Lying at the feet of giants

Advances in our understanding are usually made by building on the work published by others, by “standing on the shoulders of giants”.

The authors of the Campaign Against Antisemitism’s recent articles instead have failed to do this adequately. The result is that their key findings are in total contradiction with those of previous researchers.

Whereas antisemitism is known to be more prevalent on the right than left of politics, especially at the extremes, they claim the opposite.

In this article we identify why their related attacks on Labour are wrong, and by design may be more to do with Israel than with antisemitism

Advances in our understanding are usually a collective effort. Over time we build on the findings published by others. We “stand on the shoulders of giants”.

In their recent publications (1,2), in contrast to this, the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) authors have failed to build on the considerable work of others, and ignore some key findings of previous authors (3).  They end up contradicting the evidence and damaging the progress made by others: whereas all previous research has found that antisemitism is higher on the political right, the CAA alleged it to be highest on the far left.

This attempted reversal of the facts is unhelpful for the genuine fight against antisemitism, for the future welfare of British Jews, and even for our democracy. Published just before a general election, as part of an unfounded attack on the Labour Party, we can only condemn this act.

It has been previously demonstrated that the CAA misrepresents the significance of its results, and they repeat this here by using anti-Israel attitudes as a false proxy for antisemitism (4), on the basis that there is a correlation between the two.

The CAA’s more typical measure of traditional antisemitism demonstrated a higher prevalence of antisemitism among Tory than Labour voters, among supporters of Johnson than Corbyn. It was also higher on the Right in general than the Left in general, in the Centre than the Left and among very right wing (VRW) than very left wing (VLW) responders.

This article explores the evidence on that correlation between anti-Israel and antisemitic attitudes across the political spectrum, and the extent to which the failure of the CAA authors to take this evidence into account has inverted their main findings.

Motivations for anti-Israel sentiment

According to the large survey from the Institute of Jewish Policy  (JPR), involving 5466 responders (3), 56% endorsed at least one anti-Israel statement. Yet in the same population only 3.6% were found to have endorsed 5 or more ‘antisemitic’ statements, and as such were considered by the JPR researchers as highly likely to be ‘antisemitic’ in terms of being hostile toward Jews.

The JPR data also showed that even of those 56% endorsing at least one anti-Israel statement, over half did not endorse a single ‘antisemitic’ statement.

So whilst there is a probable correlation between anti-Israel attitudes and antisemitism defined  as a ‘dislike or hostility towards  Jews for being Jews’,  it involves only a small minority of responders (3.6%), while the vast majority must be motivated by more legitimate factors. This is especially probable for left-wingers and supporters of Corbyn, who challenge Israel’s violations of the basic rights for Palestinians, and the cruel treatment inflicted.

The JPR report (3) did provide details of the anti-Israel attitudes, and their association with endorsements of ‘antisemitic’ statements across the political spectrum. Let’s now review this evidence and the implications for the CAA publications (1, 2).

Exploring the relationship between anti-Israel and antisemitic attitudes across the political spectrum

The CAA authors have taken the mean number of endorsements of five anti-Israel statements as a measure of ‘anti-Zionist antisemitism’ (AzAs). In reality this measure is constructed from anti-Israel sentiments which have been shown to be motivated by antisemitism in only a small minority of cases.

By conflating traditional antisemitic attitudes (what the CAA dubs Judaephobic Antisemitism (JpAs)) and anti-Israel attitudes (AzAs) under the indiscriminate label ‘antisemitism’ its estimated prevalence is falsely amplified.

But the JPR survey showed that such amplification is not constant across the political spectrum.

In other words if left-wingers endorse more anti-Israel statements than right-wingers, and yet  have lower levels of traditional antisemitism, then the influence of other motivations  (respect for international law and Palestinian rights) must predominate.

In order to appreciate the scale and direction of the distortion created by these variations across the political spectrum, there are three strands of evidence that merit scrutiny.

1. The association between strong criticism of Israel and strong antisemitic attitudes

In the JPR survey 9% of responders endorsed 6+ anti-Israel statements, and could be considered strong critics of Israel.

3.6% of responders endorsed 5+ ’antisemitic’ statements, and so were considered likely to be ‘antisemitic’. Yet only a little over half (56%) of these had also endorsed 6+ anti-Israel statements.

The patterns for both groups across the political spectrum are illustrated below.

We see the proportions of ‘antisemitism’ overlap (in purple) are much lower for the VLW (2.35/22.5) than for the VRW group (7.3/19).

This demonstrates that a VLW person who is a strong critic of Israel (endorsing 6+ statements) is far less likely to be antisemitic than one from the VRW.

The area shaded in blue reflects strong anti-Israel attitudes free from strong antisemitic attitudes and is more marked on the Left.

In contrast, the illustration below provides the percentage of those agreeing with 6 or more anti-Israel statements who also endorse 5 or more ‘antisemitic’ statements.

We see that if the above relationship is ignored, and the political distribution of Israel-associated antisemitism artificially flattened, then antisemitism will be over-estimated on the Left, and under-estimated on the Right, across the whole political spectrum.

It may be argued that this group with ‘strong anti-Israel attitudes’ only represents 9% of responders, and that the results may not reflect relationships for the other 47% of responders  who hold at least one anti-Israel view. This is true.

But as the AzAs measure used by CAA is a mean of the total number of endorsements of 5 anti-Israel statements, it should be noted that this 9%, because they endorse at least 6 out of 9, contribute 38% of the total endorsements. So their impact will be significant

Having said that, we will also explore these relationships for other more moderate groups.

2. The association between weak antisemitic attitudes and varied intensities of anti-Israel attitudes for VLW and VRW groups.

The illustration below is taken from the JPR report and shows that the percentages for those endorsing 1+ ‘antisemitic’ statements are consistently lower for the VLW than the VRW group.

In fact for the VLW group, stigmatised by CAA, the weak ‘antisemitism’ prevalences are lower than for the VRW group across all intensities of anti-Israel sentiment.

This provides further evidence that using the endorsement of anti-Israel attitudes, at all levels of intensity, as a measure of antisemitism, will significantly penalise the VLW and favour the VRW, thereby distorting the real political distribution of antisemitism.

3. The association between weak criticism of Israel and weak ‘antisemitic’ attitudes

The JPR survey suggests that around 54% of those endorsing 1+ anti-Israel statements will also endorse at least one ‘antisemitic’statement.

We see below that part of the illustration in pale blue represents weak anti-Israel attitudes completely free from any antisemitic attitudes at all. It clearly diminishes from left to right.

The VLW has 78.5% endorsing 1+ anti-Israel statement which is higher than the 60% for the VRW.

However, a more reliable measure of antisemitic attitudes would be 26% for the VLW and 42% for the VRW related to the endorsement of one or more antisemitic statements. This correctly now places the prevalence of weak ‘antisemitic’ prejudice on the VLW lower than on the Right and especially the VRW.

The same reversal occurs across the whole political spectrum when we explore the more relevant endorsement of 5+ ‘antisemitic’ statements, represented in purple. For the extreme groups this association was estimated at 3.4% for the VLW and 10.4% for the VRW group,

This distortion is further illustrated below for these two extreme groups.

We can see that the CAA’s measure AzAs, which would relate to the 78.5% and 60% results above, will significantly penalise the VLW and favour the VRW, and provide a comparative measure of antisemitism which is totally misleading.

The same distortion of results will apply across the political spectrum.

Conclusion

From the data presented in all three threads above, we can appreciate why the ‘total measure’ of antisemitism (JpAs + AzAs), used by the CAA authors, has provided the basis for anti-Labour headlines which have no basis in – indeed which stand in complete contradiction with – observed reality.

As almost twice as many people endorse ‘anti-Israel’ than ‘antisemitic’ statements, then the CAA total measure of antisemitism wrongly gives most weight to the ‘anti-Israel’ component. It would seem the objective was to stigmatise critics of Israel rather than ‘antisemites’.

The evidence from previous publications, including those of the CAA itself (5), clearly demonstrates that ‘antisemitic’ attitudes, both weak and strong, are more common on the Right than Left, with Tory than Labour voters, supporters of Johnson than Corbyn, and VRW groups than VLW groups.

It seems that accusations of antisemitism are also now being levelled at critics of Israel across the Atlantic. On  12th October this year, the Economist reviewed the findings of a YouGov poll on this and they reported,

“In America “liberal” foes of Israel had an average anti-Semitism mark of 2.3. For “conservatives” critical of Israel, it was 5.4. Among anti-Israel Britons, “very left-wing” people scored 1.6 for anti-Semitism on average, whereas “very right-wing” ones averaged 4.4.”

“The data simply show that most left-wingers who criticise Israel do not dislike Jews as people.”

We therefore see higher levels of antisemitism among critics of Israel on the Right than on the Left in both our countries, yet the opposite is being claimed here by the CAA.

In Britain, for the CAA, a group purportedly devoted to fighting antisemitism, to grossly mislead about the real distribution of antisemitism, just before a general election, is truly appalling.

Indeed, such manipulations will not be well received by millions of Britons suffering under this racist and cruel Tory Government, and hoping for a Labour victory.

Those gathering in Parliament Square on 8th December, to attack  the Labour Party once more, are doing so on the basis of fake news. They  need to wake up to the fact that their communal leaders and spokespeople are placing them at greater risk. The growing far right is increasingly neglected.  British Jews are being played by Tories and those who could hardly even be described as lying at the feet of giants,  but perhaps just lying… for selfish political gain.

References

  1. The politics of antisemitism, Daniel Allington, Kings College, 30th November 2019
  2. Antisemitism Barometer 2019, Campaign Against Antisemitism
  3. Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain, L Daniel Staetsky, Institute for Jewish Policy Research September 2017
  4. Brief response to an ‘antisemitism’ hoax,  Jamie Stern-Weiner and Alan Maddison  3rd December 2019, Jewish Voice for Labour
  5. Antisemitism Barometer 2017, Campaign Against Antisemitism
  6. Drawing the line between anti-Semitism and criticism of Israel, Economist, 12th October 2019

 

 

 

 

Comments (1)

  • Mark Francis says:

    I question some of the metrics in the AS Barometer as used by the CAA; such as “Jews exploit the Holocaust for political ends”. Margaret Hodge prefixes criticism of Jeremy Corbyn with the words “My grandmother was murdered in a ditch outside Auschwitz”. This happened before Jeremy Corbyn was born (or Margaret Hodge) yet she appears to hold him personally responsible. How is that not sing this to her advantage? For Jews as a whole I do not think this is true, but it is for individuals like Hodge.
    And as for dual loyalty to Israel, I would question the split loyalties of many non-Jewish LFI members.

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