Ruth Smeeth, shown here, is surrounded by right wing journalists, Kevin Schofield, editor of Politics Home, (he used to work with the Sun), Richard Angell, bullying executive director of the moderate group Progress, who oppose Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Senior Political Correspondent at The Telegraph, Kate McMann, and John Adrian Pienaar, who is currently Deputy Political Editor for BBC News, and presenter of Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live. It is the right wing journalist Kevin Scofield who says clearly on the video that Marc Wadsworth’s comments constitute “antisemitism”.
Marc Wadsworth, a former BBC journalist and member of the Momentum Black Connexions group, had been suspended by the Labour Party since the 2016 row with Smeeth at the launch of Shami Chakrabarti’s report into antisemitism, where he accused the MP of “working hand in hand” with the Daily Telegraph to undermine Jeremy Corbyn. That a group of so-called moderates in the party have worked with the right wing press – and at times, even with Conservative MPs – to attempt to discredit Corbyn, isn’t open to dispute. They have.
See for example, John Woodcock’s comments on Pienaar’s show. Woodcock is the only Labour MP to state publicly that, if re-elected, he would not support Corbyn as Prime Minister. It’s a well established fact that the plots by so-called moderates to marginalise Corbyn and his supporters have been going on since he became party leader. To pass a comment on this is not remotely “antisemitic”. The fact that Ruth Smeeth is Jewish does not make the comment antisemitic.
In his statement, Wadsworth says “At the Chakrabarti event, I handed out a press release in defence of him. I was dismayed when I saw journalist Kate McCann, from the arch anti-Labour Daily Telegraph, hand it to a member of the public. That person told me brusquely she was ‘Ruth Smeeth Labour MP’. So, I suspected an unhealthy cosy relationship between the two of them. I later found out the MP was one of Corbyn’s dissident frontbenchers who had resigned to damage him.
“Anyway, after being called out by McCann in a hostile question about me to the Labour leader, I responded by saying what I genuinely thought I had spotted.The MP walked out filmed by the cameras of news media uninterested in the important issues covered by the Chakrabarti report and looking for an anti-Corbyn scoop. I mainly spoke about the lack of black people at the event aimed at combatting racism and, sadly, the journalists were not interested in that. Corbyn sympathetically supported my observation and said the party needed to do better to improve black representation. I didn’t know the MP involved was Jewish.”
Wadsworth also says: “As a black activist, I’ve fought racism and antisemitism all my life. The Hitler-worshipping Combat 18 paramilitaries put me on a death list after I founded the Anti-Racist Alliance in 1991, and helped Doreen and Neville Lawrence set up the Justice for Stephen Lawrence campaign. After I was able to introduce Stephen’s parents to Nelson Mandela, the campaign became the causecélèbre it deserved to be. This April marks the 25th anniversary of black teenager Stephen’s brutal, racist murder.
“I’ve been on the frontline, side by side with Jewish, black and other anti-racist campaigners, opposing the fascist BNP, including on the Isle of Dogs when one of their members was elected a councillor. Together we managed to shut down the BNP’s “nazi bunker” headquarters in south east London, close to where Stephen was murdered.
“Despite my history of anti-racist campaigning, Labour expelled me by email the very same day of the June 2016 launch of the party’s Shami Chakrabarti report into antisemitism and racism I attended. I was shocked, thinking it must be a practical joke. I was caught up in what’s been called a “media concocted firestorm”.
“Since then I’ve been pilloried and had my reputation trashed. Most painful has been the non-stop trial by media – print and online.”
Smeeth didn’t look to be in tears when she left, as the media reported: she glanced at the cameras and rather pointedly stormed out. That was following Schofield’s smirking comments about alleged antisemitism.
What is telling about this whole series of events Smeeth’s statement at the time claims the comment Wadsworth made was definitely antisemitic, leaving no room for doubt when there clearly IS room for doubt. Furthermore she uses this to call for Corbyn to stand down, yet again, claiming unreasonably that Corbyn is “unfit” to be leader.
Corbyn did not hear an antisemitic comment because it wasn’t clearly an antisemitic comment. It’s rather difficult to put aside the previous attempts by Smeeth and other moderates – the neoliberal party within our party – to deliberately attempt to discredit the twice-elected left leaning, anti-neoliberal leader of the party. The comment made Wadsworth simply highlights this, in my view.
Travesty: Marc Wadsworth exclusive interview on week of his expulsion from UK Labour party.
You can support Marc Wadsworth’s appeal campaign here.
Is antisemitism worse in the Labour Party than in others? The evidence suggests not.
Update 28.10.2018: The orginal screenshot of the conclusion of the Commons Select Committee parliamentary report has actually been removed from my article. It’s not the only occasion this has happened. However, I downloaded the original image, so can repost here:
This finding is in spite of the fact that no-one appears to be affording other parties the same level of scrutiny.
Julie Pierce, pictured in the centre (above), a Conservative plant in the audience on Question time this week, asked why Labour have a “problem with antisemitism”, and why the Labour party only “attack Israel”, the only Jewish state”, rather than other countries in the middle east.
As a matter of fact Labour have consistently also criticised Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights violations in Yemen. I thought Caroline Lucas’s response was even handed and spot on.
I have pointed out elsewhere that there is a basic frame composed of an over simplistic, false dichotomy regarding the Labour party’s alleged antisemitism, which the media have also rolled out. The frame itself is a trap. It runs like this: If the Labour party confirm that they are “addressing” an antisemitism problem, regardless of whether that problem is real – then it is read as an admission of guilt. However, if the party says there is no problem – regardless of whether there is or isn’t – that will simply be read as a denial of “guilt” and the action of a party that “doesn’t care” about antisemitism more generally.
The phrasing of accusation is designed to make the party and members look bad either way. However, as a person who has warned and written extensively about the dangers of growth of social prejudice since 2012, again, I won’t ever claim that antisemitism is eradicated or negligible. It isn’t either, unfortunately. I will maintain, however, that it is no greater problem within the Labour party than it is in wider society. That is NOT the same thing as saying there is no antisemitism within the party membership. The rise of social prejudice within the UK is partly because of a toxic, divisive, intolerant right wing authoritarian political culture and a media that acts a PR service for Conservative rhetoric, amplifying their racist values.
Antisemitism reached its highest level since records began in the UK back in 2014, before Corbyn was party leader, and before Momentum formed. Yet the media and moderates are using Corbyn’s reasonable commitment to address antisemitism as “proof” that antisemitism is now “rife” in the party. However, a survey of anti-Semitic attitudes in Britain, published last September by the respected Institute for Jewish Policy Research — an organization with no ties to any political party — contains several findings that are worth considering amid this uproar. First: Levels of anti-Semitism in Britain are among the lowest in the world. Second: Supporters across the political spectrum manifest anti-Semitic ideas. Third: Far from this being an issue for the left, the prejudice gets worse the farther right on the political spectrum that you look.
There are two issues here, which I hope I have made clear. One is the justified concern regarding antisemitism in the UK and within the Labour party among members, the other is how that is being politically exploited. This does little to genuinely address antisemitism. Furthermore, it has caused further division among Jewish communities, with left leaning Jewish groups being marginalised in this debate. See, for example, Jewish and Black activists united in support of antiracist campaigner Marc Wadsworth, which is Jewish Voice for Labour’s statement on this issue.
The accusations of antisemitism have been redesigned for use as a political stick with which to beat Corbyn. Again, I would not claim there is no antisemitism within the party. If there is, it must be addressed. However, mine is a question of proportionality, and whether the media focus and comments of right wing commentators are reasonable and justified. This is the same branch of the media that displayed no qualms in systematically dehumanising migrants and asylum seekers in their drive to force the EU referendum.
The comments made by Wadsworth were certainly not overtly antisemitic. Comment about the party moderates’ relationship with the press include people who are not Jewish, too. Furthermore, he says that he did not know Smeeth is Jewish. Nor did I until she spoke about it in parliament. I didn’t know Margaret Hodge is until very recently, either. The fact remains that the group – which includes Jewish and non-Jewish people alike – are bound by the same neoliberal ideology, and have systematically set out to destablise the party and discredit the twice-elected leader, using the right wing press to do so, as well as opportunities for parliamentary commentary. I don’t believe commenting on that is antisemitic. Exploiting Jewish suffering to prosecute petty vendettas, wage factional warfare and discredit legitimate criticism of Israel is however, dismally nasty. In the process, this is poisoning relations between British Jews and movements for social justice; fomenting antisemitism while claiming to combat it.
Most of the moderates are indistinguishable from the Conservatives in terms of the policies they support, which are underpinned by a neoliberal ideology. Graham Jones for example, said in 2015: “I want to see [Corbyn] change some of his policies. I think we need to be fiscally more responsible. We’ve got to stop turning our back on the debate on immigration. On welfare, are we just leaving people to a lifetime on benefits?”
And then there is this:
The responses from Labour party members to this ill-conceived but revealing Tweet categorically demonstrated that the Labour party has no common ground with Rudd whatsoever.
Labour policies under Corbyn have been formulated using public consultation, it’s clear that the right of the Labour party are out of touch with what the public actually want. After seven grinding years of targeted austerity – a plank of neoliberalism – and the ever-lower standards of living under the Conservatives, the wider public have had enough.
The divisions being fostered between left and right leaning Jewish groups demonstrates the political exploitation of the antisemitism controversy
Jewdas was recently denounced by the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, as “a source of virulent anti-Semitism.” The board, which has claimed to speak for British Jewry since the 18th century, usually keeps its head down and avoids the headlines. In the 1930s, it held back as other Jewish groups, mostly on the left, led the struggle against a nascent fascist movement on the streets of London, in the battle of Cable Street. An inglorious role, perhaps, but one that has allowed the Board of Deputies to appear nonpartisan and impartial. However, Arkrush has openly expressed that he supports the Conservatives and DUP. He is not impartial:
“If the governing party, which is a strong supporter of Israel, loses so much ground, then of course it has to be something of a loss for Israel and the Jewish community,” Arkush, who was in Israel at the time, told The Times of Israel in an interview.
“And that loss is compounded when it comes to the gains by Labour. Corbyn’s party has policies that are supportive of Israel, supportive of the two-state solution, but will see its “far-left faction, which is far less sympathetic to Israeli concerns, bolstered by the strong showing.”
Interviewed on TV, Arkush proposed that Jewdas’s members “are not all Jewish,” as if he were in a position to make authoritative pronouncements on the subject.
This part of the controversy marked the turning point from serious debate about repugnant antisemitism into fabrication, political point-scoring and abuse. Jeremy Corbyn attended a Passover meal with Jewish left-wing group Jewdas in his constituency, an engagement that had been made well in advance of the controversy. Jewdas is a collective of left leaning Jewish people that focuses on diaspora Jewry and giving UK Jews a space outside of the self-appointed “mainstream” to meet, pray, learn and party. The group is generally anti-Zionist, but support the view that Zionism in itself is not a problem since Zionism is a movement that had as its original aim the creation of a country for Jewish people, and that now supports the state of Israel. That support, say Jewdas, does not entail condoning “land grabs” and the murder of Palestinian civilians.
Jewdas is famed for its satirical takes on UK Jewish communal life, and its thoughtful and humorous political and religious resources.
Those attempting to discredit this group on the grounds that they are left wing should read Article 10 of the Human Rights Act. They should also consider that it is always under the conditions of political intolerance, right wing authoritarianism, and a toxic culture of discrediting and persecuting political opposition, that the conditions for a divided society and the growth of social prejudices arise.
The Nazis – who, despite the title they adopted to win working class votes – were right wing authoritarians, who brutally murdered socialists, trade unionists, anarchists, disabled people, as well as Jewish people and other groups. Yet those groups are currently becoming increasingly divided in their fight for social justice, because of poisonous right wing political manoeuvering and the political exploitation of a very serious issue. As it is, the Labour party – her Majesty’s opposition – are now portrayed by the right as pathological – we have become political dissidents in what was once a democratic state.
Jewdas, who are a liberal, diversity-embracing group, say: “We campaign against fascism, and against antisemitism on the left and on the right, running workshops and creating educational materials to help other people and organisations do the same. (And we’ve been campaigning against antisemitism on the left since before it became ‘cool’.)
“We also participate in solidarity campaigns to support other oppressed minorities, including sustained pro-Palestine activism, interfaith events with the Inclusive Mosque Initiative, and yesterday’s rally at East London Mosque to counter the so-called #PunishAMuslimDay.
It was particularly galling to see the moderate Labour MPs use the communal fight to intentionally marginise and isolate left wing Jews from their own community.
The “moderates” didn’t like Corbyn’s meeting with this Jewish community in his constituency, and made a somewhat incoherent claim that meeting with the Jewish group somehow “dismisses” the case for tackling antisemitism:
In a supreme act of discourtesy, Smith also refers to the Passover Seder as “seber”.
In 2016 Smith backed a vote of no confidence in Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in events which led to a leadership election in which Corbyn was re-elected as leader.
John Woodcock, who is not a Jew, takes it upon himself to decide which Jewish groups are “mainstream”, apparently, and which are not.
Apparently, it was the “wrong” seder and engagement with the “wrong” Jews. Before the event was finished, Guido Fawkes (a trashy gossip-mongering, hard right wing blog) had posted about Corbyn’s meeting.
Labour MPs of the “moderate” kind had condemned Corbyn’s Passover. Joined by the Jewish Board of Deputies, of course. And the usual suspects in the media, who not only come off as antisemitic, in their parsing of “good Jews” and “bad Jews” based on their political beliefs, some even managed to insult people with their diversity blind comments about mental health status:
I posted that comment, along with the one below from moderate supporter Dan Hodges, on Twitter, and asked the moderate MPs who express their “concern” about antisemitism, to actually condemn the antisemitic statements. I tagged the MPs in the post.
Not a single one has condemned the comments made by two right leaning pundits. Yet the comments are very clearly antisemitic and also openly express political intolerance.
Finally, here is a statement from the Jewish socialist community, which is not a view that you will see fairly represented in the right wing media, who are stage-managing our democracy and repressing the right to political expression from the left:
“The Jewish Socialists’ Group expresses its serious concern at the rise of antisemitism, especially under extreme right wing governments in central and Eastern Europe, in America under Donald Trump’s Presidency and here in Britain under Theresa May’s premiership. The recent extensive survey by the highly respected Jewish Policy Research confirmed that the main repository of antisemitic views in Britain is among supporters of the Conservative Party and UKIP.
This political context, alongside declining support for the Tories, reveals the malicious intent behind the the latest flimsy accusations of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. These accusations have come from the unrepresentative Board of Deputies and the unelected, self-proclaimed “Jewish Leadership Council”, two bodies dominated by supporters of the Tory Party.
Between now and the local elections the Tories would love to divert the electorate on to accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party rather than have us discussing austerity, cuts to local authority budgets, the health service, and social care. Many Jews within and beyond the Labour Party are suffering from these policies along with the rest of the population, and oppose them vehemently.
Jonathan Arkush, the President of the Board of Deputies, was one of the first to congratulate Donald Trump on his election as President of the United States on behalf of the Board. This action was harshly criticised by many Jews he claims that the Board represents. He also gives unqualified support to Israel’s pro-settler Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who enjoys good relations with the very far right political forces in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic who are fanning bigotry against minorities, including Jews.
Until very recently the Jewish Leadership Council was chaired by Sir Mick Davies, who was appointed Tory Party treasurer in February 2016 and is now the Chief Executive of the Conservative Party.
The Jewish Socialists’ Group includes many members of the Labour party, and we know many Jews who have joined or re-joined the Labour party enthused by the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
Labour is the party that brought in anti-discrimination legislation at a time when many Tory members were open supporters of and investors in apartheid South Africa. The Tories are the party that have dished out the harshest treatment to migrants and refugees, especially when Theresa May was Home Secretary. Shamefully, they are still refusing to accede to the proposal of Labour peer, Lord Dubs, who came to Britain as a Jewish refugee on the Kindertransport, to take in a small but significant number of unaccompanied child refugees from Syria.
We have worked alongside Jeremy Corbyn in campaigns against all forms of racism and bigotry, including antisemitism, for many years, and we have faith that a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn and Labour-led councils across the country, will be best placed to implement serious measures against all forms of racism, discrimination and bigotry.”
Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t got an ‘antisemitism problem’. His opponents do – Jamie Stern-Weiner
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