WeeklyWorker

05.11.2020
JLM promoting itself at 80th anniversary celebrations marking the communist-led street battle against police and fascists.

Putting Zionism in charge

Outsourcing of ‘anti-Semitism’ training and disciplinary procedures to the likes of the Jewish Labour Movement must be opposed, writes Eddie Ford

By now most readers of the Weekly Worker will be familiar with the contents of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report. Of course, it is a politically motivated travesty from beginning to end - though the entire mainstream media would have us believe it is the final word of God and therefore beyond criticism or challenge.

Amongst many things, the report says there were “serious failings in the Labour Party leadership in addressing anti-Semitism and an inadequate process for handling anti-Semitism complaints”. Apparently, the party was “responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination” in breach of the Equality Act 2010. Upon further investigation, however, this “harassment” consists of nothing much more than Ken Livingstone saying on the radio that he did not think Naz Shah MP was anti-Semitic for posting on Facebook an image of Israel superimposed on the US with the comment “problem solved” - plus various comments on Facebook by Pam Bromley, a local authority councillor in Rossendale, about the Rothschilds, the Israeli lobby, fake accusations of anti-Semitism, and so on. Harassment?

The report also lists 23 instances of “political interference” by staff from the leader’s office and others into complaints of anti-Semitism and a “failure to provide training to handle” such complaints, along with supposed harassment, etc. Indeed, according to the report, party agents used “anti-Semitic tropes” and there were 18 “borderline” cases of possible unlawful acts, but there was “not enough evidence” to conclude the Labour Party was “legally responsible” for the conduct of local councillors and local election candidates. Now, inevitably, the extremely misnamed Campaign Against Antisemitism wants Keir Starmer to take “disciplinary action” against Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and 15 other sitting Labour MPs who “enabled the gas-lighting, harassment and victimisation of Britain’s Jewish minority” - that is, boot them out of the party. No doubt the numbers of those being targeted will grow bigger, perhaps encompassing the entire Socialist Campaign Group of 34 MPs.

Training

As mentioned above, the issue of training and education forms a relatively large part of the report. In March 2019, the Labour Party - with the existing anti-Semitism training being of a volunteer-led nature - announced that a short course in anti-Semitism would be developed by the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck College and that Jewish “communal organisations” would be consulted. The intention was to enrol staff, together with members of the national constitutional committee and national executive committee on the course.

That was much to the displeasure of the pro-Israel Jewish Labour Movement, which had provided the volunteer-led training for the previous three years. In a huff, the JLM withdrew its training provision for branches, complaining bitterly about the party leadership acting in this “reckless and damaging” way: “We cannot accept the suggestion that the party knows better than its Jewish affiliate or the Jewish community what constitutes anti-Semitism.” The JLM was also upset that the director of the Pears Institute, professor David Feldman, was the co-author of Baroness Chakrabarti’s report into ‘Labour anti-Semitism’ - which Zionists regarded as a “whitewash” - and is an outspoken critic of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism, arguing that “there is a danger that the overall effect will place the onus on Israel’s critics to demonstrate they are not anti-Semitic”.

Anyway, the EHRC claimed that the lack of training for people handling anti-Semitism complaints “indirectly” discriminated against Jewish members. In general, the party had not “developed or implemented adequate training” in relation to such complaints, despite the matter being raised repeatedly internally since 2016. This lack of training, said the report, “must have had a negative effect on the quality of complaint handling” - particularly given “some of the complexities” when balancing free speech and anti-Semitic comments. In the view of the EHRC, “the party’s provision of academic education rather than practical training fails to equip decision-makers with the knowledge and skills they need”. Instead, the report recommends “in-depth” practical training and education for all individuals involved in the anti-Semitism complaints process within six months - failure to implement this training within the time frame required will constitute “unlawful discrimination”.

The EHRC also wants Labour to roll out a programme of education and training on “identifying and tackling anti-Semitism” for all staff, officials and those “in positions of responsibility within the party” - not just those involved in the complaints process. All this is “fundamental” in making progress to ensure that decision-makers and those receiving complaints “are well equipped to act appropriately and with empathy”. A wider plan of training, it seems, will help party members to have the tools to understand and deal with ‘leftwing’ anti-Semitic tropes where they manifest. For example, says the EHRC, the idea “that Jews are part of a wider conspiracy”, or are responsible for “controlling others and manipulating the political process”, including the Labour Party - or “referring to Jewish people being a ‘fifth column’”.

Now, if you are incredibly naïve you might think that there is nothing too offensive about the EHRC’s recommendations - who could be against education on anti-Semitism? But, the report repeatedly emphasises that all education and training programmes on anti-Semitism must be in “consultation with Jewish stakeholders” - indeed, have to be “acceptable” to them. You do not need to be a genius to work out that they are principally talking about the JLM, but it could also mean the CAA, JLC, Community Security Trust and quite possibly the Board of Deputies of British Jews too. After all, in the words of the report, the Labour Party says “the right course now is to craft a process which has the confidence of the Jewish community”, and that this builds on the commitment made by Keir Starmer to “re-engaging” the JLM “to lead on training about anti-Semitism”.

In other words, if the EHRC’s recommendations are acted upon and Starmer gets his way, those in charge of training and education will belong exclusively to Zionist organisations - and Zionist-Tory in the shape of the Board of Deputies. They are organisations that have worked tirelessly to undermine the Corbyn leadership by conducting a ruthless smear campaign to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism - resorting to every calumny and falsehood imaginable and then some more. Effectively, the JLM will be able to police and indoctrinate the party membership, as it sees fit.

Centrally, as the reports makes perfectly clear, the new measures and procedures must win the “confidence” of the “Jewish community” - ie, religious Jews. Nowadays the term “Jewish community” is used to mean pro-Israel and rightwing. There are, though, other Jewish Labour members who are secular, anti-Israel and leftwing - Jewish Voice for Labour can be characterised in that way. Not that they count, of course, as they are the ‘wrong kind of Jews’.

Conduct

When it comes to the section on the Labour Party’s disciplinary and complaints procedures - codes of conduct - it is the same story. The party cannot be trusted on this matter either. Therefore it must now commission a new, truly “independent process” to handle and determine anti-Semitism complaints. The EHRC also wants Labour to have a comprehensive social media policy, to make it far clearer that members may be investigated and subject to disciplinary action if they share or ‘like’ any social media content deemed anti-Semitic.

The report reminds us that the party adopted a code of conduct on anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in 2017, which has been incorporated into its rule book. This is a short code that covers all forms of racism in four paragraphs, complains the EHRC, and does not provide any guidance on the meaning of anti-Semitism. Then the party came out with a second code of conduct a year later that contains “guidelines” with examples partly taken from the IHRA’s infamous examples - such as saying that Israel is a “racist endeavour”. However, notes the report, this code of conduct is not in the rule book or available on the party website. Yes, Labour also has a code of conduct on the use of social media, but this does not mention anti-Semitism.

In the opinion of the EHRC, the party has “made improvements” to its complaints and disciplinary procedures since 2016 - like introducing NEC anti-Semitism panels and “reforming” the NCC system. However, confidence in the system has been badly damaged by the “political interference” alleged elsewhere in the report. These “serious failings”, says the report, have been compounded by the “inconsistent approach” to sanctions against those deemed guilty of anti-Semitism. The EHRC concludes that the party needs an “independent” process that should last “until trust and confidence” is fully restored, and should ensure that independent oversight and auditing are “permanently embedded” in the new process.

Whether all of the EHRC’s recommendation are implemented or not - though they probably will be with a vengeance - it is totally unprecedented for a mainstream political party to seek to outsource its disciplinary procedures. But Jeremy Corbyn’s response to the report was pathetic. He trusted that “its recommendations will be swiftly implemented to help move on from this period”, even if he did not agree with all its findings.

What he should have said, of course, is that Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism problem’ has been fabricated and thus he rejects the entire EHRC report. Complaints and discipline are matters for the party itself, not some outside body - and certainly not one committed to a reactionary, pro-Zionist agenda in total opposition to the interests of the working class. But that would have been an entirely different Jeremy Corbyn - one who does not turn the other cheek and ‘love his enemies’.

eddie.ford@weeklyworker.co.uk