Eve Garrard’s submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry into Antisemitism in the Labour Party

There are two main points which I wish to make in this submission: (1) concerning the impact on British Jews of current behaviour and discourse with respect to Zionism among parts of the Labour Party, especially its Left wing; (2) concerning the effect of this on the Labour Party itself.

You are, no doubt, fully aware of how widespread hostility to Israel is among parts of the Left, including parts of the Labour Party. One of the most cogent objections to this hostility, and to the actions it tends to produce, is that it’s unfairly selective – Israel is singled out for hostile mention and treatment (for example, by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign) where other countries whose human rights violations are much worse, are ignored or sometimes even fêted. I do not think this hostility, or even campaigns such as the BDS one, are always driven by antisemitism. But in the absence of some convincing explanation of why it is (supposedly) legitimate to focus hostility largely or entirely on Israel while practising a studied silence towards other and far worse malefactors, then the possibility of antisemitism providing the required explanation must be taken seriously. And there is such an absence – the purported explanations of the singular concern with Israel generally range from the vacuous (‘We have to start somewhere’) to the contemptible (‘It’s because Jews are really one of us, and so we have a special duty to criticise their misdeeds’ – this in a world in which extensively in the past, and increasingly in the present, Jews have very definitely not been regarded as ‘one of us’). Something rather more plausible is needed to rule out the possibility of antisemitism being the driving force behind the anti-Israel hostilities.

However unfairness, and the legitimate concern it generates, is not the only problem arising out of the feverish focus on Israel which can be found in various left-wing arenas. If we leave aside the issue of fairness, and concentrate purely on the consequences of this singular focus, on the effects it produces, other problems come into view. For a start, the main effects are not on Israel at all – the various expressions of enmity towards Israel by significant parts of Labour’s left wing have not made a lot of difference to that country, except, perhaps, to strengthen the view of many of its nationals and supporters that there really does need to be a country where Jews can’t be on the receiving end of discriminatory treatment just because they are Jews.

The main effects of the hostility have been, as we might expect, on Jews in this country. Most, though not all, Jews are Zionists, and most, but not all, Zionists are Jews. Zionism has been treated by parts of the Left as a vicious and sinister ideology, to be condemned and where possible eradicated, with supporters who are likewise to be condemned and excoriated. This treatment impacts most heavily on those who regard Jewish self-determination and self-defence as important matters. These people will be primarily (though I’m glad to say not exclusively) Jews. In this way, what looks like a foreign policy issue for the Labour Party is actually an issue in domestic policy too, and a serious one for a Party which says it prides itself on being anti-racist. Antisemitism is by no means the exclusive possession of the political Right; the Left also can fall prey to that oldest of prejudices, even when (and perhaps especially when) it feels at its most certain about its own moral rectitude. And the effect on Jews, particularly ones who have in the past supported Labour, is to increase their sense of isolation and alienation. The State of Israel, which many of them see as a life-raft state which allows Jews self-determination and is committed to their defence, is the object of constant hostility and denigration by important elements in one of our major political parties. It is not surprising if this has the effect of making Jews here feel less safe, less accepted, than they were, say, in the years after the Second World War.

As a consequence of this, the Jewish vote for Labour is likely to collapse, and we are already seeing this happen in certain parts of the country. Does the Labour Party really want to be a major factor in increasing the sense of isolation and insecurity already felt by a number of Jews in this country? And does the current leadership of this party really want to be known as the one which drove the Jews out of the party? Especially since the Jews are unlikely to go quietly, and there are other political forces which will be only too happy to point out the implications of this development, and who is responsible for it.

The Labour Party cannot, and should not, attempt to prevent its supporters from holding views hostile to Israel, by any means other than open argument and debate. What it can legitimately do is discourage, and if necessary prohibit, the use of words such as ‘zio’ as terms of contempt and condemnation, just as it wouldn’t tolerate the use of terms such as ‘paki’ to refer to members of a particular ethnicity. More importantly, it should take action where obviously anti-Semitic tropes such as the blood libel, or references to sinister powers pulling strings in the shadows, are being used, just as it would take action should its members, and particularly its various functionaries, refer to people of colour in terms of long-standing racist tropes against them. The Party should not be ready to regard Jews who complain about antisemitism as being dishonest and deceitful, as playing the antisemitism card; and it should actively discourage its members and supporters from doing this. It should be prepared to take decisive action where direct lies, such as the claim that Jews were the chief financiers of the African slave trade, or the claim Hitler was a supporter of Zionism, or the claim that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians, are promulgated. A brief suspension from the Party, followed by a silent re-admission, of people who peddle these lies does not really count as decisive action.

In the absence of such measures, which in fact would be only the first steps towards a genuine intolerance of antisemitism in the Party, Labour will be one of the factors in the production of a rising tide of hostility towards Jews in this country. And it will be peculiarly culpable for this state of affairs, precisely because it has always presented itself as hostile to all forms of racism. At the moment it is not; it tolerates, and in some cases encourages, the resurgence of an anti-semitism which some of us thought would never again be permitted the oxygen of acceptance on the Left. We were wrong, of course.

A personal note: I have voted Labour all my life. As things currently stand, I will not be able to do so again.

Eve Garrard
June 2016

5 Responses to “Eve Garrard’s submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry into Antisemitism in the Labour Party”

  1. Carlo Says:

    Eve Garrard maintains that: “Israel is singled out for hostile mention and treatment (for example, by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign) where other countries whose human rights violations are much worse, are ignored or sometimes even fêted.”

    BDS arose within Palestinian civil society as a non-violent response to Israeli military occupation, human rights abuse, land confiscation etc. The economy of the Israeli state was targeted because of the state’s direct responsibility in the matter.

    To condemn BDS for singling out Israel is as pointless as it would have been to have criticised the Anti-Apartheid Movement for having singled out South Africa.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      [I apologise to the moderator for the following lengthy reply to Carlo, but I really couldn’t resist the challenge.]

      Ah, Carlo is back: welcome. It’s so refreshing to read your unrooted comments and assertions with, as usual, no evidence.

      While anyone is free to oppose anyone they wish, and is equally free to buy, or not, goods from any company or country they choose, the moment that they start demanding that everyone else does exactly as they demand, they forfeit the right to do as they wish without challenge.

      So, Carlo, let me remind you (or, possibly, inform you for the first time) how this started – and I’ll spare you the 1947 UN Resolution, etc, and start in 1967, with Israel threatened by Egypt and Syria, openly and with military force. Even you, Carlo, must know what happened next: Egypt, Syria and Jordan (because King Hussein unwisely chose to believe Nasser when he said the Israelis (he probably said “Jews”) were losing and decided to join in) lost massively: men, material and land.

      Again, even you must know the next bit: as Abba Eban, then Israel’s Foreign Secretary, said (I paraphrase) that this must be the first war in history in which, on the morrow, the victors sued for peace and the defeated responded with…silence. Or rather the infamous threes No’s. All they had to say was that they recognised Israel’s right to exist within the Green Line (1948/49 Cease Fire Lines) and bingo: no occupation (which until a final peace treaty is signed is NOT illegal – they won the damned war which they didn’t start), a free Palestine, etc. This was also the first time that, as Eban equally famously said, “the Arabs never miss[ed] an opportunity to miss an opportunity”

      While I’m about it, I will tell you what I told Philip Blue when he tried to pull the “Israeli apartheid” trick: go google the Rome Statute on apartheid and you will find that…it doesn’t apply to occupied territories. Further, any breaches of human rights by Israel or Israeli citizens outside the Green Line are minimal and subject to punishment via Israeli courts.

      As for within Israel…make a case, if you can.

      Finally, I have 9 propositions for you, if you really believe that Israel deserves the attention of the motley BDS crew, then provide reasoned answers to the following:

      1. that there are mass graves on the West Bank of the thousands (millions?) of Palestinians murdered by the Israelis since 1967 (actually, hundreds would do the trick);
      2. that there were universities on the West Bank before 1967 (what, there weren’t? you mean those despicable Zionnazi Israelis created them? allowing freedom of thought? how dare they);
      3. that the population of Gaza declined precipitously between 1967 and Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2006, and/or since then, much as the populations of the ghettoes established by the Nazis in Eastern Europe did, between 1940-45;
      4. that the standard of living in Gaza declined from 1967 to 2006 (using generally accepted international measures, not those of anti-Israeli advocates devising), as well as, possibly or even probably, those of the West Bank Palestinian population;
      5. that during Operation Pillar of Cloud (2012) and Operation Protective Edge (2014) (I agree that the names are ridiculous, but, hey, the military mind and all that), it wasn’t the case that at least (note the “at least”) half of those “civilians” killed were, in fact, militants, that is, members of Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad – don’t forget Richard Goldstone’s retreat from his initial Report on the 2012 conflict;
      6. that Hamas didn’t use human shields during Operation Protective Shield in 2014, a crime, per se, against humanity/a war crime in itself, leading to the non-militant civilian casualties alleged by enemies of Israel;
      7. that 800,000+ Jews weren’t expelled (or otherwise “helped on their way”) from Arab lands (and Iran) after 1948, more than matching the 700,000 Palestinian refugees, allegedly caused solely by Israeli actions during the 1947-49 conflict;
      8. that the UN-appointed Commission of Enquiry conclusion into the Israeli blockade of the Gazan coast was that it was and is lawful was wrong in international law; and
      9. that Ken Livingstone’s comment on “Daily Politics”, 28/4/16 (BBC 1), between 9 minutes 12 secs. and 9 minutes 20 secs into the programme, that “a real antisemite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel, they hate the Jews in Golders Green…” isn’t, by definition, antisemitic. Put slightly differently, someone who ONLY hates the Jews in Israel isn’t a real antisemite? And that lets Livingstone off the hook?
      It is noted that some of these propositions are asking you to prove a negative, an extremely difficult, if not impossible, task, but, hey, you ask us to accept 7 impossible things before breakfast, so, just get on with it.

      Okay, I’m waiting…

      • James Says:

        Wonderful stuff Brian!

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Thank you, James, for your kind comment. BTW, there is no copyright on those 9 propositions, and everyone is free to use them in any appropriate situation.

  2. David Hirsh on the re-emergence of the antisemitism crisis in Labour | Engage Says:

    […] Inquiry   Follow this link for the full text of Jane Ashworth‘s submission to the Inquiry   Follow this link for the full text of Eve Garrard‘s submission to the Inquiry   Follow this link for the full text of Alan Johnson‘s BICOM submission to the Inquiry   […]

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