Professor David Feldman – Chakrabarti’s Liberal Bares his Teeth
Professor David Feldman – Chakrabarti’s Liberal Bares his Teeth
Feldman Joins the Zionists Racist Attack on Momentum Black Activist Jackie Walker
David Feldman is the classic Establishment Liberal. Full of fine principles but none of them so sacrosanct that they cannot be sacrificed when needs must. Feldman is Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of anti-Semitism
at Birkbeck University, which is
funded by the Pears Family Trust, a liberal Jewish Trust itself financed by a
family web of property companies.
Professor Feldman holding forth with the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
If the Jewish Labour Movement’s Jeremy Newmark, who perjured himself at the Fraser v UCU Employment Tribunal, is telling the truth for once, then Feldman made a gratuitous attack on Jackie Walker for the sake of pleasing his listeners, having not bothered to ascertain her actual views
was announced as Vice-Chair of the Chakrabarti Inquiry, he was immediately
attacked by the Zionists. David Hirsh,
whose Engage led the unsuccessful opposition to a Boycott in the University
College Union wrote that Feldman was a signatory to ‘Jewish antisemitism-denying groups, such as
Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Independent Jewish Voices’.
Another line of attack on Feldman was the statement by IJV that the Zionist
campaign around ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party was “baseless and disingenuous” Feldman was leaned upon to disown the
statement, which he quickly did. Two members of Free Speech on Israelmet with Feldman during the course of the Chakrabarti Inquiry and
found him sympathetic in contrast to Baroness Janet Royall, the other Vice-Chair of the Chakrabarti Inquiry, who led her own inquiry, into Zionist allegations of anti-Semitism at
Oxford University Labour Club. Bizarrely Royall later let it be known in a blog article for the Jewish Labour Movement, that
‘Iknow that you will share my disappointment and frustration that the main headline coming out of my inquiry is that there is no institutional Antisemitism in Oxford University Labour Club.’
David Feldman heads the liberal Pears Institute at Birkbeck College, London University
Feldman had previously compiled a ‘sub-report’
for John Mann’s Parliamentary Committee on Anti-Semitism. Reading back over this Report, it is clear
that the seeds of Feldman’s current position had already been sown, when he implied that giving offence to the
Jewish community, however defined, is tantamount to a form of anti-Semitism. Like many academics he is reluctant to be explicit and say what he actually means. In Section 3 of
the Report, Feldman argued that:
‘we should acknowledge the sense of offence
felt by many British Jews last summer and autumn in the face of some or all of
the criticism directed at Israel and their perception that this criticism was,
in fact, anti-Semitic.’
Feldman, like many Zionist academics, is difficult to pin down. What concretely does he mean by acknowledging
the sense of offence felt by many
British Jews? Is he suggesting that
Operation Protective Edge, to which he was referring, when over two thousand
Palestinians, including 551 children, were killed, should not have been the
subject of protests and demonstrations?
He says that there was a ‘perception’ that this criticism was ‘in fact,
anti-Semitic’. What Feldman doesn’t
do is say what his opinion is or indeed why there is this perception and where it has come from. Instead what he does is to drop heavy hints, signalling the direction which he wants you to travel in, whilst ensuring that he has prepared enough escape clauses.
Feldman mentions in the Report one person who, apparently, had a ‘Hitler was right’
placard. It is of course possible, that
such a person existed, although no evidence was provided. A similar
allegation was made by Jonathan Arkush to the Home Affairs Select Committee, again without anything resembling evidence. Arkush alleged (p.40 HASC Report) that during ‘one of the Gaza campaigns, there were “huge marches” in London at which
people held placards that read “Hitler was right.” Such was the contrived nature of HASC’s Report, in reality an excuse for an attack on Corbyn, that it never even occurred to them to ask Arkush to back up his allegation with anything in the way of evidence. To this day no one has ever produced photographs of these Hitler placards.
doesn’t mention are the demonstrations outside Ahava and the Israeli Embassy, to
name but two, where Zionists stood side by side with Holocaust denying
anti-Semites of the English Defence League and other fascist groups. Far-right support for Zionism is the subject
whose name Feldman dares not speak. The
support of the Andrei Breiviks and Geert Wilders for Zionism is something that the
good professor Feldman does not to mention.
America by way of contrast, liberal Zionists such as the Jewish
Forwardand its columnists have been forced to confront the fact that supporters of Zionism
are more than happy to hold hand with open anti-Semites such as Breitbart’s Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s Strategic Advisor. In his article of December 23rd in the Guardian, Will
Britain’s new definition of antisemitism help Jewish people? I’m sceptical Feldman refers to Trump as a ‘US president
whose noisome electoral campaign was sustained by nods and winks to anti-Jewish
prejudice’ but he draws no conclusion from these nods and winks. In fact they were far more
than nods and winks, as Bannon’s appointment demonstrated.
‘though it would seem impossible
to hate Jews but love the Jewish state, these two viewpoints are not as
contradictory as they appear.
Zeveloff cited Steven Cohen, a sociologist at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion that there is “little
correlation” between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, and that “Many people who dislike Jews like Israel
and many people who are critical toward Israel are affectionate toward Jews.”
This might seem like bread and butter to some of us, a statement of the obvious, but to those who have been brought up on anti-Zionism=anti-Semitism propaganda, it is indeed like the second coming. Revelations on stereoids!
Zeveloff was genuinely shocked by the fact that although Trump ‘has
professed an ultra-right view of Israel… many of Trump’s followers
spout anti-Semitism.’ Zeveloff cites Yael Sternhell, a Tel Aviv University professor of history and American studies, that “As long as Jews are in
Israel fighting the ‘good fight’ with the Arab world as a bastion of American
ideals and values in the Middle East, then they are very useful and admirable
allies,” but “Once they are home demanding a multi-cultural
democracy, demanding that the country accommodate their religion, their belief
and their custom that is a different story.”
All this has involved a very steep learning curve. Zeveloff and those around her at Jewish Forward concluded that Israel is a “model for
white nationalism and/or Christianism,” and that ‘Some also see Jewish immigration to Israel as helping their
cause of a Jew-free white America.’ She quotes Todd Gitlin, a Columbia University sociologist and cultural commentator that the coexistence of anti-Semitism and right-Wing Zionism “in Trump’s world make
sense,” and that “Anti-Semitism and right-wing Zionism are varieties of ultra
nationalism, or, to put it more pejoratively (as it deserves to be put)
tribalism. They both presume that the embattled righteous ones need to bristle
at, wall off, and punish the damned outsiders. They hate and fear cosmopolitan
mixtures. They make a fetish of purity. They have the same soul. They rhyme.”
In the maelstrom in American politics that Trump’s election has caused, where anti-Semitism is no longer confined to private golf clubs but public discourse, liberal Zionists have been forced into an understanding that Zionism is the other side of the coin to racial nationalism and white supremacism. It remains to be seen whether they also see that those young Jews who have been active in the BDS campaign aren’t ‘self haters’ or closet anti-Semites, but anti-racists who drew these lessons at a far earlier stage of their lives.
However these are
topics that David Feldman prefers to avoid. To the good professor, Britain is an island. The alliance with the Right of the Tory Party with people like Eric Pickles goes unmentioned, even though Pickles defended the Tories line-up with anti-Semites in the European Conservative & Reform Group in the European Parliament in 2009, a topic I’ve covered previously. The fact that Zionism is an international movement is disregarded. Instead in his article,
whilst purportedly casting doubt on the International Holocaust Remembrance
Authority’s definition of anti-Semitism, he give credibility to the ‘demons’ which it is attempting to cast out.
The policies Feldman is now arguing for, including his gratuitous
attack on Jackie Walker, the Momentum Black activist who Jon Lansman set up for
suspension by removing her as Vice Chair of Momentum, are consistent with the
political weaknesses of Chakrabarti.
Others, including Free Speech on Israel saw Feldman and by extension Chakrabarti in
a more benign light. The attack on
Walker is likely to come as a shock to them since their majority greeted Chakrabarti’s Reports as if it was the Sermon on the Mount. Indeed it was only after a great
deal of internal agonising that they agreed to publish my critical Chakrabarti
– A Missed Opportunity to Develop an Anti-Racist Policy for Labour
I copy below a letter I have sent to David
Feldman outlining why I think his Guardian article is superficial and
tendentious, a Zionist rendering of a quite familiar theme tune.
Feldman’s article in the Guardian – a particularly stupid headline – Can redefining anti-Zionism be of help to Jewish people? might have been more honest!
the fifty years following the Balfour Declaration, Labour party support for
Zionism did not stem from an appreciation of the necessity of Zionism for the
Jews. Rather, Labour support for Zionism was based on the fact that Zionists
were European colonists who, it was believed, brought a higher level of
civilization to a part of the world that remained locked in medieval
backwardness in its level of economic development, in its political
organisation, its religious practices and in its social organisation. The fact
that the Zionists appeared to combine technological progress with socialist
organisation, both on the kibbutzim and in the trade unions, rendered
made them especially attractive allies in Britain’s global mission.
be difficult to disagree with this analysis.
Labour’s support for Zionism was part and parcel of its wider support
for the British Empire. Unlike the
Conservatives, who defended imperialism as the source of Britain’s wealth and power,
Labour’s support was dressed up in the rhetoric of Trusteeship. This ‘liberal’ imperialism which, during the
Attlee government, resulted in the super-exploitation of our African colonies
and Malaya reached its dénouement in the Blair doctrine of liberal
interventionism in Iraq and Afghanistan.
fail to understand in the current crisis is that opposition from the Left to
Israel and Zionism still stems from the Zionist colonisation. Zionism did not stop being a colonisatory
movement in 1948. Organisations such as
the JNF, which pioneered the colonisation of Palestine in the Mandate period,
have continued their work of ethnic cleansing to this day. You must surely be aware of the proposed
demolition of Umm
and the repeated demolitions of Al-Arakhib in the Negev today as part of
the process of Judaisation of the Negev?
What has this to do with anti-Semitism?
It is the
settler-colonial nature of Israel which results in nearly half Israel’s Jews supporting the physical
expulsion of Israeli Palestinians. This
hideous racism expresses itself in a multiplicity of ways on a daily
In your report
to the parliamentary committee against antisemitism’ of 1 January 2015 you
cited Brian Klug’s definition
of anti-Semitism as ‘a form of
hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which
Jews are perceived as something other than what they are’, which Brian
refined to read as ‘hostility towards Jews as ‘Jews’ or ‘hostility towards Jews as not Jews.’
can incidentally also encompass not just hostility but envy and admiration i.e.
philo-semitism. So when Owen Smith was
asked during a debate with Corbyn what he admired most about Jews, he said
they were “a very entrepreneurial set of people.,” a classic anti-Semitic
trope. Ironic since Smith based his campaign on opposition to ‘anti-Semitism!
Your article begins by saying that ‘Everyone is against antisemitism: we just can’t
agree on how to recognise it.’
This is logically absurd. If
people cannot agree how to recognise anti-Semitism, how can they be against
it? What is it that they are against?
You state that
anti-Semitism, which historically meant ‘discrimination,
violence and genocide’ against Jews now ‘operates in a context created both by the formation of the state of
Israel in 1948 and the consequence of its military victory in 1967.’ What you don’t say is who has placed it in
that context and why. Surely that is
You also accept
that Palestinians are subject to ‘discrimination
and occupation, annexation and expropriation’ yet you go on to say, without comment,
that critics of the above ‘are now
denounced as antisemitic by Israel’s leaders and by their supporters around the
conclusion to draw would be that defenders of Israel and Zionism are abusing
the memory of anti-Semitism , including the memory of the Holocaust, in order
to defend Israel’s racist and murderous practices today. It would not be a difficult conclusion to
draw since Holocaust and Nazi abuse is standard in Israel. For example shortly before Yitzhak Rabin was
assassinated, Benjamin Netanyahu was addressing
crowds which included effigies of Rabin in SS uniform.
Instead you say that
anti-Semitism ‘does service both as a
defence of minority rights, and in the context of support for a discriminatory
and illiberal state power.’ How can
it be anti-Semitic to oppose racism and discrimination? Your silence speaks volumes.
The Zionist use
of the charge of racism against anti-racists is not exactly unknown. Defenders of the Apartheid used to dress up
their arguments for White supremacy as being about defence of the White
population. British fascist groups like
the BNP campaigned around ‘rights for whites’ and accused opponents of being
anti-White racists. The Zionist use of
‘anti-Semitism’ as a defence of anti-Palestinian racism is not exactly unknown.
that Trump’s election campaign ‘was
sustained by nods and winks to anti-Jewish prejudice’ yet you avoid drawing
any conclusions from the welcome he received, not only from the Zionist Right but
Yair Lapid and Isaac
Herzog of the Israeli Labour Party.
You seem oblivious to the fact that the Breitbart alt-Right as
represented by Steve Bannon combines support for Zionism and anti-Semitism. I could mention for example the President of
the Zionist Organisation of America, Mort Klein who quite happily invited
Bannon to the ZOA’s annual gala dinner whilst denouncing
Obama as a ‘Jew hating anti-Semite’!
The conclusions to
be drawn from the above are obvious. Antisemitism has been weaponised by those
whose concerns are not hatred of Jews but defence of Israel/Zionism. Yet you state that ‘antisemitism has been a surrogate for another quarrel: whether the
Labour party should be a comfortable place for Zionists.’ Your conclusions are bizarre, a classic example
of a non-sequitur.
In case it has escaped
your attention it is not Zionists who have been suspended and expelled in the
anti-Semitism witch-hunt of recent months.
It is ironically Jewish opponents of Zionism and the Israeli state like
Jackie Walker and myself. That was why
the Chakrabarti Inquiry was set up.
You say that ‘in parts of the left the terms “Zionism” and
“Zio” have become part of the lexicon of invective.’ This is a false narrative. The controversy over ‘Zio’ first surfaced with
the resignation of Alex Chalmers as Chair of Oxford University Labour
Club. As was later revealed,
far from being an innocent student he was an ex-intern for BICOM, the Israeli
You stated that
‘Zionism and anti-Zionism encompass a
range of positions’. Perhapsbut it is untrue to then say that ‘Zionists are at the forefront of protest
against Israel’s policies’. This is fantasy. Nor is it true that ‘Many… anti-Zionists accept the state’s right to exist’. Opposition to a Jewish supremacist state is the sine qua non of anti-Zionism.
You speak of ‘the well of support that exists for people
who reveal prejudice or callous insensitivity towards Jews. The last year has
been punctuated by a handful of headline-grabbing incidents of this sort’. What is this ‘proven incidence of anti-Semitism’ based on? What is amazing is that despite the repeated
references to anti-Semitism in the Labour Party over the past year, there have
been virtually no proven incidents of anti-Semitism.
As someone suspended
for over 9 months, with no charge drawn
up and subject to rumour and innuendo, not least via leaks to the national
press, I challenge you to substantiate this or withdraw it. I also suggest you read the transcript
of my interrogation.
Perhaps you were
referring to Jackie Walker who has been traduced by Zionism’s professional
racists and propagandists. It would
appear that you have aligned yourself with this campaign. I refer to the Tweet
by Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement: ‘Prof David Feldman, Vice chair of the Chakrabarti Inquiry tells #Limmud
Jaqui Walker’s views are in “tradition of anti-Jewish thinking” ‘
would confirm whether the above comment represents your considered
viewpoint? Perhaps you have spoken with
Jackie? It would appear that you are in agreement
with the racist campaign against Jackie Walker – the vicious and libellous
newspaper articles, the racist tweets and other gratuitously offensive remarks
by the Newmarks of this world. Perhaps
you would like to explain why you think that someone who has a long-standing
reputation as an anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigner is in the tradition of
anti-Jewish thinking? Is a discussion of
the involvement of her Jewish ancestors in the enslavement of the Black side of
her family anti-Jewish? The involvement
of Jews in the slave trade has been the subject of extensive academic debate
for the past two decades. I suggest you
lynching of Jackie Walker before making any further comment.
You suggest that
racism isn’t simply about power relations, that it can also be directed at white
middle class groups such as Jews.
Possibly but your suggestion that most Jews ‘feel attached to the
strongest power in the Middle East’ suggests a hidden agenda. It is also both wrong and irrelevant. Wrong because British Jews feel less attached
to Israel today than in previous decades.
Just 59% now
call themselves Zionist compared to 71% five years ago. 31% say they aren’t Zionist. Challenging group identity or political prejudice
dressed up in religious clothes has nothing to do with racism. Perhaps you have forgotten Salman Rushdie and
the Satanic Verses? Just as challenging
FGM or the Burka has nothing to do with racism.
You conclude by
saying that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is ‘bewilderingly imprecise’ and that the Home Affairs Select Committee’s
abysmal report has been ignored regarding guaranteeing the right to freedom of
speech on Israel. Unfortunately you have
misread the latter. It recommended that
the ‘accusatory or abusive’ use of
the term Zionism be criminalised as an offence of hate speech.
You are right
that the IRHA definition of anti-Semitism ‘spurn(s)
solidarity with other groups who are the targets of bigotry and hatred.’ What else would you expect of a definition of
anti-Semitism whose purpose is to neutralise criticism of a state that allows
you and me to ‘return’ to it whilst forbidding the return of the Palestinian
refugees? Racism rarely begets