Category Archives: Jeremy Corbyn

After success against Corbyn, Israel lobby ousts UK scholar

Britain’s pro-Israel lobby gained another important scalp last week after a prolonged campaign of intimidation finally pushed a major UK university into firing one of its lecturers.

Bristol University dismissed David Miller, a political sociology professor, even though an official investigation had concluded that accusations of antisemitism against him were unfounded.

Research by Miller, a leading scholar on propaganda, had charted networks of influence in the UK in relation to Islamophobia that included the very pro-Israel lobby groups that worked to get him fired.

The decision is likely to prove a severe blow to academic freedoms in the UK that are already under growing threat from efforts to silence criticism of Israel in the wake of reports from Israeli and international human rights describing it as an apartheid state.

Bristol faced a similar campaign four years ago against another professor, Rebecca Gould, years after she wrote an article on how Israel used the memory of the Holocaust to “whitewash its crimes” against Palestinians. Despite demands that she be sacked, Gould survived, possibly in part because she is Jewish.

Lobby emboldened

But since that attack, an emboldened pro-Israel lobby has been increasingly successful in conflating criticism of Israel – and the activities of groups that seek to shield Israel from scrutiny – with antisemitism.

The lobby smelled blood with the success of its years-long campaign to vilify the previous leader of Britain’s opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights. They argued that he had presided over a plague of antisemitism in Labour. Corbyn stepped down as leader last year.

The evidence-free claims of an “antisemitism crisis” under Corbyn were amplified by the billionaire-owned media and Labour’s own right-wing bureaucracy, both of which wanted the socialist Corbyn gone.

In a sign of the lobby’s continuing hold on political discourse in the UK about Israel and antisemitism, Corbyn’s successor, Keir Starmer, has been purging the party of Corbyn’s supporters, including Jews, smearing them as antisemites.

At Labour’s party conference last month, however, Starmer faced a backlash. Delegates voted in favor of a motion declaring Israel an apartheid state. The motion also demanded sanctions against Israel’s illegal settlements on Palestinian land and an end to UK arms sale to Israel.

Islamophobia fomented

With Bristol’s sacking of Miller, the key battleground appears to be shifting to academia, where it is feared that the idea of Israel as an apartheid state may gain a foothold. The lobby has been noisily celebrating the professor’s dismissal, presumably in the hope that a clear message is sent to other academics to rein in their public criticisms of Israel.

The campaign against Miller started more than two years ago, after the professor published research on “five pillars of Islamophobia” in British society. One diagram illustrated the organizational ties between pro-Israel lobby groups in the UK and a set of what Israel terms “national institutions” in fomenting Islamophobia.

Miller was bringing to light the influence of this network of transnational institutions that in Israel’s view represent a global “Jewish nation” whose homeland is Israel.

(Paradoxically, the Zionist belief that Jews form a single people who need to organize globally through a complex network of transnational and local institutions to ward off antisemitism neatly mirrors antisemitic ideas of Jews being part of a global conspiracy.)

So-called “national institutions” such as the Jewish National Fund, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency all enjoy quasi-state authority in Israel while establishing affiliated local organizations in most major western countries.

For example, the JNF oversees racist land allocation policies that privilege Jews over Palestinians on behalf of the Israeli state while also having active branches in Europe and North America. And the WZO, which has a dozen or so affiliated organizations operating around the world, runs arm’s length operations for the Israeli state settling Jews on Palestinian land in the occupied territory.

Miller’s work showed how these agencies, effectively acting as arms of the Israeli state, have deep institutional and funding ties to UK Zionist groups – the same groups that have pushed for the redefinition of antisemitism in ways designed to silence criticism of Israel and that led the campaign against Corbyn.

His research suggested that the lobby’s promotion of Islamophobia had played a part of those campaigns.

‘Civilisational divide’

Fear of Muslims and Islam has long bolstered a self-serving narrative that Israel stands with the Judeo-Christian west against a supposed Islamic barbarism and terrorism. Palestinians, despite the fact a significant proportion are Christian, have been presented as on the wrong side of that supposed civilizational divide.

Backed by establishment media, the Union of Jewish Students originally alleged that a lecture by Miller on Islamophobia had made two unnamed Bristol students “uncomfortable and intimidated”.

But far from representing all Jewish students, the UJS is an avowedly Zionist body, one affiliated through the World Union of Jewish Students to the World Zionist Organization, the “national institution” whose role includes directing Israel’s building of illegal Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

The UJS has also played a critical role in pushing for the adoption of a new definition of antisemitism at universities that, far from protecting Jewish students from hatred, is – as we shall see – designed to shield Israel from scrutiny.

Antisemitism redefined

Miller was cleared of the lobby’s initial allegations, but that served only to intensify the campaign against him. He was subjected to a follow-up investigation by Bristol University earlier this year.

In response, some 200 scholars, including prominent figures such as Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler, both of them Jewish, petitioned the university. Their letter noted the “unrelenting and concerted efforts to publicly vilify” Miller.

The professor, they added, was “known internationally for exposing the role that powerful actors and well-resourced, coordinated networks play in manipulating and stage-managing public debates, including on racism.”

Miller’s sacking follows the lobby’s success in pressuring major institutions, including Bristol university, into adopting a controversial new definition of antisemitism promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Of a set of 11 supposed examples of antisemitism posited by the IHRA, seven refer to Israel.

Even the lead author of the definition, a Jewish lawyer, Kenneth Stern, has urged public institutions against adopting it, warning that it has been “weaponized” to stop speech about Israel. His warnings have fallen on deaf ears.

The ruling Conservative party has joined the pressure campaign, celebrating last month the fact that the number of British universities adopting the IHRA definition had rocketed by 160 percent over the past year – from 30 to 80.

That may in part be explained by the fact that the government has threatened the funding of any universities that refuse to comply.

Paradoxically, at the same as Boris Johnson’s government has been seeking to silence criticism of Israel, it has also been demanding an end to what it calls “cancel culture” at universities – chiefly attempts by students to deny a platform to racist and transphobic speakers.

The campaign against Miller has won the backing of large numbers of politicians from all parties, even the sole Green legislator, Caroline Lucas. More than 100 members of parliament wrote to Bristol university in March, echoing the lobby groups’ claims that the professor was “inciting hatred against Jewish students”.

Cleared of antisemitism, fired anyway

Strangely, when Bristol launched its second investigation back in March, a government minister announced: “It is the responsibility of the University of Bristol to determine whether or not Prof Miller’s remarks constitute lawful free speech.”

In a statement on Miller’s dismissal last week, the university conceded that the senior lawyer it appointed had not found anything “unlawful” in Miller’s comments.

In fact, Miller told Mondoweiss, the university’s statement was itself misleading. Their lawyer’s report had, he said, “found that my comments were not antisemitic and that they did not in any way violate the Equality Act”.

Despite the lawyer finding in Miller’s favor, the university nonetheless sacked him. It said it had “a duty of care to all students and the wider University community” and that Miller had failed to “meet the standards of behaviour we expect from our staff”.

This appeared to be the university’s mealy-mouthed equivalent of “bringing the party into disrepute” – the UK Labour party’s justification for suspending and expelling members when it proved impossible to actually find evidence against them to support claims of antisemitism.

Miller has said he will appeal, either using the university’s own internal procedures or referring the case to an employment tribunal.

Bristol may have problems defending its actions. Its statement poses more questions than it answers.

Does the university not also have a duty of care to Miller himself, if nothing he did was found to be unlawful or antisemitic?

And as the university admits that “members of our community hold very different views from one another” on the issues at the heart of the investigation, does it not also have a duty of care to Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and left-wing students?

The university has sent a clear message to them that their concerns about Islamophobia, and how it is being promoted in the UK, are a very low priority – and that even academics who speak in solidarity with them risk losing their job.

And how is it possible to square the university’s claim that it is committed to preserving “the essential principles of academic freedom” when it has so flagrantly caved in to an unsubstantiated campaign of intimidation?

Miller’s sacking makes it all but impossible for any other academic to consider either research into Islamophobia or an examination of the role of an important UK lobby, leaving these fields effectively off-limits.

Causing offense

Miller’s research has proved to have predictive value – one of the yardsticks for measuring the plausibility of its thesis.

The very networks of influence he identified as seeking to silence criticism of Israel quickly got to work trumpeting their victory against Miller on social media, making sure that other academics would get the message.

ACT.IL, which if it were operating on behalf of Russia rather than Israel would be described as a troll factory, rallied its followers to denounce Miller online for “spouting antisemitism”.

The case has been similarly misrepresented in the British media, which has been leading the campaign against Miller, as it did against Corbyn.

A report in the supposedly liberal Guardian described Miller’s case as splitting “the campus between staff and students who accused him of spouting antisemitic tropes in lectures and online, and those who worried that sanctions would stifle sensitive research”.

The assumption in the Guardian and elsewhere was that Miller had indeed “spouted antisemitic tropes”, and that the only question was whether sacking him was too high a price – given the danger it might stifle research.

It never occurred to the Guardian or other media outlets that some staff and students – as well as the Queen’s Counsel investigating the case – did not actually believe Miller had “spouted antisemitic tropes”.

In truth, Miller’s research and his statements on the lobby and Islamophobia only appeared antisemitic in a new, highly politicized sense of the term – cultivated by the Israel lobby – that criticizing Israel and its lobbyists causes offense.

But that is inevitable when research challenges popular assumptions or questions systems of power. Universities either support academic research and where it leads, or they do not.

Miller noted that the lobby’s success would encourage it to “redouble it efforts” to campaign for other academics to be dismissed.

Despite its weasel statement, Bristol has shown it has absolutely no commitment to academic freedom. The danger now is that few other British universities will stand up for that principle either.

• First published in Mondoweiss

The post After success against Corbyn, Israel lobby ousts UK scholar first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Labour’s Palestine motion means Keir Starmer’s war on the left is not over

Labour leader Keir Starmer hoped he would hammer the final nails into the coffin of support for his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn and his left-wing policies at the party’s annual conference in Brighton this week.

But delegates had other ideas.

With a resounding slap to Starmer’s face, the conference voted in favour of a motion declaring Israel an apartheid state, echoing the findings of Israeli and international human rights organisations. It also called for sanctions against Israel’s illegal settlements that usurp Palestinian land, as well as a halt to the UK’s sales of arms to Israel.

Delegates demanded an end to Israel’s belligerent occupation of the West Bank and 15-year siege of Gaza, and upheld “the right of Palestinians to return to their homes” – a right of return for Palestinians expelled by Israel since 1948 that is enshrined in international law but increasingly ignored by western states.

The success of the motion, put forward by Labour’s youth section, was a deeply embarrassing blow for Starmer, who has colluded in a campaign by the media, Jewish leaders and the Labour right to conflate support for Palestinian rights – one of Corbyn’s signature policies – with antisemitism.

As leader, Corbyn faced relentless, evidence-free claims that he indulged a plague of antisemitism in Labour, and even the implication that he might himself be antisemitic.

The campaign ultimately forced Corbyn to accept a controversial new definition of antisemitism that made it easier for the Labour right – in charge of internal disciplinary procedures – to expel members for making trenchant criticisms of Israel over its decades-long oppression of Palestinians.

Precisely the kind of criticisms of Israel the Labour conference endorsed this week.

The motion cast a long shadow over Starmer’s keynote speech on Wednesday, in what he had doubtless hoped would be a triumphant finale to the conference, stamping his authority on the membership. Instead, the very issues that plagued Labour under Corbyn continue to simmer barely below the surface.

Treated like ‘outcasts’

Corbyn argued that claims of antisemitism had been exaggerated by his opponents to undermine his socialist agenda – a statement that provided Starmer with the excuse to expel him from the parliamentary party.

With Corbyn gone, and most of his allies either purged or cowed, Starmer has begun driving the party rightwards in an attempt to reassure the establishment that, unlike the socialist Corbyn, he will be a safe pair of hands, protecting its interests at home and abroad.

Keeping Israel a close military and intelligence ally in the oil-rich Middle East, as well as not angering Washington, Israel’s staunch patron, appear to be among Starmer’s top priorities.

He has stated that he “supports Zionism without qualification” – a reference to Israel’s state ideology of Jewish supremacism over Palestinians. He has also ignored repeated calls from Palestinian groups and Palestinian party members to engage with them, leading one to observe that they have been treated like “outcasts“.

Nonetheless, Starmer has been faced with a tricky balancing act that this week’s Israeli apartheid motion will only make harder.

On the one hand, Starmer needs to exploit and perpetuate the antisemitism smears as a weapon to continue isolating, intimidating and expelling the party’s left-wing members and Corbyn supporters.

But on the other, he must at some point show he has surgically removed the antisemitism problem, both to demonstrate he is a strong, decisive leader and to switch from waging factional war on the party’s left to presenting an image of unity in time for the next election.

The conference was clearly intended to mark that turning point. Starmer used the event to explicitly tell party activists that Labour had now “closed the door” on antisemitism.

On the back foot

Both the apartheid and sanctions components of the motion on Israel, however, serve as a
gauntlet showing that the left may not lie down so easily. They put Starmer firmly on the back foot.

The Labour leader has suggested in the past that demands for sanctions against Israel – even feeble ones that punish only those industries directly implicated in the occupation – are motivated, not by principle or support for Palestinian rights, but by antisemitism.

He made that evident, for example, when he withdrew from a Ramadan event in April – upsetting Britain’s Muslim community – because one of its organisers had expressed support for a boycott of dates illegally grown by Israel on occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank.

Most Labour members disagree with Starmer’s position. A recent YouGov poll showed that 61 per cent of them supported the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) campaign launched more than 15 years ago by Palestinian civil society. Only eight per cent opposed it.

The reference to Israel as an apartheid state will prove difficult for Starmer too.

Pro-Israel lobby groups – including the Jewish Labour Movement, an offshoot of Israel’s own Labor party, which is currently sitting in a government dominated by settler leaders – have denounced any description of Israel as an apartheid state.

They have done so even though Israel’s decades-long, systematic abuse of the Palestinian population appears to meet the United Nations’ definition of the crime of apartheid.

Instead, Jewish leaders and the Labour right have weaponised a set of examples attached to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism imposed on Corbyn in 2018. Those examples include describing Israel as “a racist endeavour” and “requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”.

The Labour motion rightly takes as its starting point that Israel cannot claim to be democratic when half the population it rules over – the vast majority of Palestinians inside Israel and all Palestinians under occupation – have no voice in how they are ruled.

Hounded out

The conference vote requiring Labour to support the Palestinians appears to be a backlash from the party’s left against the onslaught they have suffered over the past 18 months of Starmer’s rule.

He has effectively banned constituencies from criticising Corbyn’s expulsion from the parliamentary party.

Groups that support Palestinian rights and challenged Starmer’s confected antisemitism narrative – arguing that it has been weaponised against them – have been proscribed.

Leaders of Jewish Voice for Labour, set up by Jewish members to defend Corbyn’s reputation, are also being hounded out, including most recently its co-chair Leah Levane, whose entry to the conference was revoked on the second day.

One of Corbyn’s most prominent supporters, Ken Loach, the world-renowned film director, was expelled in the run-up to the conference, again in the context of antisemitism claims. He had expressed support for many of those who were suspended or expelled, calling it a witch-hunt.

Starmer’s officials quietly tried to break the party rule book and block a conference day for Young Labour, the party’s youth section, after it proposed the motion urging justice for Palestinians. Officials also sought to prevent a representative from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, Britain’s foremost Palestinian advocacy group, from speaking.

Starmer rightly understood that neither could be relied on to toe his authoritarian line. But after the exposure of their move, Labour officials were forced to back down.

And finally, John McDonnell, the former shadow chancellor, berated Starmer for behaving “like Stalin” in allowing the last-minute exclusion from the conference of dozens of members identified as Corbyn holdouts. The move seemed intended to help Starmer’s measures pass, and foil embarrassing resolutions like the Palestine solidarity one.

Rooting out socialism

Starmer did manage to secure support from the conference for an independent complaints procedure to handle antisemitism cases in future – removing it from the control of party officials.

Labour members presumably hope that external adjudicators will be fairer in assessing antisemitism allegations than a Labour right bent on settling scores with the left. The celebrations of pro-Israel groups at the prospect of the disciplinary process being outsourced indicates that members may be gravely disappointed.

For Starmer, transferring the complaints procedure to outsiders means he can finally sever his responsibility for the handling of Labour’s supposed antisemitism crisis. It will be out of his hands.

All of this is meant to prepare the ground as Starmer, who has lagged in the polls behind a disastrously inept and corrupt Conservative government, tries to prove his electability – even if only at this stage to Rupert Murdoch and the other billionaire owners of the press.

Starmer clearly believes that the political formula that worked for Tony Blair, who led three Labour governments a quarter of a century ago in the short-lived heyday of neoliberal economics, will work for him too.

The week before conference, Starmer issued The Road Ahead, a personal manifesto chiefly intended to reassure the private sector that he would not disrupt the gravy train it has enjoyed uninterrupted since Blair was in power.

He has ruled out public ownership of key utilities, even as gas suppliers continue to go broke and the British public faces an unprecedented hike in energy prices.

Starmer pressured delegates to approve – if only narrowly – the appointment as general secretary of David Evans, a man closely identified with business-friendly Blair and the Labour right.

And to top it off, Starmer forced through rule changes – including giving MPs a bigger veto on who can stand in leadership elections – to prevent any repetition of a socialist candidate such as Corbyn winning.

Starmer’s meaning would have been entirely unaltered if the word “antisemitism” had been replaced by “socialism” as he addressed party activists: “We’ve turned our back on the dark chapter. Having closed that door, that door will never be opened again in our Labour Party to antisemitism.”

Starmer’s success – against the Labour left – was underscored on Monday, when Andy McDonald, the last Corbyn ally on the shadow front bench, resigned. He objected to being forced by Starmer’s office to reject union demands for a £15 minimum wage and statutory sick pay on the living wage – two issues the pandemic might have made a vote-winner with the public.

Starmer’s albatross

But though Starmer may be winning the battle to drive Labour back to the right, making it once again an establishment-friendly party, the issue of justice for Palestinians looks likely to continue hounding him.

He faces two opposing challenges he will struggle to contain.

On one side, Starmer is determined to shrink his party, ousting as many as possible of the hundreds of thousands of new members who joined because they were inspired by Corbyn’s populist left-wing policies.

Starmer has neither an ideological commitment to left-wing politics nor the stomach to brave the onslaught Corbyn faced – especially the barrage of antisemitism smears – as he struggled to revive socialism 40 years after big business, the establishment media and the Tory party thought they had buried it.

Starmer views the Labour grassroots as an albatross around his neck. It must be removed by further curbs on party democracy, lightly disguised as efforts to root out a supposed antisemitism problem.

The Israeli apartheid motion shows that there are still pockets of resistance, especially among the young. They can use the glaring injustices heaped on the Palestinian people as a way to keep embarrassing Starmer and reminding Labour members how unprincipled their leader is.

Lobby pressure

But on the other side, Starmer also faces a pro-Israel lobby that has got the bit between its teeth after its critical role in undermining Corbyn. It expects the Labour party to serve as a cheerleader for Israel, paying no more than lip service to Palestinian rights.

For the lobby, Starmer must continue to be cowed with threats of antisemitism to make sure he does not concede, under grassroots pressure, that Israel is an apartheid state, or support sanctions, or end the UK’s arms sales to Israel – as party members want.

Even before the Palestinian solidarity motion was passed by conference, Euan Philipps, a spokesman for one lobby group, Labour Against Antisemitism, set out how much more the pro-Israel lobby expects to extract from Starmer.

He told the Jewish Chronicle newspaper that Labour must go further in dealing with what he termed “anti-Zionist antisemitism” – that is, labelling and punishing any serious criticism of Israel’s abuses of Palestinians as antisemitism.

He called for Labour to sever all ties with the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, removing the main vehicle for promoting justice for Palestinians in the party.

Philipps urged the party to punish MPs and officials who take part in “extreme” Palestinian solidarity events or protests against Israel’s occupation, describing participation as “tacitly endorsing antisemitism”.

And he demanded Starmer take an even harder line against “antisemitic” members – in this case, apparently meaning any who speak out in favour of Palestinian rights – than recommended by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission last year after it completed an unprecedented investigation of Labour over the antisemitism claims.

Labour’s civil war is not going away quite yet. It will continue to simmer, as it has at the conference, until Palestinians and the party’s left-wing can be permanently silenced.

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Jewish Chronicle’s libel payouts were a small price to pay for smearing Corbyn and the left

The Jewish Chronicle, a weekly newspaper that was saved from liquidation last year by a consortium led by a former senior adviser to Theresa May, has been exposed as having a quite astonishing record of journalistic failings.

Over the past three years, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the misnamed and feeble “press regulator” created by the billionaire-owned corporate media, has found the paper to have breached its code of practice on at least 28 occasions. The weekly has also lost, or been forced to settle, at least four libel cases over the same period.

According to Brian Cathcart, a professor of journalism at Kingston University in London, that means one in every four or five editions of the Chronicle has broken either the law or the IPSO code. He describes that, rather generously, as a “collapse of journalistic standards” at the paper.

IPSO, led by Lord Edward Faulks, a former Conservative minister, has repeatedly failed to launch any kind of formal investigation into this long-term pattern of rule and law-breaking by the Jewish Chronicle. He has also dragged his feet in responding to calls from a group of nine individuals maligned by the paper that IPSO urgently needs to carry out an inquiry into the paper’s editorial standards.

Consequently, IPSO has left itself in no position to take action against the paper, even assuming it wished to. The “press regulator” has not fined the Chronicle – one of its powers – or imposed any other kind of sanction. It has not insisted on special training to end the Chronicle’s systematic editorial failings. And the paper’s editor, Stephen Pollard, has remained in place.

And here one needs to ask why.

Holding the line

Cathcart’s main explanation is that IPSO, as the creature of the billionaire press, is there to “handle” complaints – in the sense of making them go away – rather than seriously hold the media to account or punish its transgressions.

IPSO has never fined or sanctioned any of its member publications since it was created seven years ago by the owners of the corporate media to avoid the establishment of a proper regulatory body in the wake of the Levenson public inquiry into media abuses such as the phone hacking scandal.

The bar for launching an investigation by IPSO was intentionally set so high – failings must be shown to be “serious and systematic” – that the “press regulator” and its corporate media backers assumed they would plausibly be able to argue that no paper ever reached it.

The Chronicle has put even this sham form of regulation to the severest test.

Cathcart argues that IPSO’s job has been to hold the line. If it tackled the Jewish Chronicle for its serial deceptions and character assassinations, it would risk paving the way to similar sanctions being imposed on Rupert Murdoch’s titles.

Attack dog

But there is an additional reason why IPSO is so loath to crack down on the Chronicle’s systematic editorial failings. And that is because, from the point of view of the British establishment, those failings were necessary and encouraged.

It is important to highlight the context for the Chronicle’s egregious transgressions of the editors’ code of practice and libel laws. Those fabrications and deceptions were needed because they lay at the heart of the establishment’s campaign to be rid of former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The Jewish Chronicle served as the chief attack dog on Corbyn and the Labour left, in service of an establishment represented by the Conservative party and the long-dominant right wing of the Labour party.

Whereas the rest of the corporate media tried to discredit Corbyn and the Labour left with a range of early, lamentable claims – that he was scruffy, unpatriotic, sexist, a national security threat, a former Soviet spy – the Jewish Chronicle’s task was more complicated but far more effective.

The paper’s role was to breathe life into the claim that Corbyn and his supporters were anti-semites, and the paper managed it by maliciously conflating antisemitism and the left’s criticisms of Israel as a racist, apartheid state that oppresses Palestinians.

Confess or you’re guilty

The Chronicle’s job was to initiate the antisemitism libels and lies against Corbyn and his followers that served to feed and rationalise the fears of prominent sections of the Jewish community. Those fears could then be cited by the rest of the corporate media as evidence that Labour was riding roughshod over the Jewish community’s “sensitivities”. And in turn the Labour left’s supposed indifference to Jewish sensitivities could be attributed to its rampant antisemitism.

It culminated in the McCarthyite claim – now being enforced by Corbyn’s successor as Labour leader, Keir Starmer – that to deny Labour has some especial antisemitism problem, separate from that found more generally in British society, is itself proof of antisemitism. Once accused of antisemitism, as the Labour left endlessly is, one is guilty by definition – the choice is either to confess to antisemitism or be proven an antisemite by denying the accusation.

Like a victim caught in quicksand, the more vigorously the Labour left has rejected claims that the party is riddled with antisemitism the more it has sunk into the mire created by the Jewish Chronicle and others.

It is therefore hardly surprising that so many victims of the Chronicle’s libels and code violations are Corbyn supporters targeted in the antisemitism witch-hunt. Without these deceptions, the antisemitism claims against the Labour party would have looked even more preposterous than they did to anyone familiar with the evidence.

False accusations

For those interested, here are those four recent libel cases that went against the Chronicle:

September 2019: “The Jewish Chronicle has paid out £50,000 in libel damages to a UK charity [Interpal] that provides aid to Palestinians after wrongly linking it to terrorism.”

February 2020: “The libel settlement comes after a UK press regulator in December ruled that the paper’s four articles about [Labour activist Audrey] White had been ‘significantly misleading’ and that the paper had engaged in ‘unacceptable’ obstruction of their investigation.”

October 2020: “Nada al Sanjari, a school teacher and Labour councillor, was the subject of a number of articles published by the newspaper in 2019 that claimed she was one of several Momentum activists responsible for inviting another activist who the Jewish Chronicle characterised as anti-Semitic to a Labour Party event.”

July 2021: “The publication falsely accused [Marc] Wadsworth, in an article on its website in March, of being part of a group of current and ex-Labour members targeting Jewish activists in the party.”

It is not hard to spot the theme of all these smears, and many others, which suggest that those in solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli oppression, including Jews, are antisemites or guilty of supporting terrorism.

Saved from liquidation

Remember, the 28 IPSO code violations – media euphemism for fabrications and deceptions – are only the tip of the iceberg. It is almost certain that many of those maligned by the Chronicle did not have the time, energy or resources to pursue the weekly paper either through the pointless IPSO “regulation” process or through extremely costly law courts.

And remember too that IPSO found against the Chronicle for breaching its code at least 28 times, even though that code was designed to give IPSO’s member publications every possible benefit of the doubt. IPSO has no incentive to highlight its members’ failings, especially when it was set up to provide the government with a pretext for not creating a truly independent regulatory body.

The reality is that the 180-year-old Jewish Chronicle, or JC as it has remodelled itself, would have gone out of business some time ago had it not been twice saved from liquidation by powerful, establishment figures.

It avoided closure in 2019 after it was bailed out by “community-minded individuals, families and charitable trusts” following massive losses. The identities of those donors were not disclosed.

At the time Stephen Pollard highlighted his paper’s crucial role: “There’s certainly been a huge need for the journalism that the JC does in especially looking at the anti-Semitism in the Labour party and elsewhere.”

Consortium of investors

Then only a year later the Chronicle had to be rescued again, this time by a shadowy consortium of investors who promised to pump in millions to keep the paper afloat and reimburse those who had donated the previous year.

Why these financiers appear so committed to a paper with proven systematic editorial failings, and which continues to be headed by the same editor who has overseen those serious failings for years, was underscored at the time by Alan Jacobs, the paper’s departing chairman.

He observed that the donors who bailed out the paper in 2019 “can be proud that their combined generosity allowed the JC to survive long enough to help to see off Jeremy Corbyn and friends, one of the greatest threats to face British Jewry in the JC’s existence.”

Corbyn had lost the general election to a Conservative party led by Boris Johnson later that same year.

The public face of last year’s consortium was Sir Robbie Gibb, a former BBC executive and a longtime ally of figures on the Conservative right. He served as Theresa May’s spin doctor when she was prime minister. He was also an early adviser to GB News, a recent attempt to replicate the overtly right wing Fox News channel in the UK.

Other visible consortium members are associated with the antisemitism campaign against Corbyn. They include former right wing Labour MP John Woodcock, who cited antisemitism as his reason for quitting the party after it had begun investigating him for sending inappropriate messages to a female staff member.

Another is Jonathan Sacerdoti, a regular “analyst” on the BBC, ITV and Ch4 who previously served as a spokesperson for the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a lobby group set up back in 2014 specifically to discredit critics of Israel as antisemites.

And then there is John Ware, a former Sun journalist turned BBC reporter who fronted probably the single most damaging programme on Corbyn. An hour-long Panorama “special” accusing Labour of antisemitism was deeply flawed, misleading and failed to acknowledge that several unnamed figures it interviewed were also pro-Israel lobbyists.

It would probably be unwise for me to say more about Ware or his publicly stated views on Muslims, shared by the Jewish Chronicle, because he has recently become litigious. He apparently has deep pockets, helping to fund both the rescue of the Chronicle and law suits against critics.

Exceptional indulgence

But the exceptional indulgence of the Jewish Chronicle, both by IPSO and prominent figures in broadcasting, and the paper’s continuing credibility as a source of news for the wider corporate media, indicates how the antisemitism narrative about Labour served, and continues to serve, the British establishment.

Represented politically by the Conservative party and the Labour right, that establishment was able to reassert its cosy parliamentary duopoly by ousting any meaningful challenge from the Labour left. With Corbyn gone, the threat of real politics has disappeared. We are back to one-party, corporate rule under the guise of two parties.

Which is why IPSO cannot take any meaningful action against the Jewish Chronicle. To do so would pull the rug from under the antisemitism narrative that destroyed Corbyn and is now being used by his successor, Starmer, to purge Labour of the remnants of the left and to distance the party as far as possible from any lingering signs of Palestinian solidarity.

Exposure of the Jewish Chronicle as an editorial wrecking ball aimed at the left would show just how much the paper and the antisemitism narrative it bolstered were key to the Conservative party’s successful smearing of Corbyn that helped to keep him out of Number 10. It would highlight the enduring collusion between the corporate media and the political elite.

And it would indicate that corporate media is not really an exercise in capitalist, free-market economics, where profitable outlets drive out those that are unpopular. Rather loss-making corporate media such as the Jewish Chronicle are a price the establishment is only too happy to bear as long as those publications fulfil a more important purpose: ensuring that the political and economic climate remains favourable to the ruling class.

The Jewish Chronicle has played its part in destroying Corbyn and the left. Now it will continue that role by policing the public discourse and ensuring that no one like Corbyn ever gets near power again. Those libel payouts were a small price to pay.

The post Jewish Chronicle’s libel payouts were a small price to pay for smearing Corbyn and the left first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Two Centuries Of ‘The Imperialist, Warmongering, Hate-Filled Guardian’

In contrast to Media Lens modestly marking a mere two decades in July, the Guardian has been deluging itself with praise on reaching two centuries this year. Not that we would expect otherwise. As editor Katherine Viner proclaimed in a long, celebratory essay:

‘The Guardian is not the only newspaper to declare that it has a higher purpose than transmitting the day’s events in order to make a profit. But it might be unique in having held on to that sense of purpose for two centuries.’

From her editor’s throne, Viner portrayed the paper as a kind of collective enterprise rooted in a socially-aware commune:

‘journalists must be part of the social fabric of the world they report on. The Guardian is a community of journalists and readers, all of us equal citizens of that community.’

It is difficult to square such pious words with the reality that Guardian moderators prowl the online comments on the Guardian website, ready to instantly delete critical remarks posted by the public. As one Guardian reader noted recently on Twitter:

‘My comment comparing the detention of the journalist in Belarus with what is being done to Craig Murray and Julian Assange in the UK has been deleted by the mods at The Guardian within seconds.’

For Viner, awkward readers like this are simply ostracised and no longer deemed part of the ‘Guardian’s community’. They are not allowed to besmirch her shining vision that the Guardian is:

‘a newspaper built on facts and guided by its values, a newspaper with a moral as well as a material existence.’

Throughout her essay, the rhetoric flooded out:

‘Our mission is based on a moral conviction: that people long to understand the world they are in, and to create a better one. To use our clarity and imagination to build hope.’

Yet more purple prose gushed forth:

‘we have roots, we have principles, we have philosophy, we have values.’

It takes a certain blinkered mindset, honed through faithful service to the Guardian bubble and ideological navel-gazing, to believe this guff. In almost 6,000 words, there was no hint of critical self-reflection by Viner. There was certainly no mention of Julian Assange, the courageous WikiLeaks co-founder and publisher of copious evidence of US war crimes whom the Guardian exploited, discarded and smeared.

Guardian Smearing Of Chomsky And Assange

Assange and WikiLeaks did, however, make it into a 64-page supplement, ‘We were there: The 200 moments that made the Guardian’, included with the print version of the newspaper on Saturday, 8 May. The piece was written by Ian Katz, a former Guardian deputy editor who left to become editor of BBC Newsnight in 2013, and is now Director of Programmes at Channel 4. This is pretty much the full set of prized media destinations in the career of a successful liberal journalist. The fact that his career was not derailed by an infamous media episode in 2005, during his Guardian years, speaks volumes.

Katz was then the Guardian editor responsible for the G2 section of the paper which published a notorious interview by Emma Brockes smearing Noam Chomsky. Addressing the Balkan Wars in the former Yugoslavia and, in particular, the Srebrenica massacre, Brockes had written of Chomsky’s view as: ‘witheringly teenage; like, Srebrenica was so not a massacre.’ As we discussed at the time, this was a deceitful distortion of the truth: Chomsky has never denied that a massacre took place in Srebrenica. In an open letter, Chomsky himself described the Guardian piece as ‘a scurrilous piece of journalism’. The paper was flooded with readers’ complaints, the readers’ editor investigated the case, an apology of sorts was issued, and the interview subsequently taken down. No Guardian editor or journalist has made reference to this disgraceful and deeply embarrassing episode in any of their valedictory retrospective accounts.

In Katz’s piece on WikiLeaks (only available in print, and not online), he repeated an outrageous quote attributed to Julian Assange by David Leigh, the former Guardian investigations editor. In 2010, Guardian staff and Assange were working together in a Guardian ‘bunker’ on hundreds of thousands of US military records and US embassy cables. Katz gave the official Guardian version of events:

‘Our biggest disagreement blew up over the question of whether confidential sources identified in the documents deserved protection. All the traditional journalists involved in the project took it as read that we would redact the names of any informants who could be put at risk by our publishing the documents. Assange saw it differently. “They’re informants,’ he told Leigh. “So if they get killed they’ve got it coming to them.”’

This account, to put it politely, is disputed. In fact, Assange has stated that the quote is ‘completely fabricated’. John Goetz, a journalist from Der Spiegel, was present at the dinner in a London restaurant where Leigh claimed Assange made the remark. Goetz has affirmed that Assange made no such remark. Moreover, Mark Davis, a multi-award winning Australian journalist who was present in the ‘bunker’ with Assange throughout the preparation of the Afghan War Logs, has exposed the shameful role of the Guardian in its dealings with Assange, accusing them of ‘slanders’ and  ‘lies’ (further details and quotes are here).

As the progressive website Consortium News reported:

‘Most shocking in these revelations is Mark Davis’s account of how the Guardian journalists neglected and appeared to care little about redacting the documents. They had a “graveyard humour” about people being harmed and no one, he stated emphatically, expressed concern about civilian casualties except Julian Assange…Assange had subsequently requested that the release of the Afghan War Logs be delayed for the purpose of redaction, but the Guardian not only insisted on the agreed date, they abandoned him to redact 10,000 documents alone.’

Katz included none of this in his account. And Viner’s silence on Assange is telling. As is her seeming refusal ever to discuss, far less apologise for, the fake front-page ‘news’ story the paper published in November 2018 claiming that Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, supposedly held secret talks with Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. It was another fabricated story about the WikiLeaks publisher. And all part of a smear-based propaganda campaign that led to him being forcibly removed from the Embassy and locked away in the high-security Belmarsh prison, at risk of being extradited to the US to face life imprisonment. Recall that Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, has declared unequivocally that Assange is a victim of torture. Melzer has demanded, along with many other lawyers, human rights organisations and members of the public, that Assange be freed.

Guardian Distortion ‘Beggars Belief’

Likewise, an essay in the New York Review by Alan Rusbridger, Viner’s predecessor in the editor’s chair, was long on Guardian mythology and short on critical self-analysis. Towards the end, a few tokenistic references were made to chapters that had pulled their punches in a new book about the Guardian’s history, ‘Capitalism’s Conscience’, edited by media academic Des Freedman and put under the microscope in a recent media alert. In fact, as we suspected would happen, Rusbridger leaned on the book to boost the paper’s supposed bona fides:

‘Capitalism’s Conscience does acknowledge remarkably positive and progressive aspects of The Guardian’s more recent history, including in-depth coverage of the developing world, a better-than-some track record on diversity, a commitment to investigative reporting, and a balanced approach to Brexit.’

But Rusbridger avoided any observations by the book’s more hard-hitting contributors. For example, Alan MacLeod had noted of the paper’s coverage of Latin America:

‘far from embracing the “Pink Tide” [the grassroots progressive movements across Latin America], the Guardian has, for the most part, chosen to side with Western governments and reject it, often displaying a shocking lack of understanding of the continent. Indeed, the distortion with which it presents Latin America is so startling it often beggars belief.’

MacLeod added that the Guardian’s ‘tone and outlook [are] often so conservative that it is indistinguishable from the Daily Telegraph in its reporting of the continent.’

He directly implicated the current editor:

‘Katharine Viner describes the newspaper’s mission as “holding the powerful to account” and “upholding liberal values”. Yet when it comes to Latin America, it has attacked progressive movements attempting to further those values, while often failing to hold the region’s right-wing rulers to the same standard. It has been necessary to do this, lest British readers are inspired, like Corbyn was, to try the same thing at home.’

Moreover, in their chapter on ‘The Guardian and Surveillance’, Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis note what happened after the paper revealed secret US government documents leaked by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Security services and the Ministry of Defence were so concerned by the revelations that, on 20 July 2013, GCHQ officials entered the Guardian’s offices at King’s Cross in London. At the request of the government and security services, Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson and two colleagues spent three hours destroying the laptops containing the Snowden documents.

Afterwards, the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee, known as the D-Notice Committee, increasingly placed pressure on the Guardian to refrain from publishing information that would ‘jeopardise both national security and possibly UK personnel’. A combined charm and threat offensive to make the Guardian play ball ultimately paid off when Paul Johnson accepted an invitation to sit on the D-Notice Committee. He attended his first meeting in May 2014 and remained on the committee until October 2018. As Kennard and Curtis observed:

‘The Guardian’s deputy editor went directly from the corporation’s basement with an angle-grinder to sitting on the D-Notice Committee alongside the security service officials who had tried to stop his paper publishing the Snowden material.’

The authors give some credit to Rusbridger who ‘withstood intense pressure not to publish some of Snowden’s revelations’, but note that things changed when Viner was appointed editor in March 2015. Critical coverage of UK intelligence services thereafter dropped dramatically. Moreover, soft-pedalling ‘exclusives’ appeared with senior intelligence and counter-terrorism chiefs highlighting the supposed ‘threat’ of foreign states, notably Russia.

Kennard and Curtis wrote:

‘While some articles critical of the security services still appear in the paper, its “scoops” have increasingly focused on issues more acceptable to them. In the years since the Snowden affair, the Guardian does not appear to have published any articles based on intelligence or security services sources that were not so to speak “officially sanctioned”.’

In a recent piece with the apt title, ‘Like billionaire-controlled media, The Guardian misinforms its readers on the UK’s role in world’, Curtis pointed out that:

‘while it sometimes exposes how the British establishment works, it acts largely in support of it – and that in recent years it has largely shredded the capacity it once had to do more independent, investigative reporting.

‘The paper’s political positioning, on the right wing of Labour and mainstream of the US Democratic Party, always suggested it would act to stave off more fundamental change when the time came. With Corbyn, this was clearly borne out.’

Behind The Façade Of Guardian ‘Liberalism’

Long-time readers of Media Lens will be well aware that we have written several books and hundreds of media alerts exposing the Guardian’s propaganda role in shoring up the status quo. But nothing of this mountain of evidence, nor the examples cited earlier in this alert, disturbed the haughty, self-satisfied triumphalism of Viner and Rusbridger.

Also notably lacking from the Guardian’s numerous retrospectives, including a fashion piece on ‘200 years of newsroom style: what journalists wear to work’, was the consistent Guardian protection of establishment power for two centuries. This uncomfortable truth was superbly exposed in an historical overview, titled ‘50,000 editions of the imperialist, warmongering, hate-filled Guardian newspaper’, first published by author Murray McDonald in 2007 when the paper celebrated its 50,000th issue.

A crucial component of the haloed Guardian mythology, featuring prominently in both Rusbridger’s and Viner’s accounts, is its founding in Manchester in 1821 by John Taylor as a supposed radical paper championing the victims of the Peterloo Massacre. In 1819, eighteen people died when cavalry charged into a crowd of around 60,000 people who had gathered in St Peter’s Field, Manchester, to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.

McDonald wrote:

‘What the Guardian forgot to say was that Taylor launched his paper to undermine the working class leaders of the reform movement; or that Taylor refused to use either word “Peterloo” or “Massacre”, thinking them too inflammatory.’

The paper has never been a reliable supporter of popular opposition to establishment power. In fact, worse than that, the Guardian:

‘has been deeply hostile to the working class, especially when they have taken matters into their own hands.’

As just one early example:

‘When Women Suffragettes fought for the vote, Guardian editor C.P. Scott denounced them as fanatics, just as the Manchester Guardian opposed giving the working classes the vote before.’

Historically, the Guardian actually derided movements against British imperialism and colonialism:

‘Over the years, much of the newspaper’s venom has been reserved for opposition movements. The Guardian had a particular contempt for anti-imperialist movement[s], pouring scorn on Third World nationalists like [Patrice] Lumumba [of Congo] and [Gamal] Nasser [of Egypt], advocating military intervention across the globe.’

McDonald added:

‘And when Abraham Lincoln fought a Civil War against slavery, the Manchester Guardian rallied to defend the southern Slave-Owners.’

In more modern times, the Guardian – apart from mild criticism here and there towards the end of Tony Blair’s time in Downing Street – has been a stalwart cheerleader for the former Prime Minister. This bizarre nostalgic longing for the New Labour era continues to this day, even though Blair’s hands are steeped in the blood of over one million dead people in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Arguments for ‘humanitarian intervention’ were honed by the Guardian in its reporting of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, as McDonald noted, ‘demonising the enemy, talking up the humanitarian crisis, and pushing for military action’.

Viner and Rusbridger airbrush all of this from their glowing ideological narratives of the paper. But reading closely between the lines is instructive and hints at the grim truth. Consider Rusbridger’s curiously-worded claim that ‘the paper can disappoint the left and anger the right.’ He gave this example:

‘The most recent disappointment for those on the left was the paper’s failure—as they saw it—to wholeheartedly embrace Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.’

This is truly outrageous spin. In fact, the Guardian played a key role in the propaganda blitz that scuppered Corbyn’s chances of becoming Prime Minister and making any move towards a more equal society that the Guardian supposedly champions.

Keyvan Minoukadeh of the website fivefilters.org diligently monitored the relentless Guardian attacks on Corbyn over the two-year period from 2015-2017.  He observed that there was a slight let-up towards the end of this period, perhaps because Guardian editors were worried that they had alienated too many readers. But then:

‘After a short pause, the paper continued and intensified its attacks, this time spreading spurious and damaging claims of anti-semitism.’

In short, the paper failed to ‘wholeheartedly embrace Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership’ in much the same way that a kestrel fails to wholeheartedly embrace a mouse when swooping down for its prey.

The late Tony Benn had it right:

‘The Guardian represents a whole batch of journalists…who, broadly speaking, like the status quo…are very critical of the left…They just are the Establishment. It is a society that suits them well.’

As we saw above, Viner’s florid account of her beloved paper overflowed with worthy words about principles, values, roots, morals, and a ‘mission based on a moral conviction’ to ‘create a better’ society and ‘to build hope’. These claims are cruel deceptions because the reality is far different. In truth, the Guardian has long played a liberal gatekeeper role, corralling and deflecting the threat of real public opposition to elite power.

A newspaper predicated on ‘liberal values’ has a crucial role to play in the propaganda system. As Noam Chomsky has long observed, such a paper delimits the ‘acceptable’ limits of news reporting and commentary: ‘Thus far, and no further’. To be truly effective, the ‘mainstream’ media must appear to be relatively free and open. For this reason, added Chomsky:

‘liberal bias is extremely important in a sophisticated system of propaganda.’

The Guardian epitomises this vital function.

Jonathan Cook, a former Guardian reporter who is now an independent, reader-supported journalist, put it this way:

‘The role of corporate media is to serve as a figurative sheep-dog, herding journalists each day into an ideological pen – the publication they write for. There are minor differences of opinion and emphasis between conservative publications and liberal ones, but they all ultimately serve the same corporate, business-friendly, colonial, war-mongering agenda.’

Just consider one salient fact. Absent from the Guardian – and the entire ‘mainstream’ media – is any sustained, substantive reporting about the economic system that is driving climate breakdown and mass extinction of species. A recent video titled, ‘Why Capitalism Can’t Handle Climate Change’, from Second Thought, an educational YouTube channel presenting analysis of current events from a Leftist perspective, encapsulates the most pressing crisis today:

‘If we want to ensure a liveable future for the human race, we must move past capitalism. Capitalism is incapable of solving the problems it creates. It is entirely beholden to the profit motive, and no amount of flowery language, greenwashing or reform will ever change that.

Sweep aside the paper’s lofty rhetoric, and it is clear that the Guardian has long been a component of power that is currently driving humanity towards extinction.

The post Two Centuries Of ‘The Imperialist, Warmongering, Hate-Filled Guardian’ first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Dominic Cummings is our Machiavelli: with Brexit, lies served him, now the truth does

Remember how Dominic Cummings played a blinder over Brexit, spinning a web of deceptions, funnelled through politicians and the media, to persuade the public that Britain needed to quit the European Union so urgently it should do so on any terms, even ones that would sabotage the country’s interests. Well, he just did a Brexit on Boris Johnson, though this time he didn’t need to use lies. The facts were quite enough.

It would be foolish, however, to imagine that in appearing before a House of Commons select committee yesterday Cummings was serving simply as a conduit for the truth about Johnson’s catastrophically inept government – a kind of inversion of the role the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg has played serving as a conduit for Cummings and Johnson’s misinformation.

Cummings was once again proving he is the master of cynical power politics. He is the Machiavelli of our times. His self-serving honesty and self-criticism were perfectly calibrated to rehabilitate his image, win over doubters and stick the knife more deeply into Johnson.

It may be too uncharitable to exclude the possibility that Cummings is offering his revelations, in part, to benefit the British public. But his larger purpose is clearer. He is doing his best to damage and destroy the incompetently corrupt, like Johnson and Health Secretary Mike Hancock, so that they can be replaced by the more competently corrupt, like Michael Gove and Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Better frontman

Cummings is a brigade commander on the frontlines of a war within the establishment class. He wants a better frontman for his brand of US-inspired, super-predatory capitalism. And for that reason alone, the left should avoid getting so deeply immersed in these intrigues that we start cheerleading one side over the other.

Yes, Johnson made disastrous decisions over Covid that killed many thousands unnecessarily: the “herd immunity” plan, the abandonment of care homes, the delays in procuring PPE, the lax border policy, the extravagant contracts for cronies, and much more. We didn’t need Cummings to tell us that, though his insider account puts more flesh on the bones.

But there were plenty of other reasons why so many died, reasons that long predate Johnson becoming prime minister – not least the calamitous failure to maintain PPE supplies, the dismantlement of the institutions needed to prepare for and deal with a pandemic effectively, and the death by a thousand cuts to the NHS.

None of that would have been different had Sunak or Gove been in Johnson’s shoes, even assuming either would actually have been capable of devising and implementing better policies, from lockdowns to care homes. That is the greater scandal and it is not one Cummings – or Kuenssberg – will talk about.

Grudge match

What Cummings did do yesterday – inadvertently – was draw back a little the curtain designed to conceal the charade that is “representative democracy”. If we can avoid being overly invested in the drama of the Cummings-Johnson grudge match, we have a chance to understand that the whole system is rotten from top to bottom.

It is precisely this corrupted and corrupting system of power – run by, and in the interests of, a tiny political and media elite – that spent five years ensuring Jeremy Corbyn would never reach 10 Downing Street, and is now weighing whether Sir Keir Starmer is a credible “alternative” should the Tories’ fortunes sink.

Johnson has good reason to be obsessed with the media, making U-turns “like a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other”. As with one of his predecessors, Tony Blair, Johnson understands that it is chiefly the Murdoch empire and the BBC that decide his fate.

In the Corbyn era, Johnson faced no threat at all – he knew the BBC and Murdoch press had his back. They would never have supported Corbyn against him, however unsuitable and incompetent Johnson proved to be as prime minister. That was the real problem with Corbyn. It was not his supposed character or political flaws; it was that Britain became even more of a one-party state so long he led the opposition – with the media, the political system, even the Labour party bureaucracy itself determined at all costs to keep in power the leader of the Conservative party, whoever it was.

Cummings’ sudden candour is a sign that the establishment is now in a position to replace Johnson, and willing to groom whoever from its short-list is best placed to win over the British public – be it, Sunak, Gove or Starmer.

BBC on the back foot

It is perhaps not surprising that Cummings sought to embarrass the BBC’s Kuenssberg by singling her out among his media contacts, pretending that he rarely dealt with other reporters. Kuenssberg is probably the single most powerful journalist shaping the public’s perception of this government. And she has done a sterling job of veiling and excusing Johnson’s incompetence at every turn. Without her, Johnson would have been a great deal more vulnerable much earlier.

What Cummings has subtly achieved is to force Kuenssberg on to the back foot. She is now prey to the charge – an entirely accurate one – that she has been riding shotgun for Johnson. She will need to distance herself more from him, to deal with No 10 “sources” more critically, in an attempt to prove Cummings wrong. And the new pressure on her to look less like what she is and what the BBC want her to be – a journalist hungry for access – will mean that, as a result, Johnson is more politically exposed, more vulnerable to challenge, than ever before.

For Cummings, it is a master-stroke.

One-party state

What Cummings revealed – again not entirely intentionally – was that we are ruled by narcissists and charlatans, the “donkeys”: precisely the kind of people who crave power for power’s sake and are least equipped to run government wisely and compassionately.

The policy failings, the lies, the chaos, the inflated personality clashes – the scenes of pandemonium Cummings set out – are inevitable when a country has long been run as a one-party state, even if that party comes in two flavours, red and blue, that sometimes take turns in government.

The pandemic exposed the weaknesses of Britain’s one-party system particularly starkly only because of the scale of the threat and the suddenness of its arrival. The cost of the establishment’s corruption and incompetence was measured this time in tens of thousands of lives – lives that can no more be hidden from view than the Covid “Wall of Hearts”.

But in normal times, donkeys like Johnson, Hancock, Sunak and Gove are ideally equipped to achieve the power elite’s goals, shunting capitalism’s costs out of view: on to the shoulders of the weak and vulnerable, those unheard on the margins of western society; to far-off lands, where the effects will be felt only by irrelevant black and brown people; and into the future, for our children to suffer the consequences.

Crackers by design

Even Cummings’ moments of apparent self-awareness were not quite what they seemed. He told MPs:

It’s just completely crackers that someone like me should have been in there [in a senior government position], just the same as it’s crackers that Boris Johnson was in there – and that the choice at the last election was Jeremy Corbyn.

But it isn’t crackers at all. It is by design. It is the way the system has evolved to keep a tiny wealth-elite in power. We have a narcissistic joker like Johnson in No 10 – just as Americans ended up with Donald Trump in the White House – because the public’s ability to think critically has been intentionally degraded over decades by a billionaire-owned press and a craven BBC that turned politics into the most cynical kind of entertainment.

When an opposition leader appeared, as if by accident, who actually wanted to use politics to transform the lives of ordinary people – rather than preserve the current predatory system of elite power – the corporate media lost no time turning him into a national security threat, a terrorist and an antisemite.

It is no accident that the one in power, Johnson, is the real clown. And it is no accident that the one out of power and in disgrace, Corbyn, was so easily made to look like a clown. The creation of an equivalence between them is more of the lies Cummings claims to be busting.

Cummings understands our weaknesses. We struggle to see how we are being manipulated. We listen credulously to flesh-and-blood journalists like Kuenssberg even as, in the abstract, we lose ever more trust in the media. We forget that by natural selection those drawn to the highest level of politics are invariably narcissists and master manipulators.

The result: we fall for their lies time and again. We listen to them uncritically, absorbing their cynicism and selfishness as truth, as honesty.

As Dominic Cummings knew we would.

The post Dominic Cummings is our Machiavelli: with Brexit, lies served him, now the truth does first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Boris Johnson’s lies don’t harm him because the political system is more corrupt than he is

Britain’s corporate media are suddenly awash with stories wondering whether, or to what extent, the UK’s prime minister is dishonest. Predictably in the midst of this, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg is still doing her determined best to act as media bodyguard to Boris Johnson.

In a lengthy article on the BBC’s website over the weekend, she presents a series of soothing alternatives to avoid conceding the self-evident: that Johnson is a serial liar. According to Kuenssberg, or at least those she chooses to quote (those, let us remember, who give her unfettered “access” to the corridors of power), he is a well-intentioned, unpredictable, sometimes hapless, “untamed political animal”. A rough diamond.

In Kuenssberg’s telling, Johnson’s increasingly obvious flaws are actually his strengths:

Yet what’s suggested time and again is that the prime minister’s attitude to the truth and facts is not based on what is real and what is not, but is driven by what he wants to achieve in that moment – what he desires, rather than what he believes. And there is no question, that approach, coupled with an intense force of personality can be enormously effective.

In his political career, Boris Johnson has time and again overturned the odds, and that’s a huge part of the reason why.

The way Kuenssberg tells it, Johnson sounds exactly like someone you would want in your corner in a time of crisis. Not the narcissist creator of those crises, but the Nietzschean “Superman” who can solve them for you through sheer force of will and personality.

Lies piling up

Slightly less enamoured with Johnson than the BBC has been the liberal Guardian, Britain’s supposedly chief “opposition” newspaper to the ruling Conservative government. But the Guardian has been surprisingly late to this party too. Typical of its newly aggressive approach to Johnson was a piece published on Saturday by its columnist Jonathan Freedland, titled “Scandal upon scandal: the charge sheet that should have felled Johnson years ago”.

As this article rightly documents, Johnson is an inveterate dissembler, and one whose lies have been visibly piling up since he entered 10 Downing Street. His propensity to lie is not new. It was well-know to anyone who worked with him in his earlier career in journalism or when he was an aspiring politician. It is not the “scandals” that are new, it’s the media’s interest in documenting them that is.

And when the liar-in-chef is also the prime minister, those lies invariably end up masking high-level corruption, the kind of corruption that has the capacity to destroy lives – many lives.

So why are Johnson’s well-known deceptions only becoming a “mainstream” issue now – and why, in particular, is a liberal outlet like the Guardian picking up the baton on this matter so late in the day? As Freedland rightly observes, these scandals have been around for many years, so why wasn’t the Guardian on Johnson’s case from the outset, setting the agenda?

Or put another way, why has the drive to expose Johnson been led not by liberal journalists like Freedland but chiefly by a disillusioned old-school conservative worried about the damage Johnson is doing to his political tradition? Freedland is riding on the coat-tails of former Telegraph journalist Peter Oborne, who wrote a recent book on Johnson’s fabrications, The Assault on Truth.  Further, Johnson’s deceptions have gone viral not because of the efforts of the Guardian but because of a video compilation on social media of some of Johnson’s biggest whoppers by lawyer and independent journalist Peter Stefanovic.

Politics rigged

Part of the answer, of course, is that until recently the Guardian, along with the rest of the corporate media, had a much more pressing task than holding Britain’s prime minister to account for lies – and the corruption they obscure – that have drained the Treasury of the nation’s wealth, redirecting it towards a bunch of Tory donors, and subsequently contributed to at least a proportion of Covid-19 deaths.

The Guardian was preoccupied with making sure that Johnson was not replaced by an opposition leader who spoke, for the first time in more than a generation, about the need for wealth redistribution and a fairer society.

On the political scales weighing what was most beneficial for the country, it was far more important to the Guardian to keep then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his democratic socialist agenda out of Downing Street than make sure Britain was run in accordance with the rule of law, let alone according to the principles of fairness and decency.

Now with Corbyn long gone, the political conditions to take on Johnson are more favourable. Covid-19 cases in the UK have plummeted, freeing up a little space on front pages for other matters. And Corbyn’s successor, Keir Starmer, has used the past year to prove over and over again to the media that he has been scrupulous about purging socialism from the Labour party.

We are back to the familiar and reassuring days of having two main parties that will not threaten the establishment. One, the Labour party, will leave the establishment’s power and wealth untouched, but do so in a way that makes Britain once again look like a properly run country, conferring greater legitimacy on UK Plc. The other, the Conservative party, will do even better by the establishment, further enriching it with an unapologetic crony capitalism, even if that risks over the longer term provoking a popular backlash that may prove harder to defuse than the Corbyn one did.

For the time being at least, the elite prospers either way. The bottom line, for the establishment, is that the political system is once again rigged in its favour, whoever wins the next election. The establishment can risk making Johnson vulnerable only because the establishment interests he represents are no longer vulnerable.

Blame the voters

But for liberal media like the Guardian, the campaign to hold Johnson to account is potentially treacherous. Once the prime minister’s serial lying is exposed and the people informed of what is going on, according to traditional liberal thinking, his popularity should wane. Once the people understand he is a conman, they will want to be rid of him. That should be all the more inevitable, if, as the Guardian contends, Starmer is an obviously safer and more honest pair of hands.

But the problem for the Guardian is that Johnson’s polling figures are remarkably buoyant, despite the growing media criticism of him. He continues to outpoll Starmer. His Midas touch needs explaining. And the Guardian is growing ever more explicit about where the fault is to be found. With us.

Or as Freedland observes:

Maybe the real scandal lies with us, the electorate, still seduced by a tousled-hair rebel shtick and faux bonhomie that should have palled years ago… For allowing this shameless man to keep riding high, some of the shame is on us.

Freedland is far from alone in peddling this line. Kuenssberg, in her BBC piece, offers a variant:

An insider told me: “He frequently leaves people with the belief that he has told them one thing, but he has given himself room for manoeuvre,” believing that, “the fewer cast iron positions you hold the better, because you can always change political direction.”

The verbal flourishes and rhetorical tricks are part of the reason why he has prospered. “A lot of his magic has been those off-the-cuff comments, that’s why a lot of the public like him,” says an ally.

In other words, we see what we want to see. Johnson is the vessel into which we pour our hopes and dreams, while he has the tough challenge of making our melange of hopes and dreams a tangible, workable reality.

Liberal journalists have been on this “blame the voters” path for a while. When it was Corbyn and his “dangerous” socialism being pitted against the Tories’ crony capitalism, the Guardian enthusiastically joined the smear campaign against Labour. That included evidence-free claims of an “institutional antisemitism” crisis under Corbyn’s leadership.

And yet despite the media’s best endeavours, Corbyn appalled journalists like Freedland at the 2017 general election by winning Labour’s biggest rise in vote share since 1945. Corbyn denied the Conservatives a majority and was a few thousand votes from winning outright – something Starmer can only dream of at the moment, despite Johnson’s exposure as an inveterate liar and conman. And Corbyn achieved this while the Labour party machine, and the entire corporate media, were vehemently against him.

Dangerous populism

It was in the wake of Corbyn’s unexpected success at the polls in 2017 that the Guardian unleashed its “New Populism” series, seeking to warn of a supposedly dangerous new political phenomenon that lumped the then-Labour leader in with right wing populists such as Donald Trump, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. They were all part of a new wave of authoritarian, cult-like leaders who barely concealed their sinister, racist agendas, gulled supporters with promises divorced from reality, and most likely had secret ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

In short, the Guardian’s thesis was that “the people” kept voting for these leaders because they were stupid and easily duped by a smooth-tongued charlatan.

This narrative was aggressively promoted by the Guardian, even though Corbyn had nothing in common with the right wing authoritarians with whom he was forced to share star billing. He had spent his long political career on the backbenches, cultivating a self-effacing politics of communal solidarity and “standing up for the little guy” rather than pursuing power. And far from being a nationalist or nativist, Corbyn had dedicated decades to internationalism and fighting racism – though admittedly, in challenging the anti-Palestinian racism of Israel and its Zionist supporters he had left himself prey to disingenuous claims of antisemitism.

But after several years of emotional and ideological investment in “the people are dumb” approach, the Guardian seems in no hurry to drop it – until, or unless, the people can be persuaded to vote for an eminently safe, status-quo candidate like Starmer. The paper’s target has simply switched from Corbyn to the more plausible figure of Boris Johnson.

The Guardian dares not contemplate any alternative explanation for why voters continue to prefer the narcissist, corrupt, lying Johnson over Labour’s “Clean Up Westminster” Keir Starmer. But its reluctance to consider other explanations does not mean they cannot be found.

A corrupt system

The problem is not that most voters have failed to understand that Johnson is corrupt, though given the corrupt nature of the British corporate media – the Guardian very much included – they are hardly well positioned to appreciate the extent of Johnson’s corruption.

It is not even that they know that he is corrupt but do not care.

Rather, the real problem is that significant sections of the electorate have rightly come to the realisation that the wider political system within which Johnson operates is corrupt too. So corrupt, in fact, that it may be impossible to fix. Johnson is simply more open, and honest, about how he exploits the corrupt system.

Over the past two decades, there have been several way-stations exposing the extent of the corruption of the UK’s political system, whichever party was in power.

Labour under Tony Blair overrode popular dissent, expressed in the largest marches ever seen in the UK, and lied his way to a war on Iraq in 2003 that led to the killing and ethnic cleansing of millions of Iraqis. UK soldiers were dragged into a war that, it quickly became clear, was really about securing western control over the Middle East’s oil. And the invasion and occupation of Iraq spawned a new nihilistic Islamic cult that rampaged across the region and whose embers have yet to be snuffed out.

Five years later, Gordon Brown oversaw the near-implosion of the British economy after Labour had spent more than a decade intensifying the financial deregulation begun under Margaret Thatcher. That process had turned the financial sector into the true power behind No 10. Both Brown and his Tory successor, David Cameron, not only refused to hold to account any of the white-collar criminals responsible for the collapse of the financial system, but instead rewarded them with massive bailouts. Ordinary people, meanwhile, were forced to tighten their belts through years of austerity to pay off the debts.

And in the background throughout this period, a global and local environmental catastrophe has been gradually unfolding that the political system has shown no capacity to address because it has been captured by corporations who benefit most from continuing the environmental degradation. The system has instead dissembled on the threats we face to justify inaction.

No price to pay

The truly astonishing thing is that those who lied us into the Iraq war, destabilising the Middle East and provoking an exodus from the region that has fuelled a surge in xenophobic politics across Europe; those who broke the financial system through their greed and incompetence and lied their way out of the consequences, forcing the rest of us to foot the bill; and those who lied about the ecological catastrophes unfolding over the past half century so that they could go on lining their own pockets; none of them paid any price at all for their mendacity, for their deceptions, for their corruption. Not only that, but they have grown richer, more powerful, more respected because of the lies.

One only needs to look at the fate of that unapologetic pair of war criminals, Tony Blair and George W Bush. The former has amassed wealth like a black hole sucks in light, and preposterously is still regularly called on by the media to pontificate on ethical issues in British politics. And the latter has been rehabilitated as a once-wayward, now beloved, irreverent uncle to the nation, one whose humanity has supposedly been underscored simply by making sure he was filmed “sneaking” a sweet to his presidential successor’s wife.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, a remedy to Britain’s self-evidently flawed political system was thrown up – in the form of Corbyn. He was a throwback, the very antithesis of the modern politicians who had brought us to the brink of ruin on multiple fronts. He was not venal, nor a narcissist. His concern was improving the lives of ordinary people, not the bank balances of corporate donors. He was against colonial-style wars to grab other countries’ resources. The things that made him a laughing stock with the political elite – his cheap clothes, his simple life, his allotment – made him appealing to large sections of the electorate.

For many, Corbyn was the last gasp for a system they had given up on. He might prove their growing cynicism about politics wrong. His success might demonstrate that the system could be fixed, and that all was not lost.

Except that is not how it played out. The entire political and media class – even the military – turned on Corbyn. They played the man, not the ball – and when it came to the man, any and all character assassination was justified. He had been a Soviet agent. He was a threat to Britain’s security. His IQ was too low to be prime minister. He was a secret antisemite.

Lying, cheating and stealing

In the United States, then-Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer warned Donald Trump back in 2017 that the US intelligence services would “have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you” should the president try to go up against them. Maybe Trump hoped that his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, would offer some protection. Pompeo, a former head of the CIA, understood the dishonest ways of the intelligence services only too well. He explained his agency’s modus operandi to a group of students in Texas in an unusually frank manner in late 2019: “I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. That’s, it was like, we had entire training courses!”

With the campaign to destroy Corbyn, many saw how the British system was just as skilled and experienced as the US one in its capacity to lie, cheat and steal. Corbyn’s treatment offered an undeniable confirmation of what they already suspected.

Over the past two decades, in an era when social media has emerged as an alternative information universe challenging that of the traditional corporate media, all these episodes – Iraq, the financial crash, ecological catastrophe, Corbyn’s political assassination – have had deeply damaging political ramifications. Because once people sensed that the system was corrupt, they became cynical. And once they were cynical, once they believed the system was rigged whoever won, they began voting cynically too.

This should be the main context for understanding Johnson’s continuing success and his invulnerability to criticism. In a rigged system, voters prefer an honestly dishonest politician – one who revels in the cynicism of the system and is open about exploiting it – over one who pretends he is playing fair, one who feigns a belief in the system’s ultimate decency, one who lies by claiming he can pursue the common good.

If the system is rigged, who is really more mendacious: Johnson, who plays dirty in a dirty system, or Starmer, who pretends he can clean up the Westminster cesspit when all he will really do is push the ordure out of view.

Johnson is transparently looking out for his mates and donors. Starmer is looking out for a rotten system, one that he intends to makeover so its corruption is less visible, less open to scrutiny.

Liberals are mystified by this reading of politics. They, after all, are emotionally invested in a supposedly meritocratic system from which they personally benefited for so long. They would rather believe the lie that a good political system is being corrupted by rotten politicians and a stupid electorate than the reality that a corrupt political system is being exploited by those best placed to navigate its corrupt ways.

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Labour disclosure “shows antisemitism was weaponised against Corbyn”, activists say

A group of Labour activists fighting through the courts to discover why they and others were investigated or expelled from the UK’s Labour Party for antisemitism say they have flushed out proof of bad faith from their accusers.

The group, who call themselves Labour Activists for Justice (LA4J), say the new disclosure confirms their claim that leading Jewish organisations intentionally politicised the meaning of antisemitism to entrap left-wing critics of Israel and undermine Labour’s former leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

As a result, the number of cases of antisemitism in Labour was inflated, falsely feeding the public impression that the political party under Corbyn had attracted Jew haters, say the Labour activists.

The suggestion that groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Labour Movement “weaponised” antisemitism against Corbyn is currently seen as grounds by Labour to suspend or expel members.

But according to LA4J, evidence revealed in their legal case has now vindicated that claim.

The activists note that Jewish groups that waged a campaign of attacks on Corbyn over an antisemitism code of conduct drafted by the party in 2018 are now “deafeningly silent” on discovering that Keir Starmer, Labour’s new leader, has been secretly using exactly the same code.

When it was first published, the Board of Deputies and other Jewish organisations erupted in outrage, alleging that the 16-point code was proof of “institutional antisemitism” in the Labour party – and even that Corbyn posed a threat to Jewish life in Britain.

But the admission by Starmer’s officials that they are using the same code of conduct to investigate members has gone entirely unremarked three years later.

That is despite a submission to the courts from Labour’s own lawyers that the code had been kept secret because its publication might prove “politically incendiary”.

LA4J points out that back in 2018 the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Labour Movement and other groups insisted that Corbyn replace the code with an alternative, controversial definition of antisemitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

According to the activists, the current silence of these Jewish groups, after Starmer’s officials have conceded that they are using Corbyn’s code rather than the IHRA definition, further indicates bad faith.

Despite public statements to the contrary, the organisations knew that the IHRA definition was unworkable for Labour’s disciplinary procedures back in 2018, LA4J say.

“If Labour believes that the code issued by Corbyn was ‘incendiary’, the question is where is the bushfire now, when Starmer’s team admit they are using the very same code,” Chris Wallis, a spokesman for LA4J, told Middle East Eye.

“One of the things this case suggests is that groups like the Board of Deputies hoped to weaponise antisemitism as a way to attack Corbyn.”

Disciplinary process ‘back to front’

The group’s legal action is due to reach the High Court in June. It will be the first wide-ranging legal examination of Labour’s disciplinary procedures relating to antisemitism. In October 2019, the High Court ruled that the suspension of then-Labour MP Chris Williamson for “bringing the party into disrepute” over antisemitism allegations was illegal, though the judge did not overturn a second suspension that ousted him from the party.

Eight party members, including three Jews, are pursuing the case after they were investigated for alleged antisemitism. LA4J estimates that at least 30 Jewish members of the party have been accused of antisemitism, some repeatedly.

Late last year the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the UK’s equalities watchdog, issued a report critical of Labour’s handling of antisemitism cases, especially over what it termed “political interference” by Corbyn’s office, which it said had resulted in “a lack of transparency and consistency in the complaints process”.

However, the EHRC found that in practice such interference chiefly harmed the interests of those accused of antisemitism rather than their accusers. Corbyn’s officials often tried to speed up investigations in the hope of ending the barrage of criticism from Jewish organisations.

LA4J argue that hundreds of members have been drummed out of the party in a process that has lacked the transparency and fairness demanded by the EHRC. The procedure, they say, has failed to provide those under investigation with an opportunity to challenge the allegations.

Most members receive a “notice of investigation” that typically cites social media posts as evidence of antisemitism. In some cases, members have been accused of sharing articles from prominent websites, such as Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss, known to be harshly critical of Israel for its repeated violations of Palestinian rights.

No explanation is made in the notice of why party officials believe the posts to be antisemitic. Instead, it is required of those under investigation to demonstrate why their posts should not be considered antisemitic.

The notices also demand that members under investigation not publicise their case or the information that is being used against them. It is unclear whether they are even allowed to seek legal advice. Instead, they are encouraged to get help from a GP or the Samaritans to aid their “wellbeing”.

Wallis, a former BBC radio drama producer who has been under investigation since last year, is one of the eight members taking the party to court.

“The disciplinary process has been entirely back to front,” he said. “We were never told about the secret code being used to judge our cases and it was never explained how what we did was antisemitic. The assumption was that we were guilty unless we could prove otherwise, and we were expected to incriminate ourselves.”

‘Sickness’ in Labour

At a preliminary hearing in February, the Labour Party argued that the courts had no place adjudicating on its handling of antisemitism cases. However, the judge approved the High Court hearing for June and awarded costs against Labour.

In what appears to be an attempt to avoid a second adverse ruling, Labour officials made the disciplinary process more transparent last month by divulging how it assessed antisemitism cases.

Starmer’s officials published on the party’s website the same antisemitism code of conduct that had been drafted during Corbyn’s time as leader. They did so despite a submission from one of Labour’s senior lawyers during February’s court hearing that such an admission could prove “politically incendiary”.

That was because a wide range of Jewish leadership groups rounded on Corbyn and Labour over the code when it was first published in July 2018.

Dave Rich, head of policy at the Community Security Trust, set up to protect Jewish communities from antisemitic attacks, lambasted Corbyn in an article in the Guardian headlined “Labour’s antisemitism code exposes a sickness in Jeremy Corbyn’s party”.

A blog on the Trust’s website added that the code “brazenly contravenes basic anti-racist principles”.

The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, both claiming to represent Britain’s Jewish community, stated that the adoption by Corbyn’s officials of the code would “further erode the existing lack of confidence that British Jews have in their sincerity to tackle antisemitism within the Labour movement”.

The Jewish Labour Movement, a Labour party affiliate connected to the Israeli Labor party, argued that the code was “a get out of jail free card” for antisemites, and claimed it breached equalities legislation.

Ephraim Mirvis, the UK’s chief rabbi, called the code “a watershed moment” for Labour and warned that it sent “an unprecedented message of contempt to the Jewish community”.

Dozens of rabbis backed him, accusing the Labour leadership of having “chosen to ignore the Jewish community”.

And the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a pro-Israel lobby group, argued that “the code seems to be designed to give free rein to certain forms of antisemitic discourse”.

‘It was about who was in charge’

But despite the outpouring of concern back in 2018, note LA4J, Jewish organisations have remained silent since Labour revealed that the same antisemitism code of conduct introduced under Corbyn is being used by Starmer’s officials in disciplinary cases.

“This was never about what was going on inside Labour, as was claimed,” said Wallis. “It was about who was in charge. The aim was to remove Corbyn at all costs.”

Labour’s stated goal in drafting the code in 2018 was to assist with ironing out problems in the IHRA definition, which was being aggressively lobbied for by leading Jewish groups.

In particular, Corbyn’s code provided additional context to help judge aspects of the IHRA’s 11 potential examples of antisemitism, seven of which relate to Israel.

The code warns that the IHRA text “is not a legal definition, and on its own does not provide clear guidance about the circumstances in which particular conduct should or should not be regarded as antisemitic”.

The Labour antisemitism code also emphasises a need for “respectful debate” between party members when talking about contentious political matters around Israel and warns that the party “will not tolerate name-calling and abuse”.

The concern among Corbyn’s team was that the definition would shift the focus of antisemitism away from hatred of Jews to criticism of Israel, and expose activists supportive of Palestinian rights to investigation.

The imprecision of the IHRA definition, and its politicisation of antisemitism, had already been widely criticised, including by a former Court of Appeal judge and the British parliament’s home affairs select committee.

Kenneth Stern, the chief architect of the IHRA definition, had also weighed in to note that it was unsuitable for use in disciplinary procedures and was being “weaponised” by elements of the Jewish community to stifle criticism of Israel.

Jewish organisations, on the other hand, argued that Corbyn was using the Labour code to avoid adopting the IHRA definition in full with all its examples, and implied that his motivation was to make Labour hostile to British Jews.

Facing the backlash, and concerted criticism in the media, Corbyn’s officials appeared to discard the code and instead adopted the IHRA definition in full a few weeks later, in September 2018.

Definition ‘not fit for purpose’

It is unclear whether Corbyn’s officials ever used the 2018 code to adjudicate in disciplinary cases. But LA4J say its adoption by Starmer’s officials – and their efforts to hide the fact that they were using the code – confirm that the IHRA’s definition was indeed unworkable.

Jenny Manson, a co-chair of Jewish Voice for Labour, which was set up in 2017 to show support for Corbyn among Jewish party members and is now supporting LA4J, said that the weaknesses of the IHRA definition must have been clear to organisations like the Jewish Labour Movement and Board of Deputies.

“Their current silence shows that they must have known the IHRA definition wasn’t fit for purpose as it was,” she said. “The additional code of conduct was needed. They opposed it in 2018, it seems clear, only because they were looking to damage Jeremy [Corbyn].”

Although LA4J argue that the code is fairer than the IHRA definition, they also say it has been widely misused against members as officials have sought to placate Jewish groups accusing Labour of being institutionally antisemitic.

Diana Neslen, an 82-year-old Orthodox Jew who has been investigated for antisemitism and sanctioned by the party, said: “Even a quick look at [the code] suggests that all of us have been wrongfully accused. Indeed, we should never have been investigated in the first place.”

LA4J hopes that, with the code no longer secret, Labour members will have a better chance to challenge current and future investigations conducted against them by party officials.

Neslen warned, however, that existing injustices needed to be addressed too: “What are they going to do about the hundreds of people already judged under the secret code, including me?”

She and LA4J have called for those suspended or expelled to have their cases reopened and the evidence reassessed in a transparent manner.

The Board of Deputies, the Jewish Labour Movement, the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Leadership Council were all approached by Middle East Eye for comment. None had responded by the time of publication.

According to LA4J, their court case highlights how little evidence there was for the claim that antisemitism within the Labour party had been an especial problem under Corbyn’s leadership.

Levels of antisemitism in Labour appear to be lower than in the wider British public, within which about five percent of people could “justifiably be described as antisemites”, according to research published by the Community Security Trust in 2017.

Corbyn’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, issued figures in April 2019 that showed disciplinary action had been taken against just 0.08 percent of Labour’s 540,000 members, even after the strict application of the antisemitism code and “political interference” by Corbyn’s officials in speeding up disciplinary proceedings.

During the latest legal proceedings, Labour has revealed equivalent figures for Starmer, relating to the period between May last year and last month. Although details about the investigations are not precise, in the worst-case scenario an even smaller percentage of Labour members were found to be antisemitic.

These figures, the LA4J argue, suggest that Labour has not had an “antisemitism problem” under either Corbyn or Starmer.

That impression is shared by most Labour members. According to a YouGov poll commissioned last month by the Jewish Chronicle newspaper, a significant majority – 70 percent – believe that Labour does not have a serious problem with antisemitism.

Most appear to agree with Corbyn’s reaction to the Equalities Commission report that the claims against Labour were “dramatically overstated for political reasons”. That statement led to Starmer expelling Corbyn from the Labour parliamentary party.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The post Labour disclosure “shows antisemitism was weaponised against Corbyn”, activists say first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Starmer isn’t “too cautious”: he is ruthlessly tearing Labour apart

The completion of Keir Starmer’s first year as Labour leader might have passed without note, had it not been the occasion for senior party figures to express mounting concern at Labour’s dismal performance in opposition to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government.

At a time when Labour ought to be landing regular punches on the ruling party over its gross incompetence in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, and cronyism in its awarding of multimillion-pound coronavirus-related contracts, Starmer has preferred to avoid confrontation. Critics have accused him of being “too cautious” and showing a “lack of direction”.

Dissatisfaction with Starmer among Labour voters has quadrupled over the past 10 months, from 10 percent last May to 39 percent in March. His approach does not even appear to be winning over the wider public: a recent poll on who would make a better prime minister gave incumbent Johnson a 12 percentage-point lead.

Increasingly anxious senior Labour MPs called late last month for a “big figure” to help Starmer set aside his supposed political diffidence and offer voters a clearer idea of “what Keir is for”.

That followed a move in February by Starmer’s team to reach out to Peter Mandelson, who helped Tony Blair rebrand the party as “New Labour” in the 1990s and move it sharply away from any association with
socialism.

‘Cynically’ evasive

But there is a twofold problem with this assessment of Starmer’s first year.

It assumes Labour’s dire polling is evidence that voters might warm to Starmer if they knew more about what he stands for. That conclusion seems unwarranted. A Labour internal review leaked in February showed that the British public viewed Starmer’s party as “deliberate and cynical” in its evasiveness on policy matters.

In other words, British voters’ aversion to Starmer is not that he is “too cautious” or lacklustre. Rather, they suspect that Starmer and his team are politically not being honest. Either he is covering up the fact that Labour under his leadership is an ideological empty vessel, or his party has clear policies but conceals them because it believes they would be unpopular.

In response, and indeed underscoring the increasingly cynical approach from Starmer’s camp, the review proposed reinventing Labour as a patriotic, Tory-lite party, emphasising “the flag, veterans [and] dressing smartly”.

However, the deeper flaw in this assessment of Starmer’s first 12 months is that it assumes his caution in taking on the Tory government is evidence of some natural restraint or reticence on his part. This was the view promoted by a recent commentator in the Guardian, who observed: “‘Starmerism’ has not defined itself in any sense beyond sitting on the fence.”

But Starmer has proved to be remarkably unrestrained and intemperate when he chooses to be. If he is reticent, it appears to be only when it serves his larger political purposes.

All-out war

If there is one consistent thread in his first year, it has been a determined purging from the party of any trace of the leftwing politics of his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, as well as a concerted effort to drive out many tens of thousands of new members who joined because of Corbynism.

The paradox is that when Starmer stood in the leadership election last spring, he promised to unify a party deeply divided between a largely leftwing membership committed to Corbyn’s programme, on the one hand, and a largely rightwing parliamentary faction and party bureaucracy, on the other.

As an internal review leaked last April revealed, party officials were determined to destroy Corbyn even while he was leader, using highly undemocratic means.

Even if Starmer had chosen to be cautious or diffident, there looked to be no realistic way to square that circle. But far from sitting on the fence, he has been busy waging an all-out war on one side only: those sympathetic to Corbyn. And that campaign has involved smashing apart the party’s already fragile democratic procedures.

The prelude was the sacking last June of Rebecca Long-Bailey as shadow education secretary – and the most visible ally of Corbyn in Starmer’s shadow cabinet – on the flimsiest of pretexts. She had retweeted an article in the Independent newspaper that included a brief mention of Israel’s involvement in training western police forces in brutal restraint techniques.

Real target

A few months later, Starmer got his chance to go after his real target, when the Equalities and Human Rights Commission published its highly flawed report into the claims of an antisemitism problem in Labour under Corbyn’s leadership.

This provided the grounds Starmer needed to take the unprecedented step of excluding Corbyn from the parliamentary party he had been leader of only months earlier. It was a remarkably provocative and incautious move that infuriated large sections of the membership, some of whom abandoned the party as a result.

Having dispatched Corbyn and issued a stark ultimatum to any MP who might still harbour sympathies for the former leader, Starmer turned his attention to the party membership. David Evans, his new general secretary and a retread from the Blair years, issued directives banning constituency parties from protesting Corbyn’s exclusion or advocating for Corbynism.

Corbyn was overnight turned into a political “unperson”, in an echo of the authoritarian purges of the Soviet-era Communist party. No mention was to be made of him or his policies, on pain of suspension from the party.

Even this did not suffice. To help bolster the hostile environment towards left wing members, Starmer made Labour hostage to special interest groups that had openly waged war – from inside and outside the party – against his predecessor.

During the leadership campaign, Starmer signed on to a “10 Pledges” document from the deeply conservative and pro-Israel Board of Deputies of British Jews. The board was one of the cheerleaders for the evidence-free antisemitism allegations that had beset Labour during Corbyn’s time as leader – even though all metrics suggested the party had less of an antisemitism problem than the Conservatives, and less of a problem under Corbyn than previous leaders.

Alienating the left

The Pledges required Starmer to effectively hand over control to the Board of Deputies and another pro-Israel group, the Jewish Labour Movement, on what kind of criticisms Labour members were allowed to make of Israel.

Opposition to a century of British-sponsored oppression of the Palestinian people had long been a rallying point for the UK’s left, as opposition to the treatment of black South Africans under the apartheid regime once was. Israel’s centrality to continuing western colonialism in the Middle East and its key role in a global military-industrial complex made it a natural target for leftwing activism.

But according to the Pledges – in a barely concealed effort to hound, alienate and silence the party’s left – it was for pro-Israel lobby groups to decide who should be be declared an antisemite, while “fringe” Jewish groups, or those supportive of Corbyn and critical of Israel, should be ignored.

Starmer readily agreed both to adopt the board’s conflation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism, and to disregard prominent Jews within his own party opposed to pro-Israel lobbying. His office was soon picking off prominent Jewish supporters of Corbyn, including leaders of Jewish Voice for Labour.

One of the most troubling cases was Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, who was suspended shortly after she appeared in a moving video in which she explained how antisemitism had been weaponised by the pro-Israel lobby against left wing Jews like herself.

She noted the pain caused when Jews were smeared as “traitors” and “kapos” – an incendiary term of abuse, as Wimborne-Idrissi pointed out, that refers to “a Jewish inmate of a concentration camp who collaborated with the [Nazi] authorities, people who collaborated in the annihilation of their own people”.

In suspending her, Starmer’s Labour effectively endorsed that type of ugly demonisation campaign.

Israeli spy recruited

But the war on the Labour left did not end there. In his first days as leader, Starmer was reluctantly forced to set up an inquiry into the leaked internal report that had exposed the party bureaucracy as profoundly hostile to Corbyn personally, and more generally to his socialist policies. Senior staff had even been shown trying to sabotage Labour’s 2017 general election campaign.

But once the Forde Inquiry had been appointed, Starmer worked strenuously to kick it into the long grass, even bringing back into the party Emilie Oldknow, a central figure in the Corbyn-era bureaucracy who had been cast in a damning light by the leaked report’s revelations.

A separate chance to lay bare what had happened inside Labour head office during Corbyn’s term was similarly spurned by Starmer. He decided not to  defend a defamation case against Labour brought by John Ware, a BBC reporter, and seven former staff in Labour’s disciplinary unit. They had worked together on a Panorama special on the antisemitism claims against Corbyn that did much to damage him in the public eye.

These former officials had sued the party, arguing that Labour’s response to the BBC programme suggested they had acted in bad faith and sought to undermine Corbyn.

In fact, a similar conclusion had been reached in the damning internal leaked report on the behaviour of head office staff. It quoted extensively from emails and WhatsApp chats that showed a deep-seated antipathy to Corbyn in the party bureaucracy.

Nonetheless, Starmer’s office abandoned its legal defence last July, apologising “unreservedly” to the former staff members and paying “substantial damages”. Labour did so despite “clear advice” from lawyers, a former senior official said, that it would have won in court.

When Martin Forde, chair of the Forde inquiry, announced in February that his report had been delayed “indefinitely”, it seemed that the truth about the efforts of Labour staff to undermine Corbyn as leader were being permanently buried.

The final straw for many on the party’s left, however, was the revelation in January that Starmer had recruited to his team a former Israeli military spy, Assaf Kaplan, to monitor the use of social media by members.

Much of the supposed “antisemitism problem” under Corbyn had depended on the Israel lobby’s efforts to scour through old social media posts of left wing members, looking for criticism of Israel and then presenting it as evidence of antisemitism. As leader, Corbyn was pushed by these same lobby groups to adopt a new, highly controversial definition of antisemitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. It shifted attention away from hatred of Jews to criticism of Israel.

A former Israeli spy trained in the dark arts of surveilling Palestinians would be overseeing the monitoring of party members’ online activity.

Tory party of old

Far from sitting on the fence, as his critics claim, Starmer has been ruthless in purging socialism from the Labour party – under cover of claims that he is rooting out an “antisemitism problem” he supposedly inherited from Corbyn.

In a speech last month, Mandelson – the former Blair strategist who Starmer’s team has been consulting – called on the Labour leader to show “courage and determination” in tackling the supposedly “corrupt far left”. He suggested “large numbers” of members would still need to be expunged from the party in the supposed fight against antisemitism.

Starmer is investing huge energy and political capital in ridding the party of its leftwing members, while exhibiting little appetite for taking on Johnson’s right wing government.

These are not necessarily separate projects. There is a discernible theme here. Starmer is recrafting Labour not as a real opposition to the Conservative party’s increasingly extreme, crony capitalism, but as a responsible, more moderate alternative to it. He is offering voters a Labour party that feels more like the Tory party of old, which prioritised tradition, patriotism and family values.

None of this should surprise. Despite his campaign claims, Starmer’s history – predating his rapid rise through the Labour party – never suggested he was likely to clash with the establishment. After all, few public servants have been knighted by the Queen at the relatively tender age of 51 for their radicalism.

In safe hands

While head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Starmer rejected indicting the police officers who killed Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson, and his department effectively cleared MI5 and MI6 officers of torture related to the “War on Terror”.

His team not only sought to fast-track the extradition to Sweden of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who exposed western war crimes, but it also put strong pressure on its Swedish counterpart not to waver in pursuing Assange. One lawyer told the Swedes in 2012: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!”

Starmer’s actions since becoming Labour leader are very much in line with his earlier career. He wants to prove he is a safe pair of hands to the British establishment, in hopes that he can avert the kind of relentless vilification Corbyn endured. Then, Starmer can bide his time until the British public tires of Johnson.

Starmer seems to believe that playing softball with the right wing government and hardball with the left in his own party will prove a winning formula. So far, voters beg to differ.

• First published in Middle East Eye

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Broadbent Institute Head smears Ashton, Robinson and Internationalism

Broadbent Institute head Rick Smith should just be frank and say he hates Palestinians and doesn’t care about internationalism.

On Tuesday Smith tweeted that it was disturbing that NDP MP Niki Ashton was doing an upcoming fundraiser for the Progressive International with former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. In response to former NDP MP Svend Robinson tweeting, “I look forward to joining this great event with Niki and Jeremy Corbyn and supporting Progressive International”, Smith wrote “this is very unfortunate. In a recent report, the UK’s independent Equality and Human Rights Commission found serial ‘unlawful acts’ of antisemitism in UK Labour under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”

After a wave of criticism Smith doubled down. He tweeted that the Conservative party aligned UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission “report is lengthy, detailed, and makes for sobering and distressing reading. This is not the sort of person that should headline a progressive fundraiser or occupy the time of Canadian progressive leaders.”

In case some readers are confused by what this battle over Corbyn is about, it boils down to hardcore Israeli nationalists attempting to impose their views on what constitutes anti-Semitism and internationalism on both the British Labour Party and NDP. Essentially the anti-Corbynites demand that criticism of Israel be defined as anti-Jewish and that foreign policy in Canada and the UK be non-partisan which, in practice, means accepting the status quo.

In other words, despite its supposed “progressive” credentials, the Broadbent Institute is attempting to keep the NDP from moving to a more “internationalist” position in foreign policy. And this has been happening for some time.

At the 2018 NDP convention multiple Broadbent Institute players supported the party establishment’s move to suppress debate on the “Palestine Resolution: renewing the NDP’s commitment to peace and justice”. At an early morning session prior to the main plenary Smith voted against allowing the full convention to debate the Palestine Resolution, which was endorsed by more than two dozen riding associations before the federal convention. The motion mostly restated official Canadian policy, except that it called for “banning settlement products from Canadian markets, and using other forms of diplomatic and economic pressure to end the occupation.”

The Broadbent Institute’s namesake was anti-Palestinian. In 1975 Ed Broadbent called the Palestinian Liberation Organization “terrorists and murderers whose aim is the destruction of the state of Israel”. During his time as leader of the NDP Broadbent called on the federal government to intervene to block Canadian companies from adhering to Arab countries’ boycott of Israel, which was designed to pressure that country to return land captured in the 1967 war.

Broadbent reversed the party memberships’ 1969 call for Ottawa to withdraw from NATO. After leaving party politics he headed the Canadian government’s equivalent to the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy, Rights and Democracy, for seven years.

Smith’s double standard on who is acceptable to speak at a progressive form is stark. In 2014 the Broadbent Institute’s headline speaker was Julia Gillard. The former Australian prime minister was viciously anti-Palestinian. In 2012, for instance, most of Gillard’s cabinet revolted against her plan to deny Palestine observer status in the UN. Australia ultimately abstained on a resolution backed by most of the world.

In 2014 the Broadbent Institute organized an event with Conservative Senator Hugh Segal.

Former Chief of Staff to Conservative Ontario Premier Bill Davis and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Segal was at the time chair of the NATO Association of Canada and a member of SNC Lavalin’s board. The event was sponsored by Loblaws and General Electric Canada.

In 2016 Gloria Steinem spoke to the Broadbent Institute. Steinem was funded by the CIA in her early years and in her 2015 book she wrote, “in my experience The Agency [CIA] was completely different from its image; it was liberal, nonviolent and honorable.”

In 2019 Michael Coren spoke at the Broadbent Institute’s annual forum. From 2011 until the channel’s demise in 2015 Coren hosted an evening talk show on the hard-right Sun News Network, which spawned Ezra Levant’s Rebel News. Coren opposed same-sex marriages. During Israel’s destruction of Gaza in 2014 Coren wrote an Edmonton Sun column noting, “I hate the way the Marxists and their friends who supported Israel in the 50s and 60s now call Israelis Nazis. I hate the way Islamic fanatics pretend to care about the Palestinians when at the same time they slaughter their own people and use those same Palestinians as metaphorical and literal shields.”

The Broadbent Institute claims challenging Canadian foreign policy is outside its purview, which is in, and of, itself a massive concession to the status quo. But it’s far worse than that. Informally the organization’s staff have interceded to suppress a modest Palestine resolution and to undercut the Progressive International.

The Broadbent Institute sucks up significant resources from individuals and institutions with far more universalist values than Smith. These individuals should consider reorienting their money to Canadian Dimension, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Rabble, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Independent Jewish Voices or some of the many other groups plugging away for a better, fairer world.

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Former Israeli army spy recruited by Labour should feel right at home

The revelation this week that the British Labour Party recently appointed a former Israeli military spy to work in its headquarters, reporting to the office of leader Keir Starmer, is truly extraordinary in many different regards.

It is hard to believe the Labour leadership did not know who Assaf Kaplan was or appreciate the likely backlash to placing someone with his background in charge of the party’s social media work. That may explain the continuing reluctance from the Labour leadership to comment.

In his online CV, Kaplan had drawn attention to his years spent in the notorious Israeli military intelligence unit 8200, which has a long and ugly record of surveilling Palestinians.

One of the unit’s main tasks, highlighted by a group of whistleblowers in 2014 and widely publicised in the British media, is to gain damaging information to blackmail individual Palestinians. They are then threatened into collaborating with Israel’s military authorities against fellow Palestinians.

Unit 8200 is the lynchpin of Israel’s success in maintaining its 54-year occupation, by engineering a policy of divide-and-rule among Palestinians and foiling any efforts they make to liberate themselves from Israeli oppression.

Tone deaf

If Labour officials did not know the significance of Unit 8200, or how the invitation of a former Israeli “military intelligence officer” into Labour headquarters would look to swaths of party members, that in itself is an indictment.

A near-civil war has been raging for some time in Labour over the suspension and expulsion of party members whose social media accounts have been scoured for anti-Israel sentiment by pro-Israel groups. To now put a former Israeli officer trained by a cyberwarfare unit in charge of monitoring social media for Labour is, on the best interpretation, completely tone deaf.

It simply highlights how indifferent Labour under Starmer is to the sensitivities of many of its members – and, of course, Palestinians – in stark contrast to the party’s strenuous and divisive efforts to placate each and every demand from the pro-Israel lobby.

Meddling in politics

If Kaplan’s work in Unit 8200 did not raise a red flag, other details lurking in his social media accounts should have rung alarm bells. Not only was he once an operative for Israel’s military spying machine, but he was also an online “friend” of the disgraced Shai Masot, a far more prominent Israeli spy.

Four years ago, an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera exposed Masot, who worked at the time in the Israeli embassy in London, interfering at the highest levels of British politics. Masot was filmed in clandestine talks with Conservative Party staff about how to “take down” a British foreign minister, Alan Duncan, who was seen by Israel as too sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

More damagingly for Starmer, Masot was also exposed working closely with pro-Israel activists inside the Labour Party to bring down his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. That included efforts by Masot to set up “youth movements” intended to operate as a front for the Israeli government.

Transcripts from sections of undercover filming not aired by Al Jazeera reportedly show the then director of the Jewish Labour Movement, Ella Rose, who had previously worked at the Israeli embassy, speaking of the JLM’s close relations with Masot.

The goal of these Israeli-organised groups was to undermine Corbyn from within, because of his public role in the Palestinian solidarity movement and his trenchant criticisms of Israel.

Dirty tricks

After the four-part investigation was aired, Israel had to carry out a damage-limitation operation, quickly returning Masot to Israel and portraying him – unconvincingly – as a rogue operator.

In fact, Masot’s work was entirely in line with the remit of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry to use dirty tricks to sabotage prominent individuals and movements abroad that criticise Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

A few months before Masot’s exposure, the Israeli media had reported a feud at the embassy in London. The Israeli foreign ministry had complained that the strategic affairs ministry was carrying out potentially illegal activities in the UK and jeopardising the diplomatic mission.

So why, before he took up his new UK post, was Kaplan moving in the same social or professional circles in Israel as the disgraced Masot? In a sign of just how embarrassing this information is for the Labour Party, Kaplan appears to have hurriedly erased his military intelligence past after it was exposed by the Electronic Intifada website.

The decision to appoint Kaplan is all the more remarkable given that Starmer has been extolling his efforts to move past the legacy of his predecessor, Corbyn. For five years, Labour was mired in endless controversy around Israel, Zionism and Jews.

Corbyn had to endure relentless, evidence-free claims from pro-Israel lobby groups, echoed by the mainstream media, that Labour had become institutionally antisemitic on his watch. These smears were chiefly designed to stop Corbyn from winning power.

Rope to hang Corbyn

Starmer’s own campaign to win the leadership included a pledge that he was a Zionist supporter of Israel “without qualification” and a commitment to those same lobby groups that they would get to oversee, and even dictate, Labour policy on Israel-related matters.

It emerged after his election that Starmer had accepted – and concealed – a large, £50,000 ($68,000) donation to his campaign from Trevor Chinn, a member of a leading Israel lobby group, Bicom. The organisation was founded by Poju Zabludowicz, whose Israeli father made his wealth from the arms trade.

In the past, Chinn has donated to several Labour MPs who worked to undermine Corbyn: Joan Ryan, a former chair of Labour Friends of Israel; Tom Watson, who served as Corbyn’s highly antagonistic deputy; and Owen Smith, who led an early challenge to unseat Corbyn as leader.

Starmer’s campaign to distance the party from Corbyn reached its climax in October, when the UK government’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission issued a report after its investigation into Labour antisemitism claims. The report quietly exonerated Labour of any charge of institutional antisemitism, but the watchdog’s inconsistent findings offered Starmer and the UK media just enough rope to hang Corbyn.

Starmer incensed much of the membership by taking the unprecedented step, in the wake of the report, of stripping Corbyn of his place in the parliamentary Labour Party, forcing him to sit as an independent.

Deliberate provocation

It is hard not to view Kaplan’s appointment as either an astounding and entirely unnecessary self-inflicted wound, or as a deliberate provocation. Most of Starmer’s critics will regard it squarely as the latter.

It fits too neatly with Starmer’s behaviour since he was elected leader last April. Since then, he has been working overtime to cosy up to pro-Israel lobby groups that were not only deeply opposed to Corbyn, but actively worked to oust him.

In addition to expelling Corbyn as a Labour MP, Starmer has purged the party of members critical of Israel, including Jewish members, and silenced by diktat all support for Corbyn in constituency parties.

Why, after what amounts to a mini-reign of terror within Labour to get matters related to Israel off the party’s radar – and out of media headlines – would Starmer now plunge Labour into a new potential row about Israel?

Gagging orders

The answer is that the recruitment of a former Israeli spy into the inner sanctums of Labour headquarters will ultimately prove a minor and temporary controversy for him.

It will antagonise only the swath of members who supported Corbyn, for whom he has shown utter contempt and who have been battered into silence by what are effectively gagging orders from his new general secretary, David Evans.

It will not likely cause controversy with the Jewish Labour Movement, which was reportedly revived by political allies of Israel as a weapon against Corbyn” in 2015. Rather, they will be further enthused by Starmer.

It will raise barely a flicker of interest from most Labour MPs, who were desperate for Corbyn to be gone, and many of whom belong to another pro-Israel lobby, Labour Friends of Israel.

And it will be largely ignored by the British mainstream media, which has been giving the establishment-friendly Starmer a far easier ride than they ever gave Corbyn.

Ugly Labour politics

If anyone doubts this, just recall the hasty hushing up by the media of, and indifference of most Labour MPs towards, Al Jazeera’s expose four years ago.

After brief indignation over Masot’s efforts to oust Duncan, the documentary series was quickly forgotten by the media. It was certainly not brought back into the spotlight in relation to the campaign of antisemitism smears against Corbyn, despite its very obvious and pressing relevance.

The Masot affair, as well as this new one, reveal something very ugly about Labour – and British – politics.

Corbyn was widely criticised, mostly over activities that predated his becoming leader, for bringing the issue of Israel onto Labour’s agenda. His opponents argued that his foreign policy concerns overshadowed Labour’s more important domestic agenda. Could he not just forget about Israel?

Anti-Palestinian stance

But the decision of Starmer’s Labour to now invite a former Israeli spy into party headquarters – after a previous one, Masot, failed to gain a foothold – shows that the problem was never about getting Israel out of Labour politics. It was about getting the issue of Palestinian suffering, one of the most enduring legacies of British imperialism, out of Labour politics.

The antisemitism controversy was never really about supposed anti-Jewish racism from Corbyn’s supporters. It was about fighting anti-Zionists in the Labour Party, and in so doing, making support for the Palestinian cause harder to express – which has indeed been the result.

The current party leadership wants any discussion of the Palestinian issue, and Britain’s continuing colonial role, cleansed from the party.

Skewed values

In Kaplan’s job description, under a category titled “values/behaviours”, it says that applicants must show a “commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion” and “to the Labour Party’s goals, values, policies and codes of conduct”.

What Starmer has made clear is that Labour’s values give no weight at all to the injustices still being suffered by Palestinians because of Britain’s historic meddling in the Middle East.

Labour has also demonstrated that it has no commitment to “equality, diversity and inclusion” when it comes to Palestinian and Jewish members critical of Israel. Indifferent to the optics, Starmer’s Labour sacked its only senior Palestinian party official this month, reportedly over his support for Corbyn.

Imagine the outcry if Labour had sacked its only senior Jewish official. Rather, Labour’s vision of “equality, diversity and inclusion” springs from the same ideological worldview as its sister party in Israel – an Israeli Labor party that decades ago established a single political framework governing the lives of Israelis and Palestinians that B’Tselem, Israel’s leading human rights group, described this week as “apartheid”.

In the racist context of British politics, including Labour politics, there is no cost to screwing over Palestinians time and again. This is why Starmer will happily ride out the short-lived controversy – one restricted to ordinary party members – over appointing a former Israeli spy to his party headquarters.

Lucrative laboratory

For Palestinians, this decision cannot but be deeply offensive. For many years, scholars have been noting how Israel has turned the occupied Palestinian territories into a giant and lucrative laboratory in which it battle-tests weapons and military equipment for export.

But equally importantly for Israel, it turns ordinary Palestinians into guinea pigs for experiments in how to surveil, control, divide and exploit them. Unit 8200, in which Kaplan worked for many years, is at the heart of that infrastructure of terror that keeps Palestinians afraid and oppressed.

Israeli academics, such as Jeff Halper, have pointed out that Israel parlays this expertise into political and diplomatic power. Other states are queueing up to mine the lessons learned by Israel from surveilling Palestinians so that they can use similar techniques on their own populations back home. The need for these military and intelligence skills – learned from oppressing Palestinians – is reflected in Israel’s wide diplomatic backing by other states.

Starmer’s Labour Party is showing it is no different. It will profit directly from the skills of one of the graduates of Unit 8200, benefiting from the lessons Kaplan learned in a military organisation that spies on and extorts Palestinians.

That should not sit well with anyone in a party that claims to be left-wing, anti-racist and progressive, and to care about social justice. And yet, there are unlikely to be any meaningful repercussions for either Kaplan or Starmer from this ugly alliance.

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