Bad news for Jeremy Corbyn

Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller, Pluto Press (2019)

Those of us who have followed the interminable anti-Semitism story manufactured against Labour, the UK’s main opposition party, know that the media coverage has been fatally skewed.

This new book presents the proof in a systematic manner.

Bad News for Labour is written by five academics led by media professors Greg Philo and Mike Berry.

It traces the witch hunt against the left and Palestine solidarity in the Labour Party that has been intense since Jeremy Corbyn first ran for leader in 2015.

These authors even became part of the story they sought to shed light on, when book chain Waterstones canceled a launch for their book during the Labour conference this year, after coming under pressure.

For the book, Philo and Berry commissioned a national poll and ran focus groups to understand British public opinions around the party and the issue of anti-Semitism.

Their findings confirm what Labour’s grassroots membership has known all along – that anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is being grossly exaggerated and fabricated as a political weapon against Corbyn.

This campaign has been led by the Israel lobby and the right-wing faction which remains devoted to Tony Blair.

Despite a now years-long all-out establishment war against Corbyn, the left-wing, Palestine solidarity veteran, Labour’s members overwhelmingly reject the notion that the party leader or his popular movement are anti-Semitic.

As I reported back in 2016, only 5 percent of those polled at the time agreed that anti-Semitism is a bigger problem in Labour than in other parties. The largest group – 47 percent – said it was no worse than in other parties.

Polls of the Labour membership since then have run broadly along the same lines.

But Philo and Berry’s new study is not confined to Labour members and looks instead at the general public. It comes to some staggering conclusions.

Propaganda war

The all-out media campaign smearing Corbyn as an anti-Semite has had an effect, leaving the public with a stratospherically exaggerated impression of anti-Semitism in the party.

In February this year, Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby released figures of formal complaints to the party. Those figures show that, during the nine months prior, only 673 party members had even been accused of anti-Semitism.

In a party with around half a million, that amounted to about 0.1 percent of the membership.

In a letter to Labour’s right-wing deputy leader Tom Watson a few months later, Formby further explained that “anti-Semitism-related cases that have been taken through the stages of our disciplinary procedures since September 2015 relate to roughly 0.06 percent of the party’s average membership during this time.”

Yet despite these low figures, the national opinion poll commissioned by Philo and Berry found that this reality was not getting through to the general public.

“On average, they believed that 34 percent of Labour Party members had had complaints for anti-Semtism made against them,” they write in the book, an astonishing 34,000 percent exaggeration of the actual figure provided by Formby.

Only 14 percent of those polled believed that the figure of those accused was less than 10 percent of Labour members.

By any standards, we have to admit this has been a major historical achievement for the corporate media.

The British establishment was threatened by the prospect of a socialist government in Britain, so its propaganda system, the corporate media, was deployed to prevent that prospect.

It brings to mind Malcolm X’s famous dictum about the press making the criminal look like the victim and making the victim look like the criminal: “If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

“New anti-Semism”

The book uses similar methods to Philo and Berry’s 2004 study Bad News From Israel and its 2011 second edition, More Bad News From Israel. Both were essential reading to understand exactly how the corporate media is generally biased in favor of the Israeli narrative.

This book also contains strong chapters by academics Justin Schlosberg and Antony Lerman about the controversial “working definition” of anti-Semitism promoted by pro-Israel groups.

Lerman, in particular, gives a searing indictment of the definition as the inherently anti-Palestinian document that it is.

He explains the history of the highly misleading Israeli concept of “new anti-Semitism” that the state has promoted over the last few decades to shield itself from criticism.

The brilliant left-wing academic David Miller rounds out the book with a case study of a “Labour anti-Semitism” smear campaign – the one run against him.

This book is essential reading, and I found the timeline of events since Corbyn was first elected in September 2015 particularly useful.

Where the book seems rather thin and slightly vague is in its prescriptions of what could have been done to avoid the mess in which Corbyn and the rest of the Labour leadership now find themselves.

While fine, these prescriptions seem to avoid the main point of Jeremy Corbyn’s failure: he should have forcefully rejected “Labour anti-Semitism” as the lying smear campaign that it has been all along.

He should have openly defended Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker and, latterly, Chris Williamson. Instead, he has remained silent at best or – as with Livingstone – been complicit with media lies about them.

These three and so may other left-wing, anti-racist anti-imperialists have been tossed by the wayside, and the popular movement that won Corbyn the leadership is being slowly driven out of the party.

Even among that tiny 0.06 percent, many are innocent. Allegation does not constitute guilt.

This book is a useful contribution toward at least understanding what has really happened.

The consequences will be with us for decades to come.

Asa Winstanley is a reporter and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada.

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I would recommend this book. Its particular value lies in the low-key, academic approach taken by Philo and his colleagues - just the sort of analysis one would have hoped for from The Guardian and the BBC (in fact both have been part of the unquestioning smear campaign).
Labour’s response has always been to accept the charges and claim to be dealing with the problem instead of challenging their veracity and the motives of the accusers. In consequence they are now saddled with the pernicious IHRA definition and we are already seeing members being penalised for pro-Palestinian or anti-Zionist opinions.

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For me there's always been a nebulous, hard to pin down quality to Labour's strategy on this question. Of course there are the die-hard Blairites in the Parliamentary Labour delegation, and they're well distributed within party structures, too. But I've struggled to understand the thinking behind the endless procession of apologies, investigations, suspensions, expulsions- essentially capitulations- delivered by Corbyn and those around him. What did they think they would accomplish with all this grovelling? Did they actually believe they were buying time, or that accepting the claims of those who only wish to destroy them would produce beneficial results? How and why was this disastrous response decided upon, when it was perfectly obvious from the start that you cannot bargain with witch hunters? To do so is to assume good faith on the part of the Israeli embassy, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, the British media and the numerous Zionist organisations constantly on the attack. How could experienced professional operatives like Corbyn, McDonnell, Milne, Formby and the like reach such a wrong-headed view? Any of us living our daily lives knows that you cannot satisfy these sort of demands. They always come back for more, and more. You must fight them. And it's far better to do so from the onset than to surrender by inches over a period of years. As I say, I honestly can't fathom the thinking that went into this policy of appeasement.

The UK election is now set for Dec 12. I hope that the effect of this long smear campaign and the failure of the leadership within Labour to mount a vigorous defence doesn't produce a defeat at the polls, something that would prove catastrophic for millions of people.

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Why has the Labour Leadership got it wrong? I think it may in part be the way that it all kicked off ; the combination of Naz Shah 'admitting' she'd reposted an antisemitic post (when of course it wasn't) fuelled by Ken Livingstone mentioning Hitler unnecessarily. There had been murmuring before but it was these 2 events that really got the AS narrative started in the media. The leadership just weren't ready; arguing that an MP who has admitted to racism was in fact not being so is a hard one to deal with (even if correct), and the media has always loved to demonise Ken - and his remarks were ill judged to make at that time. But then they should have realised that other attacks were coming, they should have had the balls to properly defend Marc Wadsworth - which would have been very easy - and then make it clear that they did not accept the criticisms from JLM, the BoDs, and argue their pro Israel agenda made their motives extremely suspect. It would difficult when that would have caused a different kind of argument, underlining how split the LP has been. But it would have been much better. Look at Philip Hammond's response to Toby Young's casual unfounded AS allegations against him - threaten a libel action and get the allegation withdrawn.
It does make me worry how they will deal with whatever the findings of the EHRC in the new year.

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The following is the first part of the Jewish Labour Movement's General Election Statement, posted on October 31st:

Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2015, a culture of antisemitism has been allowed to emerge and fester in the Party at all levels. From murals and wreaths, to Livingstone and Walker and Williamson, there are too many shameful examples to list – itself damning evidence of the Party’s moral slide.

Our Honorary President, Dame Louise Ellman MP, along with our former Parliamentary Chair, Luciana Berger MP were hounded out of Labour after years of relentless abuse, particularly in their local parties. Despite being well aware of this bullying, Jeremy Corbyn did nothing to address their concerns. When two accomplished and dedicated Jewish Labour MPs no longer see a place for themselves in the Labour Party, it’s clear that the party has lost its way.

This crisis of antisemitism in the Labour Party stems from a failure of leadership from Jeremy Corbyn. When the answer has been to take swift, decisive action, the reality has been equivocation and token gestures. Time and time again, the Party has not engaged in good faith to try to implement the actions that we believe are necessary to tackle anti-Jewish racism.

The disciplinary process has buckled under the weight of antisemitism complaints, and instead of implementing an independent process we’ve seen delay, obfuscation and botched decision making. Political interference is endemic in the system, which is used to protect the leaderships’ friends and allies, rather than ensure the Party is a safe space for Jews.

It is little wonder that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is formally investigating the Labour Party for institutional racism against Jews; unprecedented scrutiny which will continue throughout the course of the general election.

(Ends)

So how many LP members alleged to have said or done something anti-semitic by the JLM and the CAA and the LAA etc, and by Margaret Hodge and Ruth Smeeth and John Mann etc, have been reported to the police? And of those, if any, how many have been charged? And of those, if any, how many were found guilty in a court of law out of the thousands of cases of A/S that they have alleged between them all?

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I was just looking round JLM's website to see if I could find any (further) 'evidence' that they re-formed specifically to target and attack Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters - ie the left - and I clicked on the section entitled 'News', which were in fact articles, and scrolled down to the bottom of the page and found that there were six pages altogether. So I clicked on the sixth page and, as such, found that the first article they ever published was posted on February 3rd, 2016, and entitled 'JLM Elects New National Executive Committee'.

The third article, posted on March 1st is entitled 'JLM NEC Meeting With Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson MP', with a picture underneath with the caption: 'JLM NEC Members with Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson MP, 29 February 2016, House of Commons, London.' The article is very brief and consists of just five sentences, the last of which says: 'Luciana Berger MP, Louise Ellman MP and Ruth Smeeth MP also attended the meeting.' At the time of writing, there were just the three articles on that page - ie the last page.

On the fifth page there is an article posted on May 7th entitled 'Message to JLM from Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP', and it begins thus:

'Dear members of the Jewish Labour Movement

I wanted to write to you as the Jewish community prepares to hold ceremonies to mark Yom HaShoah, the Jewish day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust which took place this week...'

One gets the very strong impression that this was the first occasion that Watson ever wrote to them (expressing such sentiments), and hadn't done so in previous years because the organisation wasn't in existence, and THAT of course would explain away the House of Commons meeting at the end of February.

Several articles further up the page, there is an article posted on May 19th entitled 'Key Appointments for JLM' which, in itself suggests that the group hasn't long been formed, but in the second part of the article, with the sub-heading 'Ivor Caplin to Chair JLM South East Region', it begins by saying:

'After JLM’s successful re-launch earlier this year, we are now moving on to the next stage of changing the way we organise locally'

And it then goes on to say in effect that they are setting up regional branches of JLM for the very first time, which seems odd if you've been affiliated to the Labour Party for decades! THAT's as far as I got in my search for 'evidence', but I think most people would agree that it all appears to point to ONE conclusion!

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Thanks for that Allan. So timeline goes:-
Late 2015 or early 2016, within a 2-4 months of JC's election as Labour party leader, JLM is revived. Within a few weeks of their formation, on 26.4.16 a post by Naz Shah pre dating that election is 'unearthed' by Guido Fawkes. In fact, there are a series of rolling 'revelations' of the next 24 hours. The Guardian's Jessica Elgot produced a whole article with a timeline the day after (https://www.theguardian.com/po...) which shows that this was done by Guido to try and cause as much disruption as possible. Also, that the Labour leadership caved in almost immediately.
Now, it may be a coincidence, it may only have been Guido searching every left wing MP's full social media history for anything which might be twisted into an AS slur. But it does show that JLM was reformed before there was any issue in the media about the LP being antisemitic.

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WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

Like many I have been totally confused and incredulous at the accusations of anti-semitism in the party, and so I thought deeply about it and came up with these facts:

1. Jeremy Corbyn has long supported the Palestinians and expressed highly-critical views of the behaviour of the Israeli government, and this has nothing to do with anti-semitism, which is concerned with race, not the politics of the Israeli state. If you criticise the actions of the USA and its professedly Christian government, you are not attacking Christianity, neither are you Islamaphobic if you criticise the governments of Iran or Saudi Arabia.

2. Accusations of anti-semitism have only arisen since Jeremy Corbyn became leader, after the resignation of Ed Milliband, who was a Jew himself, in common with many of Labour’s leading politicians from the past.

3. Much of this anti-semitic abuse has come on Twitter, Facebook and other Internet channels, from anonymous or other unidentifiable sources, and there is no proof that the originators of such attacks are genuine Labour supporters. It would be very easy for traditional anti-semites from the right, to masquerade as party members, and it would also be simple for those who gain by splitting Jews from their traditional support of Labour to deliberately create this anti-semitic story, and the agents of the Israeli government could easily be involved. While, of course there are always some abusers and bullies who will join in attacking those they think to be vulnerable.
4. Since the number of Labour party members has grown enormously, during the leadership of Ed Milliband and Corbyn, it must be simple for infiltrators with the aim of damaging Labour to make themselves members of the party and use such credentials on the Internet, as well as in face to face organisation of attacks on Jewish MPs and other members. Some of such acts may reflect genuine anti-semitism on the part of the perpetrators, but I think it just as likely that they are deliberately designed to stigmatise the Labour Party and persuade Jews to defect and vote elsewhere.

5. Even in times when anti-semitism was common, it was not reflected in the Labour Party. It always came from the right, and Labour members were very active in combating such views internationally and in the battles against blackshirts in the East End. This is the reason that it has always attracted many Jewish voters. None of the leading Labour politician has ever openly expressed anti-semitic views and there seems to be no evidence that long-time, traditional members have taken any part in the current abuse.

6. It is possible that there are a few members who believe in the idea that there is an International Jewish conspiracy to gain control over the resources of the world, but such conspiracy theorists are more likely to be found on the right, and if in Labour they’d hardly be likely to connect this idea with hard-working Labour MP from a working or middle-class background.

7. In short the Labour Party has always been in the vanguard in the fight against anti-semitism and Jeremy Corbyn and the leadership must be as bewildered as the rest of us in hearing of these anti-semitic acts. Therefore I put forward this view that they are the result of a deliberate perversion of the party by those who aim to destroy it and those who wish to change the Labour view of the treatment of Palestinians.

So please improve this document, if you can, and help to distribute its ideas, particularly among the Jewish community.

Kevan Myers (dancingyeti@gmail.com)

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A major failing of this book is that it provides no clue as to how successful the smearing campaign has been: does the fact that many people have the wrong idea about the numbers/proportion of Labour Party members accused of AS mean that they also believe the accusations are well founded? We are not told because the survey did not ask the question - an opportunity to measure the success/failure of the liars has been missed.

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Yes, Corbyn should have gone on the offensive, unmasking the accusations as a concerted smear, but also attacking the ingrained racism of Zionism. We have seen Louise Ellman paraded on the media as a victim, taking a high moral tone, bandying accusations of intimidation and racism without once being questioned about her unflinching support for the Israeli State. We have heard from the British Board of Deputies and the Jewish Chronicle as if they are sweet, little innocents rather than apologists for a regime which can only be called criminal, which was born in terrorism and survives through brutality. From the first, Corbyn should have brought to the forth the historical racism of Zionism, including crucially its antisemitism. Most people look bemused when told that Zionism is bitterly antisemitic. Perhaps Corbyn is ill-informed about the genesis and history of Zionism. His shadow foreign secretary certainly is (see Leon Rosselson's Medium blog).
There is a vitally important question which needs to be brought into the light. When complaints about antisemitism are made to the Labour Party, how does the complainant know the person they are complaining about is a member? Complaints have been submitted for comments made on social media, in e-mails when the Party membership of the commentator was not revealed. Thus, there are only two possibilities: either inside information is being provided or complaints are being made speculatively. In either case, there is a problem. If Labour Party staff are passing details about membership to people outside the Party, that is a breach of the law. If complaints are being made speculatively then many may be about people who are not Party members. We need to know how many complaints there have been and what proportion of those complained of are members. And above all we need to know that no one within the Party is passing information to those outside who wish to do it damage.

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