Tag Archives: J-BIG

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

 

 

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.

 

 

Jewish groups combine to condemn government attack on BDS

Members of five Jewish organisations in the UK worked together to produce a statement condemning  government plans to punish local councils and other bodies if they took procurement or investment decisions in line with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions call.

The version published by  the Independent online on Wednesday was not the final, agreed wording. J-BIG’s name was missing while that of Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) was erroneously included.

To put the record straight we publish here the statement as intended by the participants, representing JfJfP, J-BIG, Independent Jewish Voices, the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network and the Jewish Socialist Group.

ANTISEMITISM AND BANNING BOYCOTTS

We find it incompatible with democratic freedom, and counterproductive, that the government intends to block ethical investment and procurement decisions by public bodies lest they “poison and polarise debate and fuel antisemitism” [Boycotting of Israeli goods to be criminal offence, February 15]

Opposition to the State of Israel’s continued occupation, crimes against the Palestinian people and violation of international law, has nothing whatever to do with antisemitism. What smacks of antisemitism is to think that all Jews uncritically support Israel’s actions.

The truth is that growing numbers of Jews in this country and abroad see the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for what it is – a weapon of moral persuasion, deploying a tactic frequently used by powerless people in their opposition to racism, slavery and oppression.

History shows us boycotts against slave grown sugar in the West Indies, the movement of Irish tenant farmers against the eponymous Captain Boycott, Gandhi’s Indian boycott of British sales of salt and the global movement which helped end apartheid in South Africa.

In every case the Tories of the day opposed the boycott, siding with the oppressor against the oppressed.

If Cabinet Office minister Matt Hancock goes ahead and announces the ban during a visit to Israel, claiming without a shred of evidence that “local foreign policies” are “undermining our national security”, he will demonstrate his government’s continuation of an ignoble tradition.

 

 

 

 

Jewish groups mobilise to say NO to Board of Deputies’ support for Israeli state violence

END THE KILLING, END THE OCCUPATION

Tomorrow, Tuesday October 13, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and other self-appointment “communal groups” plan to indulge in a shameful display of contempt for Palestinian lives by protesting outside the Palestinian Mission in West London. They display their blatant racism by hijacking the anti-racist hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, using #IsraeliLivesMatter to tout their demands for a Palestinian apology for recent attacks on Israelis. Meanwhile the toll of Palestinians killed and injured mounts, with no apology for the violence of the Israeli state and the settlers it defends. Four Israelis and 25 Palestinians have died over the past 12 days.

Three pro-justice Jewish groups have called an Emergency Counter Protest outside the Mission at 5 Galena Road, W6 0LT

Meet at 4.30pm  outside the Lyric Theatre, King Street, Hammersmith and will we walk in small groups to Galen Road.

Below is the text of a leaflet produced by J-BIG, the Jewish Socialist Group and Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

END THE KILLING, END THE OCCUPATION

We are here today as Jews to say that the Board of Deputies of British Jews does NOT speak for us when they protest outside the Palestinian Mission. The Board has never truly represented the whole Jewish community and it certainly does not do so now, when it defends Israel and its belligerent occupation.

This occupation:

  • Walls Palestinians into ghettos, divides families and destroys family life
  • Denies both Christian and Muslim Palestinians the freedom to worship
  • Expropriates Palestinian land and water
  • Settles Jewish migrants from abroad on Palestinian lands
  • Demolishes Palestinian homes, destroys farms and olive groves
  • Imprisons Palestinian children and their political leaders after trials in kangaroo courts, or no trial at all
  • Kills Palestinians with impunity

The present government of Israel has made it quite clear it has no intention of giving up the lands they illegally occupy. They want territory not peace.

They continue to provoke Palestinians, making the throwing of stones by Palestinian children a lethal offence while protecting stone-throwing settlers and those who burn Palestinians alive in their homes. They protect the rampaging lynch mobs in Jerusalem who flood the streets with cries of ‘Death to the Arabs’.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews acts as Israel’s advocate, shamefully telling Palestinians that #IsraeliLivesMatter, while Palestinian lives are being snuffed out unnoticed by world leaders.

We demand instead that the Board take their protest to their friends in the Israeli Embassy and tell them that it is time to end the occupation.

This is the only option that will end this non-stop violence: violence that the Israeli state perpetrates daily and that only attracts international attention when the Palestinian people can take the oppression no longer and respond.

We believe that Jews are entitled to equality in whichever country we live. Thus we demand that the government of Israel treats all people living in the territories it controls with the same equality and dignity that Jews throughout the world have every right to expect.

Organised by: Jews for Justice for Palestinians (jfjfp.com), Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (jews4big.wordpress.com), Jewish Socialists’ Group (jewishsocialist.org.uk).

 

STATEMENT ON THE BANNING OF A CONCERT BY GILAD ATZMON

Israeli-born saxophonist Gilad Atzmon has been targeted for intimidation by the Zionist zealots of the North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI), resulting in the cancellation of a concert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Atzmon’s views have set him at odds with the BDS movement and in particular with its Jewish supporters, but this must not prevent us standing up to acts of censorship by the pro-Israel lobby.
J-BIG founder member Prof Moshe Machover has written the following statement.
Dear Friends,
Regarding this article from the Manchester Evening News:
I know Gilad Atzmon personally and am familiar with the opinions that he spreads, which I find loathsome.
He is not so much anti-Zionist as anti-Jewish. Not so much a holocaust denier as holocaust justifier.*
At the same time I must protest strongly against  banning his appearances, muzzling him, and especially preventing his concerts.
Views, however unacceptable, should be defeated by argument, not by bureaucratic bans.
Moshé Machover

 

Why our boycott campaign against Israel makes sense

 

During London protests against Israel's renewed attacks on Gaza, anti-Zioniost rabbis stand on top of a double decker bus in Kensington High Street. Photos from Twitter/@EAli1 and @ImaniAmrani

During London protests against Israel’s renewed attacks on Gaza, an anti-Zionist rabbi stands on top of a double decker bus in Kensington High Street. Photos from Twitter/@EAli1 and @ImaniAmrani

The latest evidence of Israeli criminality has added urgency to the BDS campaign. Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods initiated a letter published in the Guardian on Saturday July 12, alongside another pressing the case for BDS, under the headline Why our boycott campaign against Israel makes sense.

The J-BIG letter, signed by Jewish figures including actor Miriam Margolyes and  writer and comedian Alexei Sayle, was also supported by author Ahdaf Soueif.

It said Israel was marking the 10th anniversary of the international court of justice  ruling that Israel’s apartheid wall is illegal and must be removed, by renewing its attacks on Gaza, again punishing the Palestinians for resisting the illegal occupation of their land.

Protests have been widespread and growing. See Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ (JfJfP) website for a useful compendium of reports and comment.

 

FULL TEXT OF PRO-BDS LETTERS IN THE GUARDIAN

It is now 10 years since the international court of justice  ruled that the wall built by Israel in the occupied West Bank contravenes international law and must be removed.

Israel is marking this anniversary with renewed attacks on Gaza which continue to punish the Palestinians for resisting the illegal occupation of their land (Israel turns screw on Hamas as 300 targets are hit in a single night, 11 July).

The apartheid wall is still there, making any kind of normal life for Palestinians an impossibility, as well as stealing their land. It is 47 years since Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, thus extending the process (begun in 1948) of ethnically cleansing the indigenous population and then installing settlers.

All this is illegal under international law, which has been flouted by Israel, aided by the complicity of western governments. The media too, especially the BBC, must bear some responsibility with its grotesquely biased reporting which, as Owen Jones notes (9 July), portrays Israel as an innocent victim, exempt from any norms of behaviour.

Our government will not hold Israel accountable, so we have a responsibility to do so, especially through the civil society campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions  (BDS).

Miriam Margolyes, Mike Marqusee, Alexei Sayle, Ahdaf Soueif, Prof Haim Bresheeth, Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, Prof Moshe Machover, Prof Nira Yuval-Davies, Seymour Alexander, Rica Bird, Elizabeth Carola, Mike Cushman, Judit Druks, Nancy Elan, Mark Elf, Deborah Fink, Sylvia Finzi, Kenneth Fryde, Claire Glasman, Tony Greenstein, Abe Hayeem, Rosamine Hayeem, Selma James, Riva Joffe, Michael Kalmanovitz, Adah Kay, Leah Levane, Les Levidow, Mica Nava, Diane Neslen, Susan Pashkoff, Roland Rance, Leon Rosselson, Maureen Rothstein, Michael Sackin, Ian Saville, Miriam Scharf, Sam Weinstein, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Devra Wiseman, Ben Young
Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG)

 

• Debate about strategy is vital for good politics. We welcome Noam Chomsky‘s admonitions as a stimulus to the debate and education which the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement has enabled globally. Aside from the errors of fact in Chomsky’s Nation article reported on by Ian Black (Israeli sanctions campaign: Chomsky’s boycott warning, 2 July), the timing of his intervention is unfortunate since the BDS movement has now reached even American campuses, occasioned Israeli cabinet deliberations as to how to counter it, and caused reputational damage to corporations working with Israeli firms in occupied Palestine.

Chomsky also ignores that BDS is fully backed by Palestinian civil society and a growing number of Israelis. In this difficult period for progressive politics and international solidarity, the BDS movement builds across the globe. In its stead Chomsky proposes nothing.
Hilary Rose Professor emeritus of social policy, BradfordMartha Mundy Professor emeritus in anthropology, LSESteven Rose Professor emeritus of neuroscience, Open University, Sami Ramadani London Metropolitan University