Monday, 22 October 2018

Model Resolution - Right Of Appeal On NCC Decisions

One of the most astonishing things about current Labour Party disciplinary procedures is that there is no right of appeal against NCC decisions, including suspension and expulsion. The Campaign for Labour Party Democracy recently adopted the following model resolution to address this issue.

This branch notes that at the NEC’s meeting on 18 September it was agreed to put to Conference a rule change that brought in a Charter of Members’ Rights and more than double the size of the NCC to speed up the handling of the backlog of disciplinary cases. But proposals for this long-overdue reform to the process did not include the right to appeal against NCC decisions. 

This omission harms Labour’s proud record of being Britain's party of social justice.

Shami Chakrabarti’s 2016 Labour report into antisemitism and other forms of racism recommended:

"In cases where the NCC has ordered that a member be subject to suspension (for up to two years) or expulsion from the Party, there should be a right to seek a review of the decision on procedural or proportionality grounds to the Legal Panel, three of whom (excluding any member with previous involvement in the case) will consider whether the NCC made any procedural errors or breached proportionality in its prior determination. If this is found to be the case, the Legal Panel will refer the matter back to the NCC for a fresh determination as the case requires. In this way, the ultimate decision remains that of the NCC, albeit that greater protection will be afforded if necessary - both to those subject to the most serious disciplinary sanctions and to the elected Party body who will have a final opportunity to address any deficiencies in its decision-making. - I recommend that the NCC make provision for this right of review in new procedural rules which I recommend are adopted."

We call on the NEC to formulate a change to the National Constitutional Committee’s procedures to include the Chakrabarti “right of review”.

FOR INFORMATION
Chakrabarti Right of Review  Recommendation

In cases where the NCC has ordered that a member be subject to suspension (for up to two years) or expulsion from the Party, there should be a right to seek a review of the decision on procedural or proportionality grounds to the Legal Panel, three of whom (excluding any member with previous involvement in the case) will consider whether the NCC made any procedural errors or breached proportionality in its prior determination. If this is found to be the case, the Legal Panel will refer the matter back to the NCC for a fresh determination as the case requires. In this way, the ultimate decision remains that of the NCC, albeit that greater protection will be afforded if necessary - both to those subject to the most serious disciplinary sanctions and to the elected Party body who will have a final opportunity to address any deficiencies in its decision-making. - I recommend that the NCC make provision for this right of review in new procedural rules which I recommend are adopted.

This is a link to Shami's report:

Model resolution on the Labour Party Code of Conduct on Anti-Semitism

Amended & composited resolution on the Labour Party Code of Conduct on Anti-Semitism
From Exeter North Labour Party Branch as proposed by Neil Todd
1. This CLP notes the following.
1.1 The Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, as originally drafted by U.S. attorney Kenneth S. Stern, was adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) on 26 May, 2016.
1.2 The shortcomings of the IHRA document have subsequently been the subject of multiple critical comments from Jewish scholars and commentators. This includes Kenneth Stern, who testified to US Congress on 7th November 2017 that his original definition had been used for an entirely different purpose to that for which it had been designed. According to Stern it had originally been designed as a “working definition” for the purpose of trying to standardise data collection about the incidence of anti-Semitic hate crime in different countries. It had never been intended that it be used as a legal or regulatory device to curb academic or political free speech.
1.3 The House of Commons Home Office Select Committee Report “Anti-Semitism in the UK” of 13 October 2016 proposed amendments to the IHRA document “to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine”.
1.4 “The Global Jewish Statement” was released to the media in July 2018 by 40 Jewish organisations in 15 countries opposed to the IHRA document for its negative impact on a clear understanding of anti-Semitism and its role in suppressing solidarity with the Palestinian people.
1.5 The MacPherson principle (derived from the 1999 MacPherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry) specifically does not give members of an ethnic or religious group the sole right to determine what is or is not racist conduct, i.e. a perception of racist behaviour is not sufficient to establish that such behaviour has actually occurred but must be supported with independent evidence of racist intent.
1.6 That the NEC Code of Conduct on Anti-Semitism agreed in July 2018:
  1. states emphatically “Labour is an anti-racist party. Anti-Semitism is racism. It is unacceptable in our Party and in wider society.”;
  2. fully incorporates the 38-word IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and clarifies the controversial aspects of guidance notes attached to it;
  3. emphasises the vital distinction between (i) anti-Semitism, properly understood as hostility or hatred directed at Jews and (ii) legitimate criticism of the state of Israel or the ideology of Zionism;
  4. confirms that opinion about Israel, Palestine and Zionism may be judged to be racist where there is evidence of anti-Semitic intent, consistent with the MacPherson recommendations;
  5. commits to protecting freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998, including contentious opinions about Israel and its policies, and about political strategies seeking to influence them.
1.7 The NEC at its meeting on 4th September agreed to adopt all 11 “examples” associated with the IHRA definition as additions to the July Code but the final Code is still being consulted on and Jeremy Corbyn's statement to the 4th September NEC is being considered as part of that consultation, including as part of the democracy review. The exact Party public announcement following the 4th September meeting was the following."The NEC has today adopted all of the IHRA examples of antisemitism, in addition to the IHRA definition which Labour adopted in 2016, alongside a statement which ensures this will not in any way undermine freedom of expression on Israel or the rights of Palestinians. The NEC welcomed Jeremy Corbyn's statement to the meeting about action against antisemitism, solidarity with the Jewish community and protection of Palestinian rights, as an important contribution to the consultation on Labour's code of conduct."
2. This CLP believes that:
2.1 the July NEC Code gives clearer and stronger guidance than previous codes and definitions on what anti-Semitism is and what it is not; and
2.2 portraying British Jews as one monolithic bloc all determined to police what may or may not be said about Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians is dangerous and wrong, and such a portrayal is anti-Semitic.
3. This CLP, therefore, calls on the NEC to:
3.1 work with Jeremy Corbyn in order to ensure that his 4th September statement, or similar, is incorporated into the Code of Conduct in order to ensure that the inclusion of the additional IHRA examples does not impair the July Code protections on freedom of expression, including contentious opinions about Israel, its policies, and about political strategies seeking to influence them;
3.2 include a broad range of Jewish opinion in any further consultations; and
3.3 mobilise to fight the alarming rise of racism of all kinds in the UK and abroad.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Antisemitic Misconduct: What It Is – And What It Is Not

Crystal clear analysis from JVL and FSOI...

This document has been prepared by Jewish Voice for Labour and Free Speech on Israel as a contribution to the Labour Party’s consultation on its Code of Conduct on Antisemitism but has a wider significance.

Antisemitic misconduct page one image

There has been extended controversy over the adoption by the Labour Party of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. It has been widely recognised that the wording of that definition is so loose that it requires extensive interpretation if it is to be even potentially helpful for disciplinary purposes.

Our submission is based on an understanding of the nature of antisemitism which we believe avoids the obscurities and ambiguities of the IHRA working definition:

Antisemitism is a form of racism. It consists in prejudice, hostility or hatred towards Jews as Jews. It may take the form of denial of rights; direct, indirect or institutional discrimination; prejudiced-based behaviour; verbal or written statements; or violence. Such manifestations draw on stereotypes – characteristics which all Jews are presumed to share.

We believe that the following comments will be helpful to those drawing up Labour’s disciplinary code, and perhaps more widely.

Implications of taking this view of antisemitism

 

  1. Stereotypes

Racism commonly stereotypes groups as inferior in ways that enable discrimination against them. Such stereotypes function by scapegoating a targeted group, deflecting blame for society’s problems from their real causes. Antisemitic stereotyping has historically been used to dehumanise Jewish people, giving license to treat them in ways not otherwise acceptable. Use of such stereotypes is unarguably antisemitic conduct.
  1. Expressions of antisemitism

Certain words and phrases that refer to Jews in a derogatory way are unquestionably antisemitic. Terms which associate Jews with malevolent social forces clearly fall into this category. Extreme examples are the blood libel (that Jews kill Christian children to use their blood in religious ceremonies), and the claimed existence of a powerful but secret Jewish cabal that controls the world.

Seemingly neutral or positive terms can also be used in antisemitic ways. For example, assertions that Jews are unusually clever or especially ‘good with money’ make the unwarranted assumption that all Jews share similar characteristics. Commonly, there is a negative, antisemitic edge to such views.
  1. Terminology

Jews, Israelis and Zionists are separate categories that are too frequently conflated by both supporters and critics of Israel. This conflation can be antisemitic. Holding all Jews responsible for the actions of the Israeli government is antisemitic. Many Jews are not Zionist. The majority of Zionists are not Jewish but fundamentalist Christian Zionists. Over 20 percent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish.
  1. Political discourse

Free speech is legally protected. Within these legal limits political discourse can be robust and may cause offence. There is no right not to be offended. The fact that some people or groups are offended does not in itself mean that a statement is antisemitic or racist. A statement is only antisemitic if it shows prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews.

The terms ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zionist’ describe a political ideology and its adherents. They are key concepts in the discussion of Israel/Palestine. They are routinely used, approvingly, by supporters of Israel, but critically by campaigners for Palestinian rights, who identify Zionist ideology and the Zionist movement as responsible for Palestinian dispossession. Criticising Zionism or Israel as a state does not constitute criticising Jews as individuals or as a people and is not evidence of antisemitism.

There have been claims that any comparison between aspects of Israel and features of pre-war Nazi Germany is inherently antisemitic. Similar objections have been raised to likening Israel’s internal practices to those of apartheid South Africa. Drawing such parallels can undoubtedly cause offence; but potent historical events and experiences are always key reference points in political debate. Such comparisons are only antisemitic if they show prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews.
  1. Boycott, divestment and sanctions

A common focus for allegations of antisemitism is the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) targeted on Israel. The three elements of BDS are internationally recognized as legitimate and non-violent strategies for securing political change. So, advocating for BDS would only be antisemitic if accompanied by evidence that it is motivated not by this purpose but by racially-based hostility towards Jews.
  1. When Antisemitism Is Alleged

As with any allegations of racism, accusations of antisemitism must be taken seriously and investigated. But principles of natural justice and due process must be respected and applied: the person accused should be accorded the normal presumption of innocence until the case is resolved. Allegations do not constitute proof.

Antisemitic attitudes may be more or less intense.* Some people are deeply antisemitic, others less so. Yet others whom it would be unreasonable to class as antisemitic may nevertheless hold some attitudes, in dilute form, which will make some Jews uncomfortable. Following a finding of antisemitism there remains a decision to be made about whether discussion and education, rather than a formal disciplinary approach, is more appropriate.

Indirect discrimination could inadvertently occur, where actions have the effect of selectively disadvantaging Jewish people even though no hostile motive towards Jews is present.  Once a case of such discrimination comes to light, those responsible should take all reasonable steps possible to eliminate the problem.  Unwillingness to take such steps would be evidence of antisemitism.

The systematic murder of millions of Jews (and so many others) is exhaustively documented. It is therefore inconceivable that Holocaust denial or expressions of doubt over its scale could be motivated by genuine investigatory scepticism. The implication of antisemitic intent is, for practical purposes, inescapable.

* See Institute of Jewish Policy Research report Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain, 2017
  1. Overview

The understanding of antisemitism on which this analysis is based reaffirms the traditional meaning of the term. This is important in the light of attempts to extend its meaning to apply to criticisms often made of the state of Israel, or to non-violent campaigns such as BDS. A charge of antisemitism carries exceptional moral force because of the negative connotations rightly attaching to the term. It is illegitimate to make such claims to discredit or deter criticism, or to achieve sectional advantage. To do so is to devalue the term.

To be clear: conduct is antisemitic only if it manifests ‘prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews’.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Labour, Antisemitism & Palestine

Bristol rally, September 2018

I've been asked to make my speaker notes for the recent meeting in Bristol on Labour, Antisemitism & Palestine available - here they are. 

Part One – What Is Antisemitism?
  • Let's start by defining one of the terms we're talking about tonight – antisemitism. Because the debate around that word has been deliberately muddied in recent months.
  • Put simply, antisemitism is hostility and discrimination towards Jews as Jews. That can manifest itself directly, but also in the sharing of anti-Jewish memes, the sharing of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, and of course in Holocaust denial.
  • I believe that gives us a clear working definition.
  • But what about criticism of Israel or Zionism? Is that antisemitic?
  • Despite its pretensions, Israel does not “speak for all Jews”, nor do all Jews support Israel. Israel is a distinct national entity whose actions can and should be subject to the same critical scrutiny we apply to other sovereign states. So criticism of Israel is not inherently antisemitic.
  • Nor is it inherently antisemitic to oppose Zionism or to describe it as a form of racism. Zionism is a historic political movement which can and should be subject to the same critical scrutiny we apply to other political movements. Zionism was a minority current in the Jewish diaspora before WWII, and an increasing number of Jews today question its legitimacy. So anti-Zionism cannot and should not be conflated with antisemitism.

Part Two – Is Corbyn's Labour Antisemitic?
  • So what about Labour? Is Labour under Corbyn an antisemitic party?
  • We need to remind ourselves that Labour is now a mass party over half a million strong. That means that some members will have some backward ideas – reflecting broader society.
  • These may include antisemitism, Islamophobia, sexism, and so on.
  • But all available evidence suggests antisemitism is less of a problem for Labour than for other mainstream parties, and that reflects the subjective experience of all the other Jewish party members I've spoken to.
  • I've been part of the labour movement for 45 years, and – speaking as a Jewish socialist – I can honestly say that I've always found it a safe place to be. It's my home. I find the idea that it's riddled with antisemitism frankly absurd.
  • I'm not blasé about real antisemitism. My parents fled Eastern Europe because of the pogroms – half my family died in concentration camps – and, on a more prosaic level, I experienced antisemitism personally when I was growing up.
  • But as far as I'm concerned Labour simply does not have a specific, serious antisemitism problem.

Part Three – So What's Behind The Attacks?
  • So why are Labour and Jeremy being attacked as antisemites?
  • Antisemitism is an accusation that's easy to make but hard to refute.
  • Deployed against our Party, it's a “big lie” which, repeated often enough and loudly enough, has become accepted wisdom.
  • The antisemitism slander is a useful weapon today in the hands of two groups – the Blairites and the Israel lobby.
  • They've formed an alliance, firstly to prevent the election of a radical Labour government, and secondly to prevent the election of a PM who has some sympathy for the Palestinian cause.
  • This anti-Corbyn alliance has been given a free hand by the mainstream media, which has acted as a direct conduit for its propaganda.
  • Its attacks have also been supported by unelected, self-styled "Jewish community leaders" – people who have no clear democratic mandate and effectively represent no-one but themselves.
  • Their intervention has led in turn to genuine disquiet and confusion in sections of the Jewish community – and that disquiet has been used to ramp up the pressure on our Party.
  • The twin aims of forcing Jeremy out, and of silencing legitimate criticism of Israel, came a step closer with the NEC's adoption of the IHRA 'examples' on 4th September. In my opinion that decision was a serious tactical blunder.
  • So how should we respond to the attacks? Should we fight back, or should we make more concessions?

Part Four – Will Concessions Work?
  • If you think the Zionists will back down now they believe they've got our leadership on the run, you clearly don't understand the Zionist mind-set.
  • For the first 20 years of my life – before I visited Palestine and began to question my own received ideas – I was a committed Zionist. So I know how Zionists operate.
  • The more concessions you make, the more the Zionists will press home their advantage – our Palestinian brothers and sisters know this only too well.
  • Last week's attacks on Mark Serwotka continue the pattern of smearing anyone who dares to criticise Israel as an antisemite.
  • These attacks won't stop – the more we retreat, the harder the Israel lobby will push.
  • The same goes for the Blairites, who won't rest until Jeremy's been hounded out of the leadership.
  • So we won't stop the attacks by retreating – because only total capitulation will satisfy our political opponents.
  • Jeremy has been badly advised in this – by his inner circle and by the leadership of Momentum.
  • The only way we can possibly win is by fighting back.
  • How do we go about doing that?

Part Five – How Do We Fight Back?
  • First, we must return power to the grass roots of our Party by ensuring that Conference adopts a policy of mandatory reselection of all MPs by their constituency parties.
  • Second, we must continue to fight the witch hunt, we must continue to fight the suspensions and expulsions.
  • Third, we must continue to oppose all genuine antisemitism vigorously and consistently, asserting the principle of zero tolerance for all forms of racism wherever we find it.
  • Fourth, we must refute the false and dishonest equation of antisemitism with legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, of its war crimes and brutality.
  • Fifth, we must defend the right of our comrades to assert – correctly in my view – that Zionism is a form of racism and that Israel is a colonial settler state.
  • Finally we must intensify rather than water down our commitment to internationalist solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.
  • We will only win if we continue to fight – anything less would be a betrayal of our values, our history and our movement.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Palestinian Arab MPs Salute Corbyn

This important letter in support of Jeremy Corbyn from Palestinian Arab members of the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) deserves to shared and read as widely as possible.
 
As members of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, representing our fellow Palestinian Arab citizens of the state of Israel and Jewish supporters of peace and democracy, we are writing to express our solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party in the United Kingdom. Palestinian Arabs constitute about a fifth of Israel’s citizenry. As such, we have a deep understanding of the vulnerability that many minority communities feel, in the UK and around the world. We respect the vigilance with which minority groups monitor the actions and statements of their local leaders, to ensure that their rights are not infringed upon, and to defend their members from unwarranted attacks on the basis of their group identity.

Palestinian citizens of Israel have yet to experience a single day of equality, de jure or de facto – to say nothing of the millions of Palestinians under military occupation in the West Bank, under siege in the Gaza Strip, and the 6 million in exile abroad, prevented from returning to their homeland simply because they are not Jews. As part of the Palestinian people, this has been our lived experience of the Zionist movement since day one.

In the Knesset, in the streets, and on the world stage, we Palestinian parliamentarians have always argued that it is not possible for any ethno-state, Jewish or otherwise, to also be a state that guarantees equality to all its citizens; for the state of Israel to be both Jewish and democratic. Now Benjamin Netanyahu has proved that we were right all along, by passing the constitutional nation-state law, which explicitly raises the rights of Jewish people to paramount status, downgrades the Arabic language and eclipses any mention of equal rights, regardless of race or religion.

Emboldened by the rise of far-right forces in the US and other parts of the world, the Netanyahu government has made it abundantly clear that Palestinians will never have a state of their own, and that they will never be allowed equality inside Israel. Emboldened by Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalism, Israeli racists are stepping up their violent vigilante attacks on Palestinian people, putting the spirit of the nation-state law into practice.

Incredibly, instead of taking that government to task for its unadulterated racism, the British political class ignores the Palestinian historical plight, and attacks and abuses the British and European leader who vocally supports the Palestinian cause of peace and equality. With the Netanyahu government ramping up the racism, our struggle for survival is more precarious than ever. But while we focus locally, defending what’s left of our ever-diminishing rights, we feel that we must speak out now and register our repugnance at these recent attempts to complete our erasure, by forbidding within the UK Labour party any mention by name of the forces allied against the Palestinian cause.

As long as efforts to curb anti-Jewish sentiment in the UK are focused on combating the disparagement of Jews merely for their membership in a minority group, they have our full support. But when some try to force the Labour party into using as its litmus test a definition of antisemitism that goes far beyond anti-Jewish animus to include anti-Zionism, we must raise our voices and decry these efforts.

We commend Jeremy Corbyn for his decades of public service to the British people, and for his longstanding solidarity with all oppressed peoples around the world, including his unflinching support for the Palestinian people. We stand in solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn and we recognise him as a principled leftist leader who aspires for peace and justice and is opposed to all forms of racism, whether directed at Jews, Palestinians, or any other group.

Ahmad Tibi MP Deputy speaker of parliament, Joint List/Arab Movement for Change
Masud Ganaim MP Joint List/United Arab List
Yousef Jabareen MP Joint List/Democratic Front for Peace and Equality
Jamal Zahalka MP Joint List/National Democratic Assembly
On behalf of all 13 members of the Knesset who are part of the Joint List

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Zionists & Blairites Stoke Antisemitism


Tonight Labour's National Executive Committee will vote on adoption of the 'full' IHRA definition of antisemitism, i.e. the definition itself plus all the appended examples. If the proposal goes through - and it seems likely that it will - all legitimate criticism of Israeli state terror will be outlawed in the Party. Any Party member who dares to call Zionism a racist ideology, or who dares to point out that  Israel was founded on a policy of ethnic cleansing (nowadays pretty much the mainstream academic view), will be liable to suspension and expulsion.

Israel decided some time ago that the only way to halt the slide in grass-roots support for its appalling policies was to deliberately push the line that anti-Zionism equals antisemitism. The UK was a specific, key target in that operation.

Four factors have led to the success of Israel's intervention in the current Labour Party struggle.

Firstly, the Israel lobby has found a willing ally in the Blairite wing of the Party, who are prepared to use any smear that weakens the Corbyn leadership. They are not interested in the wider consequences. They are 100% focused on forcing Jeremy and his circle out of office.

Secondly, the self-appointed 'leadership' of the Jewish community - the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, a handful of religious leaders and a second-rate actress - have been prepared to lauch a rolling series of dishonest and increasingly risible attacks on the Party. In reality, the vast majority of Jews know full well that there is a world of difference between Hitler's Germany and Britain in 2018 - but our 'leaders' are willing to gloss over that in order to promote their pro-Israel agenda.

Thirdly, the mainstream media - particularly 'liberal' outlets like Channel 4 News and the Guardian - have conducted a campaign that is staggering in its consistently dishonest reporting and in its underlying cynicism. We should also give an honourable mention here to the BBC, which has managed to outdo itself in peddling disingenuous twaddle around the issue twenty-four hours a day.

Fourthly, and perhaps crucially, our own side has adopted a strategy of retreat and appeasement that has enabled the Zionists to find themselves standing today on the brink of outright victory. Jeremy's response has been feeble, while Momentum has played a consistently equivocal role in the debate on antisemitism. Jon Lansman must surely bear the brunt of the responsibility for that, muddying the waters over the distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, and refusing to call out the spurious nature of the accusations.

Outside of the Westminster bubble and the Looking Glass World of the mainstream media, the effects of the debate have been equally poisonous but rather different from what the 'liberal' establishment might have expected.

Labour does not appear to have been impacted negatively in the opinion polls. There is a growing impatience and frustration amongst ordinarily people, both inside and outside the Party, with the constant claims of antisemitism and the outrageously florid language in which they're couched.

People's real concern is with real issues - the NHS, pensions, benefits, workplace rights, housing etc - not with the faux outrage of Jewish community 'leaders' or Guardian editorial writers.

And in a country where Black and Asian people face institutional racism, and where Muslims face daily violence on the streets, the endless focus on antisemitism is an insult to the lived experience of other minority communities.

Antisemitism was very much a discredited fringe position before the current crisis blew up, outside of the hothouse world of internet conspiracy theories. But there is anecdotal evidence that the constant barrage of anti-Corbyn propaganda, combined with the ridiculous tirades of the Jewish community's so-called 'leaders', is beginning to change all that. Add in the fact that Israel, which loudly claims to 'speak for all Jews' - a lie echoed by those self-same 'community leaders' - while it brutally suppresses Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, and one can see why people's patience is wearing thin.

There is every risk that in the wake of current events antisemitism will gain a new respectability. I doubt many of the current movers and shakers behind the anti-Corbyn campaign will care about that. Indeed, it will reinforce the position of Israel and the Zionists, whose very raison d'etre is  that Jews will never be safe outside of the 'Land of Israel'. As for the Blairites, the demise of the Corbyn leadership is worth any cost - and for all their bleating about antisemitism most of them really couldn't give a damn about what happens to this country's Jewish community.

It is ironic that the Zionists and the Blairites have done more to promote antisemitism in the UK than the far right have managed in fifty years of propaganda and agitation. If the IHRA definition and examples are adopted in full tonight, the situation can only get worse.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Zionists Threaten Free Speech In Our Party

The continuing weaponisation of the antisemitism issue has begun to take on ludicrous proportions. In the latest incident, which has happened in my own constituency, a local councillor has been accused of racism for tweeting a comment about the "Israeli state lobby" - despite the care she took with the wording of her tweet. She was, predictably, treated to a torrent of abuse as a result.

We are fast reaching the point where any comment that could be construed as critical of Israel, or as supportive of the desperate Palestinian struggle for basic human rights, is liable to be portrayed as a "racist incident", with all that that implies - including disciplinary proceedings. 

The Orwellian situation produced by the artificially manufactured "antisemitism crisis" in our Party now threatens free speech on Israel/Palestine in a way that would have been unthinkable just a year ago. The meaning of key words - racism, antisemitism - has been changed to suit the foreign policy interests of a vile apartheid state. 

That state's use of language is equally Orwellian. Their siege of Gaza is "peace-keeping". Their policy of aggressive expansion and creeping ethnic cleansing is "defense". Their repeated use of state terror against captive populations is "anti-terrorism". And their creation of a bully-boy regional superpower, backed to the hilt by the US and NATO, is hidden under the rhetoric of "plucky little Israel".

So it should come as no surprise that the techniques of Newspeak used so effectively by Israel are now being deployed by Israel's supporters in the Labour Party. 

Lest there be any doubt, let me repeat - for the umpteenth time - that this is not about a "Jewish lobby". This is about the Israel lobby, which is as blind to religious affiliation as it is to any recognisable ethical or moral standard.

The interests of this lobby coincide with the interests of the Blairites in the Party, and often involve the same individuals. The pro-US, interventionist foreign policy of Blair and co. - which John Kampfner so memorably laid bare in his book Blair's Wars - aligns neatly with the interests of the Israeli state, even as that state faces increasing international isolation.

Indeed, Israeli isolation is one of the main drivers behind the present ideological offensive in the Party and elsewhere. As the Israeli state becomes more overtly racist - witness the so-called "nation state law" enacted recently - so its defenders become more and more strident. Yet Israel faces mounting problems. First, it is losing the debate amongst young people - including young diaspora Jews. More and more young people see Zionism and Israel as racist endeavours. Second, the terms of the debate on Israel are also changing, thanks to the pioneering work of Palestinian and Israeli Jewish historians in exposing the settler-colonialist nature of the Zionist movement and the ethnic cleansing it has carried in its wake.

Sadly none of that changes the fact that we face an immediate, pressing problem in the Labour Party. Our leadership's constant hand-wringing and its constant concessions to the Zionists - of which Len McCluskey's climbdown over the IHRA definition is the latest disheartening example - have created a situation where anyone raising their head above the parapet is considered fair game. 

The threat of disciplinary proceedings is already shifting the terms of debate on Israel/Palestine in the Party, and creating a McCarthyite atmosphere of distrust and anxiety. 

But we are where we are - and the key issue is how we respond going forward. Do we cave in to the pressure from the Zionists and the right of the Party? Do we allow the worst elements in Labour to set the terms of the debate for the foreseeable future, and take down the Corbyn leadership in the process? Because we need to be clear on one thing: our enemies will not respond to concessions by suddenly becoming reasonable. They will respond by pressing home their advantage.

There is also a question of principle at stake here, beyond any considerations of factional advantage and electoral calculation. I would ask anyone reading this post to carefully consider their response, and to act accordingly. The question is this:

Do we throw the Palestinians - and their advocates in our Party - under the bus? And what does it say for our vision of socialism if we're prepared to do that?