I have spent all week in Brighton, at the 2017 Labour Party Conference. This was my first visit to the conference. As someone who dislikes the ideological straitjacket of political affiliation, it will probably be my last.
From the suffocating presence of ‘Palestinian solidarity’ to an obvious tolerance for rabid antisemites, this week was deeply unsettling. There were times where the atmosphere was scary. How do we confront growing antisemitism? More importantly how dangerous is the growing antisemitism inside the Labour party, a confident party, that sees itself as the next government?
At the Conference
The venue, the Brighton centre. I have the conference programme in my hand. About 150 stalls in total, spread out on the several floors of the Centre. Each person at the conference is given a name tag, worn by placing a ‘lanyard’ around the neck. The PSC had brought ‘Palestine Solidarity’ lanyards, and it is clearly the item they want everyone to take from their stall.
I also note they have ‘runners’, people walking off with several PSC lanyards in their hands. One was looking for people running other stalls, who were willing to wear them. This badge of identification was eventually seen on many of the visiting crowd. It is both a brilliant PR strategy and is symbolic of an aggressive movement that works on sectarian identity politics, spreading throughout the Labour undergrowth.
What is ‘Palestine Solidarity’?
And this is exactly where the Labour Party problem with antisemitism begins. For most Jews, this situation is deeply unsettling. There is a fundamental misunderstanding in the Labour Party, that is based on profound ignorance, of exactly what ‘Palestine Solidarity’ actually means.
From the discussions I had, with some of those wearing the PSC lanyard at the conference, they were under the impression that the Palestinians needed support to bring about ‘peace’ in the Middle East.
Yet the PSC, and obviously the active ingredient of ‘Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions’, are not about peace at all. They are about supporting a Palestinian position. You ‘stand in solidarity’, with whatever these ‘representatives’ of the Palestinians want.
And this is why everyone is running into trouble. In the Labour mainstream, ‘Palestine solidarity’ is being confused with a movement of peace. This is a dangerously false appraisal, that has allowed for maximalist Arab political demands, to become the basis for acceptance into the Labour fold.
Thugs, of which more will be said shortly, are acting as enforcers, where anybody who is not toeing this maximalist line, is placed onto a list, that has threats of expulsion attached to it. At the conference, both the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel, were met with calls for expulsion.
At the Labour Friends of Israel event, there were anti-Israel activists actually taking photos of the MP’s who were present. No doubt to add new faces onto existing expulsion ‘lists’.
If you are inside the Labour Party, but not categorically lining up behind a two state solution, then just which Palestinians are you standing in solidarity with? It certainly isn’t the moderates, nor even the ruling party. Nor are you standing in solidarity with those Palestinians, working on partnerships and building bridges with Israelis.
As soon as you place that PSC lanyard around your neck, from the moment you believe you support ‘Palestine Solidarity’, as it is represented in the UK Labour Party, then you explicitly align with a maximalist Arab position, that is also heralded by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Assad, Hezbollah and Iran.
Don’t believe me? Walk up to your nearest PSC activist and ask them if the organisation supports a two-state solution. Watch them stutter.
Israeli Labour party member of the Knesset, Stav Shaffir, spoke at the Labour Friends of Israel event about a two-state solution. A talk based on the mutual compromise, that her party believes is necessary to build a lasting peace with Israel’s neighbours. Why is there a call to silence this type of message from the Labour party? If we want to understand what has happened inside Labour, we must ask this question: At what point did support for a peace process, or compromise or negotiations, become an expellable offence?
And it is on these waters that the Labour party is sinking into an antisemitic mess. It hasn’t swallowed support for a progressive peace process, it has digested a regressive maximalist anti-
Israel position. Mainstream members of the party have replaced the idea that the Palestinians need support, with rhetoric that is created in the PR engines of radical Islamic terror groups.
All of these radical groups are anti-democratic, anti-pluralist and of course, brutally antisemitic. It is this ideology, based on propaganda, distortion and hate, that is spreading inside Labour’s veins.
On the basis of falsehoods and propaganda, thugs seek to stifle debate and bring non-adherents into line. This ‘disease’, that portrays the Palestinians as the ‘transcendental victims’, incapable of controlling their own destiny because of the brutal ‘apartheid’ ‘racist’ and ‘genocidal’ regime, is called ‘Palestinianism’.
If you meet anyone who uses terms like ‘Apartheid’, or ‘genocidal’, when discussing Israel, they have become infected with ‘Palestinianism’. They have swallowed an argument based on ignorance, distortion, omission, antisemitism and lies.
These people push for the destruction of the most democratic nation in the Middle East. The only nation where a real Labour supporter would be welcome.
Corbyn and the Labour party
Yet this cult, this religion, is the one being used, almost above all others, to identify a ‘Corbynista’ from the ‘other’. How devoted to Corbyn are you? Why are you not wearing a PSC lanyard? Here comrade, take!
Why is Corbyn closely identified with Palestinianism? Because historically he is a member of the cult, and he is even a patron of the PSC. A patron of a group that stutters when asked about peace, and pushes a maximalist position that can only lead to war.
Look at this image from the conference. Stop the War coalition had a stall carrying a consistent anti-war message. Yet on the far left, they placed the leaflet peddling Miko Peled’s book. Not only is the only inevitable result of Peled’s ideas, a grave and bloody conflict, but Peled’s talks are always full of hate speech. ‘No to Islamophobia’ reads a sign on the back, ‘yes to antisemitism’, reads the leaflet on the table.
In this manner, sectarian identity politics, that are anti-Jewish in nature, are being used to signify adherence to the common cause. In alignment with an anti-Imperialist mindset, inherent inconsistencies in their position, are met with developing conspiratorial tales of Zionist media and financial control. Classic antisemitic tropes with the word Jew crossed out, and replaced with the word Zionist. Every weakness or contradiction in their position, is explained away as a result of some form of Zionist power.
In the end, the only things holding the Palestinian argument together are webs of conspiracies painting Zionist Jews as demons. How else is it possible that the Palestinians still do not have a state of their own? Surely it is nothing they themselves have done? In an environment where Palestinianism is almost the only legitimate currency, a breeding ground for hard-core Jew hatred has been created.
So just as I left the main conference centre because I began to feel intimidated by the number of those wearing lanyards supporting the destruction of Israel, I met the raw antisemitism at the fringe events.
The fringe and raw antisemitism
The first fringe event I went to was one hosted by a group called ‘Free Speech on Israel’. There was standing room only. Maybe 100 people inside. The group is headed up by a few anti-Zionist Jews, whose only public identification as ‘Jew’ is when it is required to attack Israel.
The main speaker was Miko Peled, an activist who uses his father and grandfather’s achievements to forge a career for himself in anti-Israel activism. Probably realising that the more venom he spews, the louder the applause he receives, Peled is one of the most vicious speakers on the circuit.
Peled’s vile speech was given coverage in several mainstream media outlets. He suggested it should be okay to discuss Holocaust denial, called for Israel’s destruction, and used tropes about unlimited funds and media and political influence. He equated Zionists with Nazis and even told people to stop using the word ‘Israel’.
It was at this event that I first heard calls to expel mainstream Jewish movements from the party.
With Miko Peled, Jew haters always get their money’s worth. It is why he is so popular. From Brighton, he is making his way to Scotland, where the Holocaust deniers and conspiracy theorists of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign can get their ‘fix’.
Fascism and denial
The second event I went to, was a launch event for a new ‘Jewish’ group called Jewish voice for Labour.
Tony Greenstein in his blog about the conference, estimates an audience of over 300. As Greenstein cannot help but heavily distort every figure he ever needs to use, we can guess that the real number is about 200-240. Impressive nonetheless. Having run through a list of those who say they attended, perhaps only 10%-15% were Jewish.
I don’t know for sure, because I didn’t get inside. I became a Jewish Labour member who was denied entry, by Tony Greenstein and Jacqueline Walker, both of whom have been accused of antisemitism themselves. Experiencing the chilling situation of being turned away from a meeting of Jewish Labour members by someone who had claimed, that Jews were chief financiers of the slave trade.
As Jackie denied me entry, she suggested ‘they don’t go to our events’. I have no idea what this means. Somehow she is trying to justify fascist and racist policies of exclusion. I was at the Israel friends of Labour event, so were many anti-Israel activists. ‘Truth’ has nothing to hide Jackie, and this fear anti-Zionists have of me, of opposition, of the camera, of the truth, says everything anyone needs to know about the weakness of the ‘ideology’.
Also turning up at the JVL event was Len McCluskey, head of the Unite union, who apparently stated that his union would affiliate with this JVL group. McCluskey also said the claims of antisemitism were just ‘mood music‘ created to undermine Corbyn. 93% of British Jews see Israel as part of their Jewish identity, so just who are these JVL people providing cover for antisemites?
The Jewish Voice for Labour
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi is the most visible JVL member. For some extraordinary reason she spoke twice at the conference. After her first speech, Idrissi received a standing ovation from a crowd that seeks legitimacy for its own antisemitism. Idrissi is clearly Jewish. She also married a Muslim, and has a child named after a Sura in the Quran. Idrissi has every right to make whatever life choices she wishes to make. But look at her comment ‘Labour does not have a problem with Jews‘. Does she have a right to say this? Surely, all Idrissi has a right to say is that Labour does not have a problem with her. Given her life choices, this is not quite the same thing.
Perhaps we should ask Idrissi what problem Labour has with me? After all, Idrissi’s own JVL thugs excluded me from their opening event.
Idrissi is a typical example of someone on the fringes of the community attacking the mainstream. Jackie Walker is another. Walker’s Jewish identification comes from her biological father, and she had no Jewish upbringing. Eight years ago Jackie wrote a book, Pilgrim State (well worth a read), following her and her mothers extraordinary life journey, and the word ‘Jew’ appears nowhere inside it. As much as these people have every right to their own opinions, feelings and beliefs, they remain entirely unrepresentative of the mainstream Jewish community.
JVL, a tool of racist bigotry
Which creates a problem. Not because a few people on the fringe of the community wish the majority of the community harm, that is a normal state of affairs true of almost every community in the relationship with its fringe elements. The problem here is that the group JVL, becomes a useful tool for racist bigotry. They become weaponised because antisemites can hide behind them.
They become legitimisers of the virulent widespread antisemitism inherent in the religious rites of Palestinianism. ‘If Jews compare Jews to Nazis, why can’t we’? ‘If Jews say Israel is an Apartheid state, then so can we’. It allows for people like Ben White to tweet about Idrissi, and hide behind her comments. The JVL Facebook group is a list of very few Jews and a few very nasty Jew haters seeking legitimacy.
So twisted is the situation, that when I released my PSC report attacking Holocaust deniers and rabid conspiratorial antisemites. ‘Free Speech for Israel’, this group of Jews behind JVL, ran a front page article not attacking the hard-core antisemites, but instead, attacking me. These Jews gathered round to protect rabid, hard core antisemites.
So when Idrissi says she has no patience for real antisemitism, she is lying. There is ample evidence that for the cause of ‘Palestinianism’, she will belittle or ignore Rothschild conspiracy & even Holocaust denial. As the report clearly shows, when she stands on the street waving her flag, half the people standing nearby are hard core antisemites. A situation she has no problem with.
The Jewish ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’
This has to be clearly recognised for the serious problem that it is. For discussion sake, let us take the Jehovah’s Witnesses. A perfectly legitimate fringe group on the edge of Christian thought, that is entitled to its own belief system. But can they be used to represent or replace mainstream Christianity?
What if we imagine a scenario where Christians are facing persecution. It becomes possible to weaponise one fringe sect to attack the mainstream. In this way enemies of Christianity could use the Jehovah’s Witnesses, (who become the ‘real Christians’ just the way anti-Zionist Jews have become the ‘real Jews’). A move that would clearly be seen as blatant religious persecution throughout the West. The Church would never accept such a situation.
This is no different. This is the lens through which attempts to rid Labour of mainstream Jewish thought must be seen. As Jews we cannot accept this. It is a blatant antisemitic attack for people like Len McCluskey to propel JVL ideology into the mainstream as a way of furthering Palestinianism. It is a form of religious persecution.
Jew hate receives a standing ovation
The standing ovation Idrissi received was indicative of how riddled with ‘Palestinianism’, Labour has become. It is a hostile place for proud Jews. Speech after speech referencing anti-Israel ideology, was received with love. Too many people in the crowd have a problem with Jews, and there are too many speakers playing to that crowd. For a Jew, it was unsettling. At the height of the debate, on Tuesday morning, the atmosphere was darker than anything I have ever witnessed.
To my knowledge, I had my photo take twice at the conference. Once as I was leaving the ‘Free Speech’ event, an activist Elleane Green spotted me and reached for her camera, whilst the second time was at the Labour Friends of Israel event, where Tapash Abu Shaim, was camera ready.
These are some of their social media posts:
‘It does a disservice to the Palestinians and non-Palestinian victims of Israeli foreign policy to try to divorce the Palestine Question from the broader manifestations of the locus of power which James Petras has referred to as the “Zionist Power Configuration” (ZPC). This ZPC operates at both a global and local level as was indicated on 9/11.’
Imagine a world where someone was found to have posted hard core racist material, and yet was still allowed back into the Labour Party Conference. Well, this is that world. As a Jew, as a target of their racism, it is they who are welcomed. It is they who feel entitled, and feel at home. They look me straight in the face, and raise their cameras to capture their target again. How do you think that feels, as a victim of a racism that the Labour party proudly hosts?
As the newspapers began to reflect the deep concern British Jews have about antisemitism in the Labour Party, a circus of individuals protested. The Guardian ran a piece which correctly pointed out that saying ‘nothing to see here’ wouldn’t be accepted talk of outsiders discussing the concerns of any other minority group. Not to mention that two of those people discussed, Ken Loach and Ken Livingstone, have both been accused of rabid antisemitism themselves.
This feeling of Jews not being victims, of Jews making up the racism against themselves, is based deep in an antisemitic mindset that sees the Jews as a privileged group. In essence the denial of antisemitism is rooted in antisemitism.
But there was nothing funny about Jew after Jew talking of the oppressive atmosphere at the conference. I was approached by more than a dozen. Each with a similar feeling of sickness, each with a similar analogy about other dark times in Jewish history. The BDS thugs that lined up outside the hotel to protest the arrival of the Israeli ambassador wouldn’t have helped improve anyone’s perception. A dozen Jews came up to me and spoke of their fear. That’s almost as many Jews as were at the launch event for the JVL.
Suffocation inside the Labour Party
At the conference, only Palestinianism gets airtime. I spoke to people working to assist a free Syria, I spoke to people working to free Iran. Both groups told me they have similar problems. There is little interest. You cannot be strongly anti Assad and anti-Iran, without being anti-Hezbollah. And these movements oppose some of the only friends Hamas has. Palestinianism is the antithesis of a free and liberal Middle East. As Palestinianism spreads through a strategy of intersectionality, groups fighting for other peoples freedom become alienated. You are either with the Palestinian cause or not welcome in the Labour party. The end result is a Labour party immobile in the face of the worst human rights abuses of our time.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, Iran’s regime strangles Iranian freedoms, and the Labour party is paralysed because of its addiction to a pro-Assad, pro-terrorist, pro-Iranian support network. Look at the list of fringe events. Some of the largest movements of refugees the world has ever seen, use of chemical weapons, violent bloody suppression of human rights, and Palestinianism has suffocated everything else out of existence. Apart from one meeting on Turkey (+ 1 on Cuba), the only fringe events talking about international foreign issues were all about ‘Palestine’.
These people are now in control of Labour, they are taking Labour’s core principles and destroying them, branch by branch.
Palestinianism is a disease that is anathema to freedom, to debate, to openness and to human rights. It will infect those who catch the disease with antisemitism just as it provides them with the denial mechanism to protest their innocence.
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough knowledge or self-awareness within the party to be able to counter this threat. Most people who try to address the issue, do not have enough historical knowledge to deal with well targeted and irrelevant deflections about Israeli government policy. There isn’t enough of an understanding of Jewishness, to be able to put blind and stupid ideologues like Idrissi in their place.
In turn, this means bystanders to an exchange are more likely to have sympathy for a false argument over ‘free speech’, unaware they are allowing racism to propagate freely. As Jews protest, this reinforces an imaginary enemy of overstated Zionist power. Antisemitism is breeding. Hard-core ideologically driven antisemites outwit and outmatch much of the well intended opposition that comes their way. Too much expertise is needed to counter one single mindless antisemite. Just when the Jews need the Labour Party to stand up and speak out against Jew hatred, Labour becomes crippled by an anti-Jewish disease.
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