Brief response to an ‘antisemitism’ hoax

The self-styled Campaign Against Antisemitism has devised a report to support a predetermined conclusion and to tarnish the Labour Party and the left – in the face of all other reputable academic studies –with an unwarranted accusation of antisemitism.

Jamie Stern-Weiner and Alan Maddison show here how the trick is done.

[Updated with minor corrections 4 Dec]

 

Brief response to an ‘antisemitism’ hoax

The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) alleges, on the basis of polling it commissioned from YouGov, that ‘antisemitic views are most widespread on the far-left’ while ‘the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, was particularly popular among people with antisemitic views’.

It is, the CAA notes, ‘the first survey’ to conclude this.

Indeed, all previous studies found the opposite. The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) reported, on the basis of the largest survey of its kind ever conducted, that ‘[t]he political left, captured by voting intention or actual voting for Labour, appears . . . a more Jewish-friendly, or neutral, segment of the population’. The CAA itself observed, in 2017, that ‘Labour Party supporters are less likely to be antisemitic than other voters’.

So, how did the CAA achieve its surprising results?

Whereas previous surveys asked respondents whether they agreed with a number of negative generalisations about Jews, this new study also tested for agreement with a handful of propositions about the State of Israel:

  1. ‘Israel and its supporters are a bad influence on our democracy’.
  2. ‘Israel can get away with anything because its supporters control the media’.
  3. ‘Israel treats the Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews’.
  4. ‘I am comfortable spending time with people who openly support Israel’.
  5. ‘Israel is right to defend itself against those who want to destroy it’.[1]

The CAA defined endorsement of the first three statements, and disagreement with the last two, as antisemitic.

This novel procedure is what produced the anomalous result.

Only by conflating these findings with the results for Israel-related statements, under the overall heading ‘antisemitism’, was the CAA able to reach its unique and unprecedented conclusion that the political Left is more tainted by antisemitism than the political Right.

In fact, the CAA’s new study confirms previous survey evidence that agreement with traditional ‘antisemitic’ stereotypes about Jews is:

    • higher on the Right than on the Left:

Adapted from Allington-CAA 2019. Illustrates ‘mean’ agreement with 5 traditional ‘antisemitic’ statements, by ideological alignment.

  • higher among Conservative voters than among Labour voters:

Adapted from Allington-CAA 2019. Illustrates ‘mean’ agreement with 5 traditional ‘antisemitic’ statements, by 2017 general election vote.

  • higher among supporters of Boris Johnson than supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.

Adapted from Allington-CAA 2019. Illustrates ‘mean’ agreement with 5 traditional ‘antisemitic’ statements, by respondents who ‘strongly like’ the Conservative/Labour Party leader.

And whereas it has been widely alleged that antisemitism has increased since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the new CAA report finds that the prevalence of traditional ‘antisemitic’ prejudices ‘has remained fairly consistent over the past five years’.

Put otherwise, had the CAA replicated its previous methodology, and not inserted the additional questions about Israel, it would have perforce concluded—consistent with all previous studies—that ‘antisemitic’ prejudices are not increasing and are disproportionately concentrated on the Right, among Conservative voters, and among supporters of Boris Johnson.

************

The CAA justifies its conflation of negative statements about Israel with negative statements about Jews on the basis of what it refers to as ‘the International Definition of Antisemitism’.

This is the CAA’s propagandistic term for the non-legally binding Working Definition of Antisemitism adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and a tiny fraction of the world’s countries since.

But, first, eminent researchers, jurists, and civil liberties groups have dismissed the IHRA and cognate ‘definitions’ of antisemitism as incoherent, vague, and menacing to free speech. Second, whereas the IHRA appeared to set a high bar for antisemitism (‘hatred toward Jews’), the CAA does not attempt to relate endorsement of stereotypes to anti-Jewish animus. Third, whereas the IHRA emphasised that ‘the overall context’ must be taken ‘into account’ in order to establish a remark as antisemitic, the CAA ignores this crucial qualification. Fourth, the CAA polled statements (e.g., ‘I am comfortable spending time with people who openly support Israel’) that are not covered by or derived from the IHRA document.

In truth, none of the Israel-related statements polled by the CAA necessarily constitute antisemitism.

Let’s consider two examples.

  • I am comfortable spending time with people who openly support Israel. The CAA reasons that, since studies have found ‘that the overwhelming majority of British Jews support Israel’, it follows that discomfort around supporters of Israel means discomfort ‘with Jews’—or, ‘perhaps’, a willingness ‘to tolerate Jews only as long as they keep their opinions quiet’. (Perish the thought!) In the current context, ‘people who openly support Israel’ is typically construed as people who support the criminal actions of the Israeli Government, such as its blockade of and periodic attacks on Gaza. In the era of Jim Crow, was it ‘anti-White’ to feel uncomfortable around open supporters of segregation and lynching? In the 1980s, was it ‘anti-Afrikaner’ to feel uncomfortable around open supporters of apartheid? So, then, why should it be considered ‘antisemitic’ to feel uncomfortable around open supporters of Israel’s racist and brutal regime?
  • Israel is right to defend itself against those who want to destroy it. But doesn’t Israel deploy criminal violence against civilians, abet legislation that suppresses criticism of Israel, and deport respected human rights defenders on the grounds of its ‘right to defend itself against those who want to destroy it’? It would appear that, to be free of the taint of antisemitism, the CAA demands full-throated support for Israel each time it invokes the spurious claim of ‘self-defence’.

The CAA’s entire ‘study’ reduces to this: left-wingers are disproportionately critical of Israel; right-wingers are disproportionately critical of Jews; and the CAA misleadingly muddles the two.

************

The CAA was established in August 2014 to discredit as antisemitic the popular mobilisation against Israel’s criminal assault on Gaza.

In January 2015, it published a pair of surveys purporting to document a ‘crisis’ of antisemitism in Britain. (Sound familiar?) The publications were uniformly dismissed by established Jewish research bodies as—to quote the representative judgement of the JPR—‘littered with flaws’, ‘sensationalist’, and ‘irresponsible’.

Nearly five years on, what has changed?

The CAA remains a vulgar propaganda outfit.

The difference is that, today, the JPR, the Community Security Trust, the Pears Institute, and co., are silent. All have enlisted in, or succumbed from cowardice to, the anti-Corbyn juggernaut.

 

************

The CAA’s candid objective is to eject Jeremy Corbyn from ‘any public office’.

Its report is a crude attempt to weaponise ‘antisemitism’ to achieve this:

  • ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s most loyal supporters are more likely to be anti-Semitic than those of other party leaders, YouGov poll reveals’ (Daily Mail)
  • ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s most ardent supporters “more likely to be anti-Semitic”’ (Telegraph)
  • ‘Antisemitism on the far-left has “overtaken” antisemitism on the far-right according to research’ (Jewish Chronicle)

(All these claims, we have seen, are false.)

Such headlines are intended to build momentum ahead of a CAA-organised rally against ‘antisemitism’—read: ‘Labour’—on 8 December. A film by David Hirsh, who also provided intellectual inspiration for the CAA paper, will be released the same day. (RottenTomatoes.com has devised a new category in anticipation: decomposed-on-arrival.)

The recklessness of this strategy can scarcely be overstated.

We might well be one financial crisis, one climate shock away from a far-right resurgence. Yet just as conditions are ripening for a fascist revival, Jewish organisations have set out to discredit our leading bulwark of antifascism—in the name of combatting ‘antisemitism’. History is rarely kind to such monumental betrayals.

 

[1] The CAA also canvassed opinions of the statement: ‘Israel makes a positive contribution to the world’. But these were begrudgingly excluded from the ‘antisemitism’ calculations, on the grounds that disagreement with it ‘is not antisemitic in itself’.


Jamie Stern-Weiner is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford and the editor of Antisemitism and the Labour Party (Verso, 2019).

Alan Maddison is a Strategic Analyst and associate member of Jewish Voice for Labour.

 

Comments (6)

  • Philip Ward says:

    The lead author has an interesting CV and web page:

    https://www.kcl.ac.uk/people/dr-daniel-allington

    I’m not sure why KCL would agree to lend its name to such tripe.

    One of the interesting features of the new right, inspired by Trump, is its lack of intellectual rigour and indifference to facts and evidence. This makes them ill-equipped to deal with the problems the capitalist system creates, other than through the use of force, as Duterte, Bolsonaro in particular are showing us. Others will follow.

  • Richard Hayward says:

    “The CAA justifies its conflation of negative statements about Israel with negative statements about Jews on the basis of what it refers to as ‘the International Definition of Antisemitism’.”

    The heart of what it’s all about – a propaganda campaign to conflate Israel with Judaism, and thus deflect criticism of that state’s overt racism and breaches of human rights.

    And, yes, it’s not news here. We saw it coming with the IHRA conflation. Even ten years ago (in the years BC – Before Corbyn), the influence of ‘The Lobby’ was skewered by the ‘Dispatches’ documentary made by Channel 4 and Peter Oborne (he of that rare class – a ‘proper’ journalist)

    … and, Lo, it came to pass.

  • Allan Howard says:

    I wonder what prompted the CAA to commission a poll/survey (by yougov) and write a Report at this moment in time?

    Having first done so in January 2015 IMMEDIATELY after the Charlie Hebdo and the Kosher supermarket attack, which just happened to be the first first item they ever put up on their website, and which received a lot of criticism for scaremongering and exploiting the Paris attack, and which I have no doubt whatsoever was designed to do EXACTLY that, they then did another ‘Antisemitism Barometer’ Report (based on the yougov survey they commisioned) in 2016, and then another in 2017.

    During the past couple of months or so since I first came across their ‘Antisemitism Barometer’ Reports I have visited the page(s) a number of times, and as of the very first time, I wondered why it was that they didn’t commission a survey and do a report in 2018 – ie why they hadn’t – but NOW, magically, when I checked their Barometer pages again on account of reading this article, CAA have now added a ‘2018-2019’ section, and they say the following:

    ‘The most recent edition of the Antisemitism Barometer was published on 30th November 2019, including new data from four polls conducted in 2018 and 2019’

    But when you click on the report and open it, everything in the Report relates to 2019. And needless to say, why wouldn’t the CAA have added what appears to be a non-existent 2018 Report to their Antisemitism Barometer pages in 2018. Doesn’t make sense of course. But then again, they wouldn’t want to be seen as commissioning a survey and doing a Report for the first time in over two years during a GE campaign and when there’s just twelve days to go to election day. I mean you’d have to be really cynical – or maybe even antisemitic – to imagine they would do such a thing.

    https://antisemitism.uk/barometer/#2018-2019

    PS Just for your information, when you click on the respective years, it doesn’t take you to another page, as such, and you just need to scroll down a bit.

  • Allan Howard says:

    Correction: The January ‘2015 Antisemitism Barometer’ was in fact the SECOND item the CAA put up on their website, and is dated the 14th, and the very FIRST item – which I’d forgotten about BUT recalled the moment I saw it – was an article posted on the 10th about a meeting the CAA had had, which the following excerpt from the article explains:

    On Thursday evening, 8th January 2015, the Campaign Against Antisemitism attended a private meeting convened at the Home Office to address last year’s record-breaking number of antisemitic incidents.

    Joining the Home Secretary, Theresa May, at the meeting were Home Office Special Adviser, Nick Timothy; the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders; the Chief Executive of the College of Policing, Alex Marshall; and Campaign Against Antisemitism Chairman, Gideon Falter.

    The meeting was held to discuss practical ways in which the authorities and the CAA could work together to address antisemitic hate crime and marks a major milestone in the CAA’s campaign for zero tolerance enforcement against antisemitism.

    [To see the first article click on ‘News’ on the Home Page, then click on ‘Latest News’ in the drop-down menu, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the icon to take you to the last page (which is the fist page chronologically), and then scroll down to the bottom of the page]

    _____________________

    Now the REALLY odd thing about this – and this all occurred to me a couple of months or so ago when I was trying to determine when the group first formed, but then obviously forgot about it…… In fact I’ll rephrase THAT: The really AMAZING thing about this is that the Charlie Hebdo attack AND the attack on the Kosher supermarket had happened the day before their meetng – ie on the 7th – and it just beggars belief that they didn’t mention it – at the very LEAST – in the article re the meeting they had. But then again, one would have thought that they would have posted an article on their website the next day about the Paris attacks, and yet they didn’t post an article about it or mention it at ALL, except very briefly, in passing, in an article posted on Jan 29, being the THIRD item posted on their website. And the NEXT item isn’t posted on their website until May 14!

    My conclusion was that the group didn’t exist as such at the time of the Paris attacks, and THAT is why there’s no article about it on their website, because there WAS no website, and I have little doubt that the meeting on the 8th was hastily arranged directly as a consequence of the Paris attacks, and the idea to publish* a survey/poll came up at the meeting, and THEN they had to have it look like the survey was commissioned by a group (even though they did it themseves, but didn’t say so), so they came up with the name, and then got the website set up the next day – the 9th (and all done – including the design of the website – by the 10th) – and then posted the first article (about the meeting on the 8th) on the 10th (and you would of course post an article about a meeting of such a nature the following day on the 9th IF you had a website). And because he/they didn’t have the website in place until the 10th, it would have seemed very odd to have posted an article about the Paris attacks THEN, and so he/they figured it was best just to not mention it al all.

    As for the meeting on the 8th with Theresa May etc which they say/claim was arranged as a consequence of the record-breaking number of antisemitic incidents the year before, such a meeting would be arranged at LEAST several days in advance, and almost definitely MORE, and it really does beggar belief that if that WAS the case, that a meeting was arranged for the 8th AND that the Paris attacks – by coincidence – just happened to happen the day BEFORE!

    * If you search for Antisemitism Barometer using their search engine, and click on the result dated Jan 14th 2015, all it amounts to is the following, which is next to nothing – ie 10 stats – and no ‘Report’, as such, and he/they probably made up the stats to serve their desired purpose:

    https://antisemitism.uk/annual-antisemitism-barometer-published/

    *BUT*, if you click on the ‘Antisemitism Barometer’ result dated July 11, 2016, and then click on ‘2015’ (and then scroll down the page), and then click on the Report for 2015 (on the right-hand side of the page), and then scroll down to page 6 (the page itself isn’t numbered) it says the following, and I quote:

    ‘Yo u G o v P l c s u r v e y e d 3,411 adults online for the Campaign Against Antisemitism’s survey of antisemitic sentiment within the British public. The results have been weighted and are representative of all adults in Great Britain (aged 18 and above). The fieldwork was conducted online between 21st December 2014 and 6th January 2015.’

    And if you then scroll down to the next page, which is headlined ‘Survey of Jewish People’s Reactions to Antisemitism, carried out by Campaign Against Antisemitism’, it says the folloowing, and I quote:

    ‘The survey was completed by 2,230 Jewish people who reside in Great Britain. The fieldwork was conducted online between 23rd December 2014 and 11th January 2015.’

    Well unless I’m missing something – and I’m pretty sure I’m NOT – it doesn’t make sense that they wouldn’t have published and posted the results of the two surveys – ie the Report – in January (2015), and on the 14th in actual fact, on their website AND wait until a year-and-a-half later before they DO. And if I’ve got this right – and I’m not missing something – then the implications are astounding. And I should just add that I’ve only cottoned on to this last aspect of it all whilst putting this post together.

    Anyway, here’s a link to the page with the list of results for Antisemitism Barometer, followed by a link to the Antisemitism Barometer page that’s dated July 11, 2016, and I really, really, really hope I haven’t been wasting your time!:

    https://antisemitism.uk/?s=barometer

    https://antisemitism.uk/barometer/ (and note the first thing it says as you scroll down – ie ‘The first edition of the Antisemitism Barometer was published on 13th January 2015’, and if you ‘open’ the report, at the bottom of the initial page it says: ‘© 2015 Campaign Against Antisemitism’)

  • Isaac says:

    Great article

  • Martin Davidson says:

    A classic example of the old adage that “figures never lie, but liars often figure”.

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