Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party – a response to the Editorial Committee.
by Mark Cowling
In the April 2019 edition Labour Affairs you were kind enough to publish an article by me concerning anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. You also published a response from the Editorial Committee. There are some matters on which, so far as I can see, we agree. The practice of leaping upon statements and arguments because they appear at first sight to fall under the IHRA examples of anti-Semitism and using this to close down discussion, or to indict people as anti-Semites, needs to be challenged. This is a particular characteristic of the Campaign Against anti-Semitism. I also agree that Jeremy Corbyn is not anti-Semitic. And I agree that much of the behaviour of Israel to the Palestinians is dreadful.
The last part of the response discusses Israel’s claims that it faces a serious existential threat. I agree that this is spurious. In particular, the threat from Iran is grossly exaggerated, and Western governments accept far too much of this claim, while forgetting about the way in which Saudi Arabia has provided very substantial ideological support for Al Qaeda and Islamic State, because the Saudis purchase such a lot of weaponry. However, if the existential threat to Israel is spurious, and life for Israeli Jews is generally safe, Israel can still function as a bolthole for Jews. I think that the claim to the contrary in the editorial response is polemical. I also agree that questions to do with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and the related question of Israel and the Palestinians are not simply academic discussions, and are bound to be heated and fought over. Nonetheless, the arguments used in such discussions should be rational and respect the facts, rather than simply post-truth polemics.
The account of the closing down of the intended discussion of anti-Semitism by the Stroud Green Labour Party is really shocking. The set of proposed questions for discussion look like an obvious starting point, and if any of them were felt to be inappropriate they could surely be challenged in the course of the meeting. This episode strengthens the line of argument in the response to my article that the aim of at least some of those accusing Labour of failing to deal with anti-Semitism is to sling mud at Jeremy Corbyn.
Despite the above degree of agreement, there remain two issues. First, Corbyn has been happy to talk of representatives from Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”, describing Hamas as “dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people and bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region” (March 3, 2009). The editorial committee says that it would be helpful to know if there are any anti-Semitic statements in the Hamas charter at that time. The charter is quite easy to find online and includes the following:
Part of the introduction to charter (which is described internally as a Covenant) reads:
This Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS), clarifies its picture, reveals its identity, outlines its stand, explains its aims, speaks about its hopes, and calls for its support, adoption and joining its ranks. Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. It is a step that inevitably should be followed by other steps. The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realised.
Note that this is a struggle against “the Jews”.
Part of Article 7 reads:
the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:
“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).
Then we come to Article 22:
For a long time, the enemies have been planning, skilfully and with precision, for the achievement of what they have attained. They took into consideration the causes affecting the current of events. They strived to amass great and substantive material wealth which they devoted to the realisation of their dream. With their money, they took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations, and others. With their money they stirred revolutions in various parts of the world with the purpose of achieving their interests and reaping the fruit therein. They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests. With their money they were able to control imperialistic countries and instigate them to colonize many countries in order to enable them to exploit their resources and spread corruption there.
You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.”
This article contains just about every anti-Semitic idea available anywhere!
There are a variety of ways in which it would be possible to distance oneself from the above. Hamas appears to have left one particular respected member to write the Covenant, and many of its policies do not flow directly from the Covenant. In particular, Hamas has played a very important role as a social service organisation in Gaza. I hope to take up the role of Hamas in a future article.
Corbyn would have done well to distance himself from the more prominent anti-Semitic statements by Hamas, and also those made by Hezbollah. Without some sort of disclaimer, it isn’t difficult to see how people could get the wrong idea.
The other point of disagreement is over the question of the need for Labour to deal as quickly and effectively as possible with members accused of anti-Semitism. There have been numerous accusations on this point, but the Labour Affairs response to my article takes the view that there is no particular urgency and that the issue is spurious. I agree that there is no evidence that the Labour Party is riddled with anti-Semitism; there are many much more important and interesting issues to discuss. Nonetheless, I stand by my assertion that it is important to make sure that accusations of anti-Semitism against Labour Party members are dealt with promptly and in a transparent and effective manner. There have been numerous claims that this is not happening at the moment, and they should be resolved as soon as possible. I am alone in this view. The Sunday Times discovered a discussion between Corbyn and Margaret Hodge, which is reproduced below,
“Jeremy Corbyn has privately admitted that evidence of anti-semitism in Labour has been “mislaid, ignored or not used”, The Sunday Times can reveal.
“He made the admission during a secretly recorded meeting with the MP Margaret Hodge to discuss the party’s anti-semitism crisis.
“It is the first time Corbyn has cast doubt on his own staff’s ability to tackle the problem that has dogged his leadership for years and whether they have mishandled evidence of racism.
“He made the admission in February while outlining his intention to recruit the Labour peer Lord Falconer to review the party’s complaints process.
“‘The point of him [Falconer] is that he will look at the speed of dealing with cases, the administration of them and the collation of the evidence before it is put before appropriate panels and things,” Corbyn said. “Because I was concerned that evidence was either being mislaid, ignored or not used and that there had to be some better system.’”
The above indicates that Jeremy Corbyn himself thinks that there is something of an issue, and who am I to disagree?
As I have indicated before, I hope to take up some of the more substantive issues to do with Israel, the Palestinians, and the Middle East generally in subsequent articles.