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Michael White on antisemitism and Islamophobia

The former Guardian journalist offered this surprisingly curt response to a question about the lack of coverage of alleged Islamophobia in the Conservative Party:

A number of instances have been offered where Muslims have experienced a problem in the Conservative Party or where Conservative activists have made bigoted remarks. I’m not sure how deep or widespread the problem is but it should be tackled without reference to Islamist terrorism.

White then offered a further response when challenged.

This reminded me a little of the debating dodges used by some Corbyn supporters.  Express a concern about antisemtism – you are just trying to shut down criticism of Israel.  No one was saying there isn’t a problem with jihadi violence – they were just questioning whether it’s a reason not to engage with the alleged issue of anti-Muslim bigotry in the Conservative Party.

My sense of a parallel between the debate prompted by White’s tweet and some of the disagreements around antisemitism was compounded by a faint echo of a conversation between White and Daniel Finkelstein from a few years back. Finkelstein, as you can read here, was bemused by the way White dragged Israel into a story about antisemitism.  The same non-sequitur quality characterises White’s responses in both cases.

Labour and antisemitism: a (selective) weekly roundup

Where to start? Chris Williamson has been shooting up the list of my least favourite MPs for some time.  Now the Jewish Labour Movement has called for him to be suspended from the party following his failure to challenge antisemitism, including the accusation that Corbyn’s critics are ‘foot-soldiers for Israel’.  This is a revealing little detail.

He added that some in the party had “allowed their passion to run away” and expressed themselves in “a light which could be perceived as antisemitic… I don’t believe they are antisemites.”

Imagine substituting ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’ for antisemitic – would he ever come out with such a statement?

On the topic of giving (undue) benefit of the doubt, I was less critical of the Labour code on antisemitism than many here.  However recent revelations/reminders confirm that people were right to be sceptical about the way the revised guidelines dealt with Nazi/Israel parallels. (The document equivocated over whether or not these were antisemitic.)  This particular detail strongly resonates, of course, with that 2010 event hosted by Jeremy Corbyn - “Never Again for Anyone — Auschwitz to Gaza”.

This brief twitter exchange is telling:

Corbyn, incidentally, was keen to erase the word ‘Holocaust’ from ‘Holocaust Memorial Day’, the day on which this grotesque event was held.

At a recent Barnet Momentum meeting it was claimed that security outside synagogues and other Jewish buildings was a tactic to ‘generate an atmosphere of insecurity” because “Zionists” want to “exploit and generate the fear of antisemitism”’

It gets worse, if possible.

One participant claimed there were people in the Labour Party “whose allegiances lie with a foreign government”, while another suggested attempts to dispel the row over antisemitism in Labour and win back the support of Jewish voters amounted to “appeasement”.

Several also spoke in defence of a local activist who had written about the “over-representation of Jews in the capitalist ruling class” and plotted how to block efforts, led by a Jewish councillor, to have the person’s application for Labour membership rejected.

Even Corbyn allies are beginning to ask questions:

On WhatsApp, Mr Lansman questioned why Labour had chosen to investigate Dame Margaret Hodge but not Pete Willsman, who ranted about “Jewish … Trump fanatics”.

There have been a few reports of antisemitic members, and even elected representatives, of the Labour Party being reinstated following suspension.

Here’s one example:

and here’s a report of how former PPC Michelle Harris has now apparently been told she has no case to answer, and a reminder of why we thought she did. She is now claiming that the accusations were fraudulent and photoshopped. If so, it would be good to have complete clarification from Labour in order to demonstrate how it is – or isn’t handling – the issue.

Finally, here is a good piece on Labour’s antisemitism problem from Helen Lewis.

Jewish Voice for Labour – They’ll Even Vote Willsman

You can always rely on JVL to do what they were set up to do. Defend antisemitism wherever it rears its head. Even when Finlay has doubts about Willsman he’ll still vote for him. Obviously.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Unicorn

So this is Jeremy Corbyn’s new spin:

“In the past, in pursuit of justice for the Palestinian people and peace in Israel/Palestine, I have on occasion appeared on platforms with people whose views I completely reject. I apologise for the concerns and anxiety that this has caused.”

Where are these rejections, then? Or mere acceptance of “concerns and anxiety”? You’d have more luck finding a unicorn.

I should know, having tracked Mr Corbyn’s sordid politics for nigh on a decade. He has embraced antisemites, terrorist supporters, and Islamist extremists time and time again. He has been criticized for this on many occasions. Explanations and apologies came there none.

On the contrary. Consider this outburst:

“We are opposed to Zionism and what Israel is doing towards the Palestinian people. But we are opposed to them from a point of view of unity. All our marches have involved very substantial Jewish contingents and they always will, because our argument, and I refuse to be dragged into this stuff that somehow or other because we’re pro-Palestinian, we’re antisemitic. It’s a nonsense. What we are in favour of is a Palestine where everybody can live. They can’t live if you’ve got Zionism dominating it all.”

He said this in his infamous paean to his “friends” in Hamas and Hezbollah. In fact, Hamas are so wonderful that he dreams of them having “tea with the Queen”. See for yourself. The “nonsense” slur starts at 3:40.

That meeting too was criticized because it featured the execrable antisemite and thug Abou Jahjah. He was banned from the UK just after the meeting.

Moreover, if Mr Corbyn wants to insist he has been pursuing “peace in Israel/Palestine”, perhaps he could explain why he attended this meeting? Its title was “Meet the Resistance” and his fellow speakers did their best to achieve the key goal – increasing left wing support for jihadis, not peace.

As for people who object to his antics, they are not granted a reasonable discussion with “kind” Jeremy. Oh no, they can expect abuse at best and thuggery at worst.

Nor are “Zionists” the only targets. In this revealing episode, Corbyn addresses a demonstration whose goal was to shield the regime in Tehran from pressure. Some Iranians in the crowd want to make their own case for “Free Iran”. Led by Chris Nineham, Corbyn’s stopper ruffians step in, tear down their banner and push them out of the crowd. The Hezbollah banners are left alone, of course.

I am so tired of Mr Corbyn’s own nonsense. Happily, it seems that many more in the country and indeed his own party are coming to the very same conclusion.

NEC antisemitism code: IHRA ibergezetst un farbesert?

Guest post by Amie

In the heyday of Yiddish theatre in New York, Translations of Shakespeare into Yiddish were sometimes inscribed with the phrase: “Translated and improved.” The Yivo archive says that ‘The phrase inevitably meant that the play was translated and not improved upon. In fact, it was probably translated and rendered worse, sometimes egregiously worse, than the original”.
While we may view this kind of chutzpah with a nostalgic wry smile, no smiles for Formby et al (hereinafter called the NECards) for their disingenuous claim that the NEC code is an improvement on the IHRA;  this  is a presumption and a malignity beyond chutzpah.

This attitude reached its nadir in McDonnell’s  mansplaining/goysplaining/gaslighting of Margaret Hodge, telling us she lost it because she had misinterpreted the new guide, as ‘she will admit”. (one is almost tempted to add: if not, ve haff our vays and means.) Hodge denies  misinterpretation.

Before I go on to review some of the debate about the merits and  the relationship of the 2 guides  I have 2 key points:

1. All discussion of the relative merits of NEC vs IHRA and  the significance of the changes, is of secondary relevance to the overriding Jewish response,  summed up best in this tweet (thread worth reading in full):
“Secondly, there’s the context of this – Labour have pushed this through this off the back of a series of huge missteps whereby the mainstream Jewish community already had no faith in the party’s ability to act in good faith on these issues.

If there had been trust, we’d still be arguing that they had got this badly wrong, but would accept that they were trying to get it right. Noone seriously believes this, as we know that many of those now running the party have a history of using those same antisemitic tropes.”

2. IHRArds  have recited lists of all the bodies in the UK which now use the IHRA definition; local government, the UK government, Police, CPS etc, but only one (an article by Mark Gardner) has mentioned the one I regard as pretty significant: the Judiciary.

Backstory to this: My utter dismay in the judicial finding of 2 judges (one since elevated to the Supreme Court) back in the 2011 appeal by  Naik against his exclusion from the UK.
The court found that Naik’s statement
“Today, America is controlled by the Jews, whether it be the banks, whether it be the money, whether it be the power. Nobody can become a president of the USA without walking the Star of David.”
was “within the bounds of legitimate political comment.”
This spurred me in 2015  to make a written submission to the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry on antisemitism,  pointing out the woeful inadequacy of the section on Jews in the training guide for Judges and setting out a pressing need for better education for judges about antisemitism. My submissions were adopted by the APPGA.

Finally, the new improved (Yes!)  Judge’s Bench Book arrived in February this year. Danny Stone who with his colleagues on the APPGA had worked tirelessly for 3 years on getting a greatly expanded (and improved!) section on antisemitism included, was generous enough to write to me:
“The truth is that this matter would not have come to the committee’s attention without your alerting it to us/them. Thank-You for doing so. Though its taken time, I hope you’ll feel this is something which – even if we only played a part .. has made a positive difference.”

The section on antisemitism in the Bench Book starts by recording that the British government, along with 30 other countries, has adopted the IHRA definition. This is set out, with all its examples, including the one about Jewish control, of which the 2 judges would have fallen foul. It also includes the IHRA caveat: However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot (my emphasis) be regarded as antisemitic.

The Bench Book then referred to The House of Commons’ Home Affairs Committee Report (HASC) into ‘Antisemitism in the UK’ (October 2016) which recommended the IHRA definition, with 2 caveats.
[These were proposed after “informal” meetings with some unidentified “Friends of Palestine Groups” who were concerned about their free speech.]

It is these 2 caveats, introducing the element of intention, which NECards  pray in aid as the source of their “intention” examples.
HASC caveats:
It is not antisemitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence
It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.
Bench Book adds:
In its Response to the Committee Report in December 2016, the government said these caveats are unnecessary because ‘references within the definition stating that criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic’ are sufficient to ensure freedom of speech’.
And by the way, if the NECards  love the HASC report so much, then they should also adopt what the HASC has to say about Zionism, as quoted  in this fantastic section of the Bench Book:
‘Zionism’ as a term

175. The relationship between British Jewish people and their feelings about Israel is complex.

176. According to a study by City University, the vast majority of Jewish people feel Israel plays a part in their Jewish identity and believe in its right to continue to exist as a Jewish state. [my emphasis] However, there are divergent views on matters such as where the borders should lie, the expansion of settlements, the establishment of a Palestinian State so as to create a two-state solution, and the policies of the current Israeli Government. About 70% disagree with the Israeli Government’s approach to peace and favour a two-state solution. Nevertheless, they feel that – in the context of conflicts around the world – double-standards are applied in the level of condemnation of Israel.43

177. As a result of these divergent views, British Jewish people may it find it difficult to answer if asked whether they are a ‘Zionist’. In addition, the term ‘Zionism’ has come to have very negative connotations. The Home Affairs Committee made these recommendations in its report:

‘Zionism’ as a concept remains a valid topic for academic and political debate, both within and outside Israel. The word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse, however, has no place in a civilised society. It has been tarnished by its repeated use in antisemitic and aggressive contexts. Antisemites frequently use the word ‘Zionist’ when they are in fact referring to Jews, whether in Israel or elsewhere. Those claiming to be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic” should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticise the policies of the Government of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise “the Israeli Government”, [my emphasis] and not “Zionists”. For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic. This should be communicated by the Government and political parties to those responsible for determining whether or not an incident should be regarded as antisemitic.

Amidst all the furore, I take a quiet satisfaction that Judges in future will have regard to this material, even while as their  independent status must at all times be maintained, this remains a guide and not a prescription to them.
[As an aside, I attended the recent Alison Chabloz trial as an observer, where her counsel argued against the prosecution citation of the IHRA, that the IHRA was too flawed and should be disregarded. I wonder what the impact will be on such arguments of the presence of the IHRA in the Bench Book. ]
The NEC code
Within the  general outrage on principle at the unilateral arrogation  by the NEC of the “improvement’ to the IHRA there are the specifics of what has been changed or omitted; in particular the inclusion of the element of intention with regard to criticism of Israel, for which they and some learned opiners (see later) rely on the suggested caveat by the HOCSC.
The NEC reference to intent comes at the end of a long circumlocutory paragraph 7, where the introduction of intent “in this area” seems to refer back to antisemitism and criticism of the state of Israel [my emphasis].
A reminder that the HASC proposed amendments (see above) refer to criticism of the government of Israel. A significant difference.
Read the NEC version here:

The Code reserves the right to attack the racist foundation of the Jewish state, and although Para 12  pays lip service to recognising the right of Jewish self determination as any other people, it makes it immediately contingent on unspecified grounds regarding the “nature and content” of such a right.
In any event,  this convoluted text points to an erroneous use of the concept of intention, when in fact they appear to mean motive.
One of the drafters of a precursor to IHRA, the EUMC definition, Kenneth K Stern, writes in 2017:
“[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.”

Please hold on to this turning away from the question of hate, which is central to another document NECards rely heavily on, viz the legal opinion of Hugh Tomlinson, QC, coming up shortly.

Meanwhile here is the Canary relying on the above report by Stern  as authority to reject IHRA, and here is David Rich’s rebuttal by reference to an earlier statement by Stern:
“In my view, attempts to change the definition would give away all the gains made by having a uniform definition for five years, would give a great opening for those who would want to scuttle it rather than improve it, and to open this can of worms would be a terrible mistake”

In any event, the 2017 Stern document is specifically his testimony before a US House committee considering legislation on antisemitism to be applied to campuses as an aid to interpretation of Title VI actions. Its application, if any, is narrowly relevant to that purpose.

We come to the Big One: The Opinion on the IHRA by Hugh Tomlinson QC, commissioned by Free Speech on Israel, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign; in other words, the multiple manifestations of that modestly sized group of familiar voices.

If you can’t be stirred to read on, skip to my conclusion: with the greatest respect to my learned.. oh never mind: Tendentious.
Without diving deep here, just the main pointers:
1. He decrees that because the definition is not a legal document, “it cannot be construed in the same way as a statutory definition or one produced as part of statutory guidance.”  By what logic is a valuable  tool of interpretation to be reserved exclusively for statutes and ruled out for any other quasi legal document?  The general chorus of the NECards is that NEC has adopted the definition “in full’ so what, they ask innocently, are the IHRArds complaining of.  Tomlinson, on the other hand, complains that the stand alone, core definition is too vague. But instead of recognising that this inchoate definition’s meaning is fleshed out by the given IHRA examples, he sets about rewording it the way he thinks it was supposed to read: to  limit it to “hatred” against Jews. There you go, farbesert! He then proceeds to criticize the examples as unworkable within his redrafted hate definition! So we now need new examples.. Which new examples, IHRArds argue, alter the meaning of the core definition.

He rejects the government view that the caveat  about Israel contained within the IHRA covers the free speech concerns as it is contained in the illustrations rather than in the core definition, and these  illustrations or examples he and others regard as pick n mix options.
Having neatly excised the free speech caveat in this way he warns that any attemp to apply IHRA by public authorities and universities in particular should be done with caution so as not to breach Article 10 of the Human Rights Act (free speech.)

The lrb article by retired judge Stephen Sedley on the IHRA last year is also being resurrected in NECard discourse. My shrift here is short: He proceeds from a vehement loathing of Israel. He dismisses, for example, the potential for antisemitism in a statement singling out Israel for criticism which no other country would be subject to, because, he declares in effect that Israel is so uniquely evil  that such singling out is warranted. He points out the dangers of the IHRA  as offering “encouragement to pro-Israel militants whose targets for abuse and disruption in London have recently included the leading American scholar and critic of Israel Richard Falk.” I deplore disruption of free speech on campus,  but he fails to mention that Richard Falk as regular HP readers will know, is an arch disseminator of the worst kind of antisemitic material.
And in this recent article, Sedley resorts to  classic Livingstone formulation conspiracy theory that this is all engineered in bad faith by pro Israel Jews trying to drive out pro Palestinian groups. Well, I don’t feel inclined to engage with or give much weight to any legal arguments which proceed in such bad faith on his part.

Geoffrey Bindman, a patron of PSC (and who supported the attempt to arrest Tzip Livni in the UK for war crimes in Gaza, as tabled in an EDM by one Jeremy Corbyn) complains in the Guardian and in this Radio 4 interview that critics failure to  read the Labour Code has resulted in “silly and irrelevant criticism” of it. In the interview, he insists the code discusses the issue of separating antisemitism from “legitimate political criticism of Israeli government policies” and harps on in his Guardian piece and the interview about how if the government had only adopted the HASC amendments re intent, all this fuss could have been avoided. This is a misleading representation of both the HASC amendment and the Code: to reiterate: the former refers to criticism of the government, whereas Para 7 of the Code refers to the state.

Lastly, another widely cited  NECards  source is Brian Klug’s essay: Verdict: even more tendentious.

He bases his argument that NEC has adopted the IHRA definition “in full” on formatting clues: the “core” definition is in bold and placed in a box. So the rest again, is ripe for tinkering and improvement, which in his view, the NEC code most definitely is.

He starts off  more sympathetically than the rancid excoriation by Sedley. He acknowledges that a great deal of the objections against the NEC code stems from an  understandable sense of unheeded grievance by the Jewish community: “something has been awry in the discourse about Zionism – and even about Jews in general – in certain sections of the left for many years..” but, he laments:
“How ironic if, just at the moment when Labour wakes up to the need to deal with antisemitism in its midst, it is shouted down because of its failure to deal with it in the past!”

And so, we come full circle to my point 1:  We, the majority of the Jewish community and its allies, see no such  wake up by Labour and far from dealing with the past, it is a running, growing sore that it is spectaculary not only failing to deal with in the present, but in its latest purges, actively suppressing.

All hail Comrade Trump!

On the heels of his increasingly questionable “success” with Kim Jong Un in Singapore (he called off “provocative” military exercises, and in exchange North Korea is, um, producing new ICBMs capable of reaching the United States), President Trump has offered to meet Iranian president Rouhani with no preconditions.

Trump’s offer to meet Rouhani comes shortly after his all-caps warning to the Iranian regime.

Aaron Blake observes in The Washington Post:

Trump’s strategy here seems to be to rattle cages on the international level and frighten other countries into negotiating. Then, after closed-door meetings we aren’t privy to about complex topics that few truly understand, he emerges and makes plausible but deceptive claims about the major deals he has just struck. A GOP base that is predisposed to distrust the media and the experts won’t care when reports like this one cast a spotlight on the overzealousness of those claims.

But overzealous they are — and in a lot of cases, highly premature. The North Korea news drives that home.

(Of course it’s good that the remains of some Korean War soldiers were finally returned to the US. But it’s likely the North Korean regime is holding onto thousands more remains as bargaining chips.)

Unlike Kim, who was smart enough to take up Trump’s offer, it appears Rouhani can’t or won’t do so. Given Trump’s apparent willingness to make agreements with foreign enemies without any serious commitments in return, it would be in the best interest of the Iranian regime– currently undergoing severe social and economic turbulence– to grasp at Trump’s naive offer with both hands. After all he isn’t asking them to stop propping up the Assad regime in Syria or cease their threats to destroy Israel.

If Rouhani was ingratiating and flattering enough, he could probably convince Trump to accept a new nuclear deal less stringent than the one Obama agreed to.

Following his friendly encounters with Kim and Vladimir Putin, Trump is being portrayed as a bulwark against imperialism and “liberal capitalism” by the Stalinist groupuscule known as the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist):

A few thoughts on MEND’s recent report on Islamophobia

Whereas definitions of antisemitism have of course been much discussed recently, I’ve seen little coverage of this report on defining Islamophobia.  The definition – and subsequent direct commentary – can be found on pp.20-23. Here are a few first thoughts. I’ve deliberately put to one side considerations of MEND as an organisation.

The short definition (p. 20) at first glance seems straightforward, describing unambiguous anti-Muslim bigotry. It’s possible to envisage ways in which it could be applied inappropriately, but this is true of all such definitions. Like many of the clauses in the key definitions of antisemitism (EUMC, IHRA) it is essentially a statement of the obvious.  It would catch out Paul Weston but that’s not saying much.

I was slightly puzzled by the next point. (I googled the phrase ‘tool used to gain and maintain power’, as I wondered if it had been copied from some other definition but ironically the only other example I could find of its use was to describe Islam!)

Islamophobia (in line with anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, sexism and other forms of hatred and discrimination) is a tool used to gain and maintain power. It is inextricably linked with socio-economic factors, and frequently reflects the underlying inequalities within society.

Although I don’t find anything immediately objectionable about this clause, I would say that anti-Muslim bigotry has been driven in part by those who feel ‘left behind’, by those who are at a socio-economic disadvantage, and that the same has historically been true (again in part) of antisemitism. However I don’t believe that is what the MEND writers are suggesting.

I liked MEND’s use of the helpful ‘taking into account the overall context’ caveat from the EUMC definition of antisemitism (at the bottom of the first column on p. 20). Then follow ten bullet points with specific examples of behaviour which might be deemed Islamophobic.

1 and 2 seem completely unproblematic.

The third requires some comment:

Charging Muslims with conspiring to harm humanity and/or the Western way of life or blaming Muslims for the economic and social ills of society

I agree that blaming Muslims as a whole for any of these actions, or ascribing extreme views to an individual Muslim for no reason, is completely wrong. However some Muslim groups can very reasonably be accused of endorsing views and actions which run counter to ‘the Western way of life’.

4, 5 and 6 seemed essentially fine, although (again, this is true of all such definitions) much depends on latitude in interpretation. Would ‘Espousing the belief that Muslims are inferior to other social or religious groups’ rule out evidence-based analysis of very specific issues (e.g. views on homosexuality)? I hope not – while acknowledging that discussions of these findings can be done in a bigoted way even if the data is sound -  just as nothing in the IHRA definition of antisemitism should rule out criticism of, for example, Israel’s new nation-state bill.

7, 8 and (particularly) 10 seemed uncontroversial. However 9 made me pause.

Applying ethnocentric approaches to the treatment of Muslims (judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture). For example, evaluating Muslim women’s choice of dress exclusively through the speaker’s expectations and without reference to the personal cultural norms and values of the women in question

Again, it all depends on interpretation. I expect everyone here would agree that women wearing hijab should not be abused or discriminated against – the nasty comments addressed to Nadiya Hussain on social media,or Kelvin Mackenzie’s bigoted remarks about Fatima Manji might rightly be captured in this clause.

But how far do we want to take this? I didn’t intend to bring MEND as an organisation into the discussion but I suspect this kind of case may be on their minds. My uncertainties about the clause made me want to reach for a caveat from Labour’s controversial recent statement on antisemitism:

For example, a comparison or an argument made in a work of analysis or scholarship constitutes a different context to a curt social media post.

In relation to Muslim dress codes I think this quite a helpful distinction. Vulgar and harsh comments about what an individual woman is wearing, assumptions about her views and motives, are one thing – but a reasoned critique of modesty codes (and some of those writing these will be Muslim women themselves) quite another.

Of course clause 9 only takes women’s dress as one example.  In practice this could be used to protect much worse views and practices perceived by some Muslims to be Islamic – or, to be fair, to identify intemperate and bigoted claims about halal.

A final paragraph about freedom of speech rounds off the definition:

While criticism of Islam within legitimate realms of debate and free speech is not in itself Islamophobic, it may become Islamophobic if the arguments presented are used to justify or encourage vilification, stereotyping, dehumanisation, demonisation or exclusion of Muslims. For example, by using criticism of religion to argue that Muslims are collectively evil or violent.

I noted with interest that, although MEND actively prefer the term ‘Islamophobia’ they seem keen to frame each clause in a way which would fit the term anti-Muslim bigotry equally well.  Even though I hope I’ve already made it clear that criticism of some of the many (sometimes contradictory) ideas and practices comprised by ‘Islam’ is entirely legitimate, sometimes what could be glossed as ‘criticism of Islam’ may also be bigoted. Just one example is a cartoon depicting a nuclear fireball and the caption:

some cancers need to be treated with radiation: Islam is one of them

So it would not have been inappropriate to include some clause such as this, which I’ve taken from a working definition of anti-Muslim prejudice compiled by Tell MAMA a few years ago.

Other manifestations of anti-Muslim prejudice or hatred could take the form of insults or attacks against Islam, as a means of caricaturing, dehumanizing and promoting hate towards Muslims

Just one final point about a section on p. 25:

Whilst cherishing the right to freedom of speech in an open democratic society, one must not allow individuals to hide behind the free speech argument to peddle antiMuslim and racist agendas. There is currently no absolute right to free speech that harms others, and we would support that position.

I find it really concerning – and it’s not just MEND who do this – when definitions of bigotry slip into an implication that anything which falls foul of the guidelines should be illegal.  People should absolutely have the right to invoke free speech arguments to say offensive and challenging things – that’s exactly what free speech is for, not to enable you to say things no one could possibly object to.  Identifying anti-Muslim or antisemitic discourse might help one decide that someone should be expelled from a political party, than at an article should not be published in a particular paper or simply that you want to unfollow someone on Twitter.  It’s right that people should be able to recognize a spectrum of bigotry ranging from the extreme to the subtle and marginal – but the (appropriate) inclusion of the latter makes it all the more important not to see every example as something which should be punished or banned.

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’ Blunder

This is a guest post by Noah Phillips

With her primary-election upset victory over incumbent Representative Joe Crowley, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez—at 28 years old—is the emerging face of millennial politics and an ardent proponent of modern socialist ideology. While she certainly has mobilized her supporters effectively, Cortez’ campaign is marred by her blatant lack of any knowledge on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and yet, her unseemly outspokenness on its intricacies.

Over the course of her campaign to unseat Crowley, Cortez railed against the actions of the Israeli government; yet in her July 13 interview on PBSFiring Line, where she referred to “the occupation of Palestine,” the settlements, and drew vague comparisons between Israel and Ferguson Missouri, Cortez’ lambasting culminated with five words: “I am not the expert.”

Cortez was neither pressed or challenged on her views on the conflict by host Margaret Hoover, but rather asked to “expand” on her beliefs, which she failed to do for the sole reason that she has no views, no individual contemplations on the matter at hand, but a party line which she touts and parades around on Twitter and at events. She’s committed the anti-Israel playbook to memory—on full display during the interview—liberally claiming “occupation” and “massacre” (in a Tweet) without comprehension of what she’s spouting: hyper-partisan language which deliberately denies fact. And while Cortez is certainly apt at dishing out this rhetoric, during the interview, she follows her unsubstantiated assertions with a sequence of uh’s and oh’s, as she connives a way to legitimize her ideas… without factual evidence to support it.

All in all, the greatest grievance against Cortez is her enduring stubbornness. Throughout her campaign, she easily could have remained silent on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but rather, it took an utter blunder on a major national news network for her to admit that she is not well-versed in the geopolitics of the region. Politicians cannot be blamed for not being savvy in every area of expertise, but rather can be faulted for expressing a highly controversial and largely unjust opinion in these circumstances, in the absence of such knowledge, which Ocasio-Cortez did throughout her bid.

But what’s troubling still is how Cortez is idolized by a sizable portion of young people, and how she appears to be on the fast-track to become a major fixture in the Democratic party after unseating the Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and the long-term, well-respected politician Joe Crowley, and obtaining fame overnight. Her socialist views and millennial-age inherently binds her to the up and coming left-wing generation of voters, and to a large extent, garners their support and attention from the get-go. To have Cortez’ language on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict normalized among her base is particularly unnerving, regardless of whether or not there exist facts to back up the claims, because they will be taken as truths nonetheless.

Cortez, unfortunately, is a part of a growing trend of partisanship and far leftism among the Democratic party, a struggle in which support for Israel is caught in the crosshairs. After her  interview with Margaret Hoover, Cortez appeared on Democracy Now! hosted by Amy Goodman, where she, according to the Jerusalem Post, “took a neutral stance on the two-state solution” rather than outrightly stating her recognition of Israel’s legitimacy and right to exist, a stance she had previously adopted. The ‘partisanization’ of Israel-centric issues over recent decades is undeniable, hence the period of no productivity in the United States-Israel relationship under Obama, and almost immediate progress under a Republican president.  While there exist notable exceptions to this trend, namely Chuck Schumer, Jerry Nadler, and some others, Democrat politicians know what vernacular on the conflict is socially acceptable among their crowds and which isn’t. They know the talking points and the key players, but adhere closely to the Democratic mantras and idioms primarily bashing Israel. Such partisanship has permeated into even the highest ranks of the Democratic party: Bernie Sanders—who is currently campaigning with Ocasio-Cortez in Kansas—took to Twitter in April to pledge his support for the Gaza protesters while disregarding the violent actions of many protesters and the significant role played by internationally-recognized terrorist organizations, just one of many lopsided stories portrayed by Democrats as the whole picture of what occurred.

With Democrats poised to dominate Congress in the midterm elections this November—including Cortez, the clear frontrunner in her district—and potentially the presidency in 2020, it’s incredibly dangerous and damaging to have untrue statements being taken as fact by policymakers. While Cortez’ PBS embarrassment was a high-profile instance of Democratic lack of awareness on the conflict, it served as a wake-up call to viewers, that rhetoric will always merely be rhetoric, and the distinguishing factor between Cortez and other, more informed politicians, are possession of the facts that reinforce their claims.

Raheem Kassam Reminds Us All

Raheem reminds us that he’s an obnoxious bore. Quite frankly he’s being antisemitic here in arguing a Jew would be a Nazi collaborator. Bearing in mind the alt right movement he’s desperately trying to be a part of, that that movement is ultimately white supremacists using him to show off how not racist they are, the charge of collaborator would be better placed on him.

Labour’s Latest: Cllr Kevin Enticott

You are probably already aware of the key details of this case. Enticott, a Labour councillor from Bognor Regis, has been suspended from the party after apparently posting the most vile and extreme antisemitic material on his Facebook page. It called for the execution of ‘Talmud Jews’, repeated the blood libel, and called Jews ‘parasites’. You can read more details here. He claims his account was hacked – and the very fact that the material was so extreme might be said to make that claim more credible. However his response to the allegation of antisemitism was strange, to say the least:

Insisting that that he is “not anti-Semitic in any way”, Enticott continued: “I’ve actually got Jewish friends.”

Commenting about “Talmud Jews”, he added: “I share views against some of the stuff that they do, but it’s not something I would express on things like that and it’s not the way that I would express it either.”

It now turns out he has quite a history of making antisemitic (and other offensive) comments.  ‘Hitler would have a solution to the Jewish problem’ is just one example.

It’s appalling that this person was selected as a councillor and that he has been making other equally vile comments on Facebook since at least 2015 and no one (apparently) has complained in the past.  I did come across one reference on Twitter to a complaint having been made about him in 2017 – if true, then why on earth did he continue not simply as a Labour member but as a Labour councillor?