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Statement of Principles:

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Unscrupulous attacks on JVL in social media

Jewish Voice for Labour refutes malicious charges 

15th February 2018


In recent weeks, Jewish Voice for Labour has been subjected to a barrage of defamatory abuse on social media, consisting of unfounded and malicious allegations linking the organisation to antisemitic posts and tweets. The abuse originates from a group calling itself Labour Against Antisemitism, which was created for the purpose of undermining the Labour Party leadership under Jeremy Corbyn by attributing hateful opinions about Jews to Corbyn’s supporters. As part of that agenda, it has waged a campaign against Jews expressing opinions critical of Israel, to the point of trying to ban a meeting in the House of Commons on the subject of antisemitism and freedom of speech.

The attack on JVL has been led by Saul Freeman, a former Labour Party member who Tweets as @NudderingNudnik and blogs on Harry’s Place, an anti-Corbyn, anti-Palestinian website. It has been a key source for those on the Labour right and in the wider political and media establishment searching for scurrilous charges to lay at the door of activists on the left.

In Freeman’s posts he has stated his insistence on using the terms antisemitism and antizionism interchangeably and accused Corbyn, without evidence, of supporting violent, jihadi Palestinian movements.

LAA began its current assault on Jewish Voice for Labour when Freeman appeared opposite Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a spokesperson for JVL, in a debate on the BBC’s The Big Question. The title was “Does the Left have a problem with antisemitism?”

Freeman’s opening gambit was to cite a number of vile antisemitic social media posts which he alleged were the work of “members” of Free Speech on Israel – a Jewish-led campaign a number of whose members, including Wimborne-Idrissi, are also active in JVL. (see footnote*)

The circumstances of a live television programme gave her no opportunity to investigate his charges on air. She did make clear that the abhorrent views he had quoted had no place in either FSOI or JVL. But viewers were left with the strong impression that both organisations were giving cover to antisemites disguised as pro-Palestinian sympathisers.

After the programme was aired on January 28, JVL posted on its website a challenge to Freeman to provide the source for his claims. The group explained that the great majority of the thousands of people who post to FSOI’s social media are not members of the organisation.  If any poster demonstrates genuinely antisemitic views, ie hostility, discrimination or prejudice against Jews because they are Jews, they are rapidly excluded.

After much prevarication, Freeman produced his source for the post that had caused us most concern when he cited it on TV – from a certain Matt Wright calling the Holocaust a “Holohoax” and asserting that “Not a single Jew died in a gas chamber.” We were quickly able to establish that Wright has never even been a member of the FSOI Facebook group, let alone a member of the organisation itself.

FSOI acknowledges that a few of the 2000+ followers of its Facebook page may, unknown to us, post vile material elsewhere. FSOI’s social media admins enforce high standards and delete any antisemitic, misogynistic or otherwise discriminatory post, which may, very occasionally, appear. They block people who fall below those standards. Freeman could not provide evidence to back up his allegations about FSOI and JVL harbouring antisemites, because none exists.

The truth has not stood in the way of Freeman and others from LAA, such as @EuanPhilips and @supergutman, who have continued to dishonestly link JVL and FSOI to antisemitic material and to assert that the Labour leadership is complicit in this.

Campaigning against antisemitism is laudable and essential. Anti-Jewish racism does occasionally rear its head, even on the left, and we are committed to combatting it alongside other forms of racism wherever it occurs.  Freeman and associates, however, have an entirely different agenda. Their business is demonising supporters of rights for Palestinians and suppressing pro-Palestinian activism.

@nudderingnudnik, @EuanPhilips or @supergutman show no concern about the racist actions of the Israeli state; its inhuman, never-ending occupation; its illegal and expanding settlement programme; its tolerance of settler violence; its theft of Palestinian land; its cosying up to antisemites providing they express support for Israel; its discriminatory policies that undermine its claims to be either Jewish or Democratic.

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* Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) was formed early in 2016 by Jewish and other antiracist human rights activists alarmed at the way the term antisemitism was being debased and redefined by pro-Israel advocates so as to shut down debate about Israel’s infringements of Palestinian rights.

Some Jews in FSOI who were Labour Party members found common cause with others on the left of the party to launch Jewish Voice for Labour in September 2017. Its aim is to provide a voice for progressive Jews who have shared political concerns and do not want to be identified solely in terms of their attitude to Israel.

 

1 comment to Unscrupulous attacks on JVL in social media

  • David Cannon

    Thanks for standing up to and exposing the lazy smears being used to undermine critics of vicious Israeli apartheid. Opposing injustices committed against Palestinians is NOT antisemitic!!!

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