There’s a solid 19-point guide at the This-Is-Not-Jewish tumblr, on how to criticise Israel without being anti-Semitic. I have a quibble only over point 5: “Zionism is no more a dirty word than feminism.”
Feminism is the peaceful worldwide revolution for women’s rights and to end the patriarchy. Zionism is the movement, founded in the late 19th century, for the return of Jews to Eretz Yisrael / “the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel”.
The two are not the same. The equivalents would be the peaceful revolution to end anti-Semitism worldwide or the foundation of a matriarchal state.
The problem with founding a homeland is that in any habitable part of the world, there are people already living there. (The same tumblr also discusses this in how to support Israel without being racist.)
Deir Yassin was a village in what was Palestine. On 9th April 1948, around 120 fighters from the Irgun and Lehi groups (which were “paramilitary” or “terrorists” depending on your viewpoint) attacked the Deir Yassin village, killing over a hundred people, many of them women and children, and drove out the survivors.
In Kelvingrove Park, there is a plaque in memory of the massacre, unveiled on the 40th anniversary by the then-Lord Provost Robert Gray. At a memorial event on 7th April 2002, during Operation Defensive Shield, the STUC General Secretary Bill Spiers said:
“But in the midst of this brutal madness in Palestine there is a glimmer of hope which links April 1948 to April 2002.
“We know what happened in Deir Yassin in 1948 in part because of the eyewitness testimony of Jewish villagers, who had lived peacefully alongside their neighbours until the Zionist terrorists arrived. And more the slaughter was actually stopped by courageous protesting Jews from the nearby village of Givat Shaul.”
Last Friday night Louise Mensch – former Tory MP, current Sun on Sunday columnist, and author of Sparkles, Glamour, Glitz, Passion, Desire, and Destiny, had an embarrassing incident involving a screenshot and Twitter’s auto-complete function, detailed in part 1. I am posting these as a series of debunking reports of the long blog Mensch posted on unfashionista the Saturday night after her Twitter fail.
Louise Mensch, like the Telegraph, started out seeing Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for leadership as a very good joke, since obviously Labour members and supporters would never actually elect him: and then as it became clear that he might just win, that Jeremy Corbyn could be Leader of the Opposition in September, Mensch and the Telegraph appear to be as one on this one thing: Corbyn must be stopped.
On Thursday 13th August, a follower responding to Louise Mensch’s tweet “Christ on a bike. Antisemites for Corbyn” coined the first use of the hashtag #antisemitesforcorbyn. (In the same tweet, he also coined #inbredforcorbyn and #thickasminceforcorbyn.)
Louise Mensch didn’t immediately pick up on this hashtag. Nobody did.
As of Tuesday 25th August, the hashtag has been used 453 times, 82 times by Louise Mensch. Between 9am Friday 21st August and 9am Monday 24th August, the hashtag was used 348 times: over the weekend Louise Mensch was responsible for about 20% of its use, apparently the largest single user.
— Shakey (@ShakeyStephens) August 21, 2015
Louise Mensch’s interest in calling out anti-Semitism in British politics did not, of course, extend to calling out fellow anti-Corbynist Dan Hodges: her opposition appears to begin and end with smearing Jeremy Corbyn.
No one actually thinks Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic: neither his political opponents nor his supporters. No one who thinks. Because, of course, the relentless recycling of the meme that Jeremy Corbyn is associated with anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, is creating a larger and larger pool of people who have absorbed without thinking the belief that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic. (You can read Stephen Daisley (who describes himself as “a Catholic, a Zionist, center-right”) recycling many of these smears again at STVNews website.)
And all this smearing and recycling of smears is quite deliberate: it’s a tactic either to lose Corbyn the leadership election to a more right-wing, anodyne candidate: or, if he wins, to force him to be constantly denying accusations so bizarre and enraging that he fails his first job – to keep the Labour Party together and increase support in time for the Scottish Parliament and English/Welsh council elections in May 2016. Debunking the smears is possible: doing so thoroughly and completely takes time. People who are not checking sources, who are indifferent to what the exact truth is, can write and publish their distortions and lies so much faster than a fact-checker can.
Whether or not you think Jeremy Corbyn could lead the Labour Party to a win in 2020, or improve their odds in Scotland in 2016, he would as Leader of the Opposition have six questions at Prime Minister’s Questions every week: his left-wing Cabinet would be appearing on Newsnight and Question Time: as Tory councillor Oliver Cooper was prescient enough to realise, as early as July:
[Labour]’ll still have the same platform, no matter how [left-wing] their leader’s views. The only difference is Corbyn’s views will be more left-wing, so will shift the entire political debate to the left. Long-term, so long as Labour and the Conservatives remain the two major parties in the UK, the only way to make progress is to persuade Labour to accept our position. Our ideas don’t win just when our party does, but when the other party advocates our ideas, too.
Win or lose in 2020, Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Opposition would destroy the posh-boy politics of the Tory front bench that have gone unchallenged since 2010. And Louise Mensch, while she evidently assumes posh-boy politics are the kind of thing Brits will vote for, doesn’t want to see them challenged effectively by Jeremy Corbyn,
The most recent post on Louise Mensch’s blog unfashionista.com consists of earnest concern-trolling to Labour MPs about how if Jeremy Corbyn wins the leadership election they must remove him immediately. This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the fearful prospect of his very popular views as leader of the Opposition, she assures them, it’s because, she claims, Corbyn donated to a Holocaust denier.
Jeremy Corbyn acknowledges donating to Deir Yassin Remembered, and attending memorial events for Deir Yassin.
The most recent memorial event for Deir Yassin Jeremy Corbyn’s known to have attended was on Tuesday 9th April 2013, the 65th anniversary of the massacre, at the St John’s Wood Church in NW8 London. The commemorative event was directed by Justin Butcher and Ahmed Masoud. A survivor of Deir Yassin, who was 4 in 1948, Abdallah M. I. Eid, who lost his father and brothers and sisters in the massacre, had come to the UK to attend the commemoration events.
(In Scotland, a 25th-anniversary (of the Kelvingrove plaque) memorial event was planned to be held on Sunday, 7th April 2013 with the current Lord Provost, Sadie Docherty: the noted anti-apartheid activist and Scottish co-ordinator of Deir Yassin Remembered, Bill Filling, was organising this event, but cancelled it on Friday 5th April 2013 – according to Louise Mensch “Jewish groups had succeeded in canceling the antisemitic groups’s event”.)
Louise Mensch has not declared that Justin Butcher, Sadie Docherty, Abdallah Eid, Bill Filling, Robert Gray, Ahmed Masoud, and Bill Spiers are anti-Semitic… or not yet.
But Jeremy Corbyn went along, to an event by the antisemitic DYR, with an antisemitic invitation, and shared a platform with two very well known racists, in 2005. How can he say he did not know? It was his duty to know. And is it true? What correspondence exists? Can he say it was never flagged up to him?
Can Louise Mensch honestly say that Paul Eisen was a “very well known racist” in April 2005? Here in the Jews Sans Frontieres blog you can read – dated June 2005 – a very clear account of the process by which many supporters of Deir Yassin Remembered finally had to conclude that “Paul Eisen has finally come out as, or at least gone over to, supporting a full-blown neo-nazi take on Hitler and the holocaust.”
This isn’t the first time Jeremy Corbyn has been expected to have foreknowledge. As discussed here, Cathy Newman, the anchor of Channel 4 News, insisted that in 2011, Jeremy Corbyn should have known that Raed Salah was to be convicted by the Israeli government in 2014 and not defended him.
Louise Mensch thinks Jeremy Corbyn shouldn’t have attended any Deir Yassin events because the organisation Deir Yassin Remembered had Paul Eisen on their board of advisers (the full list of past and present advisers and directors is here – you have to scroll down to find Paul Eisen, but he’s there).
No-one should share a platform with an avowed racist and a fascist
Jeremy Corbyn told Cathy Newman of Channel Four that when he supported Deir Yassin Remembered it was not anti-semitic. Is that true? Here’s some evidence not so far covered in the press:
In 2005, Jeremy Corbyn went to a DYR celebration with Paul Eisen – where the famous anti-semite Gilad Atzmon was performing.
Paul Eisen is a commendable person, and the Deir Yassin Remembered organization, of which he is a director, is an eminently worthy and important group that keeps alive the truth about the massacre of Palestinians and the Catastrophe that was visited upon them in the creation of the Jewish State of Israel. It is not my goal to argue that Eisen is an anti-Semite. I believe that Eisen has fallen into a trap that entices many activists—particularly Jewish activists—who are enormously frustrated by their impotence to make things better. They lose political clarity and resort to mythmaking. I am responding because I believe that Eisen’s arguments are not only baseless, but dangerously wrong.
I think the essay is worth reading in full – Joel Finkel knew and respected Paul Eisen before what he calls this “sad footnote”, dated June 2005:
Israel Shahak taught us that a search for the non-existent “Jewish essence” could lead in only two directions: Jewish chauvanism or anti-Semitism. Demonstrating the truth of this lesson, Eisen has left no doubt as to his trajectory: he has plummeted into full-blown anti-Semitism.
If Joel Finkel felt that by June 2005 there was no doubt that Paul Eisen had “plummeted into full-blown anti-Semitism”, then should Jeremy Corbyn have been aware of this … in April 2005? Or before?
Asa Winstanley, investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada, points out that the main “connection” between Paul Eisen and Jeremy Corbyn is that Eisen lives in Islington and is therefore one of Corbyn’s constituents.
Eisen claims to have met him in that capacity – as Corbyn is his member of parliament. It is nonetheless odd that the Mail would be so keen to take the word of a Holocaust denier when it comes to his relationship with Corbyn.
(Presumably, when Louise Mensch was an MP, she made a point of never seeing constituents whose views she could not support.)
Left-wing blogger Charlie Pottins also notes, writing about the Daily Mail smear that Louise Mensch also borrows from:
One of the “facts” that the Daily Mail writer found most telling was that when Paul Eisen approached Jeremy Corbyn – his MP – fifteen years ago – about Deir Yassin Remembered, the MP took out his chequebook. It does not seem to occur to the writer Jake Wallis Simons that fifteen years ago, far from Paul Eisen being “notorious”, nobody had heard of him. I doubt whether he’s that famous now. Whereas the massacre at Deir Yassin was well-known, and nobody denied it had happened, even if Simons and the Jewish Chronicle‘s Marcel Dysch seem to think they can relegate it to a “controversy” now.
But is Louise Mensch really trying to argue that anyone who attends a Deir Yassin Remembered event is supporting anti-Semitism? Apparently she is.
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) August 22, 2015
That would be this letter:
I totally reject the suggestion that Deir Yassin Remembered organisation could be regarded as a group whose membership is largely composed of Holocaust deniers. As an Israeli human rights activist, whose grandparents perished in the Holocaust, I strongly believe that the massacre in Deir Yassin and the narrative of the Palestinian people should not be wiped out of history. DYR is commemorative body which is supported by members of civil society all over the world. I hope that the public, including the Jewish community, will support the important work and aims of DYR as well as backing Jeremy Corbyn and his vision of a fairer society.
Louise Mensch moves on to Gilad Atzmon.
Further, Gilad Atzmon performed at this event. Was Atzmon a known anti-Semite in 2005? You bet.
Gilad Atzmon was born in Ramat Gan, Israel in 1963. He is a jazz artist (saxophone) and writer.
Gilad Atzmon is one of the world's leading anti-Semites and was known as such in 2005 when Corbyn went to DYR event https://t.co/CHzXULpGma
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) August 22, 2015
Sorry, I want to sidetrack a little bit, but it’s relevant.
From 9th July 2009, the first permanent chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) (the 21 Conservative Party and the Ulster Unionists MEPs are about a third of the 74-MEP group) was Polish MEP Michel Kamiński: he stepped down as chair on 8th March 2011, but he is still seated as an MEP with the ECR Group. [Correction: since May 2014 he’s been an MEP for Civic Platform/Platforma Obywatelska, and sits with the European People’s Party Group.]
On 10th July 1941, in a small town in Poland called Jedwabne, this happened:
Jedwabne’s Jews had been ordered by the town’s mayor, Marian Karolak, to assemble in the square. They were told to pull grass from between the cobblestones. They arrived in their hundreds with spoons and scissors. Many were whipped and beaten with clubs and farm tools. Some were ordered to pull down a statue of Lenin which had served as a reminder to Poles of the hated, former Soviet occupiers, with whom they accused their Jewish neighbours of having collaborated. The Jews were ordered to carry the statue up the dusty track to the barn, singing “the war is because of us, the war is for us”.
When the procession arrived at the barn, at least 300 Jewish men, women and children were pushed inside. Villagers looked on as others poured in fuel before setting it alight. Screams rang out as they were all burned alive.
In 2001, when President Aleksander Kwasniewski wanted to stage a national apology to mark the massacre’s sixtieth anniversary: to atone, Poland was to beg forgiveness from the world.
Michel Kamiński was the local MP whose constituency included Jedwabne. He argued in an interview with the nationalist Nasza Polska newspaper in March 2001, that “while the massacre could not be defended, Poles should not apologise for what they did until Jews apologised to them for their actions which had included ‘murdering Poles’.”
The accounts of Polish journalists, historians and local people leave no doubt he was instrumental in urging Jedwabne residents to oppose the president’s apology and boycott the ceremonial event in 2001. He pressed his case at numerous meetings in Jedwabne during the first half of that year.
“As a local MP, Kaminski played a key role in the campaign questioning the Polish responsibility for the Jedwabne massacre. The campaign had strongly antisemitic overtones,” said Dr Rafal Pankowski, a member of the Never Again Association and author of The Populist Radical Right in Poland.
In Nasza Polska, Kaminski argued that, while the Jedwabne massacre should cause every man to “bow his head” in shame, it had been carried out by very few Poles – a group of hopeless individuals from the fringes of society, “tramps, bums and outcasts”, as he put it. He felt Gross and his backers were rewriting history in a way that was unfair to his countrymen. “This is an attempt to blame the Poles – or accuse them of complicity – for the Holocaust,” he told the paper.
Louise Mensch has never, to my knowledge, argued that the Conservative MEPs should not share the platform of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group with Michel Kamiński.
But Gilad Atzmon – jazz musician, writer – is “one of the world’s leading anti-Semites” and Jeremy Corbyn, Louise Mensch says, should not attend an event where he is performing.
This is not “whataboutery”. I flatly do not believe that Louise Mensch sudden discovery that the leader of a political party should not be seen to associate with anti-Semites in any way, is anything but a contrived excuse to smear Jeremy Corbyn. Michel Kamiński sits with Conservative MEPs in the European Parliament: Louise Mensch is silent. Jeremy Corbyn watches Gilad Atzmon perform at a Deir Yassin memorial event: Louise Mensch screams outrage.
Louise Mensch asks:
The question is did Corbyn know of Eisen’s antisemitism in advance? Of Gilad Atzmon’s antisemitism in advance? He must either have known or have been criminally negligent.
On Sunday night I had a long discussion on Twitter with Jeremy Duns, who certainly is convinced that Gilad Atzmon is anti-Semitic and a Holocaust denier. I had never heard of Gilad Atzmon before, and what I read of the links Duns sent me didn’t convince me. I certainly dispute – as I think any intelligent person would – that in a world that includes anti-Semitic MEPs in the European Parliament, anti-Semitic historians like David Irving, kings of Saudi Arabia who mandate Holocaust denial in Saudi schools, whether it’s really appropriate to call a jazz performer one of “the world’s leading anti-Semites”.
I’ve read through some of Gilad Atzmon’s essays, and looked at screenshots of his new book (A to Zion, a fictitious alphabetic satirical lexicon illustrated by Italian cartoonist Enzo Apicella), and while this may expose me as an ignorant Gentile, I do not pick up on Gilad Atzmon as anti-Semitic: as a satirist, as a critic of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, yes; but anti-Semitic? I didn’t perceive his writings that way.
(I could be wrong. And, if I read more, I may change my mind.)
But Louise Mensch seems to feel that Jeremy Corbyn should – on discovering that he was to hear Gilad Atzmon perform at a Deir Yassin Remembered event in 2005 – have then studied Atzmon’s writings thoroughly before attending the performance. And the fact that Corbyn probably didn’t do that is, in Mensch’s view, “criminally negligent.”
I do question Louise Mensch’s methodology and conclusions: she is silent over Michel Kamiński’s presence in the ECR with her fellow Conservatives, her just outrage at the British State’s official presence at the King of Saudi Arabia’s funeral does not reference Saudi anti-Semitism: but she has decided that an Israeli-born British jazz performer is one of the world’s leading anti-Semites and anyone who goes to see him perform is tainted with anti-Semitism or criminally negligent if they didn’t know he is identified as an anti-Semite.
We write as members of a Jewish family, current and former constituents of Jeremy Corbyn. The accusations of antisemitism are, of course, political manipulations (Corbyn faces questions over meeting with alleged extremist, 20 August). Influential sections of the Jewish community, maybe guided by their Israeli contacts, are frightened that a notable critic of Israel’s policies and actions might attain a position of prominence in British politics. There are two background issues to which we would like to draw attention, aside from joining in the increasing number of Jews who say, of Israel’s behaviour, “not in our name”. The first is that the hysterical pressure to desist on anyone who wants to talk to Hamas and Hezbollah has been destructive to the prospects of peace. The second is that the repeated conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism is no accident. It is done quite consciously.
Lydia, Joel and Andrew Samuels
Glasgow is twinned with Bethlehem since 2007, and more accusations of outrage were made when Glasgow Council decided to fly the Palestinian flag on City Chambers on Friday 8th August 2014, a month after the Israeli government had launched Operation Protective Edge (or Operation Strong Cliff, in Hebrew).
Amnesty International’s report on Operation Protective Edge says:
Israeli forces committed war crimes and human rights violations during a 50-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip that killed over 1,500 civilians, including 539 children, wounded thousands more civilians, and caused massive civilian displacement and destruction of property and vital services. Israel maintained its air, sea and land blockade of Gaza, imposing collective punishment on its approximately 1.8 million inhabitants and stoking the humanitarian crisis. In the West Bank, Israeli forces carried out unlawful killings of Palestinian protesters, including children, and maintained an array of oppressive restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement while continuing to promote illegal settlements and allow Israeli settlers to attack Palestinians and destroy their property with near total impunity. Israeli forces detained thousands of Palestinians, some of whom reported being tortured, and held around 500 administrative detainees without trial. Within Israel, the authorities continued to demolish homes of Palestinian Bedouin in “unrecognized villages” in the Negev/Naqab region and commit forcible evictions. They also detained and summarily expelled thousands of foreign migrants, including asylum-seekers, and imprisoned Israeli conscientious objectors.
The image to the right is the UN’s infographic on the impact of Operation Protective Edge from the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights report on the conflict.
The British Israel Briefing and Communications Centre (BICOM) notes that Israel refused to cooperate with the UN investigation and quotes Philip Hammond, the Conservative Foreign Secretary, as saying that the UN Human Rights Council’s resolution commissioning the report was “fundamentally unbalanced“. Alan Johnson, who wrote the open letter in Left Foot Forward in June which seems to have been the first attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn by association with anti-Semitism, is a Senior Research Fellow for BICOM.
What does all of this have to do with Louise Mensch and smears of Jeremy Corbyn?
My point is what many of those smearing Corbyn for association with anti-Semites would like you to forget:
- The Deir Yassin massacre happened, 9th April 1948, and to support its being remembered is not anti-Semitic.
- Failure to support the Israeli government’s actions against the Palestinians or Israeli Arabs is not anti-Semitic.
- Supporting the UN and Amnesty International in their work is not anti-Semitic.
- Believing that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the Arab Israelis within Israel’s 1967 borders, are not being treated justly or fairly by the Israeli government and they should be is not anti-Semitic.
Louise Mensch concludes this section of her smear:
On what possible grounds then did Jeremy Corbyn attend another DYR event in 2013?
By now he must have been well aware of his constituent Eisen’s wild antisemitism. Was the eye-watering anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon present again? Atzmon advertises the event here and here. I think not because it seems he was at DYR Glasgow where, damningly for Corbyn, Jewish groups had succeeded in canceling the antisemitic groups’s event. By this time even BDS had disassociated from Eisen.
Again: is Louise Mensch seriously trying to argue that remembering the Deir Yassin massacre is, in and of itself, enough to label someone an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier?
A screenshot of the invitation is below. Louise Mensch will have to explain why anyone receiving should have immediately assumed – as she presumes they should – that this event equates to anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Are Justin Butcher or Ahmed Masoud., in her eyes, now “the world’s leading anti-Semites”?
And why is Louise Mensch equating “donated money to commemorate Deir Yassin” with “donated money to a Holocaust denier”? For that’s the essence of this smear.