Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Labour to Adopt New Rules to Fight Anti-Semitism.

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This Blog is amongst those who consider that anti-Semitism is a problem.

It has become increasingly to the fore as what our French comrades call “political confusionism” has infected a part of the left. This ranges from those who adopt the ‘anti-imperialism of fools’, that is taking the attitude that Israel is the major threat in world politics, and that ‘anti-imperialists’ have to align with the opponents of ‘Zionism’ to outright anti-Jewish individuals.

A range of political belief, parties and groups, centred on the belief that the state of Israel is the legitimate expression of Jewish national aspirations, without necessarily agreeing on the actions of that state, or its policies, is always referred to as “Zionism”, without qualification.

It is possible to be opposed to this from many standpoints.

We could start with the position of Hannah Arendt, who for all her distance from orthodox socialism,  has deeply influenced a whole part of the left, including the writer of this Blog.

Arendt had been a tireless advocate for Jewish victims and for the existence of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine, but she envisioned the homeland as a federated, pluralistic, democratic, secular state — a homeland for Palestinians and Jews coexisting peacefully as neighbours without an official state religion. This may seem a pipe dream now, but in early Zionism this was called the “general” view. The “revisionist” view that Israel must be a Jewish state and a homeland only for Jews did not come to dominate the discourse until the end of World War II, when the Holocaust was revealed in its full terror and destruction.

Arendt’s statement, ” to a principled liberal, truth and justice must always be higher values than patriotism.” applies a fortiori  to socialists.

We do not share her latter belief in the overwhelming  virtues of citizenship wedded to national sovereignty for the following reasons:

  •  internationalists who are against nationalism, or putting the interests of one ‘people’ first, rather than universal interests, would be opposed to  movements that give priority to a nation,  even if few would be so childish as to deny people’s self-defined right to form a state that is national.
  •  one can oppose the specific forms of nationalism that various Zionist groups and parties have taken – that is the founding moment of Israel as a territory, state and administration.  Arendt
  • Many more people may be against specific policies, such as the occupation of the West Bank the failure to reach agreements with the Palestinians to the legislation inside Israel that favours one section of the community over the other.

Put simply, we can criticise Israel from the standpoint of universal values.

Those who are dedicated to fighting for the national rights of the Palestinians and yet who oppose the existential right of Israel, that is its existence, seem in a poor position to criticise the nationalist premise of Israel.

For reasons many of us find hard to grasp Israel is considered as the embodiment of evil, far outclassing the threats posed by, say, Assad, the genocidal Islamists of ISIS, the ethnic cleansers of Burma, the murderous armed bands at work in Central Africa, and, so it goes.

Modern-day anti-semitism is often mixed in with self-descriptions as Anti-Zionism, as in the French based Parti anti-Sioniste, which finds evidence of Zionist activity even in Algeria: “It seems that Algeria is still under increased supervision and threat from US-ZIONISTS as shown by the recent seizure of spy equipment at Algeria’s airport in a flight from Qatar.” In 2012 these ‘anti-Zionists” stood Holocaust denier the ‘humoriste Dieudonné ” as a candidate in legislative elections.

That indicates clearly that while we agree wholly that anti-Zionism -is not in itself at all  anti-Semitic, many anti-Semites call themselves anti-Zionist.

With this in mind we look at the following:

The Labour Party has reached this decision:

Labour is to adopt tough new rules to tackle antisemitism following a heated debate at the party’s annual conference, but some activists have accused the party of policing “thought crime”.

The change comes after Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, pledged that the party would investigate how it gave a platform at a conference fringe event to a speaker, Miko Peled, who said people should be allowed to question whether the Holocaust happened.

Senior Labour figures will hope that the passing of the rule change on Tuesday will send a signal that the party is prepared to get tough on anti-Jewish hate speech within its ranks.

The rule change proposed by the Jewish Labour Movement, which has been backed by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the party’s national executive committee, will tighten explicitly the party’s stance towards members who are antisemitic or use other forms of hate speech, including racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia.

Momentum, the grassroots leftwing group that has been Corbyn’s key support base, told delegates in its daily alert on Tuesday that they should vote in favour of the motion. The majority of the delegates at this year’s conference are aligned with Momentum; the group’s backing for the rule change means it is highly likely to pass.

Although the majority of Labour members are expected to back the amendment, there was heated debate after the change was proposed in the conference hall.

Delegate Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, who chaired the controversial fringe event on Monday night, was one of those who spoke against the rule change.

Wimborne-Idrissi, one of the founders of the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Labour, said she was concerned the change referenced the “holding of beliefs” as opposed to expressing them. “Holding them? That’s thought crime, comrades, and we can’t be having it,” she said.

Hastings and Rye delegate Leah Levane also attacked the JLM’s change, saying the group did not speak for all Jews in the party.

Levane’s local party had proposed an alternative change, which described anti-Zionism as “legitimate political discourse” that should not be taken as evidence of hatred of Jews, but it said she would withdraw this because “the pressure is too great … We are not going to be risk being seen as the splitters”.

This row remains live:

The party was engulfed in an antisemitism row on the morning of the rule change debate, after remarks by Peled, an Israeli-American author, at an event on free speech and Israel. The Daily Mail reported that he said: “This is about free speech, the freedom to criticise and to discuss every issue, whether it’s the Holocaust: yes or no, Palestine, the liberation, the whole spectrum. There should be no limits on the discussion.

“It’s about the limits of tolerance: we don’t invite the Nazis and give them an hour to explain why they are right; we do not invite apartheid South Africa racists to explain why apartheid was good for the blacks, and in the same way we do not invite Zionists – it’s a very similar kind of thing.”

At the same meeting the Daily Mirror reports,

During the discussion, Michael Kalmanovitz, a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, said the claims were part of a right-wing effort to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the left.

He went on to call for two pro-Israeli groups to be expelled from the party.

He said: “The thing is, if you support Israel, you support apartheid. So what is the JLM (Jewish Labour Movement) and Labour Friends of Israel doing in our party? Kick them out.”

Loud cheers, applause and calls of “throw them out” erupted in the room of around a hundred activists in response.

The Guardian continues,

Watson said Labour’s conference organising committee would investigate how Peled had been given a seat on a panel at the event.

“I’m sure these allegations from the fringe, which is nothing to do with the Labour party, will be investigated,” he said. “It is disgusting to deny the Holocaust. These people are cranks, they have no role in the mainstream of politics and we certainly don’t want them in the Labour party.”

Watson said antisemitism “has always been there on the fringes … But it is a very small number of people in our society, if they get involved in the Labour party we want them out”.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, also condemned Peled’s remarks and gave his backing to the rule change. “I hope the conference votes for that motion because we should have absolute zero tolerance when it comes to the quite disgusting and pitiful antisemitism that sadly we’re sometimes seeing on social media these days,” he said.

A party spokesman said: “Labour condemns antisemitism in the strongest possible terms and our national executive committee unanimously passed tough new rule changes last week. All groupings in the party should treat one another with respect. We will not tolerate antisemitism or Holocaust denial.”

Responding to the row in a series of tweets Peled said he did not deny the Holocaust, and suggested that Watson and Ashworth were confusing freedom of speech with antisemitism

“Oh boy! … free speech is now antisemitism too… @UKLabour should know better” he said in one tweet.

 He followed this with the following comment, referring to the ‘Holocaust’ of Global Warming,

Written by Andrew Coates

September 26, 2017 at 5:02 pm

One Response

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  1. Andrew Coates

    September 27, 2017 at 4:52 pm


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