The Chakrabarti Inquiry: Evidence that it ignores antisemitism

This was my submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry:

As a concerned Jew I am writing to ask for your response to the following two questions about the Inquiry into the Labour Party which you will shortly be chairing:

  1. Can you confirm that you will not be applying double standards by on the one hand dismissing the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and Pickles governmental definitions of antisemitism, and on the other hand giving weight to accusations of Islamophobia made against those who merely wish to protest the incitement of violence?
  2. Can you confirm that you will not be perversely standing Macpherson on its head by accepting the testimony of those Jews who categorise such statements as “the creation of Israel as a Jewish State was a crime” and “Jews of all people should have learnt from the Holocaust to turn the other cheek ” as fair comment, and not the antisemitism that they are?

The following excerpts from the Inquiry prove that the response to my concerns is a resounding “No!”

[page 4]: “…  it  is incredibly important that whilst individual testimonies are acknowledged, universal principles are then applied. So for example Islamophobia, antisemitism and Afriphobia are all equally vile forms of racism.”

This was meant to be an inquiry into antisemitism. Islamophobia and hatred of people of African descent are serious problems, but of different origin and merit different treatment in a separate inquiry

[page 6]: “  In  1987  Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng, Bernie Grant and Keith Vaz were elected to the House of   Commons..”

All four of those MPs are egregious in their attacks on Israel. It is an insult to Jews for their names to be included in this inquiry.

“  The  Iraq War (to be  discussed  in  the  long-awaited  report  of   another  inquiry),  as  well  as  stop and search without suspicion, punishment without charge or  trial and the domestic extremism agenda left many British Muslims feeling suspect and alienated in their natural political home.”

The Iraq war was against the regime of Saddam Hussein which rained Scud missiles down on Israel. How on earth is this comment helpful to an inquiry into antisemitism?

[page 14]: “I  am in no way suggesting that bad taste metaphors and comparisons should ever be a matter for the criminal law any more than say ill-judged and incendiary cartoons.  I am told that they are frequently used in Israel. However, they are all too capable, not only of bringing the Labour Party into disrepute, but of actively undermining the cause of peace, justice and statehood for the Palestinian people which forms part of Labour’s current “two-state” foreign policy and which so many Jewish people (including in the Labour Party) actively support.”

This paragraph implies that insults used by Jew against Jew are fine for Gentiles to use against Jews. It also implies that the only Jews whose opinion is worth taking into consideration are those who support a Palestinian state.

[page 15]: “Crucially, I have heard testimony and heard for myself first-hand, the way in which the word “Zionist” has been used personally, abusively or as a euphemism for “Jew”, even in relation to some people with no  stated  position  or even a critical position  on  the  historic  formation  or  development  of  modern Israel. This has clearly happened so often over a number of years as to raise some alarm bells in Jewish communities, including amongst  highly orthodox  people  who,  whilst  perhaps  most “visibly Jewish” (e.g. in dress and or  observance), would never see themselves as Zionists.”

“A  further  complexity   comes  from  left-wing British  Jewry, including, but  not  exclusively,  young people becoming increasingly  critical of, and disenchanted  with Israeli Government  policy  in  relation  to settlements in the West Bank and the bombardment of Gaza in particular. This has led to some people personally redefining their Zionism in ways that appear to grant less support to the State of Israel and more solidarity to fellow Jewish people the world over.”

This clearly references Neturei Karta, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and their ilk. So these two tiny minorities are to be given as much weight when considering antisemitism as the vast majority of Jews who support Israel?

“ But  surely  it  is  better  to  use  the  modern  universal language  of  human  rights,  be  it  of dispossession,  discrimination,  segregation,  occupation  or persecution and to leave  Hitler,  the  Nazis and the Holocaust out of   it?”

This language is not universal but “When did you stop beating your wife?” It takes as a given that the Palestinian Arabs are dispossessed,  discriminated,  segregated,  occupatied  and persecuted.

 [page 16]: “What I cannot do is legislate for which causes activists within the Party spend their time and energies ,or require that people only highlight issues relating to one country or  government if they spend equal time  on  infractions or injustices elsewhere.  No doubt  my  many  years  as  a  domestic  human  rights campaigner may  have  led  some  people  (not  least  in  past  Labour  Governments)  to  question  my preoccupation with abuses by the British State when there was so much worse in North Korea, Saudi Arabia,  Syria,  Russia  and  elsewhere.  No doubt some people suspected my motives or my loyalty to Britain.  In truth it was my background, experience and a view that Britain should lead the world that informed my choice of activism.”

This is itself the antisemitic accusation of ‘whataboutery’ and comes straight out of the PSC playbook.

“ It is especially pernicious,  in  my  view,  to  blame  those who share  platforms with people who  went on (often some considerable time later) to say and do things with which we profoundly disagree and even abhor.”

“Sharing a platform or having a meeting around some kind of problem or injustice never has meant, does not and never will mean, sharing any or all of the views (past, present or future) of everyone in the room.  It is instead the business of peace-building and of the promotion of fundamental human rights.”

Far from being pernicious, this is shining a spotlight on a disingenuous protestation, here shamelessly repeated.

[page 19]: “Some care should also be taken to identify and record the identity of complainants. This would allow and facilitate genuine sensitive communication and “aftercare” in relation e.g. to a Labour Party member who has been targeted or upset unpleasantly by a fellow member.  However, it would also create an important distinction between such a complainant and a hostile journalist or political rival conducting a trawling exercise or fishing expedition in relation to a particular person or group of people  within the Labour Party.  I am not going so far to say that a politically motivated complaint should always be disregarded, just that motivation may have relevance, as will context. I also recognise that the Party’s elected structures (Leader, the NEC etc.) should be able to raise concerns of their own volition about a member in danger of   bringing the  Party into disrepute.  However, if  an  investigation arises  via this  route,  that  should  be  also  clearly recorded.  Further, subjects of complaint should normally be informed both of  its  substance  and  author  at  the  earliest  opportunity unless there is a clear and pressing reason for protecting the identity of a complainant.”

“Submissions to my Inquiry reveal a level  of concern and confusion (in  some  quarters) about the “Macpherson”  definition  of  a  racist  incident.  This is of course a reference to the famous Report of   1999 into the Metropolitan Police after its appalling mishandling of Stephen Lawrence’s murder.  The principle  that  an  incident should be recorded as “racist” when perceived that way by a victim may indeed  have  some  useful  application  outside  the  policing  context,  and  even  here  in  the  world  of   Labour Party discipline. However the purpose of   the approach is to ensure that investigators handle a complaint with particular sensitivity towards the victim.  It is to suggest the seriousness  with which  a complaint must be handled, but in no way to determine its outcome.  If I complain to the police that I have been the victim of a racist attack on the street, I should expect my complaint to be so recorded. However investigation and due process must of course then follow and it is perfectly possible that an investigator, prosecutor or magistrate will subsequently find either that no attack took place at all, or that its motivation was something other than racism.  In the present context, my complaint that I have been subject to racist or other personal abuse by a fellow Party Member should be so recorded, taken seriously and handled sensitively. However it will be for the investigation and any subsequent process to determine whether my complaint was ultimately well-founded.”

I am reminded of George Colman’s famous phrase: “Love and a cottage! Eh, Fanny! Ah, give me indifference and a coach and six!” Here, ladies and gentlemen, is Ms. Chakrabarti caught in the act of driving that indifferent coach and six through the spirit of the Macpherson Report. Macpherson clearly concluded that the accusation of prejudice is indeed in the gift of the victim: it is not for authority, and above all not for the perpetrator, to decide.

[page 27]: “I explained earlier why the trigger of antisemitism notwithstanding ,I believed that it was right that my terms of reference embrace all forms of racism. I also explained that it is not enough to avoid being clearly, expressly or deliberately racist in the Labour Party if anyone feels excluded from their instinctive political home. That is why the idea of ensuring “Labour is a welcoming environment for members of all communities “constitutes the fundamental underpinning of my task. The journey of this Inquiry has reinforced the importance of this, not just in principle, but sadly in practice as well.”

“ I believe it right, natural and wholly positive for the Labour Movement, that so many new-comers to Britain, their children and grandchildren have gravitated to the party of social justice since its origins and inception. There is nothing inherently suspect about this tendency, and it should be welcomed and positively encouraged by all in the Party.”

Having had the chutzpah to trample Macpherson underfoot, Ms. Chakrabarti compounds it by arrogating to herself the decision as to who is fit to join the Labour Movement. You do not have to be a social justice warrior to support Labour. If they expel the Blairite New Labour Centrists for good, then Labour will never again have the chance to form a government.

‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ by Amos Oz

I have just finished reading ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ by Amos Oz (a bit late in the day, I know – the English translation came out in 2004). What a read! Ostensibly it is the autobiography of the author’s first sixteen years, but it is so much more than that. It chronicles the history of his family from his grandparents’ childhood in the 1880s, and at times flashes forwards to 2001 when the author was writing. Through his family’s eyes, Oz describes the entire Zionist project from Herzl to Netanyahu – a true roman fleuve.

I must admit I embarked on this book out of a sense of duty, thinking that for somebody interested in Jewish thought and Israeli politics it was a worthy-but-dull must-read. But within a couple of chapters I was as lost in the book as the young Amos Klausner (he changed his surname to Oz after going to the kibbutz) was in the books of his childhood. Great credit must go to Prof. Nicholas de Lange’s limpid and fluid translation.

I have often asked myself why so many Israelis, particularly in Jerusalem, when presented with the glorious sunshine, freedom and physical and mental health of Eretz Yisrael, dafka insist on retaining the neurotic, fearful, shrivelled lifestyle of Eastern Europe. My late father used to say: “It was terrible there, and you should thank God your grandfather got out!”. Amos Oz’s family did not thank God they got out. They brought their Eastern European culture with them to Jerusalem, the intellectual pyrotechnics and crippling fears intertwined, and wrapped it around them like a Dementor comfort blanket, branding all those it touched.

But the book makes you sympathise with these people and understand how and why they were this way. Not just (just!) the Shoah, which casts its shadow over every Jew and will continue to do so for who knows how long, but before that, centuries of persecution, of having our feebleness, compared to the majority population, so embedded in our psyche that we believed it ourselves.

The sabras shook this off, and did it so effectively that they forgot how to empathise with their neurotic mishpoche – thus compounding their neurosis.

This book is so compelling that it even dares – to those that have ears to hear – to propose an answer to the question that most of us dare not ask: Why did we go like sheep to the slaughter between 1941 and 1944?

David Cameron is Inspired by My Speech (Allegedly)

On Sunday 18th October I asked a written question of the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He gave a written response, to which I replied from the floor in clarification:

My Question: How would it damage British Jewry to concentrate exclusively on working with Muslim groups and individuals who are not anti-Zionist – maybe Ahmadiyya, Sufis and Ismailis, – together with (say) DCLG, Eric Pickles and Quilliam, to encourage a peaceful, integrated, British kind of Islam to empower neutral, tolerant Muslims?

Answer from the President: The Board has a policy of co-operating with a variety of Muslim groups both to foster good relations between the communities and to work on issues of mutual interest – for example shechitah and brit milah. While we may not agree on all matters, it is far better to engage the Muslim communities rather than refuse to talk to anyone who does not agree with all of our views on Israel.

My response from the floor: Mr President, when I said we should work exclusively with Muslim groups and individuals who are not anti-Zionist, I wasn’t suggesting we reject approaches from such groups.
No, what I meant was that we shouldn’t be forever running after self-styled Muslim ‘community leaders’ in the name of inter-faith.
A century ago Colonel Albert Goldsmid, founder of our wonderful Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade, enjoined our immigrant forefathers to “iron out the ghetto bend”. No more should we be ‘trembling Israelites’.
We should have the confidence to know that, as fully integrated, contributing citizens of this country, our Brit Milah is first class surgery and our Shechita minimizes animal suffering. We can help our Muslim fellow-citizens improve their practices if they ask us: but under no circumstances should we ‘check the privilege’ so hard-won by our forebears.
There are nearly 3 million Muslims in Britain: don’t tell me that there aren’t a few tens, even hundreds of thousands who are happy to live & let live, and are only stopped from expressing themselves by fear of opposition or worse from the majority leaders.
I see no reason we can’t unapologetically cultivate those minority groups and voices within the ummah that are neutral or tolerant towards Israel.

I think David Cameron must have heard me. This piece by him appeared in ‘The Times’ the following day:

Times Articles Inspired by My BoD Speech (2)

If there is any doubt, here is the text of an e-mail I wrote to a number of my right-thinking fellow Deputies on 4th October, which I later condensed into my question:

Dear Friends,

I thought I’d just fly a kite in the run-up to the next BoD meeting.

Have any of you, like me, been frustrated and irritated by our communal leadership’s predilection for endlessly running after Muslim ‘community leaders’ in this country in the name of inter-faith?

It seems that the more they condemn Israel and become entrenched in their opposition to it as a Jewish state, the more our leaders tie themselves in knots and bend over backwards to try to appease them.

They emphasise our shared commitment to ritual male circumcision and religious slaughter, as if that somehow outweighs the standard Muslim narrative of ‘Death to Israel’.

How about a different approach?

Instead of making up to the MCB and the self-styled mainstream majority spokesmen for British Muslims, why don’t we cultivate those minority groups and voices within the ummah that are neutral or tolerant towards Israel?

There are nearly 3 million Muslims in Britain: don’t tell me that there aren’t a few tens, even hundreds of thousands who are happy to live & let live, and are only stopped from expressing themselves by fear of opposition or worse from the majority leaders.

How difficult would it be for us to work with (say) DCLG, Eric Pickles and the Quilliam Foundation to empower these neutral voices at the expense of the Islamists?

I’m thinking in terms of Ahmadiyya, Sufis and Ismailis; many of you will know others.

Or am I on to a total loser here?

Trains from the East

I’ve been looking at those trains passing through Hungary, carrying refugees from further east, and seeing the Hungarian police offer them food and water, which they throw on the ground in contempt. And I’m reminded of other trains travelling the same route, 72 years ago, also en route to a place that in those days was in Germany. Those passengers, when the train stopped at a station, offered gold and jewellery for the privilege of a mug of water. But this was denied them. They arrived in a Germany, all right, but there were no lines of happy faces carrying placards saying ‘Welcome’. Just soldiers, dogs and whips. And a chimney.

Must Read

I’ve just finished reading ‘Guns, Germs & Steel’ by Jared Diamond. There are some books – and here I’m talking only about non-fiction – that, after you’ve read them, you see life from a completely fresh perspective. Nothing seems quite the same again: the book has raised you to the next level. This is one such book.
In the same category I would put:

‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’ by Karl Popper
‘The Ancestor’s Tale’ by Richard Dawkins
‘The Holocaust’ by Martin Gilbert
‘The Whisperers’ by Orlando Figes
‘The Human Touch’ by Michael Frayn
‘Playpower’ by Richard Neville

What are your non-fiction choices?

Robert Conquest (1917 – 2015)

Robert Conquest has just died, in his 99th year. He was most famous as the man who saw through Stalin’s Emperor’s New Clothes with ‘The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties’ (1968) (which, when the truth became widely known after the fall of Communism in 1991, his friend Kingsley Amis said should be re-issued as ‘I Told You So, You Fucking Fools’); but I remember him as one of the earliest scholarly supporters of SF, writing with Amis ‘New Maps of Hell’ (1960) and the ‘Spectrum’ anthologies. Unlike many, he lived long enough to be proven right: both about the murderousness of Stalin and the literary worth of SF. May his dear soul be bound up in the bonds of life eternal.

Always Comes in Threes…

Yesterday we lost three great men from the world of entertainment. Ron Moody was a tremendous character actor of many decades’ standing, best-remembered for his performance as Fagin in the 1968 musical ‘Oliver!’ Ornette Coleman pretty much invented free jazz in the 1960s, and is as towering a figure in the field of jazz as Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s and Louis Armstrong in the 1920s. But the loss I feel most deeply is Sir Christopher Lee. In a film career spanning over 60 years, in extreme old age he reached a new generation as Count Dooku and Saruman: but or course he is, and forever will be, the quintessential Count Dracula. His tall, spare screen presence and rich, resonant voice have never been matched: for me as a child, he was the embodiment onscreen of all I thought a man should be. May all their dear souls be bound up in the bonds of life eternal.