JVL introduction

Asa Winstanley of Lobby Watch and The Electronic Intifada provides an overview of recent developments in the row over antisemitism and the Labour Party


A former minister under Tony Blair, Labour lawmaker Margaret Hodge is accused of attacking Jeremy Corbyn as a “fucking anti-Semite and racist.” (Chris Boland/Flickr)

New assault on Corbyn aims to ban criticism of Israel in Labour


A leading pro-Israel lawmaker is being investigated by the Labour Party for allegedly slandering Jeremy Corbyn as a “fucking anti-Semite,” The Electronic Intifada can reveal.

A Labour source said on Friday that following receipt of a third party complaint, a notice of investigation into “alleged abusive behavior” has been sent to Margaret Hodge.

But the source said that Hodge would not be suspended during the investigation.

Margaret Hodge’s office did not answer a call, and she did not immediately reply to emails requesting comment.

The news came as the Parliamentary Labour Party is once again in a state of near civil war over the manufactured “anti-Semitism crisis” this week.

Hodge, a former minister under Tony Blair, had on Tuesday confronted Labour leader Corbyn, reportedly attacking him as “a fucking anti-Semite and racist.”

Writing in The Guardian on Wednesday, Hodge confirmed she had “confronted” Corbyn, but did not repeat the expletives attributed to her by a fellow lawmaker.

She did, however, claim that Corbyn “is now perceived by many as an anti-Semite.”

Corbyn’s spokespeople responded that “action will be taken” against Hodge, who has reportedly violated Labour rules on acceptable behavior.

Hodge’s attack was prompted by a new Labour code of conduct against anti-Semitism, which was formally adopted by the party’s ruling national executive on Tuesday.

While the new rules adopt large parts of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s controversial definition of anti-Semitism, it removed one clause which would have barred criticism of Israel’s racist policies and Zionist state ideology.

The IHRA document includes “claiming that the State of Israel is a racist endeavor” as an example of anti-Semitism.

This could be used to ban criticism of a host of Israeli policies such as barring the return of Palestinian refugees solely because they are not Jewish, or the new “nation-state” legislation that has been widely condemned for enshrining elements of apartheid into constitutional law.

Israel lobby groups have mounted a major campaign for governments and institutions around the world to adopt the IHRA definition.

Racists accuse anti-racists of racism

Adoption of the clause barring criticism of Israeli racism into Labour’s rule book would have a serious chilling effect on Palestine solidarity activism by party members.

It is the rejection of this clause which Hodge and other right-wing and pro-Israel Labour lawmakers are up in arms about.

In effect, the party’s pro-Israel and anti-Corbyn lawmakers are arguing that it is racist to – accurately – describe Israel as racist.

Ironically, the furore comes in the same week that the Israeli parliament passed a new basic law formally enshrining Israel as a nation-state for Jews alone, removing Arabic as an official language and encouraging “Jewish settlement” on stolen Palestinian land “as a national value.”

A supporter of Labour Friends of Israel, Hodge was responsible for triggering the failed 2016 coup attempt against Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

Hodge submitted a motion of no-confidence in Corbyn, which led to a leadership contest that Corbyn ultimately won with an increased mandate.

Corbyn’s threat to take action against Hodge for her reported verbal assault was met with fury by the right wing of the Labour Party – who backed Hodge’s attack on their own leader.

Israel lobby groups have also piled in, with the Jewish Labour Movement offering Hodge “full solidarity.”

The JLM acts in close alliance with the state of Israel and is led by a former Israeli embassy officer. Its director has privately admitted to working closely with an exposed Israeli embassy spy.

JLM has been at the forefront of attempts to portray the Labour Party under Corbyn as a hive of anti-Semitism.

JLM officer and former local councillor Adam Langleben wrote in The Times of Israel this week that Labour’s failure to fully adopt the Israel lobby’s preferred definition of anti-Semitism in its code of conduct meant that his own party was now “institutionally racist.”

Lawmaker Joan Ryan, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said she was “appalled” by the new code of conduct, claiming it helps those to want to “demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel.”

Ryan’s own conduct however illustrates the dangers of conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. In 2017, an undercover Al Jazeera documentary exposed how Ryan fabricated allegations of anti-Semitism against a party member who had questioned Labour Friends of Israel’s position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

On Thursday, Tony Blair weighed in, telling the BBC’s Newsnight program that it was a “disastrous move” for Labour not to fully adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

“I’m afraid I can understand the anger of much of the Jewish community and I sympathize with it,” the former prime minister said.

Blair added that it would be “crazy” for the party to proceed with disciplinary action against Hodge.

Sabotage

Over the weekend, a new book by a former Labour staffer exposed details of the lengths to which Labour’s right-wing establishment has tried to sabotage Corbyn from within.

Tom Baldwin, a former director of communications, revealed that during last year’s general election, Labour campaign chiefs secretly refused to run social media adverts designed by Corbyn’s leadership team, which had been aimed at increasing voter registration.

Rather than say no to their party leader, they instead ran the messages as Facebook “targeted” advertising, so that only Corbyn and his inner circle of left-wing activists would see them.

“Labour Party officials became so good at targeting Facebook ads, they were able to deceive Jeremy Corbyn about the kind of campaign they were running,” Baldwin reportedly writes. “If it was there for them, they thought it must be there for everyone. It wasn’t. That’s how targeted ads can work.”

The Labour right and Israel lobby groups have run a sustained campaign of sabotage against Corbyn.

This included undermining the party leader during the 2017 election and suggesting to voters that Labour was not a “credible party of government.”

Corbyn’s response to such open disloyalty has often been characterized by attempts at appeasement that have only served to embolden the attacks.

Racist endeavor

On Monday, a majority of Labour MPs voted against the new code of conduct.

But the lawmakers do not have the final say, with the National Executive Committee responsible for deciding Labour’s rule book. The vote was intended to pressure the NEC to scrap the new code, but it appears not to have worked.

In a letter addressing Labour lawmakers ahead of their Monday meeting, Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby defended the new code of conduct,

“The only one of the IHRA examples … that is not quoted or explicitly referenced in our code deals with claims about the state of Israel being a ‘racist endeavor,’” Formby wrote in the letter obtained by The Electronic Intifada.

She explained that the “the wording in the IHRA example is open to different interpretations and runs the risk of prohibiting legitimate criticism of Israel.”

“Palestinians have as much right as any other people to define the discrimination they have experienced as racism, and we cannot uphold one set of rights by infringing another,” Formby added.

Left-wing national executive member Darren Williams wrote on Facebook after the ruling body met on Tuesday that the National Executive Committee had confirmed adoption of the code of conduct but “agreed to reopen discussions with Jewish organizations regarding their concerns.”

In a Facebook discussion, Williams wrote that inclusion of the “racist endeavor” clause would have been “an unacceptable curtailment of legitimate criticism of Israel and it’s to the credit of those who drew up the party’s code of conduct that it was consciously excluded.”

Meanwhile, 40 Jewish organizations from around the world expressed support for Labour’s new code of conduct.

In an open letter, they condemned the IHRA definition as being worded to “intentionally equate legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism, as a means to suppress the former.”

Groups signing onto the statement include Jewish Voice for Peace, the Jewish Socialists Group and Independent Jewish Voices.

Also supporting it is Jewish Voice for Labour.

The left-wing group has cautiously welcomed the new code of conduct, while warning that the IHRA definition “has never had unanimous support” among British Jews, is “badly drafted and confusing” and has been used to prevent criticisms of Israel.