I wrote the article below earlier in the week in response to Jonathan Freedland’s propaganda tract in The Guardian, ‘Many Jews want Boris Johnson out. But how can we vote for Jeremy Corbyn?’ which falsely portrayed Freedland as an equidistant opponent of both Corbyn and Johnson. During the past 4 years, Freedland has devoted himself almost exclusively in one direction only – that of Corbyn.
Freedland’s only objection to Boris Johnson has been over Brexit, not his racism about Black people having ‘water melon smiles’. Freedland, a Zionist, is quite prepared to countenance Israel using Gaza as a free fire zone and its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Johnson is a Zionist so he is an entirely different opponent.
On Tuesday the Guardian refused to publish 2 letters from over 50 Jewish people in support of Corbyn yet they had no hesitation in publishing a letter today from 24 assorted reactionaries, racists and Uncle Toms (Trevor Philips and Maajid Nawaz).
Joanne Lumley is a Green Party supporter. Jimmy Swales of Wikipedia is a well known anti-Corbyn opponent. Fay Weldon is an Islamaphobe. But when needs must the Guardian is prepared to ignore genuine racism. The 24’s excuse is that they’ve listened to their Jewish friends and felt their ‘pain’.
What they haven’t done is listened to Jewish anti-racists and anti-Zionists. Instead what they have done is lent a helping hand to Boris Johnson and attacked the one party leader whose whole career is founded on fighting racism.
Corbyn is to blame for allowing the ‘anti-Semitism’ crisis to fester
Of course Corbyn is, to a large extent, responsible for what has happened. He allowed the narrative about ‘anti-Semitism’ to develop instead of nipping it in the bud early on.
When Freedland and the Jewish Chronicle, the Daily Mail and the rest of the racist chorus began the anti-Semitism attacks back in the summer of 2015, Corbyn should have made it clear that:
a. He condemned anti-Semitism unreservedly b. He condemned the weaponisation of anti-Semitism.
Instead what he did was to deny that he was an anti-Semite. What he didn’t seem to understand was that when supporters of Israel and Zionism attack you as ‘anti-Semitic’ then what they mean is not hatred of or hostility to Jews as Jews but criticism of Israel.
There isn’t a single Palestine solidarity activist in Britain who hasn’t been accused of ‘anti-Semitism’.
It is the stock-in-trade accusation of Israel’s supporters.
How do you defend the murder of 220 unarmed Palestinian in Gaza in the past 18 months if you don’t attack the messenger? Supporters of Apartheid in South Africa used to do the same. Corbyn had no excuse for not knowing what was happening
Instead Corbyn apologised for Labour anti-Semitism and repeatedly promised to do better but he didn’t question the assertion that Labour was plagued by anti-Semitism. Racism is about actions, such as the deportation of Black people by New Labour Ministers like Tony McNulty, not social media posts about Rothschild banking.
The whole nature of the fake anti-Semitism accusations was that however well he did he would never satisfy his critics. The more Corbyn and Jennie Formby presided over the expulsions, the more the attacks. You could never get off the ‘anti-Semitism’ treadmill.
Tom Watson vowed not to rest easy until all the anti-Semites in Labour were expelled. Why did Corbyn not ask him if this applied to all racists and if so when he was resigning? Tom Watson defended racist Labour MP Phil Woolas and as Campaign Organiser in the Birmingham Hodshrove by-election put out a leaflet: ‘Labour is on your side, the Lib Dems are on the side of failed asylum seekers.’
Likewise the notoriously anti-Gypsy racist John Mann who is now our ‘anti-Semitism Czar’.
But instead Corbyn sulked, temporised, promised and apologised to his accusers. At no time did he seem to recognise that the attacks on him had to be state inspired. Instead of talking about the real racism and asking why the Tories sit with anti-Semites in the European Parliament and were the only Conservative party to defend Hungary’s anti-Semitic Prime Minister Orban. Corbyn should have made a speech setting out why supporting Palestinians is not anti-Semitic and rejecting the idea that Labour is an anti-Semitic party.
Corbyn instead promised to do better. He adopted the IHRA definition and then under pressure the added examples and was criticised for taking so long. What he did was to enable the witch hunt of anti-racists and socialists to be stepped up. The harder Corbyn tried to please the Zionists the more vicious their attacks.
Close comrades of mine in Brighton and Hove Labour Party have come under attack. One has been expelled on the basis of calling on people to protest at Israel’s influence on the British political system. Something documented by Al Jazeera’s The Lobby
Another, Paddy O’Keefe, a long standing anti-racist and peace campaigner, has been reported, by former Corbyn supporter Sim Elliot to Southern Region for asking who is funding Ian Austen, the scab former Labour MP who is now supporting the Tories.
Yet I don’t blame Corbyn entirely. He has an adviser Seamus Milne, who is from the heart of the British Establishment, the son of a BBC Director General. Milne went to Winchester and Oxford before ending up as Associate Editor of The Guardian. He is known as a Stalinist. However his abysmal performance as adviser, when he must have known what is happening, suggests that MI5 might have a presence in Corbyn’s entourage.
What is clear now, if it wasn’t clear before, is that ‘anti-Semitism’ has become the principle weapon of the British Establishment in the battle against Corbyn. This could not happen if British Jews had not moved substantially to the Right in the past 60 years. Opposing the Zionist identity of most Jews is not anti-Semitic anymore than supporting The Satanic Verses which most Muslims opposed is anti-Muslim
And evidence such as that of John Bercow, the Jewish former Speaker of the House of Commons who said that there isn’t a ‘whiff’ of anti-Semitism in Jeremy Corbyn is disregarded by the Freedlands and their errand boys and girls at the BBC.Below is my article which was published today at Mondoweiss.
Twelve years ago the late Georgina Henry, who began Comment is Free, suggested that I write for the Guardian’s new blog. We met at the founding meeting of Independent Jewish Voices at Hampstead Town Hall in February 2007 and discussed my first article, The Seamy Side of Solidarity, which appeared two weeks later. I wrote it because of the growing support for a genuine anti-Semite, Gilad Atzmon, which existed within the Palestine solidarity movement.
Since that time, and especially since Matt Seaton took over, Guardian Comment has moved away from the original concept of a forum for genuine debate, certainly on Palestine. Zionist groups set up CIF Watch to wage a war against any such debate on CIF. I was one of the first casualties. CIF Watch later changed their name to UK Media Watch because they had achieved their original aims.
No serious editorial process could have approved Freedland’s article if it wasn’t for the fat that he was a senior Guardian editor. He plays fast and loose with facts, deliberately omits context and rests his arguments on assertion alone.
Following my original article we waged a five year battle against those who argued that being Jewish and Zionist were synonymous or that Israel was a racist state because it was a Jewish state. We argued that Israel was a settler colonial state and its treatment of the Palestinians was no different to how ‘Christian’ South Africa had treated its indigenous population.
From that time on the anti-Semitic element in the Palestine solidarity movement has been miniscule compared to the number of anti-Semites and White Supremacists who support the Zionist movement. Not once has Freedland condemned the growing collaboration between supporters of Tommy Robinson, a self-declared Zionist and large numbers of Zionist activists, including Paul Besser of Britain First. At the Al Quds demonstration in June these activists later joined up with the Board of Deputies main demonstration in Trafalgar Square.
In my article I issued a warning. ‘Like the boy who cried wolf, the charge of “anti-semitism” has been made so often against critics of Zionism and the Israeli state that people now have difficulty recognising the genuine article.’ This is precisely what has happened. With his latest broadside against Corbyn Freedland has drained ‘anti-Semitism’ of any meaning. Instead of a serious analysis of anti-Semitism he has substituted a series of guilt-by-association anecdotes.
If Corbyn were anti-Semitic then one would expect the Jewish former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, to realise this yet Bercow stated, in an interview with Alistair Campbell, that after 22 years knowing Corbyn ‘I’ve never detected so much as a whiff of anti-Semitism.’
Even stranger are the views of Professor Geoffrey Alderman, a Zionist and historian of the British Jewish community. Alderman is a longstanding Jewish Chronicle and now Jewish Telegraph columnist. In the Spectator Alderman described how Corbyn ‘has an impressive record of supporting Jewish communal initiatives’. He gives as an example how in 1987 Corbyn led the campaign to save the cemetery of the West London Synagogue from the developers, whom Margaret Hodge’s Islington Council had sanctioned!
Freedland gives three examples of Corbyn’s ‘anti-Semitism’. They have more holes than a colander.
i. The mural of ‘Jewish bankers’. Contrary to Freedland’s assertion just two out the six bankers were Jewish. None of them had hook noses. Even neo-liberal Harry’s Place’s Lucy Lips admitted that ‘I’ve seen more obvious stereotypes of Jews deployed in antisemitic art.’ Back in 2012 it passed unnoticed. Corbyn was defending freedom of speech not anti-Semitic art.
ii. The incident concerning ‘English irony’ is even less convincing. The two Zionists intent on disrupting a Palestinian speaker were told by Corbyn that unlike someone who wasn’t even born in Britain, they didn’t understand English irony. What has that to do with anti-Semitism?
iii. The third example alleges that Corbyn kept company with Raed Salah, an Israeli Palestinian whom Theresa May was trying to deport. Freedland alleges that Salah was ‘found by a British tribunal to have peddled the medieval and lethal myth of Jews feasting on the blood of gentile children’. This is simply untrue. Freedland ‘forgot’ to mention that the Upper Immigration Tribunal overturned May’s deportation order precisely because it found that there was no basis to the allegation of racism. What the Tribunal did find was that
‘there is no reliable evidence of the appellant using words carrying a reference to the blood libel save in the single passage in a sermon delivered five years ago.’
Even in this disputed passage no reference was made to Jews. (paragraph 78) In a passage cut out of a subsequent article for the Guardian Salah explained that
‘I don’t believe in the “blood libel” against Jews and I reject it in its entirety. What I was really referring to in my sermon was the killing of innocents in the name of religion, including children, from the time of the Inquisition to as recently as Bosnia and elsewhere in Europe whose governments support Israel’s action’.
Freedland completely omits the context which is that Raed Salah has been the recipient of horrific violence and racism by the Israeli state. He has been gaoled on a trumped up charge five years after the alleged incident, when not one Israeli has been gaoled for anti-Arab racism.
Freedland refers to last summer’s Panorama programme Is Labour Anti-Semitic? which has been the subject of a record number of complaints. Presented by John Ware, someone who considers Islamaphobia ‘rationale’, it presented 7 victims of Labour ‘anti-Semitism’. It provided no names or background information about the ‘victim’s, all of whom were officers of the Jewish Labour Movement, a Zionist organisation which is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation. The WZO, according to Ha’aretz has a ‘Land Theft Division’.
You wouldn’t hang a cat on Freedland’s ‘evidence’ against Corbyn. It is a melange of the trite and trivial. Guilt by gossip. If this is the best Freedland can come up with after 4 years of non-stop Corbyn bashing then it shows just how thin the gruel is.
Freedland’s last sideswipe is at Chris Williamson’s ‘penchant for egregious Jew-baiting’. Chris Williamson is a working class MP who has physically swapped blows with neo-Nazis on a building site. I dare say Freedland has never fought for anything other than a decent seat in a restaurant.
There was a time when ‘Jew baiter’ was reserved, not for anti-Zionists but for anti-Semites who went beyond the call of duty. It wasn’t even used about Oswald Moseley and his Blackshirts. It was used to describe pathological anti-Semites like Arthur Leese of the Imperial Fascist League and Julius Streicher, editor of Der Sturmer. By using this term about a genuine anti-racist Freedland once again devalues the currency.
Freedland rests his case on a dubious poll according to which 87% of Jews believe that Corbyn is anti-Semitic. Even were this poll is accurate is that the end of the matter? Surely the first question to ask is why 87% of Jews believe this? Does it have anything to do with the 5,497 articles that have appeared in 8 national newspapers from 15 June 2015 to 31 March 2019 according to Bad News for Labour about Labour ‘anti-Semitism’? Or the fact that the broadcast media operates under the assumption that there is an anti-Semitism problem in the Labour Party? But Freedland isn’t interested in the ‘why’. What this poll is really measuring is the effectiveness of the mass media’s propaganda.
In my article I quoted Israeli poet and novelist A B Yehoshua that
‘Anti-Zionism is not the product of the non-Jews. On the contrary, the Gentiles have always encouraged Zionism, hoping that it would help to rid them of the Jews in their midst. Even today, in a perverse way, a real anti-Semite must be a Zionist.” (Jewish Chronicle 22.1.82.)
The people who are cheering Jonathan Freedland on, the Daily Mail and the baiters of George Soros are the genuine anti-Semites. Historically friends of Zionism such as Arthur Balfour have also been the enemies of Jews. What Freedland is doing is making ‘anti-Semitism’ into a form of cheap political abuse. As Brian Klug observed, “when anti-Semitism is everywhere, it is nowhere. And when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing–the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance.”
No greater service could be performed on behalf of those for whom anti-Semitism is not opposition to Zionism but opposition to Jews as Jews.
Tony Greenstein This article was first published on Mondoweiss