An Article Ha'aretz Wouldn't Print

British Labour and anti-Semitism - When it's the truth that you are gaslighting - reply to Alona Ferber

by Tony Greenstein

Feb. 26, 2019 There been a campaign to tar the British Labour Party as being riddled with anti-Semitism and several Labour Party members quit the party last week and claimed that was in part the reason. A writer based in London, Alona Feber, wrote an article in Ha'aretz entitled "Corbynís Labour Will Never Stop Gaslighting Jews". Tony Greenstein long time Jewish anti-Zionist wrote an article in reply. Ha'aretz refused to print it. Here is Greenstein's letter. We have some notes after his letter to explain some matters that may be unfamiliar to the general audience [editor]

Alona Ferber, in her article on 'Labour anti-Semitism', refers to "Goebellian lies" before proceeding to give us a good demonstration of what this means. The bigger the lie and the more times it is repeated, the more likely it is to be believed.

According to Ferber, Jews in the Labour Party, especially divas like Luciana Berger, are in need of police protection because of the level of anti-Semitism. I am reminded of Aesop's fable about the boy who cried wolf. The moral of the story was that '"Nobody believes a liar...even when he is telling the truth!" As I wrote in the Guardian's Comment is Free 'like the boy who cried wolf, the charge of "anti-semitism" has been made so often against critics of Zionism and the Israeli state that people now have difficulty recognising the genuine article.'

That is the real danger of the wide and wholly unsubstantiated assertions of anti-Semitism by people like Ms Ferber against genuine and committed anti-racists like Jeremy Corbyn. You devalue the currency and thereby allow real anti-Semites a free pass. When everyone you don't agree with is an anti-Semite then no one is. That is the real crime that I accuse Ms Ferber and her friends of.

Let me declare an interest. I am Jewish. I am a proud anti-Zionist. I oppose Jewish exclusivism or exceptionalism. I have spent most my life opposing racism and fascism. I was one of the founders of Brighton and Hove Anti-fascist Committee in 1976, Secretary of Brighton and Hove Anti-Nazi League in the early 1980's and on the Executive of Anti-Fascist Action in the 1980's. I have also written a history of the Fight Against Fascism in Brighton and the South Coast.

However none of that stopped me from being suspended, in March 2016, as part of the Labour Party's 'anti-Semitism' witch-hunt, for comments 'you are alleged to have made.' It was only two weeks later when the story of my suspension was leaked to The Times and Telegraph that I realised that I had been caught up in the bogus allegations of 'anti-Semitism' being made against supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.

Amongst the charges levelled against me at my investigation hearing was that I had accused the Israeli state of waiting for the Holocaust survivors to die so that it could save on the meagre benefits that it paid. The allegation was dropped when I pointed to an article in Ha'aretz which said exactly this! Another allegation was that I had compared Israel's marriage laws and the absence of civil marriage to the Nazis' Nuremburg Laws until I explained that this was a direct quote from Hannah Arendt's book Eichmann in Jerusalem' This was the level of evidence concerning my 'anti-Semitism'.

Nonetheless in February 2018 I was expelled. Not for anti-Semitism but for criticism of people like Louise Ellman MP for her support for Israel's treatment of Palestinian children. To this day my accusers have sheltered behind the veil of anonymity.

Ferber cites the case of Luciana Berger MP who has just resigned from the Labour Party alleging anti-Semitism. What is remarkable, for all the publicity surrounding her case, is that no evidence has ever been produced that she has been the subject of any anti-Semitic or misogynist abuse by Labour Party members. All those convicted are known fascists. Ms Berger was threatened with deselection by Wavertree Labour Party, not because she is Jewish or a woman, but because she was on the Blairite pro-war wing of the Labour Party.

What Ferber never mentions is the abuse that Jewish anti-Zionists have experienced from Zionists. Apart from the usual taunts of 'traitor' 'self hater' and 'kapos' I have received messages telling me that it was a pity that I hadn't died in the Holocaust. Jackie Walker, a Black-Jewish anti-racist who is currently suspended has received the vilest racist abuse wishing she had been lynched and burnt alive as she documents in her film The Witchhunt.

Ms Ferber also failed to mention that Berger was Director of Labour Friends of Israel for three years and Parliamentary Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, an overtly Zionist group. LFI is a front for the Israeli Embassy. Supporters of Zionism and the Israeli state in the Labour Party are located almost wholly on the anti-Corbyn right.

Berger resigned this week along with a number of other Labour MPs, all of them pro-Israel, all of them supportive of the war in Iraq, which was the main dividing line in the Labour Party. It was the legacy of the Iraq war that led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn.

The idea that Berger and those who left Labour with her are concerned about racism is fanciful. None of them have ever displayed the slightest interest in racism or the plight of refugees. The real scandal in British politics is not anti-Semitism but racism against Black people, in particular the 'hostile environment policy' that Theresa May pioneered with the 2014 Immigration Act. This led to the Windrush scandal and the deportation of hundreds of Black people who had come to Britain from the West Indies with SS Windrush in 1948 onwards. They have been deported, despite being British citizens, because the Home Office put the onus on them to prove their right to be in Britain whilst at the same time destroying the very documentation that could have proved their entitlement.

In 2014 just 6 Labour MPs including Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, voted against this Act. Neither Berger nor her parliamentary friends were amongst them. They with the rest of Labour's MPs abstained which means they supported the government. Amongst those abstaining was another MP who resigned, Joan Ryan, Chair of Labour Friends of Israel and a former Home Office Minister. Ms Ryan had administered New Labour's vehemently hostile policy towards refugees and asylum seekers. The idea that Berger or Ryan are motivated by any form of anti-racism is for the birds.

It is no surprise that one of the 9 Labour MPs who resigned this week, Angela Smith, 'misspoke' when describing Black and Asian people as having 'a funny tinge.' The fact that this died-in-the-wool racist is still part of Berger's 'Independent' Group speaks volumes.

Jewish anti-Zionists have been amongst the main targets of the 'anti-Semitism' witchhunt. When I was expelled the Board of Deputies of British Jews called my expulsion 'a step in the right direction.' Why? Because I am a fierce critic of the racism which is on display in Israel's current general election.

Ha'aretz is rightly respected abroad for the being a brave and lonely voice in an Israel which is rushing headlong ever further to the far-Right. We admire writers such as Gideon Levy, Amira Hass and Chemi Shalev. That is why it is regrettable that you are giving credence to this false 'anti-Semitism' narrative whose only purpose is to legitimise the hold of Israel's far-Right. There is no truth in the suggestion that Britain's Labour Party or the Left is institutionally anti-Semitic. It is Israel's own actions which feed the anti-Semites because they are carried out in the name of all Jews.

Those who act as apologists for Israel and Gilad Erdan's Ministry of Strategic Affairs in Britain do a disservice to anti-racist and democratic Israelis who are fighting for justice and equality amidst a nationalist maelstrom. Luciana Berger, Margaret Hodge and Joan Ryan are not brave fighters in the battle against anti-Semitism. They are Netanyahu's accomplices. They whitewash the crimes of the Israeli state from the snipers at the Gaza fence to the demonstrators in Afula protesting about the sale of a house to an Israeli Arab. When Labour Friends of Israel tweeted its support for the mowing down of unarmed demonstrators in Gaza none of these brave fighters against racism resigned as patrons of LFI.

Ken Livingstone is right to say that he has never heard an anti-Semitic remark in his time in Labour. What is remarkable about the anti-Semitism allegations is that no-one has ever heard an anti-Semitic remark. That is why hundreds of Jewish Labour Party members support Jeremy Corbyn. Zionist Jews are in a distinct minority as the formation of Jewish Voice for Labour has demonstrated. The main backbone in the Labour Party of the false anti-Semitism campaign is the non-Jewish Right who are weaponising 'anti-Semitism' in order to destroy Jeremy Corbyn.

Ken Livingstone incidentally, who was Mayor of London twice, has once again been traduced. Ferber should know by now that he did not say that 'Hitler was a Zionist'. What he did say was that the Nazis supported Zionism in the pre-Holocaust days. Eminent Zionist historians such as David Cesarani and Lucy Dawidowicz reached precisely the same conclusion.

The real racism in British society is not anti-Semitism. It is Black and Muslim people, not Jews who face deportation, police violence, deaths in custody, false imprisonment and a legal system riddled with racism as well as economic discrimination. Jews in Britain are living in a golden age. They do not suffer from state racism. If Jews in Britain suffered even a tenth of the discrimination that Palestinians in Israel experience then they would have cause enough to complain of anti-Semitism.

Britain is nominally a Christian state. However imagine that I decided to rent a house in an English village only to be told that only Christians could live there or that Jews were not allowed to rent Christian houses because this was 'national' land. There would rightly be an outcry and yet in Safed Jews are subject to a rabbinical edict not to rent to Arabs. In Israel there are hundreds of communities where non-Jews are excluded legally. It is to this state of affairs that Luciana Berger has dedicated her career.

The statistics on anti-Semitism that Ferber quoted should be treated with a hefty pinch of salt. As Mark Twain observed there are lies, damned lies and statistics. The Community Security Trust's Anti-Semitic Incidents Report 2018 purports to show an increase of 16% from 2017 to 2018, some 1,652 incidents. Let us leave aside the fact that the CST is not a neutral body. Hidden away in the statistics is the admission that there was a 17 per cent decrease in the number of violent antisemitic assaults, from 149 in 2017 to 123 in 2018. Equally strange is the fact that the number of violent incidents was some 8% of the total whereas normally in cases of racial incidents the proportion is about one-third. There is no oversight of the CST, an admittedly Zionist group.

It is ironic that where anti-Semitism is increasing, as we witnessed in the United States with the murder by a White Supremacist of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh, Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett rushes over to reassure American Jews that not only is there nothing to fear but the person responsible for ratcheting up the level of racism, Donald Trump, is 'a great friend of the Jews.'

Ms Ferber says that anti-Semitism is the canary in the mine. I suggest that it is more a case of the dog that didn't bark in the night.

Tony Greenstein

Editor's (Stanley Heller) comments

Greenstein refers Luciana Berger and says "All those convicted are known fascists." Berger has received many disgusting and anti-Semitic threats and the British police did arrest people for threats against Berger and some were given prison time. All these people were on the far-right. Greenstein's point is there's no evidence that any of the offenders were Labour Party members thus refuting Berger's claim.

What Livingstone actually said about Hitler was that "in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism." It was part of an interview he made to a BBC reporter who asked him whether a Labour MP's FB post had been anti-Semitic. There was a hysterical reaction in the media Britain to this claim. Buried in the heat was the fact that Nazi Germany did in fact make an agreement with leading Palestinian Zionist authorities called the Transfer Agreement. It allowed German Jews to to transfer more of their wealth out of Germany in the form of German goods. The agreement destroyed the anti-Nazi boycott of the time. The Jewish Agency for Palestine agreement with the Nazis was honored for most of the 1930's. The agreement was intensely controversial among Jews at the time. The main negotiator on behal fo the Palestinian Jewish community was murdered almost surely by other Palestinians Jews for what they thought was the base treachery of the agreement. More about the Livingstone controversy here.

On Feb. 20th 200 Jewish members of the Labour Party wrote a letter to to The Guardian (UK) saying among other things that "Jeremy Corbyn is a crucial ally in the fight against bigotry and reaction."

Return to Home Page