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Target: Labour

Accusations of anti-semitism are being used to undermine Britain’s left

Target: Labour
Corbyn has been a supporter of the Palestinians and a strong critic of Israel.

Dear All,

Ever since Britain’s Labour Party began to move away from Tony Blair’s centrist position back towards the left of the political spectrum, its leader Jeremy Corbyn has been under attack. These assaults have come not just from most of the media but also, obviously, from the Conservative Party for whom Corbyn is very useful as they can use him for scaremongering by repeating the mantra that Corbyn must be stopped from getting in to power as he is ‘dangerous’. The danger, they claim, is that Corbyn with his record of fighting for nuclear disarmament is ‘a threat to Britain’s security’ and that his policies are (shock! horror!) socialist…

But one of the main sticks being used to beat up the Labour leadership is that of antisemitism. Corbyn has long been a supporter of various peoples’ struggles around the world and in a political career spanning several decades he has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinians and a strong critic of Israel. But in the current environment where criticising or condemning the state of Israel is equated with ‘antisemitism’ the Labour leader and his closest advisors are being smeared with this. The media went berserk three years ago when former London mayor Ken Livingstone stated (factually) that Hitler supported Zionism in the 1930s — nobody wanted to look at the historical context of this but all the media frenzy seemed to demand was (figuratively) Livingstone’s head on a block…

The media seems to want every case of ‘antisemitic’ behaviour in the Labour Party that it writes about to be dealt with summarily by the party and there has been much outrage if a process such as an enquiry is started (the media seems to favour an ‘off with their heads!’ approach). A number of Jewish MPs have also accused the leadership of failing to act against this and such individuals include some who a few months ago left Labour to join the bland centrist band of MPs (both Labour and Tory) who now call themselves The Independent Group. These loudly trumpeted claims of ‘failure to act’ on ‘anti-semitism’ have now resulted in Britain’s Equalities & Human Rights Commission launching an official inquiry into these allegations (something that never happened, for example, after Baroness Warsi highlighted Islamophobic and racist behaviour within the Conservative Party).

Any sort of attitude based on hate and prejudice is to be condemned rather than condoned inside a political party but in the case of Labour this looks very much to be an orchestrated campaign. Take the case of one of Corbyn’s close allies and National Executive Council member Peter Willsman who was suspended over his remarks that the Israeli embassy was behind the “whipped up crisis” over Labour’s antisemitism.

Various groups condemned his remarks as anti-semitic but the interesting thing is that what Willsman was saying is actually based on fact: two years ago an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera revealed a close link between one Shai Masot, a senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London and various networks of politicians, analysts and activists sympathetic to Israel. He was recorded in conversations with these activists by the undercover reporter (a white European) who worked for months to infiltrate these groups.

Any sort of attitude based on hate and prejudice is to be condemned rather than condoned inside a political party, but in the case of Labour this looks very much to be an orchestrated campaign.

In one conversation this political officer discusses how to ‘take down’ some MPs critical of Israel including ‘deputy foreign minister’ Sir Alan Duncan who was then a (Conservative) minister in the Foreign Office and who had publicly criticised Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian lands. Duncan is described by Masot as ‘doing a lot of problems and in the conversation with a parliamentary staffer they speak of ‘taking him down’ and of ‘neutralising’ him.

The investigative series describes the four fronts the embassy’s political officer had his people working on: universities and students, the Labour Party and its activists, anybody questioning the use of the antisemitism accusation and politicians inside government and Westminster. The report on the Labour movement is particularly interesting in the context of the accusations the Labour Party is facing today. I thoroughly recommend watching these excellent undercover reports which are called The Lobby and which have been conveniently forgotten by everybody including a very compromised British media. They did get a brief mention in the press two years ago because of the recorded remarks about ‘taking down’ the Foreign Office minister — but that was that. And as happens in such cases the officer was then portrayed as a lone operative, loose cannon etc with the Israeli embassy saying his remarks were “unacceptable” and describing Masot as “a junior embassy employee… not an Israeli diplomat… who will be ending his term of employment at the embassy shortly.”

Yet as shocking as these activities were, the Al Jazeera findings are never cited as context for news coverage of Labour’s alleged anti-semitism. One media observer (former diplomat Craig Murray) remarked on “the incredible disappearance of Shai Masot” and noted that in 2019 (up to the end of May) not even one media outlet had mentioned Masot even though the main political news story over that last week had been the suspension of Labour’s Peter Willsman for the suggestion that ‘the anti-semitism witch hunt was being promoted by the Israeli embassy’.

The Al Jazeera reports were also, incidentally, referred to a media regulatory body for ‘anti-semitism’ but were cleared…

The attack on the Labour Party however continues, and the latest form it has taken is in accusations of its ignoring or covering up incidents of sexual harassment or bullying…

Such is politics… but do watch The Lobby — it’s an eye-opener.

Umber Khairi

The author is a former BBC broadcaster and producer, and one of the founding editors of Newsline.

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