Antisemitism, racism and the establishment – a letter to Owen Jones

JVL Introduction

Prompted by the publication of Owen Jones’s book “This Land: the Story of a Movement” about the Jeremy Corbyn leadership years, Tony Booth has written a long and probing article in the form of a letter to the author, questioning many aspects of his analysis.

He explores the way Jones treats “the Antisemitism Crisis” in the largest chapter of the book, and suggests that insufficient attention is given to the implications of an earlier chapter about the internecine “War Within” the Party, as well as to establishment forces that Owen Jones writes about so insightfully in a previous book: ‘The Establishment: And how they get away with it.”

Booth regards the characterisation of the Labour Party as brim-full with antisemitism as the BIG LIE of the last years. It is a lie that has led to the denial of other forms of racism within the Labour Party and more particularly, other parties.

He asks therefore why there has been so little probing of racism as a factor in the expulsion of black activists from the Labour Party.

The article is a plea for dialogue as a way of exploring and resolving differences of view.

Tony Booth has worked in university education departments for more than forty years developing an inclusive, values-led, anti-discriminatory education. He is an active member of JVL’s Education Group.


Tony Booth writes:

Dear Owen Jones,

I think you are a brilliant journalist and have written an absorbing account of the years of the Labour party during Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in ‘This Land: the Story of a Movement’. Some of it makes very uncomfortable reading when you document the brutishness of the Parliamentary Labour Party as well as the shortcomings of Jeremy Corbyn’s team.

I am a committee member of Jewish Voice for Labour. You appear to agree that this group are “cranks” among Jews in your chapter on “Labour’s Antisemitism Crisis”. I am not keen on name-calling. Calling us “cranks” is a bit irritating. I am well aware of the processes by which some people are marginalised and how prone we all are to go down that route unthinkingly especially when it seems that we have the backing, as you do in this case, of an Establishment.

When I say I am a little irritated I mean what I say. I give no support to those who allow their disagreement with someone else’s point of view to descend into personal insult. I have written to you about that before when I have seen you and your position on the left being attacked with abusive comments, though my tweet will have been lost in the tweet stack of your one million followers. I had also DM’d you about your appreciative comments on David Graeber following his death. He took a similar line on the Labour Party and antisemitism to myself and others in JVL but you did not mention this even though he spoke passionately about it in a video five weeks before his death. I urge you to watch it. Perhaps you have too much respect for him to call him “a crank”. I thought it would have been respectful for you to mention his view even if you then said that you disagreed with it and gave your reasons.

No Stereotypes Allowed

We are a varied bunch in JVL, of course, like any group of people in any organisation, including Guardian columnists. We are all on the left of the Labour party but we understand our Jewish identities in differing ways and hold a variety of opinions on antisemitism and its manifestations in the Party, questions about Israel, Palestine and Zionism and everything else besides. I say this because I think you mistakenly write as if there is a single legitimate Jewish Community speaking “with one voice” to whom the Labour Party should listen. I think you also characterise JVL as speaking uniformly with a different voice which should have been, and should be, ignored. You say, “there is no question JVL became more entrenched in their views”. I don’t recognise such entrenchment in myself or others in JVL.

The idea of reducing a group – Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ+, Black people, women, to a single opinion on any matter is highly discriminatory and for me perhaps the most common form of antisemitism displayed in the saga in the Labour Party that you attempt to grasp in your chapter 7.

The real significance of the antisemitism story

The chapter on antisemitism is the largest in your book, so you recognise the powerful place that antisemitism allegations against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters played in the story of Labour’s eventual defeat in the 2019 election. I commend you for that. There is a dark truth here, which many find difficult to recognise, deal with and talk about. I listened to James Schneider, special adviser to Jeremy Corbyn for most of his tenure, giving his account of the Labour defeat on Novara Media in October 2020. He did not mention antisemitism once even though he has in the past produced damning evidence of the role of Labour Party staffers in mishandling antisemitism complaints.

I think your story in Chapter 7 is partial and unbalanced: you do not accurately describe several significant aspects of the “antisemitism crisis” in the Labour Party 2014-2020. You fail to follow through the clues in your own narrative about what was going on. Jews have been used as a pawn in a factional fight within the Party and this has fed into Jewish fears and kindled a sectarian conflict between different groups of Jews. This factional use is itself antisemitic and barely considered in the mainstream media. It was seized upon by other parties and in the case of the Tories helped them to obscure their rampant Islamophobia and a succession of racist policies from the “hostile environment” to “Windrush” as well as antisemitism within its membership and MPs.

Behind the antisemitism story hides a bigger story of racism in the Labour Party, other parties, in the media and in society more widely, which has been subjected to widespread denial. We need to do more to expose it; to show we really do recognise that “Black Lives Matter”. You are not alone in allowing attention on antisemitism in Labour to distract you from showing concern for other forms of racism and discrimination. It has been common to acknowledge that Diane Abbott has received vastly more racist abuse others in Parliament and then to ignore it. You and colleagues in the media could have pursued the disgraceful racism allegedly directed against Black MPs by Labour Party staffers in the leaked report on the Governance and Legal Unit. You might have uncovered the lack of action on complaints about such racism sent to the Party. There might have been a shocked reaction to the report of high levels of Islamophobic attitudes in the Labour Party though these are nowhere near as high as the rampant Islamophobia reported amongst members of the Tory Party, but your gaze had already been directed elsewhere by a dominant ideological position. You and others have allowed an institutionally and culturally racist hierarchy of racism and discrimination to be promoted by the Labour Party and the Establishment. Where is the outcry about the rise of domestic violence during the pandemic? Of course, you are no more to blame for allowing your view to be channelled down an ideological groove than other journalists.

A dysfunctional and toxic Parliamentary Labour Party

You could have viewed chapter 3 where you portray the toxic misbehaviour of many on the right of the Labour Party when Jeremy was elected leader as setting the scene for chapter 7 on the antisemitism crisis. You called many in the PLP “horrible people” when interviewed about your book in the Guardian:

“There were many diehard opponents of Corbynism, many of them within the Labour Party, who thought…that anyone involved in it “should just go and die in a ditch”.

We are certainly in Shakespearean territory here, the darkness within being paraded on the surface. You record the murderous feelings of MPs who it seems fair to say, were plotting to kill Jeremy’s spirit and inter him in a coffin with the rest of the left of the Party:

The parliamentary party mostly believe that Corbyn was a hideous aberration to be brought to a swift termination….I’ve never seen such unpleasantness from what I thought were my comrades. p 71

Hostile MPs will inevitably leak to the media – their strategy will be to bleed a Corbyn leadership to death. p 72

One MP was screaming “cunt” into Richard Burgon’s face p72

At weekly parliamentary meetings: MPs vilified [Jeremy Corbyn] and abused him and shouted at him p72

The inevitable bust up ‘will have to be brutal putting the left in a box for thirty years or out of [the] party’. p74

Andy Kennedy an MP who disliked the hyper-masculinised aggression of the PLP said to you:

“I’ve been involved in politics since the 1970s and I can honestly say I’ve never been involved in anything so unpleasant and bitter in my whole life.”

When Andy Kennedy stood up to speak at a parliamentary meeting he was greeted with a shout of “Oh here comes thicko”. No wonder then that you conclude that fellow MPs “rarely if ever got up to say [the behaviour] was unacceptable”. Given the number of interviews you have conducted I think “rarely if ever” means never. What does this tell us about the character of MPs in parliament? How can I, a Jew, trust any of them to object to me being loaded up onto the cattle trucks if they start rolling again? The behaviour was disgusting, yet MPs up and down the country, including my own, Daniel Zeichner, were returning to their constituencies at the weekend, never reporting a word of what was going on, or doing the decent thing by condemning it and distancing themselves from it.

Yet, when it comes to discussing “the antisemitism crisis”, you do not integrate into your narrative, the implications of the PLP’s determination to rid themselves of Jeremy. You suggest that they saw their task, in misogynistic disablist terms, as analogous to aborting a disabled foetus yet you portray none of the opportunistic exaggeration of allegations of antisemitism indulged in by many in the PLP. Was there a voice in your head, warning you: “don’t say that antisemitism in Labour has been exaggerated – they might turn on you as they have done on others?” But what else would you expect from this group? As you portray them here, they are not people troubled by conscience: they would not think twice before spicing up their testimony in order to stick in the knife. They would not pass up any opportunity to push allegations of antisemitism down Jeremy Corbyn’s throat until he choked. Yet this threatening horde is mainly absent from Chapter 7.

Marking the discourse on Labour’s antisemitism crisis

Although you could have started your chapter on antisemitism in many ways that linked it back to the situation Jeremy inherited when he became party leader, you chose instead to start it with the furore over his reaction to the Kalen Ockerman, aka Mear One, mural depicting six men seated at a monopoly board resting on the backs of a naked multitude. It was said that Jeremy Corbyn had failed to spot or perhaps actively endorsed its antisemitic messages. When he read the decision to paint over it on face-book, he defended it. He apparently saw it as an anti-capitalist mural, and linked its removal to the censorship of the Mexican artist and muralist, Diego Rivera and defended the right to free expression of the artist. Later when he looked at the mural again he readily acknowledged its antisemitic messages.

When you studied it, you say, you saw “six greedy capitalists with large noses sitting, “counting money”, “round a Monopoly board”, “resting on the backs of slave-like human beings”. The artist said that the men were meant to be likenesses of six particular men, representing the power of capital, two of whom were Jewish. They are, according to Mear One: Rothschild, Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie, Warburg and Aleister Crowley.

Why do you think you saw all of them as caricatures of Jewish men? It is evident that one of them is counting money. Why do you think you portray them all as counting money? And what of your reference to “slave-like beings”? What makes them slave-like? They are naked and their skin tone is dark brown. Did it occur to you that the picture, in part, depicts the link between capitalism and slavery? It is about class exploitation, and in particular about racism against people of colour and you fail to mention that. It is easy to go astray in the murky racist waters in which our cultures are immersed. And there should be no hovering vigilantes waiting to catch us out if we misspeak as we feel our way out of the mire. You will know that people ease their way forward in recovering from the racism they have learnt to express.

It might have been productive if you had looked at the mural a little more closely and brought up the issue of anti-black racism at the start of this chapter. This could have made it harder to contain a story of antisemitism separated from an understanding of wider racism and discrimination, in the Labour Party, in other parties, nationally and globally. It might have prompted a challenge to the narrative that Jeremy Corbyn, so well respected, even loved, around the world for his anti-racism, was somehow anti-Jewish. It might have led you to ask uncomfortable questions about the expulsion from the Party of two Black anti-racist activists, Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth.

Let’s dispose of Mear One. He says his mural is not antisemitic. I think it is and I do not trust him as an informant on this matter either. He is a fervent admirer of David Icke, who has carved out a following as an antisemitic conspiracy theorist on Facebook (51/2 million followers) and twitter (460,000 followers). Mear One says of his “hero”:

David Icke has been ploughing through the rhetoric for decades and he happens to be one of a select few who are willing to take a stand against the crimes of humanity committed by the Zionist elite governing the state of Israel and the U.S.

However, since there were many ways of opening a chapter on the Labour Party and Antisemitism I try to understand why you chose this one. By starting your chapter like this you put Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party on the defensive in the minds of the reader. The way we start our articles, opinion pieces, sets up an expectation of what is to follow and guides our thinking. I call such pointers, discourse markers. You can often find them at the end of a chapter or article too. If they have enough easy recognition, you can slip them in anywhere. Racist ‘dog whistles’ operate in that way. Donald Trump likes to sprinkle them at various points in what he says so that he reminds his racist, white supremacist, conspiracy theorist, QAnon-supporting followers that he is their man. I think your use of the word “cranks” has such an effect to signal your opposition to those who oppose the Establishment view of Labour antisemitism.

Alternative beginnings

I wonder how the chapter might have been shaped if instead of starting with an allegation against Jeremy Corbyn you had started with an action of his to counter discrimination against Jews, say his contribution, alongside Jewish comrades, to the successful campaign in 1987 to prevent the West London Synagogue selling-off a Jewish cemetery in Islington for development which had been agreed by the Council when Margaret Hodge was council leader. Mentioning one of his opponents in the PLP might have had the virtue of linking to the “horrible people”, the Corbyn haters and killers, of your earlier chapter. It might have thrown light on the incident where Margaret Hodge called Jeremy “a fucking racist and anti-Semite” by the speaker’s chair in the house of commons, and the effect you say this had on ratcheting up the intemperate condemnation of him. You might have questioned the exaggerated parallel she drew between the threat of being investigated for her abuse of the Labour Leader and being persecuted as a Jew under the Nazis. You might have been led to account for the symbiosis between Margaret Hodge and the Guardian, which gave her a number of sympathetic, unchallenged hearings.

On one occasion following a Guardian interview with her, 205 Jewish women wrote a letter to correct falsehoods in the article, which the paper declined to publish. The women pointed out Margaret Hodge’s inaccuracy in claiming to hand over to the Party a dossier of 200 cases of antisemitism. General Secretary, Jennie Formby reported that this concerned 111 individuals, of whom only 20 were Party members. You will know very well, too, that a complaint is not the same as a conviction. Such exaggeration should be an important element of your chapter as it is of the story to anyone who addresses it with an open mind.

You will be aware that claims that antisemitism in the Labour Party has been exaggerated is seen by some as “denialism” and as itself antisemitic. This includes not only the denial of the extent of antisemitism in society but very specifically denying the extent of antisemitism claimed to be in the Labour Party by Establishment Jewish and non-Jewish voices. This has all been taken up a notch by the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn following the publication of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report on Labour Party antisemitism. Keir Starmer justified the suspension, he said, because he had “made it clear that we won’t tolerate antisemitism or the denial of antisemitism through the suggestion that it is exaggerated or factional”. He regards such suggestions as antisemitic. These are bizarre additions to the examples of antisemitism within the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance draft definition. Jeremy had condemned every single case of antisemitism in the Party but had also said that that it had been exaggerated for political reasons. His right to say this was defended within the EHRC report itself.

I am sure you are too wise to fall for these additions to the IHRA definition from Keir Starmer. There is incontrovertible proof of the exaggeration of antisemitism and its factional use as the 205 Jewish women point out in their letter to the Guardian. I often draw attention to the allegations of antisemitism from within the Board of Deputies of British Jews against its president, Marie van der Zyl and vice-president Sheila Gewolb by other deputies. I don’t think for a moment that they are antisemitic but that some within their organisation have sought to extend claims of antisemitism for factional purposes.

You mention at the end of the chapter the telling figure that public perception of the incidence of antisemitism allegations among Labour Party members is three hundred times its true amount. It is perceived as 34%, yet is 0.3 %. You don’t give the source but it comes from the book by Greg Philo and others: “Bad News for Labour; antisemitism the party and public belief”. This is the puzzle, how to account for the BIG LIE, that the book sets out to accomplish. Yet how many journalists who write for the Guardian have exposed the truth that the extent of Labour Party antisemitism had been grossly exaggerated and that this exaggeration has been denied?

When we assert that the Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic or even there is an “antisemitism crisis” in the Labour Party we are making, and encouraging, hidden comparative judgements. This is the way language works. So saying there is a problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party begs the questions: “is this more of a problem than other forms of discrimination?”; “is this more of a problem in the Labour Party than other parties?”; and “is this more of a problem than it was in the past?” We cannot concede to an impermissible move in logic that introducing such comparisons is a form of denial of antisemitism. For as people observe others talking and writing about antisemitism they make these connections. That is how the constant repetition of the assertion “there is a problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party” leads many to conclude that the answer to all these questions must be in the affirmative. And thousands of posts in mainstream media made just this assertion without any of the balance that one might have hoped for from the Guardian and BBC.

I almost forgot to return to the women’s complaint about the Guardian’s supine coverage of Margaret Hodge. The women said they were “baffled, hurt and infuriated by the Guardian’s unquestioning coverage” and expressed their terror at “Margaret Hodge’s attempt to hijack our history and rewrite our identity and by a media seemingly unwilling to investigate, fact check and challenge her allegations.” The Guardian was never going to publish a letter with that accusation about its editorial policy.

The kindling of Jewish sectarianism

There was a response to the letter on Facebook from a professor of philosophy, Matthew Kramer, in the Law Department of Cambridge University. His entry in his department website says he has a particular interest in “meta-ethics” and “normative ethics”. He wrote of the fellow Jews who wrote the letter:

“These kapos identify themselves as Jews only for the purpose of protecting antisemites against justified complaints”.

This is about as hurtful an insult as you can hurl at a fellow Jew – that they are collaborators with Nazis in the extermination camps. How should we analyse the ethics of this philosophy professor when he makes such a remark? It is the professional duty of all educators, especially philosophers one might think, to promote dialogue. Yet this is how sectarianism operates even among those whose role in society is to lead people onto higher ground: the ‘other’ group, those of the wrong stripe, becomes an object of hatred, are dehumanised and therefore seen as unworthy of ethical consideration. This works all ways of course as those who have dipped their bodies into the sewers of social media frequently attest. Matthew Kramer’s post does not appear to be still in existence, though I assure you I have recorded it accurately. You might think that it merited investigation but did not get it.

I attended the “Enough is Enough” demonstration outside parliament in March 2018 where Labour MPs of the chapter 3 variety, John Mann, Chuka Umunna, as well as “cricket test” Norman Tebbitt, Ian Paisley Jnr and some hundreds of Jews, accused Jeremy Corbyn of fostering antisemitism in the Labour Party. Some of us were there to listen to, and enter into dialogue with, Jews who think differently from us. I braved the insults, with some shouting into my face that I was a “self-hating Jew”. With most people I managed, with gentle persistence, to achieve a degree of peaceful understanding of our different positions and we ended the conversation with a handshake. One woman, for reasons that I understood because the furore had reignited memories of the loss of family in the holocaust, refused to shake my hand and finished our conversation with a curse: “May god strike you dead!”

There is a lack of understanding outside of Jewish communities of how the so-called “crisis” in the Labour Party contained a hidden sectarian conflict between Jews that stretches back over many decades. Loosely characterised it is between those Jews whose identities are closely bound up with the State of Israel and those whose identities are less strongly connected to the Israeli state. I am in the second category. I was a strong supporter of Israel between the ages of 12 and 22. As I became more critical of Israeli actions and policies my dad would accuse me of siding with the antisemites. In several of the conversations I have had in the last few years it has felt that I am once again speaking with my dad who died in 1991.

My Israeli niece has a good degree and is head of personnel for a section of a large company. In November 2019 I visited Israel for my sister’s 80th birthday. My family know of my political affiliations and had absorbed the constant condemnation of Jeremy Corbyn as antisemitic that was amplified through the Israeli media. We had one particularly difficult and upsetting meal together. On the way back to the car my niece asked me: “how can you support Jeremy Corbyn after he laid a wreath on Hitler’s grave?”. We know it is common enough for stories to become exaggerated and distorted in the retelling especially when there is an interest in doing so and there is no trustworthy press to correct them. Fortunately my sister and I are still able to talk and share family warmth with each other though we have resumed our practice of steering clear of politics. But after the general election my nephew with whom I have had a close loving relationship for all his life told me that he still loved me but didn’t want to see me anymore because I was one of the antisemite’s [i.e. Jeremy’s] chief supporters.

I wanted to tell you about all this some time ago so that you would be better informed and might take care before exacerbating sectarian hatred between Jews as you might between Shia and Sunni Muslims or Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Naturally enough my DM was not answered. (I don’t want you to get the idea that I am constantly trying to contact you – I think it may be three attempts in all.) You know how it is in sectarian conflicts. Those on one side of the division may see those on the other as infidels, as worthless. The idea that the views and perhaps the lives of some Jews have little value, chillingly illustrated by the bomb scare at the end of the 2018 Labour Party conference in Liverpool, at an event organised by Corbyn supporting Jews. Two hundred people had to be evacuated after a man rang reception, asked if there was “a Jewish event” going on, and said there were two bombs in the building that would “kill many people”. We had gathered to watch a film about the politicisation of antisemitism in the Labour Party. The event rated no mention on the BBC and just a brief mention in the Guardian. That Jews differ in our identities and opinions could be a cause for celebration and certainly should be taken as an opportunity for dialogue. Disagreement about antisemitism in the Labour Party will never be resolved by trying to silence some Jewish views.

Checking the elements of the story

No doubt, before you wrote your chapter you identified its potential elements and then selected those you thought most important for the story. I have put the ones that occurred to me in a list below even though it does look a bit clumsy in a letter. There are a large number of issues crying out for a mention:

STORY ELEMENTS FOR “LABOUR’S ANTISEMITISM CRISIS”

  1. Evidence

  2. Antisemitism definitions.

  3. Antisemitism, racism and other forms of discrimination on the left and right, in the Labour party and other parties.

  4. Baroness Warsi and the campaign to expose Islamophobia in the Tory Party. The Tory hostile environment and the Windrush scandal.

  5. The Home Affairs Select Committee on Antisemitism in the UK.

  6. The Chakrabarti report and Labour efforts to address antisemitism under Ian McNicol, Jenny Formby and Jeremy Corbyn.

  7. The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee report on Antisemitism in the UK published 2016.

  8. The leaked report: Ian McNicol and the Labour Party staffers at the centre and in the regions.

  9. Israel, Palestine, Zionism and Anti-Zionism

  10. The Israeli government and its agents –the Aljazeera documentary – the Lobby vindicated by Ofcom.

  11. Those suspended and excluded from the Labour Party for Antisemitism, including celebrity cases – e.g. Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Marc Wadsworth – and others.

  12. Those suspended and excluded from other parties for racism including antisemitism.

  13. The activities of the parliamentary Labour Party – the boot boys and girls described in your chapter 3.

  14. Those on the left of Labour who find antisemitism not to be endemic in the Party.

  15. Dissenting Jewish voices: ultra – orthodox Jews, Jewdas, Vashti, Jews against Boris, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), JVL – all established, in part, to give a non-establishment view on the issues.

  16. The New Labour Grandees and their airtime.

  17. The Tory Party and Lib Dems band wagoning to destroy the spirit of the opposition leadership.

  18. The ‘mainstream’ media, including the Guardian and the BBC which might have provided some balance in the story but did the opposite.

  19. The new left digital media.

  20. Jewish Establishment organisations: Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Chief Rabbi, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Antisemitism a so-called charity which took an active political role in the election.

  21. Other Establishment forces – bringing together elements of all these other organisations together with the armed forces, the secret services, the tax-payer funded destabilisation unit linked to the Foreign Office.

  22. Witchfinder generals and their celebrity supporters. One person submitted over half of all the allegations of antisemitism against Labour Party members.

  23. How was the truth so horribly mistold?

You deal only with a few of these issues and I realise that it is all that could be done in a single chapter. But I think you should consider how selective you have been. For example you have given very little space to the evidence. You say near the beginning that there is less antisemitism on the left than the right wing of politics and at the end mention the gulf between public perception of antisemitism allegations in the Party and the reality. But this does little to reduce the overwhelming impression given by your chapter that the allegations of antisemitism against Labour are accurate.

Did you at no point connect the views you describe of the rabble in the Parliamentary Labour Party, with those of their contacts in the media? You probably have the inside story of how an editorial line was constructed in the Guardian under the leadership of Jonathan Freedland and promoted by the editor Kath Viner. You will know that there were a group of journalists at the Guardian/Observer, some who had been especially close to New Labour, who hated Jeremy Corbyn with a passion. They only gradually linked their bile to the antisemitism issue as it increased in prominence. Nick Cohen was perhaps the most intemperate of them, braying at Corbyn supporters in March 2017 before he came within a whisker of becoming prime minister: “your only honourable response will be to stop being a fucking fool by changing your mind”. I wonder if you watched the Guardian interview of Ken Loach by Peter Bradshaw on June 24th. Bradshaw seemed very nervous even as he opened up with pleasantries about football then expressed delight about Ken Loach’s contribution to films that he admired. Near the end of the interview a switch appeared to flick and for the last few minutes his persona changed from nervous acolyte to inquisitor on antisemitism in Labour and by implication within Ken Loach’s person. It was shameful duplicitous treatment and it looked as if he was under orders.

Kenneth Stern is the author of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which became a focus of dispute between the Labour Party and the establishment Jewish communities. He shares this knowledge of the way antisemitism has been used politically. On Friday 13th of December 2019, a dark day in the history of the Labour Party when the full extent of the election loss was known, the Guardian published an article from him under his words: “I drafted the definition of antisemitism. Right Wing Jews have weaponized it”. You must know that the Guardian was a protagonist in the story on the side of those that wanted rid of Jeremy Corbyn and a key part of the portrayal of him and his party as endemically antisemitic. Do you think it beyond the bounds of possibility that publication of this article was deliberately delayed until after the general election when it could “no longer do any harm” to the cause of those in control of the Guardian’s editorial policy?

How and why was the truth so horribly mangled?

If we are to get to the bottom of the truth mangling, the 2016 Home Affairs Select Committee report on ‘Antisemitism in the UK’ is a fertile place to start. I think this is where all the elements of distortion come together like the tumblers of a safe lock clicking into place until the door is opened to reveal THE BIG LIE. This is then readily embraced by all sections of the Establishment as part of their armoury to destroy the threat of Jeremy Corbyn’s challenge to neoliberalism, and UK foreign policy.

The report was published shortly after the publication of the Chakrabarti report. It is an astonishing document. It set out to examine antisemitism in the UK, reported that there was more antisemitism in the Conservative than the Labour Party, as you do, then focussed on antisemitism in Labour as if there was an imperative to locate the problem of antisemitism there despite its own evidence. It had been helped in doing that by its very selective engagement with informants and by the presence on the committee of then, Chuka Umunna, a determined opponent of Jeremy Corbyn, a chapter 3 model Labour MP. Its majority of Conservative members must have gleefully embraced the opportunity he provided to create a focus for the report that would take the Tories out of the spotlight, and contribute to Labour disharmony. My comrade in Cambridge, David Plank, ex special adviser to the House of Commons Social Services committee, wrote a detailed and devastating critique of the report, which he spoke about to the committee in an interview afterwards:

“As I began to read this Home Affairs Committee report, I became more and more appalled … the Committee’s inquiry was subject to the happenchance of whatever was going on around it, including … the right wing media with its anti-Labour and particularly anti-Corbyn agenda … the methodology that they employed in the report – basically to invite certain bodies to give evidence to them which came from a particular strand of British Jewish hues of opinion which happened to be heavily identified with a pro-Israel perspective – this feeling of discomfort was intensified…

At the end of the day we have five Conservative members of the Committee and a vocal Labour MP critic sitting in judgement on the Labour Party and in particular on its Leader, issuing a highly unbalanced and biased report which majors on the Labour Party, not on antisemitism in the UK which is what the Report’s title says it is about. A report which shows all the signs of having been hijacked by an internal, major bust-up within the Labour Party, and of which the Conservative Party members have taken advantage. And which uses innuendo and an inaccurate account of its recommendations in an attempt to discredit the Shami Chakrabarti Report – a report which has a much stronger evidence base and considered conclusions within its Labour Party set remit … the Committee should have halted its inquiry when the risk of becoming embroiled in the PLP’s affairs became evident as it clearly did early on. Instead of which it ploughed on regardless.”

Two black activists expelled

Before I finish this letter, I want to take up the cases of two black activists, Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth who were expelled from the Labour Party. They were debarred for “bringing the Party into disrepute” but were widely demonised as antisemitic and subjected to a mobbing frenzy by Establishment Jewish groups and mainstream media. Jackie Walker is also Jewish. She had a Jewish father. Many Jews will only count as Jewish those with a Jewish mother since in some traditions this is the way in which Jewish “race” membership is transmitted. But you will know that this is not how heritage or identity works. You can feel 100% Jewish and 100% Black if your mother is Black and your father Jewish as well as wholly many other things besides. Yet, some of the antagonism towards Jackie from other Jews will be because her sense of herself as a Jew breaches cultural imperatives about those seen as of impure blood. Believe me, growing up in a traditional Jewish family you know about these things but if you don’t trust me you can ask or read around.

Jackie was first accused of making antisemitic remarks about the financiers of the slave trade on her private Facebook account in February 2016 and then again during a “training” event on antisemitism in Liverpool later in the year run by the Jewish Labour Movement. Someone present at the meeting filmed the proceedings and then publicised Jackie’s comments about the definition of antisemitism and the nature of Holocaust Memorial Day. If you have any knowledge of how to conduct anti-discrimination sessions you will know that they have to be confidential so that people can express themselves freely and any prejudices examined and questioned. In the JVL education workshops we insist on this as part of the ground rules we discuss at the start. That the spreading of confidential information and the use of it to attack Jackie has been hardly criticised tells much about the poverty of journalism at the present time as well as the lack of integrity of those in the Jewish Labour Movement who made the complaints. Very soon there were calls for her exclusion from the Labour Party, including from the Board of Deputies of British Jews:

Her comments about Holocaust Memorial Day and antisemitism were crass, ignorant and wholly unacceptable. Antisemitism is a real, substantial problem in UK politics. Any suggestion that it is somehow an exaggerated or “weaponised” issue is therefore deeply offensive. We call on the Labour Party to expel her once and for all.

When I became aware of the allegations that Jackie had made antisemitic comments I became concerned as a Jew. This was near the start of the antisemitism storm around the Labour Party and I wanted to find out precisely what had been said and what I thought of it. I did the same for Ken Livingstone and in that case had little sympathy with him even though this put me at odds with some others on the left. I do not care what side of the Labour Party people are on, I have no time for antisemitism in the Party or elsewhere in society, so I read every utterance of Jackie’s and every commentary on it. I came to the carefully considered conclusion that nothing she said should be taken as involving abuse or discrimination against Jews. So I wrote to the Board of Deputies of British Jews on 1st December 2016 to tell them of my conclusions and urge them to welcome dialogue. At this point I had rather a cosy view of the Board of Deputies as somehow connected to the extended family in which I had grown up and addressed them as “friends”. Here is that correspondence. I note with shame that instead of simply saying that Jackie is Jewish because she had a Jewish dad, I resorted to the phrase “someone with Jewish ancestry” to conform to Establishment tradition.

Dear Friends,

I think that your approach to Jackie Walker following the events of the training day at the Labour Party conference are unnecessarily unpleasant. I have been researching the press coverage and the issues behind it. Instead of reaching out as Jews to someone with Jewish ancestry who also feels strongly about the holocaust associated with the Black African slave trade, you have sought to vilify her.

My Jewish parents were prominent in the opposition to Fascism and antisemitism before the second world war. The lessons from my parents and my experience as a Jew born at the end of the second world with a sense of our narrow escape from extermination, have ensured that opposing all racism and the dangers of it escalating into institutionalised genocide have been major themes of my life and work.

Please reconsider your response to Jackie Walker and the possibilities of linking through a common humanitarianism to a shared opposition to racism in all its forms.

Please resist an immediate dismissal of this letter to you since if our aim is to reduce racism let’s use dialogue where at all possible.

I am happy to talk this over with you further.

Yours sincerely.

——————————————————————————————

December 2nd 2016

Dear Professor Booth, 

Thank you for writing in and giving us the opportunity to clarify our position. 

I would hope that it goes without saying that we are opposed to racism in all forms and our quarrel with Jackie Walker has nothing whatsoever to do with her abhorrence of the transatlantic slave trade and its legacy, nor the enduring racism that many black people face in the UK and around the world today. We find both repugnant and we will never have any hesitation in saying so or acting in solidarity with black communities or other groups who face discrimination.

However, as someone who was present at the event where Jackie Walker made her thoroughly unpleasant comments, I am sorry to say that she can no longer lay any claim to a principled opposition to all forms of racism. 

Jackie Walker was suspended from the Labour Party and removed as Vice-Chair of Momentum because of her repeated offensive and false comments about Jews being ‘chief financiers of the slave trade’ – which they weren’t; Holocaust Memorial Day ‘ignoring’ other genocides – which it doesn’t; and Jewish institutions ‘exaggerating’ the security threat against them – which, given the deadly terrorist attacks against Jewish schools, synagogues and museums in Europe in recent years, is both patently false and staggeringly ignorant.

She appears to be following Ken Livingstone’s approach of pseudo-intellectual attempts to make antisemitism permissible. From someone who claims to be an ‘anti-racist’, this is completely unacceptable and must be clearly called out as such. Principled anti-racists must not tolerate such ardent hypocrisy.

From the tone and content of your email I do not expect necessarily expect that you will agree, but in any case, thanks again for taking the time to write. 

Wishing you a good weekend,

Phil (Philip Rosenberg, Director of Public Affairs, The Board of Deputies of British Jews).

———————————————————-

December 2nd 2016

Dear Phil,

Thank you very much for your very speedy reply. I would like to keep alive the possibility that your position and that of Jackie Walker could be brought into greater harmony. After looking into this carefully I think your views on anti-racism seem close, although your view of Israeli politics may be widely different. (Further, I expect that you would not deny that racism happens within Israel as it does in all other States. I would be interested to hear how you think that racism manifests itself there, a country that I visit to see my sister and her three-generation family. Though this is a side issue for the moment.) My reaction to contested situations such as the one between yourself, others in the Board of Deputies and Jackie Walker is to suggest a cup of tea in the first instance and only subsequently to give up on dialogue if it becomes impossible.

As someone who abhors anti-Semitism and challenges it when I hear it, however ‘mild’ it may seem to others or however difficult it is socially to say something at the time, I have taken your comments very seriously and tried to make a thorough check of what was said and what was meant.

The examples of comments from Jackie Walker that you mention have been taken primarily from a training event and from a private Facebook page. I have run training events myself on sensitive issues and at such times people are allowed to express themselves freely and a sensitive leader of the event will guide people towards dialogue and reflection on their views. It will be made absolutely clear that what is said within a training event is not for publication outside. From what I have read this was not a training event in any real sense when these rules would operate. Jackie Walker has said that the comment on the Facebook page was hacked and taken out of context and has elaborated her views of Jewish involvement in the slave trade, which you may have read, as follows:

“Yes, I wrote “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”. These words, taken out of context in the way the media did, of course do not reflect my position. I was writing to someone who knew the context of my comments. Had he felt the need to pick me up on what I had written I would have rephrased – perhaps to “Jews (my ancestors too) were among those who financed the sugar and slave trade and at the particular time/in the particular area I’m talking about they played an important part.” The Facebook post taken by itself doesn’t, and can’t possibly reflect the complexity of Jewish history, of the history of Africa, the history of people of the African diaspora and the hundreds of years of the slave trade. The truth is while many peoples were involved in this pernicious trade it was the rulers of Christian Spain and Portugal that ordered the massacre and expulsion of thousands of Jews from the Iberian Peninsular who forced Jewish communities to seek refuge in the New World and the Caribbean. It was European and American Christian empires that overwhelmingly profited from the kidnap, enslavement and death of millions of Africans and I’m happy to make explicit and correct here any different impression my Facebook post gave. The shame is, at a time when antisemitism has been weaponised and used against certain sections of the Labour Party, nobody asked me before rushing to pin the racist and antisemitic label on me.”

I do not find evidence of antisemitism in these statements. Do you? It looks to me as if there is evidence here of a potential for dialogue.

You are right that the literature [website] on the Holocaust memorial [day] refers to genocides other than the Holocaust. I attach a screen grab from the home page of the Holocaust Memorial Day, which shows only genocides after the 2nd World War so one might forgive someone for thinking it is not inclusive enough. Sometimes we have to work hard to keep all the genocidal tragedies of history in mind. Can I confess to some ignorance on my part, which I have tried to redress? I am guilty of sometimes forgetting about the genocides on native North Americans or Latin Americans or Australians and I have only recently read up a little more on the massive levels of slaughter associated with the many centuries of the Slave Trade. We can learn more if we put our heads together.

On the matter of security around Jewish Schools, Jackie Walker concurs with you about the raised fears of Jewish organisations following events in Europe. As she expressed it:

I did not raise a question on security in Jewish schools. The trainer raised this issue and I asked for clarification, in particular as all London primary schools, to my knowledge, have security and I did not understand the particular point the trainer was making. Having been a victim of racism I would never play down the very real fears the Jewish community have, especially in light of recent attacks in France.

I hope that you might find something in this e-mail to prompt some further reflection. If you are anywhere near Cambridge (not in the distancing sense of Donald Trump’s invitation to Theresa May – [Trump had that time suggested that Theresa May should drop into the White House if she was in the area]) I would be very happy to make you a cup of tea. Sharing a drink or more especially food in our tradition is the foundation of dialogue.

I hope that you too have a good weekend,

With best wishes,

Tony (Professor Tony Booth, Visiting Fellow, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, 184 Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 8PQ)

I did not get another response. I am publishing these letters here because I think they indicate how differences of view could be addressed when they are not being politicised and played to a gallery. They may show an alternative to a blinkered, discredited ‘zero tolerance’ approach. Once people stop denying that Jackie is a black activist as well as Jewish then the route to understanding her concerns is cleared. Of course she reflects on the financing of the slave trade and the way genocides are remembered, as should we all. If I were Jackie I would experience the reaction to her from Jewish Establishment organisations and large sections of the media, as racist. So I do. I was taught to make such an identification by the ex-Rabbi teacher at my secondary school who reminded us at Jewish prayers on a number of occasions to recall Leviticus, Chapter 19, verse 18: ‘and you shall love your neighbour as yourself’.

The way people responded to the allegations against Marc Wadsworth is equally disreputable and probably racist. Here again I may be in the relatively small group of people who pored over the video of the launch of the Chakrabarti report into ‘antisemitism and other forms of racism’, on June 30th 2016 to assess for myself what was said and whether it was antisemitic. You say that Marc’s intervention on that day was ‘a disaster’, but you do not give your own considered view on whether anything antisemitic had occurred. Any reasonable examination of the event would have to conclude that it did not. This is another occasion when the lock’s tumblers to the safe containing the BIG LIE, aligned.

Two days before the launch of the Chakrabarti report 172 MPs had passed a vote of no confidence into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership following mass resignations from the opposition front bench. In this “frenzied atmosphere”, Marc went to the launch with a press release supporting Corbyn from “Momentum Black Connexions”. He refused to give a copy to Ruth Smeeth, one of the plotters against Jeremy, saying she was not a member of the press. This was impolite. Kate McCann of the Daily Telegraph took a copy and handed it to her.

During press questions from the large press presence, Kate McCann asked what Jeremy thought about a Momentum activist handing out a press release attacking Labour MPs. At this point she was surfing the hostile environment towards Jeremy from Labour MPs and was also attacking Marc Wadsworth. When he managed to speak, Marc looked over at Ruth Smeeth chatting to Kate McCann. He said: “I saw that the Telegraph handed a copy of a press release to Ruth Smeeth MP so you can see who is working hand in hand”. This was unnecessary and counterproductive as you noted. Ruth Smeeth took offence and shouted: “How dare you?” a number of times. Kevin Schofield, ex-Sun journalist sitting behind her, said audibly: “antisemitism, antisemitism at the launch of a report into antisemitism”. She then stormed out of the room, later claiming that she had been in tears, and alleged that Marc had expressed an antisemitic trope that Jews controlled the media. She castigated Jeremy Corbyn for not sticking up for her as a Jew. She had earlier posted on her website that Jews would never be safe in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Marc Wadsworth later said in his defence: “I didn’t have a clue that Ruth Smeeth is Jewish. I’ve never been called antisemitic in my life. The Jewish people have an ally in me”.

The campaign against Marc is a clear example of the exaggeration of antisemitism allegations, which should have been thrown out at the very first stage of the disciplinary process after the disciplinary panel checked what actually happened at the Chakrabarti launch. How often has Marc’s position as a left-wing black activist been factored into the understanding of what happened on that occasion? How do you think he felt when a posse of thirty white MPs accompanied Ruth Smeeth to his disciplinary hearing held two years after his original suspension, in a flagrant contempt of due process, to support her demand for his expulsion from the Party? It might have seemed like a racist lynch mob. What kind of distortion of solidarity was involved there? Marc’s father came to Britain on the Empire Windrush. He was a founder of the campaign for justice for Stephen Lawrence and helped establish Black Sections in the Labour Party. His anti-racism should have been seen as huge asset to the Labour Party.

FINAL WORDS.

The Labour Party has been described not as a socialist Party but as “a Party with socialists in it” in Simon Hannah’s account of the history of attempts to curb the left of the Party. Although many call it an “anti-racist party” perhaps a similar rearrangement of words needs to take place. It is “a party with anti-racists in it”, and a fair number who do not like anti-racists. For some, particularly in the Parliamentary Labour Party, racism is not so much to be “kicked out”, but used as a political football to be booted against the left of the Party when the opportunity presents itself.

Like David Graeber, I see the insistence that the Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic, that it is overrun with antisemites, that Jeremy himself is antisemitic, as the political BIG LIE of the last few years. It was used as a weapon to achieve an eventually successful coup in the Party after he became leader. Investigation of it requires careful analysis of the complex intersections of interests. It served the interests of anti-Palestinians and all those who wished to protect Israel from criticism and pressure. These connected to Establishment forces as you might have recognised if you had related what happened to the ideas in your previous book: “The establishment: how they get away with it”:

The establishment is made up of powerful groups that need to protect their position…[who] attempt to manage democracy, to make sure that it does not threaten their interests.

The BIG LIE was promoted by those who have ridden the post-truth society to ensure that we have a racist far-right government in the UK that poses a danger to marginalised groups and are is complicit in the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of elderly people as well as hundreds of front-line workers, because of the mismanagement of the coronavirus epidemic. Surely this deployment of Establishment power was something for a journalist of your talent to face up to and tell truth to. It played a major role in ending Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party and preventing a Labour victory in the elections of 2017 and 2019. For many, it transformed their perception of Jeremy Corbyn from someone who was widely respected into a vindictive and untrustworthy person. It was allowed to happen because only a small section of the media and a few MPs had the courage to tell the truth.

But I refuse to be downhearted. I was glad to see that you envisage the possibility that an Establishment view can be overturned:

Opponents who seem laughably irrelevant and fragmented can enjoy sudden reversals of fortunes. The fashionable common sense of today can become the discredited nonsense of yesterday, and with surprising speed.

So we will keep to our task. We will remain open to dialogue with you and welcome you, if and when you wish to join us.

In solidarity,

Tony Booth, December 2020

 

 

Comments (33)

  • Jane Angel says:

    Thank you so much for writing this; very considered and thorough and containing a great deal for me to learn and think about.
    I have been a Corbyn supporter since the summer of 2015, and an associate of JVL for some time.

  • Sheldon Ranz says:

    Regardless of Mear One’s personal beliefs, the mural is not anti-Semitic. Most of the capitalists depicted are Gentile, and are positioned at the center of the table, with the two Jews positioned at the sides, as if the Gentiles are the shotcallers and the Jews are tangential to the system.

  • Tim says:

    Excellent letter. Owen Jones should reflect on the points that were very well made. It will be interesting to see if he engages in the constructive dialogue that is sought and gives a considered response.

  • Jonathan Hamilton Russell says:

    What an appalling tragedy the whole situation is full of lies and distortions. You would have hoped that Owen Jones would not have fallen into the trap that has been set for us all. Thanks for the detailed analysis

  • Alan Maddison says:

    Brilliant analysis, an absolutely fascinating and rewarding read.

    I must say I am always wondering who has been misled on the Labour antisemitism ‘problem’, who knowingly exploits it, and who is simply afraid to speak the truth.

    They say disagreements in good faith are often a result of one person knowing things another does not. So Tony’s gentle openness to dialogue is refreshing.

    Well done.

  • Simon Dewsbury says:

    A long read but absolutely worthwhile. “Cranks”? There may be some on the left of the Labour Party but I have never seen the remotest sign of it it from jvl. And it is so sad to hear of the problems which this has caused within Tony’s family.

  • Derek Clifford says:

    Thank you Tony – an exemplary JVL post (as usual) full of intelligence, insight and integrity. I’m just sad what this has cost you personally – and your colleagues, not to mention the cost to anyone supportive of a ‘transformative’ approach to politics in the UK, and the implications of that defeat for all the different but inter-connected oppressed social groups – the ‘many’. Keep going. Good luck!

  • Sheila Gorman Flynn says:

    Excellent, informative and profoundly honest. Thank you and Solidarity A damning indictment on those determined to use the Big Lie for their own divisive anti-democratic and dangerous agendas.

  • Alan Stanton says:

    I read with growing admiration Professor Tony Booth’s thorough and painstaking attempts to “… read every utterance” and “pore over” videos to reach a “considered view on whether anything antisemitic had occurred”.
    As he tested and exposed flimsy non-links in the chain of evidence intended to prove “The Big Lie” against Labour and Corbyn.

    A big lie for which, it seems to me, Tony Booth makes a convincing case. Although I also think that on both sides there are some smaller truths. Which means that the dialogue Professor Booth offers — should it happen — would need all parties willingness to respect and accept at least the possibility of smaller truths as rebuttable presumptions.

  • Jonathan Rosenhead says:

    The preternaturally calm tone of Tony’s dissection of the mainstream media distortions of what was going on during the campaign to unseat Jeremy is almost unbearable. But stepping away from that feeling, I was particularly struck with perhaps the main point that Tony makes about Owen Jones’ analysis: his failure to make any connection between the viciousness of the PLP animus felt and expressed by so many PLP members, and the emergence of an ‘antisemitism crisis’ in the party.
    How does an able and informed journalist become so disabled and ill-informed (and of course Owen Jones is far from alone in this)? I mean, why does he ignore the copious evidence that antisemitism within the party is far from so significant an issue numerically as to merit a moral panic?
    Perhaps there are two reasons. The first is that with the shadow of the Holocaust still hanging over us even after 75 years, the reflex is to shudder and move away from any possibility of a repetition. The second is that when virtually the whole political class and its media appendages has adopted the position of there being a Labour antisemitism crisis, every anecdotal instance, every incontinent tweet, seems to substantiate it. What need then is there to take account of the survey evidence, to inspect the facts on the ground within the party, to listen to the Jewish members who feel among comrades among the diverse and wonderful grassroots membership?

  • MAX COOK says:

    Brilliant and thought provoking, I’m afraid Owen Jones is a fair weather friend of the left wing and his remarks about JVL are utterly absurd and disgusting.

  • Lynne Gostick says:

    Excellent letter and comprehensive analysis. I have learnt much to help with my discussions on this issue and it has confirmed many of the suspicions I have had regarding the Guardian reportage and Margaret Hodge’s hostilities.

    I hope Owen Jones, for whom I have a great respect, takes due notice.

  • Usman Mirza says:

    A truly remarkable and detailed analysis. Thank you so much for this letter – I sincerely hope that Owen Jones takes the time to read it and respond to you.

  • Andy Tanner-Smith says:

    You point out very clearly a key issue that Jones and the mainstream media have all but ignored. Walker’s comments regarding the slave trade are being made in the context of her black ancestry. Jewish involvement in the slave trade is a fact, not a ‘position’. Jones, the media in general and unfortunately Corbyn’s successor as leader of the opposition seem to be seeing everything through the lens of antisemitism. Through that lens of course they will find antisemitism where there really is none to find. If your only solution is a hammer every problem is a nail.

    My second, related point, is that it’s difficult for us on the left not point out the unintended consequence of the shameful way Jackie and Marc have been treated by Jones, the media and unfortunately the Labour Party itself: that of a hierarchy of racism. Unfortunate because it is so self-defeating, so damaging, to the fight against racism in general and antisemitism in particular

  • Stephen Williams says:

    Thank you; a thorough and perceptive examination of what has gone wrong. And why.

  • chris wallis says:

    Thank you for your excellent analysis. I learnt a lot about the Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth cases. As an ex BBC employee I started to take particular interest in the ‘antisemitism crisis’ when I heard Hodge, the BoD et al being ‘interviewed’ on the [email protected] and PM and so on. I say ‘interviewed’ because there was no proper journalism going on, that’s what attracted my attention. At no point were they asked for evidence of their assertions. Subsequently I heard Robert Winston on PM, autumn 2018, talking about climate change I think, and then the interviewer sprang a question about the antisemitism in the LP ( as though it were a fact, that was one of the problems from the start) . Winston was clearly surprised and said how it concerned and worried him. When I went back to the iPlayer that bit of the interview had been cut, and something else put in its place. Similarly, when Ummuna and co left in April 19, Ian Austin was on C4 news that night asserting that Corbyn was an antisemite etc. For once the journo did her job, and asked hinm if he had proof that Corbyn was an antisemite. Austin looked like a goldfish for about ten seconds – he clearly wasn’t expecting this – and then said ‘Yes, yes I do.’ ‘What?’ said his interlocutor. More goldfish. ”I have heard him say anti-semitic things’. The interview finished there. I went back to the archive thinking, wow, this is a journalistic coup, only to find that it had been cut from the record. Clearly it was a lie and C4 didn’t want to be sued. They had previously aired an ‘interview’ wih a North London Jewish girl of about 14 or 15 who was telling them how she was much more fearful than she had been in the past. At no point did they try to dig down to the causes of her fear. You will remeber that Johnson had a particularly bad first day of the 2019 election. I woke on the second day to hear Austin on Today at 7am, billed as an ex-Labour Minister (very junior under Blair) not as an employee of the conservatives which he then was, given ten minutes to rant about how antisemitic the party was and what a danger to national security JC was. This interview echoed across the media all day. The editor of the Today programme at that time was the recently appointed Sarah Sands, appointed despite having no broadcast experience whatsoever although that was a major requirement in the person spec, previously ed of the london Evening Standard when it ran a disgusting almost racist campaign against Sadiq Khan and in fsavour of Goldsmith for the London mayoral. The fix is clearly in.

  • Ian Hickinbottom says:

    Excellent analysis and expert dissection of Mr Jones’s book.
    Owen Jones was at one time a decent and respected journalist and author, his ‘The Establishment’ is a well researched accurate assessment. However since joining the Guardian he seems to have become a weather cock commentator. His views and opinions change with how the opportunity for him to ‘self promote’ occurs. He was a vocal opponent to Corbyn during the chicken coup challenge, then a supporter in the run up to 2017 election. He took the opportunity to attack the party on antisemitism regularly. He was an advocate of the peoples vote and the 2nd referendum, yet just recently he condemns it as the downfall it became a year ago.
    I find Owen Jones is no friend of the left in Labour unless it benefits him. He is no better than the rest of the charlatan Guardian columnists, who write banal claptrap and want a return to the glory days of New Labour and Blair.

  • Steven Taylor says:

    Really interesting. Informative and amazingly well-mannered (in the circumstances). Thanks

  • Desmond Cullen says:

    Thankyou. 40 years of how to do it properly.

  • Ann Newton-Marcial says:

    I read your well researched and considered letter with an open mind. It is so heartening that many people can put an honest perspective on what has seemed like a pandemic of epic proportions which is ‘institutional anti semitism in LP’. It is disheartening that your analysis like that of many others are not read by people of all political persuasions, ethnicities and cultures. Sadly these lies are being retold on a daily basis with few credible journalists enabled to speak true to power. Thank you so much for suggesting a dialogue to discuss complaints and errors of judgement, rather than hate, division or expulsion. Many people aren’t always aware of what is considered anti semetic or racist as it could be couched for example in a painting. There are people whose behaviour I find intolerable but I’m told I’m being A/S if they are then identified as Jewish. So yes rather than condemn we should discuss in a helpful way that which causes offence. I hope this ramble doesn’t offend. Kind thoughts Ann

  • Ian Kemp says:

    excellent letter to Owen Jones who I do admire. But feel that for some reason he has been blind to the fact of the weaponization A/S within LP for political purposes. I do find this very surprising. Maybe it is to do with the editorial policy of the Guardian with Kath Viner and in particular Johnathan Freedland . They have down graded a once excellent newspaper that is somehow unable to be honest with itself about what is going on. Its anti Corbyn stance since Viner became editor increased a 100%. The blocking of alternative views is very worrying and not what I expect after over 46 yrs reading it. It not only depresses and irritates but has become a moral problem.
    Maybe it was a fear about falling circulation that allowed the once liberal fearless Guardian To confront head on injustices and prejudice’s head on.
    Maybe I am ignorant here.? But would the old opinion writers editorials of the Guardian tolerated the lies and distortions that Freedland has been allowed to get away with.??
    So as Opinion reporter/ journalist he has to try keep within the present day guide lines of the Guardian. He cannot stray to far otherwise he would as it were lose his job. There not many other newspapers he would be able to find a home.

  • Lesley Lee says:

    Bravo

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    What a wonderful ‘open letter’. I think Owen Jones should be invited to reply – gently invited, by Tony Booth, who might also want to add that changing one’s mind is not a crime, and in politics can be the true mark of maturity and integrity. Not only does Tony Booth dismantle many of Jones’ (and others’) inaccuracies, he knows how to acknowledge that a story may not always be black or white – and he does it with such grace! A model of how to engage in political debate.

  • Steve Heaney says:

    Thank you Professor Booth for your letter. As others have said this is a model in how to engage in political debate, to base argument upon clearly researched evidence and not to act as an echo chamber of baseless propaganda.
    The treatment of Mark Wadsworth was especially shocking to me.
    Kind regards

  • J Preston says:

    This letter should be signposted as a resource for future historians. It constitutes an invaluable insight into the might and machinations of Establishment power versus democracy.

  • Paul Wimpeney says:

    Just a note of caution about Mear One’s (in)famous mural. Like any text, it has to be read and at least a part of this will depend on the life experiences of the reader. When I saw it I did not read it as antisemitic; a Jewish friend of mine thought that it was obviously antisemitic. He explained that it was very much in the style of antisemitic posters in Nazi Germany in the thirties. I hadn’t known this. Is that proof? I had just thought it was a piece of grotesquerie.
    On a visit to Bethlehem some years ago I saw some of the Banksy murals on the wall. I was really cheered by the fact that they were there. Well, I was told, there was one that some local Palestinians really objected to. It showed a member of the IDF searching a donkey; my understanding was that the IDF would harrass everyone and everything and Banksy was holding this up to ridicule. Some of the locals thought that the depiction suggested that Palestinians were donkeys!

  • Margaret Johnson says:

    Thank you for this very insightful letter I leaŕned things and also looked again at some things with unblinkered eyes. I feel so much for those who like the professor have looked at the issues involved and found their families to be so badly ill informed that they have estranged themselves. The lie that Jeremy Corbyn placed a wreath on Adolf Hitlers grave is really the ornate icing on the wedding cake to antizionism that has been invented for that particular man. Thank you for exposing this lie and so many others. I can imagine that you were so shocked that a response would have been impossible in the short time availlable. Your relatives in Israel are really losing out on the truth when they are fed lies to feed their fears as are many others.

  • Charlotte Williams says:

    This is such a great exposure of what has been happening in this ‘debate’ and how it is affecting ordinary Jews and their relationship with other Jews. I wish Tony’s analyses of the Marc Wandsworth incident and the Jackie Walker one could get wider exposure as many people have just heard them summarised and when you look at the detail the Party’s and the MSM’s response is unforgivable, particularly in relation to dividing off different forms of racism. I hope Owen Jones reads it and responds.

  • Doug says:

    No way back for Owen Jones or Paul Mason
    In the immortal words of Maximus Peake
    If you don’t vote Labour then your a Tory
    We are where we are because of Red, Yellow and Tartan Tories dividing the vote

  • Valentin Kovalenko says:

    Whereas I agree with what Tony Booth writes, I don’t think that the right-of-the-centre conformist journalist Owen Jones deserves this brilliant analysis.

  • Connie Aldaya says:

    I found this article very informative and I hope Mr Jones adds corrections to his book.

  • Julia says:

    A very good, thorough and highly informative piece. Thank you, I learned a lot from reading it. I admire your civil and friendly attempt to achieve dialogue – as the only real way forward on this and all such issues is discussion, dialogue and learning. I wonder if you have received a response from Mr Jones.

  • Tim Sanders says:

    Excellent piece! Thanks for your clarity.

Comments are now closed.