Open Letter to Len McLuskey, General Secretary of UNITE – The Time has Come to Junk the IHRA
The IHRA’s Only Purpose is to Prop Up Apartheid Israel, Undermine solidarity with the Palestinians and Topple Corbyn
At the June meeting of Unite SE/6246 Branch members learnt of the suspension of one of our members from the Labour Party. She is an activist in Palestine Solidarity Campaign and her ‘crime’ was tweeting opposition to Israeli political interference and Zionism.
She has been suspended with a recommendation for expulsion without a hearing. All her tweets, without exception, related to Israel and the Israel lobby. Nothing in them is remotely anti-Semitic.
The branch therefore asked me to write an open letter to the General Secretary of UNITE, Len McLuskey, asking for the Executive Council to withdraw its support for the IHRA’s bogus definition of anti-Semitism.
UNITE has clear policy in support of BDS and the Palestinians. The IHRA defines it as ‘anti-Semitic’. The IHRA says that ‘applying double standards’ to Israel ‘by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation’ is anti-Semitic. The problem is that Israel is not like any other democratic state. It is a state of only its Jewish citizens. However the IHRA starts from the proposition that Israel is a liberal democracy.
BDS is only applied to Israel therefore the IHRA classifies it as anti-Semitic. Applying this logic when South Africa was an apartheid state, BDS was also racist against White South Africans and when Jews (except for the Zionists) launched a boycott of Nazi Germany in 1933 that was racist against Germans!
Only recently the German Bundestag, following in the tradition of Nazi opposition to Boycotts, confirmed that BDS is anti-Semitic. We had the spectacle of Greens, Social Democrats and neo-Nazis agreeing that support for the Palestinians is anti-Semitic!
What is amazing about the IHRA, which governments have so readily adopted, is that there is no support for the IHRA from any legal or academic scholars. Even the person who drafted it, Kenneth Stern in written testimony to the US Congress criticised it for chilling free speech. It is a worthless definition whose only purpose is to allow supporters of the world’s only apartheid state to accuse anti-racists and anti-imperialists of ‘anti-Semitism’.
Take Stephen Sedley, a former Court of Appeal Judge who is himself Jewish. Sedley wrote, in an article for London Review of Books that the IHRA
Assume(s) that Israel, apart from being a Jewish state, is a country like any other and so open only to criticism resembling such criticism as can be made of other states, placing the historical, political, military and humanitarian uniqueness of Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestine beyond permissible criticism.
The IHRA is based on 2 fallacies: first that Israel and Jews are identical, a position that is in itself anti-Semitic. And secondly that Israel is like ‘any other democratic nation.’ It isn’t. No other state in the world demolishes the homes of one section of the population in order to replace them with the majority ethnic group, Jews.
Even Dr Geoffrey Alderman, a right-wing Zionist and Jewish academic and historian, a columnist for the Jewish Chronicle and Jewish Telegraph, has made a submission to the Equalities and Human Rights Council investigation into the Labour Party criticising the definition.
In an article This Labour Party row will not be settled by relying on a flawed and faulty definition of antisemitismAlderman draws attention to the 11 illustrations of anti-Semitism in the IHRA definition, focussing on 2 of them.
One example that says it is antisemitic to accuse Jewish citizens “of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.” Alderman noted that
‘many Jews who hold dual citizenship and who, under certain circumstances, would act (and have indeed acted) in the interests of Israel rather than of Britain. It should not be deemed antisemitic to point this out.’
The other example he referred to is the one saying it is anti-Semitic to ‘“draw(ing) comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” He observes that people often compare countries, for example Burma, to the Nazis. Why is it anti-Semitic to compare Israel’s actions to the Nazis given that Israeli politicians regularly accuse their enemies of behaving like Nazis
Labour’s witchhunters rely on criticism of Israel not Jews
The ‘evidence’ against the UNITE comrade is an example of how the IHRA has been used, not to combat anti-Semitism, which is hostility to Jews as Jews but to defend the world’s most racist state. When Len McLuskey did a 180 degree about turn to support the IHRA he fooled himself into believing it would mean an end to the ‘anti-Semitism’ witchhunt. It hasn’t. It has emboldened and strengthened it. The cowardice and pusillanimity of McLuskey and the trade union leadership has increased the crisis around Corbyn and the Labour Party. It is time to tell the Zionists to get lost and if they are concerned about anti-Semitism then maybe they will stop justifying what Israel does in the name of the Jews
The first piece of evidence against our Branch member was about her sharing an article by Electronic Intifada journalist, Asa Winstanley, on how the Israel lobby manufactured Labour’s anti-Semitism crisis. Asa has also been suspended in what is a blatant attack on the freedom of the press. Clearly Labour’s witchhunters think they are in Israel now. Asa has also been denied press credentials for Labour’s conference. It seems that Jenny Formby’s administration is now going one worse than the hated Iain McNicoll. As the IHRA’s author Kenneth Stern has admitted the IHRA ‘chills’ free speech.
The fourth piece of ‘evidence’ referred to an article in The Independent quoting the late Jewish Father of the House of Commons, Gerald Kaufman as saying that ‘Jewish money’had influenced the government. The term ‘Jewish money’ is widely used in the Jewish community and I found over 600 instances of its use on the Jewish Chronicle website! It is not anti-Semitic per se
Asking people to share a petition calling for an inquiry into Israel’s influence on democracy in Britain was another piece of ‘evidence’. What has this to do with Jews or anti-Semitism. Israel is not a Jew.
Al Jazeera’s programme The Lobby covered in detail how an agent operating out of the Israeli Embassy, Shai Masot had indeed interfered in British politics. He discussed how to bring down the Deputy Foreign Secretary, Sir Alan Duncan, who was hostile to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Masot described himself as a political officer assigned to the Israeli Embassy. How can it possibly be anti-Semitic to speak the truth?
The person also said it would be ‘interesting to see how the JLM and other Zionist orgs justify this appalling action’referring to police brutality against Palestinian children. Is it anti-Semitic to call out the abuse of Palestinian children by Israel?
Other things that the comrade said included telling Brighton’s then leader of the Labour Council, Dan Yates that ‘privileging anti-Semitism above other forms of racism is nothing to be proud of. Neither is supporting Israeli racism and apartheid.’ It is an extremely valid question as to why the Labour Party has been obsessed with non-existent ‘anti-Semitism’ when racism in society and the Windrush scandal has merited no attention at all.
Or perhaps her crime was referring to Israel’s most popular rap artist (who has a quarter of a million Facebook fans),The Shadow. The Shadow blamed the dead at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue for their own murder. Their ‘crime’ beingn to support immigrants in the USA. Normally it is only fascists and anti-Semites who cheer on those who murder Jews but there is also a number of sick Zionists who believe that you need anti-Semitism in order to ‘encourage’ Jews to emigrate to the racial paradise of Israel. Referring to this fact is enough to be accused of ‘anti-Semitism’ by the morons of Southside.
Supporting an inquiry into the fake anti-Corbyn ‘charity’, theCampaign Against Anti-Semitism also aroused the ire of Labour’s witchhunters as did mentioning Israel’s half-hearted probe into the fire bombing of a Palestinian family in the West Bank, which left both parents and an 18 month old baby dead and a four year old child with severe burn injuries. The Southside scum who included this tweet clearly believe it is anti-Semitic to condemn Zionist child murderers.
The time has come for McLuskey and other union bureaucrats, like UNISON’s Dave Prentis to abandon the IHRA ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism. Why is a ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism needed anyway if not to protect Israel? My dad did not need a 500 word definition of anti-Semitism in order to fight Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists at Cable Street. And when the BUF did attack Jews and try to march in Jewish areas, the Board of Deputies told them to stay at home. These are the very same reactionaries who cry ‘anti-Semitism’ today whenever Palestine is on the agenda.
It’s Time to Scrap the IHRA Definition which conflates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism
I am writing to you on behalf of Unite SE/6246 Branch. We believe that it is time to call a halt to this bogus and confected ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign.
Last August, in an article in Huffpost you stated that ‘It would be for the best if all eleven [IHRA examples] were now agreed, so the party can move on.’ The Party however did not move on. The whole purpose of this fake ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign was to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
You acknowledged as much in the title of your article where you stated that the ‘Jewish community leaders’ ‘have simply refused to take “yes” for an answer.’ You spoke of their ‘Intransigent hostility and an utter refusal to engage in dialogue’. Why then continue to appease them?
You are right. These Zionist leaders will always refuse to accept ‘yes’ for an answer as long as Jeremy Corbyn is Leader of the Labour Party. The primary interest of these people is the defence of the Israeli state, right or wrong. That is why last summer the Board of Deputies supported Israel’s massacre of over 200 unarmed demonstrators in Gaza.
The Board of Deputies is not concerned with ‘anti-Semitism’ From the Battle of Cable Street to the present day their attitude has been that Jews should avoid confrontations with fascists.
You stated in your article that ‘it would have been far better for the party to have adopted at least ten of the eleven IHRA examples’ but you were willing to give them the whole loaf. We disagree. The IHRA has only ever had one purpose, to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. 7 out of the 11 examples of anti-Semitism are concerned with Israel not Jews.
Our union supports a policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Under the IHRA that is anti-Semitic since we don’t apply BDS to any other country.
Likewise the IHRA holds it is ‘anti-Semitic’ to claim that ‘the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.’ This is palpable nonsense. When Israeli actress Rotem Sala protested that ‘Israel is a state of all its citizens’ she was immediately reprimanded by Benjamin Netanyahu who declared ‘“First of all, Israel is not a country of all its citizens. According to the nation-state law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish nation’.
According to the IHRA telling the truth is anti-Semitic. The examples of racism are legion from protests in Afula against the sale of a house to an Arab to the edict, by the Chief Rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu, a paid public servant that forbids renting homes to Arabs.
It is claimed that Israel is a Jewish state. What this means in practice is that Jews receive preferential treatment. 93% of Israeli state landis barred to Arabs because it is Jewish national land. Britain is officially a Christian state but the rights and duties of Jews are no different from Christians. If a Jewish person were told that they couldn’t rent a house because they weren’t Christian that would rightly be termed anti-Semitic yet it is ‘anti-Semitic’ to criticise the same thing in Israel.
The IHRA has been panned by academics and legal scholars. According to Geoffrey Robertson QC the IHRA definition is, ‘not fit for purpose’. Sir Stephen Sedley, the Jewish former Court of Appeal Judge wrote that the IHRA ‘fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite.’ Hugh Tomlinson QC declared that the IHRA had ‘a potential chilling effect’ on free speech. Even the person who drafted it, Kenneth Stern, complained in written testimony to the US House of Representatives that ‘The definition was not drafted, and was never intended, as a tool to target or chill speech’.
We understand why you agreed to endorse the IHRA last August. However appeasement only emboldens the aggressor. In recent months two members of Unite locally have been suspended for alleged ‘anti-Semitism’. Both are anti-racist activists and one is Black.
The time has come to declare that we are not going to allow this continuing attack on socialists and anti-racists, in the name of the fight against anti-Semitism. Widening the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel benefits no one, least of all Jews.
Only last week Panorama broadcast a vicious, one-sided and blatantly dishonest attack on Jeremy Corbyn. No one from Jewish Voices for Labour was interviewed.
We therefore ask that Unite representatives on the NEC are instructed to withdraw their support for the IHRA.
Furthermore, at the 2017 Labour Party conference in Brighton you promised that Unite would affiliate nationally to JVL. The time has come to honour that promise.
Policy on Israel/Palestine
Work with other NGOs and all other supportive bodies in the UK and around the world and develop a Unite campaigning and leverage strategy around Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) within the next 12 months, notably against complicit companies involved in the occupation, the apartheid wall and the illegal settlements, through workforce pressure, contracts and pension funds, and encourage members to call on supermarkets and retailers to stop using companies which export goods from illegal settlements