It was at an event organised by the Palestine Return Centre in 2013 that Jeremy Corbyn suggested that Zionists “having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives … don’t understand English irony”.
I have never attended a PRC event where antisemitism has not run free. It was at a PRC event where Gerald Kaufman referred to ‘Jewish money‘ and at another where Jenny Tonge placed herself on the path to resignation/dismissal. The former spokesman of the PRC, Sameh Habeeb, was dropped as a Labour council candidate earlier this year and suspended from the Party for alleged antisemitic remarks.
Now I read that the PRC has paid for an opinion on the IHRA definition of antisemitism from the eminent Human Rights barrister, Geoffrey Robertson QC.
We are not told how much the eminent barrister was paid but wonder of wonders, his learned opinion is not very favourable to the definition (Irony, Jeremy!) Yet another of our finest legal minds is commissioned by an Israel Hate organisation and comes up with a negative learned opinion of the IHRA. Mirabile dictu. He joins his eminent silken colleague, Hugh Tomlinson QC.
If the PRC thought that Mr Robertson’s learned opinion might influence Labour’s NEC which meets on Tuesday, I have sad news. They’ve wasted their money. There are many adjectives one might use to describe this opinion. ‘Learned’ is not one of them.
The most egregious of the untruths in the opinion is this one: ‘It [Israel] was established by the resolution of the Security Council in 1947, to compensate for the Holocaust, granting over half of Palestine – a country which at the time contained 1.3 million Arabs and a small minority of Jewish settlers.’
No it was not ‘compensation for the Holocaust’! Nothing could ‘compensate for the Holocaust’! It was the recognition of the Jewish right for self-determination in the land where Jews had lived continuously since Biblical times. Neither were they ‘settlers’. They were either descendants of families who had lived around Jerusalem for thousands of years or they were legitimate migrants. Were the people who came to the UK on the Windrush, ‘settlers’?
Now look at this extract from the opinion. It is simply chockful of untruths and distortions:
Suggesting that the creation of Israel was ‘the result of a terrorist campaign’ completely whitewashes the Arab violence against Jews, documented eg by David Collier and I here. Israel has not ‘refused Security Council demands to withdraw’ from lands captured in 1967. Resolution 242 – to which this refers – links withdrawal to termination of aggression against Israel, which still to this day has not happened. Further, 242 did not refer to withdrawal from ‘all’ lands: It did not pre-empt a negotiated peace. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch may be respected by certain eminent QCs but they are in no way respected by anyone with a scintilla of knowledge of their endemic anti-Israel bias. The Knesset has passed no law which ‘discriminates against Arab Israelis’. Robertson fails (of course ….) to say where the “One Nation” Basic Law was ‘widely condemned as consigning Palestinians to second-class citizenship’. The truth is that the law simply establishes in law most of the provisions of the declaration of independence from 1948 and will change very little. The most controversial part – about restricting membership of different residential communities – was dropped. His Eminence tells us that ‘many commentators’ describe the law as a ‘form of apartheid’. I challenge him to name just one such ‘commentator’ who does not also have a record of traducing Israel. And please don’t tell me ‘Ahmad Tibi’!
The lie about discriminatory laws is repeated later in the opinion except here the commentators who liken the Nation State Law to ‘apartheid’ are said to be ‘reputable’. Like whom, Your Eminence? And if you suggest that ‘whether the State of Israel is a “racist endeavour” is open to question’ then you are very much part of the problem.
Turning to Mr Robertson’s comments on the IHRA itself, he calls the EUMC (which first promulgated a definition almost identical to that of the IHRA) an ‘obscure’ European Union agency. Why the qualification? The EUMC was no more ‘obscure’ than any other EU agency. And the EUMC did not ‘abandon’ the definition. It became the FRA, the Fundamental Rights Agency, which also did not ‘abandon’ the definition (it did though remove it from its website without asking any of the governments and Jewish NGOs which drew it up).
The next untruth is the claim that the UK Home Affairs Committee recommended the IHRA definition ‘but only with caveats ie necessary conditions to protect free speech’. As I pointed out in another recent blog, the Committee accepted the definition but with qualifications to two of the examples. One of the qualifications was unnecessary – so cannot be deemed ‘necessary to protect free speech’. The second was something between meaningless and circular – so ditto.
Mr Robertson’s treatment of the eleven examples in the IHRA definition is also blatantly wrong.
First, he questions whether the examples were adopted at the same time as the opening paragraph. Of course they were. See here and here. With a couple of minutes’ googling he could have found that out for himself. Or is he being deliberately obfuscatory ……
Secondly, he says that the definition implies that if a statement does not exhibit ‘hate’, it cannot be antisemitic:
“I don’t like Jews and never employ them, but I don’t hate them” – this speaker is anti-Semitic, but it does not seem included in this definition. Similarly, “I am prejudiced against Jews because they are not “one of us” and their religious practices are ridiculous, but I don’t hate them.” Or “I think we should deport all Jews to Israel, because they would be happy there. It would be in their own interests – I certainly don’t hate them, I just think they don’t fit in here in England.” Under the IHRA definition, these anti-Semitic comments would not be deemed “anti-Semitic.”
Mr Robertson even has the gall to write:
‘It fails Jewish people, most of all, by its inability to detect many who harbour hostility towards them – for example, those who insinuate racial prejudice politely.”
This simply beggars belief. All three statements are antisemitic under IHRA. Refusing to employ Jews violates the Equality Act and is clearly hatred of Jews. It is deluded to suggest otherwise. The same applies to the person who admits to being ‘prejudiced’ against Jews and the one who thinks Jews should be ‘deported’ (perhaps His Eminence can explain how someone born in the UK can be deported?). (NB the person who admits prejudice may not be in breach of the Equality Act).
It’s a great shame that some QCs are so short of work that they feel obliged to stoop to this level.
Appendix: IHRA definition
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
To guide IHRA in its work, the following examples may serve as illustrations:
Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
#1 * Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
#2 *Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
#3 *Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
#4 *Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
#5 *Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
#6 *Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
#7 *Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
#8 *Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
#9 *Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
#10 *Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
#11 *Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.