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November 5, 2020 6:15 am

UK Paper Publishes Letter on Labour Scandal Containing Antisemitic Smears

avatar by Adam Levick


Former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is seen outside his London home, Oct. 29, 2020. Photo: PA Images via Reuters.

On October 30, a day after the EHRC report on antisemitism in the Labour Party was released, The Guardian published a series of letters, including the following, by a former MP:

I have known Jeremy Corbyn for nearly 60 years. He has many faults. He was a hopeless leader of my (then) party and his lacklustre campaign directly caused the disaster of Brexit.

He is a decent, honourable man and a dedicated parliamentarian. He is about as antisemitic as the chief rabbi. His suspension from the Labour party is a disgrace (Labour in turmoil as Corbyn suspended in wake of antisemitism report, 29 October).

Like many of us, he loathes Israel’s present government and its treatment of the Palestinians. In October 2009 I went to Gaza. I went as part of a European group of parliamentarians in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, a retaliatory attack on Gaza by Israel in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians.

The British contingent consisted of members of the Lords and Commons, including Jeremy Corbyn. It was led by the late Sir Gerald Kaufman, a hugely experienced and distinguished parliamentarian. He was a Jew and a supporter of Labour’s Friends of Israel group. He was also a strong, persistent and highly articulate critic of Israel’s policies.

It cannot be said often enough. Some of those who are apologists for Israel’s conduct in Palestine persistently use the false accusation of antisemitism as a weapon against their critics. It does their cause no service and will generate precisely the prejudice and hatred they purport to abhor. 

Bob Marshall-Andrews QC
MP for Medway 1997-2010

To those unfamiliar with the history of the letter-writer’s smear — that Jews make false accusations of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israel — it was first called out by Professor David Hirsh to describe a trope used by former London mayor Ken Livingstone in 2006, and thus referred to as the Livingstone Formulation.

Unfortunately, this “formulation” — denying antisemitism by calling into the question the motivation of the Jewish victims — has not at all been limited to Livingstone. As CAMERA UK has documented, it’s been peddled and legitimized by British media outlets, including the BBC.

Further, as CST revealed in a 2019 report, “The online networks behind the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis,” antisemitic narratives that took root in Labour-supporting online circles during that time included “allegations of antisemitism against Labour are a fake smear campaign” — that is, the Livingstone Formulation.

Of even greater relevance, the explosive EHRC report, which found the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn broke equalities law in areas including harassment and discrimination, cited Livingstone (p. 28) using this very smear as an example of Labour officials using antisemitic tropes:

2. Suggesting that complaints of antisemitism are fake or smears.
Labour Party agents denied antisemitism in the Party and made comments dismissing complaints as “smears” and “fake.” This conduct may target Jewish members as deliberately making up antisemitism complaints to undermine the Labour Party, and ignores legitimate and genuine complaints of antisemitism in the Party. These comments went beyond simply describing the agents’ own personal experience of antisemitism in the Party. 

Example: In media interviews in April 2016, Ken Livingstone, a Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC) member, made reference to social media posts made by Naz Shah MP. Naz Shah’s posts included a graphic suggesting that Israel should be relocated to the United States, with the comment “problem solved,” and a post in which she appeared to liken Israeli policies to those of Hitler. Naz Shah apologized for her comments in Parliament and conceded that they caused “upset and hurt to the Jewish Community.” Ken Livingstone repeatedly denied that these posts were antisemitic and Investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party 29 sought to minimize their offensive nature. In his denial, Ken Livingstone alleged that scrutiny of Naz Shah’s conduct was part of a smear campaign by ‘the Israel lobby’ to stigmatize critics of Israel as antisemitic, and was intended to undermine and disrupt the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn MP.

“The basic idea behind most modern antisemitism,” argued the CST’s Dave Rich, “is that Jews must be up to something.”

“Whatever Jews say and do,” he continued, “can’t be taken at face value: they must have some ulterior motive or hidden agenda that needs to be uncovered.”

In its decision to publish a letter arguing, in effect, that British Jews were lying when they expressed their belief that Corbyn and his party are antisemitic, and that this perfidious Jewish behavior will “generate … the hatred they purport to abhor,” the Guardian has sanctioned not only the Livingstone Formulation, but the even more odious charge that Jewish behavior explains antisemitism.

Adam Levick serves as co-editor of CAMERA UK, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), where this article first appeared.

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