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Chakrabarti Inquiry into antisemitism

and other forms of racism within the Labour Party

Submission by Jews for Justice for Palestinians
June 2016

Contents
1.

Summary

2.

About Jews for Justice for Palestinians and why we are contributing to this
enquiry

3.

Allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party

4.

Boundaries of acceptable behaviour and language

5.

Compliance procedures

6.

Training

7.

Code of conduct and party rules

8.

Welcoming environment for members of all communities

9.

Appendix 1 – JfJfP’s views according to how widely they are shared by the
community, as shown by the City University survey

10. Appendix 2 – Antisemitism and Israel/Palestine discourse: reviewing the
Community Security Trust’s figures

jfjfp.com – jfjfp@jfjfp.com
JfJfP, 20-22 Wenlock Road, London N1 7GU

1

Summary

1.1

Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) is the largest Jewish peace group in Europe. We
campaign in support of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. JfJfP’s signatories have
long experience of challenging antisemitism. Our campaigning includes working within the
British Jewish community, which, in spite of the appearance often conveyed by the Jewish
communal leadership, holds views on Israel/Palestine that are overall ‘dovish’.

1.2

Allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party: The small number of reported allegations
appear mainly to involve discourse about Israel/Palestine. Drawing on our wider experience,
we know that such allegations are often part of the political argument itself and are a proxy
for the debate around the Israel/Palestine conflict. Remarks alleged to be antisemitic need to
be assessed in this context.

1.3

Boundaries of acceptable behaviour and language: The Labour Party should adopt a
simple and objective definition of antisemitism such as: ‘Hostility towards Jews as Jews, in
which they are perceived as something other than what they are’. Allegations of antisemitism
must be tangibly evidenced and be considered on a case-by-case basis, with due regard to
context.

1.4

JfJfP offers the Inquiry commentary, guidelines and parameters, based on our experience
of challenging antisemitism and of contentious discourse on Israel/Palestine:
Any new Labour Party compliance procedures should aim to help people learn and
change, and should conform with fairness, natural justice and due process principles.
The Labour Party should draw on best practice race/equalities training, including
expertise from Labour councils. No organisation committed to a particular position on
Israel/Palestine should be given an exclusive training franchise.
The Code of Conduct and rule changes should include an explicit commitment to free
speech and incorporate the principles of natural justice. The JLM’s rule change proposal
to adopt subjective criteria for determining antisemitism should be rejected.
A welcoming environment for all within the Labour Party is essential. If groups
advocating for Israel are allowed to determine what is legitimate discussion on
Israel/Palestine, those holding different opinions will feel unwelcome.

2.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians: why we are contributing to this inquiry

2.1

Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) is a Jewish campaigning organisation which supports
the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and opposes Israeli policies that undermine the
human, civil, political and economic rights of the Palestinian people. Our nearly 2000
signatories, Jews from across the religious and political spectrum, make us the largest Jewish
peace group in Europe.

2.2

Established in 2002, JfJfP campaigns in three ways. We work within the Jewish community,
develop solidarity with other groups in the struggle for Palestinian rights, and engage with
British, EU and US officials and elected representatives. We are very well connected in
Israel/Palestine and have substantial experience and expertise regarding the history of the
conflict there and its present manifestations. Many of our signatories regularly visit friends
and family in Israel, hold discussions with Israelis critical of the Occupation and the blockade
of Gaza, visit the West Bank, and meet with Palestinian activists.

2.3

Whilst differing on many issues, JfJfP’s signatories all sign up to core principles including:
Lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians requires justice, mutual recognition
and respect.
Peace requires ending Israel’s illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian land,
including its illegal blockade of Gaza.
Peace requires Israel to acknowledge its responsibility in the creation of the Palestinian
refugees, and its obligation to negotiate a just, fair and practical resolution of the issue.
Violence against civilians, no matter who commits it, is unacceptable.
It is crucial that Jews speak out for Palestinians’ human rights.

2.4

For JfJfP signatories, antisemitism has been a terrible reality: many lost family in the Nazi
Holocaust, and we include in our numbers signatories who are themselves Holocaust
survivors or children of survivors. We are totally opposed to antisemitism in all its
manifestations, as well as to all other forms of racism. Like other minorities, different Jews
draw different lessons from their experience of racism. Ours is the simple universalistic
conclusion: ‘Never again, to anyone’. It is this principle that underlies our opposition to the
oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians that has come with the creation of the state of
Israel.

2.5

We are aware that the political positions JfJfP adopts can be particularly painful and
challenging to Jews who hold a deep emotional attachment to Israel. We have often had

difficulty in securing a hearing in communal settings, especially those controlled by the
communal ‘establishment’ (e.g. the Chief Rabbi’s office, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish
Chronicle).
2.6

However, empirical evidence indicates widespread and growing Jewish disquiet about Israel’s
policies and practices towards the Palestinians. Our own support has risen significantly with
each surge in violence in Israel/Palestine (e.g. during the 2014 assault on Gaza, Operation
Protective Edge). At a broader level, a recent study by City University1 shows that while most
British Jews feel a strong attachment to Israel, they also show greater ambivalence, despair
and an increasing willingness to criticise it (albeit mainly in private). Appendix 1, based on
the City University study, lists key responses which relate to our work, and shows where we
sit in relation to the community as a whole.

2.7

JfJfP is located at the interface of competing narratives in the incendiary debate about
Israel/Palestine. We are a pluralist organisation: our signatories include practising and secular
Jews, Zionists and anti-Zionists, adherents of a wide spectrum of political parties, and of
none. We aim to be open and tolerant towards different views, seeking to engage with those
with whom we disagree, and always to ensure that our own contributions to this debate are
well-informed and reasoned.

2.8

Within the frame of our commitment to Palestinian human rights, our work balances different
perspectives. For example, while we strongly support boycott, divestment and sanctions
(BDS) as a peaceful, effective, and above all, ethical set of tools for campaigning against the
Occupation, we implement this policy sensitively, on a case-by-case basis. We target
organisations which collaborate in or are implicated in the Occupation or which undermine
Palestinian human rights. We do not target Israel per se.

2.9

We are thus well placed to throw more light on a debate that could do with a bit less heat. We
see the Inquiry as an opportunity to enlarge the space for constructive discourse about the
Israel/Palestine conflict and increase understanding of its relationship to concerns around
antisemitism.

1

Prof Stephen Miller et al, The Attitudes of British Jews Towards Israel, City University (2015) – see
www.city.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/295361/Israel-Report-FINAL.PDF

3.

Allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party

3.1

While JfJfP cannot comment on the details of individual cases, we do have some general
observations.

3.2

As other commentators have noted, the scale and tone of media commentary has seemed
disproportionate. A useful collation of cases up to 27th April by Jamie Stern-Weiner2
identifies allegations about ten individuals; and there were additional suspensions in May,
though the number is unclear. Together, these instances do not substantiate the claim of a
wave or trend of antisemitism in the Labour Party.

3.3

These early cases (eleven including Ken Livingstone’s) were the ones that grabbed the
media’s attention and were used to support the assertion that “the Labour party has a problem
with antisemitism” (or, as the Daily Telegraph headed a report on 4th May “Chief Rabbi:
Labour has a ‘severe’ problem with antisemitism”). It is worth looking at them in more detail:
Three involve allegations of language which resemble classic antisemitic stereotypes:
“Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie”, “of Jewish blood” [of Tesco], “[the] Jews are so powerful
in the US it’s disgusting”. They do not refer to Israel/Palestine and are easy to deal with
and assess in the light of traditional understandings of antisemitism.
By contrast, Israel/Palestine is the focus, to a greater or lesser extent, of the other eight
cases. These are, therefore, more problematic. While we acknowledge that discourse on
Israel/Palestine can involve antisemitism, this should not be assumed. It is anything but
the norm. Our experience tells us that, with debate about Israel/Palestine, we are more
likely to be in the realm of contested political analysis, where allegations or accusations
of antisemitism are themselves part of the political argument, indeed, have often become
a proxy for the Israel/Palestine debate itself. Such allegations demand, therefore, the
most careful and dispassionate evaluation.

3.4

First it must be acknowledged that people who strongly sympathise with the Palestinians may
express themselves (knowingly or not) in terms which resemble or include antisemitic
stereotypes. Also, people with antisemitic beliefs may find in the Israel/Palestine controversy
a convenient opportunity to express them. In our experience such cases are rare. But equally,
passionate supporters of Israel may perceive antisemitic motivations in their opponents
without tangible evidence to support such perceptions, or with ‘evidence’ that is itself shaped
by political judgment. And Israel’s supporters may seek political advantage by deliberately

2

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jamie-stern-weiner/jeremy-corbyn-hasn-t-got-antisemitism-problem-his-opponents-do

deploying claims of antisemitism whenever Israel is subject to criticism. In JfJfP, many such
cases have come to our attention.
3.5

Indeed, as long-time campaigners in this contentious field, we have experience of an almost
visceral tendency among some pro-Israel advocates to cry antisemitism at those who criticise
Israel or speak out in support of Palestinians. It is now far too routinely claimed that
antisemitism is either intrinsic to criticism of Israel, or is behind or underlies it. Many of us
have experienced such ‘kneejerk’ accusations of antisemitism from within sections of the
Jewish community, and it characterises much media reporting.

3.6

As an example, strenuous attempts have been made to associate high profile critics of Israel
with underlying antisemitism: extensive attacks on the newly elected Labour leader and the
new President of the National Union of Students are notable instances. If such critics are not
held to be antisemitic themselves, they are said to associate with people (or to have done so in
the past) who are antisemitic, or they are accused of giving succour to antisemites, or of
enabling an atmosphere in which antisemitism might flourish.

3.7

This mix of accusations – combining underlying antisemitism and ‘guilt by association’ – is
hugely damaging to political discourse. It is also highly selective: when the Queen recently
shook hands with acknowledged former IRA leader, Martin McGuiness, she was not
excoriated for being a ‘republican terrorist lover’. Instead, her act was recognised as a
valuable part of reconciliation. And much closer to the current issue: a succession of Israeli
leaders has been drawn from the ranks of former paramilitary terrorist groups (the Stern Gang,
the Irgun). With the establishment of the state of Israel, they slowly became part of the Israeli
political establishment, and were accepted as legitimate political leaders on the world
diplomatic stage.

3.8

JfJfP is not suggesting that the recent wave of accusations of antisemitism in the party is the
product of conspiracy to ‘frame’ Israel/Palestine debate almost out of existence. But it shares
the perception of a clear confluence of different interests, analysed well by Prof Avi Shlaim
and Gwyn Daniel, who pose the very sharp question “Why now?”3

Related ‘framing’ issues
3.9

Two further approaches to framing debate on Israel/Palestine feed usefully into the discussion
here: deploying the law to restrict or close down political discussion, and using quasi-legal
definition and prescription to narrow the scope of ‘acceptable’ discourse. They provide
worrying examples of ‘framing’ debate morphing into ‘policing’ and ‘prohibiting’ it. That, in

3

https://www.opendemocracy.net/avi-shlaim-gwyn-daniel/labour-party-israel-and-antisemitism

spite of huge effort and expense, they have not generally succeeded, provides guidance which
we would urge the Labour Party to follow.
First is the Employment Tribunal case R Fraser v University and College Union (Case
Number: 2203290/2011). Here the plaintiff’s compendious complaints concerned his
trade union’s management of internal debate about Israel/Palestine. His allegation that
the UCU had engaged in (or permitted its members to engage in) a pattern of unlawful
harassment amounting to ‘institutional antisemitism’ was comprehensively rejected on
its merits. Furthermore, the Tribunal (at p44), was scathing about his having brought the
case in the first place:
“At heart, [the case] represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political
end by litigious means.”
Second is the long running attempt, dating back to 2004, to have the EUMC (European
Union Monitoring Committee) “Working Definition of Antisemitism” accepted as the
gold standard in defining antisemitism. This document includes various classes of
criticism of Israel within its examples of what might be antisemitic. By insisting on the
presumption that criticism of Israel is likely to be antisemitic unless shown to be
otherwise, it seeks to shift the burden of proof of lack of antisemitism onto Israel’s
critics. At one time this document was the focus of much debate, but it is no longer
given any legitimacy by the Fundamental Rights Agency, (the EUMC’s successor
body). Neither is the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism pressing for its
adoption, though we note with concern that it still considers it a ‘useful reference’
document. It is also disturbing to see that, in spite of being rejected by the EUMC’s
successor, it has been adopted by the College of Police and by the National Union of
Students.
3.10 To summarise:
Insofar as there is a perceived problem with antisemitism in the Labour party, much
(though not all) of it revolves around allegations of content relating to Israel/Palestine.
Much of the passion here springs from different views of the nature of this conflict and
how it might be resolved.
On examination, individual allegations will generally be found to be intrinsically
connected to the language in which this conflict is discussed, rather than to antisemitism
per se.

4.

Boundaries of acceptable behaviour and language

4.1

In JfJfP we have much collective knowledge and understanding of antisemitism. We know its
history internationally, and its British story, including ferocious hostility towards East
European Jewish migrants in the last quarter of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th
century (culminating in the 1905 Aliens Act), the fascist Black Shirt incursions into the East
End of London in the1930s (and the support provided them by the Metropolitan police), the
(largely unacknowledged) exclusion of Jews (or the application of Jewish quotas) by a wide
range of social institutions (e.g. public schools, medical schools, golf clubs) well into the
1960s and 1970s.

4.2

However, JfJfP signatories have also seen Jews in Britain becoming well integrated at all
levels of society in the last half century. Overt expressions of antisemitism are rare, and
regarded as totally unacceptable. This is not to say that issues of antisemitism do not arise, but
they are by no means what they used to be. While antisemitism is always worrying, and, like
all forms of racism, must be combatted, by comparison with other minorities – most notably,
today, Muslims, who frequently face virulent racism – hostility towards Jews is a limited
phenomenon.

4.3

It would be surprising if such antisemitic attitudes as are found in the wider society did not
permeate the Labour Party. Yet, considering all the recent complaints, we have not seen
evidence that, here too, it is an overwhelming problem. Again, this is not to minimise it, but to
place it in context of racism in Britain (including its political parties) more generally.

4.4

We must emphasise: it is precisely because we take antisemitism seriously, that we are so
concerned when we see antisemitism allegations used as a weapon to defend policies of
expansion, occupation and abuse of human rights by Israel. This misuse of antisemitism
carries two potential dangers: it devalues its meaning and desensitizes people, making it much
more difficult to tackle real instances of antisemitic language or conduct; it also closes down
debate on Israel/Palestine, as people who disagree with Israel’s behaviour retreat into silence
for fear of being on the receiving end of an antisemitism accusation.

4.5

We offer in this section some proposals to help combat antisemitism and to open up
constructive dialogue on Israel/Palestine.

JfJfP’s organisational experience of antisemitism
4.6

On occasion JfJfP as an organisation has needed to deal with antisemitic behaviour and
language. Sometimes we engage, sometimes we call a halt. Here are two examples:
Antisemitic imagery: At a London demonstration against the Iraq war, some young
male Bengali marchers wore stickers showing an Israeli flag with a Swastika inside the
Star of David. Many of the large Jewish contingent were extremely upset by this. Two
JfJfP signatories walked the length of the demonstration, explaining to everyone wearing
a sticker why it was unacceptable. Without exception, each young man removed the
sticker, apologised, said they hadn’t realised the implications. These stickers have not
been seen since on a demonstration in London.
Social Media: As we have developed JfJfP’s social media presence, we have had to
contend with offensive and antisemitic posts. Like the Guardian4, we have found online
discussion of Israel/Palestine draws obnoxious and racist contributions, and have had to
establish moderation systems to deal with this. We have issued warnings where possible
and barred individuals when necessary. (However, even as we report these undeniable
examples of antisemitism, we need to sound a warning. There is an extremely dark side
to social media, going way beyond antisemitism, where abuse is a widespread problem.
Best known is the appalling level of harassment and trolling, including threats of rape,
generated by any use of social media by prominent women who espouse even the most
moderate of feminist ideas.)

4.7

It is important to emphasise that the issues described above are more than matched by many
other campaigning experiences that show a clear rejection of antisemitism. Thus:
There is a very strong anti-racist consensus among Palestinian advocacy groups, and
established conventions which outlaw antisemitic behaviour and language, such as
denying the Holocaust or holding Jews collectively responsible for Israeli government
actions. This consensus is the result of much committed collaborative work between
these groups and Jewish activists.
Most recently, in the summer of 2014, at demonstrations against Operation Protective
Edge, the welcome given to the many Jewish participants was overwhelming. Hundreds
of Muslims, young and old, came to have their photos taken with us and our placards.
More important, they all wanted to engage in conversation with us, to learn and to

4

“Some subjects – historically Israel/Palestine, and today Islam, refugees or immigration – attract hate like a magnet” –
www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/11/the-guardian-view-on-online-abuse-building-the-web-we-want

understand our position. Many said they had never knowingly met anyone Jewish
before, and they were explicit in distinguishing their anti-Israel politics from
antisemitism, which they rejected.

Antisemitism and Israel/Palestine discourse: reviewing the figures
4.8

We have already discussed in Section 3, Allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party, the
prevalence of content relating to Israel/Palestine. We will now consider this issue by drawing
on the information collected by the Community Security Trust (CST) and shown as Appendix
2.

4.9

We have collated figures from CST annual reports on antisemitic incidents and discourse for
the 11 years from 2005 to 2015. These report the number of recorded incidents, by month,
which pass the CST's tests of being antisemitic on objective grounds, and the use, by year, of
the three kinds of discourse: relating to Israel and the Middle East, specifically anti-Israel
discourse within that, and Nazi/far-right references. Chart 2 only includes the incidents where
the perpetrator clearly uses one type of discourse. The incidents where the perpetrators
employ a mixed discourse are not included in this chart.

4.10 Immediately striking in Chart 1 are the very high spikes in incidents in Jan-Feb 2009 and JulSep 2014, coinciding with major assaults by Israel on Gaza. In these 5 months the average
number of incidents was 210, compared to 52 for all the rest of the 11-year period, making the
spikes a 400% increase on the underlying average. Much smaller spikes occurred during the
Lebanon War (Jul-Aug 2006) and Operation Pillar of Defence (Nov 2012). Meanwhile, the
background level of incidents per month has increased in stages from about 40 before the 2nd
Lebanon war, to 44 afterwards, to 52 after Cast Lead, falling to 46 after Pillar of Defence, and
finally rising dramatically to 76 after Protective Edge. That is an increase of about 90% over
the whole period, and at the moment it appears to be long-lasting.
4.11 Chart 2 demonstrates that the level of incidents employing Nazi and far right discourse has
always been much higher than the level of incidents employing Israel and Middle East
discourse, often twice as high. The only exceptions were during the two biggest attacks, Cast
Lead and Protective Edge, when all types of incidents rose dramatically and the Israel and
Middle East type was briefly a little higher than the traditional Nazi and far right type.

4.12 These quite dramatic figures suggest that:
Israel/Palestine is a very strong focus for incidents reported and recorded as antisemitic.
So boundaries of behaviour and language should be drawn with this issue very much in
mind.
The sharp and lasting increases in the background level of incidents after the Lebanon
War, Operation Cast Lead and Operation Protective Edge prove beyond reasonable
doubt that the progressive increase in the numbers of incidents over the past 11 years is
due to the attacks themselves, and not to any underlying, unrelated rise in antisemitism.
The ‘New Antisemitism’ thesis does not stand up to examination. This thesis, put
forward by Israel advocates for a few years, says that the increase in antisemitic
incidents where Israel is criticised is merely a cloak for the old antisemitism, whereby
the perpetrators disguise their antisemitism as criticism of Israel. If that were true, the
level of incidents employing Nazi and far right discourse would be relatively low
because, of course, the perpetrators would be hiding their true motives behind anti-Israel
discourse. But, as Chart 2 shows, the level of incidents employing Nazi and far right
discourse has always been relatively high to very high.
The continuing high relative level of Nazi/far right related incidents also demonstrates
that traditional antisemitism is more common than Israel-related antisemitism in British
society.
Defining antisemitism
4.13 Although we have expressed doubt that antisemitism is anything other than marginal in the
Labour Party, it is now such a toxic issue, that the Party clearly needs a workable definition,
plus appropriate procedures for dealing with allegations of antisemitic racism. There is no
universally agreed formulation, but we would propose as the core definition for the Labour
Party, that proposed by philosopher Brian Klug:
Hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which they are perceived as something other
than what they are.
4.14 This seems to us an elegant and concise formulation which goes to the heart of the issue and
supplies a solid foundation for interpretation of individual cases.

4.15 We would supplement this core definition with the two-part amplification proposed by
Professor David Feldman5:
Antisemitism in discourse: representation of Jews as stereotyped and malign figures.
Antisemitism in practice: discriminatory social and institutional practices.
4.16 What does this mean in real life? First, it covers classic, direct, overt and unpleasant
stereotypes, of which the following are well known examples: Jews ‘stick together’ and only
look after ‘their own’; Jews are flashy, ostentatious, loud, ‘common’; Jews are rich, grasping
and miserly; Jews lie; Jews hide the fact that they are Jewish so as to insinuate themselves
into positions of power. These may turn up in many and various formulations e.g. to describe
someone mean – ‘like a Jew with short arms’.
4.17 Second, it may refer to ‘institutional antisemitism’, where Jews may not even be mentioned.
In such cases, potential antisemitism is inferred from the disproportionately adverse impact
that an organisation’s policy or practice has on its Jewish members/staff/ participants etc. For
example:
holding meetings on a Saturday, resulting in non-attendance by would-be Jewish
participants who observe the Sabbath.
failing to have Kosher food on the menu of an organisation which has observant Jewish
members/employees etc.
4.18 Institutional discrimination can be hugely damaging and exclusionary to a minority group. It
can also be very difficult to address, as the perpetrators will often claim lack of intent to
discriminate. Such claims may even be true; antisemitism has been a part of ‘hidden’
European, including British culture, for so long, it is not always recognised as such. However,
we note here that Baroness Royall expressly states she found no institutional antisemitism at
the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC). From the kind of allegations made to date, it
would appear that the issue at hand facing the Inquiry is largely one of discourse.
The Macpherson Principle
4.19 Baroness Royall’s recent report on the OULC case recommends that “The Labour Party
should consider whether adopting the Macpherson Principle that an antisemitic incident that
may require investigation is any incident that is perceived to be antisemitic by the victim or
any other person is appropriate.”
5

At p3 of his 2015 Sub-Report to the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism – see note 8

4.20 In his report on the Stephen Lawrence case, Sir William Macpherson stated that a racist
incident is “any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person”
Promulgated after a case of appalling police failure and racism, as Prof Feldman has pointed
out6, this statement clearly related to police investigations. It was an injunction to the police to
act on complaints of racism, not dismiss them, and certainly not to treat complainants as
perpetrators. (This is akin to the way other police failures have been followed by instructions
to conduct their future investigations of rape, child abuse and domestic violence - by treating
complainants as if they are telling the truth).
4.21 However, for an incident to be found to be racist by an adjudicating body, substantiating
evidence is still required. The perception of its alleged victim on its own is insufficient.
Macpherson has been widely misunderstood (or misused) in the context of allegations of
antisemitism, to claim that a complainant’s perception is in itself sufficient to establish a
finding of antisemitism. It clearly is not. JfJfP continues to regard Macpherson as a useful
support to investigators of any kind, but firmly opposes any attempt to misuse Macpherson by
arriving at decisions on allegations of antisemitism purely on the basis of the victim’s (or
anyone else’s) perception.
4.22 Our view is also held by the Community Security Trust (CST)7, which collects data on
antisemitic incidents. Baroness Royall’s formulation is not altogether clear, but we conclude
that she too takes the position that the perception of a complainant is enough to generate an
investigation but it is not the determinant of the way the adjudicating body views the evidence
it receives. It may be feared that this opens the door to a torrent of unjustified antisemitism
allegations, and this fear may be well-founded. However, there is no reason whatsoever for it
to lead to a torrent of unjustified findings, provided the Labour party’s investigatory and
adjudication procedures are up to the job. This means they must utilise an objective definition
of antisemitism (Brian Klug’s being a strong candidate), they must demand tangible evidence
and they must be able to disentangle racism from politically motivated attempts to close down
contentious debate.

6
7

At p5 of his 2015 Sub-Report to the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism – see note 8
Antisemitic Discourse in Britain, 2009: “CST, however, ultimately defines incidents against Jews as being anti-Semitic only
where it can be objectively shown to be the case, and this may not always match the victim’s perception as called for by the
Lawrence Inquiry. CST takes a similar approach to the highly complex issue of anti-Semitic discourse, and notes the multiplicity
of opinions within and beyond the Jewish community concerning this often controversial subject.”

Providing Guidelines
4.23 The definition (at 4.13, supplemented by 4.15) provides a necessary foundation for decisions
on individual cases. However, the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and language cannot be
simply defined. The range of human behaviour is infinite and it is impossible
comprehensively to cover all eventualities. Practical guidance and examples are just that.
They should help to establish how to think about antisemitism, and how to identify it, but
when actual cases arise, these will have to be considered on their own merits and within their
own context. With those reservations, we offer some commentary on the following issues.
4.24 Double standards: It is often said that criticism of Israel involves double standards in its
'singling-out' of Israel, and is therefore motivated by antisemitism. We reject this argument.
Apart from its sweeping nature and frequent injustice (many activists on Israel/Palestine are
activists on a wide range of other issues too), it is completely improper in a free society.
People must be able to choose what issues they wish to take up without having to prove their
good faith by demonstrating their credentials in a selection of other causes!
4.25 Context: The following is offered as an example of how nothing should be taken for granted.
The phrase ‘Jewish power’ is one which sets all alarm bells buzzing. It is commonly used by
antisemites hinting at dark conspiracies of Jews working to control the banks, governments,
the world. Yet, in 1997, the highly respected Jewish writer, JJ Goldberg, (today still an editor
of the American liberal Zionist Jewish newspaper, The Forward), published an influential
book: “Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment”. It was an important
sociological study of the way American Jews had become integrated into American society.
From the days when antisemitism was the central theme of novels (Arthur Miller’s Focus and
Laura Z Hobson’s Gentleman’s Agreement, this latter being made into an Oscar-winning film)
antisemitism had become in the nineties largely a non-issue among American Jews – and they
were far more interested in reading what Goldberg had to say than in worrying about any
subtext to his book’s title.
4.26 Moving to a more topical issue, today a slogan reading “Israeli murderers in Gaza” would be
acceptable as robust political commentary at a rally. But daubing the same words on
synagogue walls would be antisemitic because that would associate all Jews with Israel’s
actions.
4.27 Holding a different point of view: Criticism may simply reflect differences in political
judgment. An example is the allegation that Israel has created an apartheid state. Some people
apply this description to Israel and the West Bank, others to the West Bank only; many

defenders of Israel see it as a malign accusation. In any event, this is precisely the sort of issue
that should not be adjudicated upon as alleged antisemitism. The use of analytical terms
needs to be debated and assessed – it is the stuff of Israel/Palestine politics!
Trigger phrases:
‘The Jews’: Accusations which utilise standard tropes such as ‘Jews control the media’
are always antisemitic. The use of the phrase ‘the Jews’ rather than ‘Israel’ or ‘the Israeli
government’ should normally be straightforward to categorise as antisemitic, because it
attributes responsibility to Jews as a collective rather than to the state of Israel. However,
categorising this term unambiguously as antisemitic may be problematic. This is because
it is normal practice for Jewish community organisations and Israeli leaders to claim
universal or general support by Jews for the actions of the Israeli state, or that Zionism is
intrinsic to Judaism, or that Israel represents all Jews. They clearly aren’t being
antisemitic in making these claims. In this situation, it is hardly surprising if some
people who support Palestinian rights are led to believe that all Jews are uncritical
supporters of Israel. This does not justify accusations against Jews rather than Israel –
but the context might mitigate any wrongdoing.
‘Nazis’: However badly the Zionists, and later Israeli governments, have treated the
Palestinians, they have not perpetrated anything comparable to the Holocaust. There is
evidence of war crimes in Gaza, but not of the industrialised mass murder carried out by
the Nazis. In this context, it seems barely necessary to say: any kind of comparison with
Israel and the Nazis, any use of Nazi insignia (e.g. the stickers referred to earlier where
the swastika was superimposed on the Israeli flag) is simply unacceptable. It causes huge
amounts of pain to Jews across the political and religious spectrum. Quite simply: if
tempted to use references to Nazism, don’t.
4.28 Judaism and Zionism: That Jews are a religious and ethnic group is recognised in law:
“Jewishness is a characteristic which attracts protection under the race and religion or
belief provisions of the 2010 [Equalities] Act.”
Zionism is quite different: it is a political belief system which finds a solution to 'the Jewish
question' in some kind of Jewish homeland or state. Zionism is a relatively recent
phenomenon in a very long Jewish history; born in the late 19th century and, for many years,
very much a minority phenomenon. Indeed, for decades after the launch of Zionism, most
Jews, from the poorest to the very pinnacle of national Jewish communal 'establishments',
preferred safety and security within their local community. Only since the Second World War

has Zionism achieved widespread – though still far from universal – Jewish support. Zionism
“is not intrinsically a part of Jewishness,” 8 despite Chief Rabbi Mirvis’s recent claim that
“One can no more separate it [Zionism] from Judaism than separate the City of London from
Great Britain.”9
However, it is a prominent part of Israel/Palestine political discourse, and this presence has
consequences. From British Jewish communal leaders to the Prime Minister of Israel we hear
constantly that Israel is the fulfilment of the Zionist dream, that 'the Jewish community' stands
united behind Israel, that Israel is acting on behalf of the Jewish people. There is a constant
elision of ‘Jew’, ‘Israeli’, ‘Zionist’ in our communal language. Naturally, this underpins
today’s popular understanding of what Zionism is. Though there were many varieties and
nuances of Zionist thinking in the past, these subtleties of thought and idea have been largely
lost. When people criticise Zionism today, the objects of their criticism are: an occupation
approaching its fiftieth year; a colonial-style expropriation of Palestinians on the West Bank
on a rapidly increasing scale; a brutal siege of Gaza by land, sea and air; Israeli troops who
seem to have impunity in their ill-treatment and even murder of Palestinian civilians; and a
widespread disregard – and contempt – for international humanitarian law.
This inevitably affects present day Israel/Palestine discourse, with many using the term
merely as a label, or even a term of abuse. This in its turn has led to many critics of Israel,
who wish to avoid rhetoric and name calling, abandoning the term altogether. 10 Instead, they
refer to actions of the Israeli government, army etc. Whether wise or not as a method of
improving political discourse, this approach is never going to be universal: after all, those
who call themselves Zionists will continue to do so, and there will be many who will then call
themselves anti-Zionist in response.
In this situation, JfJfP makes two points. First, criticising Zionism means taking issue with a
political belief system, which, by definition, is not antisemitic. Second, while we counsel
against using ‘Zionism’ or ‘Zionist’ as a term of abuse, we caution too that such usage is not
antisemitic in itself, no matter how offensive. It only becomes antisemitic when it means ‘the
Jews’.

8
9
10

Judgment on Fraser v UCU, p7 & 38 (see note 7).
www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/05/03/ken-livingstone-and-the-hard-left-are-spreading-the-insidious-vi/

e.g. Jon Lansman at http://www.leftfutures.org/2016/05/why-the-left-must-stop-talking-about-zionism/; Did Herman
at http://criticallegalthinking.com/2016/04/29/zionisms/

4.29 To sum up
The above commentary gives some practical guidance as to how to think about, identify – and
then avoid – antisemitism. However as noted earlier, the context is politicised, fraught, and
exacerbated by the exporting of internal Jewish community conflicts (about Israel and about
antisemitism) into the Labour Party and other settings. What is needed is political dialogue
and discussion in which the problems and differing perceptions can be teased out. No listing
of ‘correct’ positions can substitute for rigorous and thoughtful debate.

5

Compliance procedures

5.1

JfJfP is deeply concerned at the seeming inadequacy of the Labour Party’s internal
disciplinary procedures, e.g. suspension without being told of the charges, learning of
suspension/charges via leaks to the press. Our impression is that the Party lacks a proper
approach to due process within its disciplinary procedures. This is surprising since this is
hardly new territory: there are numerous relevant legal judgments and much labour movement
experience and precedent.

5.2

JfJfP trusts that the Inquiry will recommend to the Labour Party the urgent improvement or
replacement of its disciplinary rules and procedures, so that they are characterised by
principles of fairness, natural justice and due process. Thus:
Suspension should only take place on grounds which are both serious and defined, and
these grounds must be explained to the person suspended.
Any person accused of wrongdoing which renders them liable to disciplinary procedures
should be informed of the charges/allegations against them and have enough time to
prepare any defence.
The person making the allegation must be expected to provide tangible evidence.
The person accused must be entitled to representation of his/her choice.
A formal hearing must be held by senior people not involved in the incident.
There must be a right of appeal to a higher body within the party.

5.3

We consider that these procedures should aim primarily to help people learn and change, not
to punish them. Thus, normally a proven offence would lead to a warning sanction and

appropriate measures such as discussion and/or training. No one should be expelled or
dismissed for a first offence unless it amounts to gross misconduct.

6

Training

6.1

JfJfP is aware of a range of training provision on issues relating to race, equalities,
discrimination and good relations, much of it developed within Labour-controlled local
authorities. Where it is deemed necessary or desirable, the Labour party should:
draw on best experience, particularly that available in the wider labour movement.
fit any training relating to antisemitism and discourse on Israel/Palestine within such a
framework of broader training, to ensure consistency of approach across the Party’s antiracist work, avoid unnecessary duplication, and support learning in related areas of
practice.

6.2

However, we are not convinced that specific training is needed on antisemitism. It may be a
special case, but so is every other form of racism. In addition, the experience and analysis set
out in sections 3 and 4 tell us that the core issue is usually how to hold and manage discourse
on Israel/Palestine in such a way that Labour party members of sharply differing views can
co-exist on reasonable terms. Any special training should take this as its central focus, with
issues around antisemitism becoming an element in this larger whole.

6.3

Given that claims about antisemitism are highly controversial within the Jewish community, it
would be a very serious mistake to give one set of actors the training franchise here. We urge
a rethink of Baroness Royall’s recommendation that the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) be
given a privileged role: “Training should be organised by Labour Students together with the
Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) for officers of all Labour Clubs in dealing with
antisemitism”. There are three reasons for our concern: The JLM is strongly and explicitly
committed to support for the Zionist perspective on Israel/Palestine, a view that is not shared
by many Labour Party members; its Chair, Jeremy Newmark, was sharply criticised by the
judge in the Fraser v UCU case 11 in terms which lead us to question whether a balanced
perspective would be a likely training outcome; and the JLM has proposed a rule change
around antisemitism which would tilt procedures towards expulsion, speaks of Jews’

11

Judgment p37 (see note 7) – “We regret to say that we have rejected as untrue the evidence of Ms Ashworth and Mr Newmark
[about an incident at the 2008 UCU Congress] the 2008 Congress… Evidence given to us about booing, jeering and harassing of
Jewish speakers at Congress debates was also false, as truthful witnesses on the Claimant’s side accepted. One painfully ill-judged
example of playing to the gallery was Mr Newmark’s preposterous claim, in answer to the suggestion in cross-examination that he
had attempted to push his way into the 2008 meeting, that a ‘pushy Jew’ stereotype was being applied to him. The opinions of
witnesses were not, of course, our concern and in most instances they were in any event unremarkable and certainly not
unreasonable. One exception was a remark of Mr Newmark in the context of the academic boycott controversy in 2007 that the union
was “no longer a fit arena for free speech”, a comment which we found not only extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing.”

sensitivities but not those of Palestinians, and gives weight to a serious misuse of the
Macpherson principle (see 4.19-4.22).
6.4

In truth, it is likely to be difficult to find a single Jewish organisation which can on its own
provide a balanced perspective on these complex issues that would be accepted as legitimate
by all others. Consideration might be given to organising training which is led by
professionals in a relevant field (such as community relations or mediation) who could then
co-design and manage contributions by different Jewish groups.

7.

Code of conduct and party rules

7.1

As we are a non-party organisation, we set out just a few general principles regarding the
Labour Party's governance.

7.2

The Code of Conduct adopted by Labour’s National Executive Committee, subject to the
recommendations in the Chakrabarti Inquiry, is in our view eminently sensible. However, we
feel it could be still better were it to include an explicit commitment to free speech as a core
part of political life within the Labour Party. While respect for people’s sensitivities and
highly emotional commitments to various causes should be part of any political party’s
culture, this must be combined with the recognition that the free exchange of ideas must not
be stifled. In an organisation devoted to politics and political change, difficult subjects must
be capable of being debated, and one of the hardest of these subjects is the Israel/Palestine
conflict.

7.3

Any rule changes should be made with the intention and effect of enlarging the space for
robust but constructive discourse on Israel/Palestine, not restricting it.

7.4

As mentioned at 6.3, the JLM has proposed changes to the Party’s Rules in order to deal with
antisemitism and racism. Their proposal states:
“Where a member is responsible for a hate incident, being defined as something
where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice
based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity, or sexual orientation, the
NEC may have the right to impose the appropriate disciplinary options from the
following options.”
We reiterate: this is an unacceptable distortion of the Macpherson principle, completely
removing the need for evidence and objective criteria (as explained at 4.19-4.22), and if

implemented would lead to the stifling of free speech and legitimate political debate. It would
negate all principles of due process and natural justice.
7.5

If rule changes are deemed necessary, they should:
Be based on principles of natural justice.
Give due scope for learning and not just punishment.
Respect freedom of speech and encourage constructive debate.
Take account of sensitivities and passions on both sides of the debate.
Include a balanced definition of antisemitism, such as that proposed at 4.13 and 4.15, as
a basis for future deliberations and to ensure decisions on individual cases are not
arbitrary.
Allocate decision-making powers in a balanced way and not to any single actor with a
partisan view of controversial issues.

8.

Welcoming environment for members of all communities

8.1

We have said (at 6.1) that issues around antisemitism and Israel/Palestine discourse need to be
addressed within an anti-racist framework. We believe that the guidelines and parameters
(section 4) would in many cases transfer to other contentious issues on which there are sharp
divisions within and between communities. We consider that innovations in training and
procedures should in any case apply across the board to all communities. JfJfP hopes that the
Inquiry will lead to improvements for different groups and communities within the LP.

8.2

However, if Jewish organisations which seek to advocate for Israel and to widen the definition
of antisemitism beyond the balanced approach proposed in this submission are allowed to set
the boundaries of acceptable discourse, or if allegations of antisemitism against individuals
are accepted at face value without independent examination, then whole communities will feel
unwelcome in the Labour Party.

Appendix 1
JfJfP's views according to how widely they are shared by the community, as shown by the City
University survey
Israel plays a part in my Jewish identity

93%

Expansion of settlements on the West Bank is a major obstacle to peace

75%

Israel’s standing in the world is being damaged by its approach to the peace process

73%

The Palestinians have a legitimate claim to a state

72%

support a two-state solution in order to achieve peace

71%

We despair at every further expansion of settlements

68%

Jews living in Britain have the right to judge Israel even though they do not live there

63%

Israel should give up territory in exchange for guarantees of peace

62%

British Jews can criticise Israel in public

55%

Israel is an occupying power in the West Bank

53%

We are concerned about Israel’s conduct or policies

52%

The Israeli government is constantly creating obstacles to avoid peace negotiations

47%

The Israeli government should negotiate with Hamas in the effort to achieve peace

42%

Israel does not have the right to retain control of the West Bank

38%

The West Bank is not vital for Israel’s security

33%

The British government should take tougher action to oppose West Bank settlements

32%

Peace negotiations are worthwhile even if incitement against Israel is taught in
Palestinian schools

30%

We support sanctions against Israel if we thought it would encourage Israel to engage in
the peace process

24%

There is a credible partner for peace on the Palestinian side

24%

The Palestinians do not have to recognise Israel as the “Jewish State” in addition to
recognising Israel’s right to exist

18%

Israel is a very flawed democracy

13%

We support Israel’s right to exist based on international law, rather than on its Jewish
character

5%

We do not believe Israel had the right to take military action in Gaza

5%

Israel is occupying East Jerusalem and Gaza as much as it is occupying the West Bank

not
asked

Israeli expansionism is the cause of the conflict

not
asked

Israel has a responsibility for creating the Palestinian refugees and must accordingly
negotiate a solution

not
asked

Appendix 2
Antisemitism and Israel/Palestine discourse: reviewing the figures

Source of data
Chart 1: Community Security Trust, Antisemitic Incidents Report 2015, p. 40, Antisemitic incident figures by month, 2005-2015

Source of data
Chart 2: Community Security Trust, Antisemitic Incidents Reports, 2005-2015. Perpetrators, Perpetrators and Motives, or Discourse and Motives sections.

Community Security Trust (CST) data on incidents, correlated with the four major Israeli attacks since 2006
Recorded antisemitic incidents in the UK

Attacks
2nd Lebanon war

Operation

Operation

Operation

& attack on Gaza

Cast Lead

Pillar of Defence

Protective Edge

1

27/12/2008 –
18/01/2009 2

14 – 21/11/2012

8/7 – 26/8/2014 3

1

37

45

60

64

2

44

58

60

51

3

33

47

42

58

4

40

20

59

39

5

56

52

54

43

6

34

40

44

52

244

262

319

307

41

44

53

51

172

403

83

542

86

202

2.11

4.61

12/7- 14/8/ 2006

Incidents in previous six months

Total no. of incidents in previous six months

Average no. incidents per month
No. incidents in or immediately after attack month(s)
Monthly average where high level of incidents extends over
two months
Multiple over previous six months

Notes
Incident data taken from the CST Antisemitic Incidents Report 2014, page 42, Antisemitic incident figures by Month, 2004-2014.
(1) Monthly incident figure is for July and August.
(2) Monthly incident figure is for 1/ & 2 2009. The number of incidents in 12/2008 was not elevated.
(3) Monthly incident figure is for July and August.

271
1.56

5.30