An appeal for firefighters

JVL Introduction

Mike Cushman, a founder member and membership secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour, describes how the attacks on JVL members – and other Jews who find support for Israel contrary to their Jewish values – goes far beyond vigorous rebuttals of their arguments.

There is a consistent effort to show them to the public as people who have lost both their Jewish identities and their right to present their opinions: to turn them into what Orwell described as ‘unPersons’.

An appeal for firefighters

Unperson – an individual who usually for political or ideological reasons is removed completely from recognition or consideration.

Merriam-Webster dictionary

British Jews who advocate for Palestinian rights are very close to becoming unpersons. It is clear that inside the Labour Party they are not entitled to natural justice within the complaints procedures as JVL have documented in their submission to the EHRC and the Forde Inquiry and its follow up. When they seek redress for this in the courts recent experience suggests that  their evidence and arguments are disregarded. They rarely get a chance to voice their opinions in the mainstream print and broadcast media; when they do they are too often treated with hostility and aggression and Ofcom refuses to hold broadcasters to account. They are insulted and lied about with abandon on social media but their complaints – to Twitter, in particular – are systematically ignored.

For Jews to be denied the normal protections and courtesies of civil society is nothing new. What is distinct in the here and now is the manner in which mainstream Jews have been successfully able to corral the political, judicial and media agencies into enforcing their anathemas. Many of the infantry fighting for this coalition are also those who inveigh against a ‘cancel culture’ that they see themselves as mightily resisting – but neglect to look in a mirror to notice the incongruity between their general demands and the ‘cancellation’ they are imposing on fellow Jews.

These Jews are being cast not simply as unpersons but also as unJews. Their right to identify with their heritage, is denied and, for the observant among them, their religion systematically belittled.

The dissidents are branded as antisemites and have a scarlet, if metaphorical, AS star pinned to them. So dangerous are they that association with them is feared fatal to career and social standing. So dangerous indeed that many politicians and columnists who do valuable work in promoting human rights become deaf and mute when they are asked to support such ‘unJews’; their concern for human rights stops short when it is so needed. On those days they show as much enthusiasm for speaking truth to power as if they were being asked to celebrate paedophiles or serial killers.

It often feels like they – in fact, “we” – are being handed bells and like mediaeval lepers forced to walk the streets crying, “unclean, unclean”.

In Britain today it is GLU, the Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party, that is acting as the leading agent, anticipating the wishes of those who wish to cast out dissident Jews and anyone willing to speak up in their support

Moral panics are warming for the observers who polish their self-worth by distancing themselves from the objects of the panic. Those in the flames are more than warmed and in desperate need of firefighters.

Where are they to be found? Will you step up to the mark?


Comments (28)

  • Linda says:

    Go small, go direct and go personal seems to be the only practical way of defeating powerful “gate-keepers” controlling access to the media and large organisations. Unfortunately very many people’s time and effort over sustained periods is needed to achieve the same coverage as easier media access in a mass email of a standard press release.

    For those of us who are determined our voices will be heard come what may, I recommend putting in occasional references and news about what concerns you on private Facebook groups, hobby and community websites and local newsletters and newspapers? NB: avoid the trigger words that might get you banned or raise hackles unnecessarily. Quote clearly respectable, ideally non-contentious “authorities” for what you say, when you can.

  • I Cohen says:

    When saying that support for Israel runs contrary to the Jewish values of some British Jews one has to define what kind of support one is referring to. There are many British Jews and Jews of other countries as well as many Israeli Jews who support Israel but reject Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. There are many more Jews who feel strong attachment to Israel but at the same time are highly critical of its Apartheid policies, the occupation and its violations of Palestinian human rights. A great number of such Jews even consider themselves Zionists. My question to the author is whether his solidarity with the Palestinians necessarily requires adopting an Anti-Israel position? As an anti-Zionist myself I accept that the establishment of Israel and its existence so far has been at the expense and to the detriment of the Palestinian national and human-rights and I accept, therefore, that to some Jewish and non-Jewish opponents of Israel the very existence of Israel is an anathema, I think that one has to recognise that by adopting anti-Israel positions one is actively alienating a majority of those who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and, as a result, harming the cause and interests of the Palestinians. It is harming those interests not just by failing to mobilise a broad alliance of opponents of Israel’s policies but by failing to acknowledge the realities in Palestine and offer solutions that correspond to these realities and, therefore, are implementable. Anti-Israelism has been around among some Palestinian activists and solidarity organisations and their British supporters for almost as long as Israel has been in existence. Yet has the pro-Palestinian movement in Britain become qualitatively larger and significantly more influential than it was forty or twenty years ago? Lack of clarity and decisiveness on this issue played a great part in the fiasco in relations between the Labour Party and the Jewish community in Britain. Just imagine how far the Palestinian cause would have been enhanced had Corbyn become British Prime Minister. Similarly had the Labour Party won the sympathy of a decisive majority of British Jews that would have meant a decisive defeat for the Israeli Hasbara.

  • Nicola Grove says:

    I am more than willing to don my protective gear Mike and we in SW Wilts are doing what we can

  • Nick Elvidge says:

    Responding to I Cohen mainly – its not an armchair thing. Its deliberate assault and attack with a calculated political purpose and very harmful to mental health. I don’t do twitter because it is toxic. As usual the culprit is the british empire i.e. imperialism and the Middle East is strategically important (Oil and Seaways) so imperialism, US this time, muddies the water again.

  • John Noble says:

    In spite of the conundrum facing I Cohen, I feel as a non Jew that the reasonable views of Jewish people who task the government of Israel to change it’s ways to be an air bubble for a drowning nation, the position I Cohen finds the pro-Palestinians in is remarkably similar to the state left leaning socialist are in when asked to support the Keir Starmer brigade and their theft of the Labour Party.

  • Janice J says:

    One thing you should never do with bullies, is try and placate them and pretend they are operating in good faith. This has been a slow-burn operation and we are now in this ludicrous situation, in part, because the Left thought it could pacify and placate these hate-mongers whose agenda was never to negotiate and find a solution but to destroy their ‘enemies’.

    Every time their behaviour was excused, condoned or tolerated, it became more and more extreme. Who’d have thought 6 years ago that we would have been complicit in the creation of a whole class of Unpeople. It is shameful, and the UnLabour Party must shoulder its share of the blame for this disgusting Witch-hunt.

  • Barbara Slowikowski says:

    Words fail me.

  • Doug says:

    The AS Scam will collapse domino style once you give it a shove
    Vexatious claims of anti semitism are hate crimes and should be prosecuted
    Go for their weakest link, the individual who has not a leg to stand on, who would not sustain any kind of scrutiny and call them out, to get maximum publicity

  • Elaine Jacobs says:

    That Labour’s GLU is picking off Jewish members who support the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli government’s inhumane and illegal apartheid policy makes a mockery of Sir Starmer’s pledge to unite the party.

    The “broad church” approach adopted by Jeremy Corbyn (and previous leaders to a greater or lesser degree) has been dropped in favour of ten pledges Sir Starmer has made to the BoD, a Jewish Zionist group which doesn’t even represent the majority of British Jews, let alone the majority of Labour members or voters.

    One method of fire fighting many of us could employ would be: whenever a Labour MP, councillor or official criticises or attacks any JVL or pro-Palestine member, to highlight that person’s links to/donations from Zionists (Jewish, Israeli or otherwise). *

    If a JVL or pro-Palestine member receives any threat of suspension or exclusion from party HQ, we could ensure that that member receives our full support on social media.

    In addition, it could only help to question the probity of the representatives/officials, themselves! For instance, GenSec’s family and contractual connections with Croydon Council…

    Attack is often the best form of defence!

    * It would be helpful, if you have this links/donations information readily to hand, to share it with us, for quick and easy reference. Particularly for the usual suspects…

  • John Noble says:

    Did I offend, if I did it was not intended. Sorry.

  • Les Hartop says:

    Like Linda I have been joining other left and centrist Labour Facebook groups to do something to challenge people who cancel or spread the smears described by Mike.

    Let’s all ‘get out there’ and make a final push to get these messages across before conference !

  • Mike Scott says:

    My personal view is that there is no point being “anti-Israel” as such: whatever we think should have happened in 1947, Israel was established as an independent state and it can’t just be wished away.

    We need to start from where we are and it’s now my view that going forward, the only realistic possibility is a single secular state with entrenched guarantees for all religious and non-religious groups. There is a growing One Democratic State Campaign, based on the South African experience – look it up on google – and it deserves our support and encouragement.

  • Margaret E. Johnson says:

    I have recently divested ( I have not renewed my membership)from the Labour Party due to it’s persistent persecution of Left Wingers who dare to voice any opinion whatever on the Israel or Holocaust subjects Ken Loach was the absolute last straw. Much more than first appears is tied into his ejection from The Party. I will gladly continue to support JVL, if I am allowed, and to forward my response to the routine enquiry from The Party as to why I have not renewed my membership. I look forward to hearing from the moderator.

  • Peter Jones says:

    Elaine Jacobs writes of the
    “ten pledges Sir Starmer has made to the BoD, a Jewish Zionist group which doesn’t even represent the majority of British Jews, let alone the majority of Labour members or voters.”

    By giving those ten pledges to the Board of Deputies of British Jews before he became leader of the Labour Party Kier Starmer effectively placed an outside political body – the staunchly Zionist B o D – as gatekeepers to Labour Party membership, thus ensuring that a full and open debate on the Labour Party’s Middle Eastern policies ( a vitally important part of Britain’s foreign policy) cannot take place.

  • Margaret West says:

    Mike Scott – I think people who are accused of being “anti Israel” support exactly the sort of state you recommend.

    Forgive me for saying this as I am not Jewish. However the secular state you mention appears to me to be similar to Herzl’s “Altneuland” as described in his 1902 Utopian Novel.
    I was very surprised when I read it for the book appeared – to me – to promote “mutualism” if anything although he is meant to be the “father” of Zionism.

  • Caroline Carney says:

    I have for some time been irritating writers for the Jewish News online site. I make comments on all sorts of articles always polite and always factual. Sometimes sarcastic usually funny. It usually gets a reaction and the reaction is usually very abusive and threatening. I keep my temper and occasionally reply. I have noticed recently some of the other replies are also critical of the articles and one of the best threads was on Seth Rogan the US actor who was slated as an antisemite but was never described as a Jew. There are ways of damaging their world that go along with protest and the only way to win a propaganda war is by constantly chipping away from behind with reasonableness and accuracy. This has the effect of making their natural allies as they see it melt away so when they go big no one believes them. It is kind of the boy who cried wolf only we are the wolf and they are the boy. The other week I commented on the NYT site about an article and they like it so they contacted me and asked me if they could put it on their Facebook page. It was not a political comment but Imagine Lee Harpin or his minions seeing it. He probably coughed up his breakfast. The article was on Beavis Marks

  • Doug says:

    Is it actually possible to prosecute vexatious claims of anti semitism

  • Doug says:

    John Mann or Stephen Pollard
    Call them out and see them in court, what you want is an old fashioned show trial

  • John Bowley says:

    I love you all in Jewish Voice for Labour. You are our finest friends

    In my observation, JVL exemplifies the best Jewish traditions of compassion, unselfishness, comradeship, truthfulness, scholarship, integrity and courage.

    We have been living through shallow times altogethe and in so many ways.

    Routine spreading of lies and withholding of facts may ultimately fall out of fashion after it is realised how counter-productive these are for everyone.

  • Margaret West says:

    Thats the spirit Caroline – I hope you don’t mind me quoting
    the New Testament but I think this quote is apposite:

    “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

    Or at least I THINK that is what you mean?

  • Stephen Flaherty says:

    I Cohen
    You complain that: “to some Jewish and non-Jewish opponents of Israel the very existence of Israel is an anathema”. Hamas may be said to hold this denialist position. Pretty much every other mainstream Palestinian organisation abandoned this over 30 (arguably 40) years ago. So you seem to be saying that the left are holding a position that contradicts those held by the people they’re supporting. Got any proof of this?
    You mention that: “There are many more Jews who feel strong attachment to Israel but at the same time are highly critical of its Apartheid policies, the occupation and its violations of Palestinian human rights.” This position – held by JLM and others – is best described as “praising with faint damnation”. Criticising a state for its actions whilst not analysing why the state does this or, worse, making spurious excuses. These abuses aren’t random. They are POLICIES, just like apartheid South Africa, and are likewise planned, with definite aims and objectives. To criticise Israel’s actions without criticising its policies is pointless at best and obfuscating at worst. We will never convince these people because they either cannot see Israel’s culpability or they don’t care. But that’s not on us.
    Most pro-Palestinians criticise not just Israel’s actions, but also its policies, aims and objectives. They examine why Israel does these things rather than seeing them as aberrations from an otherwise unblemished State (“the only democracy in the Middle East”! – old gits like me remember how apartheid South Africa was often lauded as “the only democracy in Africa”!)
    This is the most common sort of “anti-Israelism” amongst the left in general. To say, yes, Israel should exist – but not THIS Israel. THIS Israel is a racist endeavour and so should go the way of apartheid South Africa. For the same reasons.

  • Anthony Baldwin says:

    As Mike Scott says the answer has to be a One State for all with no Apartheid trappings and Truth and Conciliation Commission.
    At the level of ‘fire fighting’ Social Media offers us the feeling that we have contributed to the fight but surely local media is as powerful in calling the perpretators of persecution to account. Letters to local News Papers do get read by the public but primarily by the Editors who vet what is published. Alerting such people to see with their own eyes can be productive in encouraging them to become investigative journalists. These at the moment seem to be a dying breed.

  • Paul Besterman says:

    Nonsense. Antizionism does equal Antisemitism, however advocating for rights for non Jews in Israel is not antizionist .

  • Mike Scott says:

    In response to Margaret West, I am Jewish and anyone who accuses me of antisemitism does so at their peril What I was saying was that we need to look forward to a realistic solution in Israel/Palestine and the One Democratic State is just that.

    As for Doug wanting to take John Mann and Stephen Pollard to court, while it’s a pleasant thought, I really wouldn’t trust the British legal system to come up with the answer we’d be looking for. More likely, you don’t get a result and end up bankrupt!

  • Stephen Flaherty says:

    Mike Scott, whilst there are similarities with Apartheid South Africa, which I’ve used in the past, there are also differences. What worked in SA wouldn’t necessarily work in Israel.

    When I got involved in this 20 years ago, I could see a two state solution as being close and, whilst not ideal, probably the best possible solution. Now, after 20 years of settlements and hardening of Israeli attitudes, I’m no longer sure it’s even possible.

    But I’m also not sure of the viability of One Democratic State, split, as it would be, between two roughly equal in size ethnic groups. The only similar states I can think of are Belgium, Lebanon and Bosnia. Though, I suppose, Northern Ireland might count too. Bosnia had to be split into enclaves, in the end, as is Belgium (with a parliament divided on linguistic grounds – Walloons vote for Walloon MPs, Flemings vote for Fleming MPs). Lebanon has a Confessional based electoral system and allocates representatives according to religion, Muslim or Christian. Note that, for Lebanon and Bosnia at least, it took years of civil war to get to even this point. So, you can see the difficulties without even trying. And then there’s Jerusalem…

    But, as I say, I’m thinking that any other solution is rapidly becoming impossible, if it hasn’t already.

    I agree with you about the inadvisability of taking John Mann or Stephen Pollard to court. Unless there’s an airtight case (and even then think about it – airtight cases have been lost before). As Jeremy Corbyn said (quoting Tony Benn), Libel is a rich man’s game.

  • Margaret West says:

    Paul Besterman – what is antizionism then? Or more simply – what do you mean by zionism if opposing it is antisemitic?

    Also – if advocating for the rights of non-Jews in Israel is not antisemitic how about advocating for the rights of those
    people who were murdered and/or deprived of their homes when Israel came into being?

    Murdering those of a certain ethnic heritage and also causing them to flee is called “ethnic cleansing” – and deemed racist so is that epithet antisemitic in the case of Israel?

  • Doug says:

    Mike Scott
    Ignorance is bliss, I really have no idea if ‘vexatious claims of anti semitism are hate crimes and can be prosecuted ‘
    As for John Mann and Stephen Pollard it would need to be airtight before you launched the case
    I agree on the nefarious lines taken by our judiciary makes it a lottery but you could put someone like me up who has no assets as such

  • Isaac Cohen says:

    In response to Mike Scott, I fail to see why he believes that a single democratic state solution in Israel/Palestine is realistic. Just because Israel is governed and conducts itself using Apartheid laws and policies I believe it is wrong to think that a South African solution is possible under existing conditions. There are significant, qualitative differences with the South African experience. The chief difference is that the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab populations are numerically equivalent. In South Africa the central slogan against Apartheid rule was “one person one vote”. In a single Israel/Palestine state divisions on ethnic and religious lines may potentially persist as a result of the numerical equivalence. Not less important is the fact that both Israeli and Palestinian societies are highly divided, lack democratic traditions and in which the religious establishment is almost indistinguishable from the state. Any illusions that such a state would be secular and democratic could easily be dispelled. In South Africa the black majority was politically united and led by a highly progressive and racially inclusive organisation, the ANC. No such powerful and unifying organisation exists in either societies. Ultimately though the conflict in Israel/Palestine is essentially national despite its ethnic, racial and religious undertones. The advocates of a single state solution have so far utterly failed to offer a coherent blueprint for starting a process of transforming the two societies into a single state. A single state is a no solution, not least because a single democratic and secular state could only emerge as a reflection of the wishes of all its constituent communities. The chances that a majority of people on both sides will support such a solution are hardly imaginable. The only alternative to a democratic choice is achieving a single state through the use of overwhelming force. One can hardly call the latter a solution.

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