Panorama: a case for the prosecution

JVL Introduction

In a short series of tweets, antisemitism expert Antony Lerman raises a series of penetrating questions and criticisms of the Panorama programme “Is Labour Antisemitic?”.

It was, he says, not  an ‘investigation’ but a  case for the prosecution.

This article was originally published by Twitter on Thu 11 Jul 2019. Read the original here.

The Panorama programme - a critical view

A short thread with initial critical thoughts on #BBCPanorama’s 10 July ‘Is Labour antisemitic?’ ‘investigation’ 1/10

#BBCPanorama wasn’t an ‘investigation’. It was the case for the prosecution. Very many Jewish members of @UKLabour have vastly different and positive experience of membership from those interviewed. Shouldn’t a fair investigation have interviewed some of them too? 2/10

Polls show antisemitism is a much contested and misunderstood term among Jews and the public. There’s bitter division over whether anti-Zionism is antisemitic #BBCPanorama didn’t reflect this essential fact which is central to @UKLabour’s struggle to deal with the a/s issue 3/10

Only 2 men portrayed as ‘experts’ on #antisemitism were interviewed. I don’t recall that we were ever informed about their institutional affiliations and credentials. Why the lack of transparency? 4/10

The lion’s share went to @daverich1, Director of Comms for the Community Security Trust, the Jewish establishment’s defence body. Quite right to present an ‘official’ Jewish view. But @CST_UK sees BDS and anti-Zionism as antisemitic and Rich attacks left-wing Jews on Twitter 5/10

The other ‘expert’ Alan Johnson works for BICOM @BritainIsrael, the main Israel lobby organization in UK. Given the programme exposed conflation of Jews and Israel as antisemitic, why put up an Israel lobbyist who has already damned @UKLabour as institutionally antisemitic? 6/10

Convincing evidence of leader’s office interference was absent. The Seamus Milne ‘smoking gun’ email suggesting party was ‘muddling up political disputes with racism’ and a ‘review’ was needed, was malicious selective quotation. This was not an ‘instruction’. 7/10

Full Milne sentence reads: ‘But if we’re more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for #antisemitism, something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism’. This is legitimate, fair, just and true. 8/10

Have sympathy for painful testimony of ‘whistleblowers’ but it’s not the whole truth. Under Gen Sec McNicol the complaints procedure was chaotic and dysfunctional. New Gen Sec @JennieGenSec reformed it, producing incontestable stats proving very limited scale of the problem 9/10

A serious, objective and fair context-based investigation of @UKLabour and the antisemitism issue may be a legitimate project. This wasn’t it, but rather an egregious betrayal of the values of public service broadcasting, shamefully fuelling a sickening moral panic. 10


Comments (14)

  • Liberty says:

    Absolutely disgusting stomach churning filthy piece of broadcasting rubbish by the enemy of the people the publicly funded unaccountable unelected licensee fee scam smear machine the BLOODY BROADCASTING CORP.

  • richard heron says:

    I wish that full attention was given to the murky role of the Israeli Ambassador, Mark Regev – former spin doctor to Netenyahu and apologist to Channel 4 News on Gaza atrocities – appointed, hardly coincidently in April 2016.

  • David Stretton says:

    And were was Tom Watson?…backing up the leader?… of course not. He was making his usual pitch for the leadership and now here comes Owen Smith…you’d had thought at least he would have noticed Corbyn’s anti-semitic tendencies at the second leadership contestant..when he shook his hand and said Corbyn was a decent honourable man but just not the right man for the job.

  • George Wilmers says:

    The omitted sentence from Seamus Milne’s email above is particularly significant and embarrassing for the witch hunters:

    ‘But if we’re more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for #antisemitism, something’s going wrong, and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism’.

    Unfortunately we do not know how many Jewish members of the LP have been accused of antisemitism, but what we do know from several high profile cases which have been publicised is that it is disproportionately high. If the proportion of the total number of LP members accused of antisemitism who were Jewish were in line with the proportion of Jews in the UK population, then there would have been no more than three or four such accusations to date: in fact there have been vastly more than that number. This fact in itself should worry any objective analyst.

    And if another analyst were to point out that a flaw in this argument is that the proportion of members of the Labour party who are Jewish is probably much higher than the proportion of Jews in the UK population, then an obvious retort is that if that is true it is difficult to reconcile with the unsubstantiated claim that the Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic.

    Perhaps the ever so saintly ex-LP functionary, Sam Mathews, who declared on the Panorama program that he had been on the point of suicide as a result of the attacks on his activities, should reflect on the fact that he thought nothing of repeating unfounded anonymous accusations of antisemitism against a highly distinguished Jewish emeritus professor of philosophy. Sam Mathews scurrilous filth directed at Professor Moshe Machover was in that case only defeated by the resolute support of ordinary Labour Party members, combined with an international campaign which attracted the signatures of some of the world’s most renowned academics. Are we really to believe that Sam Mathews was guided only by the purest of personal motives to root out the scourge of antisemitism?

  • Michel Trainer says:

    I totally agree. I would like to know how we can support Chris Williamson. I think he’s an MP we can’t afford to lose and the witch hunt is definitely out for him.

  • Allan Howard says:

    And regarding the Jewish LP members who have been accused of A/S, it is of course just purely coincidental that they happened to be anti-Zionists.

  • John says:

    It is interesting to note that Jeremy Newmark’s former boss at the so-called Jewish Leadership Council – Sir Mike Davies – now holds the joint posts of Chief Executive and Treasurer of the Conservative Party.
    What is going on here is an undeclared war against the Labour Party with the Israel government in cahoots with the Conservative Party.
    May was not slow to throw around false accusations of antisemitism at her PMQs on Wednesday, slipping it into her last comments – which the Leader of the Opposition has no possibility of responding to.
    Hunt too brought the subject up during his leadership bid in a truly scandalous fashion.
    These vile Tories and their partners in crime – the Israel regime – will stop at nothing to keep Corbyn out of 10 Downing Street.
    It is high time the Labour Party leadership disaffiliated both the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel.
    They should also get rid of Watson and others of his ilk for disloyalty to the Labour Party.

  • Robert Burnett says:

    Just another Watson coup attempt

  • Nicola Grove says:

    Succinct and brilliant thank you Mr Lerman.

  • Peter says:

    I note that the CST (Jewish Community Security Trust) tells us that “Antisemitism is hatred, bigotry, prejudice or discrimination against Jews” and that Sir Stephen Sedley (son of Jewish immigrants, judge of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales from 1999 to 2011), writes that “Shorn of philosophical and political refinements, anti-Semitism is hostility towards Jews as Jews.”

    In recent years a long parade of accusers has passed before us on radio, tv and in the press making accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. I was hoping at last that this programme would present us, not just with accusations of anti-Semitism, but with evidence, i.e. with actual examples (emanating from the Labour Party or its members) of “hatred, bigotry, prejudice or discrimination against Jews” (as per the CST), or of “hostility towards Jews as Jews” (as per Sir Stephen Sedley).

    Even as a case the prosecution this programme seemed very light on evidence of “Jew-hatred”. To justify pillorying a person or an entity on grounds of anti-Semitism we need answers to the question: “What has this person/entity said or done which is a display of hatred, bigotry, prejudice, hostility or discrimination against Jews qua Jews.”
    It seems a simple question. Why did this programme give us no answers?
    Peter J

  • Sydney Leaman says:

    I’m proud of all the work that JVL is doing to provide a counter-perspective and bring some much needed context to the debates around anti-semitism within the Labour Party.

    However, I do urge my fellow comrades and commentators to focus on the singular line “Have sympathy for painful testimony” BEFORE rushing to the defence of the Labour leadership and the Party’s reputation (which must also be conducted).

    No matter how tiny the percentage of incidents where Jewish or non-Jewish members feel attacked, threatened or bullied by others (whether antisemitic in content or not) JVL must aim towards always presenting a clear expression of our empathy and concern for others. Our concern for our wider membership and communities should always be prominent and at the forefront of our internal and external communications.

    I agree in full with both Mr Lerman and other writers who have produced articles/posts defending the Party against the one-sidedness and critical view of events. Nonetheless, the Panorama documentary gave spotlight to mental illness, bullying and genuine pain within the Party walls.

    JVL members, supporters and commentators can not do enough to demonstrate their compassion for these incidents and individuals to the external community and provide helpful and constructive ideas for tackling these issues (again, whether they are antisemitic in content or not), which are real – even if occasionally or frequently being weaponised.

  • Margaret Spector says:

    It seems obvious that the whole aim is to discredit Corbyn. He does not have an anti-Semitic bone in his body. He is feared because he will take away the perks from many wealthy and dishonest people. Why isn’t there a campaign about the anti Muslim discrimination in the Tory party. The reason is that the papers are owned by Moguls and if Corbyn gets elected they will suffer . The BBC has its hands tied and journalists are afraid for their jobs. A despicable , instigated Campaign to stop JC being elected.

  • Linda mcmahon says:

    Couldnt agree more. Good to see all points made clearly and logically. Thanks. But you’ll never get to voice them on BBC.

  • Patricia Duncan says:

    I am sick to death of so called journalists interfering with the democratic processes of our nation. I am not Jewish, but have really good Jewish friends who make me an honorary one of them. Jeremy Corbyn is a highly moral and just man. To suggest he is antisemitic only shows up the ignorance of his detractors. He has many Jewish friends and supporters who see clear through this smear. The Labour Party members who cast the aspersions should themselves be ejected from the Party.

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