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

SUBMISSION OF EVIDENCE

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

Jane Ashworth’s submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry into Antisemitism

This note focuses on these two aspects of the Inquiry’s remit:

• to establish boundaries of acceptable behaviours and
• to ensure that the party is a welcoming environment.

Key point

There is a world of difference between the sort of anti-zionism that protests Israeli Government policies or the occupation of the West Bank and existential anti-zionism. Existential anti-zionsim denies the legitimacy of Israel and insists that Zionism is a form of racism. The former is a reasonable position, the latter is a cause of the political hostility that we now see in the Party towards those Jews who hold to the mainstream communal opinion.

The need for a tolerant Labour Party

It is extremely unfortunate that the current conflict over the legitimacy of Israel and definitions of antisemitism threatens to be a defining battle within the Party’s larger left-right war. It is already established as a defining left-right issue within the youth wings. A good row, with all its rough, tumble and rancour, is well within Labour’s traditions. This is not one of those healthy rows. We seem to be heading for embedded and lasting intolerance to difference and that will make us an uninhabitable space for dissenters. The Party as a whole – the members and the machine alike – needs to become a tolerant party that can cope with different opinions.

We should aim to become a party in which free and fair debate about the Palestine/Israel conflict is perfectly possible. Being a Zionist would not be out of bounds in a tolerant party, and members within a tolerant party would be comfortable to campaign against the Israeli Government and the occupation of the West Bank. When members complain of Jew baiting and the mobilisation of antisemitic tropes then a tolerant party assumes they speak in good faith. A tolerant party assumes they are not dissembling to protect Israel. We are a long way off such a state. It is hard to be a Zionist in today’s party and it shouldn’t be.

Properly managed, this crisis might prove to be a blessing. Cleaning up the Party so it becomes tolerant and welcoming to Jews who share the dominant communal attitude to Israel could be a collaborative and unifying process. (Latest figures show that 93% of UK Jews see Israel as important to them.) Handled properly, the cleaning up process could allow activists and leaders of the left and the right to build trust, tolerance and to find a way to co-exist.

Action for a tolerant party

The current problem in the Party is not caused by a few over- excited, misguided, loose-tongued, foolish or ignorant people. It is not caused by people who are motivated by hostility to Jews nor by most of those Party members who see themselves as anti-zionists and who want to see a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It is not caused by dissembling Jews.

The problem is rooted in the growth in popularity of a particular strand of anti-zionism – existential anti-zionism. In today’s Party, existential anti-zionism runs alongside a form of antisemitism-denial which insists that Zionist Jews deliberately and dishonestly use the charge of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israel.

Existential anti-zionism frames Israel as a settler, racist, illegitimate state; it considers Zionism to be a racist ideology and it considers Zionists to be racists who are not welcome in the party. (The anatomy of existential anti-zionism is at appendix one.) Existential anti-zionism has its own gurus (including the discredited writers of history, Lenni Brenner and Roland Rance), its own language, its own codes, its own buzz words; and it mobilises anti-Jewish motifs and legends for use against Zionists. Existential anti-zionists are driven; they behave much like the entryists of the 80’s: they go hunting; and since most UK Zionists are Jews and most Jews are Zionists, Jews are their targets. The existential anti-zionists hound Jews in ways which they themselves would call racist if any other minority were involved.

And so, once an existential anti-zionist defines a fellow party member as a Zionist then the trouble begins for him or her. After all, so their argument goes, we don’t treat racists well and we certainly don’t want them in the Party: hence a Zionist is fair game for baiting, aggression and marginalisation. To the existential anti-zionist, both the Zionist and Zionism should be removed from the social democratic consensus. Fired by this self-ascribed moral authority, existential anti-zionism crusades with shrill and self-righteous aggression. Non-Jewish Zionists tend not to be the focus of this aggression and baiting. As most Jews are Zionists and as most UK Zionists are Jews then existential anti-zionism tends to target those Jews who share the dominant communal attitude to Israel.

The trouble gets worse because existential anti-zionism deploys antisemitic tropes that non-Jews are unlikely to understand. It baits Jews. See below the cartoon from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, a campaign which is financed by Labour activists and trade union affiliations. This image, in beautiful and arresting colours, tells us that the Israelis are trying to sell you food to eat which is made with the blood of Palestinian children.

Most reasonable people can feel the cartoon’s hostility, but not many non-Jews will feel the bite that comes with knowing it is a mobilisation of the blood libel. It would be surprising if more than a tiny percentage of the UK population even knows about the blood libel. It is mobilised time and time again in existential anti-zionist materials. It is a dog whistle; it baits Jews. And so, when Jews respond negatively to the dog whistle it is easy for existential anti-zionists to paint the objections as a whinge, obscurantist, or more importantly, as cover to protect Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

So, thank God for Livingstone’s loose tongue. Livingstone mobilised a favourite device of existential anti-zionism – the conflation of Hitler’s desire to rid Europe’s social, cultural, political and economic life of Jews with the politics of Jewish nationalism and the desire for a Jewish homeland. Livingstone was understood by reasonable people to be offering a hostile and disingenuous interpretation of a defining feature of the 20th century. It wasn’t the usual existential anti-zionist dog-whistle; it was fully audible to every reasonable listener. Ken confirmed on national TV what some party members have reckoned on for a long time: he baits Jews. He and the other existential anti-zionists reshape historiography into a narrative that sits between argument and abuse and gets right to the insecurities of most Jews.

Existential anti-zionism is a significant threat to the tolerant party because it could catch on and become the dominant way of thinking. It is attractive, with its smart bon mots and catchphrases that guarantee a reaction and reward the belligerent with an anti-hegemonic frisson. It feels radical and it feels like a courageous blow against the status quo. We shouldn’t underestimate the enjoyment which some people gain from legitimised hatred of Jews when those Jews are framed as racists. Existential anti-zionism provides an alibi and excuse for something very dark – the pleasures of intolerance and hating those who we regard as wrongdoers.

Watered down existential anti-zionism gets everywhere and before we know it the Oxford Labour Club is singing bonding-songs that celebrate the bombing of Israeli civilians – indeed such Jew baiting seems to have been an important part of the Club’s culture. So casually, and one hopes through sloppy thinking rather than by design, civilian Israelis are re-categorised. No longer are they the Tel Aviv version of those ‘ordinary, hard-working families’ that Labour supports. They have become enemy agents active in the oppressor camp, supposedly undermining decent human values in the Middle East and hence fit objects for lethal attack.

A clean up of the youth wings of the party is now urgent. It is in the nature of youth movements to take on an exaggerated expressions or caricatures of the parent body. If the politics of existential anti-zionism and its Jew baiting practices becomes dominant in the youth movement then a generation of party members, the future opinion formers and leaders, will be mis-educated and will create a Jew-free party.

The party leadership needs to defend Jews and the party from existential anti-zionism. Corbyn’s team should extend the hand of friendship to socialist Zionists within the party and say to the membership that existential anti-zionism is outside acceptable boundaries because:

• Zionists have played an important role in the history of the party and we will make it our business to ensure they continue to do so: Zionists/mainstream Jews are welcome here. ‘Zionist’ is an unacceptable term of abuse.

• Zionism was/is a reasonable nationalism which offered sanctuary and a political solution to European and Middle Eastern antisemitism.   Israel was a life-raft state, both for European Jews and Middle Eastern Jews.

There is room for argument about the advisability of Zionism as a response to the holocaust. But regardless of one’s thoughts on that issue, it needs to be made clear by the party leadership that the Zionists who created Israel were shaped by the murderous antisemitism in Europe and beyond. In the light of that, the party leadership needs to explain how horrifying the existential anti-zionist rhetoric of ‘settler-colonialist state’ is to the majority of Jews who are conscious of the history of Jewry in the 20th century.

• Resolutions to the Middle East conflict should be based on a two states solution, one each for the two belligerent nations. Israel is a legitimate state and the party has no truck with those who seek to replace it with an Arab state.

• It is outside the boundaries of acceptable behaviour for party members to demonise Zionism, to assume that Zionists are outside the social democratic or socialist consensus and so treat them as some kind of external enemy. This is unacceptable not simply because it negatively impacts on most Jews but critically because it is an unreasonable framing of Zionism: Zionism is a response to murderous antisemitism.

• It is far outside the boundaries to use fascistic terms like, ‘zio’; to use concepts of Jewish power to explain foreign policy; and even in the cause of Palestinian rights it is out of bounds to mobilise anti-Israel imagery that is loaded with antisemitic tropes.

Appendix one

Knowing the problem: Existential anti-zionism

Understanding existential anti-zionism is a requirement for mapping out an effective response to the party’s problem. Existential anti-zionism is pernicious. It insists that:

• Zionism was/is not a reasonable response to antisemitism. Israel is necessarily an illegitimate state, because it is supposedly a colonial state; it forever will be so and therefore it should not exist. It insists that Israel must be dismantled. If necessary, (and it will be necessary, because Israelis will not agree to it), that dismantling will be against the will of the majority of its citizens.

• The existential anti-zionist would commit the party to the forcible replacement of Israel with a state that Israelis don’t want to live in and would be unlikely to survive in. It would also commit us to support for clerical-fascist organisations that would enchain women and do appalling things to social and democratic rights in the space we now call Israel and the Occupied Territories. Labour would be far outside the 2nd International consensus and the global democratic consensus – which is for two states. It is best not to let that happen because mainstream Jews would leave the party quickly, and the Labour party would then be seen by many as a racist party.

• Existential anti-zionism holds that Israel is also, and again necessarily, a racist state and so Zionists are necessarily racists too. Socialist Zionism is, for them, an oxymoron. Consequently, to the existential anti-zionist and to those imbibing such polluted water, Zionists (of the left and of the right) are definitionally not simply ‘wrong’ but ‘WRONG’ in capital letters: they are the enemy, racist, false-accusers of antisemitism, and so are suitable objects for the type of aggressive baiting that is not usually dished out to fellow party members.

• It insists that the Zionist desire for a Jewish homeland where Jews can be safe from racist hatred is actually Jewish exclusivity; that Jews collaborated with the Nazis and sacrificed other Jews in order to achieve a state; that Jews take delight in murdering Palestinian children.

• Existential anti-zionism identifies a special role for Jewish Zionists in the diaspora: they supposedly form a fifth column that is tasked with whitewashing Israel’s reputation by crying ‘antisemitism’ whenever Israel is criticised.

• The only antisemitism which existential anti-zionists recognise is the antisemitism of Nazis and the right – the left itself is felt to be somehow thought to be immune, perhaps in virtue of its self-ascribed high moral standards. Sometimes it is held that the left is immune by definition, because the left is, by definition, antiracist.

Jane Ashworth OBE

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

Submission to the Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism – Robert Fine and Christine Achinger

1. The Labour Party and the vast majority of its members oppose antisemitism. This is to be welcomed and provides a base for future development. It should go without saying that the Labour Party, as a progressive party, should actively combat antisemitism whenever or wherever it shows its face and should do so with the same vigour it should show in combating other forms of racism and prejudice. Our experience, however, is that this is not the case. In our view there has been lack of leadership in combating antisemitism and poverty of theory in identifying and understanding antisemitism whether it arises from within or from without the Labour Party itself.

2. All too often we find unwillingness to confront the issue of antisemitism, doubt cast on the validity of concerns about antisemitism, distrust of the political motives of those who raise such concerns, and defensive reactions to their expression. The overall effect of these responses has been to foster within sections of the Labour Party, including its leading circles, a culture of suspicion in relation to concerns about antisemitism that is not equally present in relation to concerns about any other form of racism. This culture of suspicion is tied up with the Israel-Palestine conflict in the Middle East, insofar as it is premised on a dual prejudice, first that the ‘charge of antisemitism’ is merely a way of disparaging criticism of Israel, and second that Israel is defended covertly and dishonestly because it cannot be defended openly and honestly.

3. What is urgently needed within the Labour Party is leadership on this issue. To this end we would recommend that the Labour Party a) commits itself in principle and practice to taking antisemitism as seriously as any other form of racism; b) encourages respectful and compassionate debate on concerns that Jews and non-Jews express about antisemitism; c) defends the right to freedom of expression against those who attempt to boycott or otherwise silence the voices of those who raise concerns about antisemitism; and c) campaigns actively for a peaceful and just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that declares a policy of ‘no tolerance’ for anti-Arab, anti-Muslim or antisemitic forms of racism and supports antiracist movements and individuals both in Israeli and Palestinian society.

4. There is substantiated evidence that the problem of antisemitism is growing in the UK, Europe and globally. This unwelcome and worrying development makes it all the more important that the Labour Party commits itself to learning how to recognise and combat antisemitism alongside its commitment to recognising and combating other forms of racism and prejudice. There are those who portray current concerns about antisemitism in the Labour Party as invented by ‘Zionists’ in bad faith in order to smear the left and silence criticism of Israel. The Labour Party should clearly recognise that this refusal to engage with the problem of antisemitism is itself part of the problem and would not be considered an acceptable response to analogous concerns raised by any other group. In support of these recommendations we add the following observations.

5. Antisemitism, like all forms of racism, has its own peculiarities. One feature that distinguishes it from other forms of racism is its tendency to see the Jews as a hugely powerful world conspiracy. It is, therefore, a characteristic of antisemitism to present itself as a form of justified resistance in the name of the oppressed, even where it persecutes minorities. In responding to antisemitism, however, the core principle the Labour Party should observe, but in many cases is not observing, is that antisemitism and other forms of racism represent the same bankruptcy of humanity and that there are universal norms to be followed in combating them.

6. Antisemitism is indicative of a failure of democracy. Victims of antisemitic regimes and movements are not only Jews but also people in whose name antisemitic movements and regimes purport to speak. In Muslim-majority countries the first victims of antisemitic movements are more often than not other Muslims, especially antiracist Muslims. The Labour Party ought to oppose antisemitism in order to defend the rights of Jews and non-Jews attacked and vilified by antisemitic movements.

7. In the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, combating antisemitism is not an alternative to seeking justice for Palestinians but a pivotal part of the larger picture. These aims are inter-dependent. Antisemitism does no favour either to Jews or to the cause of justice for Palestinians. The Labour Party should not condone antisemitism within Hamas and Hezbollah any more than it tolerates anti-Arab racism within the right wing of Israeli society. A merely sanctimonious defence of Palestinians that leaves them in the same place it finds them is neither developmental nor challenging and offers no solidarity with Palestinian antiracists.

8. The Labour Party should not dismiss concerns over antisemitism on the spurious grounds that they restrict the freedom to be critical of Israel. Criticism of any country can be but does not have to be racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic or in other ways prejudiced. Similarly criticism of Israel can be but does not have to be antisemitic. Legitimate debate and criticism of Israeli politics and society – over its occupation of Palestinian land, the human rights abuses that flow from occupation, anti-Arab racism in the Israeli polity and civil society, discriminatory policies toward Palestinian citizens of Israel, military responses to aggression, etc. – does not remove responsibility to abstain from and repudiate antisemitic criticism of Israel.

9. The Labour Party should recognise that it is unacceptable to disparage through the use of derogatory language – like ‘manufactured outrage’, ‘fake outrage’, ‘casting slurs’, ‘insinuating’, ‘dredging up’, and ‘smearing’ – those who express concerns about antisemitism. Such abusive language would not be acceptable in relation to those who raise concerns over other forms of racism and is harmful at a number of levels: for example, it deters people from raising their concerns; it casts the claims of the Labour Party to consistent antiracism in a bad light; and it makes it more probable that antisemitism will be unrecognised and tolerated.

10. The Labour Party should resist any temptation to assume that the individuals and groups who raise concerns about antisemitism do so opportunistically and for illicit ends, such as destabilising the leadership of the party, protecting ‘Israel’ from critical scrutiny or merely pursuing private interests. Concerns over antisemitism and other forms of racism can of course be instrumentalised for other ends, but their misuse in particular cases does not invalidate the concerns themselves and does not mean that those who raise them are collectively guilty of misuse. The Labour Party should make it clear that it would be discriminatory to treat concerns about antisemitism differently from concerns about other forms of racism.

11. The Labour Party should not condone the tendency to dismiss concerns about antisemitism through the device of redefining what antisemitism is. It should not agree, with those who have refused to engage with the European Union Monitoring Commission Working Definition of Antisemitism on the grounds that it included in its definition antisemitic forms of ‘criticism of Israel’, like holding all Jews responsible for the actions of the state, or not recognising the distinction between state and civil society, or judging Israel by standards not applied to other states. The Labour Party should support cooperative efforts in Europe and the UK to define what antisemitism is, keep the definition of antisemitism open to rational debate and revision in the light of circumstances, entertain the views of those who raise concerns about antisemitism, and involve a wide range of representative organisations of a pluralistically conceived Jewish community.

12. The Labour Party should not accept justifications of antisemitism based on the grounds that it contains a rational kernel of truth about the way ‘the Jews’ or many Jews are. Just as it is not acceptable to hold people of colour responsible for causing the racism of which they are victims, so too it is not acceptable to hold Jews responsible for causing antisemitism. If the Labour Party does not accept justification of anti-Black or anti-Arab racism because of the alleged or real misdeeds of African and Arab rulers, or Islamophobia because of the actions of groups claiming to speak in the name of Islam,so too it should not accept antisemitism because of the alleged or real misdeeds of the Israeli government.

13. The Labour Party has a good record of Holocaust commemoration and education, but in some quarters it is regularly maintained that memory of the Holocaust is being ‘used’ to legitimate the actions of the Israeli government. Memory of the historical suffering of any people can be ‘used’ for particular ideological ends but this is not a reason to withdraw compassion from the victims, or blot out a crucial part of the history of European barbarism, or dismiss present-day fears that the genocidal impulse toward Jews remains intact. The Labour Party should recognise that it would be discriminatory to treat Holocaust memory as peculiarly manufactured and self-serving, or as the paradigm case of victims becoming victimisers, or as the sign under which a victimised people claims ethical immunity for all its own misdeeds.

14. It would be discriminatory to impose on Jewish organisations in the Labour Party a more restrictive autonomy than on other parallel organisations. If an organisation like the Jewish Labour Movement (founded in 2004 as the successor to Poale Zion founded in 1905) chooses to affiliate to the ‘World Zionist Movement’, as is currently alleged, this is its right. It does not necessarily indicate, as is being alleged in some quarters, enthusiastic support of many Israeli government actions. It may not represent those Jews who see themselves as ‘antizionist’, but this is a question of democracy within the movement. No single Jewish organisation could or should be expected to represent the plurality of all Jews.

15. The temptation to practice an economy of compassion that puts all compassion on the side of Palestinians and all culpability on the side of Israel is bad politics and bad history. It supposes inter alia that the genocidal antisemitism that once infused the European continent simply vanished once Nazism was defeated. The dearth within the Labour Party of intellectual, ethical and political leadership on the issue of antisemitism stems in part at least from a failure to recognise and a willingness to tolerate antisemitism among enemies of ‘Israel’.

16. The Labour Party should recognise that if it is not to be discriminatory, the ethic of conviction that declares that Israel must cease to be a ‘Jewish democratic’ state and must become a secular state should a) be coupled with the analogous ethic of conviction in relation to ‘Arab’ and ‘Muslim’ states; and b) be compared with other states in relation to their respective record of democracy, human rights and treatment of minorities. Finally, it should be recognised that any ethic of conviction concerning what a state ought ideally to be should be tempered by an ethic of responsibility concerning the actual forces capable of bringing about this ideal – forces that may be neither secular nor democratic and that may profess antisemitic and other racist ideologies.

Robert Fine (Emeritus Professor, University of Warwick and member of the Labour Party since 1975)

Christine Achinger (Associate Professor, University of Warwick)

BICOM’s submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry – written by Alan Johnson

Follow this link for Alan Johnson’s submission to the LP inquiry, on the BICOM website.

 

Antisemitic anti-Zionism: the root of Labour’s crisis

Professor Alan Johnson is Senior Research Fellow at the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), founder and editor of Fathom: for a deeper understanding of Israel and the region, and a registered Labour Party supporter (Unite).

Introduction

Everything depends on the Labour Party understanding what it is dealing with: almost never old-fashioned Jew hatred, almost always modern antisemitic anti-Zionism – a programme to abolish Israel, a movement to boycott Israel and discourse to demonise Israel. To combat it, the party needs to understand the historical roots, ideological tributaries, contemporary modes and forms of expressions of antisemitic anti-Zionism.

Antisemitism is the most protean of hatreds and it has shape-shifted again (Gidley 2011). Labour does not have a neo-Nazi problem. It does, however, have a problem with a modern anti-Zionism of a particularly excessive, obsessive, and demonising kind, which has co-mingled with an older set of classical antisemitic tropes, images and assumptions to create antisemitic anti-Zionism (Wistrich 1984, 1991, 2004, 2009, 2012; Johnson 2015a, 2016). Antisemitic anti-Zionism bends the meaning of Israel and Zionism out of shape until both become receptacles for those tropes, images and ideas.

In short, that which the demonological Jew once was in older forms of antisemitism, demonological Israel now is in contemporary anti-Semitic anti-Zionism: uniquely malevolent, full of blood lust, all-controlling, the hidden hand, tricksy, always acting in bad faith, the obstacle to a better, purer, more spiritual world, uniquely deserving of punishment, and so on (Johnson 2015b, Hirsh 2007, 2013b).

Antisemitism’s core motif is that the Jews, collectively and in their essence, are not just Other but also malign. However, the content of this perceived malignity changes with the times and with the needs of the anti-Semites. ‘God-killers,’ ‘aliens,’ ‘cosmopolitans,’ ‘sub-humans’ and now ‘Zionists’ have all served as code words to mark the Jew for destruction.

 

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Follow this link for Alan Johnson’s submission to the LP inquiry, on the BICOM website.

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