Text analysis by Gilad Atzmon
The JVL (Jewish Voice for Labour), a pro Corbyn racially exclusive Jews-only cell that does not accept non Jews into its ranks, is attempting to teach us about racism and anti Semitism.
Instead of opposing all forms of racism and bigotry on a universal basis, the Jews only ‘left’ group has adopted the ‘anti Semitism’ cry. Together with FSoI (Free Speech on Israel), a ‘predominantly Jewish campaign group,’ it has published a disturbing document that confirms that their primary concern is Jewish suffering.
“We,” the Jewish bodies unanimously state,” believe that the following comments will be helpful to those drawing up Labour’s disciplinary code, and perhaps more widely.”
I will review each of the JVL/FSoI’s comments.
Implications of taking this view of antisemitism
Racism commonly stereotypes groups as inferior in ways that enable discrimination against them. Such stereotypes function by scapegoating a targeted group, deflecting blame for society’s problems from their real causes. Antisemitic stereotyping has historically been used to dehumanise Jewish people, giving license to treat them in ways not otherwise acceptable. Use of such stereotypes is unarguably antisemitic conduct.
Gilad: It has been a while since the Jews have been treated as an ‘inferior’ collective. On the contrary, it is the hegemony of Jews in certain domains that is often criticised. Much has been written, for instance, about Jewish lobby groups dominating American and British foreign affairs. Jewish pressure groups have imposed the IHRA definition of antisemitism on governments, political parties and institutions. Prominent Jews such as Alan Dershowitz boast about “Jews contributing disproportionally..” raising the question of whether JVL would allow goyim to do the same: to point at the very power Jews often brag about.
2. Expressions of antisemitism
Certain words and phrases that refer to Jews in a derogatory way are unquestionably antisemitic. Terms which associate Jews with malevolent social forces clearly fall into this category. Extreme examples are the blood libel (that Jews kill Christian children to use their blood in religious ceremonies), and the claimed existence of a powerful but secret Jewish cabal that controls the world.
Seemingly neutral or positive terms can also be used in antisemitic ways. For example, assertions that Jews are unusually clever or especially ‘good with money’ make the unwarranted assumption that all Jews share similar characteristics. Commonly, there is a negative, antisemitic edge to such views.
Gilad: Not surprisingly and consistent with their Zionist brethren, the JVL and the so called ‘Free’ Speech on Israel attempt to impose a Jerusalemite regime of correctness to suppress any attempt to look into Jews, their culture and their political settings. Is it racist to acknowledge that Blacks are great jazz musicians, or often superb at sports? If it isn’t, why is it anti-Semitic to discuss Jews as being powerful, clever or even influential?
Jews, Israelis and Zionists are separate categories that are too frequently conflated by both supporters and critics of Israel. This conflation can be antisemitic. Holding all Jews responsible for the actions of the Israeli government is antisemitic. Many Jews are not Zionist. The majority of Zionists are not Jewish but fundamentalist Christian Zionists. Over 20 percent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish.
Gilad: Although not all Jews are Zionists, Israel defines itself as ‘The Jewish State’ and Israel is racist and abusive entity. Sadly, the racially exclusive JVL in accepting gentiles only as ‘solidarity members’ and not as full members, is actually more racist than Israel. In Israel, Arabs can be citizens and their politicians can be proper members of the Israeli Knesset. How many Arabs or Goyim are included in JVL’s steering body? Not one…
4. Political discourse
Free speech is legally protected. Within these legal limits political discourse can be robust and may cause offence. There is no right not to be offended. The fact that some people or groups are offended does not in itself mean that a statement is antisemitic or racist. A statement is only antisemitic if it shows prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews.
The terms ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zionist’ describe a political ideology and its adherents. They are key concepts in the discussion of Israel/Palestine. They are routinely used, approvingly, by supporters of Israel, but critically by campaigners for Palestinian rights, who identify Zionist ideology and the Zionist movement as responsible for Palestinian dispossession. Criticising Zionism or Israel as a state does not constitute criticising Jews as individuals or as a people and is not evidence of antisemitism.
There have been claims that any comparison between aspects of Israel and features of pre-war Nazi Germany is inherently antisemitic. Similar objections have been raised to likening Israel’s internal practices to those of apartheid South Africa. Drawing such parallels can undoubtedly cause offence; but potent historical events and experiences are always key reference points in political debate. Such comparisons are only antisemitic if they show prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews.
Gilad: Here a Jewish group is dictating the terminology that may be used to criticise Jewish power, history or culture. This is a classic example of a Jewish controlled opposition in which the discourse of the oppressed is defined by the sensitivities of the oppressor. JVL & Co kindly allow us to compare Zionism and Nazism but may we dig into the Jewish nature of the self- defined “Jewish State”? What about comparing the Nazi Party and JVL? Both are racially exclusive: the former Aryans–only, the latter Jews-only.
5. Boycott, divestment and sanctions
A common focus for allegations of antisemitism is the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) targeted on Israel. The three elements of BDS are internationally recognized as legitimate and non-violent strategies for securing political change. So, advocating for BDS would only be antisemitic if accompanied by evidence that it is motivated not by this purpose but by racially-based hostility towards Jews.
Gilad: it is predictable that the JVL is keen on BDS. While the Palestinians are primarily seeking the ‘Right of Return,’ the Jewish solidarity project is dedicated to replacing the right of return with the ‘right to BDS.’ This agenda is, practically, a back door legitimisation of the Jewish State with the 1967 borders.
6. When Antisemitism Is Alleged
As with any allegations of racism, accusations of antisemitism must be taken seriously and investigated. But principles of natural justice and due process must be respected and applied: the person accused should be accorded the normal presumption of innocence until the case is resolved. Allegations do not constitute proof.
Antisemitic attitudes may be more or less intense.* Some people are deeply antisemitic, others less so. Yet others whom it would be unreasonable to class as antisemitic may nevertheless hold some attitudes, in dilute form, which will make some Jews uncomfortable. Following a finding of antisemitism there remains a decision to be made about whether discussion and education, rather than a formal disciplinary approach, is more appropriate.
Indirect discrimination could inadvertently occur, where actions have the effect of selectively disadvantaging Jewish people even though no hostile motive towards Jews is present. Once a case of such discrimination comes to light, those responsible should take all reasonable steps possible to eliminate the problem. Unwillingness to take such steps would be evidence of antisemitism.
The systematic murder of millions of Jews (and so many others) is exhaustively documented. It is therefore inconceivable that Holocaust denial or expressions of doubt over its scale could be motivated by genuine investigatory scepticism. The implication of antisemitic intent is, for practical purposes, inescapable.
* See Institute of Jewish Policy Research report Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain, 2017
Gilad: It took the JVL/FSoI only a few lines before they produced a blanket rejection of WWII historical revisionism. This is not a convincing definition of anti Semitism. I wonder if the JVL or FSoI could explain how exploring the past and drawing whatever conclusions, can be interpreted as ‘discrimination of the Jews for being Jews.’ As we can see, the ‘predominantly Jewish’ Free Speech on Israel isn’t about freedom of speech in general. Quite the opposite It is actually set to define the boundaries of freedom.
The understanding of antisemitism on which this analysis is based reaffirms the traditional meaning of the term. This is important in the light of attempts to extend its meaning to apply to criticisms often made of the state of Israel, or to non-violent campaigns such as BDS. A charge of antisemitism carries exceptional moral force because of the negative connotations rightly attaching to the term. It is illegitimate to make such claims to discredit or deter criticism, or to achieve sectional advantage. To do so is to devalue the term.
To be clear: conduct is antisemitic only if it manifests ‘prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews’.
Gilad: This removes any doubt that JVL/FSoI are not committed to a universal fight against bigotry. Racial bigotry is ‘hatred or discrimination against X for being X.’ The JVL/FSoI are committed to the fight against (alleged) Jew hatred. The JVL is an exclusive Jewish body focused on the primacy of Jewish suffering. As such, the difference between JVL and Zionist bodies is marginal. We are dealing with a crypto Zionist body.
Left open are questions of: 1. How does this racially driven body fit with Labour’s values? And, 2. How Labour’s leader, a man who genuinely opposes all forms of racism, agrees to count such a bluntly racist group amongst its supporters?