The CST’s “Engine of Hate” fantasy – a compilation

The CST has published two major reports on antisemitism in quick succession.

One, on the statistics, is dispassionately analysed by Alan Maddison here.

The other, Engine of Hate, is altogether more ideological. Shaun Lawson’s comments were reposted yesterday. Here three more articles challenge the significance and interpretation of the growth of online abuse – and more.

Ducksoap argues that the real accounts driving online discussion about Corbyn and antisemitism are right-wing ones, especially those of Stephen Pollard, David Collier and Rachel Riley. Mike Sivier adds in the Guardian and CST as stoking the flames. And David Rosenberg, in a wider analysis of the CST, takes his start from the stats report which he analysis at soem length. He sees the Engine of Hate report as very weak in dealing with online abuse, with many allegations “unsubstantiated by evidence, distorted and exaggerated, and made in bad faith for factional political purposes”.

List of articles:

1. Ducksoap, ‘Are you in The Engine Room?

2. Mike Sivier, ‘Guardian/CST anti-Semitism smear job prompts backlash movement: #EngineOfHope

3. David Rosenberg, ‘Evidence of anti-Jewish hate in 2019

Are you in The Engine Room?

Original source, ducksoap, 4 August 2019

In its most recent report on antisemitism (published July 2019) the Community Security Trust included a list of popular socialist Twitter accounts it called the ‘Engine Room.’ (Page 18 onward)

These 36 accounts are called the Engine Room in this report because of their centrality in driving online discussions around Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism.  Some of them started the hashtags under review; all engaged with at least three, and usually all five, of the hashtags listed.”  (p. 19) (N.B. CST listed six hashtags not five)

The “hashtags under review” were #GTTO, #JC9, #BoycottRachelRiley, #ResignWatson, #TellTomWatson and #SackTomWatson.

Clearly, almost all of the tweets using all but the Rachel Riley-related hashtag were not discussing antisemitism: Criticism of Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson was a reaction to his constant undermining of Jeremy Corbyn, the JC9 hashtag referred to nine Corbyn-supporting candidates for Labour’s NEC and GTTO (get the Tories out) was used to indicate opposition to the Tories.

Many of the tweets using #BoycottRachelRiley referenced her comments about antisemitism and Labour.  Riley indulged in an increasingly ugly political campaign against Corbyn and against socialists.  Her tactics included random libellous remarks, abuse, dogpiling and malicious legal threats and some legal action.  She made false accusations to advertisers to try to dissuade them from advertising on left-wing news sites.

To justify its focus on the six hashtags CST noted a greater percentage of certain words (related to Judaism or to Israel) used by tweets that included the hashtags than the percentage of the same words in the whole of twitter during the same period.  But, the topics of discussion were often initiated by Riley or by Watson or were responses to what either (or others) had said elsewhere.  There has been a deluge of accusations against Corbyn and his supporters and, so, logically some of those supporters responded to that criticism and then referenced what was mentioned by the accusers.  CST blamed the people responding to comments for the use of words and phrases written or implied by those to whom they were responding.  Such a tactic by CST was dishonest and anti-logical.

These influential online accounts have a disproportionate interest in topics such as antisemitism, Jews, Zionism and related issues.” (p. 19/20)

The sentence above encapsulated CST’s abuse of logic.  If someone tweeted “Mr. Corbyn is not antisemitic. #SackTomWatson” in response to Watson implying Corbyn was antisemitic then CST claimed the tweeter had “a disproportionate interest in topics such as antisemitism.”  That was the level of purposeful stupidity contained within CST’s argument.

As shown above, CST claimed the Engine Room members were central “in driving online discussions around Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism” but its report merely showed that the accounts were central in driving discussion about many topics related to Corbyn and to socialism including criticism of Watson and of Riley and including responses to comments made by the latter two.  If CST want to investigate twitter accounts that are “driving online discussions around Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism” they should look at those of, for example, Stephen Pollard and David Collier as well as Riley.

CST expressed its fear of the Engine Room because

their influence via hashtag networks and the high level of engagement they command when tweeting about Jeremy Corbyn, means that these 36 Twitter accounts, as a group, have a significant influence over the online conversation in broader Labour-supporting Twitter.” (p. 20)

Yes, socialists developed a strong successful methodology of using twitter as a tool of organisation, information sharing, solidarity and mutual education.  That is what all conservatives are fearful of.


Guardian/CST anti-Semitism smear job prompts backlash movement: #EngineOfHope

Original source: Mike Sivier in VoxPoliticalOnline, 4 August 2019

If there really is an “Engine of Hate” operating in the UK, then it seems The Guardian/Observer and the Community Security Trust (CST) are prominent among those stoking its flames.

Today, the Observer has published a smear piece attacking 36 Twitter accounts – although the reason is not entirely clear.

According to the headline, they are “at heart of Labour antisemitism battle”. Which doesn’t seem too bad. Does it?

The sub-heading suggests they are “pushing pro-Corbyn messages”. Still not too bad.

It’s only when you get to the intro that you realise they have been “used to dismiss claims of antisemitism levelled against the party”. And what’s wrong with that? If an accusation is false, it should be dismissed.

The issue here seems to be that the Guardian/Observer and CST are assuming that all accusations of anti-Semitism against the Labour Party are true. The CST may be expected to have this attitude because it is a charity that claims to be dedicated to protecting Jewish people in the UK and as such, its default position may be to assume the truth of an allegation until the opposite is proved. But a newspaper that has been a pillar of the mainstream media for many decades may be expected to have the opposite view, as it is the responsibility of journalists to be fair and balanced, and to research the truth or falsehood of such claims, rather than make unsubstantiated allegations.

The attitude in this piece can be judged by the title of the CST report on which it is based – that the Twitter accounts mentioned are an “Engine of Hate”.

The Observer piece claims that “the accounts have tweeted content claiming that allegations of antisemitism in the party are ‘exaggerated, weaponised, invented or blown out of proportion, or that Labour and Corbyn are victims of a smear campaign relating to antisemitism’”.

It fails to mention whether or not those claims are accurate.

And of course the linking of no fewer than 36 accounts creates the problem of guilt by association – if even some of the accounts mentioned were actually anti-Semitic, then are the authors or the report trying to induce us into believing that all must be, in the face of evidence to the contrary?

We are told that 12 of the accounts had tweeted anti-Semitic content (but not allowed to judge that content ourselves), and that nine have been deleted between the start of research for the report and its publication (but not whether they were among the 12 we had already been told had tweeted anti-Semitic content).

“All were connected to Twitter networks that have used hashtag campaigns to attack MPs or public figures who have raised concerns about antisemitism and Labour,” we are told. These hashtags include #BoycottRachelRiley, about the Countdown co-presenter who has disgraced herself online with a series of tweets accusing innocent people of anti-Semitism (targets include Noam Chomsky as well as Jeremy Corbyn), and #SackTomWatson, about Labour’s deputy leader whose conduct should need no rehearsal here.

And what about the hashtag #GTTO, which stands for “Get The Tories Out”? What’s anti-Semitic about that?

People posting under these hashtags are described by the newspaper as Twitter “networks” – and this is misleading. Twitter networks are more accurately groups of accounts that post together about many subjects, not accounts posting under a particular hashtag. An example would be the “@GnasherJew” troll network; the account itself is anonymous and believed to be run by several different people, and it has several satellite accounts that consistently join it in its false claims that others are anti-Semitic.

The comment from Mr Watson is amusing in its irony. He suggests that the report be shown to “the dominant faction that control our party’s national executive” to explain “how a small group … can influence our internal discussions”. Can this not be levelled at those like himself, Margaret Hodge, Wes Streeting and others, who have influenced the national executive’s internal discussions with their incessant (and often false) anti-Semitism accusations?

Margaret Hodge, for example, submitted around 200 anti-Semitism complaints to the party’s disputes team, who found that more than 100 of them did not even refer to members of the Labour Party.

Accusations include describing Rachel Riley as “unhinged” and “deranged” for criticising Mr Corbyn. That’s an expression of opinion. And was it based on fact? We aren’t told.

But that did not stop representatives of the CST and the fake charity calling itself the Campaign Against Antisemitism from using these insubstantial claims as though they were proof of a co-ordinated network, rubbishing genuine accusations of anti-Semitism.

The CST’s rep claimed: “Our report reveals how they set the tone and drive the vitriol on social media, attacking anyone who criticises the party’s appalling failure to deal with its antisemitism problem.”

And the CAA’s rentaquote added: “Prominent Labour party figures and rank-and-file members and supporters have long been denying the antisemitism crisis in Labour by claiming that Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are victims of a smear campaign.”

For the record: Complaints of anti-Semitism have been made against 0.05 per cent of the Labour Party’s membership – that less than one per cent of the national average. Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is negligible and the only reason the party is having trouble coping with it is the huge number of false and vexatious accusations submitted by individuals like Margaret Hodge.

The CAA commenter added: “Labour’s outriders on social media have been fuelling this and meting out appalling abuse to those who stand up against antisemitism.”

This is extraordinariily hypocritical from a man speaking in support of (for example) Rachel Riley, one of whose supporters tweeted this to me:

It’s mild in comparison with what some of their victims have received, I’m told.

But then, none of the owners of accounts accused by the CST have been given the right of reply. Not one.

Why not, Observer?

I’d like to know what the owners of the accused accounts have to say. They are:

@SocialistVoice (see tweet below)
@otivar55 (see tweet below)

Without knowing their side of the story, this is not balanced reporting; it is a smear. From now on, my advice is: Treat the Observer as fake news and avoid anything said by the CST altogether.

The good news, though, is that the story has provoked a backlash on Twitter, under the hashtag #EngineOfHope. Here are some examples (click on the imges to enlarge):

Follow the hashtag #EngineOfHope for more, along with uplifting tweets about Mr Corbyn and Labour’s plans for the future.

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Evidence of anti-Jewish hate in 2019

In the first six months of 2019 there were 85 separate incidents of physical assaults on Jewish people in Britain, the highest figure recorded in the last 11 years. In 25 of these cases the victims were punched or kicked, In 23 cases objects were thrown at the Jewish victims, such as stones, bottles or eggs. In 53 of the 85 cases antisemitic verbal abuse occurred too.

In most of the years since 2009 the figures for assaults for equivalent 6-month periods were in the 20s, 30s and 40s, although a similarly high figure (80) was reached in 2017. For all the screaming newspaper headlines in the last four years which mainly relate to wild and counter-intuitive accusations of antisemitism against the Labour Party, for which actual evidence is usually severely lacking, this stark description of physical assaults in the half-yearly report of the Community Security Trust (CST), at least gives us a real snapshot of antisemitism in British society.

First, though, a health warning. On its own website, the Trust claims that it “represents the Jewish community on a wide range of Police, governmental and policy-making bodies dealing with security and antisemitism.” But as the Jewish historian Geoffrey Alderman points out “the CST represents no one but itself and is mandated to espouse the views of none other than its own trustees”. Those trustees are appointed by the CST itself and include a number of Tory and Blairite political figures and some connected with pro-Israel lobbying. It grew out of a body called the Community Security Organisation, which was originally attached to the Board of Deputies, but went independent in the 1980s and was run by various individual businessmen, some of whom had a background in political and even physical anti-fascism.

Before it became CST, the CSO was already on a trajectory where it had started to locate threats to Jews as emanating more from the left than the right, or from “Muslim extremists”. But unlike the Board of Deputies or the Chief Rabbi’s office it has not become obsequiously tied to the Tory Party and right wing Zionism.


Display at Polin Museum, Warsaw

The CST are not apologists for Netanyahu, but they divorce “Zionism” (which in their parlance is simply the legitimate expression of “Jewish self-determination”) from its utterly devastating and disastrous impact on Palestinian people, people who they rarely if ever mention. They state that not all anti-Zionism is antisemitism, but behave as if it is. They barely acknowledge the legitimacy of religious anti-Zionism and airbrush right out of history the long and noble traditions of secular Jewish anti-Zionism (including Bundism) which are as old as political Zionism itself, and acquiring new adherents. They ignore the completely justified and perfectly rational anti-Zionism of Palestinians, whether under occupation, in exile, or living as second class citizens in Israel.

Despite the CST’s severe political limitations, it nevertheless takes the gathering of information on antisemitic acts seriously and, at the moment, is our most reliable source of information on actual antisemitic incidents that occur in Britain. The CST does not independently seek out cases to put into its 6-monthly reports but bases its figures on instances reported to it by members of the public. They do careful analysis of these reported incidents, and regularly reject a considerable number of them in which Jews have seen themselves as victims of antisemitism, but for which they could not find any evidence of antisemitic motivation, language or targeting. So in addition to the 892 cases CST recorded  during those first 6 months of 2019, they rejected a further 270 that for these very reasons.

While we might take issue with their politically-inflected interpretations, their information is quite sound and should be taken seriously by those who seek to challenge all racism in British society.

So, apart from physical assaults, what were the other kinds of incidents? There were 38 instances of damage and desecration of Jewish property. In one appalling case which CST received a report about in April, an elderly couple, both Holocaust survivors, returned from a holiday to find their home burgled, ransacked and desecrated with antisemitic graffiti reading  “Cunt Jews” scrawled in large letters across their living room wall.

In five of the cases where Jewish property was attacked, Jewish schools suffered damage, and another five involved damage to synagogue buildings. There were also 106 examples where antisemitic graffiti was scrawled on non-Jewish property.

The most common incidents of antisemitism, though, consisted of verbal or online abuse and threats. In 225 cases the victims were random Jewish individuals (or individuals believed to be Jewish) in public places. In just under half of these incidents, the victims were visibly Jewish, on account of their religious or traditional clothing, Jewish school uniforms, or jewellery bearing religious symbols. These kinds of incidents closely parallel Islamophobic incidents that target hijab-wearing women and girls.

How serious are such incidents? Might they just be carried out by youngsters messing around, finding a vulnerable target? By and large they are not. Where perpetrators have been identified, 83% of them were adults, predominantly male adults. As in previous years the bulk of the incidents have taken place in the two big Jewish centres – London and Manchester – though numbers of incidents are growing in Hertfordshire, Merseyside and Northumbria, which has an ultra-orthodox Jewish seminary in Gateshead. Some of the physical attacks have been on those Jews in Gateshead.

Some categories of incidents have been reducing but are more than replaced by the increase in online abuse and threats, which in this 6-month period counted for more than a third of the incidents. This is a much trickier area. There is a very big difference between abuse and threats on the one hand, and strongly worded political commentary, on the other.

Their report acknowledges that they pay particular attention to “conspiracy fuelled sentiments… stereotypical tropes about Jewish people’s power, influence, money…”.

The figures include 55 online incidents in some way linked to the hotly contested arguments that have been flying around alleging antisemitism in the Labour Party.  One example that is specifically cited does not give confidence that this judgement has always been made accurately. Presumably in the context of an online argument the following comment was made:

“The Israeli lobby is relelentless and powerful but we now know they are there and the key is to stand up to all tyranny regardless of what cloak it wears or web of lies that it spins. They’ve overplayed their hand with the Corbyn witch-hunt”.

It cannot seriously be denied that Israeli government and media interests have helped to fuel the “witch-hunt”, or, more accurately, the all-out war against Corbyn-led Labour, though I regard them as junior contributors in a war led by powerful domestic interests especially the Tory Party and the Tory-supporting press, who are fighting this principally for domestic political goals. We always have to be alert to conspiracy theories, and many conspiracy theories around politics and economics are antisemitic, but I would not place this comment above unequivocally in the category of antisemitism.

While I was finishing writing this blog  I became aware of a further report released just today by the CST called Engine of Hate: the online networks behind the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis, which has fuelled my doubts still further about CST’s judgements of alleged online cases of antisemitism. This further report mixes together clear examples of antisemitism on twitter accounts with those that make perfectly legitimate statements that in many cases the allegations of antisemitism are unsubstantiated by evidence, distorted and exaggerated, and made in bad faith for factional political purposes.

CST also repeats the phrase “the Labour Party’s crisis of antisemitism”. Antisemitism in British society is real. Antisemitism by a small number of Labour members and supporters is real. These should be exposed and challenged, but the so-called “crisis” is an invention by right wingers, including some Jewish right wingers, with a political axe to grind. The Engine of Hate seems to completely ignore the network of ultra-right-wing Zionist trolls targeting left wing Jews, and spreading disinformation.

To come back to the 6-monthly collection of incidents: if there is any comfort to be drawn from the report it is the reduction in one category of recorded incidents that should be of great concern to all anti-racists. That is the incidents of antisemitism perpetrated by people from other minorities who are themselves victims of racism. In recent years that has grown and has been hovering around the 40% mark. It is only in a minority of cases that ethnic identification is possible but the percentage of such perpetrators from other identifiable minority groups in incidents over this 6-month period has reduced to 32%. That is still a considerable number, and suggests that Jewish community groups should direct efforts towards strengthening relations between Jews and other minorities against common threats of racism, especially from the far right.

Screen Shot 2019-08-04 at 18.55.41That task gets harder every time that prominent spokespersons in the Jewish community align politically with the very forces who created the “Hostile Environment” for long settled Caribbean citizens, for migrants and refugees, or align with those forces whose austerity policies impact disproportionately on marginalised minority communities.

When the Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard, looks at the serious contents of this report and then tries to blame the rise on antisemitism in British society on Jeremy Corbyn he merely displays the most pathetic and transparent political animus against the Labour Party, and proves that Pollard himself is part of the problem. Total dedication to “defending Israel” from completely justifiable political criticism, has moved many of those who define themselves as Jewish community “leaders” politically closer to the very forces in the world that are spreading Islamophobia, anti-migrant and anti-refugee prejudice, without apparently noticing that these prejudices are riding in tandem with a renewed antisemitism.

But it is also incumbent on the anti-racist movement as a whole to acknowledge the reality of antisemitism today, the different ways it is being fuelled, and the range of perpetrators. And that movement must once more prove itself, through its practice, to be the Jewish community’s most reliable ally in the fight against antisemitism.