‘Left-wing antisemitism’ – the new anti-Corbyn trope. Why I’ve turned my back on the charity Hope Not Hate

In an original study, Rusere Shoniwa looks at Hope Not Hate’s report, State of Hate 2019. It contains a section called ‘left-wing antisemitism’ which the author, a long-time enthusiastic supporter of HNH, finds a blatant politicisation of its core mission to tackle race hate.

‘Left-wing antisemitism’ – the new anti-Corbyn trope.

Why I’ve turned my back on the charity Hope Not Hate

You can download a more detailed elaboration of the argument here.

Introduction

I have cared deeply about Hope Not Hate (HNH), a charity that was dedicated to fighting racism, and have supported it since 2010. But I can no longer do so. Turning my back on it was a decision I did not take lightly but there has been a blatant politicisation of its work which has demonstrated that its values are no longer aligned with mine and has severely dented my confidence in the organisation’s commitment and competence to tackle racism in general.

HNH has included a section on ‘left-wing antisemitism’ in its 2019 State of Hate report. In a blatant politicisation of its core mission to tackle race hate, the authors of this section of HNH’s report use a mangled mélange of pseudo-research and consistent conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism to push an anti-Corbyn agenda.

Bad science

We know something about antisemitism from scholarly research by the likes of Dr Daniel Staetsky, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Jewish Policy Research which, in September 2017, issued a report ‘Antisemitism in Contemporary Great Britain’.

The findings in that report, based on the largest and most detailed survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel ever conducted in Great Britain, are clear:

  • about 5% of the general population can justifiably be described as antisemites based on a split into two groups consisting of ‘strong’ antisemites (2.4%) and ‘softer’ antisemites (3%).
  • Levels of antisemitism among those on the left-wing of the political spectrum, including the far-left, are indistinguishable from those found in the general population.
  • The most antisemitic group on the political spectrum consists of those who identify as very right-wing with prevalence of antisemitic attitudes 2 to 4 times higher compared to the general population.

In contrast, HNH instead chooses to base its findings on a dubious selection of Twitter accounts as a proxy for measuring both the target population (‘the left wing’) and the trait within it (antisemitism).

HNH’s findings can at best be described as murky given all the problems presented by their data source. The integrity of the data collapses at the first hurdle owing to the problematic nature of using Twitter accounts as a stand-in for both the target population and the trait within it. Moreover, the credibility of the authors’ assertion of finding 5000 accounts expressing antisemitic ideas is severely undermined by a dangerous and persistent conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism.

Redefining antisemitism

There is no understanding in the Report of the problematic nature of tweets in the first place. It is not a form of communication which encourages nuance. Opinions are often expressed quickly, telegraphically, unhesitatingly, and perhaps with a minimum of reflection. They can be filled with ambiguity.

Yet the Report’s authors are prepared to read self-evident antisemitism into a wide range of texts.

For example, one such tweet provided by the authors is the following:

‘We need to stand up against the Zionist lobby in the UK they are not putting Britain first but Israel first, why are we allowing them to dictate British politics when they put Israel’s interests above any other interests, their agenda is making other nations sons die for Israel.’

The language may be crude and poorly chosen and allows for misinterpretation or misrepresentation, but this tweet, directed expressly at the Zionist lobby (and therefore possibly, by extension, Zionism) and the state of Israel, its main promoter, is political speech which cannot, prima facie, be imbued with hostility to Jews as Jews. Zionism is a political ideology whose proponents are not all Jewish. Indeed, some Jews are strongly opposed to it. Peter Beinhart’s debunking of the worrying trend to label anti-Zionism as antisemitism should be required reading for staff of organisations like HNH. The conflation of Jews, Zionists and Israelis can itself be antisemitic and inferring that Jews have been targeted in a tweet like this is an extreme and exaggerated tendency that is unwarranted in the absence of proof that hatred of Jews is the motivating factor. Such tweets not only fail to meet the test for antisemitism (broadly, prejudice, hostility or hatred towards Jews as Jews) but should not even be politically controversial for their valid questioning of the role of the Israel lobby in the UK. If anything, they cry out for open political debate on the issues they raise.

Throughout the report, the authors insidiously confer antisemitism on tweets or statements which are in reality expressions of valid political speech about the Israeli state or the political ideology of Zionism. Another example is this one, included in a montage of eleven tweets, scurrilously inserted into the report with the intention of representing antisemitism:

“Labour Jewish Movement [Jewish Labour Movement] calls for Hamas and Hezbollah ban [link to bbc news article]. A party within a party. A 5th column. #IsraelLobby”.

You can disagree with the sentiment expressed. You can see it as crude, exaggerated, or even plain wrong. But by definition antisemitic?

Adopting the IHRA definition and its strange consequences

Having pummelled the reader with the conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, the HNH report authors then address ‘those that make use of antisemitic tropes when discussing the Israel / Palestine conflict.’ Using language in lockstep with the IHRA’s intention to set a spurious bar on the acceptable level of criticism directed at Israel by implying that it is just like any other state in the free world, the authors blithely issue a facile conclusion on the IHRA spat which has engulfed Palestinian rights campaigners and pro-Israel supporters:

“There is a line between legitimate criticism of the Israeli state, in line with criticism of any other government, and antisemitism. We’ve found that the strong feelings for the plight of Palestinians in some cases take the arguments over that line.” [emphasis added]

The authors’ crass entry into the political fray is a key fault line running through the report, but is all the more inexcusable for the complete failure to present a balanced context to this controversy. Apparently of no concern to the authors are the opinions of renowned human rights and free speech legal experts like Hugh Tomlinson and Geoffrey Robertson. Robertson concluded that the IHRA definition of antisemitism is ‘not fit for purpose’ because it is “confusing and open to misinterpretation and even manipulation” and “that it is likely in practice to chill free speech”.

Given the HNH report’s abject failure to provide evidence of Palestinian rights activists generally engaging in antisemitism and its clear steer on muzzling criticism of Israel using the deeply flawed IHRA re-definition of antisemitism, it’s hard to see how the authors’ ominous forewarning of “more work…to formulate some guidelines for how the left more generally can support the Palestinian cause without engaging in antisemitism” would be warmly received by either Palestinian rights activists or anyone seriously interested in political free speech.

Antisemitism in numbers

It’s hard to find the report’s lowest point among so many, but a laughably amateurish smattering of meaningless numbers inserted into a one-pager titled “antisemitism in numbers”, superimposed on a grim tableau of a concentration camp scene, may well be it. As the HNH authors attempt to convince their readers that online traffic in the form of google searches is a reliable way to measure hate in the population, perhaps the most ludicrous ‘statistic’ thrown out is this one:

“The United Kingdom ranks third in the world for searches about Zionism, behind only Israel and Lebanon. Searches for Zionism are 29 per cent higher in the United Kingdom than in the United States”.

This is a clear statement by the authors that they regard mere curiosity about Zionism as antisemitic. The absurdity of this assumption should be self-evident but its intent is sinister: the blanket labelling of all forms of curiosity about Zionism as antisemitic has the chilling effect of making the word completely taboo. That road leads to shutting down both the understanding of the historical roots of the founding of the state of Israel and the historical roots of the Palestinian struggle for statehood. The battle to police the use of the word Zionism, enjoined by HNH in this report, is a battle to re-write history, to shape the narrative in the present and so ultimately determine the future.

Antisemitism in the Labour Party

Any lingering doubts about the report’s political aims are dispelled by its one-page finale on “Antisemitism in the Labour Party”. Patronisingly purporting to speak for ‘large sections of the Jewish community’ about its concerns regarding the party’s “lack of action” over its alleged antisemitism problem, the report’s authors skewer Corbyn with the allegation of having been involved in “several instances” of antisemitism while, in their view, “the problem of antisemitism within the Labour Party goes well beyond Corbyn”. Astoundingly, the authors see no irony in painting the Jewish community with one homogenous brush, ignoring the views of significant sections of the UK’s large Orthodox Jewish population and failing to make any mention of the open support for Corbyn expressed by members of the Jewish community as well as groups like Jewish Voice for Labour and Jewdas who do not share the authors’ (and other anti-Corbyn groups’) concerns about Corbyn.

The allegations levelled by HNH against Corbyn and the Labour Party are dissected in the accompanying full report which can be downloaded here.

Did HNH attempt to gaslight its followers?

I am not a Labour member or even a Labour voter but I do know that singling Jeremy Corbyn out for racism, to the exclusion of known dangerous groups on the far right, is an unwarranted insult to his proven track record of fighting racism and injustice. And given the sheer volume and quality of errors in the HNH report, I was left with a worrying question: did HNH set out to gaslight its followers into accepting the deeply flawed IHRA re-definition of antisemitism in order to assist the political aim of muting the growing criticism of Israel’s increasingly criminal and brutal oppression of Palestinians?

Matt Carr brilliantly summed up the current McCarthyite circus when he wrote:

“by prioritising one form of racism over another and exaggerating and manipulating it in order to defame their political opponents, Corbyn’s accusers are more likely to undermine the unity and clarity required to hold back the far-right forces that threaten all of us – and which in this country are growing in strength and confidence as a result of the Brexit debacle.”

My question to HNH is a simple one: why has it so enthusiastically joined the circus?

 

Comments (14)

  • Steven says:

    Pretty good article. Still labels the IHRA text a “definition”, though, unwittingly internalising the deceptive labelling and status of the IHRA poison.

  • Francis Duff says:

    Been worried about the intentions of HNH for some time .They have indeed joined the circus .

  • Bob says:

    Interesting article. I’d like to read the more detailed elaboration of the argument, but the links to the download don’t work.

  • TREVOR HOLLOWAY says:

    I stopped supporting HNH due to their association with Ruth Smeeth. Check out her links with the CIA , Netenyahu etc.

  • Sheena says:

    We are literally living in despotism surreal times with all our hopes dreams and trust in the people and institutions who said they would help defend and protect us from the enemies of freedom and liberty crumbling into devious dust and dirt before our shattered eyes.

  • Simon Dewsbury says:

    Sadly, this article does not surprise me. It’s by no means the first time they’ve been involved in the Labour Party antisemitism smears – on the wrong side . This sort of activity casts doubt on the organisation as whole. I wish it were not so. How on earth have we got to a situation where criticism of acts of racism is portrayed as racism?

  • Andrew Hornung says:

    I’m not surprised. Following the video in which Gordon Brown called for people – not LP members, not Jewish LP members – to join the so-called Jewish Labour Movement I emailed the organisation. I congratulated them on exposing the fascist Jack Renshaw and asked if they had any connection with the pro-JLM video. No answer. About three weeks later I emailed them again. No answer. Silence speaks.
    Regrettably, whatever its origins and occasional good work, HNH has joined the anti-Corbyn pack.

  • Philip Ward says:

    HnH has been conflating antsemitism and anti-zionists for some time, as did its predecessor Searchlight. This has been documented extensively by Tony Greenstein in his blog. Last year it attacked Corbyn for “anti-Semitism” for example:
    http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2018/08/nick-lowles-and-hope-not-hate-join.html

  • John says:

    I too stopped supporting HNH some time ago as I too concluded that it was simply being sensationalist as a way to gain more supporters and money.
    Basing their so-called “research” on tweets is uttelry ridiculous.
    How can they possibly disassociate genuine posts from fake ones?
    The use of non de plumes by hasbara tweeters means that ultra-zionists can pose on-line as antisemites and then come back under a different guise to “highlight” how prevalent the problem of antisemitism apparently is.
    This situation is not so much a circus as it is a charade.
    As all intelligent analysts point out, their charade can have tragic outcomes.
    The real rise of neo-fascism and ultra-nationalism is being overlooked.
    We all know what that led to almost a century ago.
    Outfits like HNH are the hand-maidens to the rise of a new tyranny.

  • M. Keslsoe says:

    The report is correct in it’s assumption that it’s become a political stick to beat corbyn with.
    Tweets are a new way of getting a point out with out any qualifications of proof

  • I have written two blog posts on HnH includinng the one that Philip Ward mentioned and
    https://azvsas.blogspot.com/2019/04/why-does-hope-not-hate-endorse-racist.html.

    The latter blog is the most up to date and focuses in on HnH endorsement of Gordon Brown’s hysterical and demagogic speech about the ‘ stain’ on Labour of anti-Semitism.

    Brown set new records when it came to Labour racism. He is arguably the most racist Labour Prime Minister ever. He it was who adopted the BNP’s ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ slogan, with its clear implication that migrants take ‘British’ jobs. Crass economic nationalism of the Steve Bannon/Trump type.

    There is a growing trend, pioneered by the Community Security Trust, to use social media antisemitism, to ‘prove’ the increase in antisemitism overall. I believe this is motivated by the keen desire of the Zionist movement to show ever increasing levels of ‘antisemitism’ with the key message that Jews should pack their bags and go ‘home’.

    The CST has long been known for its links to Mossad. What isn’t as well known is that Mossad is responsible, quite amazingly when you think of it, for the collation of statistics world wide on ‘antisemitism’. There is an important essay on this by Tony Lerman in Jewish Voice for Peace’s book ‘On Antisemitism’ . How Mossad elbowed aside Lerman’s own collection of data internationally.

    Why you might ask would it be any business of Mossad unless these statistics were to form part of an overall political project? Imagine in Britain MI5 or MI6 being responsible for monitoring statistics on racism. It would be absurd yet Israel’s foreign intelligence agency is doing just that.

    Leaving aside the fact that the Tweets above are no anti-semitic there is a much larger problem with social media antisemitism, even of the genuine kind. One person can post a million tweets or it can be amplified by relatively few people. Yet there are no real victims although many people may be affronted.

    There was a time when anyone posting holocaust denial stuff was a neo-Nazi but is that true today given the spread of conspiracy theories? I doubt it.

    The fact is that no one has died from a tweet or a Facebook post. There really is no comparison between social media ‘antisemitism’ and someone in your face, abusing you or worse.

    Yet the whole of the increase in the CST’s antisemitism incidents for the first 6 months of this year are taken up by social media antisemitism. This is unmeasurable, statistically completely flawed. There is no way of measuring whether it has increased or decreased, even assuming that what is said to be antisemitic is antisemitic.

    The fact that HnH is going down this road is depressing because when HnH split from Searchlight Nick Lowles emphasised that he had not ‘vocalised’ on Palestine. Clearly this is not the case any longer.

  • Tony says:

    Hope not Hate started out with a position on this issue that was reasonable. But that has since changed with its call for Chris Williamson to be expelled from the Labour Party. There was also the endorsement of that truly disgusting Panorama programme in which Jewish supporters of Corbyn were not even allowed to appear.

    As for Gordon Brown, he is a lot worse than Tony Greenstein says.

    Gordon Brown’s Conference speech 24 September 2007:

    Andrew Rawnsley:

    “In the most shameless section, he implied that immigrants were the main cause of drug dealing and crime. They would be thrown out. For that excursion into Tebbitry, he was rewarded with the endorsement of the retired Tory polecat. In an ugly phrase that would come to haunt him Brown, he talked of ‘British jobs for British workers’

    This was a slogan of the BNP and a promise that could not be kept unless Britain left the European Union”.

    “The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour” by Andrew Rawnsley (Viking 2010) hardback edition, P502.

  • Catherine Belsey says:

    I read the HNH report in the light of this article and challenged HNH to see a degree of bias in their account of left-wing antisemitism. Their reply was unrepentant; they even insisted that Jeremy Corbyn’s acknowledgement that there were pockets of antisemitism that must be eradicated confirmed that he accepted their strictures. Horrified, I cancelled my subscription. I urge others to do the same. The report is based on shoddy research and takes one side of the case at face value, without allowing for any other.

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