“Antisemitism in the United Kingdom”

“Antisemitism in the United Kingdom”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

Yvette Cooper is the new Chair of the Home Affairs Sub-Committee after the resignation of Keith Vaz MP

I am republishing what is an excellent critique of the recent flawed  House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Report on Anti-Semitism by David Plank, who was a former Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Social Services Committee under the late Renee Short MP.


David Plank analyses the flawed methodology of the Report and demonstrates how the Committee has ridden roughshod over any dissenting opinions.  David shows how the Committee has simply ignored any opinion that it disagreed with.  The Committee attacked people such as Shami Chakrabarti and Malia Bouattia whilst denying them the chance of giving evidence first.  The Report has, I explain in my own critique, deliberately confused opposition to Israel with anti-Semitism whilst trying to redefine anti-Semitism.  Indeed it hasn’t even understood the definitions of anti-Semitism that it does approve of.  

Not only is the Report biased and prejudiced but it is sloppy and error prone.  It has taken at face value allegations of anti-Semitism without ever bothering itself to find out if they had a factual basis e.g. the allegation by Board of Deputies Chair Jonathan Arkush that at the 2014 national demonstration against the attack on Gaza there were ‘Hitler was right’ posters.  David shows how the Committee, because it embarked on what was a political odyssey, lacked any terms of reference, leading it become unsystematic in the way it tackled its purported subject.   

It is little wonder that Gideon Falter, Chair of the Zionist Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which was set up at the time of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in 2014, in order to label critics of Israel as ‘anti-Semitic, enthusiastically welcomed the Select Committee Report.  

‘The Committee listened, and by endorsing the measures we have called for, the Committee has forcefully challenged those responsible for allowing the normalisation of antisemitism. It was brave of the Committee to adopt the positions it has taken, and to pull no punches in doing so.’

I have
done 2 blog posts on the Committee Report:
Manufacturing Consent On ‘Anti-Semitism’ – Modern Day Alchemy –
Home Affairs Select Committee Transforms Anti-Zionism into Anti-Semitism

and
Opposing Parliament’s Racist Witch-hunt of Malia Bouattia –
Academics, Lawyers and Anti-Racist Activists in Support of NUS President

However there are some omissions in the Report which I cover in my own posts.  In particular:

1.  There was a very serious error that discredits the
whole report, which is the first ‘key fact’, which states there has been an 11% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the
first half of 2016.  It cites the CST Incident Report for the first half of 2016.  One
would expect any serious analysis of current anti-Semitism to at least look at
the Report it is quoting.  80% of the increase in anti-Semitism is
via social media.  I suspect this unquantifiable but in any event is not
in the same realm as actual anti-Semitism in the real world.  What the
Committee fails to point out, either through its own incompetence and
negligence or deliberate bias is that there has been a 13% fall in violent
anti-Semitic incidents, thus negating the stated purpose of the
Report.  I therefore suspect the omission was deliberate not accidental.

2.  Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board
of Deputies of British Jews, stated that on the Gaza demonstrations of 2014 there were
‘Hitler was Right’ posters.  He produced no evidence to support this allegation and the Committee didn’t ask for any evidence.  It simply put this unverified allegation down as fact in its Report.  There is no truth in
this allegation.  Where are the photos of such placards?  Given the
number of Jewish groups on the march it is highly unlikely that no one would
have spotted such placards.  This is a deliberately
manufactured myth which originated with Douglas Murray of the Henry Jackson
society.  In printing the allegation without attempting to verify it,
thus smearing the Palestine solidarity movement, the Committee demonstrated the worthlessness of its Report.

Malia, the first Black woman President of NUS has been the subject of a racist witch hunt by the Zionist Union of Jewish Students – the Committee heavily criticised her without inviting her to give evidence first.  She didn’t have the benefit of Maxwellisation, which Blair benefitted from during the Chilcott Inquiry, whose Report on the Iraq War was delayed in order to allow those criticised the opportunity to respond to criticisms first
3.  David Plank refers to the treatment of Chakrabarti and the Smyth incident in some depth, but he omits to mention the most contemptible of their attacks was on the NUS President Malia Bouattia.
4.  The most serious omission is the absence of any mention of the Committee’s proposals to consider the
criminalisation of  ‘accusatory and abusive‘ uses of the term ‘Zionism’ as a hate
crime.  This has massive implications for the solidarity movement and of
course civil liberties.

5.  It speaks volumes that the Committee totally ignored the one visible, by their dress and appearance, section of the Jewish community – the Haredi chasidic sect.  These Jews, based primarily in Stamford Hill, London, do suffer anti-Semitic attacks by racists and fascists yet the Committee didn’t seek to take any evidence from them.  Why should it when it had an entirely different agenda from traditional anti-Semitism?

I also disagree with David Plank’s repeated description of Ken Livingstone’s comments as ‘offensive’. 
Being offensive is the essence of free speech and whilst Ken’s comments were
offensive to some, they were not to others.  They were also correct in
their essentials.
With these omission I recommend the analysis as the best I’ve seen to date.

tony
greenstein

A Critique of the Home Affairs Committee Report 
by David Plank



Contents

Section
Paragraphs
Conclusions & recommendations
A to G, pages 2 & 3
1.      Remit
1.1 to 1.3
2.      Method
2.1 to 2.9
3.      Language
3.1 to 3.6
4.      Social
media
4.1 to 4.4
5.      Palestine
and Israel
5.1 to 5.3
6.      Party
politics
6.1 to 6.26
7.      Shami
Chakrabarti Report
7.1 to 7.26
8.      The
Labour Party
8.1 to 8.16
9.      Conclusions
& recommendations
9.1 to 9.6
David Plank
Member of the Labour Party living in Cambridge
Former Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Social
Services Committee
Former local authority director of social services and chief
executive
2 November 2016
Conclusion & recommendations:
A.   
I came to this report as a former specialist
adviser to the then House of Commons Social Services Committee (Chair, Renee
Short MP). It saddens me to find a report which so signally fails to live up to
the standards set by select committees over the years. Most regrettably, my
conclusion is that this Report is a partisan party political polemic which
should not have been agreed and made public by a House of Commons select
committee. It fails to meet the basic standards required of select committees
as to their inquiries and reports. This is particularly distressing on so
important and contentious a matter as antisemitism in our country.
B.    
The reasons for my conclusion are given in
detail in the pages that follow. Their length is necessary to demonstrate the
extent of the failings in the Committee’s Inquiry and the prejudicial effects
this has on its Report’s conclusions and recommendations.
C.    
The Report purports to be the result of an
inquiry into “Antisemitism in the United Kingdom”. It is no such thing. The
Inquiry has no terms of reference: as a result, it is ill-defined from the outset.
Its evidence base is partial and excludes a swathe of evidence sources that
would have been essential to such an inquiry. It is unbalanced in the coverage
it gives to political discourse as against other aspects of antisemitism in the
United Kingdom – and grossly imbalanced within the topic of political discourse
in the entirely disproportionate attention it gives to the Labour Party and
personally to its Leader.
D.   
The Committee unjustifiably dismisses the Shami
Chakrabarti Report primarily on the basis of innuendo without taking proper
account of the reputation for integrity of its Chair and Vice Chairs – and by
assessing the Report against a judicial inquiry expectation which it could not
and was not expected to meet. The report’s treatment of the Leader of the
Labour Party is biased and unfair. The Report also includes severe criticism of
named or otherwise identifiable individuals without, it seems, hearing their
side of the story thus denying them their fundamental right of reply.
E.    
The Report gives the clear impression of bias on
all these counts – including, most regrettably, the strong impression of the
Committee having been captured by the party politics within and without the
Labour Party following the Parliamentary Labour Party’s majority vote of no
confidence in the Party Leader and the leadership election campaign that
ensued. By falling so far short of the standards required, the Committee’s
Report does disservice to the honourable cause of combating antisemitism in the
United Kingdom: and fuels the fires of misunderstanding and ill feeling which
dog its discussion rather than fostering the understanding and constructive
debate the public has every right to expect of its elected
representatives. 
F.     
If I was inclined to borrow an expression from
the Committee’s Interim Chair when interviewed on radio and television on the
morning of Sunday 16 October 2016, I would say that the Committee’s Report is
not worth the paper it is written on. Such worth as is within it is set at
nothing by that which is either not worthwhile or worse.
G.   
Recommendations:
                                                        
a.i.     
The House of Commons Home affairs Committee
should withdraw this Report and undertake a properly impartial, objective and
sufficiently evidenced inquiry into antisemitism in the United Kingdom. Individuals
and organizations should not be named or otherwise made identifiable in the
report of this and other inquiries undertaken by the Committee without due
process and proper verification of evidence.
                                                      
a.ii.     
The House of Commons Liaison Committee should
examine the adequacy of the arrangements select committees of the House of
Commons have in place to assure their inquiries and reports to ensure they
achieve basic standards of impartiality, objectivity and adequacy of evidence –
including strict adherence to the rule of no party politics.
                                                    
a.iii.     
The Labour Party should consider the comments made
above in relation to: a definition of antisemitism and the areas of outright
disagreement as to what falls within it in the assessment of allegations; and
accountability. [My paragraphs 7.17, 7.20, 7.22, 7.23 & 7.26]
Reasons for my conclusions
1.      
Remit:
1.1.   
The inquiry has no
stated terms of reference, i.e. statement of what it set out to do – at least
there is none that I can find in the report. As a result, the inquiry has no discernible
shape – it is amorphous and apparently haphazard in the topics it chooses to
address, moving from the increase in antisemitic incidents to, its de facto
main focus, the alleged state of affairs in the Labour Party. The absence of
explicit terms of reference is evident in the “Our inquiry” section of the
Report on page 7. This states:
“Our
inquiry was prompted by concerns expressed to us about an increase in prejudice
and violence against Jewish communities in the UK, along with an increase in far-right
extremist activity. Many of the developments outlined above, and discussed in
detail later in this report, occurred after
we announced this inquiry on 12 April 2016.” [My emphasis]
1.2.   
In plainer
language, an Inquiry which arose from general concerns and lacked direction
from the outset appears to have become driven by happenchance events including
the contemporaneous Parliamentary Labour Party’s majority vote of no confidence
in its Leader and the subsequent Labour Party leadership election. This is addressed
in section 6 below.
1.3.  
In
consequence, the Report which is entitled “Antisemitism in the UK”, is
no such thing. If indeed the Committee’s intention was to address antisemitism
in the United Kingdom, the incompetence of its approach to and conduct of so
important an enquiry is doubly regrettable.
2.     
Method:
2.1.   The
fundamental weakness arising from the Inquiry’s lack of clarity about what it
set out to do is aggravated by the method used in the inquiry, which is also
not spelled out and appears partial and incomplete. For example, why was
evidence obtained from some voices in the communities of British Jews and not
others? The Board of Deputies of British Jews is one voice that was heard. A
different voice – the voice of Independent Jewish Voices – was not heard.
Independent Jewish Voices is a significant body which states:
“We believe that the broad spectrum of
opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those
institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a
whole. We further believe that individuals and groups within all communities
should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without
incurring accusations of disloyalty.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews is a
body which claims authority to represent the Jewish community in this country
as a whole – describing itself as:
“… the
voice of British Jewry …” [Taken from website – my emphasis]
2.2.   Why then did the
Committee obtain evidence from one voice and give it much weight in its report
and not obtain evidence from this other different voice – and indeed others
such as the non-Orthodox communities which do not necessarily see their varied
views represented by the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and
its Chief Rabbi from whom evidence was obtained?  Why did the then Chair of the Committee
reject a request from Shami Chakrabarti to appear before the Committee and give
evidence? Why is great weight given by the Committee to the evidence of bodies
such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews when no weight appears to be
given to that of other bodies with different views such as Free Speech on
Israel? [Witnesses and Published written evidence on pages 63 & 64
respectively]
2.3.   Some may not
regard it as surprising that the Board of Deputies of British Jews has welcomed
the Committee’s report given the weight the Committee appears to have attached
to the Board’s views – and to those of other bodies from which evidence was
obtained that some British Jews may see as like-minded bodies, i.e. the Jewish
Leadership Council and the United Hebrew Congregations. Had the Committee
obtained evidence from other known voices in the communities of British Jews –
and given weight to the evidence it did have of different views – its account
of Zionism, for instance, might well have been significantly different. The
Committee gives the impression of not being sensitive to this crucial point.
Had the Committee been as comprehensive in the evidence it took as the
Chakrabarti Inquiry, its conclusions and recommendations might have carried
greater weight than they do. [Compare the evidence listed on pages 63 & 64
of the Committee’s Report and the many more and more representative spread of
organizations and individuals which contributed to the Shami Chakrabarti
Inquiry following its call for evidence, pages 30 & 31 of the SC Report]
2.4.  
This serious failure of methodology is most
regrettable and helps to explain the severe lack of balance in the Committee’s
report as whole. This is all the more regrettable in the hugely contentious and
contended matter of antisemitism and the attendant hotly contested debates
around such sensitive matters as identity and Zionism which influence people’s
personal perception and experience of antisemitism.
2.5.  
A related weakness in the Committee’s inquiry was
its failure to appoint expert advisor(s) on this most contentious and contended
of matters. Had such advice been available to the Committee, its discussion of
Zionism, for example, would have been significantly better informed than it
appears to be. This methodological weakness is in distinct contrast to the
Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry which had specialist expertise represented in its
panel of inquiry through one of its Vice Chairs, Professor David Feldman. It
also had advice from its appointed Counsel and Solicitor whose “… expertise as
a senior public and human rights lawyer has been invaluable.” [Page 3 of SC
Report] The approach the Committee took to its obtaining of evidence did not
make up for this failing. Indeed its lack of balance and depth could be seen to
have exacerbated it. 
2.6.   The Committee’s
apparent lack of discrimination in its assessment of some of the evidence
before it, is illustrated in the last of the “Key Facts” exhibited at the top
of its Report:
“A self-selecting survey of British Jewish people found that 87%
believed that the Labour Party is too tolerant of antisemitism among its MPs,
members and supporters. Almost half thought the same of the Green Party, along
with 43% for UKIP, 40% for the SNP, 37% for the Liberal Democrats and 13% for
the Conservative Party.” [Page 4; repeated in paragraph 111]
The Report does not explain what “self-selecting” means, i.e. how the
1,864 British Jewish adults polled by the Campaign Against Antisemitism were selected.
This is also not stated on the CAA’s website. Generally, self-selecting surveys
are by definition unreliable as no standard statistical test can be applied to
them to assess the data’s margin of error. Analysis of such information should
also take account of the prejudicial effect on public opinion of the barrage of
unfavourable media coverage of alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party; and of
the fact that much of the media is hostile generally to the Labour Party –
particularly since Mr Corbyn’s election as its Leader – and wishes to
characterize it unfavourably. Such information should not be listed as a key
fact at the front of a select committee report; it should also not be included
in the subsequent text of a select committee report without qualification and
further information as to its reliability and validity.
2.7.   This is an early example of the
Committee’s inclusion of material unfavourable to the Labour Party in its
Report without sufficient regard to its reliability or validity. Some might see
this as a determination on the Committee’s part so to do. This perception may
or may not be correct – but the Committee should have been more aware that the
perception could arise and of the need to take action to avoid it.
2.8.   Another
concern about the Committee’s method in this Inquiry relates to criticism of
identifiable or named individuals. A number are criticized in the Report –
directly, indirectly or both – and some severely criticized. The Committee does
not say whether or not these individuals were presented with either the draft
text or a detailed account of what the Committee intended to say in its Report
with the opportunity to respond before the Committee decided the final form of
the passages concerned in light of the responses made. This would have been
necessary to ensure accuracy and fairness. The Committee should have made clear
in its Report that this was or was not the case so that the weight to be
attached to its conclusions could be properly assessed. In the absence of this
assurance it is difficult to assess the weight that should be given to the
criticisms made. It is known that the request to give evidence to the Committee
made by one of the individuals named in the Report as having been suspended by
the Labour Party was refused by the Committee’s then Chair. As a result, it is
not possible, to assess the accuracy or otherwise of the Report’s description
of events. [Paragraphs 110 & 112]
2.9.  
The individual named in paragraphs 110 and 112
is the subject of specific criticism in the Committee’s Report by Dave Rich,
Deputy Director of Communications of the Community Support Trust. [Paragraph
112] His criticisms, reproduced verbatim in the Report, assume as a matter of
fact that the person concerned had committed antisemitic acts. It is understood
that the person concerned was cleared of the first allegation by the Labour
Party and that the second allegation is not concluded. For this reason the
Committee’s reproduction of Mr Rich’s statements without qualification and
without giving the person concerned the right to be heard, is entirely
unacceptable, particularly in a Report claiming to be concerned with the
upholding of human rights.
3.     
Language:
3.1.   Pejorative
language is used by the Committee throughout its Report together with unwanted
and unwarranted innuendo as to motive. For example, the Palestine Solidarity
Campaign is described as a “hard –left” organization together with Unite
Against Fascism and Stop the War Coalition [page 39, paragraph 99]. This
comment follows an extended passage on allegations of antisemitism in the
Labour Party including Ken Livingstone’s highly offensive comments [paragraphs
95 to 98]. The paragraph reads as follows:
“A number of hard-left organisations, such as Unite Against Fascism,
Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, have clearly taken a
pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli Government stance. These organisations hold or
participate in marches, some of which have been attended by leading politicians
such as Mr Corbyn. Whilst the majority of individuals attending these marches
are not antisemitic, some of the placards and banners displayed are very offensive
to British Jewish people. Jonathan Arkush told us that, during one of the Gaza
campaigns, there were “huge marches” in London at which people held placards
that read “Hitler was right.”
[Jonathan Arkush is President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews]
3.2.    The
Wikipedia entry for “hard left” reads as follows:
“Hard left is a term
used, often pejoratively, to
refer to political movements and ideas outside the mainstream centre-left, including those also referred to as being far or extreme left.
The term has
been used more formally in the United Kingdom, in the
context of debates within both the Labour Party and the
broader left in the 1980s, to describe Trotskyist groups such as the Militant tendencySocialist Organiser and Socialist Action. Within the party, the
“hard left”, represented by the Campaign Group, subscribed to more strongly socialist or even Marxist views, while
the “soft left“, associated for example with the Tribune Group, embraced
more moderate social democratic ideas.
Politicians commonly described as being on the hard left of the Labour Party at
the time included Derek HattonKen LivingstoneDennis Skinner
and Eric
Heffer
. The
term has been used since then by Labour’s political opponents, for example
during the Conservative Party‘s election campaigns of the early 1990s, and by the media. Momentum, a group founded to support Jeremy Corbyn‘s leadership
of the Labour Party, has been described as hard left.”
These are the
connotations of the words “hard left”.
3.3.   The
combined effect of this paragraph and those immediately preceding it is to
paint the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as an extreme hard left organization
associated with antisemitism. It is not known if this is the intention but it
is the effect. Not only is this picture untrue it is also a travesty of a
complicated situation which the Report’s insensitive and pejorative remarks
serve to exacerbate rather than contribute constructively. This is not
acceptable – and even more so in the Report of a select committee of the House
of Commons which is meant to set standards of public debate.
3.4. 
The Wikipedia entry for the Palestine Solidarity
campaign reads:
“The Palestine
Solidarity Campaign
 (PSC) is an activist organisation in England and Wales that
promotes solidarity with the Palestinian people.
It was founded in 1982 during the build-up to Israel’s invasion of
Lebanon
, and was incorporated in the UK in 2004 as Palestine Solidarity
Campaign Ltd.
The PSC campaigns for peace and
justice for Palestinians, in support of international law and human rights. PSC
states that it is “opposed to all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish
prejudice and Islamophobia”. It has stated that it opposes both
“Israel’s occupation and its aggression against neighbouring states”.
Whilst recognising differences between apartheid-era South Africa and Israel,
PSC promotes the boycotting of Israeli goods as a method that it believes was
previously successful in achieving political change. The PSC’s stated
goals include the right of
return
 for Palestinians and Israeli withdrawal from the occupied
territories
. The PSC has criticised Israel’s practices when
arresting children.
Activities organised by and
statements from the PSC are reported on outlets such as the website The Electronic
Intifada
. PSC is criticised by the website “Exposing the Palestine
Solidarity Campaign”.
PSC chapters have run workshops
on such questions as “How to deal with Zionists’ arguments; what to say to
those who call us anti-Semitic” and “What are settlements? What will
boycotting Israeli goods achieve?”
3.5.   Study
of the PSC’s campaigns and other activities does not support its description as
“a hard left” organization, whatever that is. Nor does it support innuendo that
the PSC as an organization is somehow tainted with antisemitism. Clearly the
PSC is strongly opposed to the collective effect of the State of Israel on
Palestinians with the justifications it makes public on a regular basis.
Witness its campaign concerning the 547,000 Israeli settlers in villages, towns
and cities “built illegally on Palestinian land” and protected by Israeli
forces, which are described by the UK government as illegal and a barrier to
peace – being in contravention of United Nations resolutions. The PSC is highly
critical of Israel’s actions but this does not constitute being hard left or
antisemitic.
3.6. 
The denigratory tone of these passages is not
untypical in this Report; witness the unargued, except as to circumstance, and
unfounded assault on the independence and objectivity of Shami Chakrabarti and
her two Vice Chairs, Professor David Feldman and Baroness Royall. This tone
would be objectionable in any report of a House of Commons Select Committee.
That this is the case in an inquiry purporting to inquire into a matter so
highly sensitive as antisemitism in the UK is reprehensible. 
4.     
Social
media:
4.1.   A
significant proportion of the “evidence” in the report relates to communication
through the social media, particularly that pertaining to political discourse.
It is common ground that a proportion of this content is abusive and some of it
vilely so. Yet the Committee makes no serious attempt to analyse the issue so
that informed policy responses might be considered. In particular, they do not
analyse abusive communication to MPs alongside other widely reported abuses
including other forms of trolling. One particularly important feature of all
such forms is that they are often anonymous, a point mentioned in passing only
in the Report. [Paragraph 54] But it is crucial. The concurrent blessing and
curse of anonymity in the social media renders it valuable and sometimes
invaluable – but also abominable and sometimes abominably so. Anonymity
empowers the unaccountable to abuse vilely the readily available. Those in
public office in the past were used to receiving the occasional anonymous
letter, sometimes written in green ink. But the facility of Twitter in
particular has vastly increased this form of abuse.
4.2.   The
Committee’s addressing of this issue in relation to antisemitism in the United
Kingdom and in “political discourse” is at best superficial. Yes of course,
Twitter in particular should be doing more to stamp it out as the Report says.
[Paragraph 58 in particular] But the Committee does not address the issue of
anonymity at all – the issue which is at the root of the abuse by allowing /
encouraging behind the hand and curtain gossip, innuendo, bullying and vile
abuse. Instead it simply notes that Twitter has become “… a social media
platform now regarded as a requirement for any public figure” without asking
why the entitlement to anonymity of one party to the interaction should be part
and parcel of this requirement – or whether the potential benefit of this
entitlement is in any way sufficient to outweigh its incurred risk. [Paragraph
57] Accountability for what one says is fundamental to the politeness and good
neighbourliness which marks a civilized society. Unaccountable tittle tattle
and gossip are the enemies of good neighbourliness. This does have to be
balanced of course with the need for anonymity in certain situations like
whistle blowing on abuse of power. How this is to be achieved is a debate at
least as important as seeking to increase appropriate surveillance by social
media providers. It is regrettable that the Committee does not even touch on
this vital issue. 
     
4.3.   The
Committee also fails in this regard in its comments on abuse allegedly made in
the name of Mr Corbyn. [See for example paragraph 104] It is not evident from
the Report that the Committee made any determined attempt to verify these
potentially damaging claims. Theoretically, anyone may anonymously claim to be
acting in the name of the Leader of the Labour Party whether or not they are so
doing. It is important, therefore, to seek to verify claims made to this
effect.  It is unfortunate that the
Committee has seen fit merely to repeat claims made to it without some
representative sample checks as to accuracy and demonstration of these in its
evidence. This significantly weakens the Committee’s Report in this regard.
4.4.   The
Committee makes some potentially useful recommendations in relation to Twitter
which it is hoped will be acted upon. [Paragraph 59] However, its coverage of
online abuse in the context of political discourse is partial and inadequate.
It fails to address the fundamental point of anonymity and the place for it, if
any, in political discourse. It also fails to address specifically the
responsibilities of political parties in relation to anonymized antisemitic
abuse of MPs and others allegedly made in the name of political leaders or
others. Procedures do exist for action in relation to identified individuals
and organizations alleged to have committed antisemitic acts. No doubt they can
and should be improved, for example in the speed and fairness to all parties
with which they are carried through. But it is not made clear by the Committee
what action can reasonably be expected of political leaders and parties in
relation to anonymous antisemitic abuse which is not already in hand.
5.      Palestine and Israel:
5.1.    It
is most surprising that the crucial subject of Palestine and Israel is not
addressed in some depth in relation to the Report’s stated topic. There can be
little doubt that public opinion in general shifted greatly during and after
Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza in July 2014. The invasion by Israeli forces
following Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the rocket and mortar attacks on Israel
by Palestinian armed groups, was reported by the United Nations Independent
Commission of Inquiry to have resulted in:
“In Gaza, in
particular, the scale of the devastation was unprecedented. The death toll
alone speaks volumes: 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462
Palestinian civilians, of whom 299 women and 551 children; and 11,231
Palestinians, including 3,540 women and 3,436 children, were injured
(A/HRC/28/80/Add.1, para. 24), of whom 10 per cent suffered
permanent disability as a result. While the casualty figures gathered by the
United Nations, Israel, the State of Palestine and non-governmental
organizations differ, regardless of the exact proportion of civilians to
combatants, the high incidence of loss of human life and injury in Gaza is
heartbreaking.” [Human Rights situation in Palestine & other
occupied Arab territories, paragraph 20, 24 June 2015]
5.2.   The
invasion was reported extensively in the United Kingdom on a day by day basis.
It was seen by many members of the public to be at the least disproportionate
and revealed to many for the first time the conditions in which many
Palestinian people were living – as well as highlighting the anxiety and stress
experienced by many Israeli civilians living within rocket and mortar range.
Public opinion shifted as a result with attendant unease in sections of the
communities of British Jews and on the political left amongst others.
5.3. 
The narrative that had been dominant in British
public life until then stopped being dominant in significant parts of UK public
opinion but not in others. The fault lines which opened up as a result do not
in any way justify antisemitism but they almost certainly relate to part of the
increase in perceived and actual antisemitism. That this complex and confusing
phenomenon is not even acknowledged let alone addressed in the Committee’s
Report will be seen as astonishing by many people. If the Inquiry had been a
serious attempt to address “Antisemitism in the United Kingdom”, this elephant
in the room simply had to be brought out and addressed. This failing on the
Committee’s part seriously undermines its Inquiry and Report.   
[NOTE: There is some duplication of
material in sections 6, 7 & 8 which follow. This is not accidental as it
allows each section to stand in its own right without undue need to cross
refer, which some readers find even more irritating.]
 
6.       Party politics:
6.1.   
The Committee’s
Inquiry became involved in party politics. This is evident in its prejudicial
and innuendo laden comment on the Labour Party, and in the entirely
disproportionate attention given to that Party as against other parties.  Yet The Committee notes that:
“It should
be emphasised that the majority of antisemitic abuse and crime has historically
been, and continues to be, committed by individuals associated with (or
motivated by) far-right wing parties and political activity … CST figures
suggest that around three-quarters of all politically-motivated antisemitic
incidents come from far-right sources. [Paragraph 7]
Despite
significant press and public attention on the Labour Party, and a number of
revelations regarding inappropriate social media content, there exists no
reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher
prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than any other
political party. We are unaware whether efforts to identify antisemitic social
media content within the Labour Party were applied equally to members and
activists from other political parties, and we are not aware of any polls
exploring antisemitic attitudes among political party members, either within or
outside the Labour Party. The current impression of a heightened prevalence of
antisemitism within in the Labour Party is clearly a serious problem, but we
would wish to emphasise that this is also a challenge for other parties.”
[Paragraph 120]
6.2.   Yet:
Ø 
of
the 3 paragraphs in the Introduction to the Report relating to “Antisemitism in
political parties”, all 3 relate to the Labour Party;
Ø 
of
the 11 pages in the report covering “Political discourse and leadership”, 8
concern the Labour Party and 3 only concern all other parties and political
organizations; and
Ø 
of
the 8 paragraphs in the Committee’s “Conclusions and recommendations” on
“Political discourse and leadership”, 7 relate to the Labour Party and one only
to other political parties and organizations.
6.3.    This is not and cannot be justified by the
facts. It is not acceptable for the Committee to seek to justify this highly
biased and unbalanced account by saying – well, the Labour Party is what the
press is reporting, its readers are reading and the BBC and others are then
reporting because they give so much coverage to the printed press. But this is
precisely what the Committee’s Report does say in so many words in the
preceding extract. The right wing dominated printed press is not an impartial
investigator of good repute and cannot be relied upon as one by the Committee.
But this is precisely what the Committee has done by devoting wholly
disproportionate attention to the Labour Party – and by not carrying out any
investigation which would allow it to cover other parties and organizations in
similar detail. 
6.4.   
There are two
Labour MP signatories to the Committee’s Report together with five Conservative
MP signatories including its Interim Chair. There were no other signatories on
13 October 2016. [Page 62]
6.5.   
One of the Labour
MP signatories, Chuka Umunna, was prominent in the no confidence vote against
Mr Corbyn on 27 June 2016 and in the subsequent campaign having nominated Owen
Smith to stand as a candidate for the leadership. Mr Umunna has been openly hostile to Mr Corbyn as was shown
vividly in his questioning of the Labour Party Leader at the Select Committee
hearing on 4 July 2016. On that occasion Mr Umunna’s questions / statements
were primarily party political rather than addressing antisemitism, which the
then Chair, Keith Vaz MP, allowed to continue for a time without significant
demur [reported by the Daily Mirror as “Jeremy Corbyn attacked by Chuka Umunna
over anti-semitism row”]. Witness also Mr Umunna’s public criticism of Mr
Corbyn over the conduct of the European Union Referendum campaign (The Sun 4
July 2016) and his reaction to Mr Corbyn’s re-election when he is reported as
saying to BBC News on 24 September 2016, following the Labour Party Leader’s
call for Party unity, “unity will not come about through demand, through
threat, through online thuggery.” This was just over three weeks before he
voted in the Committee to agree this Report.
6.6.   
The other Labour
Party signatory to the Committee’s Report, David Winnick MP, could not be
regarded as hostile to the Labour Party Leader. However, following the local
election results in May 2016 he had publicly criticized Mr Corbyn’s leadership.
He was reported as calling on Mr Corbyn to take
responsibility and consider his position in order to give the party a chance of
regaining power in 2020. “The party faces a crisis and the onus is on
Jeremy himself. He should decide whether his leadership is helping or hindering
the party … I think all the evidence shows that it is not helping.”[Mirror
online, 6 May 2016] However, in distinct and honourable contrast to the other
MPs who questioned Mr Corbyn at the Committee’s hearing on 4 July 2016, Mr
Winnick was civil not hostile.
6.7.   
The Committee’s
Chair for much of this Inquiry was Keith Vaz MP. Mr Vaz nominated Owen Smith
for the Labour Party leadership following the majority vote of no confidence in
Mr Corbyn. He was not one of the Labour MPs reported to have voted against the
motion of no confidence.
6.8.   
The Committee’s
hearing of Mr Corbyn’s evidence on 4 July 2016 provides vivid evidence of the
Committee’s partisanship and open hostility towards the Labour Party Leader.
The Mirror online commented “The Home Affairs Select Committee was political
theatre, with MPs from Labour and the Tories lining up to attack the leader …” [My emphasis] This conduct is in
conflict with that expected of a House of Commons Select Committee. Its descent
into partisan party politics is conduct not befitting a House of Commons Select
Committee purporting to be an impartial and objective body of inquiry, even
more so on a matter of such sensitivity and social importance as antisemitism
in the United Kingdom.
6.9.   
It is
abundantly clear that the Labour Party and its Leader could not and did not
receive a fair hearing from this Committee in the highly charged atmosphere of
the House of Commons, and of the Parliamentary Labour Party in particular,
during these months. The Committee should have recognized the risk it was
running in conducting this Inquiry at this time and taken action to mitigate
that risk. Given the situation it would have been appropriate, indeed proper,
for the Committee to suspend its consideration of matters to do with the Labour
Party as no reasonable person could have seen it as an adequately impartial and
objective setting for the proper conduct of the inquiry, if indeed it ever was
on which there must be serious doubt. Instead it chose to continue headlong. In my experience select committees of the House of Commons have gone
out of their way to avoid any possible taint of party politics in their
inquiries. This Report is a most regrettable exception to that rule which, if
repeated, would risk bringing the select committee system into disrepute.
6.10.                   
Much
of such detail given in the Report relates to named individuals who are alleged
to have committed antisemitic acts or to have been the subjects of such acts
mainly through the social media which are addressed above. [My section 4] The
alleged treatment of Ruth Smeeth MP at the press conference for the publication
of the Shami Chakrabarti Report is one of the few non-social media allegations
of antisemitic abuse. [Paragraph 103] This incident is puzzling to many Labour
Party members who have seen the video of the incident and heard the soundtrack
including the subsequent questioning of the man concerned outside the
conference room.
See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-antisemitism-jeremy-corbyn-ruth-smeeth-jewish-mp-accused-of-colluding-with-media-a7111061.html
6.11.                   
Having
done so myself a number of times, I am not at all clear what the nature of the
alleged antisemitism is. While the MP clearly regards what the man said or
implied as offensive, it is not at all clear that the remarks actually contain
antisemitic content or intent. The soundtrack is difficult to follow as it also
contains a loud telephone ring and then loud voices raised in protest at what
he was saying. However, the man appears to allege that The Telegraph handed
Ruth Smeeth a copy of a press release and that she and that newspaper were
“hand in hand” with each other. He goes on to complain about the alleged lack
of “African-Caribbean and Asian people” at the launch event and to say that
better representation in the Labour Party was necessary including amongst
“SPADs” so that “white boys” were not determining matters. Ruth Smeeth’s
immediate reaction and that of the man sitting on her left was that the
comments were antisemitic: “antisemitism at the launch of an antisemitism
report” the man sitting next to Ms Smeeth says.
6.12.                   
Ms
Smeeth’s immediate understanding is confirmed by her statement outside the
conference room:
“It is beyond belief that someone could come to the launch
of a report on antisemitism in the Labour Party and espouse such vile conspiracy theories about Jewish people,
which were ironically highlighted as such in Ms Chakrabarti’s report, while the
leader of my own party stood by and did absolutely nothing … People like this
have no place in our party or our movement and must be opposed.”
6.13.                   
The
man who made the remarks in the conference when approached outside the
conference room subsequently appears surprised at being asked by the man who
had been sitting on Ms Smeeth’s left (who complained of antisemitism at the
launch of a report on antisemitism) to apologize for his remarks – the man who
made the remarks replies “apologize for what?”. The reply is not aggressive and
seems genuine. The man who made the remarks also said subsequently that he had
not known that Ms Smeeth was Jewish. Mr Corbyn, who had responded to the man’s
statement/question at the press launch as concerning representation of Black
and Minority Ethnic people in the Party and not containing antisemitic content,
confirmed subsequently that he had known the man as an “anti-racism campaigner”
in London for 30 years.
6.14.                   
It is
at least possible that there is a genuine misunderstanding here. Ms Smeeth has
interpreted the man’s reference to “hand in hand” with an organ of the right
wing press as an antisemitic conspiracy theory. The man does not appear to have
had this meaning in mind. While his allegation may not be true, as Mr Corbyn
subsequently confirmed to be his understanding, it is doubtful that the untruth
was antisemitic in content or intent. Relatively superficial inquiry would have
identified this. But the Committee appears to take Ms Smeeth’s immediate
interpretation entirely at face value. Not only does the Committee do this but
it also describes the man in loaded language as a “Labour activist” with the
possible implication that he may be one of the alleged antisemitic abusers, the
word “activist(s)” or “political activist(s)” having been used by members of
the Parliamentary Labour Party and the media to refer to the perpetrators of
claimed incidents of antisemitic abuse. On both of these counts this is
unacceptable conduct by a Select Committee of the House. It is at the very
least sloppy and gives the clear impression of a less than impartial approach.
[My understanding of what happened is confirmed in outline at:
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2016/06/sanity-shami-chakrabarti-ruth-smeeth-affair/]
6.15.                   
This
particular incident is addressed in some detail because it attracted great
media attention at the time, for example from The Sun’s Robert Fisk on the day
of the press conference who reported that Ms Smeeth had left the press
conference “… in tears after being attacked for being Jewish.”
[https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/1369069/labour-mp-ruth-smeeth-leaves-anti-semitism-event-in-tears-after-being-attacked-for-being-jewish/]
As the Committee has failed to put the record straight it is necessary to do so
here. The incident also seems to illustrate a general
inclination on the Committee’s part to believe some accounts of highly charged
events and not others, i.e. to believe accounts unfavourable to the Leader of
the Labour Party. Having read a deal of evidence – this is my clear impression.
This evidence includes a letter sent to Chuka Umunna MP by 43 Jewish Labour
Party members who state that antisemitism was not involved in this incident.
The Committee takes no account of this. (My paragraph 8.3]
6.16.                   
In
general, accounts of events described in the Report other than by the person
making the complaint were not sought by the Committee. If a Committee is to go
into the detail of individual events which this Report does, it is incumbent on
the Committee to seek to verify the account it has been given. I see little or
no evidence of this in the Report. As a result, regrettably, the weight to be
attached to these events, including those described by Ms Smeeth, cannot be
assessed adequately by the reader. Accepting at face value one party’s account
of highly charged events, even if that person is a colleague MP, is neither
adequate nor fair.
6.17.                   
Much
of the evidence considered by the Committee was obtained during the period of
turmoil in the Parliamentary Labour Party and the wider Labour Party following
the EU Referendum vote and the vote of no confidence in the Party Leader by the
majority of Labour MPs on 27 June 2016. This is most unfortunate as the report
is clearly scarred by the immediacy of those events. This is not just a matter
of individual integrity and partiality but of mind set and the inevitable skewing
effect of that set on the perception and subsequent interpretation of facts.
The Committee should not have continued its inquiry into the political aspects
of antisemitism in the UK in these circumstances as its objectivity and
impartiality would have been seen by many reasonable observers to be open to
serious question – as indeed is the case now that this report has been issued.
The Committee should have anticipated that the interests carried by its various
members made it impossible for its inquiry to be seen as impartial and
objective. The reasonable observer is bound to note that five of the seven
Committee members who agreed the Report were Conservative MPS passing judgement
on the Labour Party – and of the other two who were Labour MPs one was
prominent in the vote of no confidence in the Labour Party Leader and the
subsequent leadership campaign. That the Committee failed to appreciate or
anticipate this runs the risk of bringing the select committee system in to
disrepute.
6.18.                   
The
partisan nature of the Committee’s Report was further underlined in the remarks
of the Committee’s Conservative Interim Chair on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House
programme on the day of its publication – Sunday 16 October 2016. In this the
Interim Chair referred to the Shami Chakrabarti Report as “not worth the paper
it’s written on” (my direct observation); the Interim Chair used the same words
on the same day on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. [Kevin Schofield & Josh May,
Politics Home 16.10.16] These are not the words of informed reason but of
knockabout party politics. This is deeply regrettable – particularly on so
serious a matter.
6.19.                   
The Report’s treatment of Jeremy Corbyn, Leader
of the Labour Party, is also not of the standard expected of a Select Committee
of the House of Commons. It is biased and unfair. For example, the Committee’s
comment on the conduct of the Labour Party Leader in relation to the highly
offensive conduct of Ken Livingstone completely fails to realize that it would
have been improper for him to have commented on a current Labour Party
disciplinary matter concerning a suspended member and the potential prejudice
such comment could have had on the outcome of the disciplinary process. The
matter was under investigation and adjudication during which as a matter of
common justice the Leader of the Party should not and should not be expected to
comment. Yet the fact that he did not is taken as evidence by the Committee of
Mr Corbyn not taking his responsibilities seriously. This is perverse and the
Committee’s conduct in this regard at the very least neglectful. [Paragraph
106]
6.20.                   
The Committee also seems not to have taken full
account of the fact that the Leader of the Labour Party is not in fact
responsible for matters of disciplinary procedure and practice within the
Labour Party. Under the Party’s democratic arrangements, it is the National
Executive Committee of the Labour Party which has this responsibility. Yet the
Committee did not obtain evidence from the Chair of the NEC or from the General
Secretary on his behalf on the matters before it. As a result, it is not
possible for the Committee to reach a full or fair conclusion and the Report’s
conclusions in this regard cannot be given great weight.
6.21.                   
It is also not at all clear what action the
Committee actually expected of Mr Corbyn over and above the action he did take.
For instance, the Committee cites the criticisms made by Ruth Smeeth MP without
qualification or other comment. [Paragraphs 103 & 104] As it is not clear
to the objective observer that the comments made by the man were antisemitic
[paragraph 103], why is it clearly implied by the Committee that Mr Corbyn
should have intervened during or after the press conference when the meeting
was indeed being chaired by someone other than himself – a fact which is itself
the subject of innuendo in the Report when Mr Corbyn’s response is communicated
[paragraph 103]. [See also my paragraphs 6.10 – 6.15 above]
6.22.                   
Why also are the criticisms made by Ruth Smeeth
MP simply reproduced in paragraph 104 when it is not demonstrated in evidence
to the Committee that the appalling online abuse was “done in the Leader’s
name” as the MP alleges and in a form which would have enabled the National
Executive Committee to have initiated disciplinary proceedings against identified
individuals. By its very nature and most unfortunately, social media empowers
the vile abuser who would have been confined to “green ink” handwritten letters
in the past, to convey their poison instantly without revealing their
verifiable identity. How then could the NEC have “named and shamed” the
perpetrators with due process. It should be noted that it is not for the Leader
to “name and shame” Labour Party members or supporters. Disciplinary action is
a matter for the NEC within the Party’s adopted processes. Did the Committee
enquire about these points – including whether or not the MP provided evidence
of the abuse to the Party for investigation through the NEC? It appears she may
not have done. If the Committee did not enquire, it is derelict for the
Committee to reach apparent conclusions as to fact without proper evidence
before it.
6.23.                   
The Report refers to the effect that the events
leading up to the then Prime Minister’s resignation had on the timing of the
evidence given on behalf of the Conservative Party.[Paragraph 124] It does not
extend the same courtesy to the timing of Shami Chakrabarti’s “elevation to the
peerage”. [Paragraphs 108, 109 & 114 in particular – repeated in the
Report’s “Conclusions and recommendations”] It is at least possible that the
perhaps unexpected event of an Honours Resignation List affected a decision
which may or may not have been made at a later date but the Committee did not
seek to obtain further direct evidence from Mr Corbyn on this point. Instead it
is assumed with apparent cynicism that the Shami Chakrabarti Report had been
bought – a report for an honour. This is a most serious allegation. The fact
that it is based in innuendo and surmise means that no weight should be
attached to it. It is conduct unbecoming a select committee of the House of
Commons. (This topic is addressed further in section 7 below.]
6.24.                   
Other aspects of the Committee’s criticisms of
the labour Party Leader are simply not made out sufficiently to persuade the
objective observer. The fact that these criticisms appear not to have been put
back to Mr Corbyn for comment before the Committee reached its conclusions adds
to the unease about their foundation in fact. I refer in particular but not
only to the Committee’s view that Mr Corbyn does not “… fully appreciate the
distinct nature of post-Second World War antisemitism…” and “… his (alleged)
reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism.” [Paragraph
113]  These possibly superficial reflections
from one session of questioning should have been further tested by the
Committee before it reached firm conclusions. That this should have been the
case in relation to a named individual, i.e. Mr Corbyn, is particularly
unfortunate.
6.25.                   
Day of publication: The Report was published on
Sunday 16 October. The day of publication is unusual. Of the last ten reports
issued by the Committee it is the only one to have been published on a Sunday.
Seven of the other nine were published on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and two
on a Saturday. Publication on a Sunday following a period of embargo
potentially attracts particular and distinctive media attention such as the
Andrew Marr Show. Many leaks and briefings take place with this in mind, not
least those from the Shadow Cabinet and the Parliamentary Labour Party since Mr
Corbyn’s election as Labour Party Leader in 2015. It may of course be a matter
of happenchance and no doubt it will be said by some that it is. But there
should not be room for suspicion on this. Publication on a weekday would have
been preferable to avoid suspicion, particularly given the Report’s heavy
emphasis on party political matters.  
6.26.                   
All of these points when taken together leave a
nasty taste in the mouth. The Report gives the impression that this Inquiry
became a vehicle for taking the fight within the Labour Party out into the
corridors of the Palace of Westminster and beyond – and for political advantage
to the majority party represented on the Committee. Instead of a serious
inquiry into antisemitism in the UK in accordance with the title of the Report,
the Committee has published an unbalanced, biased and one-sided political
polemic which focuses excessively and unjustifiably on one political party and
its Leader.  This is most regrettable and
should be the subject of criticism both inside and outside The House. The House
of Commons should be concerned that a report as poorly prepared and biased as
this on so serious a matter has been published in its name. It should never be
possible – or necessary – for a select committee report to be dismissed by a
major party represented in The House on the ground of bias and politicization
of the committee concerned. In this instance that dismissal was justified. See
also –
http://labourlist.org/2016/10/anti-semitism-report-violates-natural-justice-corbyns-response-to-mps-report/
7.      Shami Chakrabarti Report:
7.1.    The
Committee summarily dismisses the Shami Chakrabarti Report (SCR). This is
mainly on the ground that Shami Chakrabarti and as a result her inquiry is not
sufficiently independent of the Labour Party and its Leader. The innuendo
underpinning this can be read to mean that this is a case not of cash for an
honour but of an honour for a report. 
The Committee will respond that this is not what its Report says
literally, which would be correct. Nonetheless it is what the Committee’s
Report clearly implies. The most relevant passages are:
Introduction
to the Home Affairs Committee’s Antisemitism Report:
“Shortly
after the suspension of Ken Livingstone and a number of other allegations, the
Labour Leader, Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP, announced an inquiry into antisemitism
and other forms of racism perpetrated by members of the Labour Party, chaired
by former Liberty Director Shami (now
Baroness)
Chakrabarti. The report was
published in June
, and made recommendations for a number of changes to the
Labour Party’s disciplinary processes. It
found that the Labour Party is “not overrun” by antisemitism,
Islamophobia
or other forms of racism, but that, “as with wider society”, there is evidence
of “minority hateful or ignorant attitudes and behaviours festering within a
sometimes bitter incivility of discourse”. In
early August, it was announced that the Labour Leader had nominated Ms
Chakrabarti for a peerage
, which she had accepted. She has since taken her
seat in the House of Lords, and has been
appointed as Shadow Attorney General
in the Labour Leader’s recent Shadow
Cabinet reshuffle. We discuss this further in the final chapter of this
report.” [My emphasis] [Paragraph 6]
“Political
discourse and leadership”
“The labour
Party”
“The decision by the Leader of the Labour
Party to commission an independent inquiry into antisemitism was a welcome one,
notwithstanding subsequent criticisms. The Chakrabarti report makes
recommendations about creating a more robust disciplinary process within the
Labour Party, but it is clearly lacking in many areas; particularly in its
failure to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism. The fact
that the report describes occurrences of antisemitism merely as “unhappy
incidents” also suggests that it fails to appreciate the full gravity of the
comments that prompted the inquiry in the first place. These
shortfalls, combined with Ms Chakrabarti’s decision to join the Labour Party in
April and accept a peerage as a nominee of the Leader of that Party, and her
subsequent appointment as Shadow Attorney General, have thrown into question
her claims (and those of Mr Corbyn) that her inquiry was truly independent.
Ms Chakrabarti has not been sufficiently
open with the Committee about when she was offered her peerage, despite several
attempts to clarify this issue with her. It is disappointing that she did not
foresee that the timing of her elevation to the House of Lords, alongside a
report absolving the Labour Leader of
any responsibility for allegations of increased antisemitism within his Party,
would completely undermine her efforts to address this issue. It is equally
concerning that Mr Corbyn did not consider the damaging impression likely to be
created by this sequence of events.”[My emphasis] [Paragraph 114]
This paragraph is repeated in “Conclusions and recommendations”
[Paragraph 22]
7.2.   
The tone of the
Committee’s addressing of the SCR is set by its use of the word “perpetrated”
in close juxtaposition with “allegations” in the first sentence of the extracts
above. It is also set by the incomplete nature of its quotation from the SCR
which reads as follows (passages omitted in the Home Affairs Committee’s Report
are identified in italics):
“The Labour
Party is not overrun by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism. Further, it is the party that initiated
every single United Kingdom race equality law.
However, as with wider
society, there is too much clear evidence
(going back some years)
of minority hateful or ignorant attitudes and
behaviours festering within a sometimes bitter incivility of discourse. This has no place in a modern democratic
socialist party that puts equality, inclusion and human rights at its heart.
Moreover, I have heard too many Jewish voices express concern that antisemitism
has not been taken seriously enough in the Labour Party and broader Left for
some years.
An occasionally toxic atmosphere is in danger of
shutting down free speech within the Party rather than facilitating it, and is
understandably utilised by its opponents. It is completely counterproductive to
the Labour cause, let alone to the interests of frightened and dispossessed
people, whether at home or abroad. Whilst the Party seeks to represent wider
society, it must also lead by example, setting higher standards for itself than
may be achievable, or even aspired to, elsewhere. It is not sufficient,
narrowly to scrape across some thin magic line of non-antisemitic or non-racist
motivation, speech or behaviour, if some of your fellow members, voters or
potential members or voters feel personally vulnerable, threatened or excluded
as the result of your conduct or remarks. The Labour Party has always been a
broad coalition for the good of society. We must set the gold standard for
disagreeing well. I set out clear guidance so as to help achieve this.”
[SCR
Foreword, page 1][My emphasis throughout]
The
Committee may say that its selection of words from the SCR is meant purely to
give the reader the gist of what the SCR concluded. Others might regard the
Committee’s selection as overly selective thus appearing not to reflect
accurately what the SCR says and giving the impression that the SCR minimizes
and marginalizes antisemitism in the Labour Party, an impression which would
not be conveyed by a fuller quotation.
7.3.   At
no point in its Report does the Committee take account of or even refer to the
reputations of Shami Chakrabarti (SC) or of her colleague Vice Chairs,
Professor David Feldman and Baroness Royall who contributed “their time,
expertise and experience without reimbursement for the good of Her Majesty’s
Opposition and thereby for British democracy itself” [Page 3 of the SCR] –
though SC emphasizes that the Report is hers alone [Page 4]. Shami Chakrabarti is
a person of high public reputation and integrity. This reputation has been
earned in the public eye primarily in her long service as Director of Liberty,
a cross-party, non-party human rights organisation, employment with which
“ended only a month previously” [Page 3]. The Committee advances no good reason
to doubt SC’s reputation other than the unseemly innuendo outlined above.
7.4.   Professor
Feldman is Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at
Birkbeck College, University of London. The Institute’s partner bodies are: its
founder body with the University, the Pears Foundation, a British Family
Foundation “rooted in Jewish values”; The Wiener Library – “one of the world’s
leading archives on the Holocaust and Nazi era”; and the Centre for Holocaust
Education, Institute of Education, University of London.
[http://www.pearsinstitute.bbk.ac.uk/about/]
7.5.   Baroness
Royall was until May 2016 Leader of the Opposition in The House of Lords and is
a former Leader of that House and Lord President of the Council and a Privy
Counsellor.
7.6.   These
are people of good repute – repute of which the Committee takes little account
in its insinuations.
7.7.   The
SC Report states explicitly that SC is a member of the Labour Party:
“To subsequent
consternation outside the Party, I joined Labour as soon as I accepted this
brief and did so for two reasons. Firstly, I had for some time been an
undeclared Labour voter and supporter, though formally unaffiliated due to my
work as first a civil servant and then the director of a cross-party, non-party
human rights organisation. That employment ended only a month previously.
Secondly, I wanted to be clear with everyone and especially with Labour members
and supporters, that my Inquiry would be conducted, and any recommendations
made, in the Party’s best interests. Mine has not been a public or judicial
inquiry imposed on an institution or community from the outside.” [Page 3]
The Report continues:
“But for the avoidance of
doubt, and as a message to any political mischief-maker seeking to undermine
the good faith or credentials of my team, this Report is mine, and mine alone,
and I will take responsibility for it. In a democracy, it may be right and
natural that opponents of the Labour Party scoff at or undermine this open-hearted
work. This Report is for the political descendants of Keir Hardie, Ellen
Wilkinson, Emanuel Shinwell and Learie Constantine, irrespective of race,
religion, sex, sexuality or other badge of identity. If you have felt remotely
sad or frustrated in recent months or years, if you worry about whether you
still belong in your instinctive political home, please read on. Equally, if
you feel that antisemitism or other racism is going to be manipulated by a
hostile media, or by political rivals to silence your legitimate concerns about
the world, this Report and our work is for you.” [Page 4]
7.8.   These
statements are made up front by Shami Chakrabarti. The status of the Report is
made clear at the outset; there is nothing hole-in-the-corner about it. The
Committee fails to acknowledge the clear Labour Party status of the SCR and
applies to it an almost judicial independence requirement which it was not
intended to meet. In this way the Committee sets the SCR up to fail – and duly
finds that it has. This is not an appropriate approach for a select committee
of The House of Commons.
7.9.   The
Inquiry was set up by the Leader of the Labour Party on 29 April 2016 and was
published on 30 June. The then Prime Minister announced his intention to resign
on Friday 24 June, the day the result of the European Union Referendum was
announced. The Resignations Honours List was announced on 4 August. There was
no good reason why SC should not have been nominated by The Leader of the
Opposition for an honour when this unanticipated opportunity arose – nor was
there good reason for SC to have refused the nomination. This was a Labour
Party inquiry not a public or judicial inquiry. This was entirely clear from
the outset. Why then given Shami Chakrabarti’s impeccable credentials and those
of her Vice Chairs, should the Inquiry be seen as anything other than impartial
and independent? There is no good reason to doubt its integrity.
7.10.Yet the
Committee continues to snipe at SC and the SCR throughout its relevant remarks.
For example, it states – 
“Mr Corbyn gave evidence to us in July, shortly after the report was
published, supported by Ms Chakrabarti,
who passed him notes throughout the session
.” [My emphasis] [Paragraph 106]
7.11.                   
The
intention of this apparently innocent passage is to convey a further impression
of SC being in the pocket of the Labour Party Leader and not having sufficient
independence. Putting to one side the issue of the appropriateness of use of
innuendo in a select committee report, the comment misses the point that it is
entirely proper for the independent Chair of a Labour Party Inquiry to assist
the Leader of the Party who commissioned the SCR with information when the
Leader appeared before the Committee to give evidence in relation to
antisemitism in the Party including the SCR. There is nothing improper here.
The status of the SCR has been made entirely clear. Why, therefore, is it the
subject of unwarranted innuendo other than to discredit?
7.12.                   
The Committee’s criticisms of the SCR take
insufficient account of the SC Inquiry’s given terms of reference:
“The
Inquiry, which will report in two months
(of its launch), will:

Consult widely with
Labour Party Members, the Jewish community and other minority representatives
about a statement of principles and guidance about antisemitism and other forms of racism, including Islamophobia.

Consult on guidance
about the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and language.

Recommend clear and
transparent compliance procedures for dealing with allegations of racism and
antisemitism.

Look into training
programmes for parliamentary candidates, MPs, councillors and others.

Make
recommendations for changes to the Code of Conduct and Party Rules if
necessary.

Propose other
action if needed, to ensure Labour is a welcoming environment for members of
all communities.”
[My emphasis, Page 3]
7.13.                   
This is a “speed is of the essence” inquiry
covering all forms of discrimination including antisemitism and with
circumscribed aims. The Committee appears to expect more than this of the SC Inquiry,
for example in its criticism that the SCR “fails to suggest effective ways of
dealing with antisemitism”. [Paragraph 118] This undefined criticism appears to
go well beyond the SC Inquiry’s terms of reference and to be unfair as a
result.
7.14.                   
The Committee’s Report also contains
inaccuracies. For example, it rejects the proposed “statute of limitations” as
if it involved an absolute limit of two years and applied to all complaints
involving antisemitism. [Paragraph 116 & paragraph 23 of the Conclusions and
recommendations] It does not:
“Further there should be a
statute of limitations” on the bringing of formal
disciplinary proceedings in relation to the kind of “uncomradely
conduct and language
” (as opposed to other disciplinary matters
relating to e.g. Criminal or Electoral law) that I have discussed above. I
would recommend that this be a period of no more than two years save in exceptional circumstances. [SCR,
page 20][My emphasis]
7.15.                   
In the same vein, the Committee’s Report states
in another criticism of the SCR that it is unconvinced that the Labour Party’s
code of conduct “will be effectively enforced”. [Paragraph 115] By definition,
this is not a matter over which the SC Inquiry had control. The Report is
marred by this kind of inaccuracy which leads to the drawing of unfair
conclusions. Within its agreed terms of reference the SCR does recommend that
the Code of Conduct should be improved by specified amendment [Page 27,
Recommendation 7]
7.16.                   
The Committee criticizes the SCR in relation to
campus antisemitism when it says:
“We agree it was
unfortunate that the Chakrabarti report did not mention the Royall report.”
[Paragraph 79 – agreeing with the Chief Rabbi’s comment reported in paragraph
105]
The Committee does not explain why it agrees this is unfortunate.
However, it is clear that the SC Inquiry did take account of the Royall inquiry
in its Report as Baroness Royall, Chair of that Inquiry, was also Vice Chair of
the SC Inquiry, a fact the Committee omits to mention. Baroness Royall will
undoubtedly have shared her findings with SC and Professor Feldman [Pages 1, 3
& 29 of the SCR.] This signal omission on the Committee’s part serves to
further undermine the quality and impartiality of its Report.
7.17.                   
Another
specific criticism made by the Committee is that:
“In its determination to be inclusive of all
forms of racism, some sections of the Chakrabarti report do not acknowledge
Jewish concerns, including its recommendations on training, which make no
mention of antisemitism.” [Paragraph 117]
7.18.                   
This bald statement does not make clear which
“sections” of the report are referred to other than training. As far as the
training section is concerned, the Committee’s criticism does not explicitly
address the rationale clearly laid out in the SCR:
“On reflection, and having gauged the
range of feelings within the Party, it is not my view that narrow anti-racism
training programmes are what is required. There is a grave danger that such an
approach would seem patronising or otherwise insulting rather than truly
empowering and enriching for those taking part. Instead, the Party’s values,
mission and history could be firmly embedded in more comprehensive activism and
leadership education designed to equip members for the organisational,
electoral and representative challenges ahead.” [Page 22]
“I recommend that the NEC
set up a working group to assess education and training needs across the party
with a view to working with trade union and higher education partners so as to
offer practical and enriching values-lead programmes to members with varying
needs and interests. In doing so, I recommend that that the latest thinking in
addressing unconscious bias (sic) incorporated in this important work”
[Page 23]
7.19.                   
The approach recommended in the SCR may or may
not commend itself to the Committee but the Committee does not actually address
that approach directly so that any reservations it may have could be assessed;
nor does the Committee say what its preferred alternative would be and why. It
is difficult to believe that the education and training activity which will
result from the NEC’s work will not take account of antisemitism in our society
and of Jewish people’s concerns – and that it will do this in the unavoidable
context of an organization predominantly made up of unpaid volunteers, which is
what the SCR seeks to address.
7.20.                   
I do agree, however, that the SCR should have
addressed the vexed issue of a “clear definition of antisemitism” – not because
I necessarily agree with the definition proposed by the Committee [paragraph
115] or because I believe an agreed definition to be possible at this point in
time. But because the definition seems to be a matter of current controversy
between and within different British Jewish and other communities of which
Labour Party members and officials – and indeed others – need to be aware. Much
of the disagreement may relate to the guidance different definitions give on
acts which are held to constitute antisemitism. 
There seems to be outright disagreement on some kinds of action. If this
is correct, the Committee’s wish for “a clear definition” may not be wholly
achievable. Nevertheless it would have been good reason for the SCR to point to
this disagreement in its recommendation on education and training so that the
NEC takes specific account of it given the potential for differing
interpretation of complaints of antisemitism.
7.21.                   
The Committee is critical that “Some of the
(SCR’s) recommendations appear to be little more than statements of the obvious
…” and refers specifically to two of the SCR’s 20 recommendations – other
instances are not made explicit.[Paragraph 102] Putting to one side for the
moment the appropriateness of this kind of apparent put down in a select
committee report, it seems odd that the Committee should say this of
recommendations 3 and 4 of the SCR when these relate to instances of alleged
antisemitism specifically referred to in the Committee’s Report including
comments made by Ken Livingstone. [Paragraphs 98 & 119] It is not clear,
therefore, why it is inappropriate for SC to make these recommendations on the
ground that they are “obvious”. The impression conveyed to the reader by the
Committee’s choice of words is denigratory and diminishing. This may not be the
intention but it is the effect. 
7.22.                   
The Committee also takes the SCR to task for doing:
“… nothing to address a severe lack of transparency within the Party’s
disciplinary process. There are examples of Labour members who have
been accused of antisemitism, investigated by their Party, and then reinstated with
no explanation of why their behaviour was not deemed to be antisemitic. The Labour Party, and all other political
parties in the same circumstances, should publish a clear public statement
alongside every reinstatement or expulsion of a member after any investigation
into suspected antisemitism.” [Paragraph 115]
7.23.                   
Greater availability of information about
allegations of antisemitism and other forms of racism, their investigation and
outcome is needed but it is far from certain that this should be at individual
allegation or named individual level as the Committee recommends. This is not a
judicial proceeding where the presumption is that the allegation / indictment
will be heard in public. It is a disciplinary process involving more often than
not a Party member who is a volunteer without the resources necessary to defend
themselves and their reputations effectively in the public eye. Nor is it
necessarily always in the interests of the complainant for their complaint to
be the subject of public attention. Prima facie it would seem that greater
accountability might best be achieved at a more aggregate level. The Committee
seems not to have considered this important point. 
7.24.                   
This criticism by Committee also seems to give
little credit to the SCR for what it does recommend; in particular, the
comprehensive “New End to End process” comprising nine steps “with appropriate
time limits” proposed on pages 20 & 21. If taken forward and implemented,
this would be a significant improvement which the Committee might have
recognized to assist perceived even-handedness. Instead the Committee seems
more to play this down when it notes elsewhere that the SCR: “… made recommendations for a number of
changes to the Labour Party’s disciplinary processes.” [Paragraph 6] 
7.25.                   
In summary, the Home affairs Committee’s Report:
Ø 
takes the SCR for something it is not and was not
intended to be – and then criticizes it for not being that something thus
setting it up to fail a test it was not intended to meet;
Ø 
fails to recognize the explicit Labour Party status
of the SC Inquiry and to acknowledge adequately its terms of reference and
timescale;
Ø 
uses unwarranted innuendo to seek to undermine SC
and the SCR, taking no explicit account of the integrity and independence of
Shami  Chakrabarti, Professor Feldman and
Baroness Royall – and overlooking entirely the presence of the last named as a
Vice Chair of the Inquiry;
Ø 
contains a number of basic errors; and
Ø 
adopts a denigratory and diminishing approach to the
SCR’s recommendations.
7.26.                   
As a result, the Committee’s assessment of the SCR
is found wanting in almost every regard. The Committee’s summary dismissal of
the SCR is rejected accordingly. Nonetheless the Labour Party might wish to
take note of the comments made above in relation to: a definition of
antisemitism and the areas of outright disagreement as to what falls within it
in the assessment of allegations; and accountability.
8.     
The Labour Party:
8.1.   The Committee’s
conclusions on the Labour Party and its Leader are unsound.
8.2.   The Committee
says that its conclusions are “… based on the evidence we have received …”
[Paragraph 113] But they are not. Little if any account is taken of the views
of Labour Party members: these are mentioned in the Report but no weight
whatsoever is attached to them in the Committee’s conclusions. [Paragraphs 100
& 101] The Committee’s failure to take these views sufficiently seriously
and investigate them further by obtaining additional evidence is a serious
error on its part on a topic of this sensitivity and importance. Nor is there
any place in the Committee’s Report for the views of individual Jewish Labour
members which do not fit with the Committee’s narrative; for example, that
reported in the Independent on 26 June 2016 – see:
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/jeremy-corbyn-anti-semitism-labour-conference-jewish-supporter-vote-political-weapon-a7330891.html
8.3.   The Committee
did not take the opportunity presented to it to hear evidence from individual
members of the Labour Party when representations were made in writing to one of
its members by 43 Jewish Party members, some of whom were also Momentum
members  – reported by “Free Speech on
Israel: Jews & friends who say antizionism is NOT antisemitism” under the
heading of “Labour Jews to Chuka Umunna – 
Stop using antisemitism smears against Corbyn”- see
http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/labour-jews-chuka-umunna-stop-using-antisemitism-smears-corbyn/
This profound lack of balance in so sensitive and
contentious a matter is highly regrettable.
8.4.  
Amongst other things, the letter to Mr Umunna
referred to in the preceding paragraph gave a different account to that of Ruth
Smeeth MP concerning the intervention by the man at the Labour Party press
conference launch for the Shami Chakrabarti Report (see paragraphs 6.10 – 6.15
above):
“Some of the
comments made at the press
conference launching the Chakrabarti inquiry
 on June 30 by Mr Wadsworth (not a representative of Momentum as
you claimed) were rude and unwarranted, however there is no evidence they were motivated by antisemitism. Wadsworth
was clearly angry that the Daily Telegraph journalist had shared one of his
leaflets with Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. He makes no reference to Ms Smeeth’s
religion and asserts he had no knowledge she was Jewish and there is no
evidence that this is not true. We have searched assiduously, including
scrutinising the video footage of the incident, but have found no evidence
of antisemitism, as opposed to incivility, in his words or actions.” [My emphasis]
This makes it all the more surprising that further evidence was not
sought from the 43 Jewish Labour Party members – or indeed that the Committee
appears not to have given any weight to their account.
8.5.    As already
pointed out, the evidence obtained by the Committee and to which it attaches
weight is partial in that it does not reflect an adequate representation of the
full range of voices of the British Jewish communities. [See paragraph 2.1
above] In addition, the Committee failed to obtain adequate evidence on the
stresses and strains in British society arising from the ground invasion of
Gaza in 2014 and ongoing events in Israel and Palestine. These are major
omissions on the Committee’s part.
8.6.         
The conclusion in paragraph 118 “… that elements of the Labour movement
are institutionally antisemitic” is of particular concern. This is the first
time in the Report that this point is made. It is made without any adequate
evidence such as that adduced in the Macpherson Report of the Stephen Lawrence
Inquiry; nor, as far as I can see, was it put to the Labour Party or to Shami
Chakrabarti for comment before the Committee decided to include it in its
Report. In addition, it takes little account of the views of Labour Party
members referred to in the Report and reported elsewhere. [For example, my
paragraphs 8.2 – 8.4 above] This is not responsible behaviour by a select
committee of the House of Commons. The Committee may say this is not exactly what
it said. The full sentence reads:
“The failure of the Labour Party to deal consistently and effectively with antisemitic incidents in recent
years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement
are institutionally antisemitic.”
These carefully hedged words do not mask the Committee’s meaning nor do
they diminish the potency of an allegation of institutional antisemitism. That
there are some issues in the labour Party is not in dispute as the SCR clearly
states. That the issues warrant an allegation of institutional antisemitism in
the Labour Party is simply not justified by the evidence adduced by the
Committee.
8.7.            
The Committee does not explain what it means by “elements” of the “Labour movement”.
These terms are not defined. Nor is any evidence whatsoever advanced by the
Committee in support of its assertion. Use of the word “elements” may also be
open to question given its pejorative use by some members of the Parliamentary
Labour Party following Mr Corbyn’s election as Leader of the Labour Party in
2015.
8.8.   
The Committee’s treatment of the Labour Party Leader’s evidence is
dismissive, in one regard at least patronizing and insufficiently informed. The
most relevant passage reads:
“While the Labour Leader has a proud record
of campaigning against many types of racism, based on the evidence we have
received, we are not persuaded that he fully appreciates the distinct nature of
post-Second World War antisemitism. Unlike other forms of racism, antisemitic
abuse often paints the victim as a malign and controlling force rather than as
an inferior object of derision, making it perfectly possible for an
‘anti-racist campaigner’ to express antisemitic views. Jewish Labour MPs have
been subject to appalling levels of abuse, including antisemitic death threats
from individuals purporting to be supporters of Mr Corbyn. Clearly, the Labour
Leader is not directly responsible for abuse committed in his name, but we
believe that his lack of consistent leadership on this issue, and his
reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism, has created
what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes
towards Jewish people.” [Paragraph 113]
[NOTE: The innuendo conveyed by the words
highlighted in inverted commas by the Committee is not made specific to an
individual(s); thus its validity cannot be checked. However, it appears to
refer to the unsubstantiated allegation of antisemitism made against the man
who intervened at the press conference which launched the publication of the
Shami Chakrabarti Report who is known as an anti-racist campaigner – as is
another person named in the Report by the Committee as having been suspended by
the Labour Party. See paragraphs 6.10 – 6.15 & 2.7 above & paragraphs
110 & 112 of the Committee’s Report. ]
8.9.   The Committee’s
conclusion that the Leader of the Labour Party has “created a “safe space” for
those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people” is a most serious allegation.
To make such an allegation requires thorough investigation, robust evidence and
substantial supporting argument. None of these criteria is met. The reference
to a “safe space” might also be over-reliant on imprecise recall of the
evidence of one witness, Ruth Smeeth MP, who when calling for Mr Corbyn to
resign on 30 June 2016, the day of the SCR press conference launch, is reported
to have said that the Labour Party was not a “safe space for British Jews”.
8.10.                   
It is clear that a number of Jewish MPs have
experienced appalling antisemitic abuse, primarily it would appear through the
social media.[Paragraphs 53, 54 & 104] It is also alleged that this abuse
comes from “… individuals purporting to be supporters of Mr Corbyn.” [Ruth
Smeeth MP, paragraph 104] What the Report does not substantiate is that this
abuse has actually come from members of the Labour Party or indeed from other
supporters of Mr Corbyn who are not Party members. As many of the
communications, mainly tweets, are from anonymous sources it is not verified
that they are actually from Labour Party members or other supporters of Mr
Corbyn. Nor is Mr Corbyn responsible directly or indirectly for vile abuse
expressed by alleged Labour Party members and others who purport to support
him. Therefore, there is not anywhere near enough firm ground within the evidence
obtained by the Committee to warrant its most serious allegation that “…we
believe that his (the Leader of the Labour Party) lack of consistent leadership
on this issue has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for
those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people”. [Paragraph 113]
8.11.                   
As a result, many objective observers will see this
to be an unsubstantiated and unwarranted slur of some magnitude on an
individual who, according to the Committee’s own account, “… has a proud record
of campaigning against many types of racism”. Given this acknowledged record,
it would have been appropriate for the Committee to have thought more than
twice before including this allegation in its Report (the Report was read twice
by the Committee before agreeing it). In addition, it is not made clear in the
Report whether this most serious allegation was put back to Mr Corbyn and the
Labour Party in draft form for response before the Committee made its decision.
If this was not the case, it is a most serious breach of the standards to which
select committees should work.
  
8.12.                   
The claim in the first two sentences of paragraph
113 of the Committee’s Report – see my paragraph 8.5 above – is also not
substantiated, viz:
“… we are not persuaded that he (Mr Corbyn)
fully appreciates the distinct nature of post-Second World War antisemitism.
Unlike other forms of racism, antisemitic abuse often paints the victim as a
malign and controlling force rather than as an inferior object of derision,
making it perfectly possible for an ‘anti-racist campaigner’ to express
antisemitic views.”
Putting to one side the accuracy or
otherwise of the Committee’s description of “… antisemitic abuse (which) often
paints the victim as a malign and controlling force …” as distinctly “post-Second
World War antisemitism”, the information given in the Report does not establish
to the satisfaction of the objective observer that the Labour Party or its
Leader fail to appreciate the particular nature of antisemitism. Also, it is
patently untrue that the Labour Party or its Leader fail to understand that an
“anti-racist campaigner” can be antisemitic or otherwise racist or
discriminatory. It is well and widely understood that an antisemite is an
antisemitic racist whether or not he or she is an anti-racist campaigner.
[NOTE: “Antisemitism is widely regarded to be a form of racism” – Wikipedia –
& its reference to United Nations Assembly Resolution 133, Session 53].
8.13.                   
This claim by the Committee also omits to address
the cause of much current and past dispute which concerns the definition of
acts which are or are not antisemitic according to different sincerely held
views which may or may not be mistaken or antisemitic. In this signal regard,
the Committee has failed to get to the root of the matter and make objective
and constructive comment. This is regrettable as it adds to the angry hubbub of
much current discourse rather than moving it on constructively.   
8.14.                   
In addition, the Committee’s observations do not
acknowledge let alone take account of the many statements made by the Labour
Party and its Leader underlining the unacceptability of antisemitic behaviour
and the Party’s determination to deal with it. These include Mr Corbyn’s speech
on antisemitism made on 30 June 2016 at the press conference launch of the SCR,
the full text of which can be found on –
 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-isis-islamic-state-israel-antisemitism-speech-in-full-labour-report-latest-a7111336.html
(NOTE: This statement was obscured by the media brouhaha resulting
from the inaccurately reported references to Israel and “ISIS”. It is a matter
of record that the Labour Party Leader referred not to ISIS but to “those
various self-styled Islamic states or organizations.”  The juxtaposition was nevertheless not
accurate or well chosen.)
8.15.                   
Nor
is in this regard is there reference in the Report to Mr Corbyn’s clear
statement on his announcement of the SC Inquiry:
“Labour is an anti-racist party to its core and has a long and proud
history of standing against racism, including antisemitism. I have campaigned
against racism all my life and the Jewish community has been at the heart of
the Labour Party and progressive politics in Britain for more than 100 years.”
[The Guardian, Heather Stewart & Anushka Asthana, 29 April 2016]
I see no evidence here of Mr Corbyn’s alleged failure to appreciate
the distinct nature of antisemitism as one form of racism.
8.16.                   
The unbalanced, unsubstantiated and partial nature
of the Committee’s Report as demonstrated above fatally undermines the validity
and credibility of the most serious allegations it makes against the Labour
Party – and against its Leader in particular. Unfortunately, it also obscures
the few useful observations it does make, for example, on the apparent slowness
of the Labour Party’s disciplinary procedure following suspension. This is a
real issue for all parties to a complaint. Justice delayed is justice denied.
9.      Conclusion & recommendations:
9.1.        
I came to this report as a former specialist
adviser to the then House of Commons Social Services Committee (Chair, Renee
Short MP). It saddens me to find a report which so signally fails to live up to
the standards set by select committees over the years. Most regrettably, my
conclusion is that this Report is a partisan party political polemic which
should not have been agreed and made public by a House of Commons select
committee. It fails to meet the basic standards required of select committees
as to their inquiries and reports. This is particularly distressing on so
important and contentious a matter as antisemitism in our country.
9.2.        
The Report purports to be the result of an
inquiry into “Antisemitism in the United Kingdom”. It is no such thing. The
Inquiry has no terms of reference: as a result, it is ill-defined from the
outset. Its evidence base is partial and excludes a swathe of evidence sources
that would have been essential to such an inquiry. It is unbalanced in the
coverage it gives to political discourse as against other aspects of
antisemitism in the United Kingdom – and grossly imbalanced within the topic of
political discourse in the entirely disproportionate attention it gives to the
Labour Party and personally to its Leader.
9.3.        
The Committee unjustifiably dismisses the Shami
Chakrabarti Report primarily on the basis of innuendo without taking proper
account of the reputation for integrity of its Chair and Vice Chairs – and by
assessing the Report against a judicial inquiry expectation which it could not
and was not expected to meet. The report’s treatment of the Leader of the
Labour Party is biased and unfair. The Report also includes severe criticism of
named or otherwise identifiable individuals without, it seems, hearing their
side of the story thus denying them their fundamental right of reply.
9.4.        
The Report gives the clear impression of bias on
all these counts – including, most regrettably, the strong impression of the
Committee having been captured by the party politics within and without the
Labour Party following the Parliamentary Labour Party’s majority vote of no
confidence in the Party Leader and the leadership election campaign that
ensued. By falling so far short of the standards required, the Committee’s
Report does disservice to the honourable cause of combating antisemitism in the
United Kingdom: and fuels the fires of misunderstanding and ill feeling which
dog its discussion rather than fostering the understanding and constructive
debate the public has every right to expect of its elected
representatives. 
9.5.        
If I was inclined to borrow an expression from
the Committee’s Interim Chair when interviewed on radio and television on the
morning of Sunday 16 October 2016, I would say that the Committee’s Report is
not worth the paper it is written on. Such worth as is within it is set at
nothing by that which is either not worthwhile or worse.
9.6.        
Recommendations:
9.6.1.              
The House of Commons Home affairs Committee
should withdraw this Report and undertake a properly impartial, objective and
sufficiently evidenced inquiry into antisemitism in the United Kingdom.
Individuals and organizations should not be named or otherwise made
identifiable in the report of this and other inquiries undertaken by the
Committee without due process and proper verification of evidence.
9.6.2.              
The House of Commons Liaison Committee should
examine the adequacy of the arrangements select committees of the House of
Commons have in place to assure their inquiries and reports to ensure they
achieve basic standards of impartiality, objectivity and adequacy of evidence –
including strict adherence to the rule of no party politics.
9.6.3.              
The Labour Party should consider the comments made
above in relation to: a definition of antisemitism and the areas of outright
disagreement as to what falls within it in the assessment of allegations; and
accountability. [My paragraphs 7.17, 7.20, 7.22, 7.23 & 7.26]
David Plank
2 November 2016

 

 

 

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