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Antisemitism and the Labour party – a deeper look (cont)

On 4th May we posted a link to Kitty S Jones blog Marginalisation of left leaning Jewish groups demonstrates political exploitation of the antisemitism controversy by the right wing. It inspired a response from Jim Denham Antisemitism on the left and in Labour: a reply to Kitty S. Jones, in which he claims there is a serious problem of antisemitism on the left, about which we are in denial.

Kitty Jones provides a fine rejoinder, below.

A response to a critical response to my recent article about antisemitism

Kitty Jones, Politics and Insights
14 May 2018

10 comments to Antisemitism and the Labour party – a deeper look (cont)

  • Mike Scott

    It’s really important that we don’t get drawn into an “either/or” position where people are forced to take one view or another, when both are right or wrong to some degree. I entirely agree that antisemitism exist everywhere to a greater or lesser extent, but that its prevalence on the left has been grossly exaggerated for political reasons.

  • Rosie Brocklehurst

    Agree it has been exaggerated grossly for political reasons, fanned by rightwing of Labour Party, used by Tories and extreme right, and it has already backfired. Cynicism towards the accusers has grown exponentially as people wise up. That is dangerous.

  • A further reply to Kitty from JD:

    Kitty: I’ll reply in more detail soon, but for now I’ll just respond to what seems to be your main (and most strongly-felt) objection to what I wrote: my objection your use of the research showing that anti-Semitism in Britain are “amongst the lowest in the world” and that “the prejudice gets worse the further right on the political spectrum you get”; I’m afraid I can only repeat that these are terrible arguments for a leftist to use, and can only be interpreted as truly dreadful complacency.

    OK this is as you say (in capitals) RESEARCH: yes, but you go on to say (in your reply) that it’s “evidenced to verify my comments”, by which I understand you to mean that this report, which I paraphrased (I think fairly) as “‘antisemitism in Labour is no worse than in society as a whole, the right is worse than the left, and anyway, antisemitism in Britain is a low level problem’ backs up the rest of your *political* case.

    Can you not see just what a wretchedly bad basis for a leftist argument that is? How complacent it is? Can you imagine yourself or any other leftist ‘contectualising’ (ie minimising) any other form of prejudice or bigotry in that way?

    If you’d merely cited the research as background information and then immediately made it clear that despite this, *any* level of antisemitism in Britain or anywhere else is unacceptable, and if you’d made the obvious point that to say antisemitism is worse on the left than the right, is hardly something the left should be proud of, then fair enough. But you don’t make those points. Indeed your follow-up comment that the research was “evidenced to verify my comments” can only reasonably be understood as a statement that this ‘contextualising’ (ie downplaying) of antisemitism and specifically, antisemitism on the left, is an important element in your case. Therefore, I believe my concerns about as to whether or not you accept that there is an antisemitism problem of any significance within Labour and the left more generally, is entirely justified.

    To be absolutely clear on this, Kitty, I do not doubt your genuine abhorrence of antisemitism: but I *do* doubt whether your consider it a particularly significant problem on the left and within Labour, and your most recent comments, I have to say, do nothing to clarify this.

    Richard Seymour (not someone I often find myself in agreement with) puts it very well in a piece he wrote recently for the US Jacobin magazine:

    “[E]ven if antisemitism is not especially concentrated on the Left, and even declined among Labour supporters between 2015 and 2017, polls show it to be more pervasive than might have been imagined. Beyond the hardcore of antisemitism in Britain, which tends to be around 2 percent of the population, there is a surprisingly large number of people who hold to at least one antisemitic trope. For example, about a fifth of the population, and 14 percent of Labour voters, think Jews are more likely to “chase money” than others, while 14 percent of Britons, and 11 percent of Labour supporters, think Jews believe they are “better” than others. These are the results for the stereotypes that people will openly confess to; unconscious biases are likely to be more widespread.

    “While this research, conducted for the Campaign Against Antisemitism, confirms the CST finding that antisemitic prejudices are more prevalent on the Right, it also suggests that the Left is not exempted from antisemitism. Indeed, it is not much better than the political mean, and that is itself something to think about.”

  • Typo!: in my comment above “antisemitism is worse on the left than the right” should read “antisemitism is worse on the right than on the left”.

  • Dave

    You’re being disingenuous Jim – the way it is being reported is that the Labour Party presents an almost existential threat to British Jews. But the worst you can come up with is some research on Labour supporters, not members. As you must know, Labour voters probably used to possess a wide range of racist views – just look at trade union opposition to immigrants back in the 1960s – but it has surely improved hugely; although we also know a good number of Labour voters are also Brexit supporters and some switched to UKIP.

    You’ll note that the people who are being prosecuted for anti-semitism are not reported widely in the right wing press. That’s because they are not Labour Party members. I can honestly say I never expect to encounter someone like this in my local Labour branch:

    “Jeremy Bedford-Turner, 48, called for his “soldiers” to liberate England from “Jewish control” in an address outside Downing Street and blamed Jews for issues ranging from both world wars to Jack the Ripper.”


  • My response to Jim Denham : “…[]can only be interpreted as truly dreadful complacency.” is the telling comment.

    No, it can be simply read for what it actually is.Your intepreation is a loaded one, as previously discussed, and thus limited and biased.

    This is precisely the kind of entrapment strategy I outlined previously, based on a simplistic binary schema that aims at discrediting and condemning comments whatever they may be, by interpreting them within a strategically narrow, negative framework of responses that you and others have imposed, with the aim, ultimately of simply upholding your own position in the debate.

    It is entirely possible to say that the level of antisemitism in the Labour party is no higher than among other parties or in wider society AND at the same time, to NOT be “complacent” about or “downplay”antisemitism. The two things are not mutually exclusive, yet you continue to irrationally present them as if they are.

    Here once again is another example of your fallacious reasoning and lack of rationality. You describe my response as a “terrible argument” but fail to detail exactly why you think it is terrible. You seem to have a taken for granted assumption that the responses you EXPECT me to make are themselves reasonable. They are not. You are trying to frame the debate on your own terms. I’m not having it. So you continue to use words like “terrible” to describe my reasoned, evidenced statements.

    Stating that a group or leader is not solely responsible for a growth in antisemitism in wider society is NOT the same thing as trivialising or “playing down” the problem of antisemitism more generally. Despite being busted on your use of an entrapment strategy, you continue to try and use it, nonetheless.

    I have NEVER trivialised or “minimised antisemitism, I have a long written record of campaigning against all forms of prejudice and discrimination, yet you imply several times that I have. And there is the trap. I made a reasonable point which you have turned into something else – you are claiming that my motive is to trivialise antisemitism on the left.It is not. You are attributing conditions and intentions that do not exist to my statement in order to frame them conveniently, so that you may use them as a straw man argument.

    I’m not giving you the condemnation of the party and leader that you are trying to elicit, because that condemnation is wholly inappropriate so you try and condemn me instead. It’s a form of bullying Jim.

    As I said previously, I stated facts drawn from more than one piece of research.

  • Kitty: this is not “a form of bullying”: it’s called debate. I get the impression that you are not used to this.

    Kitty, you say: “You describe my response as a “terrible argument” but fail to detail exactly why you think it is terrible”: Kitty, I’ve told you *exactly* why it’s a terrible argument, at least twice now: to repeat myself, *the left should have higher standards than that* OK? Geddit?

    • I’m very used to debate, Jim. I don’t like the kind of “debate” where someone tries to push me into a conformist response so they can set up straw man arguments. As I’ve outlined more than once, now.

      Yes,I always challenge antisemitism when I see it. You seem surprised. I challenge prejudice, discrimination and oppression – that’s partly why I write.

  • Btw, Kitty: judging by some recent responses you’ve posted on your blog to some clearly antisemitic btl commenters, I suspect we may not, in reality, be too far apart in what we’re saying. I hope so anyway.

  • Dorothy

    Jim, the problem is that the Labour Party is being smeared with being the party with the greatest problem with antisemitism, but when someone provides evidence that it isn’t, that’s scorned as an attempt to minimise the issue! So we can’t win because providing facts is seen as being an excuse for any antisemitism that does exist. If I said that it’s not a problem because other parties are worse, that would be excusing it, providing facts is not.
    I have not encountered AS in decades in the party though I don’t doubt others have different experiences. Interestingly when I put this to some of my old comrades in Barnet I was told the AS isnt demonstrated by abuse at meetings but by support for Palestinian rights and by sharing platforms with people with objectionable views, which i suspect isn’t how most people would define it.

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