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Enough already with this zionist frenzy

Many of Labour’s Jews are uncomfortable that much of the noise around anti-Jewish racism has been engineered from within the murky right-wing world of British zionism. PETER KIRKER explains

IF there are winners from the turmoil that has engulfed the Labour Party this last fortnight, it is not the Jews in whose name it was fomented. 

They will gain little from Jeremy Corbyn clarifying his hasty defence of some offending wall art several years ago and they will gain nothing at all from the crucifixion of Christine Shawcroft, whose blunder was reckless but not in the slightest way anti-Jewish, as would be conceded by anyone taking the trouble to look at what she did. 

Even among Corbyn’s fiercest critics, most are careful to make clear that neither he nor Shawcroft themselves nor the Labour Party institutionally is anti-Jewish. 

The critics are driven by other worries — two in particular, Corbyn’s alarming progress towards mobilising the many against the few and his unswerving support for Palestinian rights.

Thus the real beneficiaries from the present engineered frenzy are the Conservative Party and Israel’s London embassy, neither of which can afford to see the Corbyn effect gathering more strength. 

How they must have rejoiced last week to see a routed chicken-coup element of the Parliamentary Labour Party standing shoulder to shoulder with DUP leader Nigel Dodds, his sidekick Ian Paisley and even Tory Cabinet Minister Sajid Javid. 

It’s an odd way of preparing Labour for next month’s local government elections, but that was never going to be a priority for the likes of Chuka Umunna, Ian Austin and Stephen Kinnock, to mention a few names at random. Some readers might have preferred to see others cited. There are plenty to choose from.

The rally that brought together this motley crew was organised jointly by the Jewish Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), both of which have links with the Conservative Party. 

The JLC in particular is also closely wedded to zionism. I am using the term as shorthand for Israel at any price, which is at least as reasonable as using “semite” to embrace even European Jews who are as Caucasian as me while excluding Arabs who are as semitic as Jesus.

With a little bit of help from the Israeli embassy, as revealed by an Al-Jazeera sting last year, broadcast in four episodes as The Lobby and still available to watch online, the zionist tendencies have established a solid bridgehead in the Labour Party through the affiliated Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). 

Virtually unknown until Corbyn, a long-time campaigner for Palestinian rights, was elected to the Labour leadership, the JLM has sometimes played down the uncritically pro-Israel flavour of its ethos. 

But its claim to decades-long affiliation to the Labour Party rests on it being just a rebranding of Poale Zion, whose name spoke for itself. British Poale Zion had in fact been defunct for several years when JLM emerged from its ashes.

Moreover, and in potential conflict with its status as a Labour affiliate, the movement is also affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation through which, according to the UN, Israel funds a significant element of its illegal settlements programme.

One common feature of the various factions discouraging criticism of Israel’s excesses is their chutzpah in claiming to speak for the Jewish community. 

They know it’s a specious claim. Jews have no Pope. No-one speaks for them — not the Board of Deputies, not the Jewish Leadership Council, not even the World Jewish Congress. The Jewish community, like the rest of humankind, is as cohesive as a herd of cats.

And there is a common factor too that links the Jewish Leadership Council with the Jewish Labour Movement — Jeremy Newmark. 
Newmark was CEO at the JLC until stepping down a couple of years ago, allegedly because of ill health. 

That reason has been exposed by the Jewish Chronicle as a calculated deceit by then JLC chairman Mick Davis to draw a veil over misappropriation of “many thousands of pounds.” Davis, subsequently knighted, is now chief executive of the Conservative Party. 

His cover-up no doubt eased the way for Newmark to stand in last year’s general election as the Labour candidate in Finchley and Golders Green, where he came within a whisker of winning. 

And thanks again to Sir Mick’s discretion, no eyebrows were raised when Newmark took over as chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, whose director Ella Rose was imported straight from the Israeli embassy. 

But it wasn’t to last and Newmark was required to step down again a few weeks ago. 

Ostensibly this was in order that he could deal with the allegations around his earlier departure from the JLC. 

The JLM, indeed, was insistent that its own accounts were under firm control. 

But that was then. Thanks again to the Jewish Chronicle, we now know that the movement is no longer claiming to have had “full oversight of all our processes” but has launched an external review and referred “certain internal financial matters” to the police, with Newmark apparently mentioned in dispatches.

It sits uneasily with many of Labour’s Jews that so much of the present noise around anti-Jewish racism has been engineered and driven from within this murky world of British zionism. 

They have spoken bravely against the stirrers, sometimes drawing loathing on themselves from their brethren Jews, so far as their voices are heard at all in the mainstream media. 

There needs to be a place in the Labour Party for such Jews, and goys like me, who are vehemently opposed to antisemitism, whether within Labour or beyond, yet who reserve the right to speak out against the Israeli government for its disregarding of human rights and international law. Well happily there now is.

Jewish Voice for Labour is not yet affiliated to Labour, but - unlike the Jewish Labour Movement, which though affiliated is open to allcomers - it does restrict its membership to Labour Party members. JVL is not remotely anti-Israel, and indeed would chide me for making free with the term Zionist, even as qualified above.

But there is no protective taboo around legitimate criticism, and the recognition of Palestinian rights. JVL is in its infancy, and still relatively small, but it is growing. An ironic consequence of the present storm is that it will now grow much faster.

Peter Kirker is a member of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy executive who has also been a constituency Labour Party secretary in London and the Midlands. 

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