The Muddled and Confused Response of the Green Party to the IHRA is exemplified by Caroline Lucas’s Email to me

The Muddled and Confused Response of the Green Party to the IHRA is exemplified by Caroline Lucas’s Email to me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

Why Does a Party That Professes Support for the Palestinians End Up Supporting
the Zionists?
Being
a Marxist, the question I always ask is why? 
Why does someone, like Caroline Lucas, who is a perfectly decent human
being who no doubt cares deeply and passionately about things like fracking and
who professes support for the Palestinians, nonetheless continually fall on the
wrong side of the fence?
Even
the Leader of the Greens on Brighton & Hove Council, Phelim McCafferty,
probably fooled himself into thinking that he is supporting the Palestinians
whilst voting alongside Conservative and Unionist councillors as well as New
Labour.  I suspect that the 10 Green
councillors who followed him like sheep also believe that they can both support
the Palestinians and a definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ which undermines that support.
In short they end up supporting both the oppressed and oppressors.
What
is happening now in terms of Caroline Lucas and the Green councillors is not
unique.  I can remember back in 2005,
when I stood for the Alliance for Green Socialism in Brighton Pavilion, the
Green Party candidate was Keith Taylor, also a perfectly decent person, who is now
an MEP for the South-East.  We did a
hustings together and my main argument and difference with him was that the
Green Party had no anti-capitalist or class politics. 
Volker Beck – the German Green MP, Zionist and a racist
I
gave as an example the fact that Die
Grunen
had steadily moved to the Right in Germany where they had formed a
coalition with the SPD.  The Green
Foreign Minister, Joshka Fischer, had presided over the introduction of German
troops into Afghanistan, the first time German troops had fought abroad since
the 2nd World War. The anti-war party had become the part of western
imperialism and today the Green Party under Volker
Beck
is to the right of the CDU on Israel/Palestine.
How,
I asked Keith, had it come to this? That a Green Party, when it gets into
government, does something that no Christian Democrat government had ever
considered? It is fair to say that Keith Taylor was stumped. Or why when there
was Green participation in a government in Ireland they had gone along with the
most vicious austerity politics before being booted out of office?
The
answer seems obvious.  For all its
radical fringe politics the Green Party sees itself as an Establishment Party.
It believes that a capitalism of small producers can deliver the goods.  In essence it believes in a capitalism
without exploitation which is a complete contradiction since capitalism is
based on profit above need.
Caroline  Lucas and Phelim McCafferty on NHS Demonstration
Being
in favour of environmentally friendly policies and all good things and true
doesn’t really equip you to deal with conflicts like Palestine.  It doesn’t help you either when you gain control
of a council like Brighton and Hove and then you come up against the workforce
and the trade unions.  You begin to act
like any other Conservative or even Labour Council which is exactly what
happened between 2011 and 2015.
Both
Caroline Lucas and a very sheepish Phelim McCafferty, who realises just how
much he has pissed off people in Brighton and Hove  Palestine solidarity group argue that you can support
the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism and support the Palestinians by resorting
to casuistry and logic chopping. So Caroline believes that this abysmal
definition, which as Stephen Sedley rightly said is not even a definition, it’s
a Zionist rant about all the things they consider ‘anti-Semitic’, can be
remedied if you add the Home
Affairs Select Committee Report
caveat.
The
two caveats that the Committee added were that:
Ø
It is not antisemitic to criticise
the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic
intent.
Ø
It is not antisemitic to hold
the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or
to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions,
without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.
Yet
this Report was flawed from the start. 
With Chuka Ummuna and his friends on the Committee using it as a means
to attack Jeremy Corbyn. The Committee Report as a whole was severely flawed
(for example attacking people like the then Black NUS President Malia Bouattia
without even giving her the chance to respond or calling her to give evidence).
The reliance on these two caveats demonstrates the weakness of Caroline’s
argument.
The
mere fact that criticism of Israel is seen as anti-Semitic in the first place,
with or without ‘anti-Semitic intent’ begs the question ‘what is anti-Semitic intent’. It is a catch 22 situation and demonstrates
how flawed the IHRA is.
I
understand that Phelim McCafferty went to the Labour group leader Daniel Yates
to suggest the insertion of the caveats into the motion and he was refused.
Having been turned down he just went back and accepted it.
I
suggest that Caroline Lucas reads the excellent article
by David Plank and Rosemary Bechler in Open Democracy which takes apart the Home
Affairs Select Committee Report on Anti-Semitism.  Plank was a former government special adviser
on social security and thus a former civil servant of some standing. He issued
a devastating critique of this Report branding it a hatchet job that was
politically motivated by antagonism to Jeremy Corbyn. See Chilling
effects: the politics of anti-semitism in the UK
My
article Anti-Semitism
in the UK
looks at the Home Affairs Select Committee Report in the
light of Plank’s critique and finally Plank’s “Antisemitism
in the United Kingdom” House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, HC 136 A
Critique
The
first of Plank’s Conclusion & recommendations sets the tone:
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.
Dina Porat, Zionist historian of the Holocaust and inspiration behind the IHRA – her job is to mould holocaust history in with the Zionist narrative
It
doesn’t seem to have occurred to either Caroline or Phelim that there is a
context to the IHRA definition.  It
hasn’t sprung out of nowhere.  It is a
product of a massive propaganda push by the Israeli government to brand their
opponents as anti-Semitic. It was written at the suggestion of the Israeli
state’s chief Holocaust historian Dina Porat, who was based at the Kantor Centre, Tel Aviv
University.
Porat
is the person who signed off on Netanyahu’s recent agreement with the Polish Government
in respect of its recent Holocaust
law
. In March a law came into operation which made it a criminal offence to
suggest that Poles had been complicit in the Holocaust or Nazi crimes. This
despite the fact that in 2001, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski had offered
a national
apology
for the murder of up to 1,600 Jews who were herded into a barn,
which was then set alight, by fellow Poles. Similar pogroms occurred in other
areas of Eastern Poland.
Netanyahu
did a deal with the Polish regime which removed the criminal penalties whilst
retaining the offence itself thus allowing fines to be exacted. The reason why Netanyahu
agreed this sordid deal was that Poland is one of Israel’s closest allies in Europe.
It is a far-Right government which contains a number of anti-Semites in it. The
Law and Justice Party, which forms the government, opposed the apology for Jedwabne.
The leader of the party in the European Parliament, Michal Kaminski, going as
far as to suggest
it was Poland’s Jews who should have been apologising to Poles!
Picket of Yad Vashem in July 2018 against the visit of the anti-semitic and racist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a close ally of Netanyahu – holocaust survivors played an important part in the picket
Yehuda
Bauer, Professor of Holocaust Studies at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and
former chief historian at Yad Vashem, its Holocaust propaganda museum, denounced
the agreement.
‘It’s a betrayal of the memory of
the Holocaust and the interest of the Jewish people. And the reason for it is
entirely pragmatic: the diplomatic, political, and economic ties between the
Israeli government and the government of Poland.’
Yad
Vashem, despite its role as a propaganda institute which uses the Holocaust as
an ideological weapon, was equally forthright. It denounced
the joint statement between the Polish government and Netanyahu as containing ‘highly problematic wording that contradicts existing and accepted
historical knowledge in this field
,”
Jewish Chronicle Editor Stephen Pollard defended Poland’s antisemitic Michal Kaminski who opposed a national apology for Jedwabne
Dina Porat, who is the chief
historian to Yad Vashem declared
that ‘we can live with” the statement
which effectively exonerated Poland of any complicity in the Holocaust.  The reason I mention this is that Porat, who
is quite content to alter the historical record when it comes to the Holocaust,
if Israel’s political needs so dictate, was also the person who pushed hardest
for the IHRA. Kenneth Stern, the person who actually drafted the IHRA recalled
that;
the idea for a common definition
was, as far as I know, first articulated by Dina Porat, who leads
the Stephen Roth Institute, …. in April 2004. I recall Dina, who gets very
animated when she latches on to a good idea, talking to me, to my colleague
Andy Baker, and just about anyone else she could corner about the need for a
definition.  The
Working Definition of Antisemitism – A Reappraisal
Given
its antecedents the IHRA should have been rejected on that account alone.  The idea of amending a document with a
background in Israeli propaganda organisations is absurd.  Would you compile a definition of
Islamaphobia on the basis of what British nationalist organisations come up
with? Israel is an apartheid state.  It
displaces and demolishes Palestinian homes to replace them with Jewish
settlers.  What it does is far worse than
anything Tommy Robinson will ever do yet I assume that McCafferty and Lucas
haven’t yet signed up to the programme of this tawdry British fascist. So what
is the attraction of this Israeli state redefinition of anti-Semitism? 
What
has also thrown the Greens into a state of panic and confusion is that
organisations claiming to represent British Jews have been at the forefront of
the campaign to support the IHRA. Because they have no class analysis of racism
they are bewildered. As one of those signed up to the Equalities Agenda, as
it’s called, the Greens have no ability to differentiate between those who are
oppressed – Blacks and Muslims in Britain and the Palestinians and Jews. Jews, although they are a minority in Britain are a White minority. They are not
oppressed.
To
these liberals, and really the Green Party is a liberal party at heart with a
green tinge, there is no understanding that racism is not about personal
interactions but the actions of the state. Racism is about power. They have no understanding
of how class and race politics interact. Which means in practice that they are
stuck in identity politics and every identity, oppressed or oppressor is equal.
The
IHRA is flawed from start to finish.  It
really has nothing at all to do with anti-Semitism which is why Caroline
Lucas’s defence of her stance on the IHRA is so shocking.
Tony
Greenstein
Email exchange Tuesday 16th October
Dear Tony,
Thank you for your email and for
sharing a copy of the open letter published on your blog. My apologies for not
writing back sooner.
You make lots of arguments but for me
this essentially comes down to one key point, namely that I disagree with you
as to whether the IHRA definition prevents criticism of the Israeli government
and its actions by automatically labelling it antisemitism. I don’t agree that
the definition means criticism of Israel is automatically antisemitic. Rather,
it makes clear that there has to be some kind of manifestation of hatred
towards Jews for that to be the case.  I recognise the definition is being
used to try to shut down criticism and debate in some contexts, but I think
that’s a misuse of the definition and will continue to say as much. I therefore
advocate its adoption – with the very helpful clarifying amendments from the
cross party Home Affairs Select Committee on this specific point. I have no
intention of ceasing my work speaking out about the illegal occupation of Palestine,
Israel’s human rights abuses, the blockade of Gaza and so forth.
Best wishes, Caroline
Dear Caroline,
Thank you for getting back
to me about the IHRA
misdefinition of anti-Semitism. Your position though is entirely illogical.
I don’t doubt that you
support the Palestinians but unfortunately you support a definition of
‘anti-Semitism’ whose sole purpose it is to equate that support with hatred
against Jews.
The IHRA definition
conflates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. By ‘anti-Zionism’ I mean a critique
of Israel that goes beyond criticism of particular policies to what is termed
the Jewish State itself. In other words why
does Israel behave as it does.  Is it
simply an aberration? Is it because Netanyahu is in power but if the Israeli
Labour Party was in government such things wouldn’t happen?
Anti-Zionism  is where you are drawing the line. I accept
that you don’t hesitate to criticise particular policies but you don’t draw the
conclusion that there must be something fundamentally wrong about the Israeli
state compared to all other states.
It is as if 42 years ago you
had criticised the South Africa government for its policies of shooting the
inhabitants of Soweto but drawn the line at criticising Apartheid.
You accept that the
definition is being used to shut down criticism of Israel but then you say that
this is a misuse of it.  I disagree. Such
‘misuse’ is inherent in the definition itself. When Stephen Sedley, the Jewish former
Court of Appeal Judge says,
that:
Endeavours to
conflate the two (anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism) by characterising everything
other than anodyne criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic are not new. What is new
is the adoption… of a definition of anti-Semitism which endorses the
conflation.
Is he wrong?  Why? Hugh Tomlinson QC stated
that
‘there is likely to
be lack of consistency in its application and a potential chilling effect on
public bodies which, in the absence of definitional clarity, may seek to
sanction or prohibit any conduct which has been labelled by third parties as
antisemitic without applying any clear criterion of assessment.
Is that also wrong? Geoffrey
Robertson QC argued
that
the looseness of the
definition is liable to chill legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel and
coverage of human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Perhaps he too is wrong? All
three of the above are arguing that what Professor David Feldman wrote,
that the definition is ‘bewilderingly
imprecise’,
is deliberate. It is precisely because of its lack of any
precision that the IHRA is so dangerous.
Stephen Sedley goes further
and states
that the IHRA ‘fails the first test of
any definition: it is indefinite
.’
Even the author of the
definition, Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee, in testimony to
Congress described the
targeting of a Professor Rebecca Gould at Bristol University, for writing an
academic article on how the Israeli state uses the Holocaust to sanctify
itself, as chilling and McCarthy like.’
I don’t incidentally argue that the definition ‘automatically’ labels criticism of the
Israeli state as anti-Semitic. It is far cleverer than that.  As others have pointed out, it is the
definition’s deliberate vagueness that makes it such a useful weapon in the
hands of the opponents of free speech.
However I disagree with you that ‘there has to be some manifestation of
hatred’
for something to be anti-Semitic. That would be logical but the
definition is anything but logical. This is very clear from the way the
definition is being used and the way the illustrations are being decoupled from
the 38 word definition. In addition, the very definitions themselves lend
themselves to such a decoupling. This is particularly true of 3 of the
examples:
i.            
Applying double standards’ to
Israel that are not applied to other countries. 
That clearly has nothing to do with hate. It concerns political
criticism of Israel.
ii.           
Drawing comparisons of contemporary
Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
’ This too relates to
political critique not hatred. There are clearly similarities in pre-Holocaust
Nazi Germany and Israel e.g. the marriage laws, the quest for racial purity as
manifested in the denial of nationality for Arab citizens.
iii.          
claiming
that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor’

also has nothing to do with hate but is a political critique.
I am leaving to one side the incoherence of a
definition which says that Accusing Jewish citizens of being more
loyal to Israel, Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination
and Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel
are anti-Semitic. If Israel is the fulfilment of Jewish self-determination,
i.e. the Jews are a nation, then it is obviously correct to hold them
responsible for Israel’s actions. Likewise if Israel is the Jewish national
state then why shouldn’t someone accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel? Is
it racist to accuse British people of being more loyal to Britain than France?
The question that puzzles me is why the hell would
you want to use a definition of anti-Semitism that is so politically incoherent
and which lends itself to the suppression of free speech? What is it about the
definition that, despite all these flaws, makes it so attractive?
The only conclusion I can reach is that you are
unwilling to go against the Establishment consensus. That you value your
position as a member of the British Establishment, albeit its radical green
fringe. I am referring to a consensus forged by the State Department in
Washington which first adopted the IHRA definition (in its previous EUMC guise).
The IHRA is a definition of anti-Semitism which chimes with America’s foreign
policy interest in supporting Israel, right or wrong. 
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that ‘man cannot serve two masters’. I would
say that you cannot both support the Palestinians and a definition of
anti-Semitism that renders such support anti-Semitic.
I would ask you to rethink your support of the
IHRA, a definition of anti-Semitism which, as you admit, has been used to shut
down criticism. Not only do you not need a definition of anti-Semitism to
oppose it but if you really want a definition, then the Oxford English
dictionary’s ‘hostility to or prejudice
against Jews’
is far more useful than a 500+ word one.
Best wishes
Tony
Dear
Caroline,
During last year’s General Election you wrote to me
explaining that:
‘it’s vital that we do more to tackle antisemitism
and this was my motivation in backing the IHRA definition.’
 
You went on to explain ‘the importance of not conflating criticism of Israel with genuine
anti-Jewish racism’
and in the same breath spoke about ‘drawing where helpful on the IHRA
definition, at the same time as protecting freedom of speech and promoting
Green Party policy on Israel and Palestine.’

This is probably as good an example of cognitive
dissonance as it gets. You went on to ask me ‘If you are aware of any more helpful definitions, particularly when it
comes to illustrative examples, I’d be interested to see them’
whilst
explaining that you wished to withdraw your support from an Early Day Motion
supporting the IHRA but ‘At the moment I
am not able to remove my name but shall enquire whether that’s possible if I am
re-elected to Parliament on June 8.’
You concluded by assuring me that:
 ‘I reject
any idea that support for Palestine equates with antisemitism and share your
concern about any attempts to prevent activities or silence voices designed to
highlight the ongoing occupation of Palestine and the Israeli authorities’
complicity in human rights and other abuses

Despite your obvious confusion I was pleased that
you were willing to withdraw your support for the IHRA. One should always
welcome the sinner who sees the light and repenteth on the road to Damascus.
Unfortunately it appears that you have reverted to your sinful past.
I was tempted to ask you why it was necessary “to do more to tackle anti-Semitism” when
it barely exists in this country. I’m not aware of any Jewish Windrush-style
deportations or Jewish deaths in custody or the Stop and Search of Jews in
Golders Green or indeed violence against Jews as Jews. Jews are living in a
golden age. The assumption that anti-Semitism is increasing is one of those
taken for granted establishment myths that become true by virtue of repetition.
I understand that the Green Party is due to debate
the IHRA at its conference this weekend and you are backing an
Executive motion
supporting the IHRA. On 13th August you
issued a statement expressing your support for the IHRA at the same time as
reiterating your support for the Palestinians. 
This is like someone who murders his parents whilst professing his love
for them.
The whole purpose of the IHRA is to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. I
doubt if there is a single Palestine solidarity activist in the country who
hasn’t been accused of ‘anti-Semitism’. Likewise there isn’t a single Jewish
supporter of the Palestinians who hasn’t been called a ‘traitor’ ‘self-hater’
or ‘kapos’.

Your decision to support and whitewash the IHRA, in
all its McCarthyist glory, is shameful. It suggests that yours and the Green
Party’s commitment to civil liberties and human rights is skin deep. The IHRA
has nothing whatsoever to do with combating anti-Semitism. That is why the
anti-Semitic regimes of Hungary and Poland, both of which are part of the 31
country International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, endorse the definition.
There is
nothing in the IHRA that anti-Semites such as Tommy Robinson (an ardent
Zionist) can’t sign up to.

In your statement you say that you support the IHRA
because ‘on balance… the definition
provides an instructive framework that can help with the vital work of
education, understanding and campaigning’

I don’t know what an ‘instructive framework’ is and I suspect neither do you. Perhaps
Professor David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of
Anti-Semitism is wrong when he says that the core definition, “Antisemitism
is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews
.”  is‘bewilderingly imprecise.’ Perhaps you know something he doesn’t?
Sir Stephen Sedley, the former Court of Appeal
Judge, who is himself Jewish, in his article Defining
Anti-Semitism
, whilst commenting on the Opinion of Hugh
Tomlinson QC that the IHRA was unclear
and confusing’
suggested
that it was ‘calculatedly misleading’.
Renowned human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson QC described the IHRA
as not
fit for purpose.
One wonders what it is about the IHRA definition that you have
discovered that eminent human rights lawyers, academics and the most radical
judge to sit in the Court of Appeal
has missed out on?
Both Robertson and Sedley pointed out a curious thing about the IHRA
that you in your enthusiasm seem to have missed. Far from educating people as
to what anti-Semitism is, the IHRA actually makes it more difficult because it
raises the bar, defining anti-Semitism as ‘hatred’ rather than ‘hostility’.
You asked me about any other helpful definitions of anti-Semitism.
Could I suggest the Oxford English Dictionary definition? ‘Anti-Semitism
is hostility to or prejudice against Jews.’
Or perhaps Oxford academic
Brian Klug’s definition, in his Kristallnacht memorial lecture at the Berlin Jewish Museum in
2014:
antisemitism
is a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something
other than what they are
The OED defines anti-Semitism in terms of ‘hostility’ whereas the IHRA defines it in terms of ‘hatred’. The two are not the same. If
someone says ‘I don’t want my daughter to
marry a Jew although I’ve got nothing against them’
then according to the
IHRA they are not anti-Semitic. You go on to say that
The legitimate concerns about free speech
can be powerfully addressed by our continuing as a Party to champion… the
rights of the Palestinian people to peace, freedom and justice…. The
definition… explicitly allow for this and make clear that criticising Israel
or its policies, for example, is only antisemitic if it’s deliberately
manifesting or inciting hatred
.’
You are wrong on all counts. It’s like saying you
can oppose poverty whilst supporting austerity 
If you conflate support for the Palestinians with anti-Semitism, and 7
of the 11 IHRA examples of ‘anti-Semitism’ include the Israeli state, then you
cannot help but undermine support for the Palestinians.
It is simply untrue to say that the definition only
forbids criticism of Israel that manifests or incites hatred. Have you read it?
The IHRA says that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that leveled
against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic
.’ In other word criticism of Israel that is
unlike that of other countries is
anti-Semitic.
Granted the IHRA allows you to
criticise specific actions of the Israeli state, but if you criticise the state
itself, as a Zionist and Jewish supremacist state, then that is anti-Semitic.
It’s like being told that it was fine to criticise the actions of the Apartheid
state of South Africa but you couldn’t criticise the state itself.

As Sedley put it ‘characterising
everything other than anodyne criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic (is) not new.’
Israel is unlike
any other state in the world but according to the IHRA if you say this then you
are anti-Semitic. Perhaps you can tell me which other state in the world, apart
from Burma, demolishes the homes and villages of one section of the populace in
order to replace them with settlers from the dominant racial group?
In most states citizenship is the legal embodiment of nationality
however Israel is the state of the Jewish nation, wherever they reside, which
means it excludes 20% of its citizens from the national collective. That is why there is no Israeli
nationality.
Perhaps you know of another state where this is so?
One of the IHRA’s 11 examples of anti-Semitism states that ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to
self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel
is a racist endeavor
.’. I fail to understand why opposing the right of the
‘Jewish people’, itself a contentious formulation, is an example of hatred and
therefore anti-Semitic. Is it racist to oppose Scottish or Welsh self-determination?
And what is the connection between saying Israel is a racist state and
anti-Semitism? Indeed what is the connection between the first and second
halves of this sentence? You can support Jewish self-determination and still
believe Israel is a racist state. I find it difficult to believe that you find
this non-sequitur educative!
You say that you will ‘continue to use my voice to speak out against the abuses of the Israeli
authorities, to demand that the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis
are upheld’
. I presume when you refer to Israelis you mean Israeli Jews!
Palestinian oppression is a political not a human rights problem. Just as
Apartheid in South Africa was at its core a political question.
Most states in the world are racist but very few
have racism at the very core of their identity. Racism is the DNA of the
Israeli state.  It is a Jewish
Supremacist State as the recently passed Jewish Nation State Law confirmed.
To give but one example. At the moment Israel’s 5
yearly local elections are being held. In Tel Aviv Likud, the party of
government are campaigning on the slogan ‘It’s
either us or them’.
The them are the Arab minority of Jaffa and the African
refugees of South Tel Aviv. It is a campaign to racially purify Tel Aviv and Jaffa,
to make it a ‘Hebrew city’. In what
other state in the world would a governing party be campaigning to ‘cleanse’ a
city of its minority populations? Yet to point this out is ‘anti-Semitic’
according to the IHRA definition that you have embraced.
You suggest that although ‘The IHRA definition isn’t perfect (but) it’s a working definition.’
I hate to tell you this but it has been a working definition for 13 years!
You also state that ‘letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is distracting from the
actions all political parties need to take to show real leadership on
antisemitism.’
 This is fatuous.
Completely puerile. Words devoid of all meaning. There is nothing good about a
definition of anti-Semitism that anti-Semites can sign up to but which defines
anti-racists and anti-imperialists as anti-Semites.
What amazes me is that you are endorsing the
weaponisation of anti-Semitism, and a definition whose primary purpose is the
suppression and chilling of free speech. Even Kenneth Stern, the author of the
IHRA, has come to recognise that this is what the IHRA has become.
As Stern acknowledged in testimony to Congress, ‘The definition was not drafted, and was
never intended, as a tool to target or chill speech on a college campus… at a
conference in 2010 about the impact of the definition, I highlighted this
misuse, and the damage it could do
.’
Whereas the author of the IHRA has become alarmed
at how it is being used you seem either oblivious or indifferent. Among the
many examples of how the IHRA has been used is the case of Professor Rebecca
Gould of Bristol University. On the basis of an article she had written in
2011, Sir Eric Pickles, the anti-Semitic former Chair of Conservative Friends
of Israel called on
Gould
to ‘consider her position’.
Kenneth Stern described this as ‘chilling
and McCarthy-like
’ yet you turn a blind eye to this and simply pretend that
the IHRA is about combating anti-Semitism. The group who targeted Professor
Gould, demanding that she be sacked for having compared Israel with Nazi
Germany, was the far-Right Campaign
Against Anti-Semitism
. The CAA complained that ‘the lecturer is able to continue to
teach unimpeded.’

It is therefore baffling that
the Green Party, in response to a CAA attack on Shahrar Ali, a candidate for
the Green Party leadership, stated that “We have reached out to the Campaign Against
Antisemitism to ensure we fully understand their concerns and to respond
accordingly.”
Apart from waging a continuous war against Jeremy Corbyn as
an anti-Semite, the CAA is almost certainly funded by the Israeli state as part
of its campaign against BDS.  What you
were really doing was reaching out to Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli state.
Perhaps next time the GP thinks of reaching out to this racist group, which
routinely classifies all Palestine solidarity as ‘Jew hate’ they will first read my criticisms of them in Electronic
Intifada
. Below is a delightfully racist caricature of a Muslim that
appears on their website. If someone drew a similar caricature of a Jew then
all hell would break loose.
The obvious question that you and the Green Party have failed to ask is
why is there a need for a definition of anti-Semitism at all? You don’t need a
definition of fascism to oppose fascists and you don’t need a definition of
anti-Semitism to oppose anti-Semitism. If you want one you can adopt the legal
test of the reasonable person on the Clapham Omnibus. If asked what
anti-Semitism is they would most likely say ‘a
person who doesn’t like Jews.’
You don’t need a 500+ word definition unless
your purpose is to conflate criticism of Zionism with anti-Semitism.
Your attitude to the IHRA, that it is compatible
with freedom of speech is like saying that the right of women to choose to have
an abortion is compatible with legislation outlawing abortion.
I am left asking what is the real reason for you
changing your position on the IHRA? The only answer seems to be that the
British Political Establishment has reached a consensus in support of the IHRA, as a means of defending
British foreign policy and the special relationship with the United States and you are unwilling to break with
that consensus.
The weaponisation of anti-Semitism is a means of
cloaking in a moral shield British foreign policy in the Middle East. It would
appear that for all its posturing, the Green Party is just another
pro-capitalist, establishment party whose aim is to green capitalism.  When the British ruling class has adopted a
definition of anti-Semitism that embraces Israel you feel obliged to join in.
Kind regards
Tony Greenstein

 

 

 

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