by Martin Odoni

Owen Jones responded to yesterday’s news that Ken Livingstone is leaving the Labour Party, over the unending anti-Semitism controversy, with an unthinking renewal of a very frequent myth.

Yesterday morning, Jones tweeted the following; –

Before addressing the myth, I should mention that I question the first sentence. There were some things Livingstone said that could have been worded much more sensibly and carefully. But looked at objectively, Livingstone’s claim that Adolf Hitler supported Zionism is true, at least in a sense. It is certainly untrue to suggest that Hitler was a doctrinaire Zionist, who adhered to the complex minutiae of the ideology. But then Livingstone never implied that, and it should further be recognised that, back in the 1930s, Zionism did coincide quite neatly with the ugly ideas of Hitler’s desired Lebensraum. ‘Living space’, as the term means, for the Nordic/Aryan peoples across Europe would, rather by definition, be advanced by expelling the millions-strong Jewish population to another land beyond Europe’s boundaries, as that would leave more space for Hitler’s imagined ‘Master Race’.

Livingstone should have empasised that the Haavara Agreement between the Nazis and German Zionists was very lopsided, and that the Zionists signed up to it under duress. That he did not was foolish, but it did not really make his words anti-Semitic, especially as he was discussing Hitler more than he was discussing the Zionist movement or the Jewish people.

Indeed, I would go further and argue that if Livingstone’s remarks are offensive at all, they would be offensive to Zionists, not to Jews. While there is inevitably a lot of overlap between the two groups, they are not the same, and the points Livingstone was discussing were politically Zionist ones, not religiously or ethnically Jewish ones. The links between Haavara refugees and Holocaust victims who were left behind are being twisted by Zionists to make Livingstone’s remarks sound anti-Semitic. (As I have intimated before, I find manipulation of the Holocaust as repugnantly offensive as denial of it, so British Zionists really have soul-searching to do before they make hay about this.)

The second sentence in Jones’ tweet is what really irks me, though in fairness to him, he is only replicating a mistake that the media make very widely. The ‘bad relationship’ between the Labour Party and the ‘Jewish Community’ – a fallacy-of-homogeneity term if ever there were one – is the most question-begging assumption of the modern media. It comes from the constant clamour of Zionist (again note: not necessarily Jewish) groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, Labour Friends of Israel, the British Board of Jewish Deputies and so on, offering wildly-exaggerated tales of ‘anti-Semitic’ behaviour that is supposedly rife in the Labour Party.

It is lazy and profoundly incurious of the British media just to assume they can get a clear idea of the opinions of ‘Britain’s Jews’ just by consulting these groups. That they are ‘representative’ is a tenuous suggestion, especially given the maddening conflation that exists between Jews and Zionists.

The CAA, as I have demonstrated more than once on this blog, is scarcely interested in combating anti-Semitism at all, but only in discrediting critics of Israel. It is a tiny ‘charity’, is not elected in any plausible sense, and seldom consults anyone on a wide range of issues, bar complaints about possible anti-Israeli rhetoric. To imagine that the CAA knows what the general Jewish community’s thoughts are on, say, Brexit, or controlling inflation, or Scottish independence, or balance-of-trade is therefore comical.

LFI, equally, seem less interested in British Jews than in Israeli politics, as quite openly implied by their name. They seem to serve a similar purpose to the CAA – except to attack Labour ‘from within’ as it were. Many members of LFI are not even Jewish, and support Israel for reasons quite other than the survival of the Jewish people. Again, to suggest that LFI offer reliable insights into wider Anglo-Jewish thinking is ridiculous.

Links to LFI's Facebook Group

If Labour Friends of Israel are representative of Jews in the Labour movement, why do they have so few members in their Facebook group?

 

The Board of Deputies can at least claim to be somewhat representative, as they are appointed by a multi-layered election process of sorts. But this process only applies to synagogues and other Jewish organisations, not by Jewish individuals more broadly. This means that Jews like myself i.e. secular Jewish atheists are not consulted on who should be elected to the Board, or what our views are on any political or social issues. It is my choice that I am irreligious and do not practice any rituals or ceremonies of Judaism, but ethnically, I am still a Jew, a fact about me that can never change whether I like it or not. Therefore, when the BJD say they are expressing the views of “British Jews”, they are claiming to speak for me and others like me when they have never attempted to learn what our views are. If they claimed they are speaking for “practicing religious British Jews”, they would be on stronger ground. But they do not, and it is high time that the media questioned them on that instead of just parrotting the BJD’s assertions all the time when wanting to lend credence to anti-Semitism claims with which to beat up Jeremy Corbyn.

I know I am not alone in saying that I am unhappy for these groups to claim to speak on behalf of all British Jews, just as I am horrified when Binyamin Netanyahu claims to act on behalf of all Jews worldwide. I am also not alone in saying it is past time that the media dared to question these groups when they make such presumptuous claims.

Advertisements

by Martin Odoni

Gaza Great Return March

The Israeli Government insists that thousands and thousands of terrorists are storming the Gaza boundary fence. They do remarkably little damage for being so numerous, don’t they?

The latest massacre on the Gaza boundary on Monday was the largest of the year, taking the death-toll among Palestinians during the Great Return March past one hundred. Among the predictable, nauseating attempts to blame the victims, or Hamas, for the atrocity, a lot of equally-predictable pick-up-and-play ‘experts’ on  the Israel/Palestine conflict are coming out of the woodwork in the West. These would-be experts appear only dimly aware of the conflict most of the time, but hear about it in the news frequently enough to think they have a fairly strong grasp of what is what. Most of these people are Zionist/Israel-sympathiser in their leanings.

Part-time Zionists do not have a complete monopoly on inaccuracies in the argument over which side is the aggressor, of course – I have no doubt some of my own knowledge is incorrect. But they definitely have the lion’s share, and when it comes to really glaring mistakes, they are pretty much in a realm of their own. It can be quite breathtaking how they get, not just the finer details, but even the most fundamental facts, completely wrong.

In six days of reading lame, anti-Arab, pro-Israel apologia on social media, I have seen claims that Palestine is a separate country from Israel, that the Palestinians are being shot at because they have ‘invaded’ Israel, that Hamas are behind the protests and are trying to make them turn violent, that the destitution in Gaza is the handiwork of Hamas, and that the Palestinians who have died are being punished for ‘trespassing’.

These are all predictable jumps-to-conclusion that often happen in the aftermath of atrocities abroad committed by people on ‘our’ side. The British media always like to portray Israel as ‘our’ side, and therefore habitually offer vague descriptions of the real history of this conflict, while playing down the violence of Israeli actions. The above myths however are easily debunked even before a detailed examination of the events is carried out; –

Palestine is not a separate ‘country’ from Israel. Palestine is Israel. The land that became Israel in 1948 had, for the previous thirty-one years, been a large part of the British Mandate for Palestine. Before that, it had for centuries been part of the Ottoman Empire. What the land is called is not as important to the Palestinians as simply the reality that the land was theirs and was taken from them without asking and without recompense. The Gaza Strip and several parts of the West Bank are officially governed by devolved Palestinian administrations, but even so, they are not countries in their own right, they are semi-autonomous territories that have been occupied alternately by Egypt, Jordan and Israel.

The Palestinians have not ‘invaded’ Israel, certainly not during the current Great Return March. Nor have they been ‘trespassing’. They have simply gathered near the boundary between Gaza and Israel-proper, and protested, at times slightly violently, at being effectively imprisoned in an enclave. The Israeli Defence Force have responded by stationing snipers on the boundary and having them gun down protesters. Despite claims, with no supporting evidence, that the protesters who were shot were attempting to break through the boundary fence and to attack innocents, the truth is that the vast majority of those to die were hundreds of yards from it. Any claims to the contrary are defeated by the fact that snipers were guarding the fence at all. Why use sniper rifles to defend against opponents at close range? Why not use rubber bullets on targets at close range? Why use technology designed expressly for targeting at a distance? I do not doubt that some protesters did go straight up to the fence, and probably tried to break through it, but “the punishment doth greatly exceed the crime”.

Either way, the Palestinians are not ‘trespassing’, as they are not getting across the boundary. They are staying on their own side of the fence, and therefore are staying inside the zone administered by the Palestinian Authority.

Gaza buffer zone

The red-pink-coloured area is the buffer zone that Israel declared in a territory over which it has no right of control.

The Israeli Government declared a ‘buffer zone’ at the boundary that it insists Palestinians must not enter. But as the buffer zone actually begins at the fence and extends only into Gaza, while leaving Israeli-administered territory untouched, it must be illegal; Israel has no right to impose a buffer/no-go zone on territory it does not directly govern. That is very important for reasons that go far beyond the current protests as well. Gaza, with a population density of over five thousand per square kilometre, is the third most-over-populated territory currently inhabited by Man, and desperately needs to use the land in the buffer zone to make more room for its inhabitants. But it dare not attempt to build houses in the zone as long as the IDF continue taking pot-shots at any Arabs setting foot there.

While Hamas, an extremist Sunni-Wahhabist faction, probably deserves some blame for the current misery of life in Gaza, the above shows that the severe over-population (and eleven-year blockade by the Israeli security forces) plays a much bigger role. Palestinian voices have widely insisted that the protests were not Hamas’ idea at all, and have been carried out independently of the faction’s wishes, and have even extended their criticisms to Hamas themselves. It also needs to be noted that Hamas was only founded in 1987, and the general conditions in Gaza have seldom reached the heights of ‘tolerable’ at any time since the Second World War, so it seems a bit much to have Hamas carry the can alone for it all.

asa palestinian

Palestinians are not the brainwashed pawns that British Zionists like to paint them as.

Perhaps the most glaring myth I have seen spread is a historical one, and it left me gob-smacked when I read it. Someone, whose name I shall kindly keep confidential, claimed on social media that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians began, and led to the Palestinians losing their lands, because, and I quote; –

“Palestine attacked Israel in the Six-Day War.”

Intellectual confidence is often inversely-proportional to historical literacy, and this is one of the most startling examples I have ever seen. Let me itemise the reasons this claim is completely idiotic; –

  1. The conflict actually began in 1948-49. The United Nations drew up a plan to divide the land of the British Mandate between Arab natives and Jewish settlers roughly in proportion to their respective population sizes. The Jewish settlers were happy with the plan, the Arabs were not. Israel was officially founded in 1948, but neighbouring countries, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria, invaded and took control of the Arab zone, and used it as a platform from which to attack Israel itself. Israel successfully fought off the invading forces, and in the process seized control of over sixty per cent of the Palestinian zone that had been allocated to the Arabs. The West Bank was brought under Jordanian control, while Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. This struggle is known as the First Arab-Israeli War, and the Palestinians did not really do any serious attacking at all, in large part because there was no immediate central authority to organise them at that point (bar the Arab Liberation Army, which in any event was more international than Palestinian, and was head-quartered in Syria). Large numbers of Palestinians were displaced from their homes during the conflict and had to flee to neighbouring territories, including Gaza. This initial dispossession is known in Palestinian infamy as the Nakba, roughly translated as the ‘Catastrophe’.
  2. The Six-Day War happened nearly two decades after Israel seized most of Palestine. The Six-Day War was a ‘re-match’ of the First Arab-Israeli War, but did not take place until 1967. Egypt and Israel had been on unhappy terms for many years over access to the Straits of Tiran, which were critical to Israeli shipping.Strait of Tiran
    When Egypt tried to close the Straits, and began a military build-up on Israel’s border in anticipation of a retaliatory attack, the Israeli Air Force launched a series of strikes on Egyptian airfields, wiping out the Egyptian Air Force in a single day, and gaining control of regional airspace. Jordan and Syria mobilised in support of Egypt, but in the days before they could intervene, the Israeli army overran both Gaza and the entire Sinai Peninsular. The Egyptian army was totally defeated, while the Israeli military turned east to defeat the Syrian and Jordanian forces in turn. The whole war lasted less than a week, and the Israeli victories saw them seize control of the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria. And with the aforementioned seizure of  Gaza, Israel now had possession of all the land the UN had allocated to the Palestinian Arabs back in 1948. Again, the Palestinians, beyond unsuccessful defensive fighting in Gaza on the orders of the Egyptian Government, played no real role in the war at all, let alone ‘attacked’ Israel. On the contrary, Israel used the attack by Egypt as a pretext for capturing Gaza and the West Bank.
  3. Most Palestinian loss of land tends to happen outside of full-blown wartime. It has been a permanent feature of Israeli policy that any ethnically-Jewish individual on Earth who needs a home and ‘safe space’ against anti-Semitic persecution can automatically receive citizenship in Israel. But Israel was a small land at its birth, and soon ran low on space to keep taking in more refugees from around the world. Therefore, it became a routine process every few years for the Israeli Government in Tel Aviv to pass a new law authorising itself to seize the land and property of entire Palestinian communities, award it to Jewish settlers, and then cart the Palestinians off into Gaza or the West Bank. This sort of practice happens semi-frequently,  no matter how the Palestinians behave. The current protest campaign by the Palestinians, the Great Return March, marks the anniversary of Land Day in March 1976, which was a previous protest that ended in bloodshed against precisely such a shameless Israeli land-grab. You see, Palestinians have not lost so much land to Israel because they are being ‘punished’ for violent behaviour (even allowing for the fact that they have often acted violently). It happens because they have land, and Israel needs land. That is it. Occasional bursts of Palestinian militancy are just used by Israel as a justification for the mistreatment, but even when such militancy does not happen, land-seizures continue to happen anyway. Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have little alternative but to use force, as they have few legal rights, and are not allowed to vote in Israeli Elections, but only in the Palestinian Authority Elections, which are fairly useless as long as the boundaries are controlled by Tel Aviv. And the Israeli Government will never change that, as the total Palestinian population in Israeli-held territory is roughly the same size as the Jewish population. It is projected to grow faster than the Jewish population too, and so, with suffrage, Arabs would soon be able to outvote Israeli-Jews. Given the original ethnocratic notion behind Zionism of a strictly Jewish nation, that is a prospect that the Israeli right wing in particular dare not contemplate. (It is also one more reason why I argue that Zionism is a failed ideology.)

Israel is not exclusively culpable in the history of this conflict. Much of the blame must go to neighbouring countries, especially Egypt, for fuelling a very paranoid emotional outlook in Israel. But it is time that the real history of modern Israel was properly understood in Britain. The Palestinians are far more sinned-against than sinning. Some atrocities they have committed against ordinary Israeli civilians during the various Intifadas have been terrible. But the Gazans are a people in a permanent condition of imprisonment and destitution, chiefly for reasons of their race. Atrocities they may be, but they are hardly unprovoked.

One more point needs to be made, and that is on the matter of what caused the renewed protest on Monday – the US President deciding to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This was an astonishingly stupid move, even by Donald Trump’s standards, and not just because it was so obvious it would provoke furious protests. It also puts a huge obstacle in the way of the potential for a ‘two-state solution’ to the conflict, which would require Jerusalem to be neutral territory. East Jerusalem was originally meant to be the Palestinian capital city. For a major foreign embassy to Israel to be located in Jerusalem actively prevents that neutrality.

Many Israelis are celebrating Trump’s decision, which says little for their intelligence. They appear to miss the fact that the move leaves only a ‘one-state solution’, which ultimately will have to include full suffrage and legal equality for all Palestinians, if the arrangement is ever to be accepted by the majority of Arabs. Therefore, the demographic issue mentioned in section 3 above will be brought into play. The future existence of a Jewish state, if we must accept the notion that one is truly necessary, is being endangered by the very people its most fanatical supporters are applauding.

Sad? Yes.

Ridiculous? Certainly.

Symptomatic of the modern world? Totally.

by Martin Odoni

What a pointlessly horrible individual Nick Ferrari can be sometimes. He wanted to interview Diane Abbott this morning on his LBC Radio show about the resignation as Home Secretary of Amber Rudd. As the programme wore on, Ferrari expressed growing frustration that Abbott appeared to be giving interviews to every other news outlet except him.

Seldom slow to be vindictive when feeling slighted, Ferrari retaliated at the end of the programme by doing something genuinely cruel, unfair, and utterly vindictive. Now, Ferrari was the interviewer interrogating Abbott during the General Election campaign almost exactly a year ago, when she had the notorious ‘brain-freeze’ moment while discussing police funding. As an obvious two-fingered salute to her, Ferrari ended today’s show by playing a recording of that interview to mock her.

nick ferrari mocks diane abbot for her illness

Ferrari’s conduct is childish and cruel, and betrays a really ugly nature that lurks not far below the dignified surface.

Anyone smirking about that little stab should be ashamed, as should Ferrari himself. There is a detail about it that many people, especially smug, jeering, right-wing journalists like Ferrari, keep omitting to mention; Abbott was very ill at the time. (As James O’Brien, speaking on the very next programme on LBC this morning noted, the signs are that she probably still is.) To be precise, she was suffering from diabetic withdrawal this time last year, and it became so bad that she had to drop out of the last couple of weeks of campaigning.

The amount of vicious abuse Abbott receives on a daily basis is an abhorrent indictment of the dark side of this country, in terms of both racism and misogyny. But her diabetic illness has added another ugly dimension to it over the last year. It seems the symptoms of an almost-crippling condition are also considered fair game for mockery and cruel taunts when the sufferer is a left-wing Member of Parliament. (Once again, we can expect her colleagues on the right of the Labour Party to offer her no sympathy, even as they pretend to be concerned about anti-Semitism.)

What on Earth is wrong with modern Britain, that these sorts of malicious behaviours are not only becoming increasingly commonplace, but are even rewarded with a regular show in the media? To mock anyone for symptoms of an illness is frankly as infantile and ignorant as it is spiteful and Medieval. It is difficult, indeed, to distinguish Ferrari’s behaviour from Donald Trump’s at that horrifying moment in 2015 when he mocked a disabled reporter during the Republican Primaries for the US Presidential Election. Trump was widely and rightly castigated for such appalling cruelty – although it is a tragic reflection on the modern USA that it was not enough to stop him becoming President – and so Britain should now do the same to Ferrari. It would hardly be before time; given his ‘othering’ attitude towards asylum seekers and Muslims, Ferrari’s resemblance to Trump is a lot stronger than he would probably like to admit.

by Martin Odoni

The current chapter with Ruth Smeeth and Marc Wadsworth has only underlined how the right wing of the Labour Party have nothing to offer but theatrics. They are far more resistant to the left wing of their own party than they will ever be to the Conservatives. The ridiculous ‘march-of-solidarity’ a number of Red Tory MPs carried out with Smeeth on Friday, as she headed out to hear the findings of the National Constitutional Committee’s investigation, was just another example of their over-orchestration.

No one should be fooled for a moment by any of this. These people are no more worried about racism than they are about an invasion of Earth by the armies of Ming The Merciless. Their expressions of disgust are only triggered selectively after all. The current clamour about the appalling mistreatment of the Windrush Generation by the Tories is the clearest and most scandalous example of institutional racism in this country in generations. An unspoken but clear expression that victims did not ‘count’ as truly British, and were therefore perfectly acceptable fodder for a policy designed to get net immigration down by any means. And yet all of these Labour MPs shedding crocodile tears for Ruth Smeeth – and indeed Smeeth herself – seem incredibly reluctant to call it racist. They rightly attack the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, for incompetence. Her lack of awareness of so many goings-on at the Home Office are reminiscent of Jim Hacker trying to find out information from Sir Humphrey Appleby, and Yes, Minister was supposed to be a parody. But the racial dimension is unmistakable, and yet few of the people losing bladder-control over Smeeth’s spat with Wadsworth (over something that could only be interpreted as racist by the most ridiculous mental gymnastics), will mention that dimension over the Windrush Scandal.

Luciana Berger, who is also Jewish, is one Labour MP I particularly want to single out for condemnation. I used to respect her for her work on mental health. I was marching next to her at an anti-Tory protest in Birmingham about eighteen months ago. But she no longer has my respect, and if the chance ever came up, I would refuse to march with her ever again.

Berger triggered last month’s ridiculous clamour about a mural that does not even exist anymore, just as Labour’s Local Election campaign was getting underway. It was so blatant what she was doing, it astounds me how few people have picked up on it. She put up a tweet with a screenshot of Jeremy Corbyn questioning on social media way back in 2012 the removal of the Brick Lane Mural, and claimed that she had demanded an explanation from the Leader’s office earlier that day. Not long after, she put up another tweet complaining that the response of the ‘spokesperson’ from the Leader’s office was not good enough. She did not state what the response was, or what was wrong with it. What is clear is that she had not offered much time for a response.

Why did Berger feel the need to announce this on social media? Why did she not make a full attempt to discuss it with Corbyn in private first? Why did she not at least give Corbyn time to look into it and refresh his memory? Why did she feel that this was important at all, given six years had passed since the mural had been painted over? Why did she feel it was important, given that, despite the clamour, the mural was not anti-Semitic in its content? Why did she have to announce it then, and not three years earlier when the matter had previously been raised in the media? Why did she have to choose a moment that was sure to de-rail a Local Election campaign?

The answer to all of these questions is the same, and it is obvious. She and her right-wing colleagues are trying to get rid of Corbyn any way they can, and they find the nearest they have to an effective weapon against him is supposed ‘anti-Semitism’ among his supporters. And as the Angry Yorkshireman points out, the Blairites and their allies had little choice but to side with the left during the General Election a year ago, because their own seats in the House of Commons were at stake. But they are perfectly happy to sacrifice local councillors and the hard work of grass-roots activists up and down the UK, in order to create a Local Elections disaster, for which Corbyn can then take the blame.

Berger was in yesterday’s march, even though she must have been as aware as anyone that Smeeth had repeatedly lied about what had happened during her spat with Wadsworth. Smeeth put up the following statement on social media not long after the contretemps; –

Smeeths statement on Wadsworth

Smeeth’s lies and exaggerations are considerable. Wadsworth most certainly did not say anything anti-Semitic, for reasons I outlined yesterday. He did not speak of a ‘media conspiracy’, nor did he espouse any other ‘vile conspiracy theories about Jewish people’. Smeeth’s statement then twisted events, on very doubtful grounds, into an attack on Corbyn. It is noticeable that Smeeth felt compelled to take the statement down from her Twitter feed in February this year, perhaps hoping that her false claims could not be summoned back to haunt her.

In a later interview with the Evening Standard, she claimed,

“Wadsworth… said, ‘Ruth Smeeth is working hand- in-hand with the Right-wing media to attack Jeremy’. So I shouted, ‘How dare you?’ The audience started shouting at me — at the launch of an inquiry into how we treat Jews in the Labour Party!

However, it is quite clear from video of the incident that no one was shouting at Smeeth. From the soundtrack, some people seemed to be hushing her because they were trying to hear what Wadsworth was saying, but that is quite different from what Smeeth claims.

Smeeth further claims that, in the aftermath of the spat, she received over twenty-five thousand abusive messages, including twenty-thousand in about twelve hours. That she sat there while receiving all this hostility, earnestly counting the messages, seems implausible in itself, but as Jonathan Cook points out, an analysis of the facts raises severe doubts about her claim anyway. The Community Security Trust, a Jewish lobby group in the UK that, a little like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, has a habit of seeing anti-Semitic attitudes lurking around every corner, carried out a study of anti-Semitic activity on Twitter across a year-long period that, as luck would have it, included the spell in which Smeeth claims to have been ‘under siege’. Their research found that there were only fifteen thousand anti-Semitic tweets.

“She received fifteen thousand anti-Semitic tweets?!?” I hear you cry. “All right, it’s less than she said, but that’s still horrible!!!”

Well, yes, it would be, except for two details; the fifteen thousand figure is not the total number Smeeth received. It is in fact for the total number of anti-Semitic tweets the CST were able to detect for the entire year. And they were from all of the UK, including all anti-Semitic tweets that had not been directed at Smeeth.

In fairness to Smeeth, she might have meant abuse of a more general type, and some of it may have been away from Twitter, but given she has spent several years using this incident to talk up the phenomenon of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, it seems likely that she was being deliberately misleading. Either way, the twenty-five thousand figure sounds fantastically inflated, if not plucked out of thin air. So she was lying. Again.

I find it difficult to believe that Berger was unaware of all of this, and yet she, and other colleagues, still found Smeeth’s plight of “anti-Semitic bullying” so great that they had to express complete solidarity with her, while paying comparatively little mind to the far more severe plight of the Windrush generation.

To sum up the Labour Right position; –

An MP on the receiving end of a snide remark about co-operating with the Telegraph is a victim of racism. A generation of innocent people threatened with deportation from the country they helped to rebuild after the war, because they have a background of oppressed colonial slavery, are not victims of racism, but of incompetence.

The real give-away though, is that these two-faced Blairite frauds are not even consistent in their anti-racist stance among their fellow MPs. No other MP in the UK has suffered as much, or as vile, abuse of both the racist and misogynistic varieties, as Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott. She gets abuse, especially on Twitter, every day. Including recently, calls for her beheading.

Diane Abbott beheading threat

You might laugh at the reference to lightsabres, but don’t ignore the bit when ‘Greg’ says “whatever you can put your hands on.”

Half the Labour Party were ridiculously quick to express sympathy and support for Berger when she tried to claim she was ‘hurt’ by the business with the mural. (Oh really? Grow a skin, Luciana!) And the same suspects were quick to join the march with Smeeth on Friday.

But when Abbott gets bombarded with, frankly, primitive abuse over social media or in public, these same MPs’ Twitter feeds are so quiet you can hear pixels on their profile pictures clearing their throats.

The above threat was sent to Abbott on the 15th of April.

Check Luciana Berger’s Twitter feed on that date and the days afterwards… nothing!

What about Harriet Harman, Mother of the House, and always a staunch champion of female MPs against misogynistic abuse…. no, nothing!

How about John Mann, who has been extremely loud in his opposition to supposed anti-Semitism? Does he oppose anti-black racist threats too….? No, nothing!

What about Ruth Smeeth? She demands so much solidarity and support when she claims to be a victim of racial abuse, so surely she would have spoken out against the threat Diane Abbott received…? No, nothing!

How about John Woodcock, who made a point of supporting Smeeth very publicly, while joining the insinuations that Jews who do not support Israel are ‘the wrong kind’? Did he back Diane Abbott against threats….? No, nothing!

And on. And on. As I say, Abbott gets abuse on a totally different scale from anyone else in Parliament every single day, and her colleagues on the right wing of the party always just ignore it. The reason, almost certainly, is that she is a Corbyn supporter in the Shadow Cabinet, and therefore, despite her admittedly modest talents, she is regarded as an ‘enemy’ who has to be removed. Expressing any support for her might evoke sympathy for her, and the Red Tories are worried that that would make it harder to get rid of her.

The strategy is comprehensible, but also makes a complete joke of the manufactured outrage against supposed ‘anti-Semitism’. The only racism they get fired up about is the type that is exaggerated and against individuals who are far less vulnerable than victims who are isolated (Abbott) and powerless (the Windrush Generation).

Being Jewish, I would welcome a sincere attempt to combat anti-Semitism. But that anti-Semitism has to be real to begin with, and the attempt to fight it should never happen at the cost of fighting more egregious racism that does more substantial harm. What real anti-Semitism there is in the Labour Party at present is intermittent and fleeting, and no matter how distressing it can be, it causes little real harm. Whereas the institutional racism highlighted by the Windrush Scandal has done enormous harm, and simply has to be dealt with first, on the basis of what it really is – not just Tory incompetence, but Tory racism and incompetence. Labour right wingers need to march with anti-racist groups and attend anti-racism demonstrations in support of all minorities, not just the ones in support of colleagues who are quite clearly telling lies anyway.

Otherwise, they are just using accusations of racism as a weapon, and as I have pointed out many times before, that makes them racists themselves.

by Martin Odoni

Around fifteen years ago, I was sweepingly dismissive of political correctness. Despite my generally leftist views, I found the sometimes-elaborate care people were expected to take to avoid offensiveness to be an obstruction to free speech and even to free thought. (My fellow blogger and Salford-Labour activist, Mara Leverkuhn, still feels that way.)

As the years have passed, my attitude towards it has softened, especially as I have come to realise that the, mainly right-wing, objections to it usually boil down to attempts to offload the blame for hurtfulness onto the person being hurt. Sometimes talking tough is necessary, of course, but that does not make it all right ever to encourage stereotype or urban myths. And when tough talk is not needed, why be hurtful anyway?

One of my old doubts about ‘PC’ rules, however, continues to bug me, despite friends repeatedly telling me that my worries are no big deal. Alas, the very sad outcome of the unpleasant spat between Labour MP Ruth Smeeth and party activist Marc Wadsworth is a concrete example of why I am probably right.

The spat in question began back in June 2016 at an event marking the publication of the Chakrabarti Report into supposed racist, and especially anti-Semitic, behaviour in the Labour Party. During the event, Wadsworth, a lifelong anti-racism activist, made a statement in which he levelled a withering insinuation at Smeeth, who is Jewish. She took the remark to be anti-Semitic – or at least she claims to –  and eventually lodged a complaint against Wadsworth accordingly.

Today, the needlessly-protracted investigation into the incident finally came to a conclusion (the frequent delays in getting these sorts of matters over with are just one more reason why Iain McNicol’s departure as General Secretary was clearly correct). The decision of Labour’s National Constitutional Committee was that Wadsworth should be formally expelled from the Labour Party.

Now, to be clear, Wadsworth was not officially charged with anti-Semitism, no matter how much the right wing media and pro-Israel groups want us to believe he was. The actual charge was Bringing the party into disrepute. Why that should apply in this case and not in, say, the cases of Tony Blair or Peter Mandelson, given their endless attempts to smear and undermine the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, could perhaps do with some explaining, but let us leave that on one side for now. It is perhaps telling that the charges levelled were more vaguely-defined ones than Smeeth’s original accusation.

Now the broad gist of Wadsworth’s statement was not about Smeeth particularly, it was more an appeal for the party to be more representative of a broader cross-section of the nation’s different ethnic communities. But the specific words spoken by Wadsworth, to which Smeeth took exception were as follows; –

“I saw that the Telegraph handed a copy of a press release to Ruth Smeeth MP, so you can see who is working hand-in-hand.”

Marc Wadworth

Marc Wadsworth making the statement that got him doubtfully expelled from the Labour Party.

This was interpreted by many, including, it seems, Smeeth herself, as Wadsworth accusing her of being part of a ‘Jewish-led media conspiracy’.

In the cold, objective light of day, this interpretation is completely ridiculous. Not only did Wadsworth not mention Jews or anything obviously relating to Jewish people or culture, he also did not mention a media conspiracy as such. He was simply pointing out reasons to suspect that one Labour MP, who happened to be Jewish (of which Wadsworth was probably unaware at the time anyway), appeared to be co-operating with a newspaper whose history is notoriously pro-Conservative and anti-Labour.

This description is quite remote from the silly old stereotype conspiracy-myth of an ‘evil cabal of Jews secretly running the world’s media’. But, and this where my above unease about political correctness comes in, there are a couple of points of resemblance. Only a couple, and not particularly strong ones, but they are there.

Working hand-in-hand with a person or organisation on the quiet can be labelled without too much of a stretch as ‘a conspiracy’. And as the organisation Smeeth was being accused of working with was a media organisation, there is an echo of the stereotype mentioned above.

It is quite ridiculous to say that these points of resemblance alone are enough to make the accusation conform to the stereotype of course. There are way too many other details that would have to be twisted far from reality in order to make it fit – not least that every person covering the Chakrabarti Report for the Telegraph would have to be made out to be both Jewish and answerable to this ‘hidden cabal’ that no anti-Semite can ever identify, but that every anti-Semite ‘just knows‘ is there. Wadsworth never implied either by any stretch.

The problem is that political correctness does not just work against offensive phrases and ideas, but also works against connotations of offensive phrases and ideas. The resemblance between the terms ‘conspiracy’ and ‘quietly working hand-in-hand’ is just strong enough that they can be assumed to be the same thing, especially by anyone nervously on the look-out for anything inappropriate. Then add in the resemblance between ‘conspiracy’ and the ridiculous undying myths that Jews are all part of a secret organisation dominating the world (if that really is true, I must be the one Jew they forgot to include – why me, fellow Hebrews, what did I do wrong?!?!), and the three ideas sort of ‘slot into’ each other like a hand-held telescope closing up. Even when a statement does not mention something offensive, if it is close enough to remind people of something offensive, it is still held to be politically incorrect. This is why casual use of objectively harmless words like ‘Jew’ and ‘black’ often makes people nervous. They have obscene connotations e.g. ‘k*ke’ and ‘n*gger’, and the original words are enough to remind people of the derogatory terms.

What happened to Wadsworth today demonstrates precisely why I am still not at all fond of political correctness; because it stigmatises passing resemblance to offensive ideas, and not just the offensive ideas themselves. And as we have seen, when that stigma is officially acted upon, it can be very destructive to the reputations of people who do not deserve it.

The whole, wildly-exaggerated ‘anti-Semitism-in-the-Labour-Party’ furore is simply a larger manifestation of the same problem. It is absolutely right that behaving anti-Semitically is classed as politically incorrect, as anti-Semitism is genuinely harmful and offensive to Jewish people. Take that from a Jew who knows what it is like to be on the receiving end. But as ‘Zionism’ and ‘pro-Israeli’ are connotations (certainly not synonyms, please note!) of Judaism, so being ‘anti-Zionist’ and being ‘anti-Israel’ become connotations of ‘anti-Semitism’. There is enough overlap for the terms to telescope into each other, making opposition to Israel ‘politically incorrect’ as well, and aiding the cynical attempts of the Israeli lobby to accuse opponents of Israel of being ‘anti-Semites’ by connotation.

The same phenomenon that has brought down Wadsworth is being worked on the Labour Party on a far bigger scale.

As I said above, it is telling that Wadsworth was not charged with anti-Semitism, but only with bringing the party into disrepute. (Chris Williamson has summed it up rather well for me on social media.) I suspect the NCC realised that the allegation of anti-Semitic meaning could not be made to stick to what Wadsworth had said, but they also felt that they could not clear him of the charges in the current climate of manufactured hysteria against anti-Semitism. As ‘bringing the party into disrepute’ is a rather vague, very broad charge, it was the easiest fall-back option they could find. But it is undoubtedly a decision made for political reasons, not for reasons of justice.

However, looking again at the wording of Wadsworth’s comments, I fear the Labour Party may have opened up the fish-bait-tin rather by expelling him. If a mildly-insinuating comment like, “This Labour MP is co-operating with a Tory newspaper” (which is clearly all that Wadworth’s comment means, when all is said and done) is enough to ‘bring the party into disrepute’, then I suspect every single member of the party, including the Blairites on the extreme right, will be in trouble for something they have said or done in their past.

by Martin Odoni

Kevin Clegg is not a name that many people will be particularly familiar with, but it is the name of someone who is caught up in a very familiar controversy. He has been suspended from the Labour Party, under investigation into alleged ‘anti-Semitic’ behaviour.

I draw attention to Kevin’s case, because it is another textbook example of why the current ‘crisis’ of anti-Semitism in the party has been blown way out-of-proportion. In fairness to the party’s compliance unit, it has no choice but to suspend members until the accusations against them have been fairly assessed. But the problem, especially in the media, is the accusations themselves are being fallaciously presented as ‘evidence’ that anti-Semitism is endemic in the party. Close examination of many of the complaints, as I keep stating, paints a very different picture. This is certainly true in Kevin’s case.

NB: I am fairly sure there is an anti-Semitism complaint somewhere in the queue against me. Ironic, given I am Jewish, but last year I pointed out to the Zionist bully-boy, Jonathan Hoffman, that his behaviour towards Jewish critics of Israel is anti-Semitic. He claimed that he had reported me to Labour’s compliance unit for it.  (What precisely he has accused me of is unclear. Using the term ‘anti-Semite’ as an insult, perhaps, but even by Hoffman’s standards, that is amazing hypocrisy). That was eleven months ago, and I have heard nothing back from the Labour Party about the matter since. But the point is, if you feel that I can be presented as evidence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, you clearly have no idea what the term means. The worry is that an awful lot of people making official judgements on the matter do not appear to know either.

The document

Kevin was sent a document outlining the complaint against him, based on news articles he has shared on his Facebook timeline. He put together a response in his own words, so I do not need to go into a detailed analysis here; instead, you can view the response, which he has turned into a .PDF and uploaded to Dropbox, by clicking here.

What I wish to point out is that every detail of the complaint levelled at Kevin comes from a vintage conflation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and opposition to Israel. Only one instance of the word ‘Jews’ was highlighted in the entire document sent to him, and that was not Kevin’s use of the word; instead it was in the headline of an article to which Kevin had linked, reporting the findings of an opinion poll. The headline in question had only used it as part of the term ‘Israeli Jews’, simply to distinguish Israeli-Jewish views from the views of other people living in Israel.

Screenshot from 2018-04-21 11-26-27

All other references called into question were uses of the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Zionists’ – neither of which are or ever have been synonyms for ‘Jews’ no matter how much the Israeli lobby wishes they were – and an article rightly criticising the megalomania of Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

University of Manchester censors anti-Zionist speaker

Anti-Semitism in the Independent?!?

It is interesting that Kevin is being held responsible for the wording of journalists writing for The Independent. It is also interesting that, if they truly believe these articles Kevin is sharing on social media to be anti-Semitic, no one appears to be complaining to The Independent about the ‘racist attitudes’ of its journalists.

The wild exaggeration of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, transforming it from ‘slight problem’ to ‘crisis epidemic’, is crystallised by Kevin’s example. A deliberate, cynical and false conflation of Jews with Israel is what gives so much of the issue its legs. Remove that conflation, and the true scale of the problem would be shown to be a fraction of how it is being presented.

Paranoia is not justification

I hear people arguing that this cynicism is no such thing, but fear. There is a terror among modern Jews, they argue, that the current time of relative quiet among anti-Semites is just the temporary respite before ‘the next Pogrom’. I would say this is probably a correct explanation (although even that argument, once again, conflates Jews with Zionists and Israel supporters). It is a paranoia I have felt for myself at times in my life.

But understanding the reasons for paranoia does not stop it being paranoia, nor  does it justify some of the deeds being carried out in the name of that paranoia. Knowingly throwing false accusations at people and sullying their names is illegal and it is malicious. No one should understand that better than the Jewish people, given the false accusations we have had to endure collectively ourselves down the centuries.

We also need to pause and ask ourselves where that logic can lead. It was, after all, another paranoia that led to the greatest crime ever committed against the Jewish people. It was the paranoia of the German people, thinking they were being made the world’s punching-bag for the troubles of the First World War and the economic disaster of the 1930s. The paranoia started with vilification of Jews, and from there slowly, gradually led to the Holocaust. We can understand that paranoia, especially given the deprivation and misery of the Hyper-inflation years in the Weimar Republic, but that does not come within a hundred-thousand miles of justifying what followed.

Nor is what Israel, or its supporters around the world, are doing right now.

by Martin Odoni

NB: No longer ‘unconfirmed’, please see postscript below.

As the title says, please do not consider this definitive, but Spirit Radio have published a podcast that they state is a segment of an interview with Robert Fisk, foreign correspondent of the Independent. If the recording is genuine, then any doubt that the air-strikes on Syria over the weekend by US, British and French planes were a war-crime will be ended forever. Fisk, if it really is him, claims in the recording that he is in the targeted city of Douma, and from his earliest findings there, he has concluded that no chemical weapons were used in the attacks during the previous weekend. The images of children choking and foaming at the mouth were genuine, but the reactions were caused by smoke inhalation and clouds of dust thrown up by explosions triggered by conventional weapons.

Da6ne1QX4AAC6hV.jpg:large

The implications of this are enormous, but again I must reiterate before anyone gets too excited that I do not know for sure if the recording is genuine. If it is, then the obscene possibility is raised that the suspiciously-timed air-strikes might have been carried out by allied forces in order to prevent inspections by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose representatives arrived in Douma the very next day, from revealing that no such weapons were used. If such a discovery were made, it would undermine the entire narrative used to justify the air-strikes. Such a militarised cover-up would be political corruption of the lowest order, and would surely raise the spectre of Donald Trump, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron being sent to the Hague.

But again, we must wait and see whether the interview can be corroborated before we get carried away.

Spirit Radio say that the full interview will be at 10:30 am on Tuesday 17th April.

_____

POSTSCRIPT:

Confirmation: Fisk is indeed in Douma, and he writes in the Independent that, from conversations he has had with local medical personnel, the ‘chemical weapons reaction’ of the victims was probably hypoxia i.e. a reaction to smoke and dust inhalation.
 
It is therefore very unlikely that chemical weapons were used nine days ago in Douma.
 
Trump, May and Macron must now face severe repercussions for apparently lying to the world.