Category Archives: JfJfP

Jewish groups back call for inquiry into Israel Embassy interference in UK democratic processes

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods has joined other Jewish organisations that work for justice for Palestine in endorsing the following statement:

We note with concern the very serious allegations of Israeli Embassy interference in the United Kingdom’s democratic processes revealed in the Al Jazeera series “The Lobby“.

We support Jeremy Corbyn’s call(*) on the Government to hold an enquiry into this attempt to subvert both the government itself and the Opposition. It is imperative that the Foreign Affairs Select Committee should summon those Israelis and British politicians and lobbyists shown to have been implicated.

We also call on the Labour party to conduct an immediate investigation into the involvement of its own members in the activities documented by Al-Jazeera.

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG)

Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP)

Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG)

(*) Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has sent the following letter to Prime Minister Theresa May:

corbyn-letter-to-may-jan2017

 

 

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Labour Jews tell Chakrabarti antisemitism inquiry: supporting Palestine is not anti-Jewish

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

www.freespeechonisrael.org.uk

Labour Jews tell Chakrabarti antisemitism inquiry: supporting Palestine is not anti-Jewish

  • Free speech is at risk from the charge that opposition to Zionism is antisemitic
  • Pro-Israel Jewish organisations do not represent all Jews
  • Antisemitism must be confronted alongside Islamophobia and other forms of racism
  • False allegations are being used as a weapon against Corbyn supporters

June 24 – Jewish Labour Party members and supporters have hit back against pro-Israel lobbyists alleging antisemitism in the party, telling an inquiry established by party leader Jeremy Corbyn that free speech is under threat from attempts to make criticism of Israel a “thought crime”.

Free Speech on Israel (FSOI), a Jewish-led network of labour, green and trade union activists, was set up in April to counter attempts by pro-Israel right wingers to brand the campaign for justice for Palestinians as anti-Jewish. 

“It is imperative that criticism of Israel and indeed the Zionist project do not become thought crimes,” said Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, lead author of the FSOI submission to the inquiry, which is due to report at the end of June.

He said the inquiry, headed by former Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, “is an opportunity to put to rest the moral panic that has been whipped up by some opponents of Corbyn’s Labour Party and to ensure that freedom of speech on an important and contentious issue is not undermined.”

The FSOI submission states that pro-Israel bodies such as the Board of Deputies (BoD) of British Jews, Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) do not represent the entire Jewish community as they claim.

The network disputes those organisations’ assertion that Zionism – the political ideology underpinning the Israeli state – is intrinsic to Judaism and Jewish identity.

Other Jewish organisations making similar arguments in submissions to the inquiry include Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), Jewish Socialists Group (JSG) and the International  Jewish Antizionist Network (IJAN), as well as an ad hoc group of 97 Jewish members of the Labour party who have proposed creation of a new, inclusive Jewish Labour organization.

 

For more information contact:

info@freespeechonisrael.org.uk

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

Here are the main points made by Free Speech on Israel in its submission to the Chakrabarti inquiry. We also draw on a submission proposing formation of a new inclusive Jewish Labour organization, as well as submissions from the Jewish Socialist Group, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the International Jewish AntiZionist Network-UK, and many individuals. All can be viewed here.

 

  1. Antisemitism is Hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which they are perceived as something other than what they are,” according to a widely accepted definition from Dr Brian Klug, an authority on the subject. Refs: FSOI submission5 Defining antisemitism; JfJfP submission p.11 Defining Antisemitism

 

  1. Robust criticism of the Israeli state and its founding ideology, even if expressed in ways upsetting to some Zionists, does not amount to antisemitism. Alleging that it does threatens free speech on the Israel-Palestine question. Refs: FSOI submission1 Free Speech; IJV submission p.1-3 Executive Summary

 

  1. Suggesting that all Jews share one ideology – Zionism – and are uniformly loyal to the State of Israel is itself antisemitic. Not all Jews are Zionists, many Zionists are not Jews, pro-Israel organisations do not represent all Jews. Refs: FSOI submission3 Jews in Britain, p.5 Antisemitism and AntiZionism; JSG submission p2 Zionism –contested political ideology, not a religious imperative; p.4 Antisemitism and Antizionism; p.6 Voices and representation within Britain’s Jewish community

 

 

  1. Virtually all of the complaints directed at the Labour Party are about attitudes to Israel, not about Jews. We are seeing a purge of pro-Palestine activists who are supporters of democratically elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. Refs: FSOI submission4 The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party; IJAN-UK submission p.1; JSG submission p.8/9 Evaluating charges of antisemitism; JfJfP submission p.4 Allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party

 

  1. Antisemitism is one among many forms of prejudice that must be fought. It is less virulent today than the Islamophobia and hatred of migrants and Roma people promoted by the Far Right and made respectable by some mainstream politicians. Refs: JSG Submission4 Antisemitism in Britain; IJAN-UK submission p.2

 

  1. The so-called EUMC (European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia) definition of antisemitism, promoted by the BoD, JLM, Zionist Federation, Campaign against Antisemitism and other pro-Israel lobbyists, has never been adopted by any official EU body. Refs: FSOI submission6 Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism; JfJfP submission p.6/7 Related ‘framing’ issues
  2. Zionism is responsible for Palestinian dispossession over several generations. Almost every Palestinian is anti-Zionist for entirely understandable reasons. There is nothing antisemitic about this. Refs: FSOI submission2 Context; JSG submission p.5; IJV submission p.8 The New Antisemitism

 

  1. If expressions of support for Palestine unintentionally stray into antisemitic territory, the answer is education, not expulsion. Refs: JSG submission5 & p.8 Evaluating charges of antisemitism; JfJfP submission p.15/16 Judaism and Zionism; JfJfP submission p.14 Providing Guidelines

 

 

  1. The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) – an openly Zionist organization – is not a fit body to educate others on antisemitism. Its proposed changes to party rules make false charges of antisemitism more likely, disregard victims of real antisemitism, and spread fear of being accused of antisemitism, stifling debate about Israel-Palestine. Refs: FSOI submission10 False allegations of antisemitism; Proposal for a new, inclusive Jewish Labour organisation; JSG submission p.8.

 

  1. It is not sufficient for someone Jewish to say they are offended by a statement for it to be judged antisemitic. This is a distortion of guidance from the Macpherson inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. A victim’s perception must be taken into account when investigating an alleged hate crime, but it cannot determine in advance, without reference to objective criteria, that a hate crime was committed. Refs: FSOI submission12 The Macpherson Report; JfJfP submission p.12 The Macpherson Principle

 

  1. Allegations of antisemitism cannot be used to ban certain political arguments about the nature or origins of the state of Israel, or the tactics – such as boycott – that Palestinians choose to campaign for an end to the injustices committed against them. Refs: FSOI submission9 Boycott and ‘singling out’ as hate speech; JfJfP submission p.14 Providing Guidelines

 

 

 

 

Antisemitism – The weapon of choice in the war on Labour’s Left

The last few months have seen the British establishment waging an hysterical witch hunt against Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership and the pro-Palestinian movement. Their weapon of choice has been the charge that antisemitism – and support for terrorism – are rife on the Left, that Labour “has a problem with Jews,” that Jewish LP members are  frequently subjected to racist abuse and that the new Labour leadership has allowed intolerant Jew-haters to flood into the party.

The response from Corbyn’s team has been defensive and apologetic. They rightly assert their own anti-racist credentials, insist that antisemitism is a vile prejudice that is not permitted in the Labour Party and pledge to expel anyone found guilty of it. So far so good. But they have not hit back at the pro-Zionist lobby – Jewish and non-Jewish – which deliberately and maliciously seeks to associate Jew-hatred with criticism of Israel in the public mind. This feeble approach has to change.

Tony G

 J-BIG stalwart Tony Greenstein, Brighton-based socialist, anti-racist and anti-Zionist, has won an apology (they call it a “clarification”) from the Daily Telegraph for “implying” that he was an antisemite. Labour’s Compliance Unit has suspended him from membership without giving any reason, but apparently shared the information with the Telegraph. Tony explores the charges against him on his blog.

 

Jewish pro-Palestinian groups in London are currently working on a strategy to help stem the tide. Both at grass roots level and within the Labour hierarchy, there is a huge need for political education to communicate the following key points.

Genuine antisemitism exists and must be condemned, as we would any form of racism.

Zionists have worked so hard to damn any criticism of Israel as antisemitic, it’s tempting to reject such charges out of hand. But amidst the crazed pillorying of Corbyn’s team in the Mail Online, for example, there are some instances of actual expressions of racism against Jews by Labour supporters. These must be tackled with as much vigour as hatred of Blacks, migrants or Muslims – so comprehensively ignored by the pro-Israel lobby.

When the complainant is committed Zionist Louise Ellman MP, one can sympathise with Piers Corbyn (brother of Jeremy) who reportedly tweeted: “#Zionists cant cope with any-one supporting rights for #Palestine.” Never a truer word! But it gave ammunition for the Evening Standard to use in publicising charges from Labour’s conflicted candidate for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. From a Muslim family, with a record of supporting causes such as the campaign to release Shaker Amer from detention in Guantanamo, and having been supported by Corbyn and leftwing former Mayor Ken Livingstone in his campaign for the candidacy, Khan now says he wears “a badge of shame” about antisemitism in the party and the leadership needs to be “trained on what antisemitism is.”

cityam.com sadiq khan

Credit: cityam.com

Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate in next month’s vote for Mayor of London, has publicly taken the side of pro-Israel Tories in alleging antisemitism in Corbyn’s Labour Party.

 

 

 

The Palestine solidarity movement has learned to its cost that it must be vigilant against antisemitism among its members. In a recent story in Haaretz about a defender of Holocaust deniers who has been  rejected by her local Labour Party, the paper referred to her as “the former secretary of the Camden branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.” Haaretz neglected to say that the person in question was dismissed from that position precisely because her views were incompatible with PSC’s anti-racist ethos.

Charges of antisemitism are very often designed to protect Israel from criticism, harm legitimate campaigns for Palestinian rights, especially Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party under his leadership

Jonathan Arkush of the Board of Deputies (BoD) of British Jews has been vocal in accusing Corbyn of tolerating antisemitism, referring to “a stream of clear cut cases of antisemitism in the Labour party, which can’t just be fobbed off as differences over Israel.”

The stream is actually more of a trickle of cases, many referring to events in the distant past and many being far from clear cut. Most cases have attitudes to Israel and Zionism at their heart.

The Mail Online piece mixes some apparently nasty instances of genuine antisemitism with the staging in York of Caryl Churchill’s play Seven Jewish Children (“horrifically anti-Israel” according to the BoD), a Facebook post complaining that ‘leading Zionists’ were trying to take over a student Union and links with the website of Friends of Al-Aqsa – a respected part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

 

The increasingly high-profile, non-violent BDS campaign is a major priority for antisemitic branding by those determined to defend Israel. Jonathan Neumann of the so-called Jewish Human Rights Watch, writing in the Daily Telegraph in February, alleged that BDS is just a precursor to ISIS-style beheadings: “The anti-Semitic campaign to shun Israeli goods embodies the radicalism that threatens everyone .”

Then there is the oft-quoted example of the Oxford University Labour Club where co-chairman Alex Chalmers, who is not Jewish, resigned in February claiming that a ‘large proportion’ of the party’s undergraduate members have ‘some kind of problem with Jews’.

The most comprehensive statement of the club’s “problem with Jews” appeared after Chalmers resignation on the Twitter feed of the Oxford Jewish Society (JSoc).

Oxford JSoc antisemitism

If the statement is true, it does indicate there may have been some questionable behaviour and some ham-fisted attempts by pro-Palestine supporters to explain what they thought was, or was not, antisemitic. But the JSoc clearly doesn’t know what antisemitism is either, claiming that the word ‘Zio’ – frequently tossed around between Jewish anti-Zionist activists – belongs on neo-nazi websites and that Jenny Tonge – kicked off the Liberal Democrat front bench for expressing understanding for Palestinian militants – was expelled for antisemitism. This is a circular argument in which people conflating antisemitism with anti-Zionism denounce supporters of Palestine for having been previously denounced for antisemitism! It all goes back to Arkush’s “differences over Israel”.

There is substantial opposition among Jews to this cynical campaign. 

Jews are not an undifferentiated mass of pro-Israel supporters, nor have they ever been. Today they are certainly not united behind the witch-hunt again the pro-Palestinian Labour Left and the BDS movement.

Clear evidence for this appeared on the Guardian letters page after  Jonathan Freedland published a long piece retelling the story of a British Left riddled with anti-Jewish racism.

Leading Jewish pro-Palestine campaigners queued up to refute his allegations.

As one said: “…it is a betrayal of every Jew in history who fought for human rights and against oppression, and every Jew ever persecuted for being a Jew, to sling allegations of antisemitism every time anyone tries to stand up for Palestinian rights.”

Zionist beliefs are not the preserve of Jews alone.

There is a whole other story to tell about the origins of the Jewish Zionist movement in the second half of the 19th century, the attachment of many leading Christian intellectuals and politicians to the idea of Zionism and the relationship of both to antisemitism.

Today’s most vocal British Zionists include Justice Secretary Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles and Business Secretary Sajid Javid. Not a Jew among them.

In the USA the most ardent supporters of Israel are to be found not among the Democrat-voting Jews of the East Coast but among the millions of evangelical Christians in the South who believe all Jews must gather in Zion to usher in the Second Coming of Christ.

See elsewhere on this website for a briefing about Zionism and Antisemitism.

There is treasure trove of valuable background information on the website of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

 

 

THE DEATH OF LIBERAL ZIONISM – IN THE NEW YORK TIMES!

This post has been available online for a while but it’s so good it’s worth giving another airing.

Antony Lerman

Antony Lerman

Blogger Philip Weiss introduces an important New York Times op-ed by Antony Lerman thus:

A hugely important piece in the New York Times this weekend is all over my inbox this morning. As it should be. It’s datelined London, not New York: and writer Antony Lerman declares “The End of Liberal Zionism : Israel’s Move to the Right Challenges Diaspora Jews.” (Yes we rang that knell here a few weeks back.)

Antony Lerman says that liberal Zionists are now a figleaf for rightwing Jewish supremacy in Israel and a dam on open discussion of equal rights in the United States. He celebrates the non- and anti-Zionist left– in the NYT:

Today, neither the destruction wreaked in Gaza nor the disgraceful antics of the anti-democratic forces that are setting Israel’s political agenda have produced a decisive shift in Jewish Diaspora opinion. Beleaguered liberal Zionists still struggle to reconcile their liberalism with their Zionism, but they are increasingly under pressure from Jewish dissenters on the left, like Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Independent Jewish Voices.

Along with many experts, most dissenting groups have long thought that the two-state solution was dead. The collapse of the peace talks being brokered by the American secretary of state, John Kerry, came as no surprise. Then, on July 11, Mr. Netanyahu definitively rejected any possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state. The Gaza conflict meant, he said, that “there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan” (meaning the West Bank).

Liberal Zionists must now face the reality that the dissenters have recognized for years: A de facto single state already exists; in it, rights for Jews are guaranteed while rights for Palestinians are curtailed. Since liberal Zionists can’t countenance anything but two states, this situation leaves them high and dry.

Read the rest here. 

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN, CRITIC OF ISRAEL AND BDS, SPEAKS IN LONDON

nwi chairing norman finkelstein nov2011 credit brian robinson

Norman Finkelstein debates BDS at SOAS, November 2011

Norman Finkelstein, both celebrated and reviled for his brilliant demolitions of Zionist propaganda, will be launching his latest book in London on May 31 at an event hosted by Jews for Justice for Palestinians.  Full details below.

Finkelstein’s views on the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign have made him a controversial figure in the BDS movement. In November 2011 he debated with Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, on a J-BIG platform at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

The event, pictured above, exposed disagreements between Finkelstein and BDS activists who he accused of building a “sect”.  As the JfJfP notice below says, his May 31 book launch could prove “a bumpy ride”!

LONDON BOOK LAUNCH

Old Wine, Broken Bottle:
Ari Shavit’s Promised Land

Saturday 31 May 2014 *  6.30 for 7pm start
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL

Norman Finkelstein is a strong speaker celebrated for his brilliant demolitions of Zionist propaganda and full-tilt attacks on the American Israel Lobby.

His new book is a take-down of Ari Shavit’s “My Promised Land”, which he finds is an attempt to repackage Zionist propaganda and win back Diaspora Jews. “Old Wine, Broken Bottle” is a devastating and very entertaining critique that concludes that Shavit will not succeed, and that a broad-based mass movement is now growing that can pressure the Israeli government to withdraw to the 1967 borders.

But Finkelstein is nothing if not controversial: having defied the Zionist establishment, he now stands apart from the mainstream of Palestine solidarity by denouncing the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement as a marginal “cult”. His vehement insistence on the Two State Solution has also been widely challenged.

Professor Finkelstein will open with a conversation with JfJfP signatory Stephen Marks.
Then fans and critics alike can put their own questions to him. All are welcome.

Expect a bumpy ride!

Free event, but please help towards costs: £3 donation suggested
Apologies for Saturday timing; this was the only slot available”Old Wine, Broken Bottle” reviewed by a member of the JfJfP Exec http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/1939293464/ref=sr_cr_hist_5?ie=UTF8&filterBy=addFiveStar&showViewpoints=0

 

 

J-BIG – THE JEWS WHO BACK THE BOYCOTT – WRITE UP IN MORNING STAR

Today’s MORNING STAR (“The People’s Daily”) carried this feature about the foundation and work of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.

DEBORAH FINK and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi are co-founders of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-Big), a group which has scored major successes as progressive Jewish people respond to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The pair met through Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), founded in February 2002 in response to the second intifada.

Fink joined in July that year. Coming from a conservative, pro-Israel background, she found it reassuring to meet fellow Jews who were against Israel’s policy in Palestine.

She sees JfJfP as an important organisation.

“It shows the world that Israel does not represent all Jews, that it cannot count on all Jews for support,” she says.

“And to a certain extent it protects non-Jewish critics of Israeli policy from bogus charges of anti-semitism.”

Anti-semitism is often the accusation thrown at Israel’s critics, with the aim of intimidating them into silence.

Fink felt there needed to be a specifically Jewish voice supporting the campaign to boycott Israeli goods, so with Wimborne-Idrissi she founded J-Big in 2006.

They chose the tongue-in-cheek slogan “it’s kosher to boycott Israeli goods,” highlighting the fact that many Jews are involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, so it’s “kosher” to take part.

Wimborne-Idrissi comes from a left-wing Jewish household. Her father used to sell the Morning Star’s predecessor the Daily Worker, so solidarity with oppressed peoples is something she grew up with.

She discovered JfJfP in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.

A speaker at a Stop the War demo was speaking, as a Jew, for Palestinian rights. Wimborne-Idrissi signed up there and then.

She felt that JfJfP, while doing great work in the Jewish community, did not go as far as she and others wanted in the boycott campaign. A further step was needed.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign had set up a Boycott Israeli Goods campaign and was showing an interest in getting a specifically Jewish voice involved.

Wimborne-Idrissi and Fink pulled together some like-minded people and set up J-Big. A founding statement was published, a banner sporting the “kosher” slogan produced and J-Big set about mobilising support.

Wimborne-Idrissi says it wasn’t long before the expected deluge of venomous accusations flooded in.

They were denounced as “self-hating Jews” and “traitors to the Jewish state of Israel.”

“We had no illusions that the campaign would bring the Israeli economy crashing down,” she says.

“Boycotting avocados and peppers grown on illegally occupied Palestinian land and then sold as Israeli would not bring the country’s economy to its knees, but the immorality of how and where these goods are produced is an important message to get across.”

J-Big became more interested in boycotting Israel at an institutional level — by, for example, boycotting cultural events such as when Israeli musicians come to Britain under the Israeli flag to perform here while Palestinian artists are suffering under the occupation.

Here Fink’s musical training — she’s a bachelor of music and a trained soprano — came to the fore.

Working with others in the BDS movement Fink debuted by interrupting the Jerusalem Quartet at the Wigmore Hall in 2010, singing a parody of Jerusalem, Holy City.

J-Big was involved when the campaign tackled a more high-profile target, encouraging as many as possible to join in the protests when the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra played the Royal Albert Hall in 2011.

There were many disruptions to the orchestra’s performance, the first of which involved 13 activists in a choir led by Fink.

Sue Blackwell, a prominent member of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine who had written the words to the Wigmore parody, wrote a new version of Ode to Joy as Ode to Boycott, including the words “Israel end your occupation, Palestine must now be free, ethnic cleansing and apartheid should belong to history.”

Protesters, who came from as far afield as Edinburgh and Brighton, were strategically seated around the auditorium and their interventions carefully timed.

During a quiet musical passage protesters in vacant choral seats stood up with cloth banners which together spelled Free Palestine.

The protesters were eventually escorted out of the hall, but the protest made global news.

Fink explains the controversial action by pointing to the way the orchestra operated as a cultural ambassador, making Israel appear civilised.

“As a musician I find it hard to disrupt beautiful music,” she says. “But basic human rights are more important.

“It’s not just about influencing the audience at a prom, but about influencing world opinion. You can’t do that by handing out a few leaflets.”

Wimborne-Idrissi adds that the protests were planned to disrupt the beauty of the music as little as possible.

The Bruch violin concerto was part of the programme, for instance. So “free Palestine!” would be shouted when the conductor was raising his baton at the start of a piece, but not once the violin had started playing.

The disruptions were done to be in keeping with the performance, turning it into a weapon for the Palestinians.

The concert was not aborted. It was the BBC that cut the broadcast — which had never happened before in the history of the proms.

It was an even more successful protest than the previous action at Wigmore Hall.

I suggested that what this party of 30 or more people had done that night at the Albert Hall was not so much to disrupt Beethoven, who featured, but to be true to his spirit.

Fink and Wimborne-Idrissi agree: “Beethoven was a revolutionary.”

Wimborne-Idrissi stresses that the global boycott movement, started by the Palestinians themselves, does not target individual Israelis — and certainly not Jews as Jews.

It targets institutions and aims for equality for Palestinians living in Israel, freedom for Palestinians living in the occupied territories and justice for Palestinian refugees, including the right of return for all those forced to flee their homes since the Nakba (“catastrophe”) of 1948.

Together, these movements hope to win justice for Palestinians — something the UN has signally failed to achieve.