Alienating the left as the far right advances 

The Community Security Trust (CST), a registered Jewish charity, gathers data and publishes regular reports about antisemitism in Britain.

In 2018 they began to receive numerous reports about incidents involving the Labour Party, even exceeding those involving the far right.

It is highly implausible that such reporting reflects the true situation regarding actual events, as Dr Alan Maddison explains in his review of the latest CST report for JVL.

The risks for British Jews of taking these findings at face value are enormous. All evidence points to the real danger coming from the growing far right and this is not the time to alienate friends on the left.

Introduction

In its latest annual publication for 2019, the Community Security Trust (CST) charity reported 1,805 antisemitic incidents in 2019, a 7% increase over the previous 12 months.

But it reported a more significant change.

Out of 534 incidents where a political motivation had been identified, there was a dramatic 51% increase in those relating to the Labour Party (224), even overtaking those reported with a far right motivation (126).

Such Labour Party-related incidents were not even noted by CST prior to 2018, yet since then suddenly dominate (see Figure 1).

Does this really mean that in the last two years the apparent threat to British Jews from the left, unnoticed before that, is suddenly almost double that from the far right?

The CST authors admit their reported data may not be representative of actual incidents, perhaps reflecting an increased motivation of some people to selectively report Labour Party-related allegations, whilst ignoring the far right.

The CST becoming a vector of such probable bias is all the more worrying as this follows similar allegations against Labour from the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) charity.

The CAA‘s claims of increases in left-wing antisemitic prejudice overtaking that even of the far right, are unfounded as we have shown here. They are even contradicted by its own data as shown later in Figure 2 below. It seems like an obvious attempt to discredit the Labour Party with disinformation just prior to the General Election in December 2019.

Are these recent CST reports then another contribution, even unwitting, to the relentless campaign of false or exaggerated claims against the Labour Party?

Let us look more closely.

Antisemitic prejudice remains highest on the far right

In 2017, Daniel Staetsky of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research published the largest survey ever undertaken into antisemitism in Britain.  He found that 30% of the British population endorsed at least one of eight ‘antisemitic’ statements but that this was only considered to be associated with ‘antisemitism’, defined as having a dislike for Jews, in around 3.6%.

These frequencies were fairly consistent across the political spectrum, the only significant exception being the ‘very right-wingers’ of whom 52% endorsed one or more antisemitic statements and 13% were considered to dislike Jews.

Between 2015 and 2019 the CAA published results from five smaller surveys (here, here and here) which also showed adoption of antisemitic stereotypes in over 30% of the population, and this more prevalent among Tory or UKIP voters than among Labour voters.

Background data from the latest CAA 2019 survey is illustrated below (Figure 2) and we see the distribution across the political spectrum of an ‘antisemitism index’ (a measure based on agreement with up to 5 ‘antisemitic’ statements).

Consistent with earlier publications, the CAA antisemitism index was lowest for the left-wing groups, and then increased as one moved to the centre and the right. The very-right group again had the highest antisemitism index (1.2), about 2.5x that of the left- and very-left-wing groups.

This pattern of greater far right ‘antisemitism’ and ‘adoption of antisemitic stereotypes’ than that on the left and far left, was therefore maintained from 2015 to 2019, and so seems totally at odds with the sudden shift in the CST reported incidents.

A shift in trigger events?

Whereas a pool of latent antisemitic prejudice is clearly highest on the right and far right, the CST authors suggest certain political events between 2018 and 2019 may have triggered increases in manifestations restricted to the Left.

Of the various perpetrators the CST authors say,

“…Labour Party-related incidents, regularly reveal their antisemitism in staunch defence of the party or its leadership.

Antisemitism from far right sympathisers, in contrast, is usually more direct, vicious and knowingly insulting.

A possible reason for this is that far right antisemitism is a more established, historic hatred, whereas antisemitism from the far left is less self-aware and more reactive.”

So the CST observes that far-right incidents were as regular as the underlying hatred, whereas those of relating to the Labour Party fluctuated in response to attacks on the Party or its leader, such as the much criticised BBC’s Panorama programme screened in July 2019.

However, attacks on Labour have been relentless and regular ever since Corbyn was elected in 2015. They may have intensified since his near success in the 2017 General Election, but that does not explain such a dramatic and sudden appearance of reported Labour Party-related incidents as shown in Figure 3 below.

So we do need to explore alternative explanations.

A dramatic increase in CST reporting of online incidents since 2017

The pattern of ‘antisemitic’ incidents reported to CST since 2015 is shown below. We can see that though total incidents in 2019 may have increased 7% compared with 2018, off-line incident reports actually fell by 10.5%. (Strangely, this reassuring fall was not commented upon in the CST report).

In contrast, the number of on-line incidents reported (697) increased by a huge 51% over 2018, and 180% compared with 2017.

The CST authors stated:

“It is difficult to assess whether the increase in online incidents in 2019 reflects a genuine rise in the amount of antisemitic expressions online, or an increase in the reporting of online antisemitism to CST…”

Indeed, the CST authors say they do not trawl the internet because the potential for such high numbers from social media would swamp their analyses. Yet they have accepted on-line reports from others, risking a similar outcome, and a bias against Labour.

In 2016 the World Jewish Congress reported an estimated 15,000 online antisemitic incidents (in addition to 130,000 anti-Israel incidents) in the UK, and attributed 90% to the far right. The CST reports in 2018-19 reverse this far-right dominance, and it seems quite implausible that such a huge and abrupt shift reflected reality. 

This raises the question of whether these 697 social media reports  are indeed a representative sample of the huge number of online antisemitic incidents across the political spectrum.

So who are these people submitting such possibly politically biased reports?

A dramatic increase in CST reporting by unrelated witnesses, rather than by victims themselves, since 2017

One would expect any changes to spontaneous reporting by victims to broadly reflect the real changes in events, both on-line and off-line.

However, according to the CST, the biggest increase in recent reports was not from victims, or even their entourage, but originated from unrelated ‘witnesses’ as shown below. There was a smaller increase involving CST staff.

Once more we must ask if these external witnesses applied equal scrutiny across the political spectrum, or were they selectively searching Labour-related incidents?

We know there are many groups and individuals with a sole or disproportionate focus on allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. These include the Board of Deputies, CAA, Hope not hate, LAAS, JLM, John Mann, David Collier, the office of Chief Rabbi Mirvis.

Trawling social media with key search words, including those relating to Labour, is very easily done, as is tagging in the CST. According to Jennie Formby’s Jan 2020 report No Place for Antisemitism: Disciplinary Processes, such efforts produce allegations that can go back several years, signifying a change in reporting rather than in actual incidents: the “vast majority of complaints relate to social media activity, often social media posts from several years ago”. We also know that one individual was responsible for a third of all these reported cases…

The clear impression is that similar scrutiny is certainly not applied to the Tory Party or the Far Right, despite a much higher prevalence of antisemitism.

The writer Michael Rosen recently presented examples of antisemitism in the Tory party to the Government’s ‘antisemitism Tsar’ John Mann, but was so disheartened at the apparent lack of interest that he wrote

The same can be said with even greater emphasis for people not combatting the more hateful and potentially violent antisemitism from the far right.

There clearly has been a significant rise in CST witness-generated on-line reports of Labour Party-related antisemitism, even overtaking those attributed to the far right.  The most likely explanation for this sudden and dramatic appearance is politically motivated groups and individuals who deliberately target or trawl online accounts of Labour supporters for selective scrutiny and reporting.

Was it always antisemitism?

Even if not representative, the CST’s 224 reported Labour Party-related incidents exist.  Compared with the blatant expressions of far right antisemitism they were apparently more subtle and focused on defending the Party or leader against what were perceived as unfair attacks.

Ambalavaner Sivanandan, of the Institute of Race Relations, previously expressed concern that subjective assessments of such Labour-related antisemitism allegations are open to political bias.

An example of this is the claim that Labour supporters’ talk of a ‘smear campaign exaggerating the prevalence of ‘Labour’s antisemitism’, is in itself antisemitic as is alleged by writer Alan Johnson, and by Hopenothate. On that reasoning, this very article assessing the reliability of the stats on antisemitism, would itself be classed as antisemitic.

That is completely to ignore the reliable evidence of an unprecedented political smear campaign against Labour (here and here).  Indeed, a recent survey (published in Greg Philo et al’s Bad News for Labour) demonstrated that such associated exaggerations have increased perceptions of Labour’s ‘antisemitism problem’ more than 140-fold over reality, as illustrated in Figure 6.

Not surprisingly, another recent survey by Lord Ashcroft showed 73% of Labour members considered that the particular problem of antisemitism in Labour had been ’invented or wildly exaggerated by the right-wing media and opponents of Jeremy Corbyn’.

Such a belief is perfectly justifiable and in itself is not a denial of the existence of any antisemitism amongst Labour members, as some disingenuously claim.

According to Staetsky’s data a maximum of 3.1% of left-wingers will be antisemitic and this is valid even for the 28% who may use an ‘antisemitic’ trope. The 3.1% also applies to the 73% who challenge media exaggerations. In other words related social media comments from the vast majority of Labour supporters will not be motivated by a ‘dislike of Jews’.

This example shows how easy it is for those out to attack Labour supporters. Such excessive attribution of antisemitism (dislike for Jews) to social media comments can exaggerate the ‘Labour Party problem’ enormously, between 10-and 20-fold on this analysis.

The 140-fold effect in Figure 6 was no doubt achieved with the help of the mainstream media and a misleading and disproportionate anti-Labour coverage.

Consequences

We have seen that the most likely explanation for the CST’s sudden and dramatic appearance of Labour Party-related incident reports, overtaking far right, is that it is the result of a highly selective scrutiny of left-wing accounts, combined with grossly exaggerated attributions of antisemitism.

The media has been relentlessly fed such disinformation to the extent that British Jews now even see that far left as more of a serious threat than the far right.

It would seem that the CST is following the CAA in contributing to a manufactured perception which is the opposite of the truth.

Such political bias from Jewish charities is not only anti-democratic it is dangerous for the future security of British Jews.

After World War 2 and the Holocaust many psychological and sociological studies were initiated to help understand how a minority of leaders and followers on the extreme right could gain power, and produce the horrors of Nazism.

Today there are clear signs of a resurgence of that the Right Wing Authoritarianism identified in these studies as probably the greatest threat to British Jews, and other ethnic minorities.

Jewish charities, and many self-proclaimed Jewish Leaders, seem to ignore these decades of crucial research in order to destroy the Labour left.

Not only are they failing in their duty to sound alarm bells as the Right Wing Authoritarians advance, they have also insulted and alienated the very left-wing friends who would normally be in the forefront of helping British Jews and all ethnic minorities face that growing far right threat.

Those that have remained silent need to join with the left-wing Jewish groups who call this despicable campaign out, and advocate social unity, before it is too late.

Comments (2)

  • RC says:

    It is arguably to the credit of the hearts, if not of the heads, of much of the British public that they have hesitated in large numbers to vote for a party that is vociferously depicted by so many of the powers that be, as antisemitic; the more so since many of the lies come from the outright Zionists and ZFTs (Zionism fellow travellers) within our own party. For example, though one might cavil at Philo’s comparison of the perception (proportion of LP members being investigated) with reality (those who have been sanctioned, rather than ‘merely’ investigated, the investigations themselves being punitive as such) as comparing oranges with apples, in fact we have every reason to suspect that the latter figure is actually an overestimate of LP members who have actually viewed or linked to, let alone mentioned antisemitic views, let alone espoused them, let alone engaged in antisemitic activity. We know very little of the facts of any particular case, because of the ‘confidentiality’ of the proceedings – an asymmetrical confidentiality, since defendants are treated with increased sanctions if they make public any proceedings, whereas the prosecution feels free to leak to such antiLabour organs as the Daily Telegraph and the Jewish Chronicle, falsely implying that ‘conduct likely to bring the party into disrepute’ constitutes evidence of antisemitism…. 0.24% is probably still an overestimate. But the grosser the injustices that have been committed, the stronger the evidence is of the power and self-confidence of the McCarthyite witch-hunters. So the future will be still worse than the recent past, particularly since all three candidates for leadership have more or less enthusiastically declared that that giant pogrom, the nakba, on which the state of Israel was founded, was in no way racist. We have a massive task ahead.

  • Jan Brooker says:

    “Such political bias from Jewish charities is not only anti-democratic it is dangerous for the future security of British Jews.”
    It is also against Charity Law for them to have such *bias*, as that moves them outside of their charitable *remit*. The Charity Commission is quite specific in this.
    Their guidance is at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/speaking-out-guidance-on-campaigning-and-political-activity-by-charities-cc9

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