By Daniel Margrain
On May 4, 2017, the free weekly newspaper, Barnet Press, reported on the announcement of the three Labour candidates who are to contest the seats in my area at the forthcoming General Election.
The candidate standing for the Finchley and Golders Green constituency is Jeremy Newmark, who the paper describes as a “former chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council” and “former spokesman for Jonathan Sacks, who was Chief Rabbi from 1991 to 2013.”
Currently, Newmark chairs 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.
In my view, Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader is the best thing to have happened to the party and, potentially, to the people of the country, in decades. But I’m going to find it extremely hard, on a matter of principle, to vote for my selected Labour constituency candidate whose credentials I regard to be highly questionable.
A great deal has been written and covertly filmed about how the Israel lobby and the JLM are using both journalists and the Blairite fringe of Labour MPs within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) 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.
Journalist Asa Winstanley contends that no mainstream journalists “have disclosed Newmark’s long-standing role in the Israel lobby, or his record of lying about anti-Semitism.”
In an excellent piece published by the Electronic Intifada (April 28, 2016), Winstanley comprehensively analyses the McCarthy-style witch-hunts by the JLM against Israel’s critics and outlines the links between right-wing, anti-Corbyn Labour and the Israel lobby within the party.
Bogus antisemitism crisis
Winstanley meticulously shows how the Israel lobby manufactured an ‘antisemitism crisis’, pinpointing the individuals involved, the tactics and dirty tricks used and the connections to individuals whose ties lead to pro-Israel groups both in London and Israel.
The investigative journalist 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 antisemitic smears against individuals. This in turn, has contributed to a false media narrative.
Among the individuals who instigated the fake antisemitism row highlighted by Winstanley, are 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. But it is Newmark who is arguably the most influential.
The intention of the lobby is to create the impression that antisemitism is not only more prevalent within the Labour party compared with other political parties, but that it’s also more widespread compared to other forms of racism in UK society.
Neither claim stands up to scrutiny. In relation to the latter, 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.
In the aftermath of the massacres in Gaza in 2014, the London Metropolitan police recorded 358 anti-Semitic offences. Two hundred and seventy three of these were online, 36 involved criminal damage and 38 constituted “harassment”. Eleven cases of assault were recorded in which four resulted in personal injury.
One hundred and eighty thousand offences in these categories were recorded within the wider population throughout Metropolitan London. In other words, attacks against Jews in 2014 against a backdrop in which Gaza was being pulverized, made up only one in 500 of the total, while they made up around one in 86 of the population of London as a whole.
Community Security Trust (CST) figures for the first six months of last year show a rise of 15 per cent above those from the previous year. But this is from an extremely low base. The actual number of such incidents recorded for the first half of 2016 was 557. And that figure is still below that for 2014 when the Israeli assault on Gaza occurred. So claims that there has been a ‘surge’ in antisemitic incidences in recent years are false and misleading.
In terms of the former, there is no evidence to suggest that antisemitic views are any more prevalent in the Labour 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 the far-right ideology of Zionism as an example. Far-right political parties court the Zionist vote because Zionism is a far-right and racist political movement which, as Tony Greenstein put it, “sought to establish a Jewish state by accepting the anti-Semitic notion that Jews don’t belong in the countries they were born in.”
As a Labour supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, the decision of whether to put my cross next to the name of a hard-line Zionist and member of the Israel lobby who has lied about antisemitism and, in my view, seeks to undermine the democratic process from within, by prioritizing the interests of a foreign power over and above those of his own constituents, is not a difficult one. Zionists like Newmark have about as much in common with Corbyn as Gandhi has with Pol Pot.
Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA)
The cynical attempts to weaponize antisemitism for right-wing political purposes is also the role of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, a British propaganda organization and registered “charity”. Formed in August 2014 during a major Israeli offensive against Gaza, the aim of the CAA is to paint Palestine solidarity campaigning and opposition to Zionism as antisemitic.
The organisation is chaired by Gideon Falter, who is also a board member of the Jewish National Fund which has a long history of supporting ethnic cleansing in Palestine. The CAAs preferred McCarthyite tactic appears to be to target left-wing political activists, Corbyn supporters and journalists who are critical of Israel by abusing and smearing them with unsubstantiated allegations.
Among those who have been libeled by the group include Rebecca Massey, a prominent Labour Party activist in Brighton and Hove, Labour parliamentary and council candidate, Dinah Mulholland and the campaigning journalist and Labour party activist, Mike Sivier.
In relation to the latter, the CAA submitted an article to the press that contained “lies, doctored quotes and misinterpretations” of Sivier’s work. This resulted in his subsequent suspension from the Labour party without a proper investigation of the facts having taken place.
If the role of the CAA is to expose genuine cases of antisemitism and to promote social harmony, one would expect it to condemn far-right fascist organisations and their supporters. But as Tony Greenstein, who has himself been a victim of CAA smears, highlighted, a search of the campaign’s archive revealed just two articles that mention Britain’s main fascist organizations – the British National Party, the English Defence League and the National Front. Those groups include Holocaust deniers within their ranks.
By contrast, Greenstein pointed out there are some 77 articles attacking Jeremy Corbyn and 32 articles in the archive that attack Shami Chakrabarti, a civil liberties campaigner and now a prominent Labour politician serving as shadow attorney general.
It is obvious that the activities of the CAA and other Zionist and pro-Israel lobbying groups such as the CST and Board of Deputies of British Jews are designed to achieve the exact opposite of what they purport to set out to do. Rather than create peace and harmony between people, they actually create tension, discord and antagonism.
This, of course, serves a political and ideological purpose. The promotion of the idea that Jews within the diaspora are under threat of antisemitism, intimidation and violence is intended to encourage their emigration to Israel thereby helping to further reinforce Zionism’s role as Israel’s state ideology.
Groups like the CAA and CST need “antisemitism” to flourish in order to justify their continued government funding and hence their existence. That’s why the latest figures released by the latter suggesting attacks against Jewish people have rocketed to record levels, should be taken with a pinch of salt. In order to establish an accurate picture, we need not only to compare levels of racist attacks more widely, but to break down the 767 antisemitic hate crimes recorded by the CST in the first six months of 2017 into categories.
While all racism is abhorrent, it should be noted that 80 violent antisemitic attacks were recorded during this period. While this is 80 too many, it’s important to look at the wider political and historical context in which these attacks have taken place and compare them with the level of violent racist attacks against other groups. But CST do not provide any context because it does not serve their narrow political and ideological interests.
The Israel lobby, who have a significant financial stake in the Labour party and further afield, clearly see Corbyn as an anathema to the realization of these interests. A Newmark victory in Golders Green and Finchley would almost certainly strengthen the Zionist position within the political establishment and thus help to bring the Zionist dream closer to fruition.
The disproportionate power the Israel lobby is able to exert is a major concern for anybody who values the principles of democracy. While it is wrong to suggest that Zionism and Judaism are synonymous, it is nevertheless apposite to point out that the majority of the Jewish demographic (59 per cent), which in its totality represents just 0.5 per cent of the British population, identify politically as Zionists.
The democratic process is not best served in a situation in which such a tiny section of the population supposedly has a disproportionately powerful lobby at its disposal. Although the majority of the world’s Zionists are non-Jewish, Zionism is at its core unquestionably a Jewish movement – indeed the major Jewish communal movement.
It’s the over-representation of Jews in the capitalist ruling class that gives the Israel- 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 have a more distinctive historically evolved class structure than many other groups. An understanding of the issues concerning questions of material reality and historical fact, is crucial to evaluating where we are today. The exploitation by racists of the facts, don’t make these facts less valid. As a society we need to talk about them as opposed to having them suppressed within the cloak of ‘antisemitism’.
The suppression of such questions risks their monopolization by the small minority of antisemites who have a racialised hatred of Jewish people. They are thankfully very rare. It’s important to keep talking about Zionism as a political category in order to refute the conflation between Zionism and Judaism that public figures such as Chief Rabbi Mirvis and others have so scandalously made.
Given the attempts to conflate the two, it should not come as any surprise why people would make the innocent mistake of using the term the ‘Jewish lobby’ in discussions or debates. Under such circumstances, it is easy to see how others with nefarious motives are able to exploit this misunderstanding for political and sectarian- racist purposes.
One such individual is the Zionist antisemite, Rupert Murdoch, who has complained that “Jewish-owned” newspapers are too critical of Israel. This illustrates how Zionists who loathe and resent Jews as Jews, unless they support a pro-Zionist political stance, are able to perpetuate the Jewish global conspiracy trope for their own narrow political objectives.
This rationale is used to explain why the JLM are able to prevent non-Zionist Jews from affiliating to their organisation while conversely accepting that non-Jewish Zionists are welcome to join. Significantly, in this sense, the JLM are more accurately described as a Zionist movement as opposed to a movement of Jews.
Arguably, nowhere is this dichotomy best illustrated than by the treatment meted out by the JLM to the Jewish anti-Zionist activist, Jackie Walker. The controversy that surrounds Ms Walker and others, as Mike Sivier posited “is not about antisemtism, but removing a person who does not support Zionism from a position of influence.”
The media attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingston, Jackie Walker and others, are politically motivated and represent a determined effort by the Israel lobby to make Britain’s Labour Party ‘a safe pair of hands’ for Israel and Zionism.
The confusion that surrounds antisemitism could be easily clarified if the widely used definition of the term was simplified. But as a result of their decision to adopt the long and convoluted European Union Monitoring Centre (EUMC) definition of antisemitism, groups like the CAA, CST and the JLM are deliberately muddying the waters.
This deeply flawed 500 word ‘new antisemitism’ or even ‘antisemitic anti-zionism’ definition authored by attorney Kenneth Stern (strangely accepted by Jeremy Corbyn), intended to combat political criticisms of Israel, is so wide in scope that it’s essentially meaningless.
The EUMC definition, amid much opposition, was subsequently dropped by the UK government in December, 2016. Instead, the non-legally binding working definition formulated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), was formally adopted seven months later. The IHRA definition states:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred
toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed
toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish
community institutions and religious facilities.”
While an improvement on the EUMC definition, the IHRA is also similarly flawed. “Physical manifestations”, for example, might include the targeting of the state of Israel.
Brian Klug, an Oxford academic who specializes in the study of antisemitism, manages it in 21 words: “Antisemitism is a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are”.
This seems to me to be a perfectly adequate definition. But preventing genuine antisemitic instances is not the objective of Zionist organisations like the CAT or the CAA. Their real purpose is to undermine a Corbyn-led Labour Government, which they view as a very real threat to the Eretz (Greater) Yisrael project of a territory stretching from the River Nile to the River Euphrates.
Both the EUMC and IHRA definitions embolden Zionists in their political attacks against Jews and non-Jews alike who are rightly critical of the illegal actions of the state of Israel. I can only assume that there is still a long way to go before the corrupting influence of Zionism is removed from the democratic institutional structure of the Labour party once and for all.
The suspension from the party of the likes of millionaire Zionist donor, Michael Foster, who compared Corbyn supporters to Nazi storm troopers, is insufficient and clearly more needs to be done. Corbyn’s apparent cosying up to Zionists like Newmark and others within the party who are among the first in line to stab him in the back, while leaving long-term comrades like Ken Livingston out to dry, is a situation that ultimately, can only end in tears for the Labour leader. Corbyn’s lack of a principled stand on this matter reflects a serious weakness in his leadership.
The kind of democratic socialism espoused by the Labour leader on the one hand, and the political ideology of Zionism on the other, are irreconcilable concepts and if he fails to get a grip on the situation it could ultimately contribute to his downfall.
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