On Sunday, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) held their AGM. JLM passed a ‘motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn‘. The ‘closest vote of the day’ was apparently an amendment to a motion on antisemitism. Through this amendment the JLM voted to shield Momentum from criticism. Instead of suggesting Momentum had ‘protected those engaging in antisemitism’, they praised Momentum’s commitment to fighting antisemitism‘. There is a stark difference between the two positions and it shows how lost the JLM are, that they were not sure whether Momentum had been fighting or protecting antisemites.
In fact, just as JLM were voting in their AGM, Momentum activists in Birmingham were busy preparing for an event. Called ‘Labour & Palestine’, it was hosted by Momentum Birmingham and took place at the offices of Unite the Union. The key speaker at the event was Hugh Lanning:
This event took place just as JLM were showering Momentum with praise. I have seen Lanning speak many times. He is a key part of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and has acted as Chairman for a decade. As a front-line BDS activist, Lanning has been banned from visiting Israel. The PSC are themselves riddled with antisemitism. Some of their own Board have flirted with vicious anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and websites that promote Holocaust denial. If you are fighting antisemitism, you don’t ‘accidently’ invite Hugh Lanning or the PSC.
Momentum and the Israel antisemitism industry
What did Hugh Lanning say at the event? Amongst other things he said this:
“What Israel has been trying to do for the last decade, which is drive Palestine off the agenda. Out of consciousness and so on. It was after 2009, after Operation Cast Lead, when they realised they had lost global public opinion. They commissioned an organisation called the Reut institute, which is an Israeli think tank set to the right, and what they said they’ve got to do is delegitimise the critics of Israel. And there has been a conscious plan and strategy by Israel since then… and the plan was to use criticism of BDS, to accuse people of antisemitism and to make sure that the debate was around that and not about the actions of the State of Israel.
And that has been a consistent strategy that they have been following ever since. I am not actually a Corbynista…. but actually I know where his heart is, but we also know that the Israeli government have a strategic objective of trying to ensure that Jeremy is never elected Prime Minister of this country. They do not want there to be a progressive Labour Party with somebody who is supporting Palestine as its head. And they have, as we have seen, put an awful lot of time and effort into supporting (?) and undermining Jeremy.”
In the current environment this comment is outrageous. It came with no clarification and no attempt to offset the damage. Hugh Lanning suggested to everyone listening that the current ‘antisemitism crisis’ was concocted in Jerusalem. A strategy born in Israel just to deflect criticism. How on earth is giving this man a platform part of a commitment to ‘fight antisemitism’?
From the friends of the JLM: The Jews who cannot look at Palestinians
Much of what Lanning said was the usual propaganda nonsense. Just a string of distortion. There were also constant references to the boycott of Israel, why and how people should adhere to it. He spoken about Apartheid, and he also wanted to talk about ‘Israel’s racism’. Here is a good example of the difference between criticism of Israel and unacceptable demonisation. The distinction between them is far clearer than most anti-Israel activists want you to believe. As their movement explicitly rests on the pillars of a racist demonisation, they oppose the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Take this comment from Hugh Lanning:
“They are building roads from Jerusalem to the settlements, the settlers themselves are building the walls and so on, and the roads are walled, so Israelis can go into the settlements, backwards and forwards and not really have to see or bother encountering Palestine at all”.
Talk of settlements and so on would fall into the category of criticism, but Lanning goes much further, he mentions the walls that run alongside some of the roads. These walls along these roads are there to stop Palestinians killing Israelis. That is why they were built. That’s the fact. You can argue around it, place your own perspective on whether the roads or settlements should be there- but the walls and the reasons for their existence are not part of that discussion. Lanning ignores the legitimate reason for the walls – and replaces it with racism. Lanning suggests Israelis built the walls so they wouldn’t have ‘to see’ Palestine. That’s demonisation.
It takes a very real and understandable position and distorts it, removing the humanity of the people involved. According to Lanning, Israelis are not worried about security – they build walls along the sides of their roads so that they don’t have to view Palestinians (who therefore they obviously regard as sub-human). A totally unacceptable distortion.
JLM certified: No context, no truth, no history
There was little context, nor basic adherence to historicity in anything Lanning said. When asked about the 1947-1949 conflict, he said this: “The Nakba didn’t happen as a consequence of the UN partition vote, it was a conscious decision taken by the Israelis at the time to drive people out and take control”. That’s false history and conspiracy talk. No history, no context – just a pack of distortions and lies explicitly set up to demonise the Jewish state. To make people hate Israel so much, that people will seek to join the movement to boycott it. To join a movement that seeks Israel’s destruction. Lanning even wrote off Israeli political movements such as Meretz, by suggesting *all* the parties were just arguing about how mean Israelis can be to the Palestinians. It was the usual PSC rubbish.
Let us put aside the distortions, the demonisation and even the accusation that the antisemitism crisis is clever Israeli engineering. Maybe only hearing one side is okay, if people are given a chance at balance at another time. But when is Momentum offering its members the chance to hear *another side*? And that is a key issue here. They won’t. And that is the problem. Momentum are spreading lies about the Jewish state without giving any room for a defence. They are discarding the accusations of antisemitism: they are promoting a boycott of Israel and they are allowing for Israelis to be demonised.
That isn’t fighting antisemitism at all. It isn’t even protecting those engaging in it. This time, they were caught helping to spread it themselves.
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