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Criminalising criticism of Israel is not anti-racism

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Britain's Labour has suspended its former leader Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism allegations (Screenshot via YouTube)

UK Labour has suspended former leader Jeremy Corbyn for allegedly not taking seriously allegations of anti-Semitism in the party. Dr Martin Hirst examines the allegations and background to this case.

THE ROW ABOUT anti-Semitism in British Labour has been simmering for a number of years and a number of high-profile cases have been alleged leading to suspensions, resignations and recriminations.

The final straw was a damning report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released late last week which found two proven cases of unlawful discrimination based on the allegations of anti-Semitism and several others it considered ‘borderline’ but was unable to prove.

The suspension of Corbyn – a popular Left-wing MP – is likely to cause further ructions in UK Labour and possibly even split the party.

Current leader Keir Starmer is backing the suspension of Corbyn and may well demand he be expelled from the party.

However, the allegations of anti-Semitism being systemic in UK Labour do not stand up to serious scrutiny and the EHRC report is flawed because it equates political criticism of the Israeli State and Israeli Government policy with anti-Jewish racism.

It has been a long-standing strategic aim of Zionist political forces to press their claim that any criticism of Israel is de facto anti-Semitism because it helps them to deflect legitimate criticism of Israel — particularly its ongoing and illegal occupation of Palestine and the terrorisation of the Palestinian people on a daily basis.

Just this week, graphic images emerged of Israeli soldiers murdering a 16-year-old Palestinian, Palestinian farmers had their olive groves bulldozed, a young Israeli woman who is refusing to do national service has been gaoled and Twitter suspended pro-Palestine accounts after heavy lobbying by the Zionist state.

The Zionist lobby – a term the Zionist lobby absurdly claims is anti-Semitic – would rather the world not know about the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians and the wilful destruction of their homes and livelihood to enable further illegal settlement of their lands by Zionist militants.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is also facing its own crisis at home with thousands of Israelis (most of them actually Jewish, by the way) protesting consistently for months against corruption. Netanyahu himself is facing several serious charges including that he accepted inappropriate gifts from Australian gambling billionaire, James Packer.

Netanyahu’s Tourism Minister, Asaf Zamir, resigned a month ago to protest the PM putting his personal legal troubles ahead of the national response to COVID-19. The Israeli Government will be grateful to have been handed an international distraction on a plate to draw attention away from its own failings and many ongoing war crimes in the occupied territories (Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem).

The ERHC report

The machinations within the UK’s anti-discrimination body, the EHRC, are opaque, so we may never know how they reached their conclusions in this matter, but the language in their report is distinctly Orwellian. Two incidents are cited in the report – titled ‘Investigation into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party’ – as being the subject of many complaints from Jewish organisations and individuals associated with the Labour Party

The first concerns former Labour executive Ken Livingstone and finds him guilty of anti-Semitism for denying that the actions of another person were anti-Semitic. This whole verdict rests on the assumption that the actions of the first person were themselves anti-Semitic. This is convoluted thinking at best given that this report makes no finding against that first person.

Are you following this?

Let’s look at the facts as laid out by the EHRC report:

  • in April 2016 a Labour MP, Naz Shah, posted on social media a graphic in which Israel was located inside a map of the United States with the comment ‘problem solved’. She also made a post ‘in which she appeared to liken Israeli policies to those of Hitler’. Shah apologised a few days later because of the fuss made by the British Zionist lobby. Shah was also suspended by the Labour Party (wrongly, in my view);
  • Ken Livingstone made comments supportive of Shah and denied the posts were anti-Semitic. The EHRC was having none of this, declaring – a priori – that Livingstone’s comments must be anti-Semitic;
  • the EHRC then cites the concocted outrage whipped up and takes at face value that making any comment at all about the Zionist lobby groups, who routinely claim anti-Semitism to protect Israel from criticism, is itself a form of anti-Semitism; and
  • the EHRC – accepting without any investigation of its own – then found that Livingstone was guilty of ‘unlawful harassment’ under Section 101(4)(a) of the Equality Act which prohibits ‘associations’ of discriminating against or harassing ‘associates’. In the words of the EHRC report: ‘Ken Livingstone’s comments, set out above, were unwanted conduct related to Jewish ethnicity.’

There are several astonishing leaps of logic in this reasoning — in fact, it is not reasoning at all. The EHRC has abdicated its duty to fully investigate claims of discrimination and harassment and has relied on complainants with a dubious and obviously political motivation.

This is obvious if you follow what I’ve set out above:

  1. the original comments by Naz Shah were directed at the Israeli State, not Jews as an ethnic group;
  2. Livingstone’s comments were about the politics of the situation, not about Jewish people as a religious or ethnic group;
  3. without any irony or self-consciousness, the ERHC then finds that the comments were ‘related to Jewish ethnicity’ after all; and
  4. the “evidence” is a series of political complaints from groups and individuals who have a stated mission and purpose to deflect criticism of Israel by making unfounded complaints of anti-Semitism.

The second case, involving Labour councillor Pam Bromley, is an even clearer example of conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Again, the allegations surround social media posts – between April 2018 and December 2019 – that the same vested interests who complained about Naz Shah went into a confected rage about.

In this case, too, the disputed posts were clearly political and not directed at any person or group because of their Jewish ethnicity or religion. I don’t have space to detail all of the posts; they are summarised in the EHRC document in Appendix 2 (pp.108). Suffice to say that, once again, the EHRC has (deliberately?) conflated legitimate political criticism of Israel and sarcasm with anti-Semitism. Bromley was suspended and eventually expelled from the Labour Party in February this year.

What makes this case even more egregious – Bromley was duly convicted of the same “thoughtcrime” as Livingstone – is that her personal Facebook posts were shoehorned into that old ill-fitting box of ‘acting in the course of her authorised functions’. The EHRC also takes the low road of invoking Godwin’s Law to condemn Bromley for making anti-capitalist comments and mentioning Nazis in a post about capitalism that incidentally mentioned the Rothschild family.

I've now had a chance to read the EHRC report in full, and am stunned by how weak it is. It's the biggest load of...

Posted by Pam Bromley on Friday, October 30, 2020

Bromley was explaining herself in this post and I can’t see anything wrong with what she wrote. The rest of Pam Bromley’s posts were all explicitly political and directly address the issue of confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Once again, the HERC has abrogated its responsibility to investigate the complaints fairly and in context. The accusations against Bromley are a sham and the findings of this report corrupt.

By publishing its flawed report and accusing the UK Labour Party of criminal behaviour in relation to allegations of anti-Semitism, the EHRC is legitimating attempts to criminalise anti-Zionist political speech.

And Corbyn’s alleged sins against this Zionist orthodoxy? He commented that the claims of anti-Semitism are politically motivated and overblown.

The sanctioning of Corbyn and his possible expulsion from Labour is the culmination of an organised campaign to discredit him that has been ongoing since he claimed the Labour Party leadership in September 2015.

Corbyn is hated by the British establishment – including the so-called progressive journalists at The Guardian – and from day one of his leadership, the British Zionist lobby has created a campaign of hate and fear to undermine him. Corbyn has never hidden his support for the Palestinian struggle and this has made him a target for those who wish to support the State of Israel and its imperialist backers.

Corbyn has always had more support among rank-and-file members of the Labour Party than inside its conservative establishment and since he took over, Keir Starmer has been a pale imitation of an opposition leader — something we are familiar with in Labor leader Anthony Albanese.

Corbyn’s supporters are right to argue that Starmer wants to drive the Left out of the Labour Party and he is using the ridiculous and gaslighting claims of anti-Semitism as cover for his own political ambitions.

We have to be clear — being an opponent of the Israeli State and the political project of Israel’s position as a client State of imperialism in the Middle East is a political position based on a clear understanding of Zionism. This is not the same thing as anti-Jewish racism based on either religion or ethnicity. It serves the political interests of Zionism to confuse the issue.

The findings of the EHRC in this case and UK Labour’s willingness to jettison principle in the face of the Zionist offensive are a backward step in combatting both Zionist expansionism in Palestine and anti-Semitism.

Dr Martin Hirst is an Independent Australia columnist, a journalist, author and academic. You can follow him on Twitter @ethicalmartini.

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