Rt Hon Jo Swinson, Libdem Leader
Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable, previous Leader
Rt Hon Tim Farron, previous Leader
Baroness Sarah Brinton, Libdem President
A couple of months ago, 12 LibDem members wrote an Open Letter to you in protest at the suspension of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine. It has been republished (so endorsed) by Jewish Voice for Labour. The letter is full of errors and misrepresentations and cannot pass without a response (albeit delayed).
They criticise you – the LibDem leadership – for accusations about antisemitism in the Labour Party. They adduce in their support this JVL article. I fisked it here, shortly after it was published. Here was my conclusion:
Jewish Voice for Labour wants to mobilise this sham statistical study to persuade journalists (ahead of the EHRC announcement) that allegations of antisemitism in Labour are false and are designed to undermine Corbyn. Fortunately it is so shoddy that it will have the opposite effect.
They say that you should discard the IHRA Definition of antisemitism. You will appreciate that a fundamental right of a minority is to set out what offends it. 12 LibDem members do not have the right to tell Jews what offends them.
They say there is ‘massive evidence’ that Israel and its supporters use IHRA to label genuine criticism of Israel as ‘antisemitic’. This lie is such a well-worn device of antisemites that it even has its own name: the Livingstone Formulation. To ‘prove’ their assertion of ‘massive evidence’ they cite an article by Tony Lerman. Lerman is an outspoken anti-Zionist who left his job as Director of the Institute of Jewish Affairs (now IJPR) due to the objection of some Trustees to his support for ‘One State’; ‘One State’ is antisemitic since it implies the dissolution of the world’s only state founded on Judaism. He is therefore an outlier in the Jewish Community. His paper has many factual errors, for example the assertion that ‘the UK Government adopted the definition but not the list of examples’. He supports this by a reference to a paper by an academic at Birmingham University. She in turn (footnote 18) cites a paper which states that the IHRA did not adopt the examples as part of the Definition.
Lerman also states that the London School of Economics has adopted only the vague top 38-word paragraph of the Definition, without the examples. This is true – and shameful, as I commented here. All Universities should follow the example of Kings College London and adopt the entire IHRA Definition. I hope you will encourage this.
In his opposition to IHRA Lerman cites the opposition of lawyers Hugh Tomlinson QC, Sir Stephen Sedley, Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Geoffrey Robertson.
Tomlinson was paid by four anti-Israel organisations including the PSC to produce an Opinion on IHRA and (surprise surprise) produced a critical assessment.
Sedley suggested the completely unworkable definition that “Antisemitism is hostility towards Jews as Jews”. His criticism of IHRA effectively amounts to the Livingstone Formulation.
Bindman’s criticism is here. He states ‘the IHRA definition should only be adopted if qualified by caveats making clear that it is not antisemitic to criticise the Israeli government without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent’. Of course – and it is in the Definition! (‘ …criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’.)
Robertson’s Opinion was funded by the Palestine Return Centre. I fisked it here. It was rapidly deleted. Its worth can be deduced from Robertson’s demonstrably false statement that Israel was created ‘to compensate for the Holocaust’.
Of course Lerman (and the 12 LibDems) fail to tell you that the Campaign Against Antisemitism published a supportive legal opinion about IHRA.
‘Who is inside the rabble? People like Naomi Wimborne Idrissi, who have spoken under the flag of the soon to be proscribed Hezbollah and Elleanne Green, founder of the antisemitic Palestine Live Facebook group. Without the antisemites, this group could not gather a regular ‘minyan‘, which is why they never publicly demonstrate. In other words everybody should know, including those at the BBC and the Letters Editor at the Guardian newspaper, that this fringe crowd is not a legitimate ‘Jewish’ voice…. Both the Independent letter and the Guardian letter have signatories who spread Holocaust Denial.’
The signatories are no more representative of British Jews than the Westboro Baptist Church is representative of Christianity.
Finally let’s look at the track record of the 12 LibDems – or at least the eight willing to be identified. Three of them have anti-Israel history on social media.
Jonathan Coulter is a PSC activist. He co-authored the flawed JVL article which the 12 cite in their support. He is a member of the secret Palestine Live group in Facebook that is riddled with antisemitism. He initiated a judicial review of the IPSO decision regarding the Times and Sunday Times coverage of a meeting in Parliament hosted by Jenny Tonge in October 2016. A meeting that saw full-on Holocaust Denial and blame of Zionists for the Holocaust. He lost…… Coulter thinks ‘the press is bullying people in such a way that they are reluctant to speak up on Israel/Palestine’. And he thinks that the reason MPs join Friends of Israel organisations is because they are “scared of being done over by the Jewish Chronicle”. You get the picture………….
‘By the time of Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14 1948, the numbers of Arab refugees had more than trebled. Even then, none of the 170,000-180,000 Arabs fleeing urban centers, and only a handful of the 130,000-160,000 villagers who left their homes, had been forced out by the Jews.’ The Mayor of Haifa begged the Arabs to stay and many fled on instructions from their leaders.
Denis Mollison has advocated One State, which is antisemitic because it means the end of Israel as a state founded on Judaism.
Following the resignation under pressure of Jenny Tonge – after she was suspended – the LibDems have become the Party of choice for many UK Jews, appalled by Labour’s institutional antisemitism and opposed to Brexit (or at least a no-deal Brexit). No doubt they will be confident that you will treat the ‘Open Letter’ with the derision that it deserves.
Geoffrey Bindman’s critique of IHRA is set out in Journal called European Judaism (March 2019). Here is an extract:
What a joke………….These ‘Jewish members’ are anti-Israel ‘As-A-Jews’. Tomlinson was paid by four anti-Israel organisations to produce an Opinion on IHRA and (surprise surprise) produced a critical assessment.
The four were Free Speech on Israel, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.