An Open Letter to Jon Lansman of Momentum on Zionism in the Labour Party

An Open Letter to Jon Lansman of Momentum on Zionism in the Labour Party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

Stop the Appeasement of the supporters of Israeli Apartheid
Jon Lansman and Chair of Momentum

Dear Jon,

Earlier this week I
had a long conversation with you.  You also
posted a message (below) to a PSC activist, Terry Gallogly from York PSC.
As you know I have
been suspended by the Compliance Unit of the Labour Party since March 18th.  I have received no information as to why I
have been suspended yet this very same information was leaked to The Daily
Telegraph which together with The Times printed articles that stated I was
suspended as part of the clampdown on anti-Semitism in the Party.  Both newspapers, under threat of legal
action, have now withdrawn those accusations, yet I am still suspended.
You are Chair of
Momentum, which was set up to defend the newly elected leadership of Corbyn and
McDonnell..  I would like to ask why you
and Momentum nationally haven’t raised both my case and that of other people on
the Left who have been suspended as a result of allegations made by the Right?  I accept what you have said about Corbyn not
having control of the Labour Party bureaucracy, but that is even more reason
why you should be speaking out.
When it became
obvious last summer that Jeremy Corbyn was likely to become leader of the
Labour Party, both the Tory and Liberal press, in particular Jonathan Freedland
of the Guardian, began a campaign aimed at painting Jeremy as an anti-Semite
and someone who kept company with holocaust deniers.  This campaign was spearheaded by the Zionist movement
and Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle in particular,
When Jeremy was elected as leader,
there was a change in tactics by our opponents. 
Starting with the veteran Jewish Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, there was a
concerted attempt to paint the Labour Party as ‘riddled’ with anti-Semitism.  The fact that there was no evidence to
support such an argument was no barrier to it becoming a truism.  As Goebbels remarked ‘If you tell a lie big
enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.’
  
There is little doubt
that despite trawling through thousands of tweets, FB postings etc. the Zionist
movement and the Tory Press came up with one person who tweeted that Jews have ‘big
noses’.  It must have seemed like manna
from heaven when the leader of a tiny Trotskyist sect of less than 10 people,
Gerry Downing, appeared on the scene with an updated version of the Jewish Question.  That was basically it.
It is clear that
there are major differences between us in terms of how you see, or don’t see,
the role of the Zionist movement, in particular
You see the Right’s ‘concern’
over anti-Semitism as genuine rather than a pretext in its battle against the
Left.  I see Labour Friends of Israel, Progress
and the Jewish Labour Movement’s use of anti-Semitism as a cynical weapon deployed
against the Corbyn leadership of Labour Party. 
If you are correct, then John Mann MP, the Chair of the Parliamentary
Committee on anti-Semitism, is genuinely concerned about anti-Semitism.  Yet it is clear that his concern is with
opposing support for the Palestinians and BDS. 
The employment tribunal which heard his evidence in the Fraser v University College Union case held that:
Tony Benn & Jon Lansman, TUC Congress 1981
‘Mr Mann led for them and the more
conciliatory tone of Dr MacShane gave way to a somewhat hostile display in
which Mr Mann made no bones about his view that the union was operating in an
anti-Semitic way …  He did not explain
what the anti-Semitic behaviour was supposed to have consisted of besides
referring to the boycott debate and characterising any boycott of Israel or
Israeli institutions as itself anti-Semitic.’ Para. 84.
‘We did not derive assistance from the two Members of Parliament
who appeared before us. Both gave glib evidence, appearing supremely confident
of the rightness of their positions. For Dr MacShane, it seemed that all
answers lay in the MacPherson Report (the effect of which he appeared to
misunderstand). Mr Mann could manage without even that assistance. He told us
that the leaders of the Respondents were at fault for the way in which they
conducted debates but did not enlighten us as to what they were doing wrong or
what they should be doing differently. He did not claim ever to have witnessed
any Congress or other UCU meeting. And when it came to anti-Semitism in the
context of debate about the Middle East, he announced, “It’s clear to me where
the line is …” but unfortunately eschewed the opportunity to locate it for us.
Both parliamentarians clearly enjoyed making speeches. Neither seemed at ease
with the idea of being required to answer a question not to his liking.’ Para.
148.
What you are attempting to do
is to reconcile the irreconcilable. 
Support for Zionism is incompatible with support for the Palestinian’s
right of return and the achievement of a State in Palestine/Israel based on its
citizens.  Israel as presently
constituted is a state of Jews throughout the world rather than all its citizens,
Jewish and non-Jewish. That is why there is no Israeli nationality.
Far from being the ‘only
democracy in the Middle East’ Israel could not survive without the threat of
war.  Its history consists of
manufacturing crises and wars in order to engender a permanent state of
emergency.  This enables Israel to
continue to apply the 1947 British Emergency Defence Regulations which
enable administrative detention for up to six months, which can be renewed indefinitely,
torture, the censorship of the press and an attitude to civil
liberties, in particular for the Palestinian minority, which belongs in a
police state.  Israel is no different
from its erstwhile cousin, with whom it had the closest of military and
economic relations, the Apartheid State of South Africa.
Another feature of Israel which
its defenders seem to omit is the growth of fascist gangs and movements in Israel
who parade under the slogan of ‘death to the Arabs’.  As I am sure you are aware, this was the
slogan of the far-Right in Europe in the pre-war period, except ‘Jews’ were
substituted for ‘Arab’.  At the Tel-Aviv demonstration
in support of a soldier Elor Azraya who was filmed killing in cold blood an
injured Palestinian lying on the ground, there was a banner ‘Kill them All’
with one demonstrator parading with the SS slogan ‘My honor is my loyalty’.  This is the Israel that LFI and JLM
uncritically defend.
In your comments
below you make a great play of what Zionism means and you believe it is wrong
to use it as a term of abuse.  Zionism at
its most basic was the movement set up in 1897 with the goal of establishing a Jewish
state in Palestine.  It undertook this in
alliance, in 1917, with British imperialism and it established a settler
colonial movement in Palestine.  Settler
colonialism has always been, without exception, the most virulently racist of
colonial movements.
The cardinal features
of the pre-state period were the Labour Zionist policies of Jewish labour, Jewish
produce and Jewish land.  What this meant
was best explained by the Managing Director of Solel Boneh, the Histadrut owned
building company David HaCohen,:
I
had to fight my friends on the issue of Jewish socialism to defend the fact
that I would not accept Arabs in my Trade Union, the Histadrut; to defend
preaching to housewives that they should not buy at Arab stores; to defend the
fact that we stood guard at orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs
there… to pour kerosene on Arab tomatoes; to attack Jewish housewives in the
markets and smash Arab eggs they, had bought… to buy dozens of dunums from an
Arab is permitted but to sell God forbid one Jewish dunum to an Arab is
prohibited; to take Rothschild the incarnation of capitalism  as a socialist and to name him the
‘benefactor’ – to do all that was not easy. And despite the fact that we did
it- maybe we had no choice – I wasn’t happy about it.” [David Hirst, The Gun &
the Olive Branch, p.63]
Nor does this belong
to the past.  Even today Israel evicts Israeli
Palestinians from the land to make way for Jewish towns, as it is currently
doing in the Negev.  The Bedouin village
of Arakabh has been evicted 96 times.
Of course there are British
Jews who support Zionism without realising its consequences.  There are some who believe that a Zionism which
treats Palestinians and Jews equally is possible.  There were also white South Africans who
genuinely believed that Apartheid, separate development, did not imply inferior
treatment.  Did not the judges in Plessy v Fergusson in 1896 argue that segregation
on the basis of separate but equal treatment was possible?  It was not until Brown v Board of Education in 1954 that this pernicious racist myth
was finally laid to rest.
In Israel segregation
is alive and well.  Virtually all schools
are segregated, maternity wards and even student accommodation is segregated, employment
is segregated, most towns and villages are separate with Arabs barred from
living in ‘Jewish’ towns.   Arab towns
are denied planning permission as a norm, such that not one new Arab town has
been constructed since 1948 despite the population having increased 10 fold.  Half of all Arab villages are ‘unrecognised’
i.e. liable to instant demolition.  ID
cards differentiate between Jew and Arab, as do car number plates.  In the checkpoints in the Occupied
Territories there are different gates for Jewish settlers and Palestinians but
then there are also two systems of law in operation.  Even the road system is divided between Jewish
and non-Jewish.
What is outrageous is
that the British section of the Israeli Labour Party, a party which is racist
to the core is allowed affiliation to the Labour Party.  Only this week Yitzhak Herzog, leader of the
ILP said that Israel’s
Labor party shouldn’t give off the constant impression that they
are “Arab lovers.” 
The Jewish Labour
Movement together with Labour Friends of Israel is the emanation of the Israeli
state inside the Labour Party.  Its
attitude to the new leadership was best summed up by Rebecca Simon Vice-Chair
of LFI who said of Corbyn:  ‘no
one wants to vote for a leader they think is rubbish.  And he is rubbish –
never mind about the Israel stuff, he is just not a credible opposition.’
JC
30.12.15.
The purpose of LFI and JLM is to justify the
actions of the Israeli state, whomsoever
is in power. 
The ILP has never condemned the occupation.  As former leader, Shelly
Yacimovich  declared:  “I reject the definition of the IDF as an
occupation army,” [Ha’aretz 16.4.16.] JusticeAccording to Israel’s Nationalist-demagogue Spokeswoman  Ha’aretz described how ‘She doesn’t give a
damn about the Palestinians’ rights. They’re nothing to her. …. This is justice
according to Yacimovich – for Jews only. Her justice is “Zionist,” as she calls
it. Her morality isn’t universal. Calling her a social democrat is a disgrace
to social democracy. Her disgraceful take on the Palestinians has nothing to do
with socialist or democratic tradition. She’s a nationalist-socialist leader.’  
The idea that JLM or
LFI are going to ‘build bridges’ with the Jewish community is absurd.  The majority of Jews today vote for the Right
because since the 1950’s Jews have move up the ladder socio-economically.  Physically they have moved from the East End
of London to Hendon, Golders Green etc.  This
is well documented in Geoffrey Alderman’s The
Jewish Community in British Politics,
Clarendon Press, 1980. 
There is little evidence that Israel in fact
plays any but a minor role in how Jewish people vote.  Indeed according to a comprehensive poll by
academics at City University, nearly a third of Jews, 31% don’t even define or
see themselves as Zionist.  That is a higher percentage than vote today
for Labour for socio-economic reasons.  See 
You speak of the two-state
solution.  Neither Likud or the Zionist Union
(Labour Party/Hatnuah) support a two state solution.  Neither do the majority of Palestinians.  The extent and degree of settlement has now
made that solution unattainable.  There
is one state now in the area of the former British Mandate.  In that area the majority of Palestinians,
over 4 million, live under military occupation and have no democratic rights
whatsoever.  This is an apartheid state
in all but name.  Talk of 2 States serves
one purpose only – to legitimise the continued denial of democratic rights to Palestinians
because that would mean the end of a Jewish supremacist state.
As you continue to
try and appease JLM and LFI, so the accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’
continue.  There is only one way to defeat
our accusers and that is to make it clear that when Zionists talk of ‘anti-Semitism’
they are speaking a different language from us. 
Anti-Semitism means hatred, violence, discrimination against Jews etc..  It is reprehensible and must be fought.  When the Tories and the Zionist JLM and LFI,
to say nothing of the Guardian’s Freedland speak of anti-Semitism they mean BDS
and opposition to Israel’s Apartheid.  They
even have a word for it, the ‘new anti-Semitism’.
Until you recognise
this the ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign will go on. 
Eric Pickles, Chris Grayling and co. will have a field day.  No amount of statements by Jeremy Corbyn that
he opposes anti-Semitism will have the slightest effect because he and they are
talking a different language.   What is needed is a clear statement by the
Labour leadership that they oppose anti-Semitism but they also oppose
conflating anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and support for the Palestinians.  
You believe that there is a problem with
equating Zionism with racism.  This is
not shared by far-Right Islamaphobic groups such as the BNP/EDL or racists like
Gert Wilders, Marine Le Pen or indeed the neo-Nazi Freedom Party in Austria
under Strache, all of whom admire the Israeli state. 
The JLM is moving an amendment to Labour Party’s
rules to include ‘anti-Semitism’ in the list of disciplinary offences.  They are
also using Islamaphobia as a cover for their amendment.  They make it clear, in their supporting
arguments, that their definition of anti-Semitism includes opposition to Zionism
which they say is part of Jewish national identity.  As a Jewish anti-Zionist I dispute this.  I hope that both you and Momentum are going
to take a clear line in opposition to this amendment.  
For the defenders of apartheid in Israel to
move an amendment concerning racism in the British Labour Party is a sick
joke.  If they are that concerned about
racism, maybe they can have a word in the ear of Yitzhak Herzog and tell him
that being a lover of Arabs might not be a bad thing.
Yours fraternally,
Tony Greenstein
Jon Lansman to Terry Gallogly
“I don’t agree with
your suggestion that the entire right of the party are in cahoots with this
though there certainly are some on the right who may be. In my discussions with
the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel about this, I find that
they are actually (i) very keen to build bridges between Labour (including
Jeremy) and the Jewish community and (ii) agree with my point (2)
above……………………………
I do think that there is a
problem of antisemitism in the party that goes beyond the small number of
appalling examples such as that of Gerry Downing who was rightly suspended from
the Labour Party in my view and should be permanently expelled. This includes
the failure to take charges of antisemitism sufficiently seriously and poor
choice of language such as conflating words like “Jew”, “Israeli”, and
“Zionist”.I think there is a particular problem with the word “Zionist” which
is used by some as if it were a term of abuse. This is guaranteed,
understandably in my view, to be regarded as antisemitic by many Jews and
should never be used in that way. Many people treat Zionist as if it means
“supportive of the policies of the Israeli government in relation to the
occupation and to Palestinians”. It is that understanding of the word
which leads to the equations Zionism = Imperialism and Zionism = Racism. Both
of those equations are as offensive and wrong as is the equation Anti-Zionism =
Antisemitism. The reason is that to most British Jews, Zionism simply means
“support for the existence of Israel as a Jewish state” alongside a Palestinian
state which is of course the policy of the Labour Party, PSC and Fatah and the
Palestine administration etc. Most British Jews (unlike Israeli Jews) believe
in equality of rights for Palestinians within Israel and in a two-state
solution. A number of self described Zionists in Britain and even  few in
Israel are strong supporters of Palestinian rights and I have personally
demonstrated alongside such people against house demolitions in East Jerusalem
and against the Wall with Palestinian villagers whose villages and land are
divided by it.
Much of the antisemitism
that exists on the Left is probably unconscious. Lack of intent, however, is
not an excuse for antisemitism just as it is not in the case of institutional
racism of any variety.
Defending Jeremy in my view
means the Left taking a hard line against antisemitism in the Labour party. I
know it is a long time since 1190 but I am sure that the Left in York would
feel a particular responsibility to make a stand against antisemitism given its
bloody history in their/your city.”

Jon

 

 

 

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