The EHRC ruling has re-stated The Livingstone Formulation in the language of UK Equality law – David Hirsh

The thing is that contemporary antisemitism always lurks, it’s never explicit, it’s never frank. Very often the visible battles are second degree: they’re about how we recognise antisemitism and how we define it.

Jews are relentlessly told not that they’re wrong but that they’re making it up. They’re lying. Why would they lie? Because they’re playing a dirty game. They believe that the ability to designate who or what is antisemitic is powerful.

But if they’re not just wrong but lying, then they must be in it together. The Jewish Press, the CST, the BoD, the JLM, UJS, JLC, Chief Rabbi, the journalists, the activists, the academics… they could be wrong independently but if they’re lying, then that’s a conspiracy.

And there are many ostensibly non-antisemitic ways of accusing Jews of this.

They are accused of ‘weaponizing’ antisemitism.

They are accused of conducting a witch-hunt. (No woman was ever really a witch; no socialist ever really slipped into antisemitism).

They are accused of Smearing Jeremy because he couldn’t be bought or because he threatened capitalism.

It is said that those who make these ‘fake’ allegations of antiemitism are really the Zionist or the pro-Israel lobby – in a clean repeat of the now dirty ‘Jewish lobby’. The word ‘lobby’ de-legitimizes’ agency and activism. It makes it transactional and dishonest.

When Jews insist that the IHRA definition is an important set of guidelines for judging what antisemitism is, they respond that IHRA is a fiendishly constructed Zionist document which is so good at silencing criticism of Israel that it even contains a clear statement that criticizing Israel is not antisemitic.

The EHRC report has now ruled that all these secondary accustions of dishonesty and conspiracy are antisemitic.

It’s a recognition that the these apparently ‘meta’ debates – about false motives and definitions are also the thing itself. They are the antisemitism.

The EHRC ruling has re-told the story of the Livingstone Formulation in the language of UK Equality law.

David Hirsh

The Livingstone Formulation is Dead – David Hirsh

This piece is from the digital Special Edition of the Jewish Chronicle on 29 October 2020, the day the EHRC reported

The Labour Party breached the Equality Act by committing unlawful harassment against Jews by employing antisemitic tropes and by characterizing complaints of antisemitism as fake smears. The cases adjudicated, says the EHRC report, were ‘the tip of the iceberg’. Many more incidents were committed by ordinary members for which the Party was only indirectly responsible.

The Leader’s office unlawfully intervened into the party’s complaints procedures to pervert antisemitism investigations against the leader himself and against other allies, including Ken Livingstone.

The Leader of the party at that time was Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn himself was imbued in antisemitic politics, supported antisemitic movements, defended antisemites against Jews, said antisemitic things. Antisemitism, like other racisms, is about what you do, its not about who you think you are.

Apologists are now saying that Corbyn didn’t do enough to tackle antisemitism. That gets things the wrong way round. Corbyn was the antisemitism.

But Jeremy Corbyn has not been suspended from the party for any of that. He has had the whip taken away from him for what he did this morning, in response to the report, for employing the ‘Livingstone Formulation’. He protested that the scale of the problem of antisemitism was ‘dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents … as well as by much of the media.’

As if the equalities institution set up by Labour in Government is an opponent of Labour. As if Jews are enemies of Labour. It is another stark reversal of the truth to claim that Jews and the EHRC opposed Labour’s antisemitism because they wanted to harm Labour. The truth is that they were only anti-Labour insofar as Labour was antisemitic and they wanted to help Labour by making sure it was no longer antisemitic.

Jews would like to be able to engage in politics again and to argue with each other again; there is no single Jewish interest or opinion. But antisemitism treats Jews as though they’re all one and it forces them to come together communally to defend themselves.

When there is a consensus in the Jewish community that there is a antisemitism problem, it does not mean that Jews are conspiring to defend capitalism; it means that there is an antisemitism problem.

Corbyn’s simpering denials were always accompanied menacing counter-aggressions, accusing Jews of trying to silence criticism of Israel and to smear the left.

The EHRC specified the following as a type of antisemitic conduct that amounted to unlawful harassment:”

The EHRC has crystallised a new legal precedent that the ‘Livingstone Formulation’ is antisemitic. It has added to the IHRA definition of antisemitism a new archetype of antisemitic behaviour.

‘Suggesting that complaints of antisemitism are fake or smears. Labour Party agents denied antisemitism in the Party and made comments dismissing complaints as ‘smears’ and ‘fake’. This conduct may target Jewish members as deliberately making up antisemitism complaints to undermine the Labour Party, and ignores legitimate and genuine complaints of antisemitism in the Party.’

I first named the Livingstone formulation in 2006 after Livingstone’s bizarre spat with a Jewish journalist, who he insistently accused of being like a Nazi. Instead of apologizing in the cold light of day, Livingstone came back with an aggressive counter-accusation against those who said his late night ranting had been antisemitic.  ‘For far too long the accusation of antisemitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government, as I have been.’

The Macpherson principle says: if a black person says they have experienced racism you should begin by assuming that they’re right. The Livingstone principle says: if Jews complain about antisemitism on the left then you should begin by assuming that they’re making it up to silence criticism of Israel or to smear the left.

It’s antisemitic conspiracy fantasy because doesn’t just say that Jews sometimes get it wrong, but that they know full well they’re wrong and they say it anyway, to increase their power.

The Livingstone formulation is the key mode of antisemitic bullying mobilized against Jews on the left. It treats Jews as alien to the left and as treasonous. Pete Willsman accused the 60 rabbis of being Trump fanatics. Such an accusation is a way, rhetorically, of deporting Jews from their political home and making them homeless.

Livingstone himself was thrown overboard by the Corbynites in an effort to save their own skins and he has now been singled out in the EHRC report as a key example of Labour Antisemitism. But Corbyn has now been thrown overboard too, and is reunited with his old comrade Livingstone. There is justice in that, since they have always shared the same antisemitic politics.

Huge responsibility for Labour antisemitism must be borne by those who did not share the crank politics but who nevertheless allowed it to take the leadership of the party. There are the layers of activists, politicians and intellectuals who think that antisemitic politics was radical Communist chic; then there are those who think that it was really all about Palestine; and those who thought we should rally round the leadership; and those who thought the Zionists were just as bad; and those who thought we should all get a long; and those who were afraid to get into the fight; and those who wanted to keep their jobs and their influence; and those who wanted a seat in the House of Lords. And there are those who don’t really think that Corbyn was antisemitic but they now believe that Labour won’t have a chance if it doesn’t keep the Jews happy.

The EHRC report is Keir Starmer’s opportunity to peel away those layers from the committed, ideological, antisemitic core, and to cauterize the wound. I think he’s doing well. Personally I would vote for Starmer to be Prime Minister tomorrow if I could, in an election against Boris Johnson. I’d be happier still voting Labour if Luciana Berger was my Labour candidate in Finchley and Golders Green. Failing that, she would be a great MP for Islington North.

The EHRC report also sets new legal precedent in defining what is antisemitic. There is much work to be done in setting this out explicitly and articulating what the new legal position is; but not only legal, also political. It should be our Macpherson Report.

Yet Twitter is this afternoon alive with furious atomized individuals, venting their pain and their hurt.  They are the people who have learnt something else from the report. They have learnt that Corbyn was stabbed in the back by Jews and Blairites from within his own trench, and they have learnt that between us and socialism sits the Jews. They have learnt that next time they should not be so nice to the Jews. They want fervently to be the cadre of a future antisemitic movement.

David Hirsh

This piece is from the digital Special Edition of the Jewish Chronicle on 29 October 2020, the day the EHRC reported

Briefing for Labour people tomorrow morning – David Hirsh

Here is a list of things not to say:

  1. ‘I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite, he’s not a racist man…’

This distinction doesn’t matter anymore. Corbyn is imbued in antisemitic politics, he supports antisemitic movements, he defends antisemites against Jews, he says antisemitic things. He was so wedded to his antisemitism that it became more important to him to stay true to it than it was to win the election.

Antisemitism, like other racisms, is about what you do, not what you think you do.

  1. ‘Corbyn should have done more to tackle antisemitism.’

That gets it the wrong way round. Corbyn was the antisemitism which needed to be tackled. It was there in his politics, his worldview, and his political tradition.  Those in the party who thought like him were emboldened and those outside it joined. Labour antisemitism was not some random and difficult thing Corbyn was confronted by and had difficulty dealing with.

Corbyn said: ‘We recognise that anti-Semitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party’.

Jews replied: ‘You are the pocket!’

  1. ‘We are sorry for the hurt and offence caused to the Jewish community.’

This was not centrally about Jews, it was about the very heart of what the Labour Party is. Antisemitism is always attracted to anti-democratic politics. Antisemitism seemed normal in the Party because the Party had lost its democratic bearings. This scandal was not about a small offended minority community, it was a sickness in British public life.

But Labour antisemitism did hurt Jews. Jewish members of the Party, people with Labour values, were treated as alien, as supporters of racism and as disloyal. Jews in Britain were afraid of the prospect of Labour coming to power.

  1. ‘Jews pretended to experience antisemitism in order to silence criticism of Israel.’

The Macpherson principle is that when people say they have experienced racism, those in authority should begin by treating that experience respectfully.

The Ken Livingstone principle, on the other hand, taught antiracists to recognise those who said they had experienced antisemitism as the enemy and to assume that they were making it up.

  1. ‘Jews lied about experiencing antisemitism in order to smear Jeremy Corbyn because he threatened capitalism.’

Jews would like to be free to argue their politics. They would like to be free to argue with each other.  Jews do not all agree with each other, they do not have a single Jewish interest. Antisemitism, however, treats them as though they’re all the same and it forces them to come together communally to defend themselves.

When there is a huge consensus in the Jewish community that there is a antisemitism problem, it doesn’t mean that Jews are conspiring to defend capitalism; it means that there is an antisemitism problem.

  1. ‘Yes, there was antisemitism, but it was weaponized by the Zionists and the Tories against Labour.’This is a way of saying that there was a little bit of antisemitism but it was hugely exaggerated to hurt Corbyn. (see above)

    Notice also the way that the Corbyn faction spit the word ‘Zionist’ with hatred. When they use the word it means racist, pro-apartheid, imperialist, Nazi, Tory, Trumpy. But they mean me. They mean the overwhelming majority of Jews who think it is good that the Jews of Palestine didn’t get defeated and wiped out.

  1. ‘There may have been some institutional antisemitism in the Party but it was just a failure of systems, not a hatred of Jews.’

The fish stinks from the head. There wasn’t a particular Labour antisemitism problem under John Smith, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or Ed Miliband. The problem was Jeremy Corbyn and his faction.

What started as antisemitic politics was then also embedded in the institutions of the Party by the powerful leading faction. John Ware’s Panorama and the whistle-blowers from inside the Labour machine testified that the internal party institutions were stopped from dealing with antisemitism properly.

Jeremy Corbyn was in charge when the party became institutionally antisemitic. The concept of ‘institutional racism’ does not exonerate the people who are responsible for the problem.

  1. ‘There were only a small number of antisemites in the Party.’

It was like the layers of an onion. There was only small number of people who fought long and hard for antisemitic politics. But they were surrounded by layers who thought they were cool and radical. And they were surrounded by layers of people who thought that this was really about supporting the Palestinians.  And they were surrounded by people who thought that the antisemites and the ‘Zionists’ were each as bad as each other. And they were surrounded by people who didn’t want to involve themselves in this horrible fight. And they were surrounded by people who didn’t want to seem disloyal. And they were surrounded by people who didn’t want to upset their friends.

What started with politics and institutional corruption then also became a culture in which those who complained about antisemitism were put, sometimes subtly and sometimes brutally, out of the community.

  1. ‘But wasn’t Jeremy Corbyn clear that he opposed antisemitism? His mother was at Cable Street, after all.’

Corbyn did often say he opposed antisemitism but he was never able to say what the antisemitism he opposed was. Corbyn’s worldview made it impossible for him to understand his own antisemitism.

He believes that capitalism-imperialism-modernity is the key aggressive machine on the planet, responsible for war, poverty and misery. He believes that anybody against capitalism-imperialism-modernity is therefore on the side of a better future.

So when people on the right are antisemitic, he understands that antisemitism is bad. But when people who he thinks are on his side are antisemitic, he cannot see it at all. He does not understand the menace of opposing capitalism-imperialism-modernity-Zionism!

If you only oppose the antisemitism of those you hate anyway, but if you say that the antisemitism amongst your own political community is invented by Zionists, then you don’t oppose antisemitism.

  1. ‘But Labour under Corbyn did expel antisemites, even Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson!’

But Corbyn does not disagree with Livingstone or Williamson, they have the same politics. It’s true that they both enjoy saying explicitly what Corbyn became afraid to say when he was leader, but there is no difference of worldview. Corbyn also believes that antisemitism was invented or weaponized by Zionists and Tories. He believes it was a smear against him and his movement.

11.   But this is all word salad. What did Corbyn and his faction ever do or say that was really antisemitic?’

  1. Corbyn defended the antisemitic mural.
  2. Corbyn honoured the terrorists who castrated and murdered the Israeli Olympic team in 1972 in Munich.
  3. Corbyn defended Steven Sizer, a vicar who said that Israel was responsible for 9/11.
  4. Corbyn believes that Israel should be excluded from the global community of Art, scholarship, sport and business.
  5. Corbyn donated to Paul Eisen even after everyone knew he was a Holocaust denier.
  6. Corbyn defended Raed Salah, a man who pushes medieval blood libel.
  7. Corbyn says that Israel is apartheid.
  8. Corbyn was national Chair of ‘Stop the War’ which advocated war of annihilation against Israel.
  9. Corbyn believes that Hamas and Hezbollah, antisemitic organisations, are fighters for peace and justice across the Middle East.
  10. Corbyn worked for the antisemitic English language propaganda TV channel of the Iranian regime.
  11. Corbyn sat silently and watched Pete Willsman treat 60 rabbis as ‘Trump fanatics’.
  12. Corbyn sneered that Zionists don’t understand English irony.
  13. Corbyn wrote a gushing introduction for an edition of Hobson’s ‘Imperialism’, a profoundly antisemitic book.
  14. Corbyn commissioned Shami Chakrabarti to whitewash Labour antisemitism and then he put her in the House of Lords.
  15. When Ruth Smeeth asked for Corbyn’s help after she and Margaret Hodge were denounced in obscene, misogynist and antisemitic terms, Corbyn did nothing.
  16. When Luciana Berger was driven out of the Party by the misogynistic antisemitism of Corbyn’s allies, he did nothing.
  17. When Louise Ellman was driven out of the Party by the misogynistic antisemitism of Corbyn’s allies, he did nothing.
  18. When Joan Ryan was driven out of the Party by the misogynistic antisemitism of Corbyn’s allies, he did nothing.
  19. When Warren Morgan, Labour leader of Brighton Council, was forced out of the Party by Corbyn’s allies, Corbyn did nothing.
  20. When Dany Louise, a Labour councillor in Hastings, was forced out of the Party by antisemitic bullying, Corbyn did nothing.
  21. For 122 further documented and explained examples of Labour antisemitism, see Alan Johnson’s guide to Institutional antisemitism.

Their antisemitism was proven beyond doubt in the submissions to the Chakrabarti Inquiry, in John Ware’s Panorama, in Dave Rich’s book, in Alan Johnson’s Fathom report, in the documentation produced by Labour Against Antisemitism and the Campaign Against Antisemitism; in the Community Security Trust reports; in the journalism of Gabriel Pogrund; in the leaked evidence compiled by the Jewish Labour Movement to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission; daily on the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish News websites; in the testimony of the Labour staff whistle-blowers; in the tweets and facebook posts of hundreds of people who made it their business to confront the antisemitism; in the quantitative data of Daniel Allington and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research; in the experience of hundreds of Labour activists, both still in and forced out of the Party; in the antisemitic responses to well-known figures who spoke out like Rachel Riley and Tracy-Ann Oberman; in Judith Ornstein’s ‘Whitewashed’ and ‘Forced Out’ projects; in the stories of heroic Labour MPs, Ian Austin, John Mann, Mike Gapes; and particularly the women Labour MPs who endured a special antisemitism laced with sexually violent threat, Luciana Berger, Ruth Smeeth, Margaret Hodge, Joan Ryan, Louise Ellman and Anna Turley.

David Hirsh

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