Chris Williamson is right about antisemitism. Right-wingers are gaslighting the Corbyn-led movement.

Chris Williamson
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Labour MP Chris Williamson has been suspended from Labour for saying that the party has been “too apologetic” over allegations of antisemitism. But although he later apologised for those words, Williamson has consistently made an important point. While the Labour leadership has correctly taken strong and swift action against proven cases of antisemitism, the leadership, and the wider ‘Labour left’, has conceded too much ground on the issue. It’s self-destructive to not acknowledge that right-wingers and supporters of Israel’s occupation are gaslighting the Jeremy Corbyn-led movement.

This is a major problem. The weaponisation of antisemitism from Corbyn’s political opponents has:

  • diluted the power of the word ‘antisemitism’, which undermines the struggle against racism both globally and on the UK ‘left’. This risks creating an environment in which antisemitic attacks are more, not less, likely.
  • damaged the political standing of the Corbyn-led movement.
“Disinformation paradigm”

Let’s not forget where the narrative on Labour and antisemitism began. The UK establishment threw all kinds of mud at Corbyn when he first emerged as a front-runner in the 2015 Labour leadership election. But the barrage of stories that Corbyn is secretly in cahoots with Vladimir Putin, has sold British secrets to communist spies or is “the left’s Enoch Powell” were too far-fetched. It was a combination of the legitimate cases of antisemitism in Labour plus the snowballing allegations from Corbyn’s political opponents that did it. The elite finally had something that stuck.

The next step was to smear the whole Corbyn-led movement as ‘antisemitic’. The establishment and its media have tried to do this in two main ways. Firstly, they spotlight the actions of a small minority on the Labour fringe (accusations of antisemitism relate to 0.1% of the membership). And secondly, they publish exaggerated rhetoric from right-wingers. Indeed, an academic study from Goldsmiths shows that the mainstream media’s relentless coverage of Labour antisemitism greatly exaggerates the scale of the problem. Analysing coverage of Labour and antisemitism in summer 2018, the academics concluded:

Following extensive case study research, we identified myriad inaccuracies and distortions in online and television news including marked skews in sourcing, omission of essential context or right of reply, misquotation, and false assertions made either by journalists themselves or sources whose contentious claims were neither challenged nor countered. Overall, our findings were consistent with a disinformation paradigm.

Let’s do better

Yet the Labour leadership and many of its prominent supporters have never called out this “disinformation paradigm” on antisemitism. They seem to forget that only 32% of the UK public trusts “the media in general” and that the UK has the least trusted press in Europe by a distance. They seem not to fully register the fact that centrism is collapsing around the world and a smear campaign is all the ‘free-market’ establishment has left. The leadership and others apparently don’t realise that the elite is on the run and the Corbyn-led movement should be on the offensive. Instead, they apologise over allegations of antisemitism from political opponents, even when those claims are baseless. The latest example is Williamson, whom Labour has essentially suspended for criticising the party’s approach. The MP for Derby North: suspended for calling out the failure of the party to challenge the systematic smearing of its own membership and leader.

Israel’s weaponisation of antisemitism

The attacks do not just come from right-wing Labour figures like Chuka Umunna, who slander the party as “institutionally antisemitic”. Israel’s strategic affairs ministry has an outright “black ops” policy of smearing the Palestine solidarity movement. When it comes to the UK specifically, the Israeli government body has funded and coordinated the “Act.IL” propaganda initiative. This application deploys an online troll army that spreads false propaganda about Corbyn and Labour. This is because the Labour leader has long been strong on upholding Palestinian rights under international law and has a gold-standard record on antiracism.

Read on...

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What’s more, six of the nine Labour MPs who recently quit the party are supporters of the Labour Friends of Israel pressure group. In the Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby, a key Labour Friends of Israel officer admitted to an undercover reporter that it works “really closely” with the Israeli embassy “behind the scenes”. He continued:

It’s just publicly we just try to keep the LFI as a separate identity to the embassy.

These revelations should have been enough for the Labour leadership to call an inquiry into Labour Friends of Israel. But again, the Labour leadership continued in a futile attempt to appease people who only want to destroy its project. Now, a number of the pressure group’s key members have splintered from Labour and are launching yet more damaging attacks on the Corbyn-led movement. And, as ever, the corporate media is aiding and abetting them.

‘Disgraceful efforts to fend off the Corbyn threat’

Partly because of the Labour leadership’s weak response, we are now at the stage where 27% of the UK public think that Corbyn is an antisemite, according to a BMG poll in August 2018. In the words of renowned Jewish intellectual Noam Chomsky, this is a reversal of reality:

The charges of anti-Semitism against Corbyn are without merit, an underhanded contribution to the disgraceful efforts to fend off the threat that a political party might emerge that is led by an admirable and decent human being, a party that is actually committed to the interests and just demands of its popular constituency and the great majority of the population generally

And over 200 Jewish Labour supporters recently agreed:

We believe that the Labour party under the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn is a crucial ally in the fight against bigotry and reaction. His lifetime record of campaigning for equality and human rights, including consistent support for initiatives against antisemitism, is formidable. His involvement strengthens this struggle.

To be clear, the struggle includes tackling antisemitism in Labour’s own ranks. For instance, the party rightly suspended Derek Hatton recently for holding Jewish people collectively responsible for the actions of Israel in a 2012 tweet. But often, the allegations against Corbyn and Labour rely heavily on misrepresentation.

So it’s crucial that the Labour leadership and many of its prominent supporters are stronger on calling out the bottom line: the media and right-wing storm over this is predominantly a smear campaign. Because it’s never going to stop until Corbyn either resigns or makes ever greater concessions on foreign policy, particularly on Palestinian rights.

Featured image via Twitter – BBC Newsnight

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  • Show Comments
    1. So who funds Labour Friends of Israel? Is a registered lobby group from Israel supporting this group in various ways?
      Is it the Institute of Statecraft financed by the Tories in League with Israelly/American Axis. What intrigue!
      Where’s the truth which is purported not to exist any longer.
      A purely volunteer movement seems unlikely considering all these voices use the same words.
      Was Chris Williamson really suspended? He’s only one who can see what’s going on, and with the courage to speak up about it. The critizism about the labour Party quelling “dissent” ? unnesessarily is a concern to be respected then.

    2. The government of Israel had a hand in creating LFI and for sure Benjamin Netanyahu is pulling strings to keep it on top of the news.

      This antisemitism issue is a red herring and it is to destabilise Labour, the UK and the EU. And it is working.

      Attacking Chris Williamson for speaking the truth is what Watson should be ashamed of. This is a time when we need a strong opposition and this antisemitism issue is needlessly tearing the party apart.

      Watson cannot be so stupid that he does not see what is happening so one must assume that he is using it as a way to benefit his own career. It is certainly cannot be to protect the 600,000 odd people of the Jewish faith in the UK.

    3. The net keeps widening of those who so many on this website think are stupid/tories/pro Israeli/ careerists etc etc.
      Have your Labour Party and your aggression at any dissent. Many of us have decided we’re out,

      1. Something tells me that you were never ” IN ” in the first place Shakey .
        The warmongering Neoliberal Blairite party you so desperately desire is over , and we are so much better for it as a true DS Labour party.
        The party has gone from strength to strength since it changed to a democratic socialist party and it will continue to do just fine without the likes of you and your destructive cohorts,, good riddance but somehow I doubt goodbye as I suspect that your asinine comments will still infect the intelligent discussion here.
        The very best of misfortune to you and your love in with the Tinge TIG party.

          1. Yours is not a view , just a pompous and destrucitve series of comments , which illustrates your self centred stance and mind . You may not want a Democratic Socialist Govt that will help and protect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society , but I do .You maybe quite happy with a Tory Govt or your friends in the Tinge Party ( enabling the same ) but I am not .
            You may not like the responses you get to your so called comments , tough shit , it’s nothing compared to what the poor and homeless have to put up with from this murderous Tory Govt . You should be utterly ashamed of yourself taking the side of the 1% .

    4. The narrative goes as follows:

      “Jews are victims” – that statement is the starting point for any discussion. Anything that does not conform to that statement is, by definition, wrong. It therefore follows that Jews cannot be perpetrators. Anyone who suggests that any Jews might have committed abusive acts – whether members of the government of the state of Israel, or bankers (some of them Jewish) who financed the slave trade – is contradicting the established narrative, and is therefore by definition anti-semitic.

      The problem is exacerbated by the fact that, as I see it, those promoting this fiction have gaslighted themselves. They are so invested in being victims, that they cannot allow themselves to believe any alternative to be true.

      The reality is that the whole notion of victims and perpetrators is a means to divide the world into “us” and “them”. “Them – the perpetrators” being against “us – the victims”. It simplifies the world and removes any need for critical thinking. It also denies the reality that human beings do not fit neatly into categories such as these.

      1. Hi Sophie!

        Just to say: I would refrain from pointing out the extent to which Jewish people financed the slave trade or are members of the ruling class.

        Simply because their Jewishness is irrelevant. British non-Jews also financed these things. What they have in common is not religion or race, but their joint desire for money and power.

        In fact, the ruling class would much prefer you talk about their religion, rather than criticising the structures that enable their rule i.e. shareholder capitalism. Because, as you say, it enables them to paint themselves as victims and divide people based on religion/race.

        James x

        1. You are of course correct. It is important, however, to counter the current narrative that implies that, as “victims” Jews cannot be perpetrators. The same applies to all groups who suffer or have suffered discrimination. We all have the capacity for harmful thoughts and acts – human beings do not fall neatly into the victim/perpetrator, good/bad model.

          You’re right, their Jewishness is utterly irrelevant. The problem is that there is a powerful Jewish lobby which absolutely insists that the label either placed upon them, or adopted by them, *is* relevant; indeed, is more relevant than their existence as unique individuals, and further adopt the role of victim as a consequence.

          It is a trap, set up for the rest of us; and we have to walk into that trap, if we are not to collude with things that we know to be wrong. We can either, therefore, collude with the narrative (like Tom Watson) or walk into that trap with our eyes wide open, and prepared, as Chris Williamson said originally, not to apologise for doing so, but to stand by our convictions.

          As it happens I am Jewish – at least I had a Jewish mother – I am also gay. Whilst these facts play a factor in my life, I don’t identify with either camp (pun intended) as more important than my unique humanity. In other words, if I am criticised, I am more inclined to take such criticism personally, rather than to deflect it as indicative of either homophobia or anti-semitism.

      2. sophie100:
        “Anyone who suggests that any Jews might have committed abusive acts – whether members of the government of the state of Israel, or bankers (some of them Jewish) who financed the slave trade – is contradicting the established narrative, and is therefore by definition anti-semitic.”

        Who has ever claimed that it is antisemitic to suggest such things?

        1. How about the artwork of Bankers oppressing the People, that Corbyn “liked” on social media. It contained caricatures of real “top six” bankers. They were sitting round a table that used people as its legs. An obvious comment on Capitalism. Two of these bankers were Jewish. Even though these two men were bankers and only (accurately) two of the six portrayed, this artwork was deemed antisemitic, and Corbyn was forced to apologise.

          In the opinion of the artist, these six men had committed abuses against the majority of the worlds population. This is a defensible position, not some crackpot conspiracy theory. So, should the artist have just portrayed four of the top six and given the Jewish bankers a free pass in case it was a trope?

          Seems a bit dangerous if the things you cannot say about a group, include them having large amounts of money or power, even if they blatantly do. Also dangerous if you cannot call them out on conspiring or trying to exert influence in an underhand way. Their membership of a minority group should not trump their actions as an individual.

            1. Yes, I do.

              If you would like to make a case as to why it is “deeply disturbing and anti-Semitic”, I am all ears. Please address my points above as to why it is not so.

    5. I do not feel that it was antisemitic for Derek Hatton to call on Jews to speak out against Israeli atrocities. White people are often asked to condemn racism, Men are often asked by feminists to call out other men on sexual harassment, and non Jews are asked to speak out against antisemitism, and no one has ever been suspended from any major party for asking Muslims to condemn ISIS. Also, his tweet was later removed.

      Much of the “antisemitism” narrative is to make critics of Israel mind their Ps and Qs, if not silencing them altogether, and it is succeeding. When I was in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign there were a large number of Jews involved, and when Jews speak out against Israel it is more effective.

      1. Frank I see what you are saying about men and sexual harassment. But there is a difference. Men are not a historically abused minority and sexual harassment is a widespread issue in almost every country.

        By contrast, why should a Jewish person in London have any responsibility for the actions of the far-right regime in Israel?

        I think we should move away from such identity politics.

    6. The media is consistently avoiding the Israel connection. I posed a question on Guardian’s CIF on Wednesday…simply,”Are we allowed to mention Israel?” Within two minutes, my comment had been deleted.
      The answer is no. But it’s not just the media. Jeremy has avoided mentioning the word Palestine for nearly three years….just a couple of throwaway lines at Conference. The party has a whole is in a funk; it’s up to us, the members, to keep Palestinian aspirations alive in the UK.

      1. People are getting ratlled but they aren’t wearing brown shirts and they aren’t Corbyn supporters. Nothing else has stuck on Corbyn, except for the fake anti-semitism claim, and because that’s all they have, the centrists just keep coming back to it again and again.

        Last time, it became so obvious that Margaret Hodges claim to know how it felt to be in the holocaust because she was put on what effectively amounts to a works disciplnary, just ended up being derided on social media. Even people in the forums of the Mail, Times and Telegraph were starting to say this is getting beyond believable.

        So, the main question is how long are the memories of those people and will the majority still see it as the BS it is next time they fire up the anti Corbyn campaign. The fact that the independent group won’t call by elections suggests they don’t believe they’d win in a fair contest.

    7. The labour Friends of Isreal ought to really break away from Labour, and start their own party.
      Be out in the open, and unafraid of using misinformation.
      Jeremy Sands could then vote for them, and have a voice in an election instead of walking about with his anger in the shadows.
      He could then campaign under the brilliance of democracy.

      1. Don’t feed the troll , loon , Sands is well known and has a long and undistinguished career of trolling . Agreed re LFI , better still they should be dis-affiliated from Labour and replaced by the excellent JVL whom are not acting on behalf of the Israeli Govt.

    8. Well, well, well, your giving us the definition of what a smear is. I way I see it Isreal was begun with a shallow minded treaty by the British, just like what happened to the Chagos Islanders you may have read about recently. The problem of what to do about the Palestinians isn’t going away. Are you just going to keep shooting them? Smearing Corbyn when he supports the human rights of everyone isn’t the answer from what I see.
      Its a shame Corbyn in a capitulation to find some peace with you has suspended Chris Williamson. He has courage, and you will need courage here to find a solution to this impossible social mess which simply just goes on killing people. Courage is a wonderful attribute I think as it keeps one’s eyes open to solutions in the presence of fear, and intimidation which may not appear to everyone else. It isn’t narrow minded.
      How long has this Palestinian/Isrealy dispute been going on?
      Looks like a forever now unless you start thinking differently.

    9. The weaponization of anti-Semitism will backfire and hurt the Jewish people in Britain by actually increasing anti-Semitism. It is giving fuel to the real anti-Semites who are saying “we told you so, the Jews are running politics and the Jewish Bankers want to prevent a Labour Government that will renationalise industries. Furthermore, the rise of a Corbyn government and the hope of its manifesto has derailed the right and prevented the ascendancy it has enjoyed in Europe. If these smears succeed and the labour party becomes unelectable this will open the floodgates to the right who harbour the mass of anti-Semites. But to be frank the Israeli Embassy sees itself in a win-win situation. Having promoted anti-Semitism around the world particularly in the Arab world, they have encouraged more Jews to emigrate to Israel.

    10. “”Hard-left? Hardly – point out a policy that is hard left please.”” DWPVictim

      “As for policies, upping corp tax which will not hit big MNCs that can reorganise to minimise tax is one, and will hit only UK businesses” Crawford_60

      Labour wants to return the corp tax to 26%, from the 19% it is now and from the 17% that the Tories are about to implement. 26% puts us around the middle of European corporate tax rates rather than near the bottom (although still the lowest in the G7). Hardly an extreme proposal (not hard-anything)

      “Also the idiotic slush-fund that will require companies to put up to 10% of their shares aside for employees without any merit”

      It’s only 1% per year over 10 years. Germany (that hotbed of hard-left policies) has something similar.

      “Also rescinding laws on trades unions, look at Birmingham to see what Britain would be like if that fat slug McCluskey and other union barons get free-rein from a Labour governmant.” Crawford_60

      Have you not been an employee over the last 15 years? Workers rights, have been diminished horribly. Employers are taking the piss and will not improve things unless they are forced to. History has shown the Unions to be the most effective way to do this.

      “Also the idiotic notion of a national investment bank, Just failed 1970s Industrial Policy by another name when failing businesses were nationalised. This would up borrowing which of itself is no bad thing but should be done with a benefit in sight.” Crawford_60

      I do not know enough about the ramifications of a NIBank to know if this is a good idea, but I suspect that neither do you. I have read that it would reduce the likelihood of another severe financial crash, that we are probably heading for, due to no real structural changes being made after the last one (despite structural problems being identified as a major cause and recommendations for changes).

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