Aiding Corbyn’s opponents
Jon Lansman’s attack on Jewish Voice for Labour is no different from the attacks on white opponents of apartheid in South Africa, argues Tony Greenstein
In lending his support to the Zionist false anti-Semitism campaign - whose primary goal is and always has been the overthrow of Jeremy Corbyn - Jon Lansman has done more to undermine the Labour leader than Margaret Hodge, Luciana Berger and Tom Watson combined, to say nothing of the Daily Mail.
Momentum came out of the Corbyn leadership campaign and its whole raison d’être was to support him. Indeed over the summer of 2016, during the period when the Parliamentary Labour Party passed a vote of no confidence in Corbyn by 172-40 votes, it was Momentum which undoubtedly saved him.
The right had set out to “break the man” in Diane Abbott’s words.1 Two-time election loser Neil Kinnock had engaged in his usual windbaggery about how Corbyn would lose Labour the election, as he roused the reactionary leftovers from Blair’s days.
Who can forget that electric demonstration outside Parliament on June 27 2016, when thousands of us gathered to support Corbyn, as John McDonnell and Paul Mason clambered onto the FBU union’s fire engine to speak and Mason called for the election of 100 new working class Labour MPs? It was this mass display of Labour support that enabled Corbyn and McDonnell to defy the PLP majority and come through. The trade union leaders backed off from a rumoured call for Corbyn’s resignation and the subsequent failed challenge of Owen Smith merely emphasised the isolation and weakness of the Labour right.
It was at this point that ‘anti-Semitism’ - which had already been given a trial run during the contrived affair of Oxford University’s Labour Club earlier in the year - took on an importance of its own.2 The Chakrabarti inquiry had been set up by Jeremy Corbyn at the end of April as a result of a series of false allegations of ‘anti-Semitism’, which had been made by the Jewish Labour Movement amongst others, not to mention large sections of the media.
Just three days after the demo a press conference was held to launch the Chakrabarti report, where long-time anti-racist activist Marc Wadsworth called out rightwing Labour MP Ruth Smeeth’s open collaboration with a Telegraph journalist. Immediately a group of rightwing journalists and MPs began baying ‘anti-Semitism’, although subsequent video evidence proved that nothing Marc had said had been in any way anti-Semitic (unsurprisingly, since Marc did not even know she was Jewish!). Marc was, nonetheless, expelled from the Labour Party by the national constitutional committee.3
Head of steam
It was from this point that the fake ‘anti-Semitism’ campaign built up a head of steam. After the 2016 Labour Party conference Jackie Walker was suspended for a second time, having been recorded at an ‘anti-Semitism training session’ organised by the JLM, saying that she had not heard - in the training - a definition of anti-Semitism that she could work with, and that other groups, such as black people, had also suffered genocide and that should be recognised.
Immediately Lansman sprang into action. At the beginning of October, with the support of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Jackie was removed as vice-chair of Momentum. Lansman told The Independent: “I spoke to Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement this morning. He’s very upset and I can understand that - I work closely with Jeremy.”4 A couple of months later Lansman staged a coup against democracy in Momentum itself and from that time onwards Momentum has been part of the ‘anti-Semitism’ witch-hunt rather than fighting it.5
Indeed Lansman, whose Zionist sympathies have become more open, has helped perpetuate the anti-Semitism crisis. He has even been reported as saying: “Jeremy Corbyn should take part in training courses to combat unconscious anti-Semitic prejudice.”6 He has also been heard talking of Corbynism without Corbyn.
We have to understand that what makes Corbyn different - his historical opposition to US imperialism - is what grates with Lansman the most. Lansman is wedded to support for Israel, which he sees as a ‘Jewish’ state, even though it is a state in alliance with US imperialism in the form of Donald Trump today.
Lansman was crucial in ensuring that Labour’s national executive committee on September 4 2018 adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism, which conflates anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. When Corbyn proposed a longer statement saying that it should not be “regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact”, Lansman opposed it. As Huffpost reported, “Significantly, Momentum founder Jon Lansman and outgoing NEC member Rhea Wolfson expressed their concerns about formally adopting Corbyn’s longer statement.”7
It is therefore no surprise that Lansman has now gone the whole hog in openly attacking Jewish Voice for Labour, the non-Zionist group of Jews in the Labour Party, writing that they are “part of the problem and not part of the solution to anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.”8
We should bear in mind just how far Lansman has travelled. When I was suspended in March 2016, Lansman put his name to a letter by 50 Jews, organised by the now defunct Jews for Jeremy, opposing my suspension. Yet two years later Lansman orchestrated my expulsion from Momentum!
What were Lansman’s reasons for his attack on the JVL? Apparently, “neither the vast majority of individual members of JVL nor the organisation itself can really be said to be part of the Jewish community”.
Just savour this for the moment. Exactly the same could be said of white opponents of apartheid in South Africa. They too were not part of the majority community. Should they have been damned as a result? Just supposing it was true of Jewish anti-Zionists in this country that the majority Jewish community, which supported the racist state of Israel, wanted nothing to do with us, would that really be a criticism that socialists would make of anti-racist Jews?
In fact there is no single “Jewish community” in Britain. Half of British Jews are not attached to any synagogue - they are secular Jews. It is these that groups like JVL represent. But what Lansman is doing is supporting the most racist and chauvinistic Jews. A minority, Lansman’s friends, based around the United Synagogue, are represented by the fiercely anti-Corbyn Board of Deputies - a body which has never fought anti-Semitism of the fascist variety.
Another large section, however, are the ultra-orthodox Jews based around Stamford Hill, who are not represented on the Board of Deputies. Last September, 34 orthodox rabbis from the Union of Orthodox Congregations signed a letter criticising the Zionist BOD for attacking Corbyn. Of course, the letter received no publicity.9 The UOC left the BOD in 1971 and there have been major differences between them and the Zionists - not least over the recollection of when the Zionists opposed the rescue of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany unless they went to Palestine.10
Jews in the past 70 years have grown more prosperous and moved out of the East End of London into suburbs such as Golders Green. They have been replaced by Muslim and Bengali immigrants. According to Dr Geoffrey Alderman, a rightwing Jewish academic and himself a Zionist, ‘‘By 1961, over 40% of Anglo-Jewry was located in the upper two social classes, whereas these categories accounted for less than 20% of the general population.” It is this which explains why so few Jews support the Labour Party any more, not its stance on Israel.
In 1945 Phil Piratin was elected MP for Mile End in the East End. He was a member of the CPGB. Half his votes were estimated to come from Jews.11 When Alderman surveyed Jewish voters in Hackney in 1979, some 1.8% of Jews said they were voting for the neo-Nazi National Front, but zero percent were voting for the Communist Party. In other words, not only have many Jews become more prosperous: they have moved to the right politically. Today over two-thirds vote Conservative and fewer than 15% vote Labour.12
What Lansman has done is ally himself with the most rightwing, Zionist section of British Jews - those who support the apartheid state of Israel. Lansman fools himself that his friends are amongst the ‘progressive’ Labour Zionists of the JLM. The JLM are no more socialist than their Likud counterparts. They have acted as a Trojan horse inside the Labour Party on behalf of the Israeli state and are presently trying to use the Equality and Human Rights Commission as a means of destroying Corbyn.
At its last conference the JLM passed a motion of no confidence in Corbyn.13 Its previous parliamentary chair, Luciana Berger, joined the “funny tinge” group that split from Labour and now sits in the House of Commons as an independent, having falsely presented herself as a victim of Labour ‘anti-Semitism’.
The JLM openly boasts that it is the “sister party” of the Israeli Labor Party: ie, the racist Zionist party that supported Netanyahu in his attempts to physically expel 40,000 black African refugees from Israel because they are neither Jewish nor white.14 These are the disgusting racists that Lansman befriends (alongside Owen Jones).
If anyone has any doubt about the nature of the Israeli state and its supporters, we should consider that two weeks ago dozens of Israelis in the northern city of Afula demonstrated against the sale of a house to an Arab. Joining the demonstrators were mayor Avi Elkabetz, who was elected after promising that Afula would “maintain its Jewish character”.15 One member of the knesset asked: “How would we describe a mayor in Europe who would demonstrate against selling a house to a Jewish family?”16
Nor is Afula an isolated example. The 2011 Reception Committees Law allows hundreds of Jewish communities to bar Arabs from living in their towns through the use of admission committees. In 2010 the chief rabbi of Safed issued an edict forbidding Jews to rent homes or property to Arabs. He was backed up by dozens of other Israeli rabbis, all of them paid state officials. To this day it is impossible for Arab students to rent rooms in Safed or similar cities.
The 2018 Jewish Nation-State Law made it clear that Israel is a state of its Jewish citizens (and Jews worldwide), not its Arab citizens. This is the Israel and the Jewish state that Lansman supports.
See A Winstanley How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis Oxford 2016: https://electronicintifada.net/content/how-israel-lobby-manufactured-uk-labour-partys-anti-semitism-crisis/16481.↩
See my article, ‘The story so far’, in K Sabbagh (ed) The anti-Semitism wars Bloxham 2018.↩