Regarding the current crisis in the British Labour Party regarding the pestilential antisemitism lurking in certain cliques on the party’s Left, British journalist Nick Cohen has observed with his customary insight ():
“Challenging prejudices on the left wing is going to be all the more difficult because, incredibly, the British left in the second decade of the 21st century is led by men steeped in the worst traditions of the 20th. When historians had to explain last week that if Montgomery had not defeated Rommel at El Alamein in Egypt then the German armies would have killed every Jew they could find in Palestine, they were dealing with the conspiracy theory that Hitler was a Zionist, developed by a half-educated American Trotskyist called Lenni Brenner in the 1980s. When Jeremy Corbyn defended the Islamist likes of Raed Salah, who say that Jews dine on the blood of Christian children, he was continuing a tradition of communist accommodation with antisemitism that goes back to Stalin’s purges of Soviet Jews in the late 1940s. It is astonishing that you have to, but you must learn the worst of leftwing history now. For Labour is not just led by dirty men but by dirty old men, with roots in the contaminated soil of Marxist totalitarianism. If it is to change, its leaders will either have to change their minds or be thrown out of office.”
The torrid abuse on social media (Twitter and Facebook) directed at anti-Corbyn Labour MP John Mann, a blunt honest Yorkshireman who exemplifies what is fair and honourable in the Labour tradition, has been a bulldoggish champion of Jews and foe of antisemitism – – and who has had the grit and integrity to tell fellow Labour MP Ken Livingstone just what is odious about the latter’s outburst regarding Hitler and Zionism, illustrates the antisemitic ratbaggery which infests many of the party’s present rank and file. That rank and file has of course been swelled by far leftists of the Israel-hating breed who joined the party last year in order to elect Corbyn as its leader. For, of course, Corbyn’s anti-Israel activism goes back a long way, not least in lending his name to a defence group for the London-based Palestinians Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh, post-graduates who, angry at what they foresaw as a peace deal, used their scientific training to make car bombs that exploded outside the Israeli Embassy in Kensington and outside a Jewish charity in Finchley (The Times, 12 December 1996) – and also his championship of Mordechai Vanunu, the convicted Israeli nuclear secrets traitor who is on record as declaring that Judaism is a “backward religion” and that “efforts should be redoubled to create a Palestinian state rather than a Jewish one. There shouldn’t be a Jewish state.” (The Times, 20 April 2004).
The Labour Party’s infiltration by far left elements hostile to Israel began in the 1970s. (I was working at the London School of Economics and remember the era well, including how pro-Israel material left on notice boards would be torn down virtually as soon as posted.) At that juncture the Labour Party, with a few exceptions (notably MPs Christopher Mayhew – who in a BBC interview referred to Jewish MPs as “the Israeli army below the gangway” and who in 1970 told the Institute of Race Relations “I would like the Institute to consider the proposition that Mrs Golda Meir is most unlikely to have ancestors who once lived in Palestine, and far less likely to have such ancestors than Yasser Arafat” – David Watkins and Andrew Faulds) was still very much pro-Israel. Anybody with a serious interest in the topic of Labour’s relations with Israel and the pernicious influence of Mayhew and the gang should read the article “’Mayhew’s Outcasts’: anti-Zionism and the Arab lobby in Harold Wilson's Labour” by Dr James Vaughan, a lecturer at what is generally considered the foremost International Relations Department in Britain, the long-established one at Aberystwyth University:
In order to illuminate what I write below, let me quote an extract from Dr Vaughan’s article (with footnote references omitted):
“An early sign that LMEC [Labour Middle East Council, founded after the Six Day War to counter “Zionist” influence in the party] and CAABU [the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding] were developing contacts with more radical pro-Palestinian groups can be seen in their members’ association with the Free Palestine newspaper in the 1970s. Free Palestine had begun life as a ‘violent and crudely written’ newsletter in 1968 and indirect links to CAABU were established when Claud Morris agreed to publish the newspaper in 1969. That business relationship proved to be short-lived but the newspaper continued to cultivate links with British MPs and activists. Its editor, Louis Eaks, brought his own connections to the Young Liberal ‘Red Guard’ faction, and Free Palestine received political support and journalistic contributions from LMEC regulars like Mayhew, Watkins and Faulds. Morris later claimed not to have been aware of Free Palestine’s links to Arafat and the PLO when he agreed to publish the newspaper in 1969.
Those connections, however, are not especially difficult to uncover. A February 1975 editorial stated that Free Palestine’s line was ‘determined by the political and strategy decisions of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Al Fatah’ whilst asserting that ‘this newspaper is not funded by either of these organisations.’ In 1981, inviting Andrew Faulds to join the editorial committee, Eaks claimed that Free Palestine was ‘independent of any specific Palestinian organisation’ although he noted that the newspaper was ‘committed to the Fatah/PLO line.’ A closer look at the newspaper’s parent company, Petra Publishing, however, reveals that among the firm’s directors was Khaled al Hassan (Abu Said), a founding member of Fatah and one of Arafat’s closest advisers. Another director was Saleh Khalili, who was also a member of Free Palestine’s editorial committee. Khalili has been identified by Alex Mitchell as a London-based agent of Abu Jihad, head of the PLO’s military operations. According to Mitchell, Khalili’s job as the PLO’s ‘man-at-large in London’ brought him into collaborative liaison with Gerry Healey’s Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP), whose publications were subsidised by Libya’s Colonel Gadhaffi, and, through the WRP, to the Lambeth Council leader, Ted Knight, who sat alongside Ken Livingstone on the editorial board of the Labour Herald newspaper. Mitchell has even claimed that Knight met with Arafat, Abu Jihad and Khalili in Tunis and succeeded in soliciting a £15,000 donation to the Labour Herald from the PLO.
Whatever the truth of that, it is certainly clear that much of the Labour Herald’s content was, in its anti-Zionism, scarcely distinguishable from that of Free Palestine. Free Palestine was also connected to the Palestine Action group, founded by Ghada Karmi in June 1972. It was Eaks who first informed Andrew Faulds of plans to establish ‘an anti-Apartheid type of organisation’ to lobby on behalf of the Palestinians ‘within the Labour, Communist and Liberal parties’ in April 1972 and the new group’s political platform included support for:
1. The restitution of all the rights of the Palestinians, especially the right to return to their homes.
2. The creation of a unitary, secular, democratic Palestine in which all citizens have equal rights irrespective of race or creed.
3. The struggle of the Palestinians for the liberation of their homeland.
LMEC considered the desirability of cooperation with Palestine Action at a meeting of its Executive Committee in October. Evidently, there were doubts about the wisdom of a formal association and, noting that ‘an approach had been made to LMEC to support the newly formed Palestine Action group’, it was ruled that ‘no official support should be given to this movement.’ However, whilst LMEC resolved to keep its distance from Palestine Action, there were no such restrictions upon individual members. Indeed, Andrew Faulds, a member of LMEC’s Executive Committee since January 1973,became far more than a passive supporter of Palestine Action. In December 1973, Karmi wrote to Faulds to confirm that ‘you have been elected President of Palestine Action at our AGM’; an honorary position that Faulds happily accepted. Faulds played a key role in a major breakthrough for Palestine Action at the BBC. It came in the form of a television programme, ‘The Right to Return’, broadcast on 26 November 1976 as part of BBC 2’s ‘Open Door’ series. Faulds presented the programme, overseeing guest appearances from David Watkins and the anti-apartheid campaigner and Young Liberal chairman, Peter Hain. A few days after the broadcast, Karmi reported that no less a PLO luminary than Abu Lutof (Farouk Kaddoumi) had praised the programme as ‘the best film he had ever seen on the Palestine issue’ and CAABU’s John Reddaway also congratulated Faulds for making ‘a notable contribution towards the exposition and defence of Palestinian rights.’”
You wouldn’t know it from his Wikipedia entry, but former British Labour MP and Cabinet minister Peter Hain (once touted as a future prime minister and now ensconced in the House of Lords) was the Peter Hain mentioned above, an anti-Israel activist of intemperate views. See
As I note there, the Jewish Chronicle (5 September 1975) reported: “Calls for the destruction of Israel as a state and for British Government recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organisation were made by more than 1500 pro-Arab supporters who marched from Speakers’ corner to Downing Street on Sunday while the Jewish rally was in progress.” Flanked by some 500 police officers, marchers included Communists, Marxists, Young Socialists, Young Liberals, as well as hundreds of Palestinians, Syrians, Iraqis and other Arabs. Hain called on “radicals on the left-wing in Britain” to fight for the Palestinian cause. (As will be seen in that blogpost of mine, Hain a few years ago attempted to put the “one state solution” – entailing the eradication of the sovereign state of Israel – back on the political agenda, but his views were disowned by the then party leadership.
On 16 September 1978 The Times reported “growing concern” that the ANL had been infiltrated by, and was increasingly beholden to, the Trotskyite Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), which of course is so notoriously represented in anti-Israel protests today. The 16,000-strong Federation of Conservative Students had accordingly dissociated itself from the ANL, and Dr Jacob Gewirtz (d. 1996), head of the Research Department of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, ‘says he is convinced that the league was the brain-child of the SWP and that party has “other fish to fry”’.
In a letter published in The Times on 25 September 1978, concerned reader George Mandel stated: “The leaders of the ANL could dispel our doubts if they were to state publicly whether or not they believe that Zionism is fundamentally racist. If the answer is no, many Jews will be reassured. If it is yes, they should explain (not only to us but also to their own supporters) why they are inviting unrepentant racialists to join them.”
Disclosed a Jewish resident of Hove, Sussex, called J. [Jack] Garnel, in a letter in The Times (27 October 1978):
‘I am able to quote a reply to part of Mr. Mandel’s question. It was given to me by Peter Hain, who describes himself as the Press Officer of the Anti-Nazi League. In November 1977, I wrote to Hain protesting about an anti-Zionist article of his published in Free Palestine ... In his reply, dated November 11, Hain declared: “I believe Zionism to be a racist creed”. I agree with the decision of the Jewish Board of Deputies not to affiliate to the ANL. As a supporter of the right of Israel to exist, I am like most Jews classified as a Zionist. In combatting neo-Nazism, I have no desire to rub shoulders with anti-Zionists who support the PLO, which has been rightly described by Begin as a “Nazi organisation” and whose covenant is regarded by Israeli Jews as an Arabic Mein Kampf’.
On 1 November The Times carried a response from Peter Hain and the Jewish actress Miriam Karlin (whose name was misprinted as Karling at the foot of the letter), describing themselves as “Steering Committee, Anti-Nazi League”. Their letter began: “The Anti-Nazi League has been subjected to a number of specious criticisms in your columns recently. First, J. Garnel … attacks the League because some of its members are opposed to Zionism. But many others involved in all levels of the league are pro-Zionist. Indeed, the signatories to this letter disagree on this matter.” (That will certainly come as a surprise to those who remember the late Miriam Karlin as a leftist Israel basher and member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians; I suppose the alleged contrast between her and Hain suggests just how extreme Hain’s position was and seemingly still is.)
The letter continued: “The only criterion for membership of the Anti-Nazi League is opposition to the Nazi activities and racist ideas of the National Front. We have no policy as an organisation on other political issues and our neutrality on the question of Zionism has been accepted by the Jewish Chronicle, which endorsed the League in an editorial last week…”
That assertion elicited a clarification (The Times, 3 November 1978) from the Jewish Chronicle’s acting editor, David Nathan: ‘In a leader last week the Jewish Chronicle suggested that there might be opportunities for the Board of Deputies to “loosely cooperate with the ANL in those areas of anti-racialist endeavour where the Board can satisfy itself that there is no political gain to the Socialist Workers’ Party or other anti-Zionist forces …. That is very far from blanket endorsement of the ANL.’
Also worth reading, by anyone interested, is the joint letter from Hain and ANL Organising Secretary Paul Holborow in The Times of 21 September 1978, and the joint letter in the same issue from Neil Harvey and Ian Harvey of Birmingham. In response to the former letter, Graham Smith, Research Department, National Association for Freedom, observed that in the Socialist Worker of 27 May 1978 Holborow had appealed for funds for that paper in the following terms:
“The [ANL] has won support from people coming into politics for the first time. We must ensure that many of these people are won to the Socialist movement… We need to have Socialist Worker leading the way in this important job …. Any regular donation to the SWP will not only help to get rid of the Nazi rats, but to begin to get rid of the capitalist sewer that encourages them to breed.’
To quote Dr Vaughan again
‘The cry of ‘Israeli apartheid’ soon became a staple feature of British anti-Zionism. Writing in Free Palestine under the headline “Palestine must win”, Peter Hain likened Harold Wilson’s views on Israel to “statements rationalising and condoning racialism by right-wingers returning from South Africa”. The radicalism of Hain’s position at this time can be gauged from his rejection of UN Security Council Resolution 242 and his assertion that “the case for the replacement of Israel by a democratic, secular state of Palestine must be put uncompromisingly” …. The tactic of equating Zionism with Nazism was another distasteful feature of the emerging language of anti-Zionist activism…. Such imagery was not itself new … but there was something more calculated about the use of Nazi imagery as a means of delegitimising Zionism in the 1970s. Mayhew certainly flirted with the analogy, writing in 1971 that “Germans who massacre Jews are tried and executed. Jews who massacre Arabs are elected to political leadership” …. Free Palestine pioneered visual representations of the Zionism-Nazism analogy. The front page of its April 1975 issue was adorned with the image of a Palestinian prisoner reaching out from a prison cell window, the bars of which formed the shape of a swastika. Ken Livingstone’s Labour Herald newspaper adopted the “Zionism equals Nazism” trope with equal enthusiasm in the 1980s; perhaps the most notorious example being the 1982 cartoon which, under the caption “The Final Solution”, depicted Israel’s Prime Minister, Menachem Begin in SS uniform, standing atop a mound of bloodied corpses, making a Nazi salute.’
In The Times (31 May 1984) regular columnist Bernard Levin drew attention to a campaign against Freemasons instituted by the Labour-majority Council of the London borough of Brent – “which was marked down by Mr Ken Livingstone for his prospective parliamentary pocket-borough, [and] has long been in the forefront of extremist local government politics…. In March, the previously subterranean campaign against Masons broke surface [in the borough]….” To people who denied the analogy between the persecution of Jews and the persecution of Freemasons on the grounds that “a Jew cannot help being a Jew but a Mason does not have to be a Mason”, Levin pointed out scathingly that in a free society a person is entitled to belong to whatever group he wishes until such time long as an associated wrongdoing is involved, and added:
‘“Secret membership...” Thus do the kissing cousins of anti-semitism jusfify the new bigotry and discrimination … But I know a good many people who, though Jewish, go under an assumed non-Jewish name and do not admit their origin. Are they, too, unfit to serve on, or under, the Brent Council? And if I pass their names to a gossip columnist of The Guardian, will he, as he did with Masons, print a daily Jew-list, exposing them as doubly sinister, first because they are Jews and second because they conceal the fact?’
Levin went on: “anti-Semitism in Britain became socially and politically unacceptable when the world learnt just what it could lead to. But the bacillus was not altogether eradicated, and it has now found another potential group victim. And a group, so far from being safer than an individual, is more vulnerable, because it has no individual human identity, and can thus more easily be portrayed as truly diabolical.”
The Times of 7 March 1985 carried an article entitled “Why Labour is Losing its Jews” which is eerily pertinent to the present situation. I assume the author, Peter Bradley, described there as a member of the executive committee of Poale Zion, is none other than the Peter Bradley who from 1997 until 2005 sat as a Labour MP. Mr Bradley began by observing that whereas in the immediate post-war years perhaps 75 per cent of Anglo-Jewry supported the Labour Party, the figure was now around 40 per cent. Acknowledging that “many complex factors” underlay this downward trend, he held that one of them was “the fear that certain extreme forms of anti-Zionism are tainted with anti-semitism”. After citing Shadow Defence Spokesman Denzil Davies’s contention at the 1984 Labour Party conference in Blackpool that an “antisemitic strand” was running through some parts of the party, Bradley gave two more recent examples of antisemitism. One was the outburst of Sheffield Labour councillor George Moores, chairman of the South Yorkshire Police Authority, who said of Home Secretary Leon Brittan: “I don’t know how to describe him. But if I did, I’d be accused of being a racist. There are too many of his ilk in Parliament. It’s worth looking into, that, even though there are quite a few of them who are Labour.”
Bradley remarked: “In past decades such crudities might have served as isolated, proverbial exceptions to the rule of Labour tolerance, humanity, and, indeed, philo-semitism. But the apparent establishment of anti-Zionism as a cornerstone of Labour-left ideology has contributed to a significant change of atmosphere within the Labour movement which many otherwise tough-skinned Jewish socialists are finding altogether inimical.”
Of Ken Livingstone, then leader of the Greater London Council, he wrote:
‘In an interview with the Israeli trade union paper Davar, he seemed to go out of his way to cause offence to Anglo-Jewry. With what has been described as an “ignorance matched only by his own insensitivity”, he [Livingstone] alleged that the Board of Deputies of British Jews is “dominated by reactionaries and neo-fascists”. He [Livingstone] went on: “Progressive Jews support me; only Jews who hold extreme right-wing views oppose me” …. What really stung Jewish members of the Labour Party was Livingstone’s claim that Jews had traditionally supported Labour “not necessarily because they were socialists, but because the Conservative party was anti-semitic.” Nothing could have been calculated to offer greater insult to Labour’s Jewish activists …
The implication is clear: only that small number of Jews who subscribe to Livingstone’s kind of anti-Zionism can properly call themselves “progressive”; to be acceptable Jews must repudiate the cause that is central to Jewish secular life, Zionism, and must subscribe to a socialist triumphalism which asserts that Zionists are racists because they subscribe to a national liberation movement (while Palestinians who support their own are not); which identifies Israel’s leaders with the Nazi architects of the Final Solution … The list of campaign groups, sects and caucuses in which Zionists, and by extension Jews, are no longer welcome is a very long one. Is it really surprising, many Jews are asking, that the Jewish attachment to the labour movement is becoming tenuous? For in almost all sections of the “progressive” Left, Jews claim they are being made to feel they are welcome only if they are at least non-Zionist, and preferable sufficiently anti-Zionist to be paraded as token Jews who dispel all suspicion of anti-semitism …’
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