‘Anti-Semitism’ is a Hegemonic Narrative which was never about anti-Semitism and always about Israel – as Jonathan Freedland has now admitted

‘Anti-Semitism’ is a Hegemonic Narrative which was never about anti-Semitism and always about Israel – as Jonathan Freedland has now admitted









‘Anti-Semitism’ is a Hegemonic Narrative which was never about anti-Semitism and always about Israel – as Jonathan Freedland has now admitted

The sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey proves that Starmer’s concern is not opposing anti-Semitism but defending Israeli racism 

The Guardian’s Begging Hypocrisy

Underneath its coverage of Black Lives Matter there is a variation on the Guardian’s normal begging message to readers:

As the world speaks out .. against police violence and racism, the Guardian stands in solidarity with the struggle for truth, humanity and justice. …  Justice starts with uncovering the truth. That is what we try to do.

as an open, independent news organisation we are able to adapt and confront prejudice – our own and others’. Our independence means we can challenge the powerful without fear and give a voice to the oppressed and marginalised

As Private Eye used to say, pass the sick bag Alice. The time has long since passed when the Guardian stood for truth or in solidarity with the oppressed. One only has to recall the attacks on Assange by Marina Hyde and Suzanne Moore including a lying article, which it has refused to substantiate or withdraw, alleging that Assange met with Trump’s Campaign Manager, Paul Manafort.

This opportunism is on a par with Keir Starmer taking the knee and then talking of the ‘Black Lives Moment’ when the question of defunding the Police and tackling institutional racism is raised.

Donald Trump, the most pro-Zionist American President ever, praises the ‘bloodlines’ of the virulently antisemitic Henry Ford whom Hitler praised

If their begging message was a commercial then the Guardian could be prosecuted under the Trades Description Act. When it comes to the Palestinians the Guardian has committed itself to telling anything but the truth. It has instead adopted the hegemonic narrative that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are identical.

This is what the Labour ‘antisemitism’ charade was really about

The Guardian has waged its campaign with hundreds of articles in the past 5 years, in order to justify Israel’s system of Jewish racial supremacy, which has now been codified as a Basic Law.

Jonathan Freedland has led this campaign alongside those well known opponent of racism, the Daily Mail. Ironically the Daily Mail, at the very same time was recruiting Katie Hopkins, who described refugees as ‘cockroaches’ as a columnist.

We should be grateful to Freedland, the Guardian’s Svengali. His latest article The sacking of Long-Bailey shows that, at last, Labour is serious about antisemitism makes it crystal clear that his sole concern is support for Israel, right or mostly wrong.

It is true that Freedland uses the term ‘anti-Semitism’ rather than ‘anti-Zionism’ but this is like a member of the Mafia offering ‘protection’ to his victims. Everyone understands what Freedland means. His concerns aren’t protecting Jews but protecting Israel.

This is the ‘Jewish identity’ that the Guardian’s Freedland is determined to protect

Freedland’s ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign can only increase anti-Semitism

One of the inevitable consequences of the hegemonic narrative of ‘anti-Semitism’ is that it cannot but help increase genuine anti-Semitism. When the Board of Deputies attempted to ban Chris Williamson from speaking in Brighton last year I later stumbled on a conversation in a supermarket between two men blaming ‘the Jews’ for trying to censor their free speech.

There are many people who feel aggrieved that the campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and the possibility of radical change was orchestrated by Jewish organisations. Jews being used as the fall-guys for the interests of the privileged and powerful is nothing new. This was the cause of some of the worst massacres in their history such as Chmielnicki:

In Israel – Jewish women can choose not to have Arab women in the same ward when giving birth

Before the Khmelnytsky uprising, magnates had sold and leased certain privileges to arendators, many of whom were Jewish, who earned money from the collections they made… By not supervising their estates directly, the magnates left it to the leaseholders and collectors to become objects of hatred to the oppressed and long-suffering peasant

Since the Board of Deputies claims it represent British Jews it is inevitable that when they support Israel’s atrocities that ordinary Jews will be associated with Israel’s barbarities and will get any backlash. The CST confirmed in its 2015 Incidents Report:

The highest and second-highest annual totals of antisemitic incidents recorded by CST came in two years – 2009 and 2014 – in which there were significant trigger events, in the form of conflicts in Israel and Gaza,

In 2007 I wrote in the Guardian’s Comment is Free, back in the days when the Guardian did debate and Freedland hadn’t become their gate keeper:

The only effect of making unfounded allegations of anti-semitism is, as Antony Lerman of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research has said, to drain anti-semitism of all meaning. If you cry wolf long and loud enough, when anti-semitism does raise its head no one will bat an eyelid.

Because being Jewish is a racial/national question in Israel, Palestinians are barred from converting to Judaism

Why the concern to redefine anti-Semitism?

Freedland’s conspiracy theory rests on the IHRA misdefinition of ‘anti-Semitism’ which Geoffrey Robertson QC damned as being ‘not fit for purpose’.  A definition which even its author, Kenneth Stern has got cold feet about  because it is being used to chill free speech.

Freedland and the Zionist movement were eager to have the IHRA adopted wholesale by Labour. Why? Because the only criticism of Israel which is allowed is that which is ‘similar to that leveled against any other country’. Except is unlike all other liberal democracies. As Stephen Sedley, a Jewish former Court of Appeal Judge observed,

‘Endeavours to conflate… [anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism] by characterising everything other than anodyne criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic are not new.’

99% of people have a very simple and straightforward understanding of what anti-Semitism is. The OED definition is ‘hostility to or prejudice against Jews.’ You don’t need a 500+ word IHRA definition unless your purpose is the defence of Israel/Zionism.

The Board of Deputies advice to Jews when faced with genuine anti-Semitism in the 1930s

When my dad, despite the advice of the Board of Deputies joined thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish anti-fascists in stopping Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists marching through the East End of London in October 1936 he didn’t need a definition of anti-Semitism to know what he was fighting. Even simple questions such as ‘why the obsession with defining anti-Semitism’ are not asked by the media.What Freedland and his friends are doing is using fears of Jews as a vulnerable minority in order to defend the West’s special relationship with Israel. That is why the whole of the racist Tory press joined the Guardian in a wall to wall campaign against Corbyn alleging anti-Semitism. At the same time ignoring genuine racists and anti-Semites such as Trump and Boris Johnson, author of 72 Virgins.

This is the ‘Jewish identity’ that the Guardian’s Freedland defends

Identity Politics and Israel

How can Freedland get away with conflating criticism of Zionism and Israel with anti-Semitism? Freedland is a master practitioner in the dark arts of Identity Politics. In a conjuring trick worthy of Houdini, Freedland explained that a recent survey found that 93% of British Jews said Israel formed some part of their identity. Therefore criticism of Jewish identity with Zionism and Israel is anti-Semitic.

The survey, Attitudes of British Jews Towards Israel found that 59% of British Jews identified as Zionists whereas 31% did not.  A similar survey in 2010 found that 72% of British Jews identified as Zionists compared to 21% who did not. A swing of 11.5% over 5 years.

Israel’s ‘Jewish identity’ is threatened by Black Africans – this is normally known as racism but not to Freedland

Freedland, who is a good example of the maxim Lies, damned lies, and statistics, didn’t cite the above figures.

Freedland is using the ‘identity’ of British Jews in order to provide a moral legitimacy to the State of Israel. His argument is simple. British Jews identify with Israel.  Ipso facto it is ‘anti-Semitic’ to criticise Israel. Leaving aside whether most Jews are aware of what Israel does, this argument is typical of Freedland’s superficiality.

Opposition to a political or cultural identity is never racist. It is opposition to the people who hold such views which is racist.

This is what Jonathan Freedland’s ‘antisemitism’ smears are designed to defend

Imagine that in the days of Apartheid in South Africa that there were 200,000 Afrikaaner ex-pats living in Britain who identified with the home country.  Would Freedland and friends have defined opposition to Apartheid as a form of racism against British Afrikaaners? That is the same as claiming that support for the Palestinians offends British Jews’ sense of identity.

Jewish identity has changed a number of times over the past century. No identity is fixed. There was a time when being Jewish was synonymous with socialism. Today being Jewish is a byword for conservatism and conformism. When Zionism first arose its fiercest opponents were themselves Jewish. When the first Zionist Congress was held in 1897 it was supposed to be in Munich but the opposition of Jews in Munich forced it to relocate to Basel in Switzerland.

Black South Africans have no difficulty in find similarities between Apartheid in Israel and South Africa

Let us assume that Freedland is correct and 93% of British Jews support apartheid Israel. If true that is a matter for deep shame. Opposition to a racist political culture is anti-racist not anti-Semitic.

Over 30 years ago Muslims reacted with fury to Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses which they felt was an affront to the Prophet Mohammed. Almost certainly most Muslims wanted it banned. Was it Islamaphobic to support Rushdie’s right to free speech?

FGM is part of the identity of Africans in Mali where 91% of women undergo this barbaric practice. Is Freedland going to argue that opposition to FGM is Afriphobic or anti-Muslim racism? His suggestion that opposition to the current Jewish identity is anti-Semitic is itself racist and anti-Semitic.

Defending Apartheid Israel – the Guardian and Freedland

Freedland worries about ‘singling’ out Israel for criticism. Is there any other state which smashes up European Union donated solar panels and which destroys water pipes intended for the Palestinians? These actions are designed to make living in the West Bank impossible.

Freedland writes about the allegation of Maxine Peake, which Rebecca Long-Bailey retweeted, that the neck-hold used to kill George Floyd was taught to the Minnesota Police by Israel. To Freedland this is a Jewish conspiracy theory.

‘Whatever horrors are unfolding, the hidden hand of the world’s only majority-Jewish country must be secretly behind them.’

The insinuation being that but for the fact of Israel’s ‘Jewishness’ such a criticism wouldn’t have been made.

Freedland pours scorn on the suggestion that Israel might have taught the US Police the neck-hold and other repressive techniques. Yet Israel boasts of having trained hundreds of thousands of US Police.

The Anti-Defamation League, the United States’s most influential Zionist organisation, in Partnering with Law Enforcement proclaims that

ADL works with every major federal, state and local law enforcement agency, from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to major city police departments, state police, highway patrol and sheriffs’ departments. Over the past decade, we have trained 150,000 law enforcement personnel

When Starbucks held ‘anti-bias training’ for its staff when staff called the police on two Black customers in Philadelphia for ‘loitering’, BLM successfully forced Starbucks not to employ ADL.

Testimonial from a Captain in the Colombian army – which has an atrocious human rights record

 When the Israeli Tactical School realised that its images were undermining the lies of Israeli Police that they didn’t use the knee on neck hold they quickly barred access!

The Israeli Tactical School which trains police and military the world over, makes it clear that the neck hold is part of their curriculum. The image of the neck-hold could be clearly seen here before they took down the page! There is a similar one here. They also have a Twitter account. It is led by Tomer Israeli who is described as

‘a former veteran of the Israeli secret service “Shin bet” and a veteran captain of the Israeli Defense Forces with over 20 years of both combat and instructional experience.’

All of this is an ‘anti-Semitic conspiracy theory’ according to Freedland and Starmer! It begs the question why should Israel be so integrally involved in training US police and other military?

According to Jonathan Freedland this picture is an anti-semitic conspiracy theory

Perhaps the role of Israel as the principal military supporter of South Africa in the days of Apartheid was also a conspiracy theory? Or its role in training and equipping Guatemala’s Junta when it was killing 200,000 Mayan Indians also a conspiracy theory? What about Israel’s current support for the Burmese Junta in its genocide against the Rohinga or equipping Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Battallion?

Israel has been training and equipping some of the world’s most repressive and murderous states in the world for decades. See e.g. Chomsky’s The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism

Israel became the main arms supplier to Argentine’s military junta from 1976-83. This was the same neo-Nazi Junta that tortured to death and ‘disappeared’ 30,000 leftists, including about 3,000 Jews. According to the Guardian article Jews targeted in Argentina’s dirty war:

Jews were a prime target of Argentina’s self-styled “Western and Christian” military dictatorship during the “dirty war” of the late 1970s, accounting for a disproportionate number of the thousands of “disappearances”, a report has confirmed….Jews represented more than 12 per cent of the victims of the military regime while constituting under 1 per cent of Argentina’s population,”

That article was written before 1999 before the rise to power of Freeland as the Guardian’s gatekeeper-in-chief. Today such an article would not appear because Freedland would class it an ‘anti-Semitic conspiracy theory’.

Anyone who has read Jeff Halper’s copiously researched ‘War Against the People – Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification’ understands that Israel plays a special role in the service of US imperialism. That is why it receives the largest amount of US aid of any country in the world.

Are all of these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories against the world’s only ‘Jewish’ state?  If so then ‘conspiracy theories’ and anti-Semitism itself must be true! This was in fact the view of early Zionists. They held that the Jews were responsible for their own persecution.

Such is the ‘logic’ of Zionism which ends up justifying anti-Semitism. Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first President described German Jews as ‘‘the germ-carriers of a new outbreak of anti-Semitism.’ [Palestine Post 5.7.33].  Other Zionists were indistinguishable from anti-Semites, e.g. Pinhas Rosen, Israel’s first Justice Minister, described Palestine as an ‘Institute for Jewish vermin.’

Israel as a Majority State

According to Freedland the reason Peake made her allegations was that Israel was a Jewish majority state. A curious way to describe a state whose Prime Minister openly boasts that Israel is a state only of its Jewish not its Arab citizens.

If we extrapolate from Freedland’s racist logic we must assume that the reason people support Kashmir’s independence is because India is the only Hindu majority state. This is precisely the charge that is being made by Labour Friends of India and other Hindu chauvinists.

Freedland in his disingenuous style suggested that as Maxine Peake ‘had got her facts wrong’ she was being anti-Semitic. Whether or ot she was right or wrong had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Peake was pressurised into recanting, unaware that Amnesty International has documented Israel’s role in training US Police Forces. Perhaps Amnesty too is anti-Semitic?

The evidence that Israel is using and teaching the neck hold to American Police forces is overwhelming. Freedland’s allegation that critics of Israel are engaging in ‘anti-Semitic conspiracy theories’ is itself a conspiracy theory. Freedland finds it difficult to understand that Israel is not a Jew and criticism of Israel is not anti-Jewish.

Freedland never spells out what he means by the ‘world’s only majority-Jewish country’. It is like describing Germany as the world’s only Aryan majority country.  It betrays a racist mentality.

Would anyone other than a died-in-the-wool reactionary describe Britain as a ‘majority Christian country’? It is true that nominally Britain is a Christian country but unlike Israel the rights of Jewish citizens in this country are not dependent on their religion. Being Christian in Britain entitles you to no privileges.

In Israel access to 93% of ‘national’ i.e. Jewish national land depends on someone being Jewish. In order to protect the purity of hundreds of Jewish only communities in Israel the Knesset passed the 2011 Admissions Committee Law which allows Committees to reject Arab applicants on the grounds they don’t fit in to the ‘social fabric.’

Just imagine that in Britain Freedland was refused the right to buy a home because it was owned by the Christian National Fund. I suspect he might call it anti-Semitic! Arabs in Israel cannot marry partners from the Occupied Territories or other Arab states in an attempt to keep the proportion of non-Jews in Israel as low as possible. As the then Knesset Speaker, now President, Reuben Rivlin declared, such couples “can be united in Ramallah”

Doris Rabinyan, author of Borderlife, whose book was banned by Israel’s Ministry of Education

It is the same concern for Jewish racial purity that led the Ministry of Education to ban a novel, Borderlife, because it depicted a romance between a Jew and an Arab. In the Deep South of the United States this was called miscegenation. As Education Ministry spokesperson Dalia Fenig explained

“Intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews and certainly the open option of institutionalising them through marriage and establishing a family… are grasped among large segments of the society as a threat to the distinct identity,”.

Her fear was that

“Adolescents do not have the systemic view that includes considerations of preserving the identity of the nation and [understanding] the meaning of assimilation,”This is the argument of Bloemfontein and Nuremberg. It is also the argument of Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian, Starmer and those who peddle the false allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’.

These are the same impulses which led hundreds of demonstrators in Afula, led by their Mayor, to demonstrate against the sale of a house to an Arab Israeli or the edict by dozens of Israeli rabbis that Jews should not let their homes to Arabs. This is what Freedland means by those weasel words ‘a majority Jewish state’.

Freedland is more than aware from the survey Israel’s Religiously Divided Society that a plurality of Israeli Jews favour the forced expulsion of Israel’s Arab citizens and a whopping 79% believe that Jews are entitled to preferential treatment.

One wonders what Freedland would say if similar figures were found among non-Jews in Britain.  Anti-Semitic? Such is the acceptance of racism amongst Zionist Jews that the Jewish Chronicle even conducted a debate ‘Is it racist to set aside Israeli land for Jews only?” What would Freedland say if the Guardian conducted a debate on whether it’s anti-Semitic to bar Jews from buying land in England? 

The irony of all of this is that it is the far-Right, from Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, to Viktor Orban, Richard Spencer and Tommy Robinson, who combine both anti-Semitism and avid pro-Zionism. In the words of the neo-Nazi founder of the alt-Right Richard Spencer, Israelis should respect him because he is a White Zionist.

It is usually alleged by people like Freedland that there is a thin line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. That support for the Palestinians and anti-Semitism frequently overlap. In fact both today and historically the main supporters of anti-Semitism have been the far-Right. It is the fundamentalist Christians of the United States, many of whom are openly anti-Semitic, who are the main supporters of Israel. In fact it is very difficult and very unusual for supporters of the Palestinians to hold anti-Semitic views.

Tony Greenstein

The sacking of Long-Bailey shows that, at last, Labour is serious about antisemitism

Jonathan Freedland

Asked to name the greatest single cause of the climate crisis, you might waver between, say, industry or electricity generation or agriculture, but in 2007 the former Labour cabinet minister Clare Short had a novel answer: Israel. At a conference in Brussels, Short said the global finger of blame should point at Israel because, if it wasn’t for that country’s conflict with the Palestinians, the world would be amicably united in dealing with carbon emissions. Israel, she said, “undermines the international community’s reaction to global warming”, an act of distraction that would ultimately lead to “the end of the human race”.

The memory of Short’s insight returned on reading the Independent’s Thursday interview with the actor Maxine Peake, in which Peake falsely claimed that the knee on the neck that killed George Floyd in Minneapolis was a technique “learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services”. It was Rebecca Long-Bailey’s refusal to delete, and apologise for, a tweeted endorsement of the Peake interview that saw Keir Starmer make his first shadow cabinet sacking – a move with serious implications for his party and his leadership of it, and perhaps beyond.

The link between Peake and Short is a cast of mind that sees the worst events in the world and determinedly puts Israel at the centre of them, even in defiance of the facts or basic common sense. Whatever horrors are unfolding, the hidden hand of the world’s only majority-Jewish country must be secretly behind them. For a long while, my favourite illustration of such thinking was the Washington DC council member who in 2018 blamed a day’s heavy snowfall on “the Rothschilds”. But Peake might now have a claim to top spot.

To look at the US, with its four centuries of racist oppression and white supremacist violence, its many decades of police brutality, and to decide that the Floyd killing was not something US police might have come up with all by themselves – that they required the instruction of faraway Israel – is to stray from rational analysis into the wilder reaches of conspiracy theory. In the words of Dave Rich, author of The Left’s Jewish Problem, such ideas perfectly “mimic the thought structure” of age-old antisemitic theories of a Jewish plot to bring global ruin: they simply insert the world’s only Jewish country, Israel, where “the Jews” used to be.

The story has played out in several of the familiar ways. Once again, Jews and their allies have had to patiently explain to the likes of John McDonnell that this isn’t mere “criticism of practices of Israeli state”, as he tweeted – and not only because, as Peake herself confessed, she had got her facts wrong. Long-Bailey’s defenders on the left have argued that she didn’t really notice the antisemitism, that she was merely affirming a constituent saying admirably radical things, not realising that that is precisely the problem: the failure, even after several years of this stuff, to see anti-Jewish prejudice when it stares them in the face. Once more, Jews have had to wonder why those who are usually so intolerant of microaggressions against other minorities are so curiously forgiving of pretty macro aggressions directed against Jews.

Is it any surprise that some in Israel are identifying with Hitler?

But there’s a big difference this time – because now, after five painful years, Labour is led by someone who gets it. What a relief it was to hear Starmer identify the core accusation amplified by his colleague not as “inappropriate” or “unhelpful” but as “antisemitic”. He and his team did not need a 12-step education programme to see the problem, nor did they insist on a seminar-room debate about the finer definitions of what is and what isn’t anti-Jewish prejudice. Instead, they understood that they are running a political party, not a student union: the scope for error is narrower.

By his action, Starmer has shown he grasps that politics is painted in primary colours. Most voters will barely be aware of this episode, let alone follow the nuances. If anything cuts through, it will be that the new Labour leader promised zero tolerance of antisemitism and he meant it. (Though it seems Starmer offered her a way out, had she agreed to apologise, which she refused to take.)

That’s been noticed by Conservatives, who after five years believing themselves essentially unopposed, and therefore able to get away with anything, now recognise they are up against someone serious about power. The contrast with Boris Johnson’s failure to sack Robert Jenrick, let alone Dominic Cummings, is striking – and not flattering to the prime minister. It’s possible that Starmer has overreached, provoking the Corbynite diehards in ways that could cost him. But the scale of his victory margin in April, and his success in getting his own choice of party general secretary, have led him to calculate that his position is stronger than others might imagine.

Starmer’s response is not the only cause for cautious cheer here. Peake’s retraction is also welcome: even if she didn’t apologise, she conceded that she had got it wrong and acknowledged the link between what she’d claimed and antisemitism. Tellingly, she admitted to having made an “assumption”, a habit all too common on the far left: a readiness to assume that if there’s evil afoot, then Israel must be pulling the strings. It also helps that Amnesty International has disavowed attempts to suggest a report of theirs in any way substantiated Peake’s false claim. Suddenly, the likes of McDonnell, Jon Lansman and Len McCluskey, still banging out the old denialist tunes, look isolated and out of time.

It might be fanciful, but perhaps something else might come out of this. If people can absorb that Israel is not responsible for all the world’s evils, but rather for a very specific injustice that desperately needs resolution, then perhaps we can move away from a conversation that casually echoes centuries-old slurs against Jews, and towards one that at last addresses the on-the-ground reality. That reality is getting worse for Palestinians, with the prospect of annexation of the West Bank looming ever closer. We need to hear that, without getting diverted by medieval fantasies about Jews.





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