It was Len McCluskey (71), the recently retired leader of the Unite trade union, who, at the height of Labour’s antisemitism crisis, appallingly suggested that the victim was in truth the perpetrator: he told the leaders of the UK Jewish Community ‘to abandon their truculent hostility, engage in dialogue and dial down the rhetoric, before the political estrangement between them and the Labour Party becomes entrenched.’
Earlier he dismissed complaints about antisemitism in Labour as “mood music created by people trying to undermine Jeremy Corbyn”.
So when I saw that he had published his autobiography (to coincide with Labour’s Conference) I was keen to see what he says about antisemitism in Labour.
I was not encouraged when I opened the book. There is no index and no references. McCluskey simply asserts his views as if they are facts. They most definitely are not.
Of course McCluskey hasn’t changed – despite claiming (p15) that as a result of seeing as a child his father’s photo album of the Holocaust, ‘I have been a passionate fighter against antisemitism since I was 12’.
The Chapter entitled ‘Labour’s Antisemitism Crisis’ (p231) is 11 pages long. He ascribes the media criticisms of Corbyn to ‘his support for the Palestinian cause’. In support of this statement he writes that the antisemitism crisis ‘suddenly became invisible as soon as there was a change of leadership in 2020’. What utter nonsense. He claims that ‘no evidence that antisemitism was more widespread in the Labour Party than in wider society has ever been produced’. A blatant lie. And if he’d bothered to consult the organisation Labour Against Antisemitism, he’d have found out that they have referred around 1500 Labour members for antisemitism since 2017.
‘Research showed antisemitic attitudes were no more prevalent on the left – from which the Labour membership was drawn – than in any other part of the political spectrum’. Ludicrously there is no reference to this ‘research’. But I can hazard a guess: it’s this discredited (by me) JPR research.
More: ‘The idea that Labour represented “an existential threat to Jewish life” in Britain, as the three main Jewish newspapers declared in July 2018, was baseless’. OK if McCluskey won’t cite evidence I will: In a poll dated October 2019, 47% of British Jews said that would seriously consider leaving the UK if Corbyn became Prime Minister. Maybe McCluskey can tell us how high that number needed to be, to become an ‘existential threat? 100%?
On page 236 McCluskey renews his 2018 attack on Jewish Community institutions: he rightly says that they made demands of the Labour leadership, but ‘it increasingly appeared they were not willing to take yes for an answer’ (!). As in his HuffPost article linked to above, he suggests that Corbyn agreed to all their demands, but their response was ‘Intransigent hostility and a refusal to talk. The more Corbyn and Labour attempted to address their worries, the more extreme their rhetoric became.’ Breathtaking lies. But we’ve had centuries of this: Jewish victims being portrayed by antisemites as perpetrators. McCluskey is just the latest in a 2000-year long line.
Then on page 237 we come to Israel (yet again putting the lie to those who claim that Labour’s antisemitism crisis had nothing to do with Israel – those who for example objected to me carrying an Israel flag at the pre-2019 election rallies against antisemitism).
There’s no question that the issue of Israel-Palestine underlaid the Labour antisemitism crisis ….. My support for the Palestinian cause is longstanding. I will never accept that it’s antisemitic to criticise the government of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians …. I do, however, accept Israel’s right to exist.’
McCluskey has learned nothing. Despite claiming to support the IHRA antisemitism definition, he repeats the lie (so beloved by antisemites) that ‘it’s antisemitic to criticise the government of Israel’. This is an element of the so-called Livingstone Formulation (in truth you will not find a better exponent of the Formulation than Len McCluskey). IHRA specifically says that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’. As for ‘accepting Israel’s right to exist’, it’s laughable – does he also accept Sweden’s right to exist? Or New Zealand’s? Does he seriously think this puts him on the right side when it comes to fighting antisemitism??
He justifies Unite’s affiliation to the PSC by saying it accepts the right of Israel to exist. This is pure sophistry. The PSC supports the ‘right of return’ for all 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants. If it happened it would be the end of Israel as the world’s only Jewish-character State.
More evidence on McCluskey’s bigotry is his assessment of John Ware’s excellent BBC Panorama: ‘Is Labour Antisemitic?’ (July 2019). (And here). He says ‘I thought it fell well below the BBC’s standards’. Why? What’s his reasoning? HM The Queen or the Pope may have credibility when they make ex cathedra unevidenced statements. Contrary to what he might believe, McCluskey is neither.
The few times McCluskey DOES quote evidence, it’s slanted. As part of his thesis that the media (and others) way overstated the antisemitism problem, he refers (p239) to a 2019 poll by Survation. He claims the poll found that people thought that as many as one-third of Labour members had been subject to complaints about antisemitism.
McCluskey got the ‘one-third’ number from a book published two years ago. I fisked the ‘one-third’ (actually 34%) claim at the time, here. It’s simply deceitful.
McCluskey may be history but – as Labour members Emma Picken and Euan Philipps (two tireless admirable non-Jewish LAAS heroes in the fight against antisemitism) amply demonstrate in a just-published excellent Labour Uncut book extract (with input from others of LAAS) – the fight against antisemitism in Labour is definitely not.
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