How the Israel lobby is using Owen Jones

Guardian columnist Owen Jones will headline an event for the Jewish Labour Movement, a group involved in Israel’s effort to thwart the Palestine solidarity movement. (Marc Lozano)

Last week the Jewish Labour Movement announced that Guardian columnist Owen Jones will be the big name speaker at an event the group is holding on 2 April.

Jones will lecture on “left anti-Semitism, the Middle East and the Labour Party.”

The Jewish Labour Movement scoring Jones appears to be a high-profile instance of a new push endorsed by Israel’s government to ensure that Palestine solidarity “instigators” are “singled out” from so-called “soft critics” of Israel.

According to The Jewish Daily Forward, the strategy – jointly developed by the Reut Institute and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – “calls for a big tent approach that accepts progressive critics of Israel” while also demanding “an all-out assault on leading critics of Israel, sometimes using covert means.”

“The instigators must be singled out from the other groups, and handled uncompromisingly, publicly or covertly,” the Reut-ADL report states, according to The Forward, which obtained a copy on condition it not publish the entire document.

The Jewish Labour Movement, a pro-Israel organization within the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, appears to be on board with this strategy.

Al Jazeera’s recent undercover documentary The Lobby revealed the Jewish Labour Movement’s close ties to the Israeli embassy, as well as its campaign against BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Splitting the left

Following the announcement that Jones would headline the Jewish Labour Movement event, Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook criticized the Guardian columnist for promoting a group “shown to be acting as a front for the Israeli government’s efforts” in Labour.

Jones replied with a blog post calling his critics conspiracy theorists and reaffirming that he was “very glad” to speak at this pro-Israel group’s event.

“I am a passionate opponent of anti-Semitism in all its forms, overt or subtle. It has to be fought, relentlessly, wherever it appears, including on the left,” Jones asserted – an implication that his critics might condone or tolerate anti-Semitism.

Whether Jones realizes it or not, he is facilitating the strategy of isolating Palestine solidarity campaigners by performing the role of “soft critic” of Israel.

Any division in Labour ranks over Jones’ decision will likely be seen by Jewish Labour Movement leaders as a success.

Indeed, undercover footage revealed by Al Jazeera last month shows Jewish Labour Movement chair Jeremy Newmark boasting in front of the Israeli ambassador that his group had “created a bit of division within Momentum” by convincing a close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to speak at one of its events on “an openly Zionist JLM platform.”

Momentum is the left-wing faction in Labour established to support Corbyn.

At the private meeting between pro-Israel activists and Israeli ambassador Mark Regev at the Labour Party conference in September, Newmark also claimed that he had “intelligence” that Momentum’s “political directors” had “passed a vote of censure on Clive Lewis, just for coming to our meeting and speaking.”

Member of Parliament Clive Lewis was at the time shadow defense secretary and considered a rising star in the Labour Party.

Over the course of 2016, Corbyn, a veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights, faced a manufactured “anti-Semitism crisis,” that coincided with efforts to force him out as party leader.

Whipped up by right-wing figures in the party, along with internal pro-Israel groups such as Labour Friends of Israel, as well as by Jewish Labour Movement chair Jeremy Newmark, the allegations included exaggerated and, in some cases, wholly fabricated claims about anti-Semitism by party members.

Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby showed how a Labour Friends of Israel leader concocted a false allegation of anti-Semitic comments against a party member at last year’s Labour conference.

Failing strategy

A key part of the strategy pushed by Israel and its surrogates is to smear supporters of justice for Palestinians as anti-Semites.

In this context, the Jewish Labour Movement has promoted a discredited definition of anti-Semitism that conflates criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Semitism.

But the Reut-ADL report concludes that multi-million dollar efforts to combat BDS have “largely failed,” according to The Forward. The newspaper says that the report’s authors consider that the BDS movement “has grown twentyfold since 2010.” But they lament that anti-BDS “results remain elusive.”

The new Reut-ADL plan echoes reports in Israeli media last September that Israel’s strategic affairs ministry has been waging a “classified,” “under the radar” campaign of “black ops” against the BDS movement.

Amid reports of this covert campaign, a Palestinian human rights lawyer in The Hague has received anonymous death threats that are being investigated by Dutch police. The lawyer, from the human rights group Al-Haq, has been working with the International Criminal Court as it probes possible war crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians.

There have also been sophisticated cyber attacks against websites associated with the Palestine solidarity movement.

The ADL has a documented history of infiltrating and sabotaging US solidarity campaigns with Palestine, as well as campaigns against the South African apartheid regime.

Backed by Israel

Co-opting progressive figures, or “soft critics” of Israel, such as Clive Lewis and Owen Jones, is a key element of the Reut-ADL strategy – the proverbial carrot, to accompany the stick.

The Reut-ADL report appears to have been a year in the making, although its roots lie further back.

An influential Reut strategy in 2010 called on Israeli spy agencies to “sabotage” and focus on “attacking catalysts” in global centers of Palestine solidarity.

In a 2010 PowerPoint presentation, Reut’s founder Gidi Grinstein termed such cities as London, Madrid and the San Francisco bay area “hubs” of “delegitimization” which aim to “promote one man, one vote” in all of historic Palestine – as opposed to the current reality of a “Jewish state” alongside an Israeli occupation regime in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Grinstein, who revealed the new Reut-ADL strategy earlier this month, had said in his 2010 presentation that it was imperative to prevent the “implosion” or political collapse of Israel in a manner similar to the fall of the South African apartheid regime.

That strategy also called for “driving [a] wedge between soft and hard critics” of Israel and other Palestine solidarity activists Reut terms “delegitimizers” – mainly due to their support for BDS.

The Jewish Labour Movement’s Newmark said in 2010 that the Israel lobby group of which he was then chief executive had “contributed heavily to the compilation of the Reut report.”

Slide from a 2010 Reut Institute presentation at the Herzliya conference.

The 2017 Reut-ADL strategy places a renewed emphasis on embracing the so-called soft critics in order to isolate them from “instigators” and “delegitimizers” who call for effective measures to hold Israel accountable or who question Zionism, Israel’s state ideology.

Reut Institute and ADL leaders have boasted that their report has the backing of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, which is spearheading the country’s anti-BDS effort. The JTA news agency calls this endorsement “an important signal that even a right-wing government favors the big tent.”

Enter Owen Jones

In his defense of his planned lecture for the Jewish Labour Movement, Owen Jones offers a message that is a fit with the Reut-ADL strategy.

Jones reaffirms his criticism of Israel’s “occupation of Palestine” and writes that he believes “in a just peace for both Arabs and Jews, providing security and peaceful coexistence. That process involves dialogue.”

But Jones says nothing about BDS or any other method to hold Israel to account. He did not reply on Twitter to questions from The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah asking if he supported a boycott of Israel.

In substance, Jones’ position is nearly identical to that of Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement, which both ostensibly advocate a “two-state solution” but oppose all practical efforts to support Palestinian rights.

Indeed, the false accusation of anti-Semitism against the Labour Party member documented in the Al Jazeera film was conjured up because the member had challenged Labour Friends of Israel chair Joan Ryan over what her group proposed to do in order to stop Israeli settlements.

Labour Friends of Israel has campaigned even against boycotts of firms – such as G4S – that are directly involved in Israeli settlements and the abuse of Palestinians, including children, in military detention in the occupied West Bank.

Lawmakers affiliated with Labour Friends of Israel wrote to Labour leader Corbyn asserting that such boycotts “seek to delegitimize Israel and do nothing to further the cause of peace.”

Yet last month, Ryan introduced a bill in Parliament proposing an international fund to promote “coexistence” and “dialogue” between Israelis and Palestinians – language identical to that deployed by Owen Jones.

Such “dialogue” is promoted to deflect pressure from Israel and leave the status quo that the BDS movement seeks to change – Israeli occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid – intact.

Undercover footage showed Israeli embassy agent Shai Masot, second from left, conferring with Jewish Labour Movement leader Jeremy Newmark and Israeli ambassador Mark Regev.

The undercover footage of the private meeting at the Labour Conference shows Jeremy Newmark sitting next to Shai Masot, the Israeli embassy’s disgraced senior political officer.

Masot was forced to leave the UK last month after the Al Jazeera documentary’s revelations made headlines. He had been caught plotting to “take down” a senior government minister.

The documentary also showed him claiming credit for incubating a “Young Labour Friends of Israel” group.

After The Lobby aired, Jeremy Corbyn called for an investigation into Israel’s undue influence on British democracy.

In January, the chair of a powerful parliamentary committee announced that he would include the Shai Masot affair in a new Middle East inquiry.

Meanwhile, Israel lobby groups can chalk up a success with the recruitment of Owen Jones in their effort to split supporters of Palestinian rights.

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Comments

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Up to now, I thought Owen Jones was a principled author and activist on the broader politicial left. Now as I come to know he has no problems to get involved in a bad maneuver by agents and fans of an oppressive colonial state I am very disappointed! Think it over Owen! In any case I will think it over buying Your books.
Hermann Dierkes
P.S. In my time as the president of the municipality faction of DIE LINKE in the city of Duisburg/Germany some years ago I was a state-wide target of a smear campaign after having publicly spoken out in favour of the BDS-movement

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The Guardian has been leading the charge against Labour since Jeremy Corbyn's first election as party leader. And the paper has conspicuously focused on the torrent of spurious antisemitism accusations emanating from the Israeli embassy and its front groups. In that respect, Jonathan Freedland's key position as ideological enforcer at the Guardian- opinion and comment editor- has played a considerable role. Of late the paper has decided to throw Owen Jones into the fray, being their last available "progressive" contributor with a reputation left to lose and willing to lose it. In committing Jones, they've pretty much reached the end of the line. Britons who support Palestinian rights will not be led into a cul-de-sac by transparent distractions of this type.

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The Guardian's treatment of Corbyn was beyond contempt. The paper has turned into a propaganda rag, albeit a very glossy one.

Almost night and day attacks over alleged anti-Semitism, the very stuff of Senator McCarthy in the 1950s United States. All without foundation. Just throwing mud.

They love Tony Blair and his acolytes, and Tony Blair was what he was - assistant mass killer in Iraq and winner of the Israel Peace Medal (if you can believe that name) - simply because he was a complete sell-out to the Israel Lobby. That's really the underlying text of "New Labour."

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Owen Jones has been wobbly on other issues, although this is a shocker. I agree with Tom Hall that (the increasing number of..) Britons who support Palestinian rights, and are appalled by Israel's brutal occupation with its web of associated illegal acts, won't be distracted by Owen Jones. Rather, they will put ever more pieces together to understand how these so-called 'Friends' operate and how unfriendly they are when faced with moral and humane criticism of unacceptable racism and exceptionalism, settler land grabs, illegal detainment without trial, torture and mass slaughter of Palestinians.....the list is long.

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Odd, when criminal imperialists and Torah desecrating racist settler colonists ethnically cleanse and subject Arabs (who are Semites) to pogroms that is not anti-Semitism. But when anyone speaks out against that, it is.

This fellow, Jones, seems like a hypocritical toad.

PS. It is time for the imperialist mafia to leave the Levant and NATO to fold. The WAR RACKET has to go.

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Well, they are welcome to him.

I know Owen Jones' writing well.

He is one of the most ineffectual columnists in The Guardian, even when he is not writing about "anti-Semitism."

Many of his typical pieces are headlined with words like "We must..." "We should..." "We should be prepared..."

They are the words of a preachy, almost Sunday School teacher-type. Quite tedious.

Indeed, here is my comment on a piece of his from some while back. I think it gives a good idea of what Owen Jones is about:

https://chuckmanwordsincomment...

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As always the left is at again, at each other's throats. No wonder the Left in UK is in shambles and offering no alternative to the Tory government, and that working people with a desire for social justice are in despair.

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Speak for yourself. I also see enormous support within the left, generosity, caring and serious debate. The vicious, underhand maligning and undermining of others comes primarily from groups and individuals one can hardly describe as left, even if they belong to Labour.
The left being "at each other's throats" contains as little truth as accusations of whole-scale antisemitism.

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I am very disappointed in Owen, for being played so easily. I'll still listen to his speech very carefully to see how he intends to achieve full Palestinian human and national rights in such ideologically bankrupt surroundings

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Ther problem with this post is that it treats Owen Jones as an unwitting object and dupe of Israeli machinations. Jones is conscious of what he is doing. He is someone who started on the left and has moved to the right. WIthin Momentum he supported the coup of Jon Lansman, who has openly worked with the JLM and Jeremy Newmark.

I have written a lot about Jones and his political shift because it has wider lessons. In essence Jones bought into the idea, beginning with Operation Protective Edge, that opposition to the Israeli state and Zionism was 'anti-Semitic'. He is into identity politics and the claims of Jews to be oppressed are of equal validity to Palestinians.

He has blown hot and cold over supporting Jeremy Corbyn and is widely seen as an opportunist. Without understanding the politics of the subject then you treat Israeli plots and machinations in political isolation. Zionist targetting of soft supporters of the Palestinians would not happen if anti-Zionism was at the core of Palestine solidarity. Treating the Palestinian question as simply a human rights issue means that it is possible to remain a left Zionist and a Palestinian supporter.

Below are my blog on Jones

Owen Jones – the Final Betrayal - Supporting Zionist Apartheid & the Jewish Labour Movement
http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2...
Lansman’s Scorched Earth War Against Democracy in Momentum
Owen Jones – the Nick Cohen of Tomorrow
http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2...
Gaza Reveals the Empty and Vacuous Heart of Owen Jones’s writing
Owen Jones – Concerned About 'anti-Semitism' and using the Holocaust to Excuse Israel's murder of 2,000 Palestinians
http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2...
Owen Jones’ Obsession with ‘anti-Semitism’
http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2...

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I never trusted Owen Jones - I followed him on Twitter few years back but after reading this, I have since un-followed him. He is young and probably seeking benefits and perks - righteousness is not his component!

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"But Jones says nothing about BDS or any other method to hold Israel to account. He did not reply on Twitter to questions from The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah asking if he supported a boycott of Israel."

As ever, there's Dialogue, and then there's dialogue. The first- Dialogue- is a prerequisite for the attainment of a just and peaceful settlement. On the other hand, lowly "dialogue" isn't worth two minutes of an important columnist's time.

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During the Israeli onslaught of Gaza in 2014 , Jones wrote !!.

"A few days earlier, photographs emerged of young residents relaxing on folding chairs as they watched the bombing. Some smoked water pipes; others had brought popcorn. On one level, the “Sderot cinema” sums up the asymmetry of this so-called conflict: of Gazans huddled in terror as a military superpower pounds their overcrowded, besieged open-air prison camp; while on the other side of the border, Israelis joyously celebrate their country’s military might, whatever fear they have of Hamas rockets eclipsed by the thrill of bombs detonating in the near distance. It is also illustrative of how occupations corrupt the occupier. “What a misfortune it is for one nation to subjugate another,” Friedrich Engels wrote in 1864, referring to Britain’s oppression of Ireland. “All English abominations have their origin in the Irish pale.” And so it goes with Israel and Gaza.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/co...

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Splitting the Left as strategy only works when the Left complies. Let's not. Owen Jones is not worth our attention; we have work to do. BDS!

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Sadly the title probably has this around the wrong way, it probably Owen Jones, using the pro-Israeli lobby to further his own climb up the greasy pole. If there is one thing that Owen Jones has been true to all along its been self promotion, and here he is, building Brand Owen Jones, ingratiating himself with those with power and money. Seriously, ask yourselves, why would an ambitious, self serving, journalist like Owen waste his time hanging out with those who support Palestine, are they going to offer him lucrative contracts? Of course not!!

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.