One way or another the new leadership regime was going to find a way of ridding the Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn’s influence. But their method is dumb enough to backfire.
As reported in the Guardian, Jeremy Corbyn said he did not accept all of the Equality & Human Rights Commission’s findings on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. In a statement he said the scale of the problem was “dramatically overstated for political reasons”.
A Labour spokesman said: “In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation. He has also had the whip removed from the parliamentary Labour party.”
And the new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “I made it clear that we would not support antisemitism or the denial of antisemitism through the suggestion that it is exaggerated or factional and that is why I was disappointed by Jeremy Corbyn’s response and that is why appropriate action has been taken, which I fully support.”
Unhappily for Starmer the EHRC report gives Corbyn the green light to say what he did.
Starmer is gaining a reputation for getting it wrong. His scalp has been dangling on the lodge-pole of the Board of Deputies of British Jews since Day One of his leadership, and only a few months ago he sacked Corbyn ally Rebecca Long-Bailey from his front bench for – yes, you’ve guessed it – indulging in “antisemitic conspiracy theories”.
According toThe Independent the row began when Ms Long-Bailey praised an interview with the actress Maxine Peake in which she stated that US police responsible for the death of George Floyd had learned tactics from the Israeli security forces. Starmer said sharing that article was wrong because it “contained antisemitic conspiracy theories. I have therefore stood Rebecca Long-Bailey down from the shadow cabinet. I’ve made it my first priority to tackle antisemitism and rebuilding trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority for me.”
On his first day as leader he had written to the Board of Deputies promising to “tear out this poison [anti-Semitism] by its roots”. The BoD’s president Marie van der Zyl triumphantly displayed Starmer’s servile missive like a trophy scalp on the BoD’s tepee. She was equally gushing in her appreciation of Starmer’s harsh dismissal of Long-Bailey saying: “We wrote to her detailing how this conspiracy theory is false and requesting she delete her tweet and issue an apology.”
So what are these “antisemitic conspiracy theories” Starmer and van der Zyl were talking about? Did they think to first check sources like AmnestyUSA which as far back as 2016 was reporting:
“Baltimore law enforcement officials, along with hundreds of others from Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington state as well as the DC Capitol police have all traveled to Israel for training. Thousands of others have received training from Israeli officials here in the U.S.
“These trainings put Baltimore police and other U.S. law enforcement employees in the hands of military, security and police systems that have racked up documented human rights violations for years. Amnesty International, other human rights organizations and even the U.S. Department of State have cited Israeli police for carrying out extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, using ill treatment and torture (even against children), suppression of freedom of expression/association including through government surveillance, and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.”
And Starmer’s minders surely saw a recent report on the police killing of George Floyd in the Morning Star saying that “at least 100 Minnesota police officers attended a 2012 conference hosted by the Israeli consulate in Chicago, the second time such an event had been held. There they learned the violent techniques used by Israeli forces as they terrorise the occupied Palestinian territories under the guise of security operations.”
Starmer, sadly, hadn’t been paying attention. Then, of course, there’s his prejudice. Times of Israel reported that he told Jewish News: “I support Zionism without qualification…” This is an extraordinary statement from a lawyer who specialised in human rights to say. Zionists don’t believe in anyone’s rights except their own.
What the Equality & Humans Rights Commission actually said
The EHRC, in its report, has some harsh things to say about Labour. For example:
“Our investigation has identified serious failings in leadership and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints… and we have identified multiple failures in the systems it uses to resolve them. We have concluded that there were unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination for which the Labour Party is responsible.”
“….It is hard not to conclude that antisemitism within the Labour Party could have been tackled more effectively if the leadership had chosen to do so.”
It also says some interesting things:
“The recommendations in this report provide a foundation to assist all politicians and political leaders in adhering to equality law, while still protecting freedom of expression and engaging in the robust and wide-ranging debate that is a core part of living in a democratic society.”
“A significant number of the other complaints we looked at demonstrated what we considered to be antisemitic conduct. However, there was either:
# not enough evidence to show that the Labour Party was legally responsible for that conduct
# the conduct was by an ‘ordinary’ member of the Labour Party, whose conduct the Party could not be legally responsible for under equality law, or
# we were not satisfied that evidence of the harmful effect of the conduct was enough to outweigh the freedom of expression rights of the individual concerned.”
This seems to confirm that too many complaints were exaggerated or groundless. The two cases I looked into myself (and reported to the Commission) were mischievous, evil and needlessly damaging to those on the receiving end (both councillors).
The Commission confirms that:
“Speech does not lose the protection of Article 10 [of theEuropean Convention on Human Rights] just because it is offensive, provocative or would be regarded by some as insulting.”
“Statements made by elected politicians have enhanced protection under Article 10.”
“Relevant factors will include whether speech is intended to inform rather than offend, whether it forms part of an ongoing debate of public interest and whether it consists of alleged statements of fact, or of value judgment.”
“Article 10 will protect Labour Party members who, for example, make legitimate criticisms of the Israeli government, or express their opinions on internal Party matters, such as the scale of antisemitism within the Party, based on their own experience and within the law.”
So Jeremy Corbyn was perfectly entitled to make the remarks he has been suspended for.
But the Commission also says some worrying things:
“We find the Labour Party’s practice or policy, before August 2020, of failing to provide adequate training to those handling antisemitism complaints, amounted to unlawful indirect discrimination against its Jewish members.”
“Develop all education and training programmes on antisemitism in consultation with Jewish stakeholders.”
Here the Commission, given its “equality” brief, seems to defeat its own purpose. By focusing exclusively on anti-Semitism, it helps make that seem more important than other forms of racism. Isn’t the Commission itself discriminating against those suffering from e.g. Islamophobia? Shouldn’t the Commission be demanding training and procedures to tackle racism generally rather than just anti-Semitism? And why should only Jewish stakeholder be consulted?
Nor does the Commission get to grips with the tangled language: what exactly is anti-Semitism and who are the Semites? Central to the problem is the unfortunate fact that predominantly non-Semitic Jews running the Jewish State are brutally oppressing and dispossessing Semitic Christians and Semitic Muslims who are among the indigenous people of the Holy Land. And how many Jews in the UK who make such a fuss about anti-Semitism are themselves Semitic?
What does the Commission say about the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism?
“Some concerns have been raised about aspects of the IHRA approach. We note the approach of the Home Affairs Select Committee, namely that it is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, to criticise the Israeli government, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.
“The IHRA definition is not legally binding. To identify any unlawful acts by the Labour Party we need to apply the definitions contained in the Equality Act 2010.”
This is in line with top legal opinion expressed some time ago (for example by Hugh Tomlinson QC, Sir Stephen Sedley and Geoffrey Robertson QC) warning that the definition is “most unsatisfactory”, has no legal force, and using it to punish could be unlawful. It should not be adopted and certainly should not be applied by public bodies unless they are clear about Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which is binding upon them. Furthermore it cuts across the right of free expression enshrined in UK domestic law and backed up by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Labour Party members – and especially Starmer – should know all this. The prohibitive IHRA definition is not something a sane organisation would incorporate into its Code of Conduct.
Anti-Semitism “dramatically overstated for political reasons”? Judge for yourself
Surprisingly, the Commission didn’t seem to know that the Israel lobby for several years had been waging a war inside and outside the Labour Party to smear and vilify its leader. An upsurge in carefully orchestrated allegations of anti-Semitism coincided with the arrival of Mark Regev in 2016 as Israel’s new ambassador in London. Regev is an ace propagandist, hasbara expert and former spokesman for Israel’s extremist prime minister. So, carefully chosen for this job at that critical time.
Soon after taking up his post it was revealed that a senior political officer at the embassy, Shai Masot, had been plotting with stooges among British MPs and activists to “take down” senior government figures including Boris Johnson’s deputy at the Foreign Office, Sir Alan Duncan. The Foreign Office and Johnson promptly dismissed the Shai Masot affair, saying: “The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.”
But Masot was an employee of the Israeli embassy and probably a Mossad agent. His hostile scheming was captured and exposed by an Al Jazeera undercover investigation and not, as one would have hoped, by Britain’s own security services and press. This is when the escalation to de-stabilize Labour under Corbyn really began. Funny how the mainstream failed to connect Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in September 2015, Regev’s arrival in April 2016 and Masot’s activities later that year.
Ever since Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, the pro-Israel lobby has been terrified by the possibility that, if he became prime minister, Britain’s tolerance of Israel’s crimes against Palestinians and other Arab neighbours would end, and so would trade and arms deals. Three years ago Israeli insider Miko Peled, a former Israeli soldier and the son of an Israeli general, warned that Israel was going to “pull all the stops, they are going to smear, they are going to try anything they can to stop Corbyn” and the reason anti-Semitism is used is because they have no other argument.
His prediction was spot-on. In July 2018 three Jewish newspapers – Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph – ganged up to publish similar front pages and a joint editorial claiming that a Corbyn-led government would pose an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country”.
Then, in the run-up to last year’s general election, came Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’s brazen religious intervention to damage Jeremy Corbyn’s election chances. As the Jewish Chroniclereported:
….the Chief Rabbi said: “The claims by leadership figures in the Labour Party that it is ‘doing everything’ it reasonably can to tackle the scourge of anti-Jewish racism and that it has ‘investigated every single case’ are a mendacious fiction.”
And he asked: “How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be in order to be considered unfit for high office?”
In a sustained attack on Corbyn’s party, Mirvis wrote: “The party leadership have never understood that their failure is not just one of procedure… It is a failure of culture. It is a failure of leadership. A new poison – sanctioned from the very top – has taken root in the Labour Party.”
Mirvis is reported to have accompanied ex-chief rabbi Sacks on the annual Jerusalem Day March of the Flags in 2017. “This march has come to be associated with growing levels of hate speech and racist violence,” saysTimes of Israel. Correspondent for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, Bradley Burston, describes it as “an annual, gender-segregated, extreme-right, pro-occupation religious carnival of hatred, marking the anniversary of Israel’s capture of Jerusalem by humiliating the city’s Palestinian Muslims. We knew what was coming from previous years, in which marchers have vandalized shops in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter, chanted: ‘Death to Arabs’ and ‘The (Jewish) temple will be built, the (Al Aqsa) Mosque will be burned down,’ shattered windows and door locks and poured glue into the locks of shops forced to close for fear of further damage.”
And in 2015 Burston wrote: “The Flag Parade, and with it, Jerusalem Day, has come to symbolize the worst in us. Arrogance, xenophobia, brute dominance, racist hatred. A march of, by, and for, the worst of our worst.”
So why would Labour – or indeed the rest of us – need lectures on culture, poison or racial hatred from someone who marches with the worst of Israel’s worst?
If Starmer isn’t aware of the orchestrated campaign, again he hasn’t been paying attention.
*(Top image Credit: Jessica Taylor/ UK Parliament)