More explosions surround the Chakrabarti Labour anti-Semitism report

Anti-Semitism is defined by the perpetrator, not the victim.The Labour party has yet to treat its problem seriously.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld ,

Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld
Manfred Gerstenfeld

New problems continue to arise concerning the pervasive anti-Semitism in the British Labour party and its leaders’ lack of sensitivity to it. Part of the newly emerging information is related to the highly unprofessional and manipulative whitewash report on anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism in the party by Shami Chakrabarti. It is important to continue to keep track of these Labour party problems because some of its elements shed new light on the background of extreme anti-Israelism among various social-democrat parties in Europe.

Chakrabarti’s report was presented on June 30th. The presentation created two new scandals. Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, indirectly compared Israel to ISIS by saying in his prepared remarks “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organizations.”[1] Former UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks called Corbyn’s comparison of Jews and Israel’s current government to the Islamic State a “demonization of the highest order.”[2] Chakrabarti thereupon defended Corbyn on LBC radio.[3] 

At the report’s presentation, Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth was verbally attacked. Mark Wadsworth, a campaigner of Labour’s left wing Momentum group accused her of being part of a media conspiracy. Smeeth left the meeting in tears. She remarked: “It is beyond belief that someone could come to the launch of a report on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and espouse such vile conspiracy theories about Jewish people which were ironically highlighted as such in Ms Chakrabarti's report, while the leader of my own party stood by and did absolutely nothing.” Smeeth called for Corbyn to resign after the incident and added that “a Labour Party under his stewardship cannot be a safe space for British Jews.”[4]

During the appearance before the Home Affairs committee of the House of Commons, Chakrabarti acted as prompter for Corbyn by passing him notes. The committee’s chairman Labour MP Keith Vaz said it was not 'in order' for Chakrabarti and another person to pass notes to Corbyn.[5] Since then it has become known that when outgoing Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron presented his honors list, the only person Corbyn nominated for the House of Lords was Chakrabarti.[6]

Alan Mendoza, founder and executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, a think tank, asked Chakrabarti in a television interview whether she had been offered a place in the House of Lords. Her answer raised suspicion, and the reason later became clear. She replied: “You can ask the question and I’m going to evade it at this point.”[7] Labour MP Wes Streeting blogged about Chakrabarti: “She may be one of the country’s leading campaigners for civil liberties, but we shouldn’t pretend that everything about the timing and nature of this appointment doesn’t stink.”[8]


when outgoing Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron presented his honors list, the only person Corbyn nominated for the House of Lords was Chakrabarti.
Cameron’s honors list was already under heavy attack for other reasons.[9] Corbyn’s proposal for the Chakrabarti peerage was also criticized by Labour’s Deputy Leader Tom Watson. He said that the timing of Chakrabarti’s nomination was a mistake. Watson clarified that he was not consulted about this, nor did he know about it.[10]

The debate about Corbyn’s misguided nomination of Chakrabarti for a peerage was followed by another accusation relating to her report. John Simons, a former advisor to Corbyn said he had told Chakrabarti that Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s director of strategy, had “at least a blind spot with anti-Semitism and at worst a willful disregard for it.” He alleged that Milne had ‘a rant’ at him about Israel and questioned him about his family background. Chakrabarti’s report did not refer to this incident or to many others like it.[11]

One can best expose Chakrabarti’s whitewash report by a far worse omission. As part of her ego trip she relates how as a student she felt “instantly sick” when somebody referred to a shopkeeper as a Paki.[12] In her report she however remains silent about the genocide-inviting tweet of one of those suspended elected Labour representatives who hoped that Iran would use nuclear weapons to “wipe Israel off the map.”[13]    

There was however little focus in the media on what was, from a professional point of view, the most incriminating hit for Chakrabarti’s manipulations. In May, Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) had suppressed the publication of the full report on anti-Semitism by Labour peer Baroness Royall in the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC). It was there, with the resignation of Alex Chalmers, the co-chair of the OULC[14] that exposure of the widespread anti-Semitism in Labour started.

In his resignation letter Chalmers made remarks one rarely hears from the left about extreme leftists being similar to anti-Semitic extreme rightists. He wrote: “Whether it be members of the Executive throwing around the term 'Zio' (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan) with casual abandon, senior members of the club expressing their 'solidarity' with Hamas and explicitly defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians, or a former Co-Chair claiming that 'most accusations of antisemitism are just the Zionists crying wolf’, a large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews. The decision of the club to endorse a movement with a history of targeting and harassing Jewish students and inviting anti-Semitic speakers to campuses, despite the concerns of Jewish students, illustrates how uneven and insincere much of the active membership is when it comes to liberation.”[15]

The Royall report, finally published, probably against the wishes of the NEC,[16] was of a very different quality than that by Chakrabarti. What makes it worse for the latter is that Royall was a vice-chair of her inquiry and her  report was available to Chakrabarti. One can now see Chakrabarti’s whitewash even clearer than before. 

Contrary to Chakrabarti, Royall did not try to evade key issues at stake. She wrote that “freedom of speech must flourish just as it is unacceptable to be racist in debate, so it is unacceptable to be anti-Semitic in any discourse.”[17] Chakrabarti’s main emphasis was very different: “As a free speech campaigner I have always believed in the right to offend. But as a lawyer I know the difference between a right and a duty.”[18] Royall wrote that there should be no statute of limitation on anti-Semitic behavior.[19] Chakrabarti recommended a moratorium on past cases.[20]

Royall refers to the report of the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into anti-Semitism. In the preparation of this major document Labour parliamentarians played a crucial role.[21] Chakrabarti ignores it. When Royall investigated the OULC Labour anti-Semitism problems, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition had not yet been approved. By the time Chakrabarti submitted her report, it had been. Both the Board of Deputies[22] and myself had brought to her attention the importance of using a definition of anti-Semitism, and particularly this one,  in her inquiry.[23] She ignored it.

Royall stated that in today’s society “anti-Semitism is an area where the behavior is defined by the perpetrators rather than the victim. Even in recent weeks it has been questioned whether anti-Semitism is racism.”[24] About other realities in the OULC realm, Royall wrote: “I have received evidence from students at Oxford and elsewhere that the various sides of this discourse are often conflated. This typically creates an environment in which Jews cannot debate, or feel safe doing so, unless their every remark is prefaced by criticism of the Israeli government.”

Royall continued, “Anti-Semitism manifests itself frequently, and simply, as a failure to allow Jews to engage on a level playing field. No pre-conditions are placed on women debating sexism. It is not a prerequisite that Muslims condemn the atrocities of this or that government before they may enter debate on foreign policy. Many students reported that should a Jewish student preface a remark ‘as a Jew…’ they are likely to face ridicule and behavior that would not be acceptable for someone saying ‘as a woman…’ or ‘as an Afro-Caribbean…’ This behavior is also reported within the wider community.”[25]

Various Jewish voices, including Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the Board of Deputies and Jonathan Sacerdoti of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, have attacked Corbyn’s request for a peerage for Chakrabarti around the time of the publication of her report.[26] Yet, it isn’t wise to put the main emphasis on the various scandals concerning her.

It is Chakrabarti’s report which will remain as a testimony of omissions, manipulations, a lack of professionalism and incompetence.  

Sources:

1] www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/30/jeremy-corbyn-appears-compare-israeli-government-islamic-state-labour-antisemitism-review

[2] http://www.lbc.co.uk/chakrabati-defends-corbyn-over-anti-semitism-133112; http://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/lord-sacks-corbyns-israel-demonisation-of-the-highest-order/

[3] http://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/chakrabarti-defends-corbyn-amid-anti-semitism-row/

[4] www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-antisemitism-jeremy-corbyn-ruth-smeeth-jewish-mp-accused-of-colluding-with-media-a7111061.html

[5] www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jeremy-corbyns-companions-told-passing-8349793

[6] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/honours-list-read-full-david-cameron-peers-knighthoods-mbes-nominations-a7172406.html

[7] www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/160565/was-shami-chakrabarti-offered-a-labour-peerage-conducting-antisemitism-inquiry

[8] http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/everything-about-the-nature-of-corbyns-appointment-of-chakrabarti-stinks/

[9] www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/aug/06/why-has-david-camerons-honours-list-caused-such-a-fuss

[10] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36983112

[11] www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3728588/Storm-Corbyn-s-great-pals-compare-Israel-ISIS-terrorists-Row-Labour-anti-Semitism-grows-comments-two-ministers.html

[13] www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3531852/Labour-councillor-20-suspended-claims-called-Hitler-greatest-man-history-latest-anti-Semitic-scandal-hit-Corbyn-s-party.html

[14] www.thejc.com/images/Report_OUC_Final.pdf

[15] Ibid

[16] http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/161468/baroness-royall-report-reveals-oxford-labour-students-engaged-antisemitism

[17] www.thejc.com/images/Report_OUC_Final.pdf, pg 1

[18] http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/party-documents/ChakrabartiInquiry.pdf, pg 11 (see also page 7)

[19] ww.thejc.com/images/Report_OUC_Final.pdf, pg 4

[20]http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/party-documents/ChakrabartiInquiry.pdf, pg 20

[21] Ibid., pg 9

[22] https://www.bod.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Board-of-Deputies-Inquiry-Submission-3-.pdf

[23] /Articles/Article.aspx/19002

[24] ww.thejc.com/images/Report_OUC_Final.pdf, pg 7

[25] Ibid., pg 8




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