Rejoinder to a review of JVL’s book on the EHRC Report

Labour and antisemitism

JVL Introduction

Keith Kahn-Harris wrote a review in the TLS of two books on Labour and antisemitism. It was published on 22nd October.

One was JVL’s publication How the EHRC Got It So Wrong (London: Verso eBook, 2021) and Jamie Stern-Weiner, co-author of the JVL book takes Kahn-Harris to task in a letter published in the same journal.

The JVL book is available as a free download from Verso here.

Labour and antisemitism

Keith Kahn-Harris (October 22) alleges that Jewish Voice for Labour “castigates the ‘politicising’ of antisemitism without acknowledging that it is always political and that JVL itself has a political agenda”. The word “politicising” does not appear in the book, which does, however, argue that the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s proposals for reforming the Labour party only “perpetuate[d] the politicisation of antisemitism complaints”. This refers to the abusive submission as well as handling of such complaints to advance ulterior ideological, partisan or factional ends. Is it Kahn-Harris’s position that such abuse is inevitable or acceptable?

Kahn-Harris cites JVL as “a prime example” of “the legalism of Corbyn’s defenders”. “Legalism” is an odd criticism to make of a book whose purpose is to scrutinize a legal document: the EHCR’s investigation into the Labour Party. JVL has provided legal support to members targeted by a deranged bureaucracy. Were Kahn-Harris so targeted, one doubts he would sneer at the “legalism” of an organization prepared to defend him. Of course, JVL also engages extensively in advocacy, education and other activities.

Kahn-Harris quotes another writer accusing “the Labour Left” of “denouncing Jews” and “treating British Jewish opinion as hopelessly implicated in the maintenance of the status quo”. The Labour Left did not do this. If some individuals did, it was presumably because the Board of Deputies et al have made it seem that their interventions in support of the Conservative Party in the UK and what leading human rights groups have designated an “apartheid” regime abroad spoke for “the Jewish community”. JVL’s campaigning demonstrated that Jewish opinion was not “hopelessly implicated” in these projects.

Kahn-Harris concludes that “JVL’s refusal of responsibility makes [our book] nothing more than a continuation of the conflict”. But he doesn’t demonstrate JVL’s “responsibility” for anything. Nor does he engage with or even present the book’s core finding: that the EHRC report was empirically as well as legally flawed. Shouldn’t he “take responsibility” – for wasting readers’ time?

Jamie Stern-Weiner


Comments (6)

  • Amanda Sebestyen says:

    Very glad that Jamie Stern-Weiner did decide to write a response to Keith Kahn-Harris’s insultingly superficial review. Relieved too that TLS was old-fashioned enough to print the letter and allow a voice from JVL to be heard… rarely happens now.

  • dave says:

    Superficially Keith Kahn-Harris seems to be a cut above some of the other so-called academics in the sociology and Jewish policy domain but he’s just as wedded to participating in the ‘left antisemitism’ industry and it shows in this abject abdication of critical faculties.

  • George Wilmers says:

    Why not invite Keith Kahn-Harris and Jamie Stern-Weiner to continue their ‘debate’ jointly on JVL’s website and another media outlet of Kahn-Harris’s choosing?

    The usual strategy of JVL’s political opponents is never directly to engage with JVL’s arguments for fear of affording publicity to those arguments and exposing the untenability of their own positions. Is Keith Kahn-Harris an individual brave or foolhardy enough to rise to such a challenge?

    Of course Jamie might well feel that such an exercise would be a waste of his time, but if he were willing to take it on, the resulting mainstream publicity of the strength of our arguments could only be to our political advantage.

  • Dr Rodney Watts says:

    I am somewhat surprised that Keith Kahn-Harris has opened himself up to be able to be so strongly and validly criticised. For a sociologist to put in writing the clear statement that ‘….anti-Semitism … always political’ does not impress me about that person’s credentials. I like George’s suggestion, but suspect that Keith Kahn-Harris may well take heed of the saying about holes and digging.

  • Stephen Richards says:

    See rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ speech to AIPAC .

  • Hugh Roper says:

    I would like to read ‘How….wrong’ and tried to download it from Verso, but so far without success. Instead I get the following message: “Office. Microsoft Word. We’re sorry. We can’t open How the EHRC Got It So Wrong-1.epub because we found a problem with its contents.” I am then given the choice between ‘OK’ and ‘Details’. Clicking ‘Details’ I get the message “Microsoft Office cannot open this file because some parts are missing or invalid.” Trying to open the file with Notepad or Wordpad I just get pages of gibberish. Might the file be corrupted? Or is there another way to download it?

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