After the March 30 Israeli massacre of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza, Tony Greenstein examines the hypocrisy of Britain’s Zionists
Two thousand people joined the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s demonstration opposite Downing Street on Saturday April 7 to protest against Israel’s massacre of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza and the British government’s failure to condemn the killings. Jeremy Corbyn sent a message of support, but this was at odds with his appeasement of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council, both of which support Israel’s massacre, blaming it on the Palestinians themselves.
Faced with a hermetically sealed siege for over a decade, a lack of fresh water, electricity, medical supplies and food, people in Gaza were protesting at the border fence, demanding the right to return to where they came from. Israel’s response - 33 people shot dead and over a thousand injured, all of whom were within concentration camp Gaza.
Many Jews were among the demonstrators, and the presence of the tall banner of Jewish Voice for Labour exposed the claim of the BoD and JLC to represent British Jews. Labour Against the Witchhunt was there, with placards demanding ‘Stop the Labour purge’, ‘Jezza, stand up to the witch-hunters’, along with ‘Anti-Semitism is a crime, anti-Zionism is a duty’. Momentum, to its shame, was noticeable by its absence - except, of course, for the Brighton banner.
The most recent wave of false ‘anti-Semitism’ claims began with the thinnest of pretexts - a six year old mural, long since erased, that Luciana Berger MP, a former director of Labour Friends of Israel, had stumbled upon. It wasn’t even clear whether the picture of six bankers playing monopoly on the backs of black workers was anti-Semitic. Only two of them were Jewish. Indeed, if you associate bankers automatically with Jews then it is you who are anti-Semitic. But any pretext will do when needs must. Berger, who was parachuted into Liverpool Wavertree, has a history of making false allegations of anti-Semitism from her student days.1
This pretext was, however, enough for the Zionist BoD and JLC to launch their ‘anti-racist’ Enough is Enough! March 26 demonstration outside parliament, which drew such well known anti-racists as Norman Tebbit of ‘cricket test’ fame.2 Also present were those well known anti-racists from the Democratic Unionist Party such as Ian Paisley Junior, who, when not calling forth hell-fire and damnation upon Catholics, is doing his best to prevent the scourge of sodomy from infesting Ireland’s green and pleasant land. In 2007 young Ian was quoted as saying: “I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong …. I think that those people harm themselves and - without caring about it - harm society. That doesn’t mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what they do.”3
On March 28, the heads of the unelected BoD and JLC, Jonathans Arkush and Goldstein, in an open letter to Corbyn, made it crystal clear that the ‘anti-Semitism’ they were talking about was integrally related to anti-Zionism:
“Again and again, Jeremy Corbyn has sided with anti-Semites rather than Jews. At best, this derives from the far left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism, Zionists and Israel. At worst, it suggests a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy.”
In response to Corbyn’s apology for Labour’s almost non-existent anti-Semitism, Arkush and Goldstein presented a set of preposterous preconditions to be fulfilled before a meeting could took place. They demanded: 1. The appointment of an ombudsman “to oversee performance” in anti-Semitism disciplinary cases, who should report to the Labour Party, the BoD and JLC.4
2. MPs, councillors and party members should not share platforms with people who have been suspended or expelled for anti-Semitism and, if they do, then they themselves should be suspended or, in the case of MPs, should lose the whip.
3. “The party should circulate the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, with all its examples and clauses”, and make “a clear list of unacceptable language”.
4. The party must “engage with the Jewish community via its main representative groups”, but “not through fringe organisations who wish to obstruct the Party’s efforts to tackle anti-Semitism”.
If Jeremy Corbyn were to adhere to any or all of these demands he may as well resign, which is the whole purpose of such demands. The idea that Labour’s disciplinary process should be subject to an external ombudsman who reports to the unelected anti-Labour Board and JLC is too absurd for words.
The demand to demonise people who are suspended - and therefore presumed innocent - is outrageous. But those expelled, too, are often innocent, given the National Constitutional Committee kangaroo court that still decides disciplinaries in the Party today. It is nothing less than McCarthyism to make a list of people you cannot even speak alongside.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Association 39-word definition of anti-Semitism5 is pretty useless. It is open-ended, uncertain in meaning and anything but a definition, and has been more than adequately criticised in Defining Anti-Semitism6 by Sir Stephen Sedley, a former Court of Appeal judge, and in an opinion by Hugh Tomlinson QC. It states:
“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” (my emphasis).7
The question is what else anti-Semitism may be expressed as - anti-Zionism?
These Zionist leaders complain that it is a “smear” to suggest that their concern over anti-Semitism is dictated by their support for Israel. Yet what else is one to make of their demand that the Labour Party circulate not just the definition, but all of the 11 examples, seven of which relate to comparisons with Israel, which are not part of the IHRA definition. So, for example, anyone denying the right of the Jewish people to self-determination or saying that Israel is a racist state is automatically an anti-Semite.
What makes this worse is the hypocrisy of both these Zionist organisations. Both ‘leaderships’ are unelected by the Jewish community in Britain. The Board is based on synagogue membership and Zionist organisations, thus entirely bypassing secular Jewry. The JLC is entirely self-appointed, previously consisting of Jewish capitalists but now various Jewish community organisations.
When they dismiss “fringe” organisations, they mean anything that is at all radical or anti-racist. We saw what they meant when Corbyn went to a seder evening with Jewdas on April 2. The Jewish Chronicle reported that “Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush has launched a scathing attack on the controversial Jewdas group”, suggesting they are a “source of virulent anti-Semitism” and claiming that their members “are not all Jewish”.8 But this Jewish group has contributed more to opposing fascist organisations and racism in its short history than the Board has done in its nearly 280 years existence.
In the 1930s the BoD told Jews not to oppose Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. In the late 1970s it refused to work with the Anti-Nazi League in its fight against the National Front because it held that anti-Zionism was worse than fascism. Now, at last, it claims to be organising demonstrations against racism - in order to campaign against Corbyn with right-wing Tories and sectarian Ulster Protestants!
It is a great pity that Corbyn has agreed to meet with these people at all. Their real agenda is not combating anti-Semitism, but giving unflinching support to Israel. This was made clear in the wake of the March 30 massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. The Board blamed Hamas for using civilians and children as “pawns”. It had nothing to say about the deliberate use of live ammunition against unarmed demonstrators. This is just a continuation of its shameful record concerning Israel.
Jonathan Arkush himself is a prime hypocrite. When Donald Trump came to power after using all sorts of anti-Semitic hints, ads, dog whistles and allusions to Jewish financial power, Arkush welcomed him and his anti-Semitic advisers, Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka.9 As Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post, “Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody.”10
If anti-Semitism was the target of Arkush or Goldstein, they would question the Tories’ links in the European Parliament, where they are members of the Group of European Conservatives and Reformists11, together with Poland’s Law and Justice Party and the Latvian For Fatherland and Freedom Party.
Poland’s Law and Justice Party is not only far-right and racist but many of its members are explicitly anti-Semitic. Ha’aretz reported that Antoni Macierewicz, now deputy party leader, has asserted that the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion is true. In 2002, Macierewicz told Radio Maryja, a right-wing Catholic station, that he had read the Protocols and, while they may not be authentic they are nonetheless true! The Nazis took the Protocols as their bible and Hitler praised them in Mein Kampf.12
In January 2018 the Polish parliament passed a law which outlawed any mention of Polish complicity in the Holocaust or Nazi crimes, on pain of a 3-year jail sentence. Yet it is a fact that in July 1941 villagers in Jedwabne in the East of Poland herded up to 1,600 of their Jewish compatriots into a barn which they then set on fire. Two Polish historians, Anna Bikont in The crime and the silence13 and Jan Tomasz Gross’s Neighbors: the destruction of the Jewish community in Jedwabne, Poland14 detailed what happened.
In 2009 the Jedwabne controversy broke out in the UK when David Miliband criticised the then Tory opposition for their links with the leader of the ECR group, Michal Kaminski.15 Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian’s liberal Zionist commentator, also got in on the act in an article, ‘Once no self-respecting politician would have gone near people such as Kaminski’.16 What was the reaction of the Zionists? Did they jump up and down about David Cameron’s tolerance of anti-Semitism? Perhaps the Jewish Chronicle had some particularly pungent articles criticising anti-Semitism in the Tory Party?
Not a bit of it. JC editor Stephen Pollard wrote that “Poland’s Kaminski is not an anti-Semite: he’s a friend to Jews”.17 How, one might ask, was the MP for Jedwabne and the surrounding area (where other similar pogroms had occurred) and who had been a strong supporter of the Committee to Defend the Good Name of Jedwabne, a group dedicated to denying the village’s complicity, and who opposed a national apology for the massacre, a good friend to the Jews? Well Pollard’s answer was that Kaminski, although he was a fascist sympathiser, was also “one of the greatest friends to the Jews in a town where anti-Semitism and a visceral loathing of Israel are rife.” In other words he was a strong supporter of Israel, just like Trump and his friends, which therefore exonerated him. Pollard also defended Latvian Fatherland and Freedom Party MEP, Robert Zile, also in the ECR group, who every year took part in a demonstration with the veterans of the Latvian Waffen SS. He too was a strong supporter of Israel, even if he wasn’t too keen on Latvia’s Jews!
And what of the BoD and JLC? What was their reaction to Kaminski? Well in October 2009 Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prossor, spoke with Kaminski on the Conservative Friends of Israel platform at the Conservative Party annual conference. When the President of the BoD, Vivian Wineman, wrote to Conservative leader, David Cameron, querying whether the Tories had checked out Kaminski’s political record, asking “Is Michal Kaminski fit to lead the Tories in Europe?”,18 Kaminski’s Zionist allies rushed to his defence19. Wineman’s innocuous letter to Cameron caused a rift with the JLC. One JLC member described colleagues as “livid” at the timing of the letter. Another was “incandescent”.20 Despite all this, nine years later the Conservatives are still members of the ECR group in the European Parliament with the same far-right parties.
I have a suggestion for Jeremy Corbyn. He should refuse to meet with Arkush and company until he sees concrete evidence that they are going to hold their Tory friends to account, and insist that they dissociate themselves from Polish and Latvian anti-Semitic parties. Indeed the composition of the ECR group is so toxic that he should insist the Tories pull out altogether.
2. When he was an MP, Tebbit remarked: “A large proportion of Britain’s Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It’s an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?” Tebbit was of the view that British Asians really belonged back in India and Pakistan. In 1991 he told Woodrow Wyatt that “some of them insist on sticking to their own culture, like the Muslims in Bradford and so forth, and they are extremely dangerous” - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricket_test.
19. See Howard Cooper ‘A Small Scandal at the Jewish Chronicle’ on how the JC defended this tie up with Kaminski: howardcoopersblog.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/small-scandal-at-jewish-chronicle.html.