Haim Bresheeth asks to be refered to the Compliance Unit for “antisemitism”

Hard on the heel of Nat Sims referring herself to Jennie Formby for “antisemitism” (here), Professor Haim Bresheeth has issued a similar invitation/made a similar challenge to the Labour Party.

As with that previous letter, we are posting it here and for the same reason. It is an exceptionally powerful plea, expressing the widespread despair so many are experiencing at the assault taking place on sections of the left in the Party. We understand the cry of rage embodied here.

But, as we said in relation to the previous letter and wish to repeat: those who send such letters may indeed find themselves excluded from the necessary struggle which must continue within the Party.

We prefer to stay and fight back – and we will be weaker without you.

11/2/2020

Dear Jennie Formby,

I am writing you in the wake of recent events – the expulsion [actually suspension – web ed] of Jo Bird and the excellent letter by Natalie Strecker, as I would like to ask you to kindly refer me to the Compliance Unit, for ‘antisemitism’ – for the reasons I detail below.

I would like to tell you about my background, in order to support my request. I am an academic, author and filmmaker, an ex-Israeli Jew who has been active for over five decades as a socialist, anti-Zionist and anti-racist activist. My parents were Polish Jews, survivors of Auschwitz and other camps. They ended forced onto death marches to the Third Reich after the Auschwitz camp was vacated by the SS in Mid-January 1945. My mother was freed by the British forces in Bergen-Belsen, and my father was freed by the US forces in Mauthausen. I was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Italy, and arrived in Israel as a baby, during June 1948, as no European country would then accept Holocaust survivors.

I served in the Israeli Army (IDF) as a junior infantry officer, and took part in two wars, in 1967 and 1973, after which I turned into a committed pacifist. I came to study in Britain in 1972, and a short while afterwards I have learnt much about Zionism which I did not while in Israel, thus becoming an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights, and an anti-Zionist activist. I was an active supporter of the Anti-Apartheid Movement as a Labour member in the 1970s and acted against racist organisations throughout my life. My films, books and articles reflect the same political views outlined here; these include a popular book on the Holocaust (Introduction to the Holocaust, with Stuart Hood, 1994, 2001 2014), among others, a BBC documentary film (State of Danger, with Jenny Morgan, BBC2, March 1988) about the first Intifada, and a forthcoming volume on the Israeli Army (An Army Like No Other, May 2020) . I have re-joined the Labour Party after decades, when Jeremy Corbyn was elected to the leadership, as I regained hope in promoting a progressive agenda for the party, after years of Blairism.

It is evident that my background qualifies me as an antisemite according to the Labour coda based on the flawed IHRA ‘definition’ of antisemitism, or rather, the weaponised version of Zionist propaganda aimed against supporters of the human and political rights of Palestinians. But I would like to add some more damning evidence, so as to make the case watertight, if I may.

Over the decades, I took part in hundreds of demonstrations against Israeli brutalities and acted against the atrocities committed by of the military occupation, in various countries – Israel, in Europe and the US. I have published articles, made films and contributed to many books and have spoken widely in a number of countries against the Israeli militarised colonisation of Palestine, the denial of any rights to most Palestinians, the severe violations of human and political rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the brutalizing impact of the IDF on Jewish Israeli society. I have also analysed the false nature of the IHRA campaign in a recent article, written from an anti-Zionist, human rights perspective. I am active in a number of political groups affiliated or close to the Labour Party, who support Palestinian rights – Jewish Voice for Labour, and Jewish Network for Palestine, of which I am a founder member.

I am aware that according to the Labour Party rules, all the above constitute what you define as antisemitism.

Personally, it is clear to me that such accusations are false and sickening, but no one asked the members on the adoption of the IHRA definition and its examples. The adopted definition makes Israel the only state in the world which one may not criticise, unless they wish to court accusations of antisemitism. To criticise the British Empire, for example, is not anti-British, and, as we speak, still allowed by Labour Party rules. To criticise the US government for its attacks on Iraq in 1991 and 2003 is not anti-American, and still allowed by US regulations. To criticise Israeli apartheid colonialism is not anti-Israeli, neither is it antisemitic, of course. What is antisemitic and racist are the current regulations of the party, and until they are changed, Jews and others who support Palestine have no reason to support a party which treats them in this way.

The Labour Party regulations are what they are; However, I have no intention of stopping my activities, toning them down, or abandoning my principles in order to satisfy the twisted logic of the Labour Party. I insist on my right, indeed, on my duty as an ex-Israeli, as a Jew, as a citizen, as a socialist and last but not least, as a human being, to openly act against and criticise Israeli Apartheid and injustices, for as long as I am able to. I also believe that as a party member of what I believed to have turned into a progressive political organisation, this should be my right and duty; but I realise that my activities are against Labour Party dogma, regulation and current interests, so am accusing myself openly through this letter, and asking you to refer me to the Compliance Unit, so that justice may be done, and that I would be treated equally to my many friends who found themselves in the same predicament – Prof. Moshe Machover, Jackie Walker, Elleanne Green, Tony Greenstein, Glyn Secker, and many others faced with the Stalinist inquisitorial system developed by the Labour Party. If you are to separate the ‘good Jews’ from the ‘bad ‘ones, please include me in the latter group, as nothing in my academic output, teaching history, publication record, or political activity can support the claim that I am not an antisemite according to your rules. I demand that justice be done.

I trust that my request will be taken seriously and acted upon, with the same combination of dispatch, bigotry and prejudice showed towards other members already accused of this offence. Failure to do so will be tantamount to evidence that the criteria for judging the existence of antisemitism are not uniformly applied.

I am ready to provide all evidence which may be required by the investigators of the Compliance Unit, to prove my guilt. Please do not hesitate to ask for assistance on points which remain unclear.

Regards,

Prof. Haim Bresheeth

LP membership no: xxxxxxx
CLP: Hornsey and Wood Green

 

Comments (32)

  • Alan Calder says:

    Thank you for sharing your letter. There is much to be considered there and I find your position to be highly persuasive. Throughout this affair I have been astonished at the unwillingness of supposedly progressive media outlets, such as the Guardian newspaper, to examine the background to any accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party – they have largely accepted at face value any such accusations, to their discredit.
    I have been a Labour Party member since around 1973 and I cannot recall any instance in my local party of anti-semitic statements by fellow Labour members. There have certainly been strong opinions expressed on the policies of Israeli governments but never any that attacked Jews for being Jewish – a situation that current rules seem to make almost impossible.

  • dave says:

    I think it’s a good strategy for prominent left wing Jews to confront Labour in this way as it seems that they’ll just be written off otherwise, especially given the dreadful capitulation of the leader contenders at the JLM/LFI hustings. At least this approach could force attention.

  • Mary Davies says:

    I am full of admiration for Professor Haim.
    How disgusting and cruel that no European country in 1948 would accept Holocaust survivors.
    We are living again the Salem witch trials & McCarthyism.

  • Frances Rifkin says:

    Brilliant. As a jew of Egyptian/sephardi descent, I support this totally. Tempted to join him.

  • Liz Reed says:

    WONDERFUL. TRULY WONDERFUL.

  • Pete Rossetti says:

    It’s an ‘I am Spartacus’ moment.
    It is a clever ploy as it puts the LP in an almost impossible situation.
    It exposes the hypocritical standpoint that the LP have allowed themselves to be pushed into.
    Not sure how they can suspend let alone expel them, but if they don’t they are admitting that current rule is a nonsense and false

  • Dale Wakefield says:

    I am going to report myself to the Compliance Unit after the election, I will not be voting for any of the Leaders, I will be voting for the Deputies who haven’t signed up to the BoD 10 demands. I will be enclosing both the letters with my letter, and any more that arrive, saying I endorse everything in them. I believe it would help if as many people as possible to the same.

  • Paul Leach says:

    I personally could not add anything as erudite as your letter. I don’t have your knowledge or experience, but I do want to express my admiration and respect.
    I too joined the Labour Party- after hearing Jeremy Corbyn speak in 2015. I was never particularly exercised about Israel other than that after the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust I felt that Jews did need a physical homeland, and at the same time I felt sympathy and a strong sense of injustice that Palestinians were and are apparently being made to pay an enormous price for the reparation of wrong-doing perpetrated almost exclusively by others.
    It’s too easy to condemn other nations when we British were never actually tested, but human nature and the history of British imperialism suggests that many of us would have been no different to the occupied French, Poles and so on if given the choice to betray or defend Jewish citizens in our midst under Nazi occupation. (One who I am absolutely certain would not be among the betrayers would be Jeremy Corbyn, by the way).
    I can honestly say that when the anti-Semitism accusations began to ramp up in May 2018, (coinciding as it seemed to me with the launch of Labour’s local party election campaigns) I became radicalised. Going beyond the righteous outbursts of Wes Tweeting and others, upon examining carefully what people such as Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth had actually said and done, it became clear that (among many other things often overlooked) they had not been expelled for anti-Semitism per se but for bringing the party into disrepute: presumably a charge which, if a case were brought at law might be more easily upheld, as opposed to that of anti-Semitism. It became hard to dispel the suspicion that the accusations could be made into a vendetta, very conveniently for those implacably opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s new movement, to latch on to and amplify. I looked beyond the headlines of the media to examine whether the IHRA ‘Working Definition’ was actually “universally accepted”. It was proclaimed so by the media including The Guardian, The Observer right through the spectrum to the Mail, Express, Sun and so on via the BBC, Robert Preston, Piers Morgan, Nick Robinson etc, all of them consistently marginalising the truth that in fact the definition is not fit for the purpose that the Board of Deputies of British Jews and others demand the Labour Party put it to.
    It was bad enough that this major contribution by the right-wing of the Jewish establishment to the alienation of British public opinion towards Jeremy Corbyn should have been successful. With that came rejection of Labour’s wonderful humane, ambitious, realistic, viable and necessary programme for government, fashioned so carefully and diligently for three years before the election.
    Now it only gets worse.
    With the almost total capitulation of the candidates for leadership in failing to craft a responsible and well reasoned resistance to some of the draconian and anti-democratic demands being made by the Board of Deputies, one fears for the integrity of the Labour Party’s procedures and their being sufficiently robust and principled. Could they hold the line between genuine offences against our non-racist values and mere politically motivated interference in who may be allowed to belong to the party, and in the very thoughts beliefs and principles members may be allowed to consider without fear of damnation and expulsion?
    The demand that anyone be expelled who speaks in support of expelled members who are “prominent” is inherently wrong- because any crime or wrong-doing that may be adjudged unacceptable will be found to be so irrespective of the prominence of the perpetrator. The prominence is irrelevant to natural justice. That this demand considers it relevant shows that the demand is not about justice but about the political expediency of exerting inhibition- making public examples of wrong-doers.
    The demand that once someone has been expelled they must never be readmitted is another draconian and unacceptable imposition. Everyone on this earth is capable of misguided wrongful beliefs and utterances but equally everyone is capable of turning away from evil and learning goodness. Is the phenomenon of anti-Semitism really to be the only one where rehabilitation and redemption -the principles (other than mere revenge) underlying the punishment of any crime- are considered impossible? Surely humanity has moved on from the deadly doctrine of “an eye for an eye” and “a tooth for a tooth”?
    The demand that the unadulterated IHRA so-called definition and no other be the only yardstick determining membership compliance is an unacceptable demand, given the condemnation of the definition for this purpose by its own author and by several experts on legal matters including authoritative Jewish scholars.
    The demand that the Jewish Labour Movement should be in sole charge of education in what constitutes anti-Semitism is unacceptable because to belong to the Jewish Labour Movement you need not be a Labour member and you need not even be Jewish!
    Under such circumstances how could any party or social organisation maintain the integrity of its principles and beliefs if they are exposed to the outside influence of forces they do not control that might be hostile, incompatible or driven by a differing partiality?
    At a recent hustings for Sir Kier Starmer audience members were invited to submit questions by email via our Labour MP. I have submitted the above concerns in questions to Sir Starmer and his campaign but I’ve had no reply or acknowledgement.

  • Stephen Williams says:

    Individuals will undoubtedly be picked-off under a cloak of secrecy. However, individuals who work together and are supported by an even larger number of members won’t be easily ignored or suspended.
    Surely this is a project which we should all support, even if we use different means?

  • Stephen Kelly says:

    Wonderful letter. I hope it forces the party to start examining itself before it loses all credibility

  • Nicola Grove says:

    I have begun to think that the principled stance of Nat and Haim offers the only way of stemming the tide. If enough brave colleagues follow it could break the log jam of lies. I hope and pray that your courage will be rewarded

  • Lynn Plany says:

    I applaud this good man.
    What a disgraceful state of affairs we’ve got ourselves into. Just as Dominic Cummings is dictating the actions of the Conservatives, JLM and the BoD are dictating the actions of the Labour Party.
    Anti Zionism is not anti semitism!!

  • Teresa Steele says:

    I can only hope that common sense will prevail, at the moment the current definitions as written in the IHRA document are not fit for purpose and should be looked at in full as they are open to all sorts of interpretation, they are as unfit as they are ambiguous. Nat Sims and Haim Bresheeth have shown incredible bravery in fighting this skewed position, the might of the establishment is not an easy opponent to take on but perhaps with a collective approach we can break through to the truth.

  • Jennifer Joy-Matthews says:

    I’m Spartacus! Wonder how many will join in? Anti-Zionism is not Anti-Semitism

  • Diamond Versi says:

    I have also written to Ms Formby and the Compliance Unit asking them to label me as an antisimite because I also agree with the letter from Nat Sims. I was also appalled listening to the prospective candidates’ JLM hustings hosted by Peston. They considered themselves as Zionist!

  • john higginson says:

    Brilliant!! This should inspire all compassionate and free thinking members of the Labour Party to form a long, long orderly queue behind someone who carries such authority, experience and dignity.

  • Excellent. I’ve followed their lead.

  • Guillaume Dohmen says:

    Professor Bresheeth is a man of principle and has been my hero for a long time.

  • Edward Roberts says:

    What an excellent and welcome letter. As with the Natalie Strecker letter to Jennie Formby, I will ensure that this is posted on my Facebook page with suitable encouragement for it to be shared.

  • John Spencer says:

    Thanks to the unprincipled opportunism of the leadership candidates, members are saddled in advance with the Board of Deputies’ brazen demands. This is bound to end in tears. The Corbyn years have demonstrated conclusively that appeasement only feeds the witch-hunters’ appetite.

  • T. Davidson says:

    I am humbled by Prof.Bresheeth’s letter, as I am by all such accounts of Jews who themselves survived the hell of the holocaust or who are the children of survivors, and yet, like the Professor, maintain their essential humanity and respect for human rights, and still find time and energy to fight for the rights of others.

    When I first became politically aware I examined the foundation of Israel and concluded that it was flawed: a modern colony with a suspect legal status, in a post-colonial world.

    I subsequently briefly changed my opinion after reading Richard Crossman’s account of his participation on the international commission on Palestine, as well as the arguments of respected socialist friends who extolled the virtues of Zionist pioneers on Kibbutz etc.

    However, I gradually returned to my conviction that the proposal of a Jewish state forced upon any other occupied country of the world would not be entertained in today’s world any more than the foundation of a Muslim state is accepted when made by ISIS, or the proposal that white South Africans were entitled to the survival of a white remnant in post-Apartheid South Africa.

    Israel has in recent years shown itself to be the racist, apartheid state that its critics had always accused it of inevitably becoming.

    Although I became even more convinced that Israel had forfeited any right to exist that it may have had, in exactly the same way as South Africa had done, I restricted my activities and expressions out of, perhaps a misplaced, understanding of how many Jews see Israel and its symbols as the equivalent of the American flag: a port in a storm; a symbol of their continuing survival; and of course, to some, the fulfilment of God’s promise.

    Prof. Bresheeth’s letter has reminded me that human compassion and human rights are indivisible. If we don’t stand in solidarity to defend and maintain them, then divided we will fall with the rights themselves.

    We must all insist that Palestinians are accorded the same rights as all South Africans, Jews, Muslims, refugees or whoever. All of us in fact. If we do not support the Professor and other so-called “self-hating Jews” as well as other critics of Israel, then, ere long, we may find ourselves unable to assert essential rights on behalf of ourselves or others with whom we sympathise.

  • Pete Gregson says:

    What you and Nat are doing is incredibly brave and important. I really hope the mainstream media sees what you are doing and discusses it

  • David Pavett says:

    To someone coming to politics without much prior knowledge it might seem crazy that people are reporting themselves to the LP for antisemitism. In a sense it is crazy. Just as one might humour a mad person’s delusion in order to gain some traction with their mental processes, these are attempts to humour a madness that has overtaken the LP in order to bring at least some of the people involved to see through the delusions they currently suffer from. I think is a good tactic.

    I am not Jewish but the destructive nonsense regarding an alleged culture of antisemitism in the LP has stretched my low esteem of its ability to find its way through politically choppy waters to the limit.

    The spectacle off ALL the leadership contenders rushing to sign up to the BofD’s pledges has been especially disturbing.

    The intended chilling of debate has already taken hold. Many people have become nervous about saying what they think. On several occasions, when I have asked for the evidence for wild claims about LP antisemitism, I have been told “If you have to ask for evidence then you are part of the problem”. The next time someone suggests that I am “part of the problem” I think that I will follow those reporting themselves. We are dealing with a madness that had lodged itself in Labour’s discourse and procedures. Reasoned argument and evidence carry no weight. So maybe only ‘crazy’ tactics can deliver the shock needed to get people on Labour’s NEC to see the absurdity of the processes they have sanctioned, the dangers of which would be made substantially worse by committing to the BofD’s 10 pledges.

  • Robert Randall says:

    Brilliant and challenging piece of writing. A challenge from within. Great ploy. Will hopefully sort quite a few things out. Labour need to get this right or risk losing many who support the rights of Palestinians to freedom, self rule and an independent free state.

  • Allan Howard says:

    But John (Spencer), if the leadership candidates are on the right of the party – like Starmer, for example – then why would they have any problem with signing up to the BoDs ’10 Pledges’. Of course they wouldn’t, and neither DO they, as the pledges are designed to further damage and undermine the left in the party.

    And I’m still waiting for someone to explain how Jeremy and the leadership could have ‘fought back’ against the false accusations and smears. I mean does anyone seriously think that the daily newspapers and TV and radio news DIDN’T know that Ken Livingstone was alluding to The Havaara Agreement when he said that Hitler was supporting Zionism! Of course they did (and if they didn’t, a two-minute search on the internet would have soon informed them), and yet they were ALL more than happy to go along with the phony condemnation and faux outrage and vilification of Ken, and did so in the knowledge that 99.999% of the general public were unaware of the agreement (if it had been common knowledge they wouldn’t have done it of course).

    And for some inexplicable reason, some people seem to believe that the very same corporate (and semi-corporate) MSM who conspired in the lies and falsehoods would have somehow impartially reported and covered any denials and refutations by Labour.

    Real journalists don’t need to have some press release from the party denying that such and such was false and explaining what actually happened, and anyone worthy of the description would research the matter for themselves. If people like Jonathan Cook and the guys at medialens etc can do it…….. Why can’t they?! The point is that they could if they wanted to, but THEY, and the papers and news channels/organisations they work for choose instead to conspire in the black op Smear Campaign against the left.

  • Linda Burrows says:

    Powerful statement. A testimony of a decent caring man. I fully support & endorse all that you have written. The LP need people like you ,standing up And speaking out. Linda Burrows Nelson Branch, Caerffili Labout Party

  • Nick Taylor says:

    I am greatly heartened by your letter to Jennie Formby as it represents my opinion with consummate clarity, with two exceptional … I’m not Jewish but a UK national and a paid up member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

  • Carmen Malaree says:

    How brave of Prof Haim Bresheeth to challenge the LP on antisemitism. When Jews themselves are accused of being antisemitic because they oppose the policies of the Israeli government directed against Palestinian human rights, then we are certainly entering a situation of madness, as someone commenting here pointed out. It’s indeed unknown in the UK to accuse people of being antisemitic because they criticise the Israeli government. It goes against freedom of expression, specially when that freedom is expressed in defence of a people who have been deprived of their land; land that has been recognised as Palestinian territory by the United Nations. People who defend Palestinians right are afraid of speaking publicly or in the social media. The antisemitism issue is undermining freedom of expression in this country and has served as an effective tool to divide the LP, it has ruined the chances of a LP government, which would have helped vulnerable people, tackle climate change and improve public services.

  • Susan says:

    A brilliant letter. It completely exposes the Labour Party’s position on anti-semitism as morally and intellectually indefensible. The fact that Haim Bresheeth and Nat Sims have written to Jennie Formby on this issue deserves air time and newspaper space. The BBC and other main stream media, as Prof Bresheeth suggests, have been totally one sided in their coverage of this issue in which the suffering of the Palestinians is hardly ever mentioned. That some members of the Labour Party are ‘antisemitic’ is presented in the media as a given – a fact not open to interrogation. This has affected many people’s perception of the Labour Party and the Labour Party is more terrified of that perception than it is committed to explaining the difference between antisemitism and opposition to a brutally racist and apartheid Israeli government. (Even yesterday Rebecca Long Bailey was, on the Marr programme, stressing her complete support for the IHRA’s definition of antisemitism.)

    As a non-Jewish member of the Labour Party, I do so hope that Jewish voices such as Haim Bresheeth’s will be heeded. For they could, numbers and media coverage allowing, offer the best chance of bringing the Labour Party to its senses, reminding it of its moral responsibility to openly support justice and humanity for the Palestinians.

  • Jane Calvert says:

    I fully support Prof Haim Bresheeth and hope he is successful in changing Labour Party rules!

  • B Dicker says:

    Yes, I agree with Haim Bresheeth’s analysis. Of course it’s not anti semitic to criticise the government of Israel. It’s all the more sad because initially those fleeing the Holocaust lived peaceable lives, accepted by the existing Palestinian population. Thank you Haim for introducing some sanity into this debate.

  • Jeremy - not the Corbyn one :) says:

    What a wise man you must be Prof – I am greatly heartened by your words which seem to me to highlight and explain well how we are – Thank you – You have eased my heart.
    🙂

Comments are now closed.