This posting has these items:
1) JVL: Prof Moshé Machover’s summary expulsion and the Labour party letter of expulsion;
2) LPM: Anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism, Moshé Machover’s ‘antisemitic’ article;
3) CiF: Labour’s denial of antisemitism in its ranks leaves the party in a dark place, Freedland claims the role of judge in ad hominem attack;
4) JVL: Ken Loach responds to Jonathan Freedland;
5) Blog: As battle rages in UK Labour Party, Moshé Machover expelled after asserting ‘Anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism’powerful riposte to Labour officials;
6) Elec. Intifada: Israeli anti-Zionist expelled from Labour amid anti-Semitism smear, Asa Winstanley takes up the case;
7) NOTE: Weekly Worker and family;
Jewish Voice for Labour
October 03, 2017
Moshé Machover, 81-year old member of Hampstead & Kilburn Labour Party and a pre-eminent theorist, historian and activist in the Israeli Socialist organisation Matzpen over many decades, has been summarily thrown out of the Labour Party.
We reprint here a letter from the Labour Party, signed by Sam Matthews, Head of Disputes, expelling Moshé without due process – accused, charged, prosecuted, judged and sentenced in one letter and without even the apparent need for a hearing.
A full JVL statement will be issued later today.
Progress, the Jewish Labour Movement and the rightwing media have been running a completely cynical campaign
By Moshé Machover, Labour Party Marxists
September 21, 2017
The whole campaign of equating opposition to Zionism with antisemitism has, in fact, been carefully orchestrated with the help of the Israeli government and the far right in the United States. It is easy to explain why.
Over recent years there has been a shift in public opinion regarding Israeli policy and the conflict in the Middle East and the legitimation or otherwise of Israel as a Zionist, colonising state. One factor behind this shift has been the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions. When the BDS campaign was very young there was some discussion about whether it could actually overthrow the Zionist regime – just as some people thought a boycott of South Africa could overthrow apartheid. Of course, all analogies between South Africa and Israel are misleading, because they represent two different models of colonisation. But, leaving that aside, while sanctions may help to produce favourable conditions, those who think they are going to overthrow the regime in this way are deluding themselves.
The BDS campaign has, however, been a mobiliser of public opinion. Its advantage is that in various trade unions and professional organisations, in every college and university, there is a group of people campaigning, and this has provoked a very useful debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What is remarkable is that among the BDS activists there is an overrepresentation of young Jewish people.
That is very worrying for the Zionists and if you read the Israeli press it is clear that there is a determination to halt this erosion of support for the Zionist state by discrediting its critics. This was the situation before there was even a hint that Jeremy Corbyn could become Labour leader. Of course, his election has added to worries, because for the first time ever a leader of the main opposition party in Britain is someone who has a long record of supporting the Palestinian struggle.
And so the Zionists and all their allies decided to launch their ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ campaign. Accidentally or not, the current Israeli ambassador to London is a certain Mark Regev, who has consistently justified Israel’s crimes. Regev is hardly a normal diplomat – he is a propagandist by trade. And, of course, the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ campaign has been taken up by those who have no particular pro-Israel sentiments, but are looking for ways to attack the left of the Labour Party.
So there is now a coalition between, on the one side, people worried about the rise in support for the Palestinian cause and who would like to discredit the Labour left for that reason; and, on the other, people like the vile blogger, Guido Fawkes, whose real name is Paul Staines – a rightwinger who would do anything to discredit the Labour left. He is using ‘antisemitism’ smears for opportunistic reasons, not because he really cares one way or the other about Israel/Palestine.
The campaign has been remarkably successful and, of course, the biggest scalp so far is that of former London mayor and former NEC member, Ken Livingstone. What did he say that got him suspended? Hitler came to power in 1932 and “supported Zionism until he went mad”. Of course, he got the date wrong, Hitler came to power in 1933. It was also wrong to personalise the shift in policy. But the point he was making about the Nazi regime and Zionism is basically correct, as I shall demonstrate.
Don’t mention Zionism
How should the left react under such circumstances? A good friend of mine, who is on the left and has been a co-signatory of some of the statements we have been issuing, said to me that maybe we should not talk too much about Zionism, because people do not understand it and can get confused. Maybe we should just concentrate on the actual evils carried out by Israel.
You will not be surprised to learn that this person belongs to that part of the left which is happy to talk about austerity, but does not want to mention capitalism. Everyone understands austerity and it is good to organise demonstrations against it, but ‘capitalism’ is too much of a political word.
I fail to see how dropping mention of Zionism can work. Even the Zionists acknowledge that it is acceptable to criticise Israeli policy and would not be too concerned if we criticised, say, Israel’s continuing colonisation – building settlements on the West Bank and so on. But I ask a question: why does Israel persist in this? It is a policy which earns it the most criticism in the United States. Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders have criticised it directly and the British government’s official policy is that these settlements are ‘illegal’ – they are an ‘obstacle to peace’, etc. So why does Israel do it? How can you explain it?
It can be explained by the fact that it is an essential part of Zionist policy. In carrying out this policy Israel is, if you like, following an imperative of Zionism from the very beginning. Once you accept that this is an integral part of Zionism, then you realise it would be strange if Israel did not attempt to implement it. It is not as if it were a policy specific to the current government of Binyamin Netanyahu. It has been carried out by all Israeli governments since 1967 and it took place within the former borders – the so-called ‘green line’ – before 1967. It has been an ongoing policy of Zionist colonisation from the very beginning.
You cannot explain why Israel is continuing with a policy that is not winning it any friends without mentioning Zionism. On the contrary, I think what we should do is not apologise; instead we should go onto the offensive and be aggressive: directly attack Zionism.
And you can also attack Zionism precisely because of its collusion and collaboration with antisemitism, including up to a point with Nazi Germany. We should not respond to the attacks by saying, ‘We are against antisemitism, as we are against all racism’, which is to accept that antisemitism is actually a problem on the left. While, of course, we oppose such racism, the fact is that its proponents within the left and the Labour Party account for a minuscule proportion. We can deal with anti-Semitism if it shows its head, but we should not make gestures as a kind of apology in the face of the current assault. The handful of people on the left who propagate a version of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ carry no weight and are without any intellectual foundation.
The Protocols contained claims of both capitalist and working class conspiracy: Jews were ‘overrepresented’ among capitalists, but they were also ‘overrepresented’ in the revolutionary movement. The antisemitic slogan in revolutionary Russia was: “Sugar – Brodsky, tea – Vissotsky, Russia – Trotsky” – the first two were magnates and all three were Jews. We can deal with similar nonsense on the left in our own time, but not as an apology in response to attacks on the left. On the contrary, we need to go on the counteroffensive.
We should take the side of the Board of Deputies of British Jews – not the current one, but the Board of Deputies of 100 years ago! It put out some very pertinent statements about Zionism and its connection with antisemitism. When the negotiations on the 1917 Balfour Declaration were taking place, a prominent member of the Board of Deputies, Lucien Wolf, wrote:
I understand … that the Zionists do not merely propose to form and establish a Jewish nationality in Palestine, but that they claim all the Jews as forming at the present moment a separate and dispossessed nationality, for which it is necessary to find an organic political centre, because they are and must always be aliens in the lands in which they now dwell, and, more especially, because it is “an absolute self-delusion” to believe that any Jew can be at once “English by nationality and Jewish by faith”.
I have spent most of my life in combatting these very doctrines, when presented to me in the form of antisemitism, and I can only regard them as the more dangerous when they come to me in the guise of Zionism. They constitute a capitulation to our enemies, which has absolutely no justification in history, ethnology or the facts of everyday life, and if they were admitted by the Jewish people as a whole, the result would only be that the terrible situation of our co-religionists in Russia and Romania would become the common lot of Jewry throughout the world.1
About the same time, Alexander Montefiore, president of the Board of Deputies, and Claude, his brother, who was president of the closely associated Anglo-Jewish Association, wrote a letter to The Times. They stated that the “establishment of a Jewish nationality in Palestine, founded on the theory of Jewish homelessness, must have the effect throughout the world of stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands and of undermining their hard-won positions as citizens and nationals of those lands”.2
They pointed out that the theories of political Zionism undermined the religious basis of Jewry, to which the only alternative would be “a secular Jewish nationality, recruited on some loose and obscure principle of race and of ethnographic peculiarity”.
They went on:
But this would not be Jewish in any spiritual sense, and its establishment in Palestine would be a denial of all the ideals and hopes by which the survival of Jewish life in that country commends itself to the Jewish conscience and Jewish sympathy. On these grounds the Conjoint Committee of the Board of Deputies and the Anglo-Jewish Association deprecates earnestly the national proposals of the Zionists.
The second part in the Zionist programme which has aroused the misgivings of the Conjoint Committee is the proposal to invest the Jewish settlers [in Palestine] with certain special rights in excess of those enjoyed by the rest of the population …
In all the countries in which Jews live the principle of equal rights for all religious denominations is vital to them. Were they to set an example in Palestine of disregarding this principle, they would convict themselves of having appealed to it for purely selfish motives. In the countries in which they are still struggling for equal rights they would find themselves hopelessly compromised … The proposal is the more inadmissible because the Jews are and probably long will remain a minority of the population of Palestine, and might involve them in the bitterest feuds with their neighbours of other races and religions, which would severely retard their progress and find deplorable echoes throughout the orient.3
This turned out to be highly prophetic.
Let us turn now to the Zionist-Nazi connection. In fact it sounds more shocking than it is, because we are talking about the early days of the Nazi regime. Today the holocaust is taught in schools, so people may know when the policy of extermination of Jews actually started officially – in January 1942, when a Nazi conference was convened in Wannsee under the chairmanship of Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich was second in command to Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS.
The minutes of this conference are actually online and in them a change in policy towards the Jews, ratified by the Führer, was declared. Although it is phrased euphemistically, it is clear that what was being talked about was both deportation to the east and extermination.
This change occurred following the attack on the Soviet Union, when the Nazis felt they had to find different ways of dealing with the ‘Jewish problem’. Until that time the official policy was for the exclusion of the Jews from political and civic life, for separation and for emigration. Quite naturally the Zionist leadership thought this set of policies was similar to those of other antisemitic regimes – which it was – and the Zionist approach was not peculiar to the Nazi regime. The founder of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, had pointed out that antisemitic regimes would be allies, because they wanted to get rid of the Jews, while the Zionists wanted to rid them of the Jews. That was the common interest.
In 1934 the German rabbi, Joachim Prinz, published a book entitled Wir Juden (‘We, the Jews’), in which he welcomed the Nazi regime. That regime wanted to separate Jews from non-Jews and prevent assimilation – as did the Zionists. Philip Roth’s novel, The plot against America, is based on actual people, including Prinz, who emigrated to America and became a leader of the US Jewish community – the fact that he was a Zionist is not mentioned.
Anyway, the Zionists made overtures to the Nazi regime, so how did the Nazis respond? Here are two relevant quotations. The first is from the introduction to the Nuremberg laws, the racist legislation introduced in Nazi Germany in 1935. This extract was still present in the 1939 edition, from which I am quoting:
If the Jews had a state of their own, in which the bulk of their people were at home, the Jewish question could already be considered solved today … The ardent Zionists of all people have objected least of all to the basic ideas of the Nuremberg laws, because they know that these laws are the only correct solution for the Jewish people too …4
Heydrich himself wrote the following in an article for the SS house journal Das Schwarze Korps in September 1935:
National socialism has no intention of attacking the Jewish people in any way. On the contrary, the recognition of Jewry as a racial community based on blood, and not as a religious one, leads the German government to guarantee the racial separateness of this community without any limitations. The government finds itself in complete agreement with the great spiritual movement within Jewry itself, so-called Zionism, with its recognition of the solidarity of Jewry throughout the world and the rejection of all assimilationist ideas. On this basis, Germany undertakes measures that will surely play a significant role in the future in the handling of the Jewish problem around the world.5
In other words, a friendly mention of Zionism, indicating an area of basic agreement it shared with Nazism.
Of course, looking back at all this, it seems all the more sinister, since we know that the story ended with the gas chambers a few years later. This overlap is an indictment of Zionism, but the actual collaboration between the two was not such an exceptional thing, when you accept that the Zionists were faced with the reality of an antisemitic regime.
By the way, half of what Ken Livingstone said is not very far from the caricature uttered by Netanyahu in 2016 during an address to delegates at the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem. According to Netanyahu, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews” until he met the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, in 1941. Netanyahu claimed that “Al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here’.”
Of course, the allegation that the idea of extermination originated with the grand mufti has been rejected with contempt by serious historians, but Netanyahu was at least correct in saying that emigration, not extermination, was indeed Nazi policy until the winter of 1941-42.
Let me repeat: we must go on the counterattack against the current slurs. It is correct to expose Zionism as a movement based on both colonisation and collusion with antisemitism. Don’t apologise for saying this. If you throw the sharks bloodied meat, they will only come back for more. At the moment the left is apologising too much, in the hope that the right will let up. They never will.
1. Reproduced in B Destani (ed) The Zionist movement and the foundation of Israel 1839-1972 Cambridge 2004, Vol 1, p727
2. The Times May 24 1917
3. See www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message55570/pg1
4. See M Machover and M Offenberg Zionism and its scarecrows London 1978, p38, which directly quotes Die Nürnberger Gesetze. See also F Nicosia The Third Reich and the Palestine question London 1985, p53; and FR Nicosia Zionism and anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany Cambridge 2008, p108.The latter cites a 1935 article by Bernhard Lohsener in the Nazi journal Reichsverwaltungsblatt
5. Das Schwarze Korps September 26 1935
In no other case of minority discrimination would three outside voices be allowed to say ‘nothing to see here’. Len, Ken and Ken are on dodgy ground
Ken Loach with Corbyn and Mrs Loach. He said ‘It’s funny these stories suddenly appeared when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, isn’t it?’ Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Image
By Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian
September 27, 2017
The good news is that Len, Ken and Ken all say they have experienced no antisemitism in the Labour party. Which must mean all is well. Surely only a pedant would point out that Ken Loach, Len McCluskey and Ken Livingstone are not Jewish – a fact that might limit their authority to speak on the matter.
Indeed, they have been fixtures on the left for so long – Loach is 81, Livingstone is 72 and McCluskey is 67 – perhaps they should sit as a panel. They could be the three wise men who arbitrate on all allegations of bigotry within Labour’s ranks. Then, if they testify that they have experienced no sexism, racism, Islamophobia or homophobia inside the party, we will know those menaces are blissfully absent from the prejudice-free nirvana that is the Labour family.
Indeed, Len and Ken Loach go much further. They don’t just tell Jewish Labour supporters that they are mistaken to detect antisemitism around them: they tell them they have made it all up – and that they have done so for sinister, nefarious purposes.
“I believe it was mood music that was created by people who were trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn,” McCluskey told BBC’s Newsnight. (Again, for an avowed progressive to describe an ethnic minority’s experience of racism as “mood music” is quite a break from the usual accepted practice.)
Loach expressed his scepticism differently. “It’s funny these stories suddenly appeared when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, isn’t it?”, the filmmaker told the BBC’s Daily Politics. But he was making the same point.
Meanwhile, Livingstone was on the radio cheerfully saying that it was perfectly possible to say offensive things about Jews without being anti-Jewish. He too has long argued that this whole business is bogus and confected, and that Labour does not have any kind of antisemitism problem.
And yet the evidence was there in Brighton if you were willing to see it. There were the Labour party Marxists handing out a paper that repeated Livingstone’s toxic claim of ideological solidarity between the Nazis and those German Jews who sought a Jewish homeland.
There’s the testimony of John Cryer MP, who sits on Labour’s disputes panel. He says some of the anti-Jewish tweets and Facebook posts he has seen from Labour members are “redolent of the 1930s”.
There were loud calls for the expulsion of Jewish groups, one of which has been part of the Labour movement for a century. Hardly a surprise that some Jewish activists turned away from the conference, describing an atmosphere that felt too hostile to endure.
But no – for Len and the Kens and their allies, it’s all made up. Perhaps they don’t realise that that itself is a tired anti-Jewish trope: that Jews invent stories of suffering to drive a secret political agenda. Or, to put it more simply, that there is a Jewish conspiracy.
It means that a man such as Ken Loach – an artist so sensitive he is capable of making the film I, Daniel Blake – ends up lending a spurious legitimacy to Holocaust denial. Asked to react to a speaker at a Brighton fringe meeting who had said Labour supporters should feel free to debate any topic, including the veracity of the Holocaust – “did it happen or didn’t it happen”, as the BBC interviewer put it – Loach could not give a simple, unequivocal denunciation of Holocaust denial. “I think history is for all of us to discuss,” he said.
Remember, Loach had not been asked whether there should be discussion of the meaning of the Nazi slaughter of the Jews. He had been asked about the fact of it happening. And on that, he said there should be discussion – the same apparently innocuous formulation routinely advanced by hardcore Holocaust deniers.
When distinguished men of the left are echoing, even inadvertently, the language of Holocaust denial, when the leader of Britain’s biggest trade union is rehashing the age-old notion of a Jewish conspiracy, you know you have entered a dark place. It’s not impossible to navigate your way out. But first you have to admit that you’ve got badly lost.
Comment is free – Guardian’s One-Eyed View of Labour Politics Ignores the Palestinians
By Ken Loach, Jewish Voice for Labour
October 05, 2017
On 27th September 2017 the Guardian published an article by Jonathan Freedland called Labour’s denial of antisemitism in its ranks leaves the party in a dark place. Ken Loach wrote a response for Comment is Free beginning “The taint of antisemitism is toxic. Yet, with hints and innuendos, your columnist, Jonathan Freedland, tries to link me, Len McCluskey and Ken Livingstone to Labour’s ‘dark place’, for which it seems we are in part responsible. This is cynical journalism.
The Guardian has refused to carry Loach’s article. We are pleased to do so here.
Addition: Today, 6th October, the Guardian has published a(n edited) letter from Ken Loach, under the heading Ken Loach: I give no legitimacy to Holocaust denial.
Written for the Guardian, posted by JVL
October 06, 2017
The taint of antisemitism is toxic. Yet, with hints and innuendos, your columnist, Jonathan Freedland, tries to link me, Len McCluskey and Ken Livingstone to Labour’s ‘dark place’, for which it seems we are in part responsible. This is cynical journalism.
What is his evidence? Len and I were welcomed at the packed first meeting of ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’. Strangely, Freedland ignored this progressive new group, which has published its own response to his attacks on us. The founding document says: ‘we stand for rights and justice for Jewish people everywhere and against wrongs and injustices to Palestinians and other oppressed people anywhere’. We support that.
But Freedland disputes our right to contribute. We are ‘not Jewish – a fact that might limit their authority to speak on the matter’. The matter in question is antisemitism in the Labour Party.
Many Jewish comrades say that they know the Labour Party to be a welcoming environment and have not experienced hostility as Jews. This chimes with my fifty years of involvement with the labour movement. But, for Freedland, this is a discussion to which only one group – Jews who share his political perspective – can contribute. It is exclusive – no place for solidarity or collective support. This goes against all traditions of the left where we stand alongside each other to oppose injustice.
People join left organisations to fight racism and fascism, intolerance and colonial oppression. Throughout history, it is the left that has led this fight. Racism including antisemitism is real enough and will emerge in all political parties. The Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) acknowledges this in relation to allegations about the Labour Party: ‘a very small number of cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism’. I trust their judgement.
This present campaign about antisemitism surfaced when Jeremy Corbyn became leader and drew on a number of cases that pre-dated his leadership. It has been led by his political opponents inside and outside the Labour Party, seeming in part to be aimed at undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters and therefore his leadership. JSG wrote ‘accusations of antisemitism are being weaponised to attack the Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party’.
Corbyn has always opposed racism and defended human rights wherever they have been attacked, which includes the plight of the Palestinians. This will alarm apologists for Israeli occupation and expansion. Further, he stands on a socialist programme which has disturbed the right of the party.
There is a further, more serious allegation, that I gave ‘spurious legitimacy’ to Holocaust denial. In a BBC interview I was asked about a speech I had not heard and of which I knew nothing. My reply has been twisted to suggest that I think it is acceptable to question the reality of the Holocaust. I do not. The Holocaust is as real a historical event as the World War itself and not to be challenged. In Primo Levi’s words: ‘Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it.’ The first terrible pictures I saw as a nine-year old are ingrained on my memory as they are for all my generation.
Like readers of this paper, I know the history of Holocaust denial, its place in far right politics and the role of people like David Irving. To imply that I would have anything in common with them is contemptible. The consequences of such a smear are obvious to all: let the poison escape and it will be picked up on social media and reputations may be tarnished for ever. A brief phone call would have clarified my position.
One thing Freedland has got right – the ages of Len McCluskey, Ken Livingstone and me (he wittily makes a rhyme of our names). Freedland is happy to embrace one prejudice – ageism.
Exaggerated or false claims of antisemitism can create a climate of fear in which legitimate discussion about the state of Israel and its actions are stifled. Antisemitism and debate about Israel should be separate issues. Once again it is the Palestinians who are marginalised or ignored. Freedland writes frequently about Israel, yet his concern for the Palestinians takes second place. So while we are clarifying our position, could he make clear whether, for example, he accepts:
that land stolen from the Palestinians should be returned to them and all illegal settlements removed, as UN Resolutions demand.
that Israel is breaking the Fourth Geneva Convention by transporting Palestinian children to Israeli prisons without access to lawyers or their families.
and that the deliberate destruction of civilian life, hospitals and medical facilities in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge were war crimes.
And will he endorse the distinguished Israeli historian Ilan Pappé when he writes about the founding of Israel: ‘The ethnic cleansing of Palestine (is) a crime against humanity that Israel has wanted to deny and cause the world to forget’?
So many questions, so many injustices. Labour has much to do in developing an ethical foreign policy and social and economic justice at home. It now has principled leaders and a growing, enthusiastic membership. Let the party not throw away this great opportunity. We have a world to win.
By Jonathan Cook, blog and Mondoweiss
October 05, 2017
Over the past 18 months the British Labour party has been beset by a moral panic. According to pro-Israel activists in Labour, there has been a surge of anti-semitism in the party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader two years ago. Corbyn has broken with decades of party policy by placing a much stronger emphasis on the need to end Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.
As we will show, these activists’ concerns are much less about antisemitism than about Corbyn and the trend he represents. Pro-Israel groups, who have strong backing among the party establishment opposed to Corbyn, fear he is changing the nature of the British political discourse about Israel and the Palestinians. Beyond this, they are worried that should Corbyn, or someone else from his wing of the Labour party, reach power, they will put the Palestinians at the heart of a Labour government’s foreign policy. Much is at stake.
A strange, if largely obscured feature of the supposed anti-semitism crisis – set out at length in my first Mondoweiss article – is that so many of those accused and convicted in Labour of this hate crime are Jews. The latest person accused by the party of antisemitism – and this week expelled – is Moshé Machover, a mathematician and philosophy professor at the University of London. He was born and raised in Israel.
Machover appears to be among the first Labour members to be netted by a rule change on antisemitism introduced at the party conference last week. Activists in a new group called Jewish Voice for Labour, launched at the conference, had warned that the change in wording would allow the party bureaucracy to expel members for “thought crimes”.
As previously explained, the rule change was pushed hard by a powerful pressure group in Labour called the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), which is the sister organisation of Israel’s own Labour party. The JLM helped create Labour Friends of Israel, which has traditionally been a key pro-Israel lobbying group among Labour members of parliament.
Both organisations have clandestine ties to the Israeli government through Israel’s London embassy, as was revealed earlier this year by an Al Jazeera undercover investigation. It secretly filmed this collusion in action, as pro-Israel Labour activists plotted to subvert Corbyn’s leadership, even at the cost of irreparably damaging the party.
In decrying an “anti-semitism plague” in Labour, the JLM and its supporters have claimed that they are not conflating antisemitism with anti-Zionism. But Machover’s case clearly illustrates that they are doing precisely that.
Machover received a letter from Labour head office this week alleging that he had breached the party’s anti-semitism rules with an article (PDF), paradoxically titled “Anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism”, in the newsletter of the Labour Party Marxists group.
In it, Machover pointed out the widespread opposition of most Jews to the ideas propagated by the Zionist movement before the rise of Hitler, and the problematic ideological affinites between Zionists and anti-semites. He wrote: “The founder of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, had pointed out that anti-Semitic regimes would be allies, because they wanted to get rid of the Jews, while the Zionists wanted to rid them of the Jews. That was the common interest.”
For this reason, observed Machover, quoting Zionist and Nazi leaders of the time, some Zionists welcomed the early policies of the Nazis, including even the notorious Nuremberg Laws of 1935. This was before the Nazis switched to a policy of extermination in the death camps. Both anti-semites and Zionists wanted Jews and non-Jews separated, and both rejected miscegenation. A similar argument, expressed more clumsily, led to the suspension of Ken Livingstone, a former London mayor, earlier this year.
It is notable that the Labour party accused Machover of antisemitism on the grounds that his article was likely to “cause offence to Jewish people”. It begged the question: which Jewish people?
That issue had, in fact, become a battleground at the conference. Jewish Labour party activists had set up a new group, Jewish Voice for Labour, to act as a countervailing force against the traditional dominance of the JLM in influencing the party’s policies towards Israel and the Palestinians and against its accusations of antisemitism by Corbyn supporters. Jewish Voice for Labour represents a broad range of Jews who have until now been marginalised in the Labour party, including trenchant critics of the occupation, anti-Zionists and supporters of BDS, the boycott movement. For the first time they have a collective voice within the party.
As Machover observed, pro-Israel groups are in trouble in Labour and elsewhere. “They are losing credibility on the arena of what could be called international opinion, but – more importantly – they are losing the Jewish public outside Israel, especially those under 30. There is a clear generational shift in opinion. These people are becoming very critical of Israel and its colonisation project.”
The letter from Labour head office also accused Machover of violating the definition of antisemitism produced last year by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an inter-governmental body. The definition has been adopted by the Labour party, as well as by the British government.
For some time, pro-Israel lobby groups in the UK and Europe have been trying to promote new, much vaguer definitions of antisemitism that would cover strong criticism of Israel. The IHRA’s is the most significant and successful. Its working definition is: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews.” (PDF)
As Stephen Sedley, a Jewish former British appeal court judge, has noted, this raises many problems. If anti-semitism is defined as a “perception”, who is qualified to do the perceiving? And if antisemitism “may be expressed as hatred”, does that not also imply, more troublingly, that it “may not be” so expressed.
In fact, the examples of anti-semitism provided by the IHRA include several that are clearly designed to include criticism of Israel:
* Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.
* Applying double standards by requiring of [the state of Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
* Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour.
* Any discourse that takes as its premise that Israel is not a liberal democracy, but rather a Jewish state, as it declares itself to be, or that it practises apartheid, or that it should be subject to a boycott, appears to fall foul of this definition.
Under pressure from the JLM, the National Executive Committee, Labour’s ruling body, and last week’s conference accepted a compromise amendment to the membership rule book. An existing clause protecting freedom of thought and speech was dropped. From now on, members can be expelled if their behaviour “might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice”.
The JLM, however, had tried to foist on the party a more draconian definition: that an anti-semitic incident should be “defined as something where the victim or anyone else thinks it was motivated by hostility or prejudice”. Noticeably, the letter from Labour head office to Machover echoed this rejected definition. It objected to the use of “language that may be perceived as provocative, insensitive or offensive”.
As Labour activist Bob Pitt observed, in the letter to Machover party officials rode roughshod over the new rule. “It is not enough for someone to perceive that an incident is antisemitic and be offended by it; it is necessary for the party to establish that the perception has a reasonable basis,” he wrote of the approved rule change. Instead, officials were “apparently trying to introduce the JLM’s abandoned rule change through the back door. According to [the letter], Moshé has opened himself up to disciplinary action because he has written articles that are ‘perceived as provocative, insensitive or offensive’ by Zionists who don’t like to be reminded about embarrassing episodes from the history of Zionism.”
This process of redefining anti-semitism by the Labour party is not happening in a vacuum. Politicians and media pundits are starting to push the debate about anti-semitism in disturbing new directions more generally – and this process has accelerated since Corbyn became leader.
This dangerous trend was highlighted in a commentary last week in the midst of the conference. Jonathan Freedland, a senior columnist at the Guardian newspaper and the Jewish Chronicle, is highly influential among Britain’s liberal Zionist community. He is possibly the most prominent arbiter of “anti-semitism” on the British left.
He used his Guardian column to attack three well-known Labour figures closely identified with Corbyn who had each dismissed the “Labour’s anti-semitism plague” as mischief-making. Freedland accused former London mayor Ken Livingstone, award-winning film-maker Ken Loach, and trade union leader Len McCluskey of anti-semitism denial and leading Labour into a “dark place”.
In a circular proof of Labour’s anti-semitism crisis, Freedland cited calls from some Labour activists – in fact, a handful – to expel the JLM from the party. He avoided mentioning why: that the JLM had been caught redhanded conspiring against the party leader by the Al Jazeera investigation.
Freedland also noted that there were “Marxists” at the conference handing out leaflets – presumably a reference to Machover’s article – repeating Livingstone’s point about the documented negotiations between Zionists and Nazis in the early 1930s.
Freedland, a former winner of Britain’s Orwell Prize, then indulged in some trademark Orwellian “newspeak”. He argued that the three leading Labour lights were not in a position, as non-Jews, to assess whether there was an anti-semitism crisis in the party. Only Jews could make that call – and, he added, Labour’s Jews were adamant that the party had a big problem.
Here Freedland effectively backed the draconian and rejected definition of anti-semitism originally proposed by the JLM at the conference. According to both the JLM and Freedland, anti-semitism cannot be adduced through objective criteria, or by applying traditional definitions, such as hateful statements or actions against Jews because they are Jews.
Instead, Freedland and the JLM believe that anti-semitism can be defined far more broadly. It exists, they say, if it is perceived as such by its victims, even if no tangible evidence can be identified. It is like a mood sensed only by those – Jews – who are attuned to it through their firsthand experience of anti-semitism.
Disturbing as this definition is, Freedland went further. He posited that Livingstone, Loach and McCluskey were arrogantly dismissing a Jewish consensus on the prevalence of anti-semitism in the party. But there was a deep flaw in his reasoning: the conference had just proved that this consensus did not, in fact, exist.
The non-Jewish trio were speaking not only about their own failure to identify examples of anti-semitism in the Labour movement. As prominent figures in the party, they were also giving voice to those Jewish members whose views had long been ignored because they did not accord with those of the party’s Israel lobby, the JLM.
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a leading member of Jewish Voice for Labour, made precisely this point: “When McCluskey and Loach say they know Labour is not a hotbed of antisemitism, they speak with the authority of Jewish comrades who have said so repeatedly, and been ignored.”
Jewish Voice for Labour had been established to provide a counterweight to the JLM and give Jews critical of Israel a collective voice. Here was Freedland not only discounting their voice but failing to notice it even existed. Jews, Freedland implied, only counted when, like the JLM, they wrapped themselves in the Israeli flag.
But Freedland was still not satisfied. Like some Witchfinder General, he accused the trio not just of ignorance about the prevalence of anti-semitism in Labour, but of actually being anti-semitic themselves for claiming that the moral panic about anti-semitism had been manipulated for political ends. Freedland quoted as proof Loach’s comment: “It’s funny these stories [about anti-semitism] suddenly appeared when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, isn’t it?”
Freedland observed, again with a satisfyingly circular logic: “For Len [McCluskey] and the Kens [Loach and Livingstone] and their allies, it’s all made up. Perhaps they don’t realise that that itself is a tired anti-Jewish trope: that Jews invent stories of suffering to drive a secret political agenda. Or, to put it more simply, that there is a Jewish conspiracy.”
But Livingstone, Loach and McCluskey never posited a Jewish conspiracy. That was a figment of Freedland’s feverish imagination. Unlike him, they fully recognised that a significant section of Jewish opinion in the Labour party felt exactly the same way they did about the misuse of unsubstantiated anti-semitism allegations to discredit Corbyn and deflect attention from his efforts to focus the party’s attention on Palestinian suffering.
What this trio and the Jewish Voice for Labour had argued instead was that a small, unrepresentative group inside Labour – a self-declared pressure group – was trying to advance the aims of the Israeli state. This was hardly a radical conclusion. After all, the JLM was doing exactly what it claims to be doing – promoting Israel’s interests – while additionally seeking to conflate those interests with the supposed interests of all Jews and the Labour party.
Like all lobbies, the Israel lobby plays the cards it has in its hand to win its case. But unlike other lobbies, the Israel lobby can silence critics with a powerful threat – of tarring them as anti-semites. Sadly, Freedland amply proved a very human truth: people who wield power, however limited, invariably end up using and abusing it to their own benefit.
The new definition of anti-semitism that liberal Zionists, and the JLM, wish to foist on British political life is troubling indeed, and draws heavily on the most divisive kind of identity politics. It asserts that Israel and Zionism are at the core of modern Jewish identity. To criticise Israel is, therefore, to attack Jewish identity – to commit a hate crime. To be “offensive”.
If that sounds Orwellian in its implications, too bad. To dispute this claim is proof of anti-semitism too. Like the Medieval dunking of witches, you cannot win.
Here is Freedland, in another column, rationalising in more detail an idea taking ground in left politics in Britain and much of the west: that Jews should be left to decide what constitutes anti-semitism:
On the left, black people are usually allowed to define what’s racism; women can define sexism; Muslims are trusted to define Islamophobia. But when Jews call out something as anti-semitic, leftist non-Jews feel curiously entitled to tell Jews they’re wrong, that they are exaggerating or lying or using it as a decoy tactic – and to then treat them to a long lecture on what anti-Jewish racism really is.
The left would call it misogynist ‘mansplaining’ if a man talked that way to a woman. They’d be mortified if they were caught doing that to LGBT people or Muslims. But to Jews, they feel no such restraint.
First, it needs pointing out that plenty of British Jews, including experts on the subject like Antony Lerman and Stephen Sedley, also take issue with the definition of anti-semitism employed by pro-Israel Jews, like Freedland and the JLM. They too believe it is being abused and manipulated for political ends.
These Jews have struggled to make their voices heard, not necessarily because they lack numbers but because they have not been organised in the way the Israel lobby is in much of Europe and the US. And in turn, that is largely because they lack the support, funding and organisational backing that comes from allying oneself to a powerful benefactor like the Israeli state. There is nothing unique about this. Lobbies revolve around powerful interests, as one can see spectacularly demonstrated in the United States, where unrepresentative gun, medical, financial and military lobbies dominate political life.
But in addition, the Israel lobby benefits from the oxygen of publicity offered by the state-corporate media in a way countervailing groups like Jewish Voice for Labour don’t. The corporate media failed to send a single journalist to cover the group’s establishment at the conference, despite the obvious newsworthiness of the event. And Freedland has continued to ignore the intervention by the Jewish Voice for Labour in the anti-semitism debate.
To understand this “oversight” requires a lengthy, separate analysis of the role of the western corporate media in supporting related corporate interests like the arms industry, and of the readiness of European political and media elites to submit to the so-called “Washington consensus” – whatever the US state decides are its core interests.
Once these issues are factored in, Freedland’s argument becomes entirely self-fulfilling. The definitions we hear from organised Jewish groups conflate anti-semitism with anti-Zionism precisely because they support Israel’s interests and those of its western patrons.
But there is an even more profound flaw in Freedland’s thesis.
Black people, women and gays are groups whose views should be listened to sensitively and considered seriously by oppressor groups, precisely because the oppressor is still in a position to oppress. It is not that white people’s views of racism are worthless; it is that their position of privilege makes it extremely hard for them to consider fully what it is like to suffer a particular form of racism and discrimination, or what it means to be a victim.
The appeal of Israel to Zionist Jews is that they can enjoy at a distance the empowerment provided by Israel.
But Freedland and the JLM’s views of anti-semitism do not fit neatly into this model of victim-oppressor. When the JLM ties its Jewish identity to Israel – a state that privileges one ethnic group, Jews, over native Palestinians; that was built on the dispersion and ethnic cleansing of that native people; and continues to oppress them through a brutal military occupation – it precisely subverts the notion of Jew as victim.
In fact, it can be argued that this is the very appeal of Israel to Zionist Jews like Freedland and the JLM. They enjoy at a distance the empowerment provided by Israel. This is the excitement, described at length by liberal Israeli professor Yaron Ezrahi in his book Rubber Bullets, of the Jew who is transformed by Israel into a warrior. It is the reason many Zionist Jews are publicly thrilled by the sight of Israeli soldiers, “his and her” weapons casually slung over their shoulders.
But in the case of Jews living outside Israel, this self-image of power, the ability to inflict violence, is more complex. Israel offers Freedland and the JLM a strangely privileged status of oppressor by proxy: they demand a collective identification with a nuclear-armed, highly militarised state while still demanding the right to claim personal victimhood.
But Zionist Jews, those who identify their Jewishness with Israel, have compromised that right in relation to Israel. They cannot straightforwardly define themselves as victims precisely because they have chosen to implicate themselves in the oppression of Palestinians.
Palestinians have almost no visibility in western debates about victimhood. Even acknowledgment of Islamophobia covers only a few of the problems they face in the diaspora – of their possible denial of entry at airports, of the insults and discrimination they face as Arabs and Muslims in western societies. But it does not address their victimhood as Palestinians, their oppression at the hands of Israel, the complicity of powerful states in the west, and the decades of silence and inaction from liberal Zionists and organised Jewish groups like the JLM.
When real leftists, Jewish or not, speak in solidarity with Palestinians, and reject Jewish privilege in relation to Israel, it is not evidence of anti-semitism. It is part of their responsibility to lobby on behalf of a highly victimised group. A group that unlike blacks, women and gays has almost no formal status in western debates about oppression.
When the Palestinians gain even a little visibility, it is chiefly because of the actions of grassroots activists promoting initiatives like Israel Apartheid Week and the BDS movement. When Freedland and the JLM reject these initiatives as evidence of anti-semitism, they choose to speak in the loud voice of Jewish privilege, not the quieter voice of Jewish victimhood.
The real racism problem in the Labour party, and more generally in western societies, is not currently anti-semitism. It is a profound racism against Arabs and Muslims generally and against Palestinians in particular – a legacy of recent western colonialism, and of anti-semitism in a much broader sense that refers to all semitic peoples, not just Jews.
It is a racism that defers indefinitely a remedy for the Palestinians whose land was stolen from them by British colonialists who had no right to transfer it to someone else. It is a racism that confers legitimacy on a Jewish state, even as it boasts of its tribalism in marginalising a fifth of its own citizens because they are non-Jews. It is a racism that claims to champion a two-state solution while preferring not to lift a finger to realise it. Further, it is a racism that smears as anti-semites those whose consciences drive them to fight for Palestinian rights.
What is changing in the British Labour party is a growing acknowledgment of this among ordinary members, including an ever larger number of Jewish party activists. The consensus that the JLM and Jonathan Freedland helped to manufacture among left and liberal British Jews is slowly evaporating. Social media – and the instant window it provides on the brutality of life under Israeli occupation – is exposing these purveyors of misinformation for what they are, even as they howl “fake news”. Their time is going, and won’t likely return.
Nonetheless, these enforcers of liberal Zionist orthodoxy are not going down without a fight. And in the process they will doubtless wreak much damage on the Labour party – and further hollow out what was once the grave charge of anti-semitism. It is strategy of folly by those who may one day need the protection of both as the real anti-semites try to blaze a trail back to power.
The 81-year-old retired professor was expelled from Labour outright with no hearing.
By Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada
October 04, 2017
A renowned Israeli anti-Zionist was expelled from Labour on Tuesday, as the party bureaucracy falsely accused him of antisemitism.
Retired philosophy professor Moshé Machover told The Electronic Intifada that the expulsion by the UK’s main opposition party was a “clear violation of natural justice,” was “Stalinist” and “completely undemocratic.”
He said he would be taking legal advice and was considering whether to appeal the decision.
Machover is well known in scholarly and Palestine solidarity circles as an activist and a co-founder of Matzpen, a group of dissident Israeli socialists active in the 1960s and 1970s. He has lived in London since 1968.
A spokesperson for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said they do not comment on disciplinary cases.
But The Electronic Intifada understands the leader’s office is in fact looking into the expulsion.
In a letter from Labour’s “Head of Disputes,” Machover was told that an article he had written “appears to meet the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism.”
Machover said his article, Anti-Zionism is not anti-semitism, “won a lot of response at conference” and “very positive and widespread agreement.” This put the right of the party on the defensive, and they are now lashing out, he said.
The Times report misquoted the bulletin, claiming it “discussed the ‘commonality between Zionists and Nazis’ ” – the article in fact contains no such quote.
The report also failed to mention the fact that Machover is an Israeli Jew, and falsely implied that he had quoted the Nazi official approvingly.
Machover told The Electronic Intifada that he had quoted “the great monster Heydrich” to discuss the undisputed historical links between a Zionist minority of German Jews in the 1930s and the Nazi Party.
Machover was expelled rather than suspended because the Labour bureaucracy claims he has violated party rules by writing articles for the Weekly Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain [The CPGB closed itself down in 1991.]*
“Membership or support for another political party” is grounds for immediate expulsion, the letter states.
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada, Machover said he was not a member of either the Communist Party of Great Britain or Labour Party Marxists.
The latter group asked to use his article and he agreed.
The Weekly Worker is an “open forum” which is very democratic in its publication policy, he said. He has spoken at some of the [new] Communist Party of Great Britain’s meetings.
He told The Electronic Intifada that he also spoke at elite private school Eton College some years ago: “I went there. Am I associated with Eton? I don’t know! If people invite me to talk about Israel/Palestine, I usually respond. That’s what I do.”
Tony Greenstein and Moshé Machover speak at a meeting on Anti-Zionism and antisemitism organised by the (new, see Note below) CPGB.
Mounting a tenacious but futile attempt to stay in control, the right wing of the party has teamed up with Israel lobby groups such as Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement to smear supporters of Palestinian rights as anti-Semites.
The letter to Machover marks the first known time Labour Party officials have cited the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s document containing a “working definition” of antisemitism as a justification for “formal notice of investigation.”
Until now, Labour’s leadership has only endorsed a two-sentence definition of antisemitism, contained in the controversial document, which does not mention Israel. This letter appears to contradict that distinction.
The document could also define advocating for a single, democratic state in historic Palestine, in which Jews, Muslims and Christians have full and equal rights, as antisemitism, because under the terms of the definition that could be construed as “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.”
* The Weekly Worker was first published in 1993 by the left group opposed to the Euro-communist leadership of the by then dissolved Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). The CPGB spawned a number of progeny:
1) New Communist Party (NCP) 1977 which spawned The Leninist and declared its intention of reforging the party on “firm Leninist principles”.
2) This new – 1992 – party was formally the CPGB-PCC (Provisional Central Committee) but prefer just CPGB. It began publication of the Weekly Worker in 1993. It is distinct from
3) the Communist Party of Britain, which has the electoral rights to the name ‘Communist Party’.
4) Democratic Left. It was established in 1991 when the CPGB decided to reform itself into a left-leaning think-tank based on the party’s Manifesto for New Times. Its secretary was Nina Temple, the last general secretary of the CPGB.