Depressed For All the Wrong Reasons: Jonathan Ashworth Weighs In On The Coordinated Anti-Semitism Smear

Today the UK’s Jewish media (Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and Jewish Telegraph) ran with identical front-page’s so they could smear the good name of Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist supporters. They did so because the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party believe it is fair and correct that members of the Labour Party should be able to criticise the State of Israel without being labelled anti-Semitic.

The three newspapers disagree with the Labour Party and claim that the NEC’s refusal to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism means that a Jeremy Corbyn-led government poses an “existential threat to Jewish life in this country”. They even allege that use of terms like “Dirty Jew” and “Zionist bitch” is now considered acceptable under Corbyn’s leadership?!

Will the Tory drivel gushing forth from such newspapers ever stop?

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, when asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain (July 26) what he thought about these dangerous and deceptive front-page attack-pieces replied that he was “very depressed”.

But Ashworth was not depressed by the worrying nature of these attacks, he was depressed that the NEC was not going to take heed of the newspapers demands!

Digging the knife further into Corbyn’s back Ashworth explained:

“This international definition, which our democratically-elected members don’t feel is strong enough or appropriate, I think they need to reconsider that… It seems obvious to me that we do need to rebuild trust with the Jewish community, and the place to start is by accepting a definition which is broadly accepted internationally.”

These comments were then rapidly seized upon by the anti-Corbyn press where they were published in an article titled “Jeremy Corbyn faces growing calls to solve Labour’s antisemitism crisis” (The Guardian, July 26).

Ashworth GMB

Of course this is not the first time that Ashworth has attacked Corbyn over his alleged softness on anti-Semitism, and Ashworth knows full-well what he is doing (see “Jonathan Ashworth faces both ways on Labour anti-Semitism smear”).

Furthermore, like all members of the Parliamentary Labour Party Mr Ashworth has already received a concise briefing from Jewish Voice for Labour which explained why the NEC made the decision it did; Ashworth simply chose to disregard this briefing in order to attack his own Party!

So, in the interest of promoting democracy, not smears, within the Labour movement, I am reproducing Jewish Voice for Labour’s excellent briefing below.

The Jewish Voice for Labour Briefing

“The following document was sent all members of the Parliamentary Labour Party ahead of last night’s (16 July) meeting

“Antisemitism guidelines agreed by the Labour Party National Executive Committee on July 3 have been criticised on the basis that they do not include all the examples attached to a definition of antisemitism adopted in May 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Critics say that failing to adopt all the IHRA examples represents a betrayal of the Jewish community and undermines the fight against antisemitism. This briefing note is a response to those critics.

  1. The new NEC guidelines are the result of careful consideration by a working party set up for the purpose and including among its number two Jewish NEC members, Jon Lansman and Rhea Wolfson.
  2. The IHRA definition has never had unanimous support from British Jews. Its adoption by the Conservative Government in December 2016 was swiftly followed by the publication of a Legal Opinion, commissioned by a Jewish-led consortium, warning that the IHRA document was badly drafted and confusing and that it risked “unlawfully restricting legitimate expressions of political opinion”. The Opinionsaid: “…pro-Palestinian campaigners who, for example, describe Israel as a settler-colonialist state enacting a policy of apartheid, or call for policies of boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel, cannot properly be characterised as antisemitic.”
  3. The IHRA definition has been used to prevent such criticism of Israel. A headline in Jewish Newsin February announced: “Supporters of the Jewish state to concentrate on the IHRA definition, in order to highlight that it’s anti-Semitic to call Israel a racist state.” In March, the Israel-Britain Alliance and We Believe in Israel lobbied the Prime Minister to introduce legislation to prevent events taking place on UK campuses under the umbrella “Israel apartheid week” on the basis that to call Israel an apartheid state was a violation of the IHRA definition. This contradicts both the Legal Opinion mentioned in paragraph 2 and the Jewish statement in paragraph 6.
  4. Critics of the NEC code have suggested that Labour has shown itself to be antisemitic by abandoning the “MacPherson principle”, which they say establishes that groups experiencing racism have the sole right to define it. This is a serious misreading, as explained by Professor David Feldman (Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitismat Birkbeck College, London University). In his 2015 sub-report to the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, Feldman said:  “…it is unambiguously clear that Macpherson intended to propose that such racist incidents require investigation. He did not mean to imply that such incidents are necessarily racist. However, Macpherson’s report has been misinterpreted and misapplied in precisely this way.” All forms of discrimination are defined by Parliament and interpreted by the courts; not decided by the groups with protected characteristics.
  5. In May this year, Britain’s leading civil liberties NGO, Liberty, overwhelmingly endorsed a resolutionat its AGM warning public bodies not to adopt the IHRA definition. Members were concerned that, “by blurring the previously clear understanding of the nature of antisemitism, the IHRA definition risks undermining the defences against it.” They also took the view that by conflating ‘antisemitism’ with ‘criticism of Israel and legitimate defence of the rights of Palestinians,” it threatened to undermine freedom of expression.
  6. On June 15, 27 prominent British Jews concerned about the dangers of conflation issued a statement calling for clarityin identifying what antisemitism is and what it is not. They said: “criticism of Israel is not antisemitic unless motivated by anti-Jewish prejudice” and “criticising laws and policies of the state of Israel as racist and as falling under the definition of apartheid is not antisemitic.”  Two weeks later this statement was endorsed by leading public figures across a range of professions and political affiliations.
  7.  On July 17, 30 Jewish organisations in a dozen countries will be issuing a Global Jewish Statement which urges “our governments, municipalities, universities and other institutions to reject the IHRA definition.” The definition, it says, is intentionally worded so that legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights can be equated with antisemitism “as a means to suppress the former.” This conflation, it says, “undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against antisemitism”.
  8. Against this background, the NEC code should be welcomed as a principled and useful contribution towards providing much needed clarity both about what is truly antisemitic, and what constitutes legitimate political discourse about Israel and Palestine. As explained by a Labour source in response to a critical article in the New Statesman: “These guidelines cover all the same ground as the IHRA examples, but they go further, providing more examples and details so they can actually be applied.”

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