by Martin Odoni

NB: The following text is a letter of complaint I have sent to the Labour Party this evening, demanding Dame Margaret Hodge’s membership be re-suspended. If you share my disgust at what Hodge has said on Sky News today – see the link below – you may consider this page to be a template. Therefore, feel free to copy and paste the below text into e-mails of complaint against Hodge that you wish to send to the party, if you are having any trouble finding the right words. The address to send such e-mails to is complaints@labour.org.uk.

Dame Margaret Hodge making irresponsible noises about antisemitism

Hodge’s abusiveness to her leader was reason enough for her suspension from the Labour Party. Her attempts to compare the party to Nazi Germany should mean automatic expulsion.

_____

To whom it may concern (which should be everybody in the Labour Party),

I wish to express my offence and disgust at the appalling behaviour and rhetoric of Margaret Hodge.

[LINK] Margaret Hodge: Labour investigation made me think about treatment of Jews in 1930s Germany

Hodge’s attempts to compare an honest, fair and necessary investigation into her previous abusive conduct to the actions of Nazi Germany on 16/8/2018 was not only hyperbolic to the point of insanity, it was also incredibly offensive and hurtful – both to the honest great majority of Labour supporters and members, and to members of the various Jewish communities around the UK. Her behaviour belittles and trivialises the deaths of literally millions of Jews in the 1930s and 1940s, and is thus anti-Semitic.

It is quite clear that Hodge is cynically manipulating her Jewish background in order to win favourable treatment. This is, in itself, highly offensive to British Jews, while also grossly unfair on other party members who have been accused of misconduct and are finding it immensely difficult to receive a fair hearing.

Hodge’s words are also immensely hypocritical, given her own desire to see the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism adopted in full, including its clause arguing that comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is anti-Semitic. Hodge cannot have it both ways. If comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is unacceptable in all times and in all circumstances, then comparing her party to Nazi Germany is also inexcusable.

I demand Hodge’s immediate suspension from the Labour Party, pending a new investigation into her conduct.

Kind regards
Martin Odoni

by Martin Odoni

I mentioned a couple of months back that I was expecting some kind of suspension to my membership of the Labour Party. Well, it took them a long time, but there is predictable news, and unexpected news on that front. The predictable bit (a friend and fellow Labour ‘suspendee’ even said, “Unsurprisingly” when I informed him of my suspension) is that I have indeed received my suspension notice. Not a promising reflection on the party’s competence that they got my address wrong some seven months after I informed them that I had moved to a new home, but I shall not dwell on that.

Wrong address

The Labour Party suspends me while getting my home address wrong.

The unexpected detail is what I have been accused over. I was expecting the suspension to be connected to past entanglements with the malevolently vulpine Zionist, Jonathan Hoffman, who claims to have lodged a complaint against me. In fact, the accusation does not appear to have anything to do with arguments with him. Instead, it was over the cover picture I put together for an article I wrote back in February. Here it is; –

star of david swastika

I am told that the image may “meet the definition of antisemitism [their spelling, right or wrong, not mine] adopted by the Labour Party, and thus be in breach of the Labour Party’s rule 2.I.8.”

It is entirely possible that I am guilty, given the well-recorded problems with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, which the Labour Party has largely adopted. The dangerous flaw in the definition – that comparing the policy of The State of Israel to that of Nazi Germany is inherently anti-Semitic –  would probably apply here.

I am quite pleased that I have been suspended over this though, because it may force Labour to have a close look at the absurdity of this clause in the definition. What is likely to force the matter is the obvious, big drawback in the allegation against me; it is directed at someone who is ethnically Jewish. As I have said more than once in the past, it is quite possible to be prejudiced against one’s own race, but it is very counter-intuitive and rare, so when the suggestion is made, it needs a very strong supporting case. In other words, if anyone wishes to accuse me of being a Jewish anti-Semite, they had better come up with some ultra-solid reasons why.

My history of criticism of Israel is not an ultra-solid reason, or even a half-solid reason. Anti-Semitic feeling will never be the only possible motivation for condemning Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Arabs. Nor is it the only possible reason why people might see resemblance between the deeds of modern Israel and the deeds of Nazi Germany.

Even if one could argue that there is no such resemblance at present – a very shaky assertion but let us humour it for now – there is no reason for certainty that there never will be one in the future. But the IHRA working definition insists that we must assume that, and that if we do not, we are anti-Semites. And worse, this further means that, even if Israel actually went as far as to set up extermination camps complete with gas chambers and incinerators, and started ‘processing’ Palestinians through them in their thousands (no, I am not suggesting that Israel really is doing that, or that it is likely to in the future, this is purely hypothetical), the IHRA definition would still class it as anti-Semitic to suggest a resemblance to Nazi policy. Even though, in such a scenario, Israel’s policy would not only resemble but exactly match that of the Nazis.

Policy criticisms of Israel are not necessarily even anti-Zionist, let alone anti-Semitic, as it is quite possible to support Israel’s existence as a Jewish state without supporting its policies. (I support neither, just in case anyone was somehow in any doubt.)

That clause in the definition is clearly horribly, dangerously flawed, that is the clause I appear to be falling foul of, and it is a part of the definition I reject. Being an ethnic Jew, I believe I have an intimate right to dispute it.

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 paragraph. 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 paragraph 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 to 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.