Don’t be disheartened

Despite the outrageous expulsion of Moshé Machover, writes Tony Greenstein, Labour’s pro-Zionists are increasingly isolated

Life in today's Labour Party

Imagine if, during the apartheid era, white South African exiles opposed to the apartheid regime had been expelled from the Labour Party for ‘racism’ against whites. Crazy? Imagine there had been a Labour Friends of (White) South Africa which had demanded the expulsion of these ‘anti-white’ racists. Even more ludicrous. Well that is exactly the situation in the Labour Party today.

Israel has two organisations working inside or alongside the Labour Party seeking to subvert its democracy. As we saw from the Al Jazeera programme ‘The lobby’,1 the Israeli embassy, headed by its war criminal ambassador, Mark Regev, has deliberately sought to interfere in and destabilise the party alongside creatures such as Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement. The South Africans tried this kind of thing, but with less success.

The aim of the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel is to help in the overthrow of Jeremy Corbyn, who, despite his appeasement of the Israel lobby, is seen as a dire and mortal threat. His speech to conference in which he spoke of support of the Palestinians and opposition to the settlements and siege of Gaza will have won him no plaudits amongst the Zionists.

The right in the Labour Party love Israel’s ethnic-cleansing state because it is an essential part of the alliance with the United States. Tom Watson and Luke Akehurst are prepared to turn a blind eye to any war crime, any human rights violation, any act of racism, however vile, because Israel is the United States’ watchdog in the area.

Not once, ever, has Watson, Wes Streeting, John Mann or any of the cacophony of Zionists who bleat about ‘anti-Semitism’ in the Labour Party expressed any indignation about Israel’s gaoling and shackling of Palestinian children as young as 12. Or the beating and torture of children. Not one protest about the demolition of Palestinian homes, villages or the endemic discrimination in the ‘Jewish’ state. In much the same way, Tom Watson et al are happy to support Israel’s ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, in its genocidal war against Yemen. The real racism in the Labour Party is that of the right - and in that I include Labour Friends of Israel supporter Emily Thornberry.

Thornberry tried to mollify Labour Friends of Israel at its fringe meeting at conference by explaining Corbyn’s absence, as they shouted “Where is he?”, as if beckoning a naughty schoolboy. Unfortunately her explanation, that he was working on his big speech, was somewhat contradicted by pictures of him having a jolly time at the Daily Mirror reception!

The last base of the right in the Labour Party is amongst its civil service and staff. In particular its general secretary, Iain McNicol and the compliance unit under John Stolliday. McNicol, the witch-finder general, is something of a hero to Labour Friends of Israel. He was greeted with a rapturous reception by the LFI meeting.2

I myself have been suspended for 18 months and now my comrade and friend, Moshé Machover, the founder of Matzpen, the Socialist Organisation in Israel, has been expelled. Just like that, without even a hearing or the opportunity to answer the charges levelled against him. Expelled at the whim of a petty Blairite apparatchik, someone who would have been at home rooting out communists in the McCarthy era or fingering the enemies of Stalin.

Now that the pro-Corbyn left has a majority on the national executive committee there is no excuse not to demand that this expulsion is reversed and Moshé and all other people similarly treated are reinstated. This is a matter of principle. If Corbyn has any bottle he will finally put an end to this nonsense.

The other accusation levelled against Moshé is that he writes for and “associates with” the Communist Party of Great Britain. Well, so do I. I have written for the Weekly Worker for over a decade, but neither Moshé nor I are members of the CPGB. Since when is it an expulsion offence to write articles for or speak at the conferences of other organisations?

Inspiration

Moshé, who is over 80 years old, is a veteran Israeli anti-Zionist. He has inspired a generation of Jewish and non-Jewish anti-Zionists. I first became an anti-Zionist as a consequence of reading his joint article with Haim Hanegbi and Akiva Orr back in 1970, ‘The class nature of Israeli society’.3 The idea that Machover, a Marxist, is ‘anti-Semitic’ is for the birds. Unlike his Zionist detractors he does not have a racist bone in his body.

By coincidence it was only the night before I heard of his expulsion that I posted on his blog his article, written for Labour Party Marxists, that led to Moshé’s expulsion.4 In it he explained that, far from opposing anti-Semitism, Zionism has always accepted, if not welcomed, it as a means of separating out Jews from non-Jews. Zionism begins from an acceptance of the anti-Semitic idea that Jews cannot live in non-Jewish society. That is why Israel was established.

In the Nazi era the Zionist movement, far from opposing the Nazis, sought to cut deals with them. They actually welcomed the Nuremberg laws, which stripped German Jews of citizenship, and Machover’s article quoted directly from the translation of an article in the German Zionist paper, Jüdische Rundschau, which can be found on the site of the Zionist Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem.5 Of course, the Zionists did not know at the time (1935) that Nazism would change from expulsion and separation to genocide, though many Jews had premonitions of this, as did Trotsky. Today we know better. Genocide is often the accompaniment of a movement for expulsion, as Burma is showing us at the moment.

Moshé Machover has been expelled for telling the truth. The truth is, apparently, anti-Semitic and no-one must draw any attention to what the Zionists’ actual role was when anti-Semitism was not some contrived fantasy. Today when there is virtually no anti-Semitism, the Zionists invent fake examples in order to attack their opponents.

Moshé’s article was classified as ‘anti-Semitic’ under the Zionists’ International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition that Corbyn adopted in yet another attempt to appease the right. Despite being told that Labour had only adopted the introduction to it and not the examples, it is clear that Labour’s witch-hunting bureaucracy has adopted the definition wholesale. We can see how the IHRA is being used not to combat anti-Semitism, but to combat anti-Zionism. Indeed the main victims of the IHRA are Jews!

The IHRA definition is almost the same as the discredited ‘working definition on anti-Semitism’ that was abandoned by the EU’s fundamental rights agency in 2013. The working definition was drawn up by the Zionist American Jewish Committee. Likewise the IHRA version is vague and open-ended:

Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.6

This is followed by 11 examples of ‘anti-Semitism’, seven of which are concerned with Israel. Thus it is clear that the purpose of the definition is not to clarify what anti-Semitism means, but to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. As Sir Stephen Sedley, a former court of appeal judge, wrote in his article, Defining anti-Semitism’, in May’s edition of the London Review of Books, the IHRA

fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite. “A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred” invites a string of questions. Is anti-Semitism solely a matter of perception? What about discriminatory practices and policies? What about perceptions of Jews that are expressed otherwise than as hatred?

These gaps are unlikely to be accidental. Their effect, whether or not it is their purpose, is to permit perceptions of Jews which fall short of expressions of racial hostility to be stigmatised as anti-Semitic.7

The example that Moshé seems to have fallen foul of is the one stating that “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” might be anti-Semitic. In fact Moshé was writing about the historic position and policy of the Zionist movement in relation to the Nazis, but anything that mentions the Nazis in connection with Israel is good enough, it seems.

Another example of ‘anti-Semitism’, it is claimed, is “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (eg, by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavour)”. In other words, the IHRA accepts that Jews are a nation - a postulate that previously only anti-Semites believed in. There follows an ‘example’ which bears no logical relationship to this - the claim that Israel is a “racist endeavour”. And quite why refusing to accept the right of Jews to self-determination has any bearing on anti-Semitism is a mystery. The purpose of the IHRA definition self-evidently has nothing to do with anti-Semitism and everything to do with preventing criticism of Zionism.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Free Speech on Israel obtained a coruscating opinion of the IHRA by Hugh Tomlinson QC, which is worth reading,8 as is Sedley’s article  in the London Review of Books. Both Tomlinson and Sedley criticise the definition as a whole, but the more liberal and defeatist elements in the Palestine solidarity movement, such as Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jewish Voice for Labour, believe that you can accept the first part of the definition without the second part. This is fundamentally mistaken. A fish is rotten from the head down.

Moshé’s reaction to the latest outrage from the witch hunters was: “I have just been expelled from the Labour Party - for telling the truth, which is falsely and maliciously described as ‘anti-Semitic’.” But we should not be disheartened by what has happened. On the contrary, it is a sign of the political weakness of the Labour right. After a conference where that became all too apparent - the successful Free Speech on Israel and Jewish Voice for Labour meetings, coupled with the rapturous reception for two Jewish anti-Zionist speakers, and then the applause for Jeremy Corbyn’s mention of Palestine, which was the loudest for any part of his speech - it is clear that the Zionists have not won many friends in the Labour Party.

Suspended members of the Labour Party are therefore planning a fightback, with the formation of Labour Against the Witch-Hunt, whose first meeting is on October 21 l

Notes

1. http://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/thelobby.

2. See http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/ian-mcnicol-receives-warmest-welcome-of.html.

3. https://newleftreview.org/I/65/haim-haneghi-Moshé-machover-akiva-orr-the-class-nature-of-israeli-society.

4. http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/saying-unsayable-about-zionist-support.html.

5. www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/german-news-agency-on-the-nuremberg-laws.

6. www.holocaustremembrance.com/sites/default/files/press_release_document_antisemitism.pdf.

7. www.lrb.co.uk/v39/n09/stephen-sedley/defining-anti-semitism.

8. http://freespeechonisrael.org.uk/ihra-opinion/#sthash.dM8bj8rZ.VAey2vAe.dpbs.