Ilan Pappe admits that BDS was not initiated by a “call” from Palestinian Civil Society

A Palestinian activist and scholar, Ruba Salih, who is chairing a session tries to correct Ilan Pappé at one point, saying:

“Well the Palestinains launched BDS in 2005.”

“Yes, yes,” replies Pappé.  He makes a face which shows that he knows that what is being said is not true.  “Not really, but yes.  OK.  For historical records, yes.”

Ruba Salih then smiles, strokes his shoulder and makes clear: “That’s important”.

Pappé replies to her, nodding and smiling, quietly, embarrassed, patronisingly, knowingly: “It’s not true but it’s important.”

[This video comes from David Collier’s website, Beyond the Great Divide.]

Ilan Pappé knows that it is a lie that the boycott campaign was launched by a “call” from “Palestinian civil society”.  He knows it is a lie, but he’s content nevertheless for it to be solidified into what he calls “historical records”.

In the 1970s and 80s the ANC, which positioned itself as the voice of the whole South African nation, called for a boycott of South Africa.  Campaigners for the boycott positioned themselves as passive responders to the “call” of the oppressed.    The BDS campaign against Israel has, since 2005, tried to position itself in the same way.   However in truth, British anti-Israel activists started the boycott campaign and they persuaded people in Palestine to issue the “call”.  Although neither the Palestinian Authority nor Hamas have issued a “call”, the BDS movement says that the “call” is issued by “Palestinian Civil Society”.

Ilan Pappé now admits that the “call” did not come from the Palestinians but he makes it clear that he is willing to go along with the pretence that it was.

The pretence is politically important because it positions Palestinians as being the initiators of the “call” and people outside the region as passive responders to the voice of “the oppressed”.

I wrote the following in 2007 (from p. 130) about the actual conception of the campaign for the academic boycott of Israel.  It was thought up in 2002 in England:

In April 2002 Steven and Hilary Rose ‘initiated’[1] the call for a moratorium on European research collaboration with Israel.  Later they participated in setting up BRICUP, the British Campaign for the Universities of Palestine and PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.  It subsequently became an important element of their political rhetoric that they are not initiators of the boycott call but are, rather, responding passively to a call from within Palestine.

In May 2002 Mona Baker, an academic at UMIST, fired two Israeli academics, Miriam Shlesinger from the board of her journal, The Translator and Gideon Toury from the board of her journal, Translation Studies Abstracts because of their institutional connections to Israeli universities.  Both have long and distinguished records as campaigners for human rights and for peace in Israel and Palestine.[2]

In May 2003, Sue Blackwell proposed a motion  (Woodward 2003) at AUT (Association of University Teachers) Council asking members to sever ‘any academic links they may have with official Israeli institutions, including universities.’ AUT Council discussed the motion and it was comfortably defeated. …

In April 2005 Sue Blackwell came back to AUT council with what she said [3] was a more sophisticated and tactical attempt to win a boycott.

[1]  Steven and Hilary Rose did ‘initiate’ the call for a moratorium on European research collaboration with Israel in April 2002, according to Steven Rose’s own account in his profile on The Guardian’s website, Comment Is Free,, downloaded 14 February 2005.  It was later that they portrayed themselves as answering a Palestinian call rather than themselves initiating action.

[2]  Mona Baker’s ‘personal statement’ is available on her website at (downloaded 14 February 2007), together with links to the correspondence she had with the woman who had been her friend, Miriam Shlesinger, and her letter to Gideon Toury.  She writes: ‘In May 2002, following the sharp rise in the level of atrocities committed against the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza, I decided to join the call to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The boycott was conceived along the same lines as the sanctions which ultimately led to the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa. The call was initiated by Professor Steven Rose (Physics, Open University) and Professor Hilary Rose (Bradford University). … I first wrote to Miriam Shlesinger (Bar Ilan University, Israel) on 23 May explaining my decision and asking her to resign from the Editorial Board of The Translator. She refused. I also wrote to Gideon Toury (Tel Aviv University, Israel) on 8 June along the same lines, asking him to resign from the panel of Consulting Editors of Translation Studies Abstracts. He too refused. I removed them both from the boards of the respective journals.’

[3]  ‘It’s a tactical attempt to get it through,’ admits Birmingham’s Sue Blackwell, one of the motion’s authors. ‘We’ve got to be a bit more sophisticated. We are now better organised. One of the reasons we didn’t win last time was that there was no clear public call from Palestinians for the boycott. Now we have that, in writing.’ (Curtis 2005)



“We call it the Livingstone Formulation”


Follow this link for Mark Gardner’s explanation of the “Livingstone Formulation” in Parliament [30s video clip]

The Livingstone Formulation is a means of refusing to engage with an accusation of antisemitism by responding to it with a counter-accusation that the accuser is crying wolf; that they are mobilizing Jewish victimhood in a bad faith effort to silence criticism of Israel.  This way serious discussion of antisemitism is avoided.

Read more here by following this link to an explanation and examples of the Livingstone Formulation. 

Ken Livingstone (2006):

“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.”

A few observations on the Chakrabarti report – Adrian Cohen

Shami Chakrabati should be commended for producing a report in record 20160405_213318 (1)time on such a colossal subject as antisemitism and other forms of racism. There is some helpful stuff in there around sensitivity, holocaust metaphors and the abhorrent use of the term ‘zio’ and misuse of the term Zionism.

There is one great line in there: ‘it is not sufficient narrowly to scrape across some thin magic line of non-antisemitc or non racist motivation, speech or behaviour.’

Unfortunately whether it is the speed at which the report has been produced or whether there are other factors which are at play the report and its analysis and recommendations are somewhat flawed and leave the author and her team open to the allegation of superficiality or worse whitewash.

I list some of these flaws as follows:

1. The opening line of the report states: the Labour Party is not overrun by antisemitism. This has been seized upon by those who wish to play down the significance of the problem. The second paragraph of the report refers to an ‘occasional toxic atmosphere’. All of this conveys the impression of the ‘few rotten apples in the barrel’ which of course is the classic apologism used by any institution under criticism for institutionalised attitudes. Whether the party has been ‘overrun’ is to set up a straw man. That the Labour Party has a serious problem sits somewhere between being overrun and an occasional toxic atmosphere.

2. Recent polling suggests that support for the Labour Party has fallen to 8% amongst Jews – a remarkably small amount. It had been sliding under Ed Miliband to some 20% but the process of alienation seems to have accelerated under Jeremy Corbyn. Some of this might be explained by his wider politics and the party’s dramatic shift to the hard left but perceived antipathy to the Jewish community and Israel is another. The leader’s failure to explain, account or if appropriate apologise for his associations with Paul Eisen (Holocaust denier), the Larouche cult, Stephen Sizer (9/11 conspiricist), Raed Salah (blood libeler), Hamas, Hezbollah and Press TV and more recently the leader’s dismissive attitude to complaints by his own MP Louise Ellman and peer Lord Levy are at the core of the problem. But none of this is addressed in the report. These issues identify a problem at the top of the party which suggests more than a few rotten apples. And this behaviour has been argued to have licenced some of the more egregious behaviour by the leaders supporters who are ascendant in the party but again none of this is discussed in the report.

3. The report commends the leadership for commissioning the inquiry. The inquiry was in fact announced as a consequence of extreme political pressure after numerous allegations had been made about antisemitism in the party and the leadership had become subject to ridicule for not taking the issue seriously, particularly following the incendiary comments by the leader’s long term political associate Ken Livingstone. None of this context is referenced. One comes back to the point that the former director of Liberty would never be so charitable if asked to do a similar exercise say in relation to a police force.

4. The inquiry was announced on Passover and on Friday night, with no consultation with the Jewish community as to terms of reference or the individuals who were appointed. No reference is made to the need to have sensitivity around religious calendars in the report. The terms of reference of course refer to antisemitism, and other forms of racism, including Islamophobia. This brings us back to the leadership and the well known inability of the leader to address antisemitism without mentioning ‘other forms of racism’ in the same breath. There may well be good practical reasons to address other forms of racism in this report – in particular in the procedural aspects but the report doesn’t address one fundamental charge made about left-antisemitism (save a cursory nod at it) that it doesn’t take it seriously.

5. This segues into the lack of any analysis of left-antisemitism – nothing about the socialism of fools, the Stalinist legacy of ‘anti-Zionism’, the baleful influence of classical antisemitism through the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated movements and their impact on anti-imperialist politics and what is sometimes called campism, Likewise it doesn’t deal with the impact of the propaganda of the Iranian regime. Perhaps it would be too ambitious to cover these issues in the short time frame given to the process. But it seems that a lot of intellectual input by serious experts into the inquiry has been wasted.

6. The most alarming aspect of the report is the call for a moratorium on triggering new formal investigations on conduct arising prior to the report. Really? It is precisely the issues around the leader that remain unresolved and unaccounted for and are, perhaps with the exception of the interventions of Ken Livingstone, the biggest cause for anxiety in the Jewish community. Chakrabati asks for a moratorium on the retrospective trawling of members’ social media accounts and past comments. First this implies there has been ‘trawling’ in any organised sense by members of the party to expose antisemitism, whereas there is no evidence to suggest that it is true. More importantly the way it is put implies it is reprehensible to do so. This seems to be seeking to disarm the victims of antisemitism particularly as the call for a moratorium is without qualification. It sounds like a positive thing to do but would only work if there was was commitment from the leadership by example to be open and transparent. But there is no evidence of this to date.

7. The failure to publish the Royall report in full or the NOLS report into the Oxford University Labour Club again go to the issue of transparency.

8. The section on Zionism and Zionist is open to the challenge in that it employs gross simplifications of the beliefs of strictly orthodox Jews and young Jews. For example whilst it is true many Haredim do not consider themselves ideologically Zionist most are passionately concerned with the well being of the State of Israel and can be quite conservative in attitudes to defence and the peace process. This is a nuance that will be missed by readers. Gaza is referred to as under bombardment – it’s unclear if this is a permanent state of affairs and certainly doesnt allow for any notion of rocket attack going the other way. It’s an odd deployment of language in a report which seems otherwise to avoid a historical or contemporary analysis of Israeli- Palestinian relations.

In summary whilst there is much to be commended in the report the bar has been set very low as to what is unacceptable and the real issues of concern haven’t really been addressed. Curiously the recommendations all seem to have been foreshadowed by published comments much to the same effect made by chair of Momentum Jon Lansman – eg about avoiding debates around Zionism and use of Zio. That isn’t to knock their utility but does give an insight into possible provenance and thinking behind the report.

Finally on the meeting itself the role of the leader and the choreography of the event and the defence of the leader the next day by Chakrabati on the Today programme have reinforced the concerns expressed above.

NB: this post was substantially drafted prior to the Home Affairs Select Committee hearing save for the addition of points 7 and 8 which I had run out of time to previously add. The hearing gives rise to a number of other points which I would like to address on another occasion.

Adrian Cohen (in a personal capacity)

The Real Jeremy Corbyn Stands Up – Marc Goldberg

On Thursday the much talked about Chakrabarti report into antisemitism

Marc Goldberg

Marc Goldberg

and other forms of racism in the Labour Party was released to the public in the Houses of Parliament. The release of the Chakrabarti report should have been an opportunity to heal wounds and end divisions between Jews and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

It should have been and could have been the moment when Corbyn, already under fire from the parliamentary Labour Party, could have healed at least his rift with the Jews.

It could have been, it should have been, but it was not.

Instead the press conference descended into farce when the Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was accused of being part of a media conspiracy by a Corbyn loyalist called Mark Wadsworth. This was mere moments after Corbyn had given what was supposed to be a landmark speech setting out his opposition to antisemitism. Corbyn had literally just said that

To assume that a Jewish friend or fellow member is wealthy, part of some kind of financial or media conspiracy, or takes a particular position on politics in general, or on Israel and Palestine in particular, is just wrong.

After saying the above and then hearing one of his own MPs insulted in precisely the way he had just stated categorically was unacceptable one would expect Corbyn to step in and give a clear rebuke to Wadsworth. Swift and very public action on Corbyn’s part would certainly have shown he was serious about implementing the recommendations of the report and sticking by the words he had just spoken. He did nothing of the sort. In fact he did nothing at all.

To just stand by while one of his own Jewish MPs is accused of being part of a media conspiracy is shocking. That Corbyn would then go on to have a jovial conversation with the very man who had made such an accusation without offering a reprimand or any kind of opprobrium is bizarre, that he then made it clear that they would be in touch later by text message adds insult to injury is beyond belief. But this is precisely what happened in a moment caught on video and posted to youtube.

A closer reading of Corbyn’s speech means we shouldn’t be surprised.

During his speech Corbyn said that

Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.

The former Chief Rabbi Lord Sachs was quick to make his outrage clear at Corbyn’s comparison of Israel to the Islamic State writing that

Jeremy Corbyn’s comparison of the State of Israel to ISIS is demonisation of the highest order, an outrage and unacceptable. That this occurred at the launch of the report into the Labour Party’s recent troubles with antisemitism shows how deep the sickness is in parts of left of British politics today.

The Corbyn team later apologised to the Israeli ambassador but the damage was done. Furthermore his comments were not made off the cuff they were made as part of a prepared speech and vetted by his team. He made the “mistake” of saying what he really thinks.

Other comments in the same speech point to a line of thinking that cannot comprehend anyone taking umbrage at antisemitism in the context of an argument about Israel:

No one should be expected either to condemn or defend the actions of foreign powers on account of their faith or race. At the same time, we should have the sensitivity to understand how upset many Labour party members and supporters are likely to feel about various human rights abuses around the world.

Bear in mind that this was said during a speech about antisemitism at the launch of a report into antisemitism in the Labour Party and how to stamp it out. What are Jews meant to take from this statement other than that anyone who defends Israel should be sympathetic to the abuse they face from Labour Party members bearing in mind “how upset many Labour party members and supporters” get?

It is precisely the linkage between caring about human rights and being antisemitic against Jews in the UK that Jews took issue with in the first place. The idea that being antisemitic is okay as long as Israel is involved in the argument is precisely the nonsense that Corbyn and Chakrabarti are supposed to be challenging. Instead the message to Jews is that they shouldn’t be defending Israel in the first place as it is akin to the Islamic State and that should they receive abuse back it is because their defence of Israel rightly made people so upset that any antisemitism is to be excused.

But the sad truth is that if this is something new it is only a new episode of the same phenomenon that has already been happening for a very long time. Too much has been written about the antisemitism of the left, particularly the British left, for the Jewish community to feel that more understanding is needed. If you don’t get it by now it’s because you don’t want to get it and Jeremy Corbyn clearly doesn’t want to get it.

The release of the Chakrabarti report into antisemitism in the Labour Party and Corbyn’s response to it was supposed to be an opportunity for Corbyn to draw a line under a great deal of antisemitic unpleasantness from within the Labour Party instead it exposed the real Jeremy Corbyn and not that “decent” politician people were once harping on about.

Marc Goldberg


Jonathan G Campbell and Lesley D Klaff – Submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism in the Labour Party

The Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry into Antisemitism and Other Forms of Racism


Jonathan G Campbell (Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies & Judaism, University of Bristol) and Lesley D Klaff (Senior Lecturer in Law, Sheffield Hallam University)

As academics with interests in the study of contemporary antisemitism, we would be grateful if the inquiry would take into account the following two interrelated points:

1. The Labour Party cannot honestly hold itself out as “an anti-racist party committed to combating and campaigning against all forms of racism, including antisemitism…..” as long as it denies the existence of left-wing antisemitism within the Party. Left-wing antisemitism takes the form of irrational, disproportionate, and stereotyped hostility to Israel, treating the country in effect as the ‘Jew among nations’. It involves an intellectual discourse which conceives of Israel in partial and distorted form and employs a conceptual framework that is both false and falsifying. This includes claims that Zionism is racism; that Israel’s creation involved the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of Palestine; that Israel is a settler-colonial state which is now committing genocide against the Palestinians; and that all Israeli defensive action is disproportionate or unnecessary. The discourse similarly draws on the belief in an all-powerful Israel lobby and on nasty and provocative comparisons of Israel with apartheid South Africa and/or the Nazis. Further, left-wing antisemitism is at the heart of a global social movement, the BDS movement, which aims to remove Israel from the world stage in complete disregard of the perfectly legitimate needs and wishes of the roughly six million Israeli Jews who live there. This desire to see Israel’s demise constitutes contemporary anti-Zionism. Such anti-Zionism was officially given a definition in 2002 by the Berlin Technical University’s Centre for Research on Antisemitism, which it drafted for the European Union Monitoring Centre for Research on Racism and Xenophobia. It defines anti-Zionism as “the portrayal of Israel as a state that is fundamentally negatively distinct from all others and which therefore has no right to exist.”

2. Contemporary anti-Zionism as described above is antisemitic. It applies double standards to the world’s only Jewish state in order to demonise and delegitimize it so as to justify its removal from the community of nations. It also often transfers classic antisemitic notions about alleged Jewish power and malice to the state of Israel alone of all countries in the world. This is inevitably painful for most British Jews, the overwhelming majority of whom have an affinity with Israel and the Zionist project, so much so that Israel and Zionism are a key aspect of contemporary Jewish identity in the UK, broadly comparable to the place of the Irish Republic in the identity of Irish Americans. Accordingly, the majority of British Jews assume a certain obligation to support Israel and to ensure its survival as the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people. This does not equate to unconditional or unstinting support for any particular Israeli government and its policies. Rather, it amounts to a sense of connection with, or an affiliation to, modern Israel, as well as a sense of the country’s importance against the background of historic Jewish ties to the land, the persecution of Jews over the ages, and the renewed opportunity since 1922 (with the creation of British Palestine as the Jewish National Home) and especially since 1948 (with the formation of the state of Israel) for Jewish self-determination and cultural flourishing. For these reasons, left-wing hostility to Israel engages Jews not only in conventional political terms but also seeks to undermine a perfectly respectable core aspect of their identity. Nor is the existence of a small group of Jews who are hostile to Israel and Zionism evidence for the proposition that an attachment to Israel is not an important aspect of contemporary Jewish identity, for such Jews are either marginal or non-normative or, paradoxically, the form that their attachment to Israel takes is in their hostility to Israel and Zionism.

These two points are vital to understanding antisemitism in the modern Labour Party, for the grossly inaccurate discourse about Israel that they entail seems endemic to large sections of the Party at present, especially since Jeremy Corbyn became leader. The general demonization of Israel that results inevitably creates a permissive environment in which outrageous statements about Israel or Israeli Jews – or indeed Diaspora Jews with links to Israel – can be made by individual Party members. It may well be appropriate to take disciplinary action against such members, but the real problem lies in the prior permissive environment and its anti-Israel discourse. Without tackling the latter head on, indeed, the Labour Party will not in our view be able to deal thoroughly or successfully with the problem of antisemitism that is currently in its midst.

Jonathan G Campbell, University of Bristol 10 June 2016
Lesley D Klaff, Sheffield Hallam University

Stemming the Tide of Hatred – Winston Pickett on the Al Quds Day March

Every year, the placards come out, Hezbollah flags are raised and calls for Israel’s destruction fill the air.qudsday2008.3024

Every year, these crowds go unopposed.

Not this year.

On Sunday, for the first time since the annual, state-sponsored vilification of Israel began on the streets of the UK’s capital city a decade ago, hundreds people will gather take a stand against the ever-growing miasma of unfettered hatred and show their support for the state of Israel.

Why this year?

With every Al-Quds Day rally the levels of incitement and calls for Israel’s have increased, and with it, the levels of antisemitism. This time, three grassroots organizations – Sussex Friends of Israel, the Israel Advocacy Movement and the Zionist Federation – have taken to social media with videos, posters, Facebook links, Twitter feeds and word-of-mouth to spread the word that the hatred gripping Europe, the UK and around the world – particularly emanating from Islamist groups claiming credit for atrocities seemingly on a daily basis – cannot go unanswered.

No one denies how deep – or how organised – this hatred runs. The Al-Quds Day rally is organized by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). This year it will end in front of the US Embassy at Grosvenor Square. Throughout the day, pro-peace and pro-Israel supporters will see hundreds waving Hamas, ISIS and Hezbollah flags, which IHRC has failed to condemn. In the UK, Hamas and ISIS are designated terrorist organizations, while only Hezbollah’s “military wing” comes under that rubric.

It is simply wrong that the flag of a prescribed terrorist organization credited with deadly attacks against the citizens of Israel should be allowed to be flown on the streets of London.  Hezbollah’s political wing and Hezbollah military wing are one and the same. Both are committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.

Their terror campaigns are often fuelled by a deeply antisemitic ideology which has been widely documented. Moreover, this is not just a political campaign of hate against the State of Israel but a concerted attack on Jewish communities across the globe. It is also manifestly illegal.

Although British law, in line with the Human Rights Act 1998, allows for freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate, the law is equally clear on racial and religious hatred. Those who will be gathering under the ‘Stop The Hate – Stand With Israel’ banner believe that under The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, many at the Al-Quds march – and arguably the march itself – falls foul of this legislation. As in years past, its tone and rhetoric will be used to incite hatred against the Jewish people.

This year we, we refuse to allow this incitement to go unchallenged. Speakers will include Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN WatchMP Matthew Offord, and representatives from a cross-section of the organized British Jewish community, including Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council and Paul Charney, chairman of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain.

Robust arrangements have been made with the Metropolitan Police and the Community Security Trust that we will be able to demonstrate peacefully.

There is no clearer moment for us to shake off the paralyzing fear that ripples throughout our community with each atrocity, each act of brutalizing hatred that metastasizes into racism, xenophobia and antisemitism and insinuating its way into public attitudes and discourse. And there is no more suitable place to start a campaign than by targeting groups for whom incitement is a firm ideological plank in their political platform.

Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.  No amount of political correctness by the British government will deflect that.  It should and must be placed on the EU list of proscribed terrorist organizations – not one part, but all of it.

Maybe, just maybe, by turning up in numbers we’ll be able to drive that message home and show our unconditional support for the Jewish state.

At he very least we’ll show this year, it won’t be business as usual.

Winston Pickett is former director of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and a founding member of Sussex Friends of Israel.

Submissions to the Chakrabarti Inquiry into Antisemitism in the Labour Party


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