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Nikki Haley will be dearly missed

This is a guest post by Grayson Slover

Earlier this week it was announced that UN Ambassador Nikki Haley will resign her post, taking effect at the end of this year. President Trump, who praised Haley’s work and emphasized that she was leaving on good terms, said that he would name her successor at some point in the next several weeks. The move not only shocked experts and media pundits, but also, reportedly, came as a complete surprise to many inside the Trump administration as well.

At times, Haley’s center-right foreign policy views have collided with those of others in the administration. President Trump’s consistent obfuscations on all things Russia, and his seamless praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin were diametrically opposed to Haley’s harsh words regarding the country’s blatant misbehavior. Former Chief Strategist and brainchild of the populist movement Steve Bannon views every example of American involvement in foreign affairs through an isolationist lense – a worldview that comes in direct conflict with Haley’s belief in the importance of the projection of American power abroad. National Security Advisor John Bolton is not shy in expressing his position that the UN is largely a waste of time and resources that should be redirected to ventures where the United States has sovereign control. These incongruencies are just to name a few.

Prior to Haley’s resignation, Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have enjoyed an increased level of autonomy in determining Americas course in foreign affairs – sometimes to the detriment of Ambassador Haley’s ability to operate. Both men are charismatic, and much more popular with President Trump than their predecessors were, which, in this administration, is perhaps the best gauge of real power within it. They also hold policy views that are hardline when compared to those of the men they replaced, and by-and-large those of Nikki Haley as well.

Secretary Pompeo, for instance, has toyed with the idea of the CIA assassinating North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un. And John Bolton, not to be outdone, has advocated the probable need for a first strike against the DPRK. Ambassador Haley’s approach was much less aggressive. She advocated the use of sanctions and increasing pressure on the Chinese to do more to influence the rogue Kim regime, while also making it clear to the North Koreans that the US would not hesitate to use military force if provoked.

Both Pompeo and Bolton were staunchly opposed to the Iran nuclear deal, which the international community generally agreed Iran was in full compliance with. It also, importantly, had the support of the majority of American military leaders, including several who hold/held prominent positions in the Trump Administration. In fact, it may be the case that the replacement of Ret. Gen. H.R. McMaster, one of the deal’s defenders, with Bolton was the decisive step in its demise. While Ambassador Haley was an outspoken advocate of decertification, she approached the issue in a much more prudent and measured way than the ill-advised rhetorical aggression consistently displayed by Pompeo and Bolton.

There are, of course, a greater number of examples in which Haley stood firmly united with the rest of the administration. But she served as a constant buffer for the more extreme elements within it, and her resignation will likely have destructive implications in regards to keeping those sentiments at bay.

Aside from the policy ideas that the administration will be missing with her absence, they will lose a woman in Ambassador Haley who was widely considered to be the most popular appointee in the Trump administration. A Quinnipiac poll from April had her approval rating at a stellar 63%, and an even more impressive 55% among Democrats. No other official in the administration has ever come close to reaching these numbers, and her departure will only fan the flames of the rampant polarization consuming our political discourse more and more with each passing day.

Nikki Haley embodies the ideal temperament of a government official. She made some mistakes, she left some problems unsolved, she faced significant challenges from both within and outside the administration. These facts are undeniable. But she always stayed true to her own beliefs, and didn’t allow herself to be swept up in the partisanship and tribalism that have defined the past several years in American politics. In an administration that prides itself on “telling it like it is,” she was one of its few members who consistently lived up to the slogan. America, and indeed the entire world, will be less safe without Nikki Haley’s pragmatic influence.

Paypal withdraws facility from War on Want

I imagine War on Want isn’t favoured by many HP readers – and perhaps still remember their awful Christmas cards from a few years ago. Now UKLFI reports that they’ve lost their Paypal facility following allegations that they have links to a terrorist organisation, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). You can read the full story here.

Hat Tip: Harvey

Fathom 21 | ‘Understanding the Jews of the Middle East and North Africa is the key to understanding the whole Middle East conflict’: an interview with Lyn Julius

Earlier this year Fathom’s Grant Goldberg interviewed Lyn Julius about her new book, Uprooted, which documents 3,000 years of Jewish civilisation in the Arab world and explains how and why that civilisation vanished in a single generation in the middle of the 20th century. Julius describes what brought Nazi Germany, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem into an alliance and how this impacted Jews in the Middle East and the formation of the State of Israel. 

Grant Goldberg: What prompted you to write the book?

Lyn Julius: I have a strong connection to the region. My parents arrived in Britain in 1950 as Iraqi-Jewish refugees, and throughout my childhood I was very conscious of the connection with Iraq, mainly because I still had family there. Conditions deteriorated for the remaining 3,000 Jews of Iraq after the 1967 Six-Day War and Israel’s defeat of the Arab countries. Saddam Hussein embarked on a reign of terror, executing nine Jews in Liberation Square in Baghdad. My grandparents were still in Iraq as well as various aunts and cousins and all were desperate to leave. The community’s telephones were cut off, their jobs were lost and their university entry blocked. Their very lives were in danger – some 50 Jews were arrested and never seen again.

I honestly think that understanding the Jews of the Middle East is the key to understanding the whole Middle East conflict. The way the Jews have been treated in Arab countries points to a major dysfunction in Arab society: the inability to tolerate anyone who is different from the mainstream, whether non-Sunni Muslims or minority non-Muslims.

I’ve been very involved in Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, which I founded 13 years ago. As well as organising events to raise awareness of the history and culture of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, I’ve been blogging and writing. Eventually, I realised I had accumulated enough material for a book. READ MORE.

How Corbynism Alienated Everyone

This is a cross-post by John Wall

In Summer 2017 Jeremy Corbyn was riding high after a better than expected election performance largely silenced his critics. He basked in the adulation at Glastonbury and predicted being in Downing Street by Christmas and cancelling the Trident replacement.

A second election in 2017 may have been his best chance as the polls have subsequently stagnated but, in terms of who’d make the best PM, his ratings are below both the diminished May and Don’t Know.

He’s been found out, when his far-left ideology encountered the real world, such as over Salisbury and Syria  it’s been found wanting, and his past, spent in some extremely unpleasant places, has caught up with him.

Corbyn comes from the part of the left that fifty to sixty years ago looked for new “struggles” and found a simplistic anti-imperialism, with the US, in particular, seen as the root of all evil which was then coupled with a division into oppressors and the oppressed.

The irony is that as they’re seen as “against” the US, Russia and China, both with poor human rights records and probably the most aggressive, expansionist, imperialist countries, receive little attention.

US support for Israel, however, means that many Corbynistas are obsessed with the conflict with the Palestinians and have a virulent hatred of Israel. There is a desperate need for a settlement but it’s important to remember that it’s fundamentally about land and borders, and not unique.

Although not a fan I have a sneaking regard for Blair, but it’s not always remembered that he (b. 1953) and Corbyn (b. 1949) are contemporaries who both entered Parliament in 1983. Blair accepted that the world had changed whereas Corbyn backed Benn against Kinnock in 1988.

From the Corbynite worldview of:

“…defining opponents as not belonging rather than seeking to win them over. Opponents are constructed as being outside of the community of the good or the progressive. This licenses their treatment as ‘other’, impermeable to political argument, reason and evidence.”

it’s possible to understand why Blair built bridges and made friends while Corbyn erects walls and makes enemies.

Blair won over Murdoch but Corbyn threatens the press. This is an ideologically driven own goal as circulations have dropped dramatically; the Sun and Telegraph lost over 60% between 1997 and 2018 – and the reduction is continuing. Blair got into bed with a giant, Corbyn picks a fight with dwarves!

The mightiest beast can be brought down by a pack of smaller animals so when the Mail (circulation down over 40% since 1997 and still falling!) went to a Tunisian cemetery to establish the location of recently discovered pictures the story was picked up by the rest of the media.

Corbyn’s 2017 conference speech mocked the Mail for devoting:

“fourteen pages to attacking the Labour Party. And our vote went up nearly 10%.”

and then asked:

“next time, please could you make it 28 pages?”

So it’s hypocritical to complain about “wreathgate”.

British Jews, many of whom once considered Labour their natural home, are now outside the “community of the good” and I’ve asked whether the Corbynista Many need the Jew? The sight of Luciana Berger with a police escort, together with other events, meant that his conference speech hasn’t convinced mainstream Jewry. As one rabbi noted, Jews are like canaries and considering the history it’s not surprising.

In the 1990s New Labour had the (in)famous prawn cocktail offensive, but Corbyn hates business and despite the effect on take  wants to increase tax. The announcement of a thinly disguised tax grab means it’s not surprising that business fears a Corbyn government almost as much as Brexit.

Peter Mandelson was once “relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes” but, although more than a quarter of income tax is paid by the 1% of taxpayers with the highest incomes, Corbyn wants them to pay more. His “little bit more” would inevitably become a lot more, particularly with the size of the financial hole in the “fully costed” manifesto, leading to an exodus and either a scaling back of his programme or a vicious spiral of tax rises leading to a further exodus leading to more tax rises…..

It’s not immediately obvious but it’s as important to avoid alienating people and making them vote against you as it is to provide reasons for them to support you, there is at least anecdotal evidence that fox hunting hurt the Conservatives in 2017 – a mistake they won’t repeat.

Immediately after the 2017 election I asked if Corbyn’s elastic had stretched as far as it can? Little has changed as Corbynistas believe that “outsiders” should come to the “community of the good”, Corbynism isn’t going to them.

When the Conservatives rattle the tin it will fill quickly.

Corbynism is a variation of the Law of Inverse Relevance as it often does the opposite of what it claims.

The “kinder, gentler politics” haven’t reached the Wirral, and one councillor has gone, followed by Birkenhead MP Frank Field  – there are other similar reports.

Chris Williamson’s Deselection, sorry Democracy Roadshow and his call for anti-Corbyn MPs to “resign or be replaced” shows that Labour is losing any pretence of being a broad church. The changes to MP (re)selection, although not as far reaching as some would like, have made it easier to get rid of Corbynsceptics and some online Corbynistas are eager to start purging.

Corbyn and his supporters frequently assert his life-long support for peace, opposition to violence, etc, etc – but if it was obvious they wouldn’t have to and the claims are difficult to substantiate.

The anti-imperialist, oppressor/oppressed, “community of the good” worldview explains his position during the Northern Ireland “troubles”. Despite repeatedly “honouring” terrorists there’s little contemporary evidence for a similar attitude towards their victims, the IRA were in the “community of the good”, anyone else didn’t matter.

There is such a paucity of evidence for Corbyn helping the peace process that Skwawkbox had to invent some, but it was a fantasy.

His position on the Middle East is similar and he’s happily shared platforms with antisemites, holocaust deniers and those committed to the destruction of Israel, whilst having little contact with Israelis.

There is little doubt that Corbyn laid a wreath on the grave of someone involved with the torture and massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and it’s reasonable to assume that he knew what he was doing; the Israeli athletes were outside the “community of the good” and irrelevant.

This appears callous but it’s the consequence of decades in far-left echo chambers, virtue signalling with those who share your views.

There are several routes to peace and although remembered as a war leader Churchill rightly believed that jaw-jaw was better than war-war.

WW2 cost tens of millions of lives and massive destruction; were those Corbyn supports successful it would also cost a bloodbath.

Team Corbyn’s responses to revelations are instructive. One tack was denial, i.e., lying, in the hope that this would be believed.

Wreathgate was denied in May 2017. When pictures of Corbyn with a wreath by the Munich terrorist graves surfaced he “didn’t think” he was involved, then admitted having laid a wreath, but on other graves, despite pictures showing a different wreath with him in the background.

It’s hardly surprising that his claim about Israel “scripting” speeches for MPs was found to be fiction.

Alternatively, as Hirsh explains, they “avoid debate over ideas and policies. Instead it defines itself as the community of the good and it positions its opponents and its critics as being outside of that community.” This can easily be seen by observing the likes of Chris Williamson or Owen Jones.

First is the mantra, usually repeated, of “Jeremy has campaigned for/against A, B or C all his life”.

Then come the attacks and smears; they’re a “right winger”, don’t want a Labour Government “for the many not the few”, etc, etc.

Finally there’s a rant about the failings of the Tories and how wonderful a Corbyn government would be “for the many not the few”.

This usually fills the limited time allocated on most news and current affairs programmes.

Corbyn is an excellent example of why organisations ask about skeletons in the cupboard, he has a lot of both. During the summer he campaigned on……I don’t recall as it was overshadowed by wreathgate.

His interview on conference Sunday, with a prepared Marr (Corbyn had previously left with his pants on fire), was dominated by antisemitism. Subsequently Snow, considered supportive, grilled him on his Press TV appearances, resulting in Corbyn lying and he then dodged the early morning interviews before his speech.

Many commentators, from across the spectrum, believe that Labour should be way ahead in the polls, but this is the result of the messenger becoming the story.

Elections are usually decided on domestic issues, amateur meddling in foreign affairs is a distraction. A resolution of the Israel – Palestine conflict won’t happen by uncritically backing one side, the Palestinians need advocates but bridges have to be built to the Israelis so that both sides can be told difficult truths.

The “community of the good” philosophy might purge dissenters and there may be some groups, such as Jews, who won’t be missed but it gives an unappealing impression of intolerant exclusivity.

The size and role of the state and level of taxation are valid debates but the anti-business, wealth and wealth creation rhetoric alienates those who follow the spirit as well as the letter of the law.

Softening the rhetoric would be beneficial, but this is largely what defines Corbyn.

There have been rumours of the Parliamentary Party trying another vote of confidence, but the deselection vultures are circling and the lesson of 2016 argues against success.

According to Neil Coyle Labour lost 18,000 members in the first three months of 2018, but another MP found “that while his local party membership was at a record high of 300, 200 members had left since Corbyn took over as leader” suggesting that the membership is moving further left.

From proposals to limit the power of the deputy should the leader quit it’s clear that some see the benefits of a different leader but, although his support has reduced many Corbynistas have a massive investment in “Jeremy” and either approve of, excuse, or aren’t worried by his “baggage”; every new revelation is another “smear”.

In the 1930s the unions removed Lansbury but they’ve shrunk and a mass membership makes their financial support less important, but they’re unlikely to withdraw it. Barons in grey suits wouldn’t achieve much.

MPs and unions have continual contact with thousands outside the far-left echo chamber, but the ongoing power shift is strengthening those furthest from reality and ensuring that the very people the country needs the most are the ones least likely to be involved in the party.

Sauce for the hypocritical gander

This is a guest post by Eve Garrard

There’s a letter in yesterday’s Guardian, signed by Noam Chomsky, Ken Loach, and other luminaries, objecting to media coverage of charges that the Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic.  The signatories to the letter make the following claims:

“It is of course entirely appropriate and necessary for our major news outlets to report on the horrors of antisemitism, but wrong to present it as an issue specific to the Labour party.

In covering the allegations that Labour is now “institutionally antisemitic”, there have been inaccuracies, clear distortions and revealing omissions across our most popular media platforms. We believe that significant parts of the UK media have failed their audiences by producing flawed reports that have contributed to an undeserved witch-hunt against the Labour leader and misdirected public attention away from antisemitism elsewhere, including on the far right, which is ascendant in much of Europe.”

I trust that the signatories to this letter also object to the production of flawed reports about Israel’s conduct, reports which contain inaccuracies, clear distortions, and revealing omissions that have contributed to an undeserved witch-hunt against the Jewish state and those who support it, and have misdirected public attention away from human rights violations elsewhere which are in the ascendant in much of the Middle East and indeed further afield.  I trust they also believe that it is wrong for the media (mainstream or otherwise) to present such violations as an issue specific to the Jewish state.  I look forward to seeing their signatures on letters to the Guardian on this matter.  An absence of such complaints might properly be called ….  er, um, what’s the word I’m looking for ….it seems to have slipped my mind for the moment, so let’s just call it hypocrisy.


I’m old enough to remember when one of the worst insults in American politics was “commie lover”– usually aimed by rightwing Republicans at liberal Democrats deemed insufficiently alarmed about the worldwide Communist menace.

And just as Joe McCarthy and countless other Republicans exaggerated the Communist threat within the US and unfairly labeled liberals, there were some liberals who downplayed the horrors of Communist rule in Russia, Eastern Europe, China, Cuba and elsewhere.

So it makes my head spin a little when our Republican president unabashedly proclaims that he “fell in love” with the world’s most brutal and dangerous Communist leader. And when the reaction from his fellow Republicans is undetectable.

Tommy Robinson…

The Lynching: The anti-Israel herd at the Labour Conference yesterday

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

This is an excerpt from Jonathan’s post – you can read the piece in full here

But this blog is not about this absurd Israel-demonising motion.  It is about the PSC’s manipulation of the delegates who voted for it and their willingness to be manipulated. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has hijacked the Labour Party and the TUC. Its Chair, Hugh Lanning, was Deputy General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), one of the largest trade unions. With many Jewish members having quit Labour and many who remain choosing to stay away from Conference, there was no-one to speak yesterday to expose the lies. Israel hate has become the glue that keeps the Corbynite left together, the totem pole around which it rallies, orchestrated by 50+ year olds who remember the campaign against apartheid and make entirely false comparisons with it.

If you want to see this manipulation illustrated, look no further than the two photos below.

The first one shows the Israel lynching sessions yesterday (well done to Paul Wilkinson who pointed out from the podium that it was against the rules to bring the flags into the hall, especially when he wasn’t allowed to unfurl an EU flag earlier in the day). Contrast it with the second one, which shows the attendance at the International Briefing on Monday morning, with at least two Shadow Cabinet members on the podium to answer questions (Emily Thornberry and Kate Osamor – does anyone know who the other two are? Nia Griffith?). The hall is virtually empty. 

Labour conf 2018 Intl Affairs
If delegates were really interested in the Middle East, would they not have gone to the International Briefing to increase their knowledge and ask relevant questions of the Shadow Ministers responsible?

The fact is, the delegates who voted for the anti-Israel motion yesterday were a lynch-mob, a flock of sheep cynically manipulated by the PSC, waving the £6000 worth of flags they were given and voting to lynch Israel because either (a) they lacked the guts not to follow the herd or (b) they could not be bothered to learn the facts.

More photos here……..

Soviet-style antisemitism funded by UK taxpayers

This is a guest post by Jonathan Hoffman

On 21 September 2018 The Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) – together with ‘Victory to the Intifada’ – held this meeting:

The venue was Chadswell Healthy Living Centre near Kings Cross. This is owned by Camden Council and run by a Charity, the Kings Cross-Brunswick Neighbourhood Association (KCBNA) –  registered charity #1083901. It was clear from the notice for the meeting on Facebook that it would be antisemitic (assessed relative to the widely accepted (including by Camden) IHRA Definition).  Here is what the notice said: ‘The aim of the Zionists is to criminalise support for Palestinian resistance against Zionist occupation.’ The word ‘Zionist’ is used by antisemites as a substitute for ‘Jew’ because they think it immunises them against the charge of antisemitism. IHRA says this is antisemitic: ‘Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective.’

The Executive Director of the charity is a Labour Camden Councillor, Nasim Ali OBE. The Trustee Chair is the local Parish Priest, Father Chris Cawrse.

Because the venue is taxpayer-funded and the event seemed certain to be antisemitic, representations were made to KCBNA to cancel the booking. They refused but told the RCG that the meeting must not be antisemitic:

Read the rest here.

IHRA: The Last Word is NOT Stern

This is a guest post by Amie

One particular utterance of an American attorney and academic hitherto unknown to the UK public called Kenneth S Stern, expressing his concerns about the IHRA, has rapidly become the Ha’avarah Agreement de nos jour: People who have never heard of him until just now are quoting him “knowledgeably” as the leading authority in their opposition to IHRA.It looks like hardening into another of those zombie myths in the arsenal of those with ill intent towards Jews.

John McDonnell in his Jewish News interview says it all changed for him once he had read Stern.

Chris Williamson is obsessed by him. In his megaphoned speech at the anti IHRA demo outside Labour HQ, right after his roll call of Jewish (heavy emphasis) eminent academics, “most important of all” he announced, was the oppositon of the very person who authored the IHRA and its examples; Stern. He repeats this in interviews, kicking off this radio debate with a “very important point” about Stern, the very author, (before rolling out his litany of eminent academics Brian Klog (sic) David Fieldman (sic) and Anthony Lerman, trumpeting“Jewish!” before each mispronounced name). Responding, Gideon Falter corrected what he called Williamson’s lies about Stern.

Dave Rich’s thread is an authoritative, sourced, corrective to this burgeoning mythology.

The oft cited concerns Stern expressed in 2017 are found in his testimony before a US House of Representatives Committee (PDF link) examining Hate Crime on campuses.

His statement is very specifically in the context of academic freedom on Campus. It relates to proposed legislation, The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, or AAA, drafted to help the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recognize anti-Semitic incidents on campus by using the U.S. State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism to evaluate complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Title VI obligates universities that receive federal funds to prevent peer-to-peer harassment based on race, color, or national origin when the harassment “is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.

Stern’s reservations are specifically focused on academic freedom in a climate, to which he refers in his statement, of safe spaces, trigger warnings and microagressions, a concern which many of us may share. He stated in his 2010 address to the conference which Rich attended (PDF link): “Campus administrations need to uphold the highest academic standards and make certain that while heated debate is encouraged, intimidation is prohibited”, but became concerned at what he saw as abuse of Title VI complaints to chill debate on campus, in cases where ideas, rather than sustained and overt hostility, were engaged.

Which brings me to Geoffrey Robertson QC’s “Opinion” (PDF link) -, the latest to be triumpantly deployed by the anti IHRA-ites. Williamson heralds it as from one of the finest legal minds in the land, citing him along with Sedley and Tomlinson. The latter two legal views on IHRA I have already addressed in my previous post.

The Opinion opens with a slightly fifth form essay intro in the form of an instruction on Orwell’s definition of liberty, which will be superfluous to observant HP readers who may have noticed the banner.

Robertson’s citation of and from the Stern Testimony, without reference to its context,is just one of the problems with this Opinion.

When the first version of the Robertson Opinion was published, there were a substantial number of factual errors which legal bloggers Yair Wallach and Adam Wagner drew attention to as being serious.

The most outlandish of these unsubstantiated claims, which Wagner shows is entirely erroneous, was in the context of the IHRA example of the accusation of dual loyalties. Robertson asserted with no supporting authority, that Israel foists Israeli citizenship automatically on all diaspora Jews, whether they want it or not.

Robertson took the highly unusual step, for a counsel’s Opinion, of issuing a revised version on 3/9, downgrading the corrections to what he notes as merely “typographical and minor factual amendments.”

But is the final version Improved? Varbesert?

As I see it, there are 2 kinds of Opinion which Counsel can be briefed to provide:

  • The first is a private assessment as to the strengths and weaknesses of their client’s case, often with the advice, if weak, to refrain from litigation or settle; to tell the client what they don’t want to hear.
  • The second is where the Opinion is deployed as an instrument to be brandished to the client’s antagonist or even more publicy, in support of the client’s agenda. Here, Counsel will marshall the legal arguments in support of the client’s desired course of action. This Opinon is legal advocacy.

Robertson’s document purports to be the latter. In my view what legal argument there is, is flawed, but more pertinently, most of it is ahistoric unvalidated polemic, dressed up in the respectablity of legal advocacy.

I will not address the tendentious historical narrative or political positions evinced; these have been addressed in Jonathan Hoffman’s post.

Here are my chief issues with the document as legal argument:

  1. Robertson’s first criticism of the “core definition” (Para 11 of his Opinion) reflects a fundamental miscontruing of the text, puzzling in someone with the author’s status in the legal pantheon.

He assumes that the “perception” in the phrase “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews”, is the perception of the observer of the antisemitic speech or act, which leads him to pose irrelevant questions: “what perception, and in whose eyes – those of the Jewish community, of Zionists or anti-Zionists, or is this a reference (as it should be)to the objective impression of the reasonable bystander?” and thus embarks on an irrelevant explanation of MacPherson. He uses this analysis as an important contribution to his argument that the definition is too vague to be of utility.

This is not just creating a straw man, but grasping the wrong end of the straw, as the clear meaning of the text is that the perception referred to is of those who hold antisemitic views of Jews.

  1. Robertson’s second striking misconstruing of the IHRA is his conclusion that it “pivots” upon manifestations of hatred towards Jews, and therefore does not capture antisemitism arising from instances not predicated on hate (para 12). This conclusion oddly arrives after he criticises the core definition for being too vague in stating that it “may” be expressed as hatred, but fails to give examples of other ways short of hatred. (But that is provided by the 11 augmenting examples!)

He finds“remarkable” that the pivoting narrowly around hatred is a failing which has not engaged the attention of critics or proponents. In fact, the other Opinion which is touted around by anti IHRA-ites, often in the same breath as Robertson (see Williamson, ibid) is that of Hugh Tomlinson. I have addressed Tomlinson’s interpretation of the IHRA text in my previous post.

Tomlinson by contrast, finds the definition too broad precisely because it encompasses instances outside of hate. He therefore elects to “improve” it by rewording it to confine it to hate, but then finds the examples don’t fit, so they will have to be reworded as well.

When Williamson cites these two Opinions, he should be told they contradict each other in this fundamental respect.

And as Robertson sets such store with Stern, he should also be aware that, as pointed out in my previous post, Stern specifically moves away from the concept of hate as either sufficient or necessary for the definition. In his 2010 address (pg 35) Stern said:

“Others have said that the definition will stifle debate by labeling people antisemites. That is a fundamental misreading of the definition. It intentionally gets away from the idea that we need to see what’s in a person’s heart and name it. One can say or do racist or antisemitic things (which should be counted by monitors of such) without harboring hate.

He confirmed this position in his 2017 testimony:

“[The EUMC definition] focused their attention away from the question of whether the actor hated Jews, and focused them on whether the actor selected Jews to be victims. This distinction between motive and intent was key.” [pg 5 and footnote 9 pg 6 for valuable discussion on this].

This fatally undermines Robertson’s conclusion that because the definition is limited to hatred,some “non hate” examples of antisemitism he sets out would not give protection to Jews under the definition:

This consideration, above all others, convinces me that the definition is not fit for purpose, or any purpose that relies upon it to identify anti-Semitism accurately” [p.7]

It is ironic that when Robertson’s Opinion is brandished by Williamson and random Momentumites being interviewed or opining daily in all forms of media, to prove that the definition is not fit for purpose,they clearly have in mind that this is because it constrains their freedom to attack Israel using any rhetoric they wish, rather than that it is too limited in its protection of Jews.

The examples

  1. In paragraph 16, Robertson essays to negate the free speech caveat in the IRHA which excludes criticism of Israel “similar to that levelled against any other country” as this “cannot be regarded as antisemitic”: He argues this on a similar basis to Sedley who justifies such singling out of Israel owing to the “historical, political, military and humanitarian uniqueness of Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestine”. Robertson sets out a litany of alleged historical events and accusations which render Israel unique and so deserving of singular criticism. Most of these have been addressed by Hoffman in his post. Suffice it to say here that even if any of these accusations were true, setting out their particulars is not such as to render them unique.

To adapt Tolstoy’s maxim: Only platonically perfect countries can ever be alike; imperfect countries are each imperfect in their own way. Yet this does not make Israel unique, and therefore to be singled out for odium.

(I doubt whether Counsel would argue this kind of particularity to distinguish and thwart an equal pay for equal work claim between ostensibly disparate male and female jobs which are rated of equal value.)

  1. His discussion of the 11 examples is skewed by his presumption that the core definition “pivots around hatred” and therefore he worries about the (on a proper interpretation) non question whether the hatred element is a prerequisite for any of the examples in order to be deemed antisemitic. He then makes his way through the examples, in the course of which, despite his initial presumption, he seems to veer inconsistently between assuming in some examples that hostility or hatred brings the particular example into play; and in others, just hatred.
  2. Robertson, in arguing the chilling effect of misuse of the definition, refers to Stern’s description of “McCarthy-like” ways. Counsel fails to link to the actual example which Stern applies this epithet to. It relates to the writings of a Bristol University academic, where she invokes the instrumentalising in bad faith by Jews and Israel of the Holocaust. (The university did not discipline her.) In fact, Counsel himself appears to find no particular problem with examples 4 and 5 which cover this kind of discourse, and it seems would accept these rightly fall within the definition.
  3. In Example 8: Double standards in expecting behaviour from Israel not demanded of other democracies, Counsel displays a curious circularity of reasoning. He says The UN Human Rights Counsel “notoriously” makes more criticism of Israel than any other country but this cannot be proven to be dictated by hatred of Jews. He thinks this argument is strengthened by pointing out there is also a UN country specific mandate about Palestine which puts Israel in a unique position, and therefore meriting of unique scrutiny!


I will leave further critique to colleagues who have pointed to the selectivity in the way the Opinion deals with several cited legal cases, and will end with Counsel’s admonition in para 38 of his Opinion. Counsel refers to “malevolent and vicious outbursts evincing hatred or contempt for pro-Israeli commentators or (in particular) for critics of Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged pro-Palestinian sentiment” which in his view “do not warrant detailed analysis.” They could, he says, if Labour party members, justifiably be expelled, “under any definition of antisemitism it cared to adopt”.

Awkwardly, these remarks could well apply to Counsel’s own client, having regard to the many instances documented in Hoffman’s post.

Nick Cohen’s argument in this thread, regarding the lack of moral standing of Labour in objecting to, and attempting to reword the IHRA, could equally apply to the commissioning of this Opinion, originating from the PRC as a “tainted source”.

Along with Cohen and others, I acknowledge the IHRA is not perfect, possibly insufficiently precise to enforce in any criminal adjudication, and should be applied with care in an academic environment. Counsel concludes it should not be adopted as a rule or standard in any quasi judicial decision-making by any public authority. I disagree regarding the standard: It can and should be adopted as a standard, as a norm throughout institutions and greater society.

As David Hirsh reminds us, racism appears as norms, as practice, as politics, as discourse, as ways of doing things.

In establishing counternorms, as Gordon Brown said in his passionate and moving speech at the JLM conference, the unanimity behind this document is its strength.