August 08, 2019

Deborah Maccoby on Dave Rich's Book, The Left's Jewish Problem - Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism

I just spent forever trying to find Deborah Maccoby's withering review of Dave Rich's dumbarsed book, The Left's Jewish Problem. So here it is where at least I can find it. Apols for awkward (ie lack of) formatting.

22 August 2017

The stated aim of “The Left’s Jewish Problem” is to inquire into the reasons for the breakdown of the relationship between the British Jewish community and the British Left, especially the Labour Party. The unstated aim is to discredit Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Party. The book (which incorporates some parts of the author’s 2011 doctoral dissertation) was evidently timed to appear as a kind of companion piece to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s Report on Anti-Semitism.

Dave Rich, Jewish community leader and Deputy Director of Communications for the Community Security Trust (CST), admits that “there are socio-economic reasons for the long-term drift of Jewish voters from Labour to the Conservatives” – ie most British Jews have moved from the impoverished working class into the affluent middle class. But he insists: “these reasons alone do not explain the scale of the change nor its recent acceleration”.

His explanation for the “recent acceleration” and “scale of the change” is that, in the short term, the Labour Party has been taken over by far-left activists whose mind-set – “a sickness at the heart of left-wing British politics…..silently spreading, growing ever more malignant” (according to the cover blurb) - has given rise to the current crises over allegations of anti-Semitism; while, in the longer term, the diseased outlook of these activists is the product of trends which the author traces back to the anti-imperialist, anti-colonial New Left movement of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s.

Another unstated aim of the book is to let Israel off the hook by, for instance, claiming that this malignant influence of the New Left over the wider left “played a decisive role in flipping left-wing opinion from being overwhelmingly pro-Israel to its current pro-Palestinian consensus”. But isn’t the British Left’s disillusionment with Israel the result of its policies, barely mentioned by the author?

Adopting a sophisticated approach, Rich does not allege that the British Left is anti-Semitic in the conventional sense. In the Introduction he writes: “Anti-Semitism does play a role in this story, but for the most part it does not involve people who are consciously anti-Semitic.” And in the Conclusion he claims: “There is a much-studied phenomenon of ‘anti-Semitism without Jews’…..the British left today gives the impression of being a slightly different phenomenon: a place where there is anti-Semitism without anti-Semites.” The author offers as an example of this puzzling form of anti-Semitism the “No Platform” policy adopted by the National Union of Students (NUS) in the 1970s and 1980s. This policy, which involved refusing to allow speakers or groups judged to be racist or fascist to speak or operate on campus, led a few individual student unions – acting against the instructions of the NUS -- to ban (by refusing to fund and recognise) university Jewish Societies which promoted Israel. Chapter 4: “When Anti-Racists Ban Jews” – is devoted to the issue.

Rich argues that, though there was no intention of anti-Semitism, the “No Platform” policy led to anti-Semitic actions. But the real problem was surely the policy itself, rather than anti-Semitism (even of the unintentional kind). The invokers of the “No Platform” policy erred on two counts: they reduced Zionism (which includes racist aspects but is far more than that) to racism; and they sought to curb freedom of speech on the grounds that they had decided what is and what isn’t racist.

Rich also exploits the issue and uses guilt-by-association to try to smear Corbyn. We are told that throughout the 1980s Corbyn sponsored and supported an anti-Zionist group called the Labour Movement Campaign for Palestine (LMCP): “When Sunderland Polytechnic’s Students’ Union banned its Jewish Society in 1985, the LMCP supported the Students’ Union. An unsigned article in its newsletter declared that while “it was a tactical mistake on the part of Sunderland Polytechnic Students’ Union to ban an overtly Zionist Jewish Society….we totally reject the assertion that Sunderland Poly’s action was in any way anti-Semitic.’” (Emphasis in original) Rich writes that, though “Corbyn did not comment directly on events in Sunderland”, the same newsletter that printed the unsigned article also carried a “message from Corbyn encouraging people to join the organisation”. But (a) Corbyn himself did not comment on the subject; (b) the article admits that it was a tactical mistake to ban the Jewish Society and only denies the charge of anti-Semitism – ie, contrary to Rich’s claim, the LMCP did not “support” the Students’ Union.

Rich describes Corbyn as “a typical product of the 1960s New Left”, implying throughout the book that he has not changed his views since the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Thus in Chapter 3, Rich claims that “Corbyn is ambiguous on the subject of Israel’s future existence”, citing as evidence an August 2015 Electronic Intifada interview “in which, when asked whether a one-state solution was inevitable, he suggested that it was a more likely option than a two state solution: ‘I think it’s up to the people of the region to decide what kind of long-term solution there would be. At the moment, all that’s on offer is the possibility of a two-state solution, [but] it’s difficult to see how it would operate with the degree of settlements that are there.’” Corbyn is not suggesting here that a one state solution is “a more likely option”. On the contrary, he says clearly that at the present time the only possible solution “on offer” is two states. To point out the problems created by the presence of over half a million settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and to envisage that many years hence there might be a different outcome, is not to suggest that a one state solution “is a more likely option”.

Rich omits all the recent occasions on which Corbyn has made his support for a two state settlement crystal-clear. For instance, after a February 2016 meeting between Corbyn and the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD), Jonathan Arkush, the BoD’s President, said: “We had a positive and constructive meeting and were pleased that Mr Corbyn gave a very solid commitment to the right of Israel to live within secure and recognized boundaries as part of a two state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict”.

Much is made in Chapter 5 -“The New Alliance: Islamists and the Left” - of a March 2009 speech in which Corbyn said: “Tomorrow evening it will be my pleasure and my honour to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking. I’ve also invited friends from Hamas to come and speak as well….the idea that an organisation that is dedicated towards the good of the Palestinian people and bringing about long-term peace and social justice and political justice in the whole region should be labelled as a terrorist organisation by the British government is really a big, big historical mistake.” (Rich also uses this quotation as the first of two epigraphs to the book’s Introduction; the second is a quotation from a 2015 Jewish Chronicle editorial attacking Corbyn).  This is the only one of Rich’s accusations against Corbyn that carries some credibility. These comments obviously leave out Hamas’s repressiveness towards its own people and its adoption of violent means to try to overthrow the Occupation. But is Rich justified in concluding this chapter with the claim that the Labour Party “has a new leadership that views Zionism as a hostile, discriminatory ideology and Hamas as a progressive movement”?

We have already seen that Corbyn supports a two-state solution and therefore accepts the existence of Israel. And in the passage cited above he does not describe Hamas as left-wing or progressive; nor has he ever done so. Rich ignores Corbyn’s other comments on Hamas, such as this in the same Electronic Intifada interview: “There has to be talks, there has to be negotiations with all the Palestinian forces, as well as with all the Israeli forces….That means talking to Hamas, it means talking to Hizballah – does it mean that you agree with what they say on social issues, on the death penalty? No it doesn’t, and you can make that clear to them in the discussion.”

Corbyn’s March 2009 speech was intended as a corrective to the labelling of Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Like all correctives, his comments were one-sided. He presented the main (and generally ignored) arguments against the proscription of Hamas: its role as a democratically-elected government and national resistance movement against an unjust Occupation, its peace overtures and its social welfare programmes. The speech was made just after Operation Cast Lead – ie just after a massive onslaught of Israeli state terrorism that had incomparably more devastating effects than Hamas rockets. Ehud Barak, Israel’s then Defence Minister - and Defence Minister during Cast Lead - was given a welcome speech and wined and dined by the then British Prime Minister and Labour leader, Gordon Brown, at a reception during the September 2009 Labour Party Conference.

When an arrest warrant for war crimes was issued in London in December 2009 by Westminster Magistrates’ Court against Tzipi Livni, who had been Israeli Foreign Minister at the time of Cast Lead, Gordon Brown rang her to assure her that she would always be welcome in Britain. The British government later made changes to the “universal jurisdiction” law, so that an arrest warrant invoking this law now requires the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Some of the big London protest marches against Operation Cast Lead ended in clashes between demonstrators and police, resulting in police injuries (Rich mentions “over 50 policemen injured” but omits to add that all except one - who was knocked unconscious - suffered minor injuries) and the smashing of windows of Starbucks coffee shops. Many of the very young and mostly Muslim men involved received excessively severe sentences – prison terms of up to two and a half years. To quote Ghazal Tipu in Open Democracy: “The judge in the case said he intended to send out a message to deter others. No doubt the message many will hear is that Muslims are to be punished more severely than others when they step out of line. Smash a Starbucks window and the state will come down on you like a tonne of bricks; smash a poor and desperate people with bombs and bullets and government barely murmurs”.

Rich castigates Corbyn for telling a meeting: “’The events that happened at the end of the demonstration were an expression of anger about what was happening in Gaza by a lot of very young people….the sentences they have suffered as a result of it are absolutely appalling’”.

Rich describes Operation Cast Lead merely as “a three-week conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in January 2009”. He omits the statistics of civilian deaths in Gaza: 1,200, including over 350 children. To have included the figures would have put under too glaring a light his accusation that Corbyn, Seumas Milne, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War, who all supported the defendants, appeared to have failed “to consider that they have a responsibility to channel young Muslims away from illegal protests. Nor did they acknowledge, publicly at least, the impact that the violent demonstrations may have had on the mood of London’s Jews.”

This is probably the lowest point to which the book sinks. But a close contender is the guilt-by-association accusation in Chapter 6 – “Antisemitism, the Holocaust and the Left” - that, during a May Day rally speech by Corbyn - in which he condemned all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism – among those listening to him were “marchers carrying banners with images of Joseph Stalin”. Rich complains: “Anyone who truly stands against anti-Semitism….ought to recognise that Stalin was an anti-Semite, but if Corbyn was aware of this contradiction when he made his May Day speech, he didn’t show it.”

Is Corbyn supposed to be responsible for all the banners exhibited at the huge rallies at which he speaks? Rich also attacks Corbyn’s May Day speech for its “narrow understanding of anti-Semitism as a far-right phenomenon – part of a broader xenophobic politics that is against diversity and stigmatises refugees and minorities” – a view of anti-Semitism that, Rich writes, is “common across the left”. This is reminiscent of the Home Affairs Committee’s criticism of Corbyn for not understanding the “distinct nature” and “uniqueness” of antisemitism, which “unlike other forms of racism….often paints the victim as a malign and controlling force” (Report, paras 113 and 117). Yet, confusingly, Rich often attacks the left for excluding anti-Semitism from other forms of racism – for instance, he complains about “the separation of anti-Semitism from anti-racist politics that has occurred since the 1960s”. Presumably, Rich is accusing the left of a kind of split personality syndrome; but he never perceives the contradiction and so never tries to resolve it.

At the end of Chapter 6, just before the concluding chapter, Rich fires off a parting and climactic guilt-by-association shot against Corbyn. He quotes from a letter by a “veteran Communist”, Moira Gray, which was published in the Morning Star on July 27, 2002: “’Israel, and all that Israel has done and is doing, is an affront to all those millions who fought and died fighting fascism before, during and after the war against fascism….an Italian partisan, fighting the German invaders in Italy, survived a year in Dachau. A few years ago, he committed suicide. He left a note saying that the good Jews were all killed in the concentration camps.’” Rich comments: “The sentiments behind the letter are nauseating. The fact that it was deemed fit to publish is chilling”. He denounces in particular the last line: “Linger for a moment on that line: published in Britain’s leading communist newspaper; the newspaper for which Jeremy Corbyn wrote a column for several years before becoming leader of the Labour Party.” Even if the sentiments behind the letter were as “nauseating” as Rich claims them to be, why should Corbyn be associated with it and blamed for writing a column for the “Morning Star”? Don’t all reputable publications print letters with which the editors and columnists don’t agree? Moreover, a search of the Morning Star on-line archives reveals that Moira Gray’s letter was part of a correspondence; it was written in response to a “pro-Israel” letter which was also printed by the Morning Star.

According to Rich, Moira Gray’s letter represents the climax of his case against the British left: “The attitudes and the political logic that lead to it are no longer surprising. It is an extreme example of a way of thinking about Jews, Israel and Zionism that is all too common across the left. These attitudes, this way of thinking, are the reasons for the left’s Jewish problem”. So let’s follow his instructions and linger for a moment, not just on the last line he quotes, but on the letter as a whole. It is confused, badly-expressed and inaccurate. By “an Italian partisan”, Moira Gray probably means Primo Levi, who survived a year in Auschwitz, not Dachau. He did not leave a note before his suicide in 1987; the line cited seems to be a distorted recollection of his famous words in “The Drowned and the Saved”: “the saved of the Lager were not the best….the best all died”. It is absurd to see such an incoherent letter as in some way representative of the British Left, even in an extreme form. Nonetheless, viewed in context, are the sentiments behind the letter, under all its incoherence, really as “nauseating” as Rich claims?

The debate began with a letter of June 3, 2002, in which John Branson, recalling a visit to Auschwitz in 1951, compared “the nazi policy of punishing a whole people” with the current brutal suppression of the Second Intifada (including Operation Defensive Shield, in March-April 2002), in which Ariel Sharon had “set about destroying the whole Palestinian people in the name of an anti-terrorist war. I hope that the millions of good people around the world will act in time to stop this madman”. On June 29, the Morning Star published a “pro-Israel” letter in reply by Toby Levitas, blaming the situation on the Palestinians and beginning: “John Branson’s letter is an affront to the millions who were murdered by the nazis”. Moira Gray’s whole third paragraph is: “How dare Toby Levitas talk about affront to the nazi victims (M Star, June 29)? Israel, and all that Israel has done and is doing, is an affront to all those millions who fought and died fighting fascism before, during and after the war against fascism. It is an affront to the 28 million Soviet people killed in battle, in concentration camps and defending their country from the invaders and to our country's part in the struggle.” In effect, the meaning is: “the millions who fought and died in the battle against fascism gave their lives in a struggle which liberated European Jews, the paradigmatic victims of fascism. The atrocities committed by the Jewish State are an affront to the memory of these millions of anti-fascist fighters.”

I do not find this sentiment “nauseating”; nor should Rich, since it follows on directly from his own “political logic”. He argues repeatedly in Chapter Six that “the Holocaust provided the moral justification for the creation of Israel”. Many will disagree with this premise, but, if we accept it, surely it follows directly that Israel has a moral duty not to defame the memory not only of the millions of victims of the Holocaust, but of the millions who fought and died in the struggle against fascism. Of course Moira Gray should not have identified Israel’s immoral actions with “Jews” in general. But on May 6, 2002, the British Jewish communal organisations had manipulated the Jewish community into attending an Israel Solidarity Rally in Trafalgar Square. The rally -- billed as “non-political”, but including Netanyahu as one of the platform speakers -- was funded by the United Jewish Israel Appeal, with “cross-communal involvement”. The event was very well-organised, with coachloads brought to London from all over the country. 30,000 British Jews, a tenth of the entire British Jewish community, attended. Most of those present probably did not support Ariel Sharon and Operation Defensive Shield (even if they did not speak out against them), but succumbed to deception and tribal pressure. But the community leaders deliberately created the false public impression that the whole British Jewish community endorsed Israel’s atrocities. In such circumstances, is a community leader like Rich justified in reacting with complete shock and condemnation to a misquotation, written two months later by a veteran Communist (who lost two brothers fighting fascism in Spain, while “another brother was torpedoed at sea four years later”, as she writes in her letter), incoherent with outrage: “the good Jews were all killed in the concentration camps”? Moreover, Rich himself encourages the conflation between Israel and Jews, implying, for instance, that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic because Jewish identity is so much bound up with Israel that anti-Zionism attacks the roots of Jewish selfhood: “the idea that Israel shouldn’t exist or that Zionism – the political movement that created Israel – was a racist, colonial endeavour rather than a legitimate expression of Jewish nationhood, cuts to the heart of British Jews’ sense of who they are.”

Amid all Rich’s misrepresentations and guilt-by-association smears, there are some valid criticisms of the tactics of the Palestinian solidarity movement (though I disagree with his implication that these are anti-Semitic). The author cites useful comments made (during a 2010 interview that Rich conducted with him) by the Labour MP Richard Burden, an anti-Zionist in his New Left student days in the 1970s, but now a supporter of the two state solution: “analysing the conflict through a theoretic analysis of Zionism, or trying to undermine Israel by alleging Nazi/Zionist collaboration, are blind alleys that do nothing practical for the Palestinians.”

The book includes constructive criticisms of the Palestinian solidarity movement’s ambiguities on the subject of one or two states and about the troubling recent tendency to see Israel as only a “settler-colonial” state and to deny that Israeli Jews have national rights. Rich pertinently criticises the Palestinian solidarity movement’s support for “one secular democratic state” in the 1960s-‘80s. His history of the New Left during this period is on the whole interesting and readable; most of the extracts from his academic thesis have been well-digested (an exception is an over-long excursus in Chapter 2 about the Young Liberals during the 1960s-‘70s). However, he never acknowledges that the Palestinian solidarity movement has moved on since the 1960s-‘80s, even though at present – as any prospects of an end to the Occupation and the attainment of a two state solution seem remote – it has shown a tendency to regress; according to Rich, it has simply stayed the same. The book ends with a proposal of dialogue and reconciliation: “It is not contradictory to accept that Zionism was a genuine Jewish movement for freedom and a response to European anti-Semitism while also critiquing the process by which Israel was created and seeking to redress wrongs suffered by Palestinians….it’s not too late to bring this relationship back to health.”

The aspects of early Zionism mentioned at the beginning of this passage could surely be accepted by the Left. Rich omits any mention of the Nakba till here, four sentences before the end of the book – but it shows how much attitudes have changed in the Jewish community that he mentions it at all.

A large percentage of the British Jewish community, as the author points out, supports a two state solution and opposes expansion of West Bank settlements. The British Left certainly needs to reach out towards the Jewish community (and Corbyn’s meeting with the Board of Deputies shows that he is doing just that). But dialogue is a two-way process. Jewish community leaders like Rich also need to reach out to the British Left, above all by dropping the dishonest and unsubstantiated accusations and guilt-by-association smears that not only drown out the positive aspects of this book but have also, to a large extent, created the current rift between the Jewish community and the left – particularly the Labour Party - that Rich disingenuously claims to be investigating.

August 01, 2019

Geoffrey Alderman at Jewish Telegraph: WHY THE ANTISEMITISM DEFINITION IS FLAWED

I nab these articles by Geoffrey Alderman at The Jewish Telegraph to keep them safe. The url now is: but on past performance it will be overwritten by his next article. I also save them at the Wayback Machine.



JUSTICE is a peer-reviewed journal published by the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.
Its autumn 2018 edition carried an informative article by Michael Whine tracing the history of what is known as the “Working Definition” of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance on May 26, 2016.

Whine — currently a member of the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance — is a leading expert on all things antisemitic.

His article provides a succinct account of how the Working Definition came about and of its embrace by the UK government and by numerous governmental organs in this country.

He reminds us that although the government “formally adopted” the Working Definition in January, 2017, and although its espousal since then by well over 100 devolved elected governmental bodies in the UK — not to mention political parties and other entities — has endowed it with an almost sacrosanct status, it is not, in fact, “a binding legal act”.

As Whine explains: It was not designed to be transposed into European or domestic legislation, and this was made clear by the team that drafted it . . . it was only meant to be a guide to assist police officers and human rights activists to understand contemporary antisemitism, and not the basis for legislation.
The Working Definition — the grammatical construction of which is indeed “cumbersome”, as Whine concedes — is confusing, not least because it is composed of two unequal parts.

The first consists of the definition itself. The second comprises 11 examples of what that definition might mean in practice.

The definition declares: Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed towards Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, towards Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
So antisemitism “may” be expressed as hatred towards Jews, but need not necessarily be so expressed.
If not, then surely we’re entitled to ask how else it might be expressed. The definition is silent on this point.

The 11 examples are interesting, not least because they embed internal contradictions.

One of them affects to condemn as antisemitic “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”.

But the preamble that introduces all 11 examples explains that manifestations of antisemitism “might include the targeting of the State of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”.

Well, a number of political regimes around the world have been criticised because they are alleged to be pursuing policies reminiscent of the Nazis. For example, the policy of Myanmar in relation to the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities. So how in principle can it be antisemitic to draw a comparison between “contemporary” Israeli policy and that of the Nazis?  [For the sake of clarity I state now that I do not believe any Israeli government has, in fact, ever pursued policies remotely reminiscent of the Nazis. The point I make is one of principle].

Another of the examples declares it to be antisemitic to accuse Jewish citizens “of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations”.

This exemplar strikes me as very valid — up to a point.  There is no world Jewish conspiracy. There is no secret Jewish “government” endeavouring to manipulate to the exclusive advantage of the Jewish people the destinies of mankind.  But I know many Jews who hold dual citizenship — they are, for example, citizens of both Israel and the UK — who, under certain circumstances, would act (and have indeed acted) in the interests of Israel rather than of Great Britain.  How can it possibly be antisemitic to point this out?

The examples also allege that it is antisemitic to make “stereotypical allegations about . . . the power of Jews as a collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about Jews controlling the media”.

Well, in my book British Jewry since Emancipation, I point out — as other scholars have done — that in the early 20th century there was a case to be made in support of the view that Jews controlled important parts of the British film industry (of course, in so doing they had no Jewish “agenda” in mind).

In summary, those who framed the IHRA’s Working Definition of antisemitism were well-intentioned, and the definition itself has commendable features.

But it’s merely a work-in-progress. And deeply flawed into the bargain!


June 18, 2019

Geoffrey Alderman on Margaret Hodge

Here's Geoffrey Alderman in The Jewish Telegraph taking a bit of a swipe at Margaret Hodge.  Because of The Jewish Telegraph's habit of pasting the latest article over the previous one I save Alderman's pieces to the Wayback Machine and copy and paste them here:


THE abysmal showing of the Labour Party in the recent European Parliament elections is the cumulative outcome of many factors.

Prominent among them are said to be the prevalence of anti-Jewish prejudice in the party and the party’s seeming inability to confront the difficulty head-on.

Of course Labour has a problem with antisemitism. But so do the Tories. So does virtually every mainstream political party in this country.

In Labour’s case, however, antisemitism (too often not even disguised as anti-Zionism) has led to the exodus from the party of some of its members, and dire public warnings from others, among the most prominent of whom is Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking and former leader of Islington council.
On April 17, in a short but forceful speech in the House of Commons, Dame Margaret gave public expression to her concerns.

Born in 1944 as Margaret Oppenheimer to Jewish parents then living as refugees in Egypt, she spoke movingly of members of her family who had been murdered by the Nazis, and she recalled how, on a visit to Auschwitz, she gazed upon a mound of suitcases, one of which she recognised as it bore the initials of her uncle.

Powerful stuff! And, politically, more compelling still for what Hodge had to say specifically — and not for the first time — about the Labour Party of which she has been for more than 50 years a member and remains so to this day.

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as party leader, Hodge has, in fact, spent a great deal of time attacking her own party for not doing enough to stamp out antisemitism in its ranks, and she has made no secret of her personal disdain for Corbyn, whom (in a celebrated incident in the Commons on July 17 last year) she reportedly accused of being “an antisemitic racist”.

Dame Margaret is unquestionably Jewish. Yet, according to her own testimony (offered in the April, 2019, debate): “My upbringing has been entirely secular.

“I have never practised Jewish religious traditions. Neither of my two husbands were Jews. I am a consistent critic of the governments of Israel.”

Nonetheless, she added, “my Jewish heritage is central to my being”.

In an article in the online Spectator on May 8, I drew attention to the fact that as Labour leader of Islington council from 1982 to 1992, Hodge appears to have played a part — though exactly what part remains unclear — in the council’s decision to approve a planning application that would have led to the destruction of the original 1843 cemetery of the West London Synagogue and the sale of the land to developers.

I was part of the ultimately successful campaign to have the decision reversed. So was Jeremy Corbyn.
Was Mrs Hodge personally in favour of the proposal? We simply do not know.

Hodge has claimed — in The Observer on July 21, 2103 — that she feels “passionately Jewish”.

In October, 1986, members of Islington council — not all of whom were Jewish, by the way— were moved to protest against the scheduling of a race relations committee meeting on Yom Kippur.

Council leader Hodge apparently saw nothing untoward in attending the meeting.

Three years later, the media reported that members of Hackney’s Jewish communities were holding “top-level meetings with Islington council” in an attempt to buy an Islington-owned property in Stamford Hill, which the communities wanted to turn into a nursery and old people’s home.

According to press reports, “Islington leader, Margaret Hodge . . . informed groups that Islington intended to use the building for people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation”.

Hodge denied that the move was in any way discriminatory. But her apparent lack of empathy with the educational and social needs of practising Orthodox Jews surely needs some explaining.

If Hodge wishes to pursue a totally secular lifestyle, that is no business of mine or yours, but she certainly has some explaining to do!


If you have a story or an issue you want us to cover, let us know - in complete confidence - by contacting, 0161-741 2631 or via Facebook / Twitter

May 19, 2019


Here's another article by Geoffrey Alderman in the Jewish Telegraph which, like the previous one will probably be overwritten by the next.  So off to the Wayback Machine go I and I'm posting the article here too.


LAST month an important conference took place to mark the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport.
Two leading researchers — Dr Louise London and Professor Paul Weindling — presented what was reportedly regarded as shocking evidence relating to the choice of unaccompanied German and Austrian children who were — or were not — permitted to enter the UK under the Kindertransport scheme.

Children were refused places if it was thought that they had ‘disabilities’ or had ‘too Jewish’ an appearance. What was wanted were children who were not religious and so could be all the more easily integrated into British society.

Prof Weindling cited the case of a Viennese Jewish boy whom the authorities described as “very well behaved but very slightly mentally backward”.

The application made on his behalf was rejected. We do not know what fate befell him.
As Dr London remarked, the “problem of what to do with the Jews took precedence over efforts to save them”.

I describe the evidence presented by Prof Weindling and Dr London as “shocking”. Unfortunately, those of us who have researched the Anglo-Jewish response to the Holocaust cannot have regarded it was shocking at all.

Key to the choice of Kindertransport children was the Jewish banker Otto Schiff, head of the London-based Jews’ Temporary Shelter and ‘Overseer of the Poor’ of the United Synagogue.
Schiff worked hand-in-hand with the Aliens Department of the Home Office, so that, in practical terms, Jewish refugees from Nazism were allowed into Britain — or were refused entry — on his authority.

The Home Office trusted Schiff because it knew that, in his approach to this task, he would bring to bear prejudices and preferences of which the government approved.

The Viennese boy was not rejected by the British government, but by Kindertransport officials in London. That is to say, by fellow Jews!

Is there a case to be made in defence of Schiff and his colleagues?

Anti-Jewish prejudice appeared to be on the rise in the UK at that time. With a handful of notable exceptions, the Anglo-Jewish leadership — at the head of which was the then-Board of Deputies president, Mancunian barrister Neville Laski — believed that allowing more foreign-born Germanic-speaking Jews into this country would add fuel to the fire.

Laski had no qualms in publicly articulating the view that Jews, by their conduct, fostered antisemitism. In his book Manchester and the Rescue of the Victims of European Fascism (published 2011), the late Manchester Jewry historian Bill Williams reminds us that in December, 1935, the Manchester-based Women’s Lodge of Bnai Brith resolved that “the spread of antisemitism in England is largely brought about by ourselves”.

But I need to stress that what was true of Manchester was equally true of London.
Indeed within British Jewry this view was widely shared. And because it was widely shared, during the 1930s the official organs of Britain’s Jewish communities did their best to ensure that the least possible number of Jewish refugees were admitted to the UK, and that, as far as possible, only those were admitted who might be judged to be the most easily inclined to assimilate into the host society.

Beyond that, the fewer foreign-born Jews who were permitted to enter the UK, the better.
And what of those heavily traumatised children lucky enough to be chosen for the Kindertransport? Had they all been found billets in Jewish homes, their sufferings might have been lessened.

But in 1943, Dayan Dr Isidor Grunfeld, of the United Synagogue’s Beth Din, recalled how in 1938, when the Kindertransport began arriving, Jews who had been only too willing to donate money to refugee causes “showed themselves very reluctant to take Jewish refugee children into their homes”.

While a case can be made in defence of Otto Schiff and his colleagues, it strikes me as weak.
As for Schiff himself, I never cease to be amazed at the praise still lavished upon him. I noted with dismay that as part of the 2018 Holocaust Memorial Day events, a number of posthumous awards were made to ‘Heroes of the Holocaust’.

Among the recipients was Otto Schiff, upon whose activities the then-Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, waxed lyrical.

Indeed, so preciously revered is Schiff’s memory in certain circles that a Jewish Care home in Golders Green actually bears his name. I am outraged.


If you have a story or an issue you want us to cover, let us know - in complete confidence - by contacting, 0161-741 2631 or via Facebook / Twitter

The original of this article can be seen at the Wayback Machine.

May 18, 2019

Geoffrey Alderman on Jeremy Corbyn in Jewish Telegraph

I'm sad to say that The Jewish Telegraph website is a cheap and not very cheerful affair. I don't know if they maintain an archive but I couldn't find it if they do. Geoffrey Alderman came to the defence of Jeremy Corbyn just recently in the article you see below. He wrote another similar one in The Spectator. I just wanted a quick reread of the Jewish Telegraph article but, alas, it has now gone. This is the url for the original article Click it now and it takes you to his latest article with no pointer to his previous stuff.

Well thank goodness for the Wayback machine.  The Wayback machine is a way of archiving web pages that you think might change or disappear. Simply take a web page's url and paste it into the box marked "Save Page Now" and Wayback saves the page as it was when you do it.  Well as luck would have it, someone did just that with this  And so I can bring you this:

It is the only Jewish Telegraph page ever saved to the Wayback machine, so far anyway.

So now, if you see a web page that you think is going to disappear or change and you want the original, screengrab and archive in the Wayback Machine.

Now read on....



WE live in interesting times. Earlier this month, our beleaguered prime minister, Theresa May, invited into 10 Downing Street Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Her purpose in extending this invitation — which he graciously accepted — was to enlist his support in the current crisis over the precise terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union.
But don’t worry. I’m not going to bore you about Brexit.

My purpose, rather, is to focus on the person of Jeremy Corbyn, whom we must now clearly regard as a potential prime minister.

The opinion polls, which for months have been showing the Corbyn-led Labour Party trailing the May-led Tories, are now announcing a Labour lead.

I would be the last person to insist that we must trust the polls. We mustn’t. But if a general election was held soon, it is entirely possible that Labour would win more seats than the Conservative Party, whose back has been well and truly broken on the Brexit wheel.

In that scenario, the Queen would be bound to call on Corbyn to form a minority government.
What, from the point of view of British Jewry, would such a government hold in store?

In spite of numerous scare stories, I honestly can’t see such a government banning shechita or brit mila. If Diane Abbott, currently Shadow Home Secretary, found herself actually in charge of the Home Office, would she outrage her many charedi constituents by closing down synagogues and moving to deprive Jews of the rights of British citizenship?

Of course not.

We might indeed see a Corbyn-led government cosying-up to the BDS movement. Labour is already committed to recognising a Palestinian state “immediately” it forms a government, so such a recognition is a probability.

Would Israel then sever diplomatic relations with the UK? I doubt it. The recognition of a Palestinian state would remain a symbolic but, in practical terms, meaningless gesture.

Corbyn’s Foreign Secretary (the tactless Emily Thornberry) might enjoy striding on to the podium at the UN Security Council to support — perhaps even to propose — some blood-curdling resolution denouncing the Jewish state as a neo-colonialist plot.

She would do so safe in the knowledge that American president Donald Trump would veto it. And let’s remember that on December 23, 2016, in the dying days of the Obama-led administration, a UN Security Council resolution condemning in the most explicit terms Jewish control of the West Bank and east Jerusalem — including the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem and the Western Wall — was adopted with the full-hearted consent and approbation of Theresa May and her tactless Foreign Secretary, one Boris Johnson.
The Tory-controlled UK government could have abstained. It could even have exercised its veto. It chose to do neither.

Reacting to that act of betrayal, I outlined in this column on January 13, 2017, a number of concrete measures that those who order the affairs of British Jewry might have taken to signal the community’s anger.

I suggested that May and Johnson could be disinvited from all communal events, and that Jewish groups should withdraw from co-operation with May’s government — for instance over security issues and the anti-terrorism “Prevent” agenda.

A communal macher took me aside and pointed out that these bold suggestions would never be acted upon, because those who order the affairs of British Jewry would never forego the chance of a Downing Street photoshoot and the yichus that such an opportunity apparently confers.

He’s right. By the same token, our narcissistic communal leadership would positively salivate on receiving, and being able to courteously accept, an invitation from Prime Minister Corbyn to take morning coffee or afternoon tea at No 10.

As a matter of fact, Jeremy Corbyn has an impressive demonstrable record of supporting Jewish communal initiatives.

In 2010, he put his name to an Early Day Motion — tabled by Diane Abbott in the Commons — calling on the UK government to facilitate the settlement of Yemeni Jews in Britain.

He was supportive of Jewish efforts to facilitate the speedy issue of death certificates by the North London coroner.

In June, 2015, he took part in a ceremony in his Islington constituency to commemorate the original site of the North London Synagogue.

Of course, there’s another side to this story. In relation to Jewish sensitivities, Corbyn has on too many occasions acted foolishly, I suspect without thinking through the long-term consequences of his actions.
The fact remains that he is a prime minister “in waiting”. We must learn to accept that reality.


If you have a story or an issue you want us to cover, let us know - in complete confidence - by contacting, 0161-741 2631 or via Facebook / Twitter

May 03, 2019

Transcript of Professor Cain and Tristram Hunt discussing the antisemitism in Hobson's Imperialism on Radio 3

You will have seen or heard another antisemitism smear of Jeremy Corbyn doing the rounds about how he blurbed a book called Imperialism by J.A. Hobson.  The book contains a an antisemitic reference to Jews by way of an ugly stereotypical description

Here is the BBC Radio 3 Podcast of a discussion between a Professor Cain and Tristram Hunt on the now notorious book, Hobson's Imperialism. 

Anyway, my typing is very poor so it took me forever to type this because there are some people who ought to know better and indeed do know better trying make out that the antisemitism is central to the thesis and that Professor Cain and Tristram Hunt said as much in the podcast.  Needless to say, they didn't.  They said the opposite.

Ok? It starts at about 7:33 into the podcast:

Transcript of Professor Cain & Tristam Hunt discussing Hobson's Imperialism on Radio 3

Tristram Hunt:  Here we see a cartoon in front of us from the Illustrated London News of top-hatted city gentlemen throwing their hats into the air and it says "The reaction on the Stock Exchange to the news of the Boer surrender at Paardeberg 1900".   But there's rather an interesting figure on the far right of it, isn't there?

Professor Cain: Well there's a figure who is clearly drawn as a kind of Jewish financier if you like. And there's no doubt about it that Hobson was quite ambivalent about this side of financial imperialism.  He did show some kind of antisemitic strain.

Tristram Hunt: And the figure we see before us is physically larger than the others. There's the crooked caricature Jewish nose, sideburns and he's not celebrating, he's overlooking it as if to suggest "well this was all in the plan". And is this meant to be in a sense a symbol not so much of a Rhodes as of a Rothschild?

Professor Cain: Yes, I think so and I think the implication is that, although Rhodes is a very prominent figure, it's the senior men in The City who are fundamentally in charge of this operation, this imperialist operation.

Tristram Hunt: Surely there was more than enough to critique in the imperial project and its links with The City without going down the semitic [sic] route.

Professor Cain: [This is at 9 minutes in]  Yes, I think it was a mistake.   What it reflected is the very widespread antisemitic sentiment amongst English intellectuals at that time.  But the fact is that the theory worked perfectly well without invoking any kind of Jewish conspiracy.  What you have fundamentally is what Hobson thinks of as a City conspiracy, not a Jewish conspiracy as such and the theory will work perfectly well without introducing the antisemitic element.

Tristram Hunt: Either way when we look at the power on display at the Stock Exchange and we look at the politicians, the financiers behind the imperial project it suggests some of the strength of the consensus that Hobson was up against, doesn't it?

Professor Cain: Oh yes.

The End

May 02, 2019

A Day in the Life of Hobson's Imperialism on Wikipedia

In common with many people when I woke up yesterday I noticed yet another manufactured antisemitism scandal was in full swing. I knew it was manufactured because of the prominence of the words "antisemitism" and "Corbyn" in the headlines.

It turns out that Corbyn wrote an introduction to a book called Imperialism by a chap called Hobson.  I'd never heard of the book, described by Corbyn, apparently. as "brilliant".  It was The Times's Daniel Finkelstein who led the charge yesterday, typically for the antisemitism smears, the day before local elections.

It didn't take long for the poison to spread throughout the media. The words "peculiar race" popped up as the unambiguous description of Jews in Hobson's book.  In one of the anti-Corbyn threads someone very helpfully gave a link to a searchable copy of the book (without Corbyn's intro) online.

Good old  They have a searchable copy of the book right here:

There's only one throwaway reference to Jews by way of the words, "peculiar race" and they're so buried as to be barely even "peripheral" to the entire book. That's me moaning that I now have to search every chapter to then search the words I'm looking for.  The fact is, it is a deeply antisemitic throwaway passage but not a deeply antisemitic book.

So, go to Chapter IV and search for "peculiar" and what do we see:
These great businesses – banking, broking, bill discounting, loan floating, company promoting – form the central ganglion of international capitalism. United by the strongest bonds of organisation, always in closest and quickest touch with one another, situated in the very heart of the business capital of every State, controlled, so far as Europe is concerned, chiefly by men of a single and peculiar race, who have behind them many centuries of financial experience, they are in a unique position to control the policy of nations. No great quick direction of capital is possible save by their consent and through their agency. Does any one seriously suppose that a great war could be undertaken by any European State, or a great State loan subscribed, if the house of Rothschild and its connections set their face against it?
Again in common with a great many people I had to google "Hobson's Imperialism" because I'd never heard of it and out came Wikipedia on top. I noticed it had sections on its influence on Liberalism and its influence on Marxism but nothing about its antisemitism.  Very strange given its description in "newspapers of record" like The Times and The Guardian as a "deeply antisemitic book".

Now I remember from the great Zio "controversy", Zionists are quite adept at creating a controversy out of nothing and then zipping over to Wikipedia to have a bit of a tamper.  When I first noticed Zionists complaining that the word "Zio" is a putdown for Jews as Jews I googled "Zio". Lots of Italian restaurants popped up because Zio is Italian for uncle. I checked Wikipedia and found in the disambiguation that Zio was coming in at the botttom. A quick check of the edits and, what do you know? Zio as a "pejorative abbreviation of Zionist, often regarded as antisemitic" only appeared at the bottom of a list on 15 March 2016.  The "controversy" began in February of the same year. I think that might have been the actual start of the smear campaign.

Anyway, so I dashed over to Wikipedia to see what it had to say about Hobson's Imperialism.  Here are the contents of the page I saw early yesterday:


Today I looked again because the Hobson's Imperialism controversy is still rumbling on and, what do you know?  Look at the contents now:

See what the smear merchants did there? They've inserted "Antisemitism".  Now, let's see what the entry on Hobson's Imperialism lacked for the past 14 years:

 [edit]Hobson's antisemitic views have been described as influential,[11][12] and while Imperialism does not contain the "violent anti-Jewish crudities" of his prior works,[13] it asserts that Jews dominated international finance in Europe.[14][15] According to history professor Norman Etherington this section on financiers seems irrelevant to Hobson's economic discourse, and was probably included since Hobson truly believed it.[16]

It's very scrappy, isn't it? Let's check the edits history.


I hope you can see that ok but what happened is, I looked at the page first thing yesterday. There was nothing about Hobson's antisemitism nor the one passage in the book Imperialism that was antisemitic.  Yesterday was 1 May 2019. The last update to the page was 30 April in the evening but it had nothing to do with antisemitism. So sometime yesterday when lots of people were starting to realise that Danny Finkelstein's scoop was yet another rightist fantasy, someone calling themselves Icewhizz decided they had better take notice of what no-one had noticed on a Wikipedia entry in 14 years of edits, re-edits and de-edits.

Well, I suppose we are lucky that Zionism is racism or Zionists might start to notice that the "lower races" of Africa and Asia get more mentions than the "peculiar race" which gets just one mention in the fourth chapter of the book.

April 30, 2019

When Zionists spoke out against the Anti-Zionism = Antisemitism Equation II

Back in September 2017 I intended to post criticism's by Zionists of the disastrous Fraser v University and College Union (FUCU) case but I only posted this one by Adam Wagner, the increasingly notorious Zionist human rights barrister. Well here's one I remember well by another barrister, well actually a judge and a QC no less, Jonathan Goldberg. He described the Fraser case, brought by Antony Julius, as "an epic folly". Here he is in the Jewish Chronicle answering a critic of his own stance on the FUCU case:

Why the Ronnie Fraser case against the UCU was a legal and public relations disaster 

Rebecca from Finchley writes: I was furious to read your comment last week that bringing the Ronnie Fraser harassment case against the University College Union was “an act of epic folly”.  Surely it was high time the Anglo-Jewish community stood up for its rights, win or lose? 

V Rebecca, I am unrepentant in my view that bringing the Ronnie Fraser litigation was a legal and public relations disaster. All those concerned should first have reminded themselves of the rabbinical saying that “All Israel is accountable one for the other.” 

It was misconceived in law, wasted a fortune in legal costs (rumoured in legal circles to be over £500,000) but worst of all showed no Jewish seichel or streetsmarts whatsoever. You only litigate such hotly contentious matters if you are being dragged to court as the defendant and thus have no choice, or if, as claimant, you are sure to win. This case sent out the worst possible message to our many hate-filled enemies, namely that rich Jews threw huge resources at a failed attempt to stifle free speech. The result was entirely predictable and had been anticipated by several wise legal heads.

Those who now react to this defeat with sour grapes should more carefully study the judgment, which even an old warhorse like me had to read three times for all the nuances. See 

From a lawyer’s point of view, it is impeccably written and all too compelling. I cannot see any viable appeal arising from it and I would predict further damage and ignominious failure if such were attempted. 

I do not accept that the court was antisemitic, as Dr David Hirsh and others have insinuated.  Should Jews now be whiners who cannot admit we fought the wrong battle and miscalculated badly?

Do those who so rashly suggest on such shaky foundations that an English court was antisemitic have any conception of the damage they are doing to our community thereby?

Of the 10 factual complaints brought by Mr Fraser against the union, all but one were found to be unmeritorious after an exhaustive 20-day evidential investigation, with detailed reasons being given as to why the court rejected them. And even that one was brought out of time.

A main premise underpinning the claim — that the union was responsible in law for anti-Israel views promulgated by individual members in its annual congresses and in-house internet chatroom — was held wrong in law. Nor was that by any means the only error of law.

The underlying notion that a commitment to Zionism should be a “protected characteristic” in English employment law was in my view almost as fanciful as suggesting that supporting Tottenham Hotspur should be a protected characteristic, because so many Jews do so. 

Who is qualified to say, unless they sat through the 20 days of evidence, that the particular criticisms made of the evidence of Jeremy Newmark and two MPs were not reasonable. And just as important, why did Mr Newmark and the others ever voluntarily place themselves in a position to be so criticised in support of a claim brought on such dubious legal foundations?

And why should the court be criticised, as so many have done in this newspaper, for saying “a belief in the Zionist project, or an attachment to Israel or any similar sentiment, cannot amount to a protected characteristic. It is not intrinsically a part of Jewishness and, even if it was, it could not be substituted for the pleaded characteristics, which are race and religion or belief.” 

The critics have chosen to take five words out of context from this much longer passage in order to condemn the court for allegedly not recognising the attachment between the Jewish religion and Israel. In context, the court was saying no more than that an attachment to the modern State of Israel (“modern” is important here) is not intrinsic to Jewishness. And that is surely correct.

I yield to nobody in my love for Israel and my support for Zionism. But who can ignore the stark fact that many fellow Jews, including, for example, certain Israeli academics and at least one sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews, are among Israel’s most rabid detractors, whereas many gentiles are fervent Zionists (Lord bless them)

Why was not a fraction of these legal resources used instead to bring a private prosecution against those activists who disrupted the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra or the Batsheva Dance Company?

Such cases would almost certainly have succeeded. Having recently attended the stellar AIPAC conference in Washington, Rebecca, I have to say this debacle would never have happened in America.

Unlike in the UK, communal organisations there are not constantly jockeying with one another for power and prestige — and the left hand actually does know what the right is doing.