Antisemitism: the myths & the maths

By Daniel Margrain

A great deal has been written about how the Blairite fringe within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) are attempting to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership with a view to his eventual toppling using the specter of antisemitism as a weapon with which to achieve it. Arguably the most comprehensive analyses of the McCarthy-style witch-hunts undertaken so far (which ironically have involved Tony Greenstein, who has been at the forefront of moves to combat genuine cases of antisemitism on the fringes of the Palestine solidarity movement), has been undertaken by the journalist Asa Winstanley. In an excellent piece published by the Electronic Intifada (April 28, 2016), Winstanley outlines the links between right-wing, anti-Corbyn Labour and the pro- Israel lobby within the party. He meticulously shows how this lobby manufactured an ‘antisemitism crisis’, pinpointing the individuals involved, the tactics and dirty tricks used and the connections to powerful individuals whose ties lead to pro-Israel groups both in London and Israel.

Among those the journalist points to are two individuals who instigated the antisemitism row, David Klemperer who opposed Corbyn’s run for the labour leadership (but has since been kicked out of the party), and former Israel lobby intern, Alex Chalmers. Perhaps significantly, Winstanley points to a more influential figure behind the false claims of antisemitism. That figure is former chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), Jeremy Newmark, now the chairperson of the Labour party-affiliated, Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). The JLM is also affiliated to the Israeli Labor Party and the World Zionist Organization. According to the UN, the latter pumps millions into building in the occupied West Bank through its settlement division.

The media uncritically bought Newark’s assertion that antisemitism is rife within Corbyn’s Labour party. But as Winstanley contends, no mainstream journalists “have disclosed Newmark’s long-standing role in the Israel lobby, or his record of lying about anti-Semitism.” Winstanley also shows how media outlets such as the Telegraph, Huffington Post and the Jewish Chronicle have been complicit in the systematic attempt to disorientate Labour party members and supporters by either printing misinformation or reproducing unsubstantiated accusations and smears against individuals all of which have contributed to a false media narrative.

The implication appears to be that antisemitism is not only more prevalent within the Labour party compared with other political parties but is also more prevalent compared to other forms of racism in UK society more widely. Neither claims stand up to scrutiny. There’s no evidence to suggest that such views are any more prevalent in a party which historically has been at the forefront of anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns. On the contrary, racism and fascism is more likely to be symptomatic of far-right politics then left-wing politics. Take Zionism as an example. Far-right political parties court the Zionist vote because Zionism is a far-right and racist ideology. More widely, a 2015 survey by Pew found that seven percent of the UK public held ‘unfavourable’ views of Jews. By contrast, about a fifth held negative views of Muslims and almost two-fifths viewed Roma people unfavourably.

Interestingly. I recently came across the following blog piece, originally posted last August by Mira Bar-Hillel. Although, Bar-Hillel’s use of the term “Jewish Lobby”  is, I would contend, inappropriate, the piece is nevertheless an extremely lucid, revealing and well-written account of the extent to which the Zionist pro-Israel lobby have managed to inculcate their propaganda within the wider UK political and media discourse, the consequences of which appear to be adversely impacting on the democratic process. Mira Bar-Hillel’s sound and well articulated arguments fit in well with the current ‘antisemitism’ debacle discussed above. This is Mira Bar-Hillel’s post in full:

It has become universally acknowledged that #antisemitism in this country is rising massively to alarming record-breaking levels. Most commentators accept this as a simple fact and some respond by demanding curbs on free speech, including senior MPs and even Ministers.

The myth that British Jews are living in fear of life and limb suits some people, to whom I will refer as the “Jewish Lobby”. I will do this because it is true, and because I have been called an #antisemite so often and so publicly (and that’s just by Danny, Lord Finkelstein of Pinner) that that must be true as well.

But the rise in #antisemitism is a myth and one which needs to be busted. And if it takes a Jewish #antisemite to do it, then so be it, with help from the Metropolitan Police.

When I asked the Met for figures and breakdowns of so-called “hate crime”, they were happy to oblige, adding that nobody asked them for these figures until I did. The results will strike fear into those obsessed with scaring British Jews, but actually show there is little to worry about.

In 2014 the police recorded 358 anti-Semitic offences. This is 177 fewer than claimed by the Community Safety Trust, but then the CST is a well-funded Jewish Lobby which would not exist without #antisemitism, real or made-up. The Met’s figures, by the way, also recorded 1,481 reports of homophobic attacks and 611 of Islamophobic ones (generally accepted to be massively under-reported).

The Met’s breakdown of anti-Semitic crime in London in 2014 – which included the aftermath of the Gaza massacres and the media coverage they got – was as follows: FOUR cases of assault with injury (only ONE GBH); seven cases of Common Assault; 36 cases of Criminal Damage to a Motor Vehicle and 38 of “Harrassment”, which could mean anything. The rest were online

Compare that if you will to 180,000, which is the total for offences in these categories recorded by the Met in 2014. So attacks against Jews made up only one in 500 of the total, while they make up around one in 86 of the population of Metropolitan London. We should all be so lucky.

So why are prominent, educated and articulate Jews behaving as though their future here is suddenly at serious risk? Why does Maureen Lipmann regularly pack her bags, citing #antisemitism in between appearances in the media and radio discussions on the subject – only to unpack again?

And why is Danny Cohen, 40, recently appointed Director of BBC Television at £320,000 a year (poor didums), telling a Jerusalem conference that he “questions the long-term future for Jews in the UK”, adding  “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as in the last 12 months” – which was when he was promoted to his powerful new job?

Possibly because they have chosen to believe the CST’s “statistics” rather than the police. The well-funded CST regards posters saying “Free Palestine” as #antisemitic events. Last August: Graffiti was daubed on a pavement reading ‘Jews kill Palestinian babies’. You may recall that in August the UK media was full of images and reports of Palestinian children and babies being killed by Israel in Gaza (the eventual total being 550).

The graffiti may have an unpleasant reminder, but it was factually correct. And it was certainly not a crime, more a report of a crime. So next time you see the CST figures, have the salt cellar at the ready.

Jews make up 0.5% of the population of this country but run a very effective lobby, which is their right. It is also the right of the other 99.5% to be aware of this fact and what it means in democratic terms. And before you descend upon me from a great height and add “Jew Hater” to #antisemite, I would like to put a few things on the record.

My father left Berlin in 1933 in the face of the real and imminently dangerous #antisemitism of Kristalnacht. My mother followed him in 1936 from Cracow, which fell to the Nazis in 1940. I was born in Palestine – yes, PALESTINE – in 1946, after my father, who volunteered to join the British Army to fight the Germans came home to Jerusalem. Most of their families (and mine) perished in Hitler’s camps and one of my uncles was saved by Oscar Schindler.

I grew up and was educated in Jerusalem, served in the IDF in the mid-60s and lived through the Six Day War. I was then a news reporter on Israel Radio until 1972. I then became aware that the Israeli government – decades before Netanyahu – had no interest in negotiating away occupied territory for peace.

Long before the atrocities of the occupation turned Israelis into what the late Professor Isaiah Liebovich called “JudeoNazis” (long before the baby burning) and their country became, according to Desmond Tutu and countless others, an Apartheid State, I could feel the rot setting in and wanted none of it.

So, in the words of Bob Dylan, “Call me any name you like, I will never deny it –

“But farewell, Angelina, the sky is erupting, I must go where it’s quiet”.

8 thoughts on “Antisemitism: the myths & the maths

  1. It was another Finklestein who said the labour anti semeticism, was a myth, and that fella wasn’t Jewish, yes some on the right of the Labour Party but far from being Blairites are Zionists, Ed miliband for instance, but to say that those in the right of the party, including Gerald Kaufman are Zionist is a slur, there are those on the right of the party, Sadiq Khan for instance,who was concerned about Jeremy’s kick of action tackling the anti semeticism, problem, the suggestion that this situation is a myth,by those with anti semeticism views just shows, they are anti semeticism by denying it.
    The re fence to the police as so be it,was denial,and the electric Infida article was so innacurate ,it’s not worth bothering arguing with, really, the idea that it was all fake and they’re not anti semeticism is, twiddle,

    Like

    1. Well done John for writing something which is totally unreadable and makes no sense what so ever. Why John did you join labour your obviously so far to the right , you would make Blair look socialist.

      Great article and I suspect many would agree with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. He only speaks ‘twiddle’ I’m afraid. He’s an illiterate Muslim – hating pro-war troll who infests any attempt to discuss the Middle East and tries to divert it with his own racist obsessions.

    If he were really concerned about ‘anti-semitism’ you might think he would learn to actually spell it

    Mira Bar-Hillel’s points are not anti-semitic at all. Her statements about the Jewish lobby are analytically questionable not because she says it is Jewish, but because it begs some important questions. Like how come such a tiny section of the population (0.5%) has such a powerful lobby supposedly at their disposal? Zionism is at its core unquestionably a Jewish movement – indeed THE major Jewish communal movement, but the Jewish population is still small. Zionism has many non-Jewish fellow travellers, but that is all they are. They are not the core of Zionism.

    It is the overrepresentation of Jews in the capitalist ruling class that gives the Zionist lobby it’s power. This is a historical phenomenon that actually explains the Zionist project itself and it’s purpose. To create a state expression for this distinctive bourgeois layer. The history of different peoples, of the relation of oppressed and oppressor peoples, is class based and linked to the different evolved class structures of those peoples.

    The Jews as a people have a more distinctive historically evolved class structure than many others. Understanding that is crucial for understanding where we are today. The points Mira makes about the Jewish lobby, while flawed, point to that. Discussion of these questions are not racist; they are about matters of material reality and historical fact. The fact that some of these facts have been exploited by racists in the past does not mean that it is not crucial to discuss them. That would be like hiding our heads in the sand.

    It would also risk handing these questions over to real anti-semites as a monopoly, if you can actually find anyone with a racialised hatred of Jewish people. They are thankfully very rare.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Daniel, I appreciate the post but I don’t agree with Bar-Hillel that one can speak of a “Jewish Lobby.”

    That term suggests that political lobby groups are lobbying on behalf of Judaism and/or a Jewish people, which is false, and exactly what they claim they do – in order to deflect condemnation for, and obscure their true objective: to defend a nationalist, settler-colonial project.

    That is why we must:
    1) object to the use of word Jewish in non-representative political lobbies, such as the purely Zionist ‘Jewish Labour Movement’ that used to be more accurately called ‘Poale Zion’;
    2) keep talking about Zionism as a political category in order to refute the dangerous conflation between Zionism and Judaism that public figures such as Chief Rabbi Mirvis have so scandalously made.

    I would, however, add that I reject the idea that everyone who refers to a Jewish lobby is necessarily antisemitic; it is a stupid, but sadly inevitable mistake some make, because of the aforementioned conflation by Zionists.

    One clear case of antisemitism is that of Murdoch: a Zionist himself he has complained that “Jewish-owned” newspapers are too critical of Israel: to my mind he’s the perfect example of a Zionist antisemite who loathes & resents Jews as Jews, unless they support his political stance, and perpetuates the global conspiracy trope.

    Liked by 1 person

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