Journalists, check your evidence on antisemitism!

JVL Introduction

This extensive review of data about antisemitism in the UK demonstrates that media claims about rampant left-wing antisemitism are based on unproven and unsourced allegations, resulting in the stifling of rational debate about both Israel/Palestine and the dangers of antisemitism and racism.

JVL is grateful to the authors Jonathan Coulter, Tim Llewellyn and Dr Alan Maddison for permission to publish it.

A printable PDF of this article can be downloaded here.


Journalists, check your evidence on antisemitism!

By Jonathan Coulter, Dr Alan Maddison and Tim Llewellyn
May 2019

* Jonathan Coulter is an activist on Middle-Eastern affairs and media reform.  Newsletter Editor for Liberal Democrats Friends of Palestine, 2016-2018
* Dr Alan Maddison is a former Director of Strategic Planning and associate member of JVL
* Tim Llewellyn is a former BBC Middle East Correspondent, and long-time critic of the BBC’s pro-Israel bias


In the face of a near three-year political and media campaign alleging rampant and institutional antisemitism in the Labour Party – especially on the left – we present here hard statistical evidence that the allegation is wildly exaggerated or based on misinformation.   The relevant data we present below has been almost completely ignored in media reporting and commentary and the findings rarely if ever referred to, or reflected upon.

We do not downplay anti-Jewish prejudice, which exists across the political spectrum and in all parts of society.   However the statistics, some from Jewish and pro-Israeli groups, show that other ethnic minorities (rather than Jewish people) face the brunt of British prejudice, and moreover, that the far right is home to the highest levels of prejudice against all minorities, including Jews, and to most perpetrators of religious hate crimes.

A smear campaign of McCarthyite proportions has been taken up unquestioningly by the mainstream media, including the BBC and even the notionally left-supporting Guardian, and has been enthusiastically supported by Corbyn’s opponents in his own and other parties.  The effect has been to intimidate and silence critics of Israel and its policies towards the Palestinians, to severely curtail free speech and comment on the issue, and to close down public debate and rights of assembly.

In a word, broadcast commentators, columnists and news reporters now take constant media claims about rampant left-wing antisemitism as a fact, rather than as unproven and unsourced allegations, preventing the United Kingdom from rationally debating the issues either of Israel/Palestine or the dangers of antisemitism and racism themselves.

This tsunami of false allegations also diverts attention from a more potent threat to racial minorities, including Jews: the global resurgence of right-wing populism.

Behind this spurious antisemitism campaign we see a coalition of interest groups which, for various reasons, are intent on:

* creating a minefield for would-be critics of Israel and supporters, and;

* unseating Jeremy Corbyn by fair means or foul, and ensuring that he never becomes Prime Minister.

We, the authors, have varying political affiliations, but all applaud Corbyn’s unequivocal stand for Palestinian rights, and do not want to see Corbyn, or any other PM candidate, brought down by a very British media-orchestrated coup.

These antisemitism smears are an (outstanding) example of wider media abuse in the UK, including inaccurate coverage of immigration, Brexit, war in Iraq and other matters.  Where facts are not checked, evidence is ignored and poor reporting lead us to make poor political choices across the board.  This affects all our futures.  So it is time to focus on the evidence and bring this appalling situation to an end.


Here’s the evidence

We present our evidence below in three sections dealing respectively with: statistical data; UN and EU condemnation of British newspapers’ hate-speech towards migrants, and; chronic low reporting standards across the board (not restricted to antisemitism).

1. Statistical data on antisemitism and other forms of racism

Some British people are certainly prejudiced against Jews, as they are against other minority groups.  However, we need to establish whether antisemitism is rampant, especially on the left, such as to justify the enormous media coverage it has received.  The only reliable way to establish the prevalence of particular attitudes and behaviour in society is through rigorous surveys and statistical analysis.  Anecdotes and allegations about individuals are not enough.

This is what we found in terms of (a) attitudes and; (b) behaviour:

a) Antisemitic prejudice in the UK is:

* low compared with other EU countries

Pew Research shows that negative opinions about Jews occur in 7% of the UK population compared to a median figure of 16% for ten EU countries– see Fig 1.

Source: http://www.pewglobal.org/2016/07/11/europeans-fear-wave-of-refugees-will-mean-more-terrorism-fewer-jobs/
 

* low compared to general racial prejudice

The British Social Attitude survey for 2017 shows 26% of respondents saying they have some prejudice towards other races – see here.

Surveys such as that undertaken by Pew Research show negative opinions about Jews occur in 7% of the UK population but for Muslims and Roma Gypsies this was 28% and 45% respectively – see Fig 1 above.

 

* low across the political spectrum, but high on the far right, and there is no evidence of a far-left concentration

The largest survey ever undertaken was conducted by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), with data gathering by Ipsos MORI.  The authors found strong antisemitic attitudes[#] of similarly low prevalence (average 3.6%) from the far left and across the political spectrum.  Only on the far right was it significantly higher (13%) – see Fig 2.

[#] These attitude scores are based on nine statements, seven of which had been defined by Jews in a previous survey as prejudicial against Jews, and two which were unambiguously positive about Jews.
 

Source: http://www.jpr.org.uk/documents/JPR.2017.Antisemitism_in_contemporary_Great_Britain.pdf
 

Repeat surveys commissioned by the vigorously pro-Israeli organisation, the Campaign Against Antisemitism, have shown that adoption of negative antisemitic stereotypes was higher among Conservative and UKIP voters than LibDem and Labour voters, and had declined since 2015 when Corbyn became leader – see Figs 3 and 4.  (Fig 3 does not provide an absolute measure of antisemitism, since JPR researchers consider that only a minority of those endorsing at least one antisemitic statement are truly motivated by antisemitism, defined as dislike of Jews; however it provides a comparative measure of prejudice between the different groups listed).

Source: https://antisemitism.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Antisemitism-Barometer-2017.pdf
 

This follows a similar pattern of general racial prejudice as reported in the British Social Attitude surveys over 30 years showing a higher incidence among Conservative voters than among Lib Dems and Labour – see Fig 5.

Source: http://natcen.ac.uk/media/1488132/racial-prejudice-report_v4.pdf
 

Last but not least, the Home Affairs Select Committee report on Antisemitism of 2016 stated that:

despite significant press and public attention on the Labour Party… there exists no reliable, empirical evidence to support the notion that there is a higher prevalence of antisemitic attitudes within the Labour Party than in any other political party.

b) Antisemitic behaviour is:

* Relatively infrequent compared to other racist and discriminatory behaviour

Of 94,098 hate crimes reported to police over 12 months to March 2018, 76% were motivated by race and 9% by religion. Jews were victims in 1.1% of cases(see Figure 6). Whilst religious hate crimes grew by 40% over the previous year (mostly against Muslims) hate crimes against Jews grew by an estimated 0.2%.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/hate-crime-england-and-wales-2017-to-2018
 

All hate incidents can be extremely unpleasant but those involving violence are likely to be the worst.   Government statistics show around 30% of victims of all reported racist or religious hate crimes suffered physical assault, while the latest statistics from the pro-Israeli Community Security Trust (CST) show the corresponding percentage for antisemitic hate crimes to be only about 10%. This may either be due to different patterns of crime against Jewish and other victims, or to higher levels of reporting of non-violent incidents (e.g. offensive tweets) against Jewish people.

Taking account of population sizes, the pro rata risk of a Jewish person becoming a victim of a hate crime is approximately half that of a BAME individual, and for assault about one fifth.  It seems that media exaggerations, rather than actual evidence, have led to a significant number of Jewish people becoming fearful about the dangers they face, some even to the point of considering emigrating.

 

* largely a right-wing phenomenon

The Home Affairs Select Committee report on Antisemitism of 2016 reported CST figures suggesting that around 75% of all politically-motivated antisemitic incidents came from far-right perpetrators.

A World Jewish Congress survey of 2016 reported that 90% of antisemitic tweets in the UK came from far right accounts.  This parallels findings of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in the USA that

identifiably right-wing individuals were responsible for 249 of the anti-Semitic “extremist” incidents. Meanwhile, identifiably left-wing individuals were responsible for none of 2018’s incidents, and Islamist individuals were responsible for four …  (See here).

 

* not particularly associated with the Labour Party

Figures released by the Labour Party in Feb 2019 show that only 453 Labour members (i.e. one in 1,250) had been verified as requiring investigation for antisemitism, which is hardly evidence that the party had let antisemitism run rife  – see here and in Fig 7 below.  In Fig 7, the 0.08% column on the left represents the percentage of Labour members (453 / 540,000) against whom complaints were investigated according to data released by the Party.  The right column of 3.6% illustrates the prevalence of strong antisemitic sentiments in UK society as measured in the above-mentioned JPR survey.  The comparison supports the notion that despite the media noise, and the fact that all antisemitism is to be deplored, the singling out of Labour is unjustified.

Source: https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/blog/antisemitism-no-justification-for-singling-out-labour/
 

The true scale of the problem of antisemitism seems to be smaller than the 453 members mentioned above, and may be closer to the 42 cases that were referred to the NCC, on the assumption that these were judged to have been examples of intentional, serious and abusive antisemitism.  146 members had been issued with written warnings, which can be reasonably assumed to be related to unintentional and less abusive comments – as argued in this article (under the heading Handling of Complaints).  Quite apart from this, it can be argued that some in the Labour Party HQ over-reacted to media pressures to get tough on antisemitism, resulting in them pursuing and/or penalising some innocent individuals.  The cases of Mark Wadsworth and Jackie Walker are extreme examples of Labour Party members being widely and publicly vilified as antisemites and eventually being expelled, even though the antisemitism charge was not upheld.

While some Labour members have undoubtedly made antisemitic comments, available evidence suggests that this has been massively exaggerated – see here, here and here.  Claims by anti-Corbyn MPs like Margaret Hodge, Luciana Berger and Ruth Smeeth do not hold up in the face of serious scrutiny.

 

2. Previous UN and EU condemnation of inaccurate reporting in British newspapers

* In April 2015, the UN Human Rights Chief urged the UK to tackle tabloid hate speech, after decades of sustained and anti-foreigner abuse, misinformation and distortion, and a recent article in the Sun newspaper calling migrants cockroaches – language similar to that employed by Rwandan media organisations in advance of the 1994 genocide. He said that these stories were feeding “a vicious cycle of vilification, intolerance and politicization of migrants, as well as marginalised European minorities such as the Roma“.  He complained that “Many of these stories have been grossly distorted and some have been outright fabrications” (see here).

*In October 2016, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), the Council of Europe’s premiere human rights body, attributed a rise in racist violence in the UK to worrying examples of intolerance and hate speech in the newspapers (particularly tabloids), online and even among politicians. Intolerance of, and attacks on, eastern Europeans were particularly highlighted

The report called for the establishment of a press regulator according to the recommendations set out in the Leveson Report, saying the two competing bodies (the Independent Press Standards Organisation, IPSO, and IMPRESS) currently in place were insufficient.  It also recommended more rigorous ethical training for journalists and widening a clause in the (IPSO) Editors’ Code of Practice on discrimination – see here.

* UN and EU complaints reflect those of UK people who campaign tirelessly for reform in press regulation in line with Leveson’s recommendations.  Their main target is IPSO, an organisation that belongs to the press barons and is unaccountable to the public at large.  Significantly, they pointed out that IPSO only upheld one discrimination complaint out of over 8,000 it received during 2017. Yvette Cooper drew attention to a Times article about a Christian girl being fostered by a Muslim family and Trevor Kavanagh’s article on “the Muslim problem” and went on to say that beyond these high-profile examples, we have everyday examples of what I call our low-level poisoning of the discourse– see here

3. On chronic low reporting standards in the UK

* Much has been written about this topic, but we think the most thorough and robust analysis remains the book by Nick Davies, Flat-Earth News, published in 2009. Davies based his analysis on 30 years’ experience working in the British press and research he commissioned from Cardiff University.  He describes a series of systematic malfunctions within the media, and shows how a range of special interest groups, including those advocating on behalf of Israel (see p122-125), have managed to exploit them.  For those with limited time, the review in the London Review of Books will be informative.

* various authors have drawn attention to the failure of the so-called disinterested outlets, including the BBC and the Guardian, in reporting on Israel, Palestine and alleged antisemitism. Drawing on extensive research by Philo and Berry of the Glasgow University Media Group, former BBC Middle East Correspondent Tim Llewellyn drew attention to deep seated pro-Israeli bias that set in to Broadcasting from the beginning of the 21st Century.  The Media Reform Coalition (MRC) has recently provided us with some hard statistical evidence.  Its report on media coverage of antisemitism in the Labour Party shows that (perhaps counterintuitively) the BBC and Guardian are among the worst progressive media, offenders.


Non-online references quoted in this last sub-section

Davies, N. (2008) Flat-Earth News.  Chatto & Windus, London.

Llewellyn, T.  A public ignored: the broadcasters’ false portrayal of the Israel-Palestine struggle, in: Abdullah, D. and Hewitt, I. eds. (2012) Battle for Public Opinion in Europe; Changing Perceptions of the Palestine-Israel Conflict.  MEMO Publishers, London.

Philo, G. and Berry, M. (2004) Bad News from Israel. Pluto Press, London.

Philo, G. and Berry, M. (2011) More Bad News from Israel. Pluto Press, London


 

Comments (19)

  • Phil Crowe says:

    It would be really useful if you could make these excellent articles available in PDF form.

    [We intend to, by the end of the weeknd – JVL Web]

  • Liberty says:

    I hope Hodge, Berger, Watson, the Jewish Chronicle, Murdoch rags, the terrible American lobby and the other Israeli cruel apartheid government appeasers get their cuppance now the witch hunt has collapsed under the strain of the TRUTH. WELL DONE JVL WELL DONE

  • Sara says:

    The British Media and journalists should hang their collective heads in shame in being complicit in the orchestrated witch hunt against Jeremy Corbyn and anyone that happens to speak up about the suffering of the Palestinian people. When will the Labour Party reinstate all the victims of this madness and vilification ? Absolutely disgusting that it takes ordinary people, concerned individuals and JVL to uncover the truth and report facts. Thank you JVL.

  • dave says:

    I speak as a journalist – yes there are low reporting standards, especially as staff have been cut drastically in newspapers, but make no mistake – the ‘reporting’ on Labour is deliberately false. But I do not want controls on a free press – this is politics and there are other ways to fight it.

    The low number of actual antisemites in Labour shows we don’t have a ‘problem’ – racists among us will always be slung out and in fact we are are far less tolerant of any form of discrimination than in the white male dominated smoke filled rooms of old. But we do need to welcome back antiracists such as Marc Wadsworth.

  • Science says:

    Polling data is not scientific evidence. It does not meet rigorous standards – all polling data has a huge collection of differential hypotheses and you’re asserting one explanation for the data. And even with such lax data standards, your evidence is all circumstantial.

  • https://onthedarkside410122300.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/three-ageing-israel-haters-shill-for-jvl/

    Thank you, this sham of an article demonstrates you are nothing more than Antisemitism Deniers

  • Richard Kuper says:

    It really is all about Israel!

    As Jonthan Hoffman mkes explicit in his article (referring to the Pew study):

    “The problem is that the research just tested negative views of Jews in the country of the respondents – nothing about Israel – so the definition of antisemitism was wrong [!]

  • dave says:

    Indeed – what is “Israel-based antisemitism”?

    I’m sure we’ll all be thinking of Hoffman and Damon Lenszner when they have their trial for assault on 19/20 June – that is if they turn up.

  • John Hall says:

    Jonathen Hoffman: If you define “antisemitism deniers” as being people who legitimately criticise the Israeli Government’s abuse of Palestinian Rights, then many many Jews and people who would die for Israel’s right to exist are both anti-Semites and antisemitism deniers in your warped logic!

  • Phil Crowe says:

    Great!

  • Robin Saunders says:

    I’ve shared this piece on social media, but do have one criticism: figure 7 is misleading, which undermines your overall argument.

    It isn’t meaningful to directly compare % Labour members investigated for antisemitism with % British population endorsing antisemitic statements. You’d expect far more people to hold beliefs / values than to act on them in a way that required investigation.

  • David Stretton says:

    To use such an issue to attack a political opponent and then for the MSM to run with it is beyond words. If this was happening in Putin’s Russia there would be a collective gnashing of teeth by the establishment. You expect as much from the Murdoch press & TV but the depths the BBC has sunk is unbelievable…allowing a Tory MP to refer to “the Marxist Corbyn” without as much as a rebuke shows how far they have fallen from grace.

  • different frank says:

    Hi Phil.
    Here is how you can save as a PDF file.
    https://www.wikihow.com/Convert-a-Webpage-to-PDF

  • Dr ALAN MADDISON says:

    Sorry for late response.

    It is true that the two histograms in Fig 7 do not measure the same thing and we tried to illustrate that clearly. There is no reference available about the prevalence of alleged antisemitic comments by political affiliation, and as a result of the same degree of retrospective scrutiny as for Labour members. But as we say, the recent report of allegations against only 0.08% Labour members does not support the notion of rampant antisemitism, especially when 3.6% of the population may easily tweet/retweet an antisemitic comment.

  • Steve says:

    Well researched. Thank you.

  • Joe Whyte says:

    Another excellent piece of reporting by the Jewish Voice for Labour. Keep up your excellent work.

  • Mick holding says:

    This echoes conversations I have amongst my party colleagues and in wider community; including with Jewish people. How do we get this vital information out there – panorama?

  • Alex G says:

    Is it possible to be disgusted at the actions of the Israeli government and IDF, sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians’ right to return and not be labelled anti-semitic?
    When people claim they are anti-Zionist, is that classed as antisemitism?
    Local Rabbi says anti-Zionism is antisemitic.
    Surely those who claim they are anti-Zionist may not be antisemitic, but anti-British as it seems their objections to Israel and her subsequent actions are based on Britain basically giving up Palestine to make way for a Jewish State.
    Which, has then been followed up with the 1967 war (land won through war is fair game).
    Is being in opposition to internationally illegal Israeli occupation of land outside her borders antisemitic? Anti-Zionist? Anti-Israel? Pro-Palestinian? Or just someone wanting Israel to stop taking land?
    Is it possible to wish for either a 2 state solution or a 1 state I/P solution and not be accused of being anti-Zionist or antisemitic? Wanting people of all 3 faiths to share the land without constant tension?

  • Ordinary people away from London can see these false allegations where people can’t speak out for fear of being called antisemitic it’s gone bananas. I think it’s making real antisemitism far worse. Can’t they are this ?

Comments are now closed.