successfully pressed into service against the leader of a major British political party.

According to Winstanley, if the full IHRA definition is approved by Labour: “It will be open season on Corbyn and his supporters in the party.”

He added that the strategy outlined in the report by the Anti-Defamation League and the Reut Institute was being closely followed. “Well-tested disinformation strategies are being used to isolate Corbyn from his base of support,” he said.

The Israeli academics and lawyers seeking access to information on the activities of the two Israeli ministries – foreign affairs and strategic affairs – believe that official documents could help to expose a role played by Israel in fomenting the current problems facing Corbyn.

The foreign ministry has demonstrably been at the centre of efforts to expand the definition of anti-Semitism from hatred of Jews into a catch-all for criticism of Israel – a definition that Corbyn and his supporters are bound to fall foul of.

The role of the strategic affairs ministry, given its covert nature, is harder to assess. But the existence of a “dirty tricks” unit points towards a strategy to vilify and isolate high-profile Palestinian solidarity activists such as Corbyn.

There is evidence that, in cooperation with the foreign affairs ministry, it has run at least one agent out of the London embassy assisting and possibly directing pro-Israel lobby groups to amplify a supposed anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour party.

Given his long track record of being at the forefront of anti-racism initiatives that have emphasised Palestinian solidarity and criticism of Israel, Corbyn may find there is an endless supply of readily mined “scandals” the two ministries can keep digging up.

• First published in Middle East Eye

Labour Self-destructs under “Anti-Semitism” Allegations

The ‘anti-Semitism’ rumpus engulfing Jeremy Corbyn and tearing the Labour Party apart comes at the very moment when the country needs an alert and dynamic Opposition to Theresa May’s shambolic administration.  The campaign, so obviously orchestrated by powerful pro-Israel interest groups to bring down Corbyn, threatens to derail all prospect of worthwhile change at the next election, which could be called anytime given the chaos over Brexit. This would be a calamity not just for Labour but the whole country.

The distraction is such a blot on the political landscape and so disruptive that Corbyn must neutralise it without giving ground. The question is how.

Clarity please – who are the Semites?

What is the argument about? It’s the S-word, ‘Semitism’. At least, that’s the cover-story. The real issue, as many realise, is something deeper. But let’s stick with ‘anti-Semitism’, which is the weapon. It is stupid to go to war without asking questions. So who exactly are the Semites? They may not be who they seem, or who we’re told they are. So let us first deal with the cover story, anti-Semitism, by setting up a learned panel to review the research by Shlomo Sand, Arthur Koestler, Johns Hopkins University and others, turn the S-word inside out, shake it all about, and establish (if that’s possible) who is, and who is not Semitic enough to be offended by certain remarks.

For example, DNA research by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and published by the Oxford University Press in 2012 on behalf of the Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution, found that the Khazarian Hypothesis is scientifically correct, meaning that most Jews are Khazars.

The Khazarians were never in ancient Israel. They converted to Talmudic Judaism in the 8th Century. Even if you believe the myth that God gave the land to the Israelites, He certainly didn’t give it to the Khazarians. Russian and East European Jews like the thug Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister, and countless others who flooded into the Holy Land intending to kick the Palestinians out, have no biblical or ancestral claim to the land.

Probably no more than 2% of Jews in Israel are actually Israelites, according to the findings. So most of those living today who claim to be Jews are not descended from the ancient Israelites at all. Palestinians, who are indigenous to the Holy Land, are the real Semites.

Of course, there’s no rush by Israelis or their admirers to acknowledge this.

Has the Johns Hopkins study been refuted? If they and others who came to the same conclusion have got it right, the whole anti-Semitism thing becomes an upside-down nonsense – a hoax – in which the anti-Semites are actually the racist Israeli regime and its Zionist stooges who stalk the corridors of power and have been oppressing the Palestinians for decades with impunity.

Until the topic is thoroughly aired and we have clarity, all anti-Semitism allegations ought to be withdrawn. And no organisation, let alone the Labour Party, should import any definition of anti-Semitism onto its rulebook without looking into the basics.

In the meantime, yes, Jeremy Corbyn needs to dislodge the anti-Jew morons and racist crackpots, of which there are many in all parties. He should also disband Labour Friends of Israel, an aggressive mouthpiece for a foreign terror regime that has no place in British politics.

Job done – Israel’s stooges now in control and doing the dirty work

Meanwhile the concerted fear-mongering by the Zionist Inquisition and browbeating by Jewish community leaders seems to have worked. As I write, Jeremy Corbyn is touring Scotland talking about important things like his ‘Build it in Britain’ plan to regenerate Scottish industry.  But the media are gloating over a story involving a former Scottish Labour MP being suspended by his local constituency party and publicly shamed for alleged anti-Semitic remarks – on the strength of just one complaint apparently.

Furthermore the local party executive, in a statement, have already found him guilty. iNews and other media outlets report Renfrewshire North and West Constituency Labour Party Executive Committee as saying:

We fully condemn the anti-Semitic comments expressed by Jim Sheridan, and it is right that he is subject to a full investigation by the Labour Party…. The views expressed by Jim Sheridan in no way reflect the views of the members of the Labour Party in the Renfrewshire North and West constituency…. [His] comments are in direct conflict with the Labour Party’s values of anti-racism, equality and solidarity.

That’s before he’s had a chance to defend himself.

Bearing in mind that the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies claim to represent the Jewish community in the UK and have been instrumental in the damaging anti-Semitism campaign against Labour and Corbyn, it is difficult to see anything objectionable in Cllr Sheridan’s remarks in the screenshot above.

Cllr Sheridan said he was restricted from making comment at this stage but told me, as a matter of fact:

I haven’t had a hearing yet or a date for that to happen. You may wish to know that I visited Auschwitz along with a group of schoolchildren and fellow MPs and saw at first hand the horrors and felt the pain and anguish the Jewish prisoners must have felt. Also, in all the years as an MP I signed the annual Holocaust remembrance book in the House of Commons.

Does that sound like an ‘anti-Semite’ speaking?

In Renfrewshire they seem hell-bent on destroying the Labour Party’s credibility without any further help from the Israel lobby. It is a vivid example of self-harm by brainwashed twits from within. If the press story is to be believed, somebody makes an allegation, the accused is immediately suspended, publicly shamed and possibly has his reputation damaged irreparably without being heard and before the allegation is substantiated. The accused is gagged from making public comment while the local party executive committee feels free to pass judgment and prejudice the whole matter by declaring to the world that the accused is guilty and stating that nobody else in the local party shares his views. ‘Due process’ is conspicuously absent from the proceedings and party officials in Renfrewshire seem to think it’s OK to issue a statement condemning the accused when he hasn’t been told when his side of the story will be heard and by whom.

It’s medieval.

And last month another Scottish Labour councillor, Mary Bain Lockhart of West Fife, was suspended voicing suspicion that Israeli spies might be plotting to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader after three Jewish newspapers published a joint front page warning that a Corbyn-led government would pose an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country”.

She wrote on social media:

If the purpose is to generate opposition to anti-semitism, it has backfired spectacularly. If it is to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Leader, it is unlikely to succeed, and is a shameless piece of cynical opportunism. And if it is a Mossad assisted campaign to prevent the election of a Labour Government pledged to recognise Palestine as a State, it is unacceptable interference in the democracy of Britain.

She added: “Israel is a racist State. And since the Palestinians are also Semites, it is an anti-Semitic State.”

Those paying attention will remember, back in January 2017, revelations that a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, Shai Masot, had been plotting with stooges among British MPs and others in the political woodwork to “take down” senior government figures including Boris Johnson’s deputy at the Foreign Office, Sir Alan Duncan. It should have resulted in the ambassador himself, Mark Regev, a vile propagandist, a master of disinformation and a former personal spokesman for the Zionist regime’s prime minister Netanyahu, also being kicked out. But he was let off the hook. Regev is still here exercising his shifty talents and oiling his links to Mossad.

Masot’s hostile scheming was captured and revealed by an Al Jazeera undercover investigation and not, as one would have wished, by Britain’s own security services and press. “The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed,” said the British government. The Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, who is Jewish, also declined to investigate.

So Cllr Lockhart is entitled to be suspicious. Nevertheless a complaint about her remarks was lodged by former Labour MP Thomas Docherty. It was Docherty who wrote to the Culture Secretary in 2015 urging a debate to ban Hitler’s Mein Kampf, a best seller on Amazon, arguing that it was “too offensive to be made available”.

And Paul Masterton, the Tory MP for East Renfrewshire, complained that, given how “offensive” Cllr Lockhart’s comments were, the Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard had been too slow to act and should have spoken out against her behaviour immediately.

Instead we have continued silence from him and a failure to prove to the Jewish community that he and his party are taking this issue seriously. It’s clear to the vast majority of people that Mary Lockhart is no longer fit to hold office, and Scottish Labour must understand that a suspension doesn’t go far enough.

What the media didn’t tell us is that Mr Masterton is chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews which is funded, supported and administered by The Board of Deputies of British Jews which, along with the Jewish Leadership Council and others is heavily implicated in picking a fight with Corbyn and trying to ram the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, unedited, down Labour’s throat.

The IHRA definition, which has been allowed to consume Labour when the Party has better things to do, seems to be having its intended effect. It is obvious that many members still haven’t read the two caveats proposed by the Home Office Select Committee and the legal criticism by Hugh Tomlinson QC and Sir Stephen Sedley. Had they done so, more would insist on it being drastically modified or rejected altogether.