‘We condemn journalism that so blatantly lacks context, perspective and a meaningful range of voices in its determination to condemn Jeremy Corbyn,’ write academics in a letter to the Guardian.

Followed by some letters that were published on 30 March.

Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Labour Party

Stop Jeremy Corbyn’s trial by media over antisemitism

More than forty senior academics write to condemn what they see as an anti-Corbyn bias in media coverage of the antisemitism debate

One of the main concepts in journalism education is that of framing: the highlighting of particular issues, and the avoidance of others, in order to produce a desired interpretation. We have been reminded of the importance of framing when considering the vast amounts of media coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged failure to deal with antisemitism inside the Labour party. On Sunday, three national titles led with the story while news bulletins focused on the allegations all last week. Dominant sections of the media have framed the story in such a way as to suggest that antisemitism is a problem mostly to do with Labour and that Corbyn is personally responsible for failing to deal with it. The coverage has relied on a handful of sources such as the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and well-known political opponents of Corbyn himself.

Yet where are the Jewish voices who support Corbyn and who welcome his long-established anti-racist record? Where are the pieces that look at the political motivations of some of Corbyn’s most vocal critics? Where is the fuss in your news columns about the rising tide of antisemitism in Europe, such as in Hungary, where the Fidesz government has used antisemitic tropes to bolster its support, or in Poland, where the government is attempting to criminalise revelations about the country’s antisemitic past? Where are the columns condemning the links between Conservative MEPs and rightwing parties across Europe in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group which trade on antisemitism?

It is not “whataboutery” to suggest that the debate on antisemitism has been framed in such a way as to mystify the real sources of anti-Jewish bigotry and instead to weaponise it against a single political figure just ahead of important elections. We condemn antisemitism wherever it exists. We also condemn journalism that so blatantly lacks context, perspective and a meaningful range of voices in its determination to condemn Jeremy Corbyn.

Prof Des Freedman Goldsmiths, University of London
Justin Schlosberg Birkbeck, University of London
Prof Lynne Segal Birkbeck, University of London
Prof Mica Nava University of East London
Prof Greg Philo Glasgow University
Prof Annabelle Sreberny SOAS, University of London
Prof Jeremy Gilbert University of East London
Prof Joanna Zylinska Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof Bev Skeggs London School of Economics
Prof James Curran Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof Julian Petley Brunel University
Prof Natalie Fenton Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof David Buckingham Loughborough University
Prof Gary Hall Coventry University
Prof Neve Gordon Queen Mary, University of London
Prof Michael Chanan University of Roehampton
Prof John Storey University of Sunderland
Prof Allan Moore University of Surrey
Jo Littler City University
Dina Matar SOAS, University of London
Bart Cammaerts London School of Economics
Tom Mills Aston University
William Merrin Swansea University
Catherine Rottenberg Goldsmiths, University of London
Richard Macdonald Goldsmiths, University of London
Milly Williamson Goldsmiths, University of London
Margaret Gallagher Senior research consultant
Jane Dipple University of Winchester
Peri Bradley Bournemouth University
Dean Lockwood University of Lincoln
Maria Chatzichristodoulou London South Bank University
William Proctor Bournemouth University
John Cunliffe Birkbeck, University of London
Zeta Kolokythopoulu London South Bank University
Becky Gardiner Goldsmiths, University of London
Jill Daniels University of East London
Seth Giddings University of Southampton
Maria Sourbati University of Brighton
Richard Smith Goldsmiths, University of London
Ruth Catlow Co-director, Furtherfield
Jonathan Eato University of York
Theodore Koulouris University of Brighton

Readers respond to criticism of Jeremy Corbyn and the row over antisemitism in the Labour party

‘Criticism of Corbyn and the Labour party on grounds of antisemitism is being encouraged by individuals who – unlike the Labour leader himself – have rarely participated in the general struggle against racism,’ writes Stan Newens.

It occurs to me reading Hadley Freeman’s account of the anti-Corbyn demonstration (Why I protested against Corbyn, 28 March) that the best way for her and the Board of Deputies of British Jews to consolidate the benefits of their protest would be to issue a public statement making it absolutely clear they regard criticism of the Israeli government’s policy and its actions against the Palestinians as legitimate and not in itself antisemitic.

Those of us who have long enjoyed close relationships with Jewish friends and colleagues always make it clear that our trenchant criticism is of Israel and not of the Jewish people. Indeed, we are often frustrated with the damage that the conflation of the two does to that relationship. I look forward to the time when very different Israeli governments treat Palestinians differently, and that it will be possible to be a member of both one’s party’s Friends of Palestine and its Friends of Israel.
Michael Meadowcroft

Before being elected as Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn chaired Liberation (formerly the Movement for Colonial Freedom) in succession to me. Liberation, founded in 1954 on the initiative of Fenner Brockway, was in the forefront of the struggle against all forms of racism. When Jeremy took the chair it was accepted that one of our continuing fundamental purposes was opposition to racism – including antisemitism. Liberation has been critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians – and often had Israeli or Jewish speakers at meetings arguing the case.

It is patently obvious that criticism of Corbyn and the Labour party on grounds of antisemitism is being encouraged by individuals who – unlike the Labour leader himself – have rarely participated in the general struggle against racism. Most are motivated by opposition to Labour under Corbyn and any excuse to harass him will be taken.
Stan Newens
President, Liberation

Whatever the state of its internal civil war, and however numerous or deep its so-called pockets of antisemitism, recent statements from the Labour party are in danger of convincing the public that it is incapable of rudimentary inquiry.

Christine Shawcroft’s resignation illustrates what looks at best like an inability, and at worst a reluctance, to establish facts before leaping to judgments. That she has admitted defending her suspended colleague “before being aware of the full information about this case” is the kind of desperate special pleading that adds insult to the original injury.

Sadly, she shares this chronic affliction with others, most notably Corbyn, whose own mea culpa betrays the same blindspot: “I sincerely regret that I did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on” (Report, 23 March). It appears not to have occurred to him that he had only to ask what reasons were given for its removal by the council, to discover that the mural in question was offensive. It seems the urge to defend “on the grounds of freedom of speech” as claimed by last Friday’s official Labour party statement trumps every other consideration. Is it too much to ask that MPs ask pertinent questions before offering their verdicts?
Paul McGilchrist
Colchester, Essex

In the context of the debate about antisemitism in the Labour party (Labour agrees radical action needed over antisemitism, 28 March), some of us in the Methodist church have become aware that any support for Palestinians under Israeli occupation quickly attracts attention from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Antisemitism must be opposed whenever and wherever it emerges, and the record of the Christian churches on this is poor and sometimes lamentable.

The actions of the state of Israel must also be opposed when they lead to the kind of oppression of Palestinians that Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described as worse than that suffered by black Africans under the apartheid system. Surely, this should not be seen as antisemitism.
Rev David Haslam, Rev Brian Brown, Rev Warren Bardsley
Evesham, Worcestershire

Labour membership is nearing the 600,000 mark, and in any body of people that large you’re bound to get some unpalatable views. This is not to say that they are acceptable – they are not. I say that as a Jew and as a Labour party member. But while there is no doubt that an element, however small, of antisemitism exists within the party, there is also no doubt that the current row has been created – and is being weaponised – by those who oppose Corbyn. How else to explain the fact that much of the controversy is to do with episodes dredged up from several years back? Someone is poring over the Labour leader’s past looking for dirt a few weeks before an election. Even conspiracy theorists are correct some of the time.
Bruce Paley
Nolton Haven, Pembrokeshire

The Board of Deputies of British Jews – drawn from synagogues and Jewish organisations – does not speak for the thousands of individual Jews in the UK who do not belong to these groups. The mass of Jews are probably liberal. However, the board’s president, Jonathan Arkush, told the Times of Israel that the last election results represented a “loss” and described the Tory-DUP agreement as “good news”. And he told the Jewish Chronicle that there must come a point when even groups like the Jewish Labour Movement or Labour Friends of Israel feel “it’s over” for Jewish links with the party.

He also supported Donald Trump’s moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem and has condemned criticism of Israeli settlers. His views are not necessarily mainstream Jewish views. For him to make it a precondition for meeting Corbyn that Labour should adopt all 11 examples illustrating the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism is a cynical political move.
Tracy Lindner

Yes, Jeremy Corbyn has met with representatives from Hamas. Tony Blair and Jimmy Carter have also met with Hamas and, according to an April 2016 report in Haaretz newspaper, the Israeli government itself has held “secret, indirect talks” with Hamas. So does Hadley Freeman think the former British prime minister, US president and the Israeli government are tainted with antisemitism for meeting Hamas, as she claims Corbyn is?
Ian Sinclair

You should investigate – and discuss, at length, for balance – the prevalence of antisemitism and other forms of racism in the Conservative party. Antisemitism is under-recognised in our society and it is good that awareness is being raised about it, and action taken. But it does not increase the safety and security of our Jewish population to collude with the false impression that such attitudes are more prevalent on the left of politics, when the reality is the opposite. The Labour party should be applauded for taking action on antisemitism. The Tory party must follow suit, and the media should ensure it is made to do so.
Julia Cameron