Friday, 12 July 2019

Sticky Fingers: JLM's Panorama Playbook?

JLM leaders Jeremy Newmark and Ella Rose posing with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev in October 2016.
Any number of dirty tricks have been deployed in the campaign to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. In the Panorama documentary broadcast on 10th July, which the Labour Party has rightly condemned as a stitch-up, a series of anonymous "talking heads" recounted their awful personal experiences of antisemitism in the Party. They oozed sincerity and emotional trauma. Whatever the truth about their claims, which at times sounded fanciful to anyone who knows the Party from the inside, only a hard-hearted individual could fail to be moved.

Fortunately there are some eagle-eyed comrades out there, who happened to notice that many of these anonymous "witnesses" appear to be members or supporters of the JLM, the Jewish Labour Movement - an organisation notoriously hostile to Corbyn and the Labour leadership. Asa Winstanley, on the excellent Electronic Intifada website, was the first to break the news, and other comrades (notably Bob Pitt) have added their observations. A provisional list of JLM people who "gave witness" anonymously in the Panorama show reads as follows (click here to see the full list of JLM officers):

Stephane Savary (JLM joint National Vice-Chair)
Joe Goldberg (JLM joint National Vice-Chair) 
Izzy Lenga (JLM International Officer)
Alex Richardson (JLM Membership Officer)
Adam Langleben (ex JLM Campaigns Officer)
Ella Rose (JLM Equalities Officer, former National Director)
Rebecca Filer (JLM Political Education Officer)
Joshua Garfield (JLM Local Government Officer)

It is extremely worrying that most of the people interviewed as direct witnesses to antisemitic incidents by the program makers appear to be members of a single political lobby group, and in most cases current or recent Executive members at that. This was not mentioned at any point in the show, either during the program itself or in the credits at the end.

It is worth noting that you don't have to be Jewish, or even a paid-up member of the Labour Party, in order to join JLM. According to JLM's rule book, you merely have to be eligible to join the UK Labour Party in order to sign up. You do, however, also have to support the state of Israel. The rule book lists the following organisational aims and objects:
  • To maintain and promote Labour or Socialist Zionism [..]
  • To promote the centrality of Israel in Jewish life [..]
In the light of JLM's ambiguous status and its openly declared loyalty to Israel, it is unfortunate that the group is often credited, quite erroneously, with speaking for Labour's Jewish members (many of whom do not share their values). In the wake of the Panorama program, for instance, deputy Labour leader Tom Watson tweeted that anyone upset by the show's revelations should sign up as supporters of JLM and make a donation!

This is probably not the place to promote the virtues of Labour's other Jewish organisation, JVL (Jewish Voice for Labour), although it is worth noting that JVL does require its full (voting) members to be both Jewish and actual members of the Labour Party. Nor does JVL require prospective members to hold any particular position on the question of Israel/Palestine (though its membership tends on the whole to be critical of Israel's excesses).

Turning once more to JLM, it is fair to say that their involvement in the Panorama documentary raises a number of serious questions:

  1. How did the BBC fail so badly to conduct due diligence around the selection of interviewees for the program? Was their failure a matter of negligence or of policy?
  2. Was John Ware, the sometime Sun journalist responsible for the show, aware of the political affiliations of his "witnesses"? If so, was there direct collusion with them in order to ensure that the program delivered a single monolithic message?
  3. Given the heavy involvement of JLM in this virulent attack on the Labour Party, isn't it time that the Party conducted a serious investigation into the JLM's activities?

We are entitled to ask whether the BBC effectively colluded with journalist John Ware and leading members of the JLM to produce a crude smear job against our Party and its leader. Only an independent inquiry into the BBC's conduct can provide an answer.



Thursday, 11 July 2019

Panorama: Dreck, Lies and Videotape



Dreck (Yiddish): rubbish, excrement. 

Last night's Panorama hatchet-job on the Labour Party was every bit as bad as we'd expected. I'll start with some specific points on how it was put together, before looking at the broader background.

Ten Facts About The Panorama Documentary
  1. The bulk of the program's testimony was provided by ex Labour Party employees, who appeared, to this writer at least, to be acting out of a sense of disaffection towards their former employers.Their claims were accepted uncritically by the interviewer.
  2. Soundbites delivered straight to camera by anonymous individuals peppered the program. They consisted of unsubstantiated allegations, were low on facts and high on emotional content (much 'tearing up' by the interviewees), and relied on appeals to emotion rather than verifiable data. Their allegations, in some cases verging on the absurd, were not investigated but, again, taken at face value. It has subsequently emerged that many of these anonymous contributors are JLM activists (click here for more on this).
  3. So-called 'expert testimony' was provided by authors sympathetic to the paradigm of the New Antisemitism, which deliberately conflates antisemitism with anti-Zionism. These included Dave Rich (The Left's Jewish Problem) and Alan Johnson (Contemporary Left Anti-Semitism). Their assumptions went unchallenged, and no alternative perspective was put forward.
  4. There was no input whatsoever from the thousands of Jewish Party members who support Jeremy, whose inclusion might have signaled at least some interest in journalistic balance, but would of course have risked damaging the program's pure propaganda value.
  5. There was much recycling of old material - e.g. the Mear One mural and the Ken Livingstone fiasco - in the absence of any substantial new allegations.
  6. There were several telling elisions, like the program's failure to mention that Jackie Walker - whose case was dealt with in a predictably appalling fashion by Ware - is herself Jewish. The Chakrabarti report was dismissed in a couple of brief asides.
  7. Individuals like MP Louise Ellman were able to tell their apparently plausible stories without their own political affiliations being flagged up. Ellman has for many years been a key member of Labour Friends Of Israel.
  8. A handful of leaked emails were made much of by John Ware, but in no case did these emails provide any evidence whatsoever of actual Labour Party antisemitism. 
  9. The program's underlying assumptions were that anti-Zionism equals antisemitism, and that Marxists have no place in the Labour Party. These assumptions determined both the tone and the content of the piece.
  10. At no stage were any of the serious allegations of concrete antisemitism alleged by the anonymous participants, or indeed by anyone else, investigated by the program. This made a mockery of its claim to be a serious investigation and clearly revealed it for what it was - an ideologically motivated hatchet job with no concern for the truth.
An Entrée To The Main Course - Three Lords A-Leaping

A couple of days before the airing of the Panorama documentary, three Labour peers jumped ship. Their resignations were splashed across the news, along with the usual unsubstantiated accusations of Labour Party antisemitism.

Was the timing of these resignations coincidental? Judging by earlier installments of the establishment's anti-Corbyn offensive, which have appeared to be carefully coordinated in order to inflict the maximum damage, my personal opinion is that this is unlikely.

In his resignation letter Lord Triesman described Labour as “plainly institutionally antisemitic”, an assertion which is now so firmly accepted within the Westminster/media bubble that there is apparently no need to back it up with evidence. Despite going on to claim that "the number of examples is shocking”, Triesman didn't bother to include a single example of this alleged institutional antisemitism in his letter.

This Big Lie about Corbyn's Labour has now taken on a life of its own. The most odious claims no longer require evidential justification - the accusation alone is enough, and is taken at face value by the mainstream media, which of course is all too happy to assist in the destruction of the Corbyn project.

Triesman may have accidentally let the cat out of the bag when he declared that:

"I always said it was worth hanging on to fight so long as there was a prospect of winning. I now don’t believe with this leadership there is."

The over-egged accusations of institutional antisemitism often seem to boil down to simply wanting to see a change of leadership - in effect, a return to the good old days of Blair and Brown, with their unwavering support for Israel and their pro-austerity politics.

The disgruntled Blairite old guard are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve that goal, if necessary taking the whole Party down with them. This seems to go for peers as much as it does for ex-employees of the Party.

Of the three peers who resigned the Labour whip, Triesman in particular should know better, having been the victim of a sustained campaign of real antisemitism in the past perpetrated by the Nazi thugs of Combat 18. His damaging comments however provided the perfect entrée for Wednesday's main course - a Panorama "documentary" put together by sometime Sun journalist John Ware.

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Bureaucrat Scorned?

John Ware's Panorama slot, clocking in at a full hour, marks a new low-point in the BBC's carefully orchestrated campaign against Corbyn and the Labour Party. 

The most interesting thing about the program was that despite the resources that had clearly been poured into its production, not a single concrete example of the egregious and ubiquitous antisemitism it alleges was actually  produced and examined.

No amount of tearful, direct-to-camera testimony by anonymous individuals - or by ex Party functionaries  - can seriously stand in for the well-researched facts that we might have once expected from a flagship show like Panorama.

This was, essentially, a puff piece that recycled the old allegations without fleshing them out and without providing any substantial new material. Indeed, the only interesting fact to emerge from this execrable piece of alleged journalism is that the bureaucrats who left when Jennie Formby took over the Party's administration are really still incredibly bitter about the shift in Labour's political trajectory.

It will nonetheless provide more grist to the mill for those who are determined to take Labour down. A certain propagandist once wrote that "when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it [..] even at the risk of looking ridiculous". Sadly this strategy seems to be working. A study due to come out later this year suggests that the antisemitism allegations are being taken on board by the general public and are drastically affecting Labour's levels of support.

In the final analysis, the only weapon we can fight back with is the truth. The way the antisemitism farrago has played out provides clear proof that on this issue a 'Fabian strategy' will not work. Instead we must continue to speak truth to power, as loudly and clearly as we can. Anything less and the Corbyn revolution will end in defeat.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

The MP, the Clown and the Useful Idiot


It's been several months since I last blogged. Everything that needed to be said, it seemed to me, had been said - somewhat ineptly by me, more eloquently by others. How many times can you state the bleedin' obvious about the current Labour Party antisemitism fiasco without starting to lose the will to live?

To restate the bleedin' obvious yet again, because apparently it needs to be done:
  • There is nothing inherently antisemitic about criticising Israel
  • There is nothing inherently antisemitic about criticising Zionism
  • Many Jews are critical of Israel, and  many are non-Zionist or anti-Zionist
  • The Labour Party does not have a serious anti-semitism problem
  • Jeremy Corbyn is a lifelong anti-racist - not an anti-semite
  • Many Jews support Labour and Corbyn
  • The supine response of the Party to accusations of antisemitism has exacerbated the problem
The last of those points forms the gist of the innocuous comment which led to the suspension of Chris Williamson, and which apparently - in the arsy-versy world we currently inhabit - provides irrefutable proof of his vile antisemitic beliefs.

In the light of the nonsense over this past week about Chris's readmission into the Party, and his subsequent re-suspension (if indeed that's the latest state of play by the time you read this, as the soap opera rolls on from day to day), it's worth quoting his comment in full. Chris said this:

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

I completely concur with Chris's sentiment here - indeed, I've said as much myself in previous blog posts and in public meetings.

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

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

""If gay marriage was OK [..] then I saw no reason in principle why a union should not be consecrated between three men, as well as two men, or indeed three men and a dog."

Every single one of Johnson's vile, bigoted comments has been allowed to pass by the media and the Westminster establishment. Because, after all, it's just "good old Boris" talking. Maybe he's a bit of a clown, but there's no harm in the guy. As an upper class Tory xenophobe he gets a free pass.

Jon Lansman, self-appointed leader of Labour's Momentum group, joined in the attacks on Williamson this week. Lansman was particularly irate that Chris had tweeted about the wide support he'd received. Lansman responded thus:

“This [i.e. Williamson's] tweet reveals not one iota of contrition nor any acknowledgement of wrongdoing [..]. Such contempt for the party’s verdict! He has to go!”

One is moved to ask, "contrition" for what, exactly? For pointing up an obvious truth? For expressing something that many - perhaps most - Party members would agree with?

Given Lansman's track record, his attack on the beleaguered MP doesn't really come as a surprise. He is perhaps best described as a useful idiot whose interventions, whatever his personal views on the Israel/Palestine issue, have tended to undermine Israel's critics in the Party.

Taken alongside other developments however, it does raise a number of troubling questions. As Party members, can we talk openly about how to counter allegations of antisemitism without ourselves being smeared as antisemites? Can we criticise Israel's conduct, or express support for the Palestinian struggle, without facing suspension? Can we look critically at the history of the Zionist movement - indeed, can we even use the word 'Zionist' - without bringing media denunciations and administrative sanctions down on our heads?

I believe that we must continue to speak honestly, openly and without fear. There is an Israel lobby in this country, and it is heavily embedded in the Labour Party. Its project is to ensure that robust oversight of Israel's behaviour, let alone anti-Zionism, is automatically conflated with antisemitism. It is currently winning that fight in the public sphere, even as it loses it amongst the broader population, and particulary amongst young people - hence the current ramping up of the lobby's campaign.

As Chris has discovered to his cost, these are difficult times for anyone who questions the dominant narrative about Labour Party 'antisemitism'. But it's precisely in difficult times that we have the greatest duty to speak out. Whatever sanctions we might face as a consequence, they pale into insignificance compared to the daily travails of the Palestinian people. We just have to keep on keepin' on, comrades!



Monday, 8 April 2019

JVL Condemns JLM's Jezzaphobia

The Jewish Labour Movement has made the news again by passing a motion of 'no confidence' in Jeremy Corbyn. This will hardly come as a surprise to anyone who's followed the activities of this organisation, which proudly trumpets its affiliation to various Zionist federations and its alliance with the racist, colonialist Israeli Labour Party.

One Jewish comrade raised the following point in resonse to their grandstanding:

"There are some 300,000 Jews in Britain. The Jewish Labour Movement claims to represent us all. So why were there fewer people at their AGM than at my Labour Party branch AGM?"

This is even more surprising, given that anyone can join JLM and vote at its meetings. You don't have to be Jewish, and you don't even have to be a member of the Labour Party! It remains something of a mystery that their claims of holding some kind of mandate have fooled so many people for so long.

Meanwhile, in response to the latest outburst of JLM hysteria - or 'Jezzaphobia', as I shall call it from now on - Jewish Voice For Labour has published the following brief but  statement:

Jewish Voice for Labour is shocked that the Jewish Labour Movement, at its Annual General Meeting this weekend, passed a vote of no confidence in the twice elected leader of the party, Jeremy Corbyn. Their resolution proclaims that “he is unfit to be Prime Minister”.

The implication of this is that JLM – a body affiliated to the Labour Party and represented within its structures – does not intend to campaign for votes for a Labour victory in forthcoming elections. This seriously calls into question JLM’s legitimacy as a party affiliate.

The position adopted, clearly suggesting that a UK government led by Jeremy Corbyn would be against the interests of British Jews, will be unacceptable to the vast majority of Labour Party members including large numbers of Jews. Jewish people, like all citizens of the UK, need a Corbyn-led Labour Government committed to ending austerity, investing in social housing and our crucial public services, pursuing an ethical foreign policy based on justice for all and standing firm against all forms of racism including antisemitism.

Jewish Voice for Labour intends to continue to represent Jewish members of the Labour Party who support the leadership in seeking to defeat a moribund and chaotic Conservative government and working for real economic and social change for the benefit of the majority of citizens.

See original statement here.



Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Another Black Activist Silenced

Following the appalling treatment meted out to Marc Wadsworth, it now appears to be Jackie Walker's turn.

The Party's disciplinary processes, which of course have not been reformed along the lines suggested by Shami Chakrabarti, continue to be used as a factional tool by the Right.

In the latest twist, the panel hearing Jackie's case has refused to let her read a short statement at her own hearing, effectively silencing her in the face of a revised 'charge sheet' sprung on her last week.

For the Party to treat a prominent Black activist in this way is grotesque, and - as with Marc - smacks of the crudest sort of racism. JVL has summed up the latest developments as follows:

A statement from Jackie Walker.

Jackie Walker has been denied the right to speak in her own defence.

Today Jackie Walker was forced to withdraw from a Labour Party disciplinary hearing when the panel due to pronounce on her case refused to allow her to make a short opening statement in her defence. This was essential given the party's refusal last week to deal with urgent questions from her lawyers about alarming last minute additions to the charges against her.

Background

Jackie Walker (a black Jewish Woman) was suspended from the Labour Party 2 ½ years ago for asking a Labour Party antisemitism trainer, at an antisemitism training event, for a definition of antisemitism. Since then she has been the subject of the most appalling and unrelenting racist abuse and threats, including a bomb threat.

Today Jackie Walker attended her long delayed Labour Party disciplinary hearing. She was accompanied by her defence witnesses and legal team; she had submitted over 400 pages of evidence in her defence but had been given no opportunity to respond to extra charges sent to her last week, along with a major revision to the basis on which allegations of antisemitism would be assessed. At the beginning of the hearing, the Chair advised Jackie Walker that this was to be an informal hearing and that she could address him by his first name. The Chair then invited procedural questions. Jackie asked to be allowed to make a brief opening address to the Chair and Panel. The team of Labour Party lawyers objected. The Chair adjourned the meeting to consider Jackie’s request to speak, and then ruled that she must remain silent. Jackie Walker had no alternative other than to withdraw from the hearing, as the panel's decision demonstrated that she had no chance of a fair hearing in a process that has lacked equity and natural justice from the start.

Jackie Walker said:

“After almost three years of racist abuse and serious threats; of almost three years of being demonised, and now being ambushed by a batch of last minute changes, I was astounded that the Labour Party refused to allow me a few short moments to personally address the disciplinary panel to speak in my own defence. What is so dangerous about my voice that it is not allowed to be heard?”

All I have ever asked for is for equal treatment, due process and natural justice; it seems that this is too much to ask of the Labour Party.”

Friday, 22 March 2019

Al Noor

Imam Gamal Fouda Speaking In Christchurch Today
One week on from the massacre at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, my thoughts are with the bereaved, the injured, and all those affected by the atrocity.

As Imam Gamal Fouda said at today's service:

"Last Friday I stood in this mosque and saw hatred and rage in the eyes of the terrorist. Today from the same place I look out and I see the love and compassion in the eyes of thousands of New Zealanders and human beings from around the globe.”

We will never let the fascists, the racists or the xenophobes tear us apart.

We will never let the White House, the Evangelicals or the Zionists tear us apart.

We will stand shoulder to shoulder - Muslims, Jews, Christians, people of all faiths and none - against hatred.

Solidarity now and always with my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Antisemitism, Zionism And The Words Of Rabbi Hillel


Guest post by Robert Cohen, sharing thoughts that started life as a Facebook status. His points very much echo my own feelings, though he expresses them far more succinctly than I could have done! Many thanks to Robert for allowing me to reproduce this here. 

HERE’S WHAT’S ON MY MIND TODAY...

1. If you share Holocaust denial and Rothschild conspiracy theories on social media (or anywhere else) you are trading in antisemitism and have no place in any progressive movement for human rights.
2. If I find I have accrued Facebook friends or Twitter followers who trade in antisemitism I will block/unfollow you.
3. Antisemitism has no place in the Palestinian solidarity movement and does the cause of Palestinian liberation enormous damage.
4. The fact that antisemitism finds its way into pro-Palestinian campaigning and debates does not change the reality on the ground in Israel/Palestine. Nor should it be used as an excuse to dismiss the tragedy that Zionism has created.
5. The Israeli government operates institutional, legalised discrimination against its non Jewish citizens and controls the lives of millions of Palestinians who have no vote in Israeli elections this April.
6. BDS is a legitimate form of protest in support of Palestinian human rights and international law.
7. BDS does not want a “Jewish genocide” or the “destruction” of Israel. It does want genuine democracy for all.
8. The #IHRA definition of antisemitism and its illustrations, are counter-productive and creating unnecessary divisions and conflicts especially on student campuses.
9. Zionism is NOT Judaism nor should it be central to Jewish identity or to the meaning of Jewish self-determination.
10. “That which is hateful to you, do not do to another. That is the whole Law. The rest is commentary.” Rabbi Hillel, first century Palestine/Judea.