Tag Archives: Jeremy Corbyn

Brexasperation! or why I cannot campaign for Labour but I will cast my vote again for Jeremy Corbyn…

The recent European elections in Britain were never supposed to happen. The deadline had passed – twice. Understood in this context, it was inevitable, therefore, that the contest would be fought as a second EU referendum. The Lib Dems admitted as much in their election pamphlet; something they afterwards tried to downplay (along with the fact that they had branded both Labour and Tories as pro-Brexit choices):

The outcome of this second vote was another close tie and more or less along the lines of the first referendum. Overall the pro-Brexit parties narrowly defeated the anti-Brexit parties, something apparent to anyone with an impartial eye and hard to disguise although some media outlets did indeed contrive to gloss over this inconvenient fact:

Both sides claimed victory, of course, when what was largely overlooked was the exceedingly low turnout. The turnout was low in part simply because European elections have low turnouts – this applies to electorates across the continent and is rather indicative of a deep democratic failing of the EU.

Leaving these matters aside, the actual result across the various regions and nations of UK should not have surprised anyone very much but mostly proves how remarkably few have actually changed their minds at all about Brexit. Instead, opinions have become entrenched.

My own stance is unchanged and remains the same as I outlined in a sequence of articles posted in the weeks leading up the referendum (here is the first). Now as then, I advocate for Britain to leave the EU – and if Northern Ireland wishes to remain and rejoin a united Ireland then this too should be settled with a border poll.

Disconcertingly, my own standpoint is at odds with the position held by most of my friends, although allied broadly with my family. Indeed, as with the indyref in Scotland, a generational political decision has sadly cost friendships and divided families. Some of my own friends look upon the prospect of any form of Brexit with total dread and thus regard my own stance on the scale of deeply regrettable to unforgiveable. As emigrants to countries inside the EU, three of my closest friends are understandably upset by the potential long-term repercussions of Brexit. In this regard, of course, both the British government and the EU were at liberty to issue unilateral pledges to uphold the rights of migrant citizens from the start of the process, but chose instead to hold back assurances, using the fear of repatriation as a bargaining chip. Playing politics in this way is deplorable, but I suppose it was to be expected.

Other friends and colleagues who do not live so directly under the same shadow cast by Brexit are concerned for different although understandable and perfectly legitimate reasons too. None of us knows if or how badly the economy could be hit. Nor can we be certain of knock-on effects either in Britain or abroad. On the eve of the referendum, we all had the same concerns which the doom-mongers did their best to ramp up. Chancellor George Osbourne had promised an emergency budget the next day, but afterwards resigned instead. Those who voted leave mostly didn’t believe him, and tend not to believe the naysayers today. On the other hand, those who still desire to remain take the threat more seriously. This is actually just another measure of how entrenched positions have become.

Just a year prior to the referendum, as ‘the Troika’ of the European Commission, the ECB and the IMF ganged up to apply neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ to Greece and the rest of “the PIGS”, with the imposition of “austerity” cuts to public services and demands for the privatisation of state assets, progressives and even a few liberals had been tweeting (quite correctly) “This is a coup”. During that period, political columnist for the Guardian, Owen Jones, wrote the following in an article entitled “The left must put Britain’s EU withdrawal on the agenda”:

Other treaties and directives enforce free market policies based on privatisation and marketisation of our public services and utilities. David Cameron is now proposing a renegotiation that will strip away many of the remaining “good bits” of the EU, particularly opting out of employment protection rules. Yet he depends on the left to campaign for and support his new package, which will be to stay in an increasingly pro-corporate EU shorn of pro-worker trappings. Can we honestly endorse that?

Continuing:

Let’s just be honest about our fears. We fear that we will inadvertently line up with the xenophobes and the immigrant-bashing nationalists, and a “no” result will be seen as their vindication, unleashing a carnival of Ukippery. Hostility to the EU is seen as the preserve of the hard right, and not the sort of thing progressives should entertain. And that is why – if indeed much of the left decides on Lexit – it must run its own separate campaign and try and win ownership of the issue.

Such a campaign would focus on building a new Britain, one of workers’ rights, a genuine living wage, public ownership, industrial activism and tax justice. Such a populist campaign could help the left reconnect with working-class communities it lost touch with long ago. My fear otherwise is a repetition of the Scottish referendum: but this time, instead of the progressive SNP as the beneficiaries, with Ukip mopping up in working-class communities as big businesses issue chilling threats about the risks of voting the wrong way. Without a prominent Left Out campaign, Ukip could displace Labour right across northern England. That would be the real vindication of Ukippery.

And concluding:

Lexit may be seen as a betrayal of solidarity with the left in the EU: Syriza and Podemos in Spain are trying to change the institution, after all, not leave it. Syriza’s experience illustrates just how forlorn that cause is. But in any case, the threat of Brexit would help them. Germany has little incentive to change tack: it benefits enormously from the current arrangements. If its behaviour is seen to be causing the break-up of the EU, it will strengthen the hand of those opposing the status quo. The case for Lexit grows ever stronger, and – at the very least – more of us need to start dipping our toes in the water. 1

Click here to read Owen Jones’ full article published in July 2015.

But Owen Jones was never one for consistency, and soon he was backing the remain campaign:

And saying this instead – a forecast that has to some extent been vindicated:

Having ditched Lexit in order to jump aboard the ‘Remain and Reform’ bandwagon, Owen Jones then correctly foretells the coup against Corbyn (it wasn’t difficult) and also envisions Johnson as Prime Minister surrounded by a gaggle of maniacal right-wingers. However none of this had been the inevitable outcome of a referendum vote to leave. In fact, an awful lot of water passed under the bridge in the interim period before Johnson managed to regain any momentum. It was a period when the left needed to consolidate behind Corbyn, especially in the aftermath of the extraordinary reversal during the 2017 General Election, but instead, Jones and other prominent leftists actually drove a wedge between themselves and the traditional Labour base. By January 2018, Jones was writing:

If only Brexit would go away. It sucks the political oxygen away from the issues we should all be discussing: like low wages, insecure jobs and the housing crisis. It is a rallying cry for a noxious alliance of anti-immigrant demagogues and regulation-stripping free marketeers. The bigotry, xenophobia and racism stirred up by the official leave campaigns injected an ugliness into British politics which never dissipated, and left hate crimes surging. And, frankly, Brexit is just mind-numbingly, painfully, excruciatingly dull. So yes, if there was a big red button to make it all just go away, I’d enthusiastically push it. 2

Click here to read Owen Jones’ full article entitled “I don’t like Brexit – I just don’t see how it can be stopped”.

Owen Jones is all-too typical of today’s left. Such inconsistency on the EU would be understandable, but for his spinelessness and abject lack of coherence. One minute he is throwing up his hands and reminding us (correctly) “just how forlorn” the cause of trying to reform the EU is, whilst urging fellow progressives that “the threat of Brexit would help them” (meaning the disadvantaged countries of Europe) and in the next breath he’s saying that he has been persuaded “to stand together to reform and change the EU” because “another Europe is possible”.

So let us cast our minds back further. Back to the 70s and early 80s when we find that the most radical voices, with Tony Benn, Peter Shaw, Barbara Castle, and Michael Foot very much in the vanguard, were likewise the most serious and committed Eurosceptics in British politics*, whereas the Europhiles tended to look and sound more like this:

Jeremy Corbyn is another on the left of his party who has never been a friend of the EU. Until very recently the same was true of John McDonnell. Relentless attacks of every kind – most effectively the media-led weaponisation of claims of antisemitism – have weakened Labour’s leadership and Corbyn especially. He has also been forced into submission by the pro-EU allegiance of the PLP and leaders of the trade union movement, as well as by grassroots Labour Party membership.

Many of Corbyn’s staunchest supporters – those who have backed him to the hilt on every other major issue – take a diametrically opposed stance on the EU, and few in his base dwell upon the cause of Corbyn’s single-issue divergence, preferring to gloss over the underlying problems with the European project. Nor do many ask, as one of the guests did on BBC’s election night programme, regarding the bright, shiny Euro-mobile backdrop:

Screenshot of the BBC election  night motif

“It’s a little like your lovely picture. You see all the smaller baubles and you know what they represent – France, Germany, Ireland, Spain – but then there’s the much larger blue ball with its ring of stars, and you wonder what does that represent?” (I am paraphrasing but hopefully you get the point)

In fact the better question perhaps is not what does the central hub represent, but whom does it represent? For evidently it does not represent the people of Greece or the other PIGS, or most of the rest of the European population. Instead it works for corporate interests – and again I refer you to an excellent investigative documentary called The Brussels Business.

Moreover, would a purely internationalist collaboration have much need for its own flag and anthem, unless the agenda was for outright unification? Arguably, a fully federalised United States of Europe is a grand and worthwhile project, yet advocates with the power to actually bring it about are also in the habit of denial. They know that they dare not allow the people of Europe to choose, because each past occasion they did, the people said no. Rather than seeking popular consent, therefore, the consistent approach is to forge closer union by stealth and subterfuge.

In fact, the trouble with the ongoing European project stems from its beginnings as a political collaboration that was established primarily to protect business sections, rather than as a union of nations formed to promote human rights and ensure peace. The EU still puts profits first.

Q. During the EEC membership referendum in 1975, which of these images formed the background to the official campaign poster to remain and which was to leave? Answer at the end of the post…

How the left gradually softened its position toward the EU, and has latterly become enamoured with Brussels, is a subject I addressed in earlier posts (see here), so rather than repeating myself, I offer instead an answer given by former Syriza MP (elected as a member of the Greek Parliament in January 2015) and Professor of Economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS), Costas Lapavitsas, during an interview with judicious Europhile and host of Novara Media, Aaron Bastini, when asked in what ways he thought firm advocates for “remain and reform” like his former Syriza colleague Yanis Varoufakis are mistaken [from 27:15 mins]:

“The thing that is absent in what Varoufakis is saying is in understanding the class nature of this, because these are not class neutral institutions. In the end they are institutions serving the interests of big business and big capital against labour… And when you’re confronting these institutions class interest will manifest itself clearly and forcefully.

“You might give the best arguments in the world. You might be able to tell them “look austerity doesn’t work”. And you might be able to write a very good academic paper on that, which might get published in a very good academic journal, but in the realm of politics that’s not how it works, because class interests will tell in the end and your argument will be dismissed. […]

“The class interests… are ruthless and unbending and that’s obvious from how they’re behaving. Ten years into the [banking] crisis, nothing’s changed. Nothing.”

Costas Lapavitsas, who is also author of “The Left Case Against the EU” was also recently interviewed by ‘Labour Leave’:

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Did you ever watch one of those shows in which stage magic is exposed? I confess that this is a guilty pleasure of mine perhaps due to my irresistible urge to find out how things work – the same urge that led me to study science. However, the big problem with such shows, besides the obdurate tackiness, is that the tricks presented are in any case third-rate imitations of the best grand illusions. The eponymous star of the most popular of this genre is the Masked Magician, and he is the most ham-fisted conjuror you have probably ever seen. His props are as rickety and his illusions as unconvincing, as his sleight of hand is amateurish and clumsy. But, if you’re like me, then you find yourself going back again and again, and cringing throughout. You want him to fool you, but he’s simply not good enough, and the illusion is usually broken long before the big reveal.

Well, enough about the Masked Magician – I wish him no ill will – he just serves as a fitting analogy for what I see as the contemporary state of politics in Britain. All of it is clunky, amateurish, and utterly unconvincing. Long gone is the conviction of Churchill, Atlee, Wilson, Foot, Benn or even Thatcher; gone too, the slicker gloss of Blair and Cameron. Today’s politics are unvarnished again, but not in a good way. It has become a very, very sorry spectacle indeed.

Take Boris Johnson’s recent visit to Wakefield when he delivered an electioneering speech in front of a phalanx of police cadets, who had been waiting for over an hour for his bumbling appearance. When one of his unwitting backdrop props fainted in the heat, Johnson was left to make a disingenuous apology, before blustering on regardless. His cheap stunt had backfired – but what a stunt… how blatant, shambling, and frankly Trump-like. It’s almost as though he and his advisors simply don’t care whether they manage to impress many viewers or even how unprofessional they appear. The association, in this case of Johnson with the police, is enough to appeal to the target audience.

Likewise, shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, on last night’s BBC Question Time, when asked what Labour’s position on Brexit will be in the near-certain event of a forthcoming general election. We will negotiate a new deal with Europe and then hold another referendum with choices to accept Labour’s new deal or else to remain, she told us. “Will you be campaigning against your own deal, a deal you have negotiated?” she was asked, at which point she lost her bearings entirely and after an excruciating pause, admitted that she would! This is not a credible position – this is not serious politics: it’s an embarrassment.

There isn’t time here to go through all the reasons we have reached this dire state of affairs. I mean where would we ever begin? With Cameron’s original decision to call a referendum; or the series of slips and the rise of Ukip that forced his hand; or the EU’s lack of flexibility when he tried to negotiate the original deal; or May’s electoral ineptitude that reduced a working Conservative majority to a hung parliament; or the chicken coup of Labour MPs who sought to destroy Corbyn and inadvertently (or not) led May to call that election (an election she had vowed never to call); or the subsequent years of Conservative shilly-shallying, and the steady drift of Labour towards an undemocratic second referendum; or the return of Farage and Conservative Party’s nuclear option election of Johnson as leader? Such a catalogue of backstabbing, procrastination, vacillation, and sheer betrayal! – even judged against their usual ghastly standards, the Brexit debacle has shown us the worst of the political establishment and the media.

In an interview with ITV news on September 16th, David Cameron talked about Johnson’s decision to front the leave campaign saying, “Boris thought Brexit would be lost”:

Unfortunately, we are where we are. The Conservatives are stuck with Johnson the remainer and his Old Etonian chums rallying the country to his sham anti-establishment cause and persuading the gullible that he is a staunch leaver, while Corbyn, the life-long Eurosceptic, who has been browbeaten into submission, enters a marriage of convenience with the equally sham pro-nationalist SNP and overtly anti-democratic Liberal Democrats, to carry the flickering torch of remain. All sides have given up on principle – in fact, and this is what is truly astonishing, they have largely given up on the pretence of principle. Both sides are simply hoping their opponents are more deeply fractured than they are. This is how they seek to regain power under our ludicrous and dysfunctional first-past-the-post system.

Counterfactually, had the Labour Party endorsed Corbyn in the days following the referendum and endorsed his call for the Conservative government to trigger Article 50, then Labour would very likely be leading the polls, if not already in government. But any promise of Lexit was dashed instead once the PLP ‘rebels’ launched their attacks on the party’s leadership. Then Labour missed the boat a second time in the chaotic aftermath of the 2017 general election, and once again the fault must be laid at the door of the majority of PLP and Corbyn’s own base who wasted the opportunity. Instead, little by little they have completely boxed him in over Europe, and in consequence we stand on the brink not only of a no deal Brexit under Johnson’s reactionary government, but prospect that the project Corbyn started, with its noble aim of steering the party back to the left, will also be ruined on the back of electoral defeat.

Which is why at length, and in spite of everything, I shall still vote for Corbyn at the next election and encourage others to do likewise, but it is also why I feel unable to canvass on the doorsteps for the Labour Party as I did during the last campaign. My hope is that by some miracle Corbyn can recover ground and win office, and for this I am prepared to sacrifice leaving the EU. Labour’s electoral success may very well rest on how many others will also put aside the desperate failings of the party, and stick to backing Corbyn.

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Additional: My correspondence with Shadow Brexit Minister Paul Blomfield

Appended below is an exchange of letters with Paul Blomfield, who is MP for Sheffield Central (my constituency) and became Shadow Minister for Exiting the European Union in October 2016. Paul Blomfield has always replied at length to all of my correspondence which is greatly to his credit.

Jan 10th (contacted through 38 Degrees)

As your constituent I’m emailing you to let you know where I stand on Brexit ahead of the vote on Tuesday the 15th of January.

Theresa May’s deal is a terrible one and unless she can renegotiate a compromise agreement with Brussels I want a clean break from the EU. This respects the result of the referendum. I believe we should leave as soon as possible even though I accept this could mean people’s jobs and wages take a hit. Any reversal of the referendum vote to leave the EU will be regarded by many (far more than the 17 million who voted leave) as a denial of the will of the people and dictatorial.

Please let me know how you’ll represent my views in Parliament.

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Jan 15th

Dear James,

Thank you for your e-mail setting out your views on the Government’s Brexit deal.  I value my correspondence with constituents and do appreciate you taking the time to write. I try to keep constituents in touch with my views and activities, including my work as a Shadow Brexit Minister, through a monthly e-newsletter. If you don’t already receive it, just reply ‘yes’ to this email and I’ll add you to the mailing list (see here for my data privacy policy).

As a Shadow Brexit Minister I was closely involved in drawing up the six tests against which Labour has consistently said that we would measure the deal. Our six tests were based on the Government’s own stated objectives and the Prime Minister said that she was determined to meet them. When the deal was published in November we were clear that it did not meet those tests and we will therefore vote against it today.

Labour has always been clear that we respect the result of the referendum, but believe that people voted to get out and not to lose out. I appreciate that you say you would be prepared to take a cut in your income or lose your job, but most leave voters I’ve spoken to wouldn’t agree; indeed they felt that leaving the EU would improve their position. We do not think that people’s living standards should be sacrificed for a hard Brexit.  Labour respects that we have financial commitments to the EU to meet before we leave. It is not a ‘fee to leave’, but settles outstanding financial obligations to which we committed ourselves as a member. If we do not meet our legal obligations, no country would trust us in any negotiations over future trade agreements.

So, we will vote against the Withdrawal Agreement today and seek to ensure that the chaos and civil war in the Tory Party does not result in us crashing out of the EU without a deal; and therefore, with no transition period. We will continue to press for the most beneficial deal with the EU, which means a close relationship, and we will seek to amend the Government’s proposals to that effect.

As you will know, we are not alone in voting against the deal. We will be joined by all opposition parties and a large number of Conservative MPs. In fact, it looks clear that it will not receive a Parliamentary majority. At that stage, all options will have to be available to avoid the consequences of no deal, as we set out at our Conference.

You can read more in my regular update on my website – see the latest one here.

With best wishes,

Paul

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Jan 15th

Dear Paul,

Thank you for replying promptly and in full to email.

May’s deal is the worst of all worlds and I am pleased that Labour will be voting against it. I also agree of course that we must seek the best deal for Britain since this is a no-brainer. However, if we refuse to entertain the option of no deal then in effect the EU holds all the cards. As Digby Jones put it: “When you have a Parliament turn around and saying ‘we’re going to say there’ll be no deal’ – it’s like saying I’ll buy a house for less but if I won’t, I’ll buy it for more.”

Regarding the ‘divorce bill’, again I fully acknowledge that Britain should fully settle any financial obligation, but this is not the same as paying May’s agreed “financial settlement” of £39bn which is conditional. This conditionality was made clear on September 7, 2018, when Michel Barnier conceded that the EU would allow a future trade agreement to be linked to the payment of the divorce bill.

Like most leave voters I too feel that leaving the EU will ultimately improve my position, although I did not vote to leave purely for economic reasons. Instead I voted to leave because I do not wish to live in a federalised Europe under centralised bureaucratic governance. Neither do I wish to see the formation of an EU army, a goal that was until very recently denied outright. I also wish to leave Europe because of the way it treats its poorest members (the so-called PIIGS) with the cruel imposition of unremitting austerity. Others voted to leave for reasons I actually deplore, but I am a democrat and respect the fact that they have as much right to vote as I did. To reiterate my previous points, the danger facing Labour is that so many of its traditional voters, in the North especially, will feel betrayed if the referendum vote is not respected. Unknown numbers will be recruited by the far right. Indeed, I fear that Labour may lose so much of its traditional support that it could easily enter into the wilderness once again.

So although I respect your alternative opinion on this issue, I do not believe Labour should engage in fearmongering. “Crashing out of the EU without a deal” is emotive language, and I feel that I must remind you that we did not vote for a deal but only to leave. Indeed at the time of the referendum we were warned that voting to leave would involve exit from the single market and customs union, yet we voted to leave nonetheless. I believe that people did not in fact prioritise economics in the vote, but made their choice for other reasons. This is all the more reason to fear the consequences of a U-turn on the referendum decision, and all the more reason to doubt that people can be won over by economic arguments now.

Thank you again for replying. Best wishes,

James

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Feb 13th

Dear James,

Thanks for your further note. I really appreciate hearing constituents’ views so I’m grateful for you taking the time to write and set out your thoughts on the issue. Another way I try to keep in touch about my views and activities, including my work as a Shadow Brexit Minister, is through a monthly e-newsletter. If you don’t already receive it, just reply ‘yes’ to this email and I’ll add you to the mailing list (see here for my data privacy policy).

On the financial settlement, you’ll know that Michel Barnier said such a link could be explored but that it would depend on the legal implications. Even the former Brexit Secretary and Brexit campaigner, Dominic Raab, conceded that we would still have financial obligations in the event of no deal.

In terms of the EU’s treatment of poorer countries and political integration, the UK was a leading member with significant influence and say in the EU, which we will lose on exiting.  It is always easier to influence and shape direction from within. You’ll also know that all the PIIGS countries supported the UK remaining within the EU.  The rise of ring-wing populism across Europe is extremely concerning and EU Parliament will have a very different configuration after the elections in May. I think it is extremely unfortunate the UK Labour MEPs will not be there to counter this. I have to say that I don’t recognise your description of the EU’s “bureaucratic governance”; decisions are made through co-decision making involving the Commission, the elected members of the Council of Ministers and the elected members of the Parliament. Indeed, in many ways, it’s a stronger democratic model than the UK’s governance. I know that the ‘European Army’ was a popular myth in the referendum campaign, but it doesn’t stand up to examination.

You mentioned the prospect of Labour losing voters who voted in favour of Brexit. I would challenge the idea that Labour voters are pro-Brexit; 2/3 of Labour voters backed remain, while 2/3 of Tory voters backed leave. It’s true that many in some Labour areas (although not primarily our voters) did vote leave, but it was the Tories that delivered Brexit. That shouldn’t be a surprise as it was a campaign led by the hard right neo-liberals opposed to the development of social Europe and what they see as regulatory constraints on free markets. Labour campaigned to remain in the EU, but we respect the result of the referendum. However, voters would not thank MPs who delivered Brexit on a false prospectus and politicians must be honest with the people who elect us, about the impact of different Brexit options on jobs and the economy and about the fact that we will have to reach agreement on common rules with countries with which we want to trade.

Therefore, warning about the effects of leaving without a deal is not fear mongering. The Treasury’s own analysis indicates that it would hit our economy by a massive 10%. No deal would be disastrous for jobs and the economy. I spoke to motor manufacturers in December and they made it clear that they rely on the seamless flow of goods across borders and that the Government’s advice to stockpile just isn’t a viable option for their ‘just-in-time’ supply chains. Our universities, a sector that is crucial to Sheffield and supports 944,000 jobs across the country, recently described ‘no deal’ as one of the biggest threats they have ever faced. I also spoke to motor manufacturers in December and they made it clear that they rely on the seamless flow of goods across borders and that the Government’s advice to stockpile just isn’t a viable option for their ‘just-in-time’ supply chains

Despite spending £4.2 billion of public money that could have been spent on our NHS, schools and other public services, the Government is totally unprepared for ‘no deal’, most memorably demonstrated by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s decision to award a £13.8m ferry to a company with no ships. On top of that, they have at least half a dozen Bills and swathes of secondary legislation to get through the House to fulfil the most basic requirements of leaving without a deal

‘No Deal’ was not on the ballot paper and several leading Brexiteers spoke about the favourable trade deal we would secure with the EU before the referendum. The International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, also said that it would be the “easiest [trade deal] in human history”. Interpretations of what the Brexit vote would mean also vary. The Tory MEP, Daniel Hannan, a longstanding Eurosceptic, repeatedly said that it would not mean leaving the single market: “Absolutely nobody is talking about threatening our place in the single market”. So how the Brexit vote should be interpreted is debatable, but MPs have a responsibility to mitigate the damage as much as possible.

Thanks again for your email and you can keep up to date with all of my work on Brexit on my website.

Best wishes,

Paul

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March 1st

Dear Paul,

Thanks again for your full and detailed reply to my previous email. I shall briefly respond to some of the points you raised before coming to the main issue of Labour’s decision to support a second referendum.

Firstly, and I quote, you describe the formation of a ‘European Army’ as “a popular myth in the referendum campaign, saying that it doesn’t stand up to examination.” (With the link provided.) I have followed this link to fullfact.org which states in its main summary under the heading ‘Conclusion’ that:

“EU member countries work together on military matters, but the EU doesn’t have its own military capabilities. At least a few European politicians do support the creation of an EU army, but that would need unanimous approval.”

I fail to see in what way this refutes claims that the EU is seeking to form its own army. Moreover, those “few European politicians” happen to include EC President Jean-Claude Juncker who has repeated called for widescale military unification. Prominent Belgium MEP Guy Verhofstadt is also outspoken in demanding “real EU defence and foreign policy”. There are countless other examples I might add here.

Secondly, you dismiss all the criticism of the EU’s ‘democracy deficit’ and argue, and again I quote, “it’s a stronger democratic model than the UK’s governance”. Leaving aside the constitutional arrangement that gives the unelected EC greater powers over the elected parliament (small wonder most voters in Britain are unable to name their own MEPs), the callous response of the EC and ECB (two branches of the so-called ‘Troika’) to the Eurozone financial crisis is fully indicative of the anti-democratic nature of the project. In a conversation with Noam Chomsky, former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who headed negotiations with the Eurogroup (and who has since advised Jeremy Corbyn), said this:

“The European Union doesn’t suffer, or the Eurogroup, from a democratic deficit. It’s like saying that we are on the moon and there is an oxygen deficit. There is no oxygen deficit on the moon. There is no oxygen, full stop.” You can find the quote here: https://www.yanisvaroufakis.eu/2016/06/28/full-transcript-of-the-yanis-varoufakis-noam-chomsky-nypl-discussion/

Lastly, and most urgently, I wish to address Labour’s unfortunate decision to support a second referendum. In your reply you said: “Labour campaigned to remain in the EU, but we respect the result of the referendum.” So if there is a second referendum what choices will be put to the electorate?

If this is simply a second referendum on the deal to leave then I will reluctantly support Labour’s position. However, if remaining in the EU is one of the choices on the ballot paper then a second referendum will be an affront to 17.4 million Brexit voters – the largest number of people who have ever voted for anything in all of our history. Furthermore, a second referendum with ‘remain’ on the ballot breaches Labour’s election manifesto pledge, which is less than two years old and which you reiterated, that you accept and will respect the result of the first referendum. This will cause untold damage to Jeremy Corbyn’s reputation for authenticity, believability and honesty. It will also reinvigorate Ukip, and provide ammunition to far right extremist Tommy Robinson. Like many people inside the party and outside, I believe that such a U-turn will very likely ruin Labour’s electoral chances for decades to come.

Thank you again for replying. Best wishes,

James

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April 15th

Dear James,

Thanks for your further note and apologies for the delay in getting back to you. As you can imagine, the past few weeks have been exceptionally busy for me as a Shadow Brexit Minister so although I read your email at the time, I am just now getting a chance to respond.

I’m a bit puzzled by your interpretation of the quotation from FullFact as I don’t see how it refutes the claim that the EU is seeking to form a European army. On the contrary, it confirms that only “a few European politicians” do support this but, as it also states, it would require unanimous approval of every member state, which does not exist.

I disagree with Yanis Varoufakis. Our Parliament has always been sovereign as the Government confirmed clearly in their White Paper on leaving the EU and even outside of the EU, the UK will have to work with other countries, including the EU27, to achieve common aims. According to the House of Commons library, 13% of our laws ‘come from Brussels’ (where we do of course have a say in how those laws are made). In many instances, where rules are agreed at the European level, the UK has flexibility in how to implement what is agreed.

In the modern world, nations’ interdependence and cooperation is inevitable and something to be celebrated rather than regretted. You are right that the European Commission is unelected, but so is our civil service and neither make laws, although both draft them. Laws need agreement of both the Council of (elected) Ministers and the European Parliament (more here). Moreover, votes in the Council are weighted according to population, although usually reached by consensus, and of course each country has a veto in key areas. You might also note that the European Parliament has the power to dismiss the Commission. On democratic credentials, the EU does far better than international organisations like the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, for example.

To come back to the question of a further referendum: as I’ve made clear in previous emails, I campaigned to remain but accept the result of the referendum. What I do not accept is the interpretation that it was to rupture all ties with the EU. It was clearly a vote to leave but it was a narrow win and, numerically, roughly in line with the numbers that voted ‘Yes’ in the 1975 referendum (17,378,581), which was proportionally a much more resounding victory to remain at 67.5%.  Labour accepted the result of the first referendum by voting to give the Prime Minister the authority to trigger Article 50 and have been pushing for a Brexit deal that both respects the result of the referendum and protects jobs, the economy and our national security. I recognise the risk that it would present an opportunity for the far right, but if we limit our political choices on that basis where does it end?

Labour has urged the Prime Minister to step away from her red lines and are currently engaging in talks with the Government to press them to bring back a deal that can command a majority in Parliament and in the country by forging a close relationship with the EU. We have called on the Government to introduce primary legislation for a mandate to negotiate changes to the Political Declaration to secure a permanent and comprehensive customs union with the EU; close alignment with the single market underpinned by shared institutions and obligations; dynamic alignment on rights and protections; commitments on participation in EU agencies and funding programmes, including in areas such as the environment, education, and industrial regulation; and unambiguous agreement on the detail of future security arrangements, including access to the European Arrest Warrant and vital shared databases. We must do all we can to protect jobs and the economy, which is why Labour has supported a confirmatory public vote – giving the British people a choice between a credible leave option and remaining in the EU – to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit. This is in line with our 2018 Party Conference motion, which was passed unanimously, and, as you’ll know, is overwhelmingly supported by the majority of Labour Party members.

Thanks again for getting in touch and you can find all of my blog posts and speeches on Brexit on my website.

Best wishes,

Paul

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April 15th

Dear Paul,

Thanks again for your detailed reply and I do appreciate your efforts in this regard. I shall try to keep my reply very short. You write that you now support “a confirmatory public vote – giving the British people a choice between a credible leave option and remaining in the EU –  to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit” and that this is in line with the Party Conference motion. What you have failed to address, however, is my point that such a “confirmation public vote” (second referendum – why can’t we call it what it is?), as I wrote, “breaches Labour’s election manifesto pledge, which is less than two years old and which you reiterated, that you accept and will respect the result of the first referendum”.

A second referendum between the proposed options will disenfranchise millions of voters who want neither to remain nor to accept May’s deal. In effect, although they voted to ‘leave’, they are instead being told that this is impossible and asked in what way they wish to ‘remain’. In the event of such a referendum I would expect a deluge of spoiled ballots (mine will be one). Indeed, the inclusion of ‘remain’ as an option in a second referendum will be seen as a betrayal of democracy because it is one. Lastly, as a Labour member myself, I fail to see how a conference motion can override a manifesto pledge. What precedent does this set? I campaigned on the manifesto and will feel ashamed of the party if it follows this course. Finally, if Labour does force a second referendum then it will anger millions of former voters, many of whom (as you do acknowledge) are likely to flock to the far-right. The point is that this abandonment of the left will be understandable in such circumstances. So this is not a matter of limiting our political choices, as for instance the calling for tighter immigration controls under former leader Ed Miliband was. This is not about pandering to extremists, but straightforwardly honouring a referendum result and Labour’s election promises. If we cannot even do this, then how in good faith can I campaign for Labour again?

Thanks again for taking such trouble to reply to me.

Best wishes,

James

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Follow up in response to a request to help with campaigning in European elections

May 8th

Dear Paul,

As I understand you, Labour is now seeking a “confirmatory vote” (i.e., second referendum) before the first referendum result has been enacted and contrary to the election manifesto pledge to honour the referendum result. This is certainly the case if, as you have given me to understand in previous correspondence, the proposed second referendum is to include ‘remain’ on the ballot. With due respect therefore I find myself unable to campaign for the Labour Party (of which I am a member) in the forthcoming European elections. Moreover, I shall not vote for Labour in those elections.

Best wishes,

James

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May 9th

Dear James,

Thanks for getting back to me.

I am sorry that you do not support the party policy endorsed unanimously at our Party Conference last September:

“Should Parliament vote down a Tory Brexit deal or the talks end in no-deal, Conference believes this would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government. In these circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power. If we cannot get a general election Labour must support all options remaining on the table, including campaigning for a public vote. If the Government is confident in negotiating a deal that working people, our economy and communities will benefit from they should not be afraid to put that deal to the public.”

As we have already discussed, Labour did accept the outcome of the referendum and we voted to trigger Article 50. We confirmed that in our 2017 manifesto, but also said that we rejected the Tories’ approach and wanted a close economic relationship with the EU seeking to retain the benefits of the customs union and single market, as well as alignment on rights and protections (see here). We have always been clear that we will not give the Prime Minister a blank cheque to harm our economy and people’s jobs and livelihoods.

Best wishes,

Paul

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May 9th

Dear Paul,

Thanks again for your prompt reply. I am sorry to write again and shall keep my own response as brief as possible. You say that Labour did (past tense) accept the outcome of the referendum adding that “we voted to trigger Article 50”. However, the country voted to leave (whereas triggering Article 50 is procedural) and in spite of this, and though the deadline has since passed, Britain remains inside the EU. Backing a second referendum with an option to ‘remain’ is a more or less open call to revoke Article 50. Thus, if triggering Article 50 means that Labour accepted the outcome, then, by the same reasoning, revoking Article 50, which overturns the referendum result, will represent a clear betrayal of our manifesto promise. In this regard the policy endorsed by the party conference is an irrelevance since it is incompatible with manifesto pledges on which all Labour MPs were elected and on which we all campaigned. I regard this change in policy as entirely dishonourable, but worse than that, it will be electorally disastrous.

Best wishes,

James

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May 28th

Hi James,

Thanks for your response. Please don’t apologise for writing again; I appreciate you sharing your views.

Clearly the situation has developed further since you wrote, with last week’s European elections. Indeed, here in Sheffield and in the country as a whole, the combined vote of those parties committed to a further public vote and remaining in the EU beat that of the those opposing a vote and leaving the EU at any cost. Labour was punished for an ambiguous message and lost votes to the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. So we have to look seriously at the issue of a further public vote, which I don’t think would be dishonourable or electorally disastrous.

Party policy has evolved and developed and the latest Conference policy surpasses the two-year-old manifesto. Your suggestion that revoking Article 50 would be overturning the referendum result does not take into account that we would seek a fresh mandate. We have made every effort to push the Government to get a deal that would work for the country but it is clear that there is an impasse in Parliament and support for a vote to give people a final say is surely not anti-democratic. Indeed, there have been MPs and others who have been campaigning to leave the EU since the 1975 referendum. Campaigning to persuade people is a fundamental characteristic of democracy.

Nor do I agree it would be electorally disastrous. 65% of Labour voters voted remain and recent polling indicates that 72.5% Labour voters would back remain in another referendum. Clearly there would be some votes lost and have been already, but these are far outweighed by those lost on the other side.

Above all though, we have to do what we think is right to resolve the crisis. There were big variations in different areas, but with the country and Parliament divided, there is no option but to give the people a final say to break the impasse.

Best wishes,

Paul

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 Answer:

 

1 From an article entitled “The left must put Britain’s EU withdrawal on the agenda” written by Owen Jones, published in the Guardian on July 14, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/14/left-reject-eu-greece-eurosceptic

2 From an article entitled “I don’t like Brexit – I just don’t see how it can be stopped” written by Owen Jones, published in the Guardian on January 3, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/03/stop-brexit-campaign-vote-leave-populist

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The following is taken from the Wikipedia entry on the 1975 EEC membership referendum (as it was captured on March 16th with footnotes retained)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1975_United_Kingdom_European_Communities_membership_referendum#Campaigning

The referendum was called in April 1975 after the renegotiation was formally concluded. Since Prime Minister Harold Wilson‘s cabinet was split between supporters and opponents of the Common Market, and since members of each side held their views strongly, he made the decision, unprecedented outside coalition government, to suspend the constitutional convention of Cabinet collective responsibility. Cabinet members would be allowed to publicly campaign against each other. In total, seven of the twenty-three members of the cabinet opposed EC membership.[10] Wilson’s solution was that ministers speaking in the House of Commons should reflect government policy (i.e. support for EC membership), but would be allowed to speak freely elsewhere, thus avoiding a mass dismissal of Cabinet ministers. In spite of this, one minister, Eric Heffer, was obliged to resign after speaking against EC membership in the House of Commons.

Yes campaign (Britain In Europe)

The “Yes” campaign was officially supported by Wilson[11] and the majority of his cabinet, including the holders of the three other Great Offices of State: Denis Healey, the Chancellor of the Exchequer; James Callaghan, the Foreign Secretary; and Roy Jenkins, the Home Secretary.[citation needed] It was also supported by the majority of the Conservative Party, including its newly elected leader Margaret Thatcher — 249 of 275 party members in Parliament supported staying in the EC in a free vote in April 1975[11] — the Liberal Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland and the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party.

No campaign (National Referendum Campaign)

Tony Benn, Secretary of State for Industry, was one of the senior figures in the No campaign.

The influential Conservative Edward du Cann said that “the Labour party is hopelessly and irrevocably split and muddled over this issue”.[11] The “No” campaign included the left wing of the Labour Party, including the cabinet ministers Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Peter Shore, Eric Varley, and Barbara Castle who during the campaign famously said “They lured us into the market with the mirage of the market miracle”. Some Labour “No” supporters, including Varley, were on the right wing of the party, but most were from the left. The No campaign also included a large number of Labour backbenchers; upon the division on a pro-EC White Paper about the renegotiation, 148 Labour MPs opposed their own government’s measure, whereas only 138 supported it and 32 abstained.[3]

“Many Conservatives feel the European Community is not good for Britain … The Conservative party is divided on it too”, du Cann — head of the Conservatives’ 1922 Committee — added,[11] although there were far fewer Eurosceptic figures in the Parliamentary Conservative Party in 1975 than there would be during later debates on Europe, such as the accession to the Maastricht Treaty. Most of the Ulster Unionist Party were for “No” in the referendum, most prominently the former Conservative minister Enoch Powell, who after Benn was the second-most prominent anti-Marketeer in the campaign.[12] Other parties supporting the “No” campaign included the Democratic Unionist Party, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, and parties outside Parliament including the National Front and the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Official party positions

Conservative and Liberal Party conferences consistently supported EC membership for several years up to 1975. At a Labour Party conference on 26 April 1975, the Labour membership rejected continuing EC membership by almost a 2:1 margin. Tony Benn said, “We have had a conference and the decision is clear … It is very clear that there now must be a move for the Labour Party to campaign.” The majority of the Labour Party leadership was strongly for continuing membership, and the margin of the party vote was not a surprise, since only seven of forty-six trade unions present at the conference supported EC membership. Prior to the conference, the party had decided that if the conference voted by a margin of 2:1 or more in favour of a particular option, it would then support that position in the referendum campaign. Otherwise, the ‘party machine’ would remain neutral. Therefore, the Labour Party itself did not campaign on either side.

The campaign, funding and media support

The government distributed pamphlets from the official Yes[13] and No[14] campaigns to every household in Britain, together with its own pamphlet which argued in support of EC membership[15].[16] According to this pamphlet, “the most important (issues in the renegotiation) were FOOD and MONEY and JOBS”.[citation needed]

During the campaign, almost the entire mainstream national British press supported the “Yes” campaign. The left-wing Morning Star was the only notable national daily to back the “No” campaign. Television broadcasts were used by both campaigns, like party political broadcasts during general elections. They were broadcast simultaneously on all three terrestrial channels: BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV. They attracted audiences of up to 20 million viewers. The “Yes” campaign advertisements were thought to be much more effective, showing their speakers listening to and answering people’s concerns, while the “No” campaign’s broadcasts featured speakers reading from an autocue.

The “Yes” campaign enjoyed much more funding, thanks to the support of many British businesses and the Confederation of British Industry. According to the treasurer of the “Yes” campaign, Alistair McAlpine, “The banks and big industrial companies put in very large sums of money”. At the time, business was “overwhelmingly pro-European”,[17] and Harold Wilson met several prominent industrialists to elicit support. It was common for pro-Europeans to convene across party and ideological lines with businessmen.[17] John Mills, the national agent of the “No” campaign, recalled: “We were operating on a shoe-string compared to the Rolls Royce operation on the other side”.[18] However, it was also the case that many civil society groups supported the “Yes” campaign, including the National Farmers Union and some trade unions.

Much of the “Yes” campaign focused on the credentials of its opponents. According to Alistair McAlpine, “The whole thrust of our campaign was to depict the anti-Marketeers as unreliable people – dangerous people who would lead you down the wrong path … It wasn’t so much that it was sensible to stay in, but that anybody who proposed that we came out was off their rocker or virtually Marxist.”[18] Tony Benn said there had been “Half a million jobs lost in Britain and a huge increase in food prices as a direct result of our entry into the Common Market”,[17] using his position as Secretary of State for Industry as an authority. His claims were ridiculed by the “Yes” campaign and ministers; the Daily Mirror labelled Benn the “Minister of Fear”, and other newspapers were similarly derisive. Ultimately, the “No” campaign lacked a popular, moderate figure to play the public leadership role for their campaign that Jenkins and Wilson fulfilled in the “Yes” campaign.[citation needed]

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Campaign for Chris Williamson… to take legal action against the party he dedicated his life to!

In 2015, we breathed life into the Labour Party by electing Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. We turned the Labour Party into a mass movement with bold ideas to transform the fortunes of the most vulnerable in our society. For a brief moment, another Britain was possible – beyond capitalism, beyond imperialism, beyond business as usual. Chris Williamson, the Labour MP for Derby North, was at the forefront of the campaign to put Jeremy Corbyn into 10 Downing Street.

But those who were most threatened by this challenge to the status quo have united to fight us ever since. And when they smeared loyal socialists and committed anti-racists, Chris was sometimes the only MP to defend them. In his 43 years as a Labour Party member, Chris fought fascists and neo-Nazis on Britain’s streets; ran a 2017 election campaign described as ‘a test case for Corbynism’; and campaigned relentlessly for democratising the party to give grassroots members the opportunity to decide who represents them in Parliament.

Chris Williamson was suspended by the Labour Party on 27 February 2019, following a pressure campaign against the Labour Party by opponents of a Corbyn-led socialist government. The smears against him are a proxy for attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Left. For over four months, out of respect for the Labour Party’s disciplinary rules, he was unable to defend himself while he was defamed on an almost daily basis as an ‘antisemite’ in the media.

On 26 June 2019, Chris’s suspension was lifted by a Disputes Panel of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee. However, following a concerted two-day media campaign by the same forces who had engineered his suspension, Chris was ‘re-suspended’ by the party on 28 June – a move without precedent in Labour’s history. He was then referred to the Party’s National Constitutional Committee, where his expulsion would almost certainly be a foregone conclusion.

With a heavy heart and after months of personal distress, Chris has been forced to take legal action against the party that he has dedicated his life to. He is challenging his ‘re-suspension’ as unlawful. But to do so, he needs your support. This could be a long and costly legal battle. We need your help to cover the immediate costs of the legal case and campaign.

Raising £75,000 will help meet the costs of Chris’s case. Raising much more than that could allow us to begin building a legal fighting fund for the Labour Left, defending other comrades who have been maliciously accused and hounded out of the party.

Capitulation is complicity. Solidarity is sacred. Defend your comrades.

Donate today, and help keep Chris Williamson in the Labour Party!

Read the same statement at the official Campaign for Chris Williamson website.

 

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John Pilger on war with China, the West’s loss of perception, and how “many journalists have simply given up”

“When I first went to Hiroshima it was just over twenty years after the bomb was dropped and it had an extraordinary effect on me. I saw on the steps of a bank in the middle of Hiroshima, the shadow of a woman. She’d been sitting there, apparently preparing her lunch, sitting on the steps when the flash happened. The bomb dropped on August 6th 1945 and her image was burnt into the steps of the bank.

“I remember looking at this image of this woman – you could see her shape, her arms, almost her relaxed position – and the impact that had on me was quite profound actually. And it obviously had an impact on many people because they got rid of it. They got rid of the shadow. Japan under US pressure got rid of this extraordinary shadow and it’s not there anymore.

“Now I would suggest that that shadow represents something ahead of us unless we start understanding the true dangers of the recklessness of our own governments.” — John Pilger

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On today’s season finale special episode of Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi speaks to award-winning journalist and film-maker John Pilger in an extended interview about the current state of global affairs as it enters what Pilger describes as a state of world war: the ‘Coming War on China’ that he had warned about in an earlier documentary (embedded within the transcript below) has already arrived he says.

He also discusses his concern with John Bolton being at the ear of Donald Trump amidst the collapse of the global nuclear arms control framework that saw the end of the INF Treaty and the beginning of a new arms race with Russia; a situation where Washington’s goal is to break up the Russian Federation under Putin. He likewise sees a growing risk of war between other nuclear superpowers, most especially Pakistan and India.

Pilger also talks about western sanctions imposed on Venezuela and Iran and how they are deliberately bringing suffering to the citizens of those countries; how Brexit has provided a distraction from the most pressing issues at home (such as austerity and the NHS) and abroad; and finally, he provides an update on the condition of Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, after he visited him recently in Belmarsh prison:

The full transcript of the interview is my own [interview begins at 2:30 mins]:

Afshin Rattansi: John thanks for coming back on. Boris Johnson [is] in Germany today. All eyes on the G7 at the end of the week: Russia not invited, China not considered by the IMF to be an advanced economy, but they will be talking about China apparently – we are being led to believe that Hong Kong is the centre of this weekend’s negotiations or talks.

John Pilger: Yes – what are these talks about? Excluding two of the most interesting developed powers in the world, China and Russia. I mean you know the truth is – what nobody is talking about – is there is a world war. It’s not a shooting war. But it could easily become a world war. There is a war already on China.

There has been a war of attrition against Russia for some years now: breaking up the Russian Federation is an American objective. Maintaining the supremacy of the US in all areas of human affairs – economic affairs, cultural affairs – is what particularly this regime in Washington is committed to. All regimes have been committed to.

It’s now reaching a head because they see a challenge in China. A challenge, and undoubtedly it’s an economic challenge, but it’s not a military challenge. This Nineteenth Century view of the world that permeates Washington and has returned to this country, the United Kingdom, has now created a war situation with China.

Very few know that China has now changed its nuclear posture from low alert – that is separating the warheads from missiles – to high alert – putting them together, the same as the United States. That’s something China didn’t do for many, many years, but they are clearly worried there now.

AR: You’re documentary was “The Coming War on China”, but you’re saying it is a war: we’ve seen colour revolutions thwarted – some successful against Putin in Russia. Is Hong Kong – millions of pounds have gone in from the National Endowment for Democracy – does Beijing understand what Hong Kong is?

JP: Oh yes. Yes, I think Beijing understands perfectly. The reason there is a rebellion in China is complex, of course, the people in Hong Kong do have a grievance. There is an inequality. But really what has happened is that manufacturing has moved to the mainland. The interference in Hong Kong, the subversion in Hong Kong by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy, through its local agents… and by all the others who make regular pilgrimages to John Bolton. Of course they are part of the war on China.

That’s not to take away from the fact that there are grievances within China – within Hong Kong – but Hong Kong didn’t sign up for two countries, two systems. It signed up for one country and two systems. And I find it almost grotesque the whole idea [that] the Union Jack should be draped over the speaker’s chair in the assembly in Hong Kong, when it was the Union Jack over hundred that represented an oppressive system.

I went to Hong Kong several times to write about the oppression of the police under the British. A corrupt police force led by British officers. A brutal police force. There was never any democracy.

AR: Even up to the 1990s?

JP: Right up to the 1990s. What there was – Hong Kong has been a business island. Well one could say that perhaps China is a business nation. And the mainland has usurped this special role of Hong Kong.

AR: So why here are we treated to endless images – as you say, no doubt some of these protesters have justification for opposing what is going on in Hong Kong – but yet the Gilets Jaunes protests are probably not going to be discussed in Biarritz this weekend at the G7?

JP: Because never before have people been called upon to think within such a narrow spectrum. And we could sit here all day talking about the iniquities of the media and so on, but it’s even wider than the media. There is a spectrum in which we are, if you like, allowed to think.

The news is dominated by Hong Kong and yet 29 miles from England there’s France, and this extraordinary rebellion of the Yellow Jackets, which has produced the most equally extraordinary violence from the state, has been virtually ignored. The same is true of Kashmir. I mean Kashmir was a fleeting moment, if you like, allowed into our perception. And here is a country bigger than Belgium, bigger than Portugal – 30 million people – where people are denied everything by the Indian state: denied food, freedom of movement, freedom of expression. India’s been doing this for a very, very long time. But India is our friend – the world’s greatest democracy and so…

AR: Trump says he’s being even-handed on it. China, of course, which has an interest there – another nuclear power apart from the other two – has taken it up at the Security Council.

JP: It’s our perception, I suppose, that we’re thinking about here… the way people are concerned that we’re going to run out of medicines after October 31st. We have no perception of the way the people of Iran are suffering under the sanctions that deny cancer drugs almost entirely because of these sanctions.

We have no perception of the way the people of Venezuela are suffering under sanctions. We have absolutely zilch understanding of how the people of Gaza continue to suffer in their open prison, as that has been obliterated almost from the news agenda and by extension from our perception. So within this spectrum – this narrow spectrum – the manipulation of people is probably the most extraordinary I’ve know in my career as a journalist.

AR: But obviously it’s not a physiological problem amongst journalists in newsrooms around the world that they can’t understand say Brexit no deal – there’s going to be problems here with medicines and food – and not understanding Yemen.

JP: I think journalists have given up. Many journalists have simply given up. There is a so-called mainstream, which is a misnomer: it’s not a mainstream at all, it’s an agency of extreme economic policies, policies that produce 4.1 million children in poverty in Britain.

AR: Four million children, two million under the age of five in Britain.

JP: Yes. And the kind of suffering that has come out of these extreme policies – called neoliberalism or whatever you want to call it – is echoed through our media in the same way that the whole absence of a warning that these virulent campaigns against China and Russia (particularly against the nuclear armed countries) could actually lead to something.

The abandonment by the United States of the INF treaty – the most important anti-nuclear war treaty ever signed – and here we had yesterday, I think it was, the US now testing again these intermediate-range nuclear weapons. And Russia, Putin, saying well yes of course we’re in an arms race again. The dangers of this. The dangers of accidentally, mistakenly beginning a nuclear war are not known to most people. That’s left out of this spectrum.

AR: Some say the INF treaty had to be revised because China was always opposing and violating the terms… in which the INF treaty was originally negotiated between Gorbachev and…

JP: That would come out of Washngton. And even if that treaty did need revision, then revise it. I remember those discussions and I interviewed a number of the American negotiators, extraordinary men… who sat down and negotiated with the Russians these complex treaties. They were serious people. We are not dealing with serious people.

AR: Some school textbooks in this country still say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the prices to pay for ending the Second World War. You went there.

JP: You only have to read the US Air Force bombing survey and it’s very clear that that wasn’t the case.

When I first went to Hiroshima it was just over twenty years after the bomb was dropped and it had an extraordinary effect on me. I saw on the steps of a bank in the middle of Hiroshima, the shadow of a woman. She’d been sitting there, apparently preparing her lunch, sitting on the steps when the flash happened. The bomb dropped on August 6th 1945 and her image was burnt into the steps of the bank.

I remember looking at this image of this woman – you could see her shape, her arms, almost her relaxed position – and the impact that had on me was quite profound actually. And it obviously had an impact on many people because they got rid of it. They got rid of the shadow. Japan under US pressure got rid of this extraordinary shadow and it’s not there anymore.

Now I would suggest that that shadow represents something ahead of us unless we start understanding the true dangers of the recklessness of our own governments.

AR: Well, John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, who advises Trump we are led to believe, says that all options should be on the table against dictators like Maduro, against people in Iran who lead their government – attacking all these different places.

JP: I’ve interviewed John Bolton. John Bolton comes as close to being a political lunatic as you can get.

AR: He had friendly conversations with Boris Johnson here just the other week.

JP: Often political lunatics can have a very friendly conversation with others if they recognise similarities. But Bolton particularly is a man absolutely salivating it appears – and I don’t think I’ve ever said this about any politician of this kind – for a war. Or for an attack. Or for an overthrow. Or for a coup. That he is in the position he is in is the most terrifying thing.

AR: In foreign policy terms you see the European Union, which completely backs John Bolton’s view on Venezuela – Britain and Brussels completely aligned with Washington saying Juan Guaidó is the real leader of Venezuela. The EU is an arm of Nato?

JP: Well, you see the problem with the whole Brexit nonsense – this utterly almost internecine struggle of wills following the referendum in 2016 – is how much it excludes. There is no public debate, certainly no parliamentary debate – probably there never would have been – no public debate on the fact that the European Union is an agency of Nato. And Nato is, almost by definition, certainly by example, a nuclear war fighting provocative organisation. All this is supported by the EU. It should be part of our debate about the EU. I have no doubt there are great virtues in some things about the EU.

AR: Of course it’s the kind of thing Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party here in Britain, used to talk about. Is there reason why he perhaps has been on the fence – or is regarded as being on the fence about Lexit versus Brexit, because he understands that?

JP: Jeremy Corbyn seems to have become so overwhelmed by Brexit, whereas the country – this country – in which so many people are suffering is as a result of this hideous ideology “austerity”. One only has to drive outside London as I’ve done in making the film I’ve made about the National Health Service. And drive into rather nice places like Wiltshire and see the boarded up towns. This needs a Labour leader.

Now Jeremy Corbyn has presented himself as that Labour leader, but Brexit seems to have overwhelmed every party, anyone who steps anywhere near Parliament or this subject – it’s a very important subject, of course. No deal or not no deal. But what is most important is whether the National Health Service will survive, not Brexit, but will survive the ideological attacks on it. Whether people will survive this hideous mutation of welfare called Universal Credit.

In Durham, a father of three killed himself because he had no money anymore, it hadn’t come through under Universal Credit. The suffering of people in this developed country, which is now the sixth or seventh richest country in the world, is obscene.

AR: This is a week when the Childhood Trust has said that in Britain children are eating toilet paper to stave off hunger. Is this in a sense, when you talk about the United States or Germany, is this the Achilles heel? Because, of course, Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, there are people heading to 2020 to overthrow, democratically, Donald Trump, who seem to have a different vision. And is the 2008 crisis the context: the foreign policy, the home policy, the starvation?

JP: I mean I think Sanders and the rest of them are social democrats rushing to catch up with a kind of social democracy which has been in Europe and is now being rapidly extinguished. But their foreign policy doesn’t change. We had two of the leading socialists – at least they are members of the Democratic Socialists of America – vote for Donald Trump’s 738 billion arms budget recently in Congress. That should concern us in the outside world, that Sanders and the others – which they interestingly call “the left” in the United States – okay, but they’re social democrats – whether they bring some form of civilised life to a country where now up to half the population are suffering some form of impoverishment (in the United States).

AR: You certainly won’t hear them defending Julian Assange of Wikileaks. If anything they might arguably be seen as part of those people who consider Wikileaks a Russian cut-out of an organisation. You met Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison not far from this studio. Chelsea Manning of course is refusing to testify against Julian Assange. She’s in solitary in the United States. Tell me first of all about Julian’s health.

JP: Can I just say very quickly, first you know we’ve been talking about censorship by omission on a huge scale. A federal court ruled that there was no Russian connection with Julian Assange. That he had constitutional rights to do as he did as a journalist and as a publisher, and that has been completely ignored.

Julian’s own condition is, how do I put it, very dangerous. When I last saw him about ten days ago I was shocked because he’d lost more weight. He was isolated. They seemed to be imposing a regime that must be punitive on him of isolation. He’s in the health wing – what they call the ‘healthcare wing’ or ‘hospital wing’ – of Belmarsh prison, but he’s in a single cell and he told me that I see people walking by and I’d like to talk to them but I can’t.

Category A prisoners, murderers and others who have committed serious crimes, are allowed to fraternise; Julian is not allowed to fraternise. He’s not even allowed to telephone his American lawyers and he’s facing extradition to the United States. He had to wait two and a half months to see an optician and then when he got his glasses one of the lens didn’t work.

He’s being denied the right – the right – to prepare his own defence. He’s denied access to documents. Access to the library. A laptop. His lawyer, his solicitor Gareth Peirce spoke to the governor on the fourth of June about this and received no reply. What’s going on?

We understand if there is no basic justice in the treatment of somebody like this, who is in prison because he infringed bail – that is just about the merest – it’s not a crime actually – it is about the merest thing that the law can nail you for (and that is infringing your bail). He is there also, of course, because he is facing US extradition. But primarily he is there for this minor offence and he has been treated in the way that political prisoners are treated all over the world. That’s a moniker that won’t be appreciated, but it applies.

AR: Have his previous partners, the Guardian newspaper in London, The New York Times, have they helped to seal his fate?

JP: Yes they have helped to seal his fate. Mind you they’re worried. They’re worried because in the federal court ruling it was made clear by the judge in this very considered judgement that newspapers like The New York TimesThe New York Times and the Guardian published the war logs in 2010 – the war logs from Iraq, the war logs of Afghanistan that Wikileaks had been the conduit for, had passed to them – they published them first, before Wikileaks.

In law, and that’s what he [the judge] was saying, they are as liable. But they are also, as Julian is – and this was the point he was making – are protected by the US Constitution. Now the US Constitution is being torn up by the Trump administration. That’s why Julian, basically, is in the trouble he is.

All these charges that he’s meant to be facing in the United States are concocted. They’re ridiculous. They don’t apply. They are charges against a journalist and a publisher, but they would apply equally against the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, the editor of The New York Times, and the editor of El País, the editor of Der Spiegel, the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. They know this and they’re worried.

But they’re in such cahoots, they collude so deeply with the establishment of their country, and that now means the intelligence agencies – they have the power now in western societies – they collude so deeply with them that they dare not speak up. I suggest that as this whole grotesque charade against Julian Assange goes on, they should speak up pretty quickly.

Not all of the views expressed are necessarily views shared by ‘wall of controversy’.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, austerity measures, Britain, China, John Pilger

#IStandWithChrisWilliamson

Chris Williamson is the victim of an ongoing witch hunt within the Labour Party and I applaud today’s decision to reinstate him.

Today we are celebrating the long overdue reinstatement of Chris Williamson MP. The reality is that he should never have been suspended in the first place!

The allegation that Chris had downplayed anti-Semitism was totally unfounded. His comments, made at a Momentum meeting in Sheffield, were condemned in a deliberate attempt to ruin both the reputation of Chris and Jeremy Corbyn.

Chris Williamson MP actually said: “The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I have got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic… We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any other party.”

His comments were clearly neither anti-Semitic, nor denying the existence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (as in wider society). But he did quite rightly point to the fact that there has also been a political campaign to “weaponise” accusations of anti-Semitism.

Chris is a target because he is one of the very few Labour MPs who have openly stood up to the witch-hunt of Corbyn supporters and because he has campaigned tirelessly for the much-needed democratisation of the party.

We are deeply concerned that anti-Corbyn right-wingers continue to smear and harass Chris, even after his reinstatement. Ruth Smeeth MP, chair of the rightwing Jewish Labour Movement’s parliamentary group, for example said that he had “demonstrated a pattern of behaviour over a period of many months, seemingly seeking to intentionally undermine, marginalise and harass the British Jewish community and Jewish Labour Party members, which has continually brought the Labour Party into disrepute”.

Despite the departure of Iain McNicol as general secretary, the witch-hunt of left-leaning party members continues. The main target of this campaign is, of course, Jeremy Corbyn himself. But thousands of Labour Party members have been investigated, suspended and expelled, often on spurious grounds. Like Chris Williamson, they are the collateral damage in this campaign to ‘get’ Corbyn.

We call on all Labour Party members to use trigger ballots to challenge saboteurs like Ruth Smeeth, Tom Watson and all those who continue to oppose the positive transformation of the Labour Party.

Here is a guide on how to go about it: http://www.labouragainstthewitchhunt.org/model-motions/how-to-use-the-new-trigger-ballot-to-deselect-your-mp/

Click here to read the original article as it appears on the Labour Against the Witch Hunt website.

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Chris Williamson also talked exclusively to RT’s Going Underground after he was reinstated to the The Labour Party after nearly 4 months of suspension:

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Update: Re-suspension of Chris Williamson is a travesty of justice

The renewed suspension of Chris Williamson MP, two days after he was readmitted to the Labour Party, is deeply troubling. We are particularly concerned that Keith Vaz’ U-turn seems to have been motivated purely by the pressure coming from the right inside and outside the party. Sadly but unsurprisingly, that now includes Jon Lansman.

We presume Vaz initially judged the case by its merit and found – correctly – that Chris had not said or done anything that could be described as anti-Semitic or bringing the party into disrepute. Vaz quite rightly judged that the evidence did not warrant Chris’s ongoing suspension or his referral to the National Constitutional Committee (which is still dominated by the right).

But Vaz’s U-turn and Chris’s renewed suspension, following the deeply undemocratic and hysterical letter organised by Tom Watson, symbolise how unfair and one-sided the whole disciplinary process really is. The right is calling all the shots – and Labour HQ seems to always do exactly what they demand.

But the right will never be appeased. They will never accept Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, let alone prime minister. They will continue their campaign of sabotage, because he remains unreliable from the ruling class’s point of view, especially given his strong support for the rights of Palestinians.

It is high time that the Labour MPs better reflect the wishes of the local membership. We therefore urge Labour Party members to organise trigger ballots everywhere, particularly in order to deselect the 70 or so MPs who have signed Tom Watson’s letter (above).

Click here to read the same statement on the Labour Against the Witch Hunt website.

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Further update: Sign the open letter to Labour NEC

We, the undersigned, believe that the renewed suspension of Chris Williamson MP is a travesty of justice. […]

There is very little chance that Chris will get a fair hearing from the NEC Disputes Panel, when several of those who will sit in judgment upon him have already torn his reputation to shreds on social media, without even having seen all the evidence.

We therefore call on the NEC:

  • to immediately reinstate Chris Williamson, as recommended by the NEC panel
  • to immediately open trigger ballots so that Labour Party members can choose a parliamentary candidate who actually reflects their wishes
  • to stop the practice of automatic suspensions and expulsions: members should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty

Click here to read the open letter in full and to add your name to the petition.

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Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, John Pilger

Craig Murray issues a timely alert to all Labour members: “act NOW to try to get rid of those dreadful Blairite MPs”

Jeremy Corbyn represents the only realistic chance the people of England and Wales have been given in decades, to escape from the neo-liberal economics that have impoverished vast swathes of the population. But he leads a parliamentary party which is almost entirely comprised of hardline neo-liberal adherents.

The majority of the parliamentary Labour party are the people who brought in academy schools, high student tuition fees, PFI, who introduced more privatisation into the health service than the Tories have, and who brought you the Iraq and Afghan Wars. They abstained on the Tory austerity benefit cuts and on May’s “hostile environment” immigration legislation. They support Trident nuclear missiles. Many hanker after bombing Syria, and most are members of Labour Friends of Israel.

Even before the current disintegration of UK political structures, there was no way that these Labour MPs were ever going to support Corbyn in power in seeking to return the UK towards the mainstream of European social democracy. They have spent the last four years in undermining Corbyn at every turn and attempting to return Labour to the right wing political Establishment agenda. In the current fluid state of UK politics, with sections of Labour MPs already having split off and others threatening to, it is even more important that the very large majority of Labour MPs are replaced by people who genuinely support the views and principles for which Jeremy Corbyn stands.

Regrettably Labour MPs do not automatically have to run for reselection against other potential party candidates, but under one of those hideous compromises so beloved of Labour Party conferences, they have to notify their intention to again be the party’s candidate for the constituency, and there is then a very brief window of a couple of weeks in which local branches and trade union branches can register a contest and force a challenge.

That process has now been triggered and it is ESSENTIAL that every Labour Party member reading this blog acts NOW to try to get rid of those dreadful Blairite MPs. If you do not act, the historic moment will be missed and the chance to move England and Wales away from neo-liberalism may be permanently surrendered.

The right wing forces have the massive advantage of inertia. The local MP is very likely a crony of the chairs of the relevant local branch institutions and of the appropriate local trade union officials (and there is insufficient public understanding of the fact that historically the unions are very much a right wing force in Labour politics). I am willing to bet that in the vast number of constituencies local officials and MPs are pretty confident of getting through this without the large majority of their members – especially the vast new Corbyn supporting membership – even noticing that anything is happening.

Which is why you need to act. Phone the chair of your local constituency today and demand that they tell you how to go about forcing a reselection battle. Make sure that they give you the phone numbers for any local branches or institutions you have to go through. If you do not know the phone number for your local constituency chair, phone Labour HQ and get them to tell you. If you are a member of an affiliated trade union or organisation, take action there too

Do not be put off. Do not follow any instruction from anyone, not even Momentum, about MPs who ought not to be challenged. Politics is a dirty game and full of dirty deals. Use your own judgement. Certainly any of the Labour MPs who abstained on Tory welfare cuts, failed to oppose the “hostile environment” immigration policy or voted to bomb Syria must be subject to challenge. I would recommend that you challenge any Friend of Israel, given that Israel is now openly an apartheid state. Remember, you may be able to influence two constituencies – that where you live, and through your trade union branch that where you work.

Whether or not you are a Labour Party member (and remember I am not), please bring this article to the attention of any and every Labour Party member you know. Progress reports in the comments section would be extremely welcome, as would anyone willing to take the time to draw up “hit lists” based on the kind of criteria I outline above.

While the media are concentrated on the Tory shenanigans, it is the Labour Party members who have the chance to make choices which could have in the long term much more important effects upon society; if people act as I recommend, this could be a historic turning point. Otherwise it will just be one of those moments that passed, and the Corbyn insurgency a small footnote of might have been.

Click here to read the full article entitled “A Moment in History” published on Wednesday 26th.

I would like to thank Craig Murray for allowing me to reproduce this article.

Not all of the views expressed are necessarily views shared by ‘wall of controversy’.

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Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Craig Murray

Jonathan Cook on the Labour witch hunt and the “McCarthyite campaign to destroy Corbyn”

Reprinted below are extracts from two excellent articles by independent journalist Jonathan Cook.

In the first, published by Counterpunch on March 1st and entitled “Britain’s Witchfinders are Ready to Burn Jeremy Corbyn”, Cook begins:

“McCarthyism” is a word thrown around a lot nowadays, and in the process its true meaning – and horror – has been increasingly obscured.

McCarthyism is not just the hounding of someone because their views are unpopular. It is the creation by the powerful of a perfect, self-rationalising system of incrimination – denying the victim a voice, even in their own defence. It presents the accused as an enemy so dangerous, their ideas so corrupting, that they must be silenced from the outset. Their only chance of rehabilitation is prostration before their accusers and utter repentance.

McCarthyism, in other words, is the modern political parallel of the witch hunt.

In an earlier era, the guilt of women accused of witchcraft was tested through the ducking stool. If a woman drowned, she was innocent; if she survived, she was guilty and burnt at the stake. A foolproof system that created an endless supply of the wicked, justifying the status and salaries of the men charged with hunting down ever more of these diabolical women.

And that is the Medieval equivalent of where the British Labour party has arrived, with the suspension of MP Chris Williamson for anti-semitism.

Cook then cross-examines the case against Chris Williamson in order to elucidate the McCarthyite modes of prosecution:

[But] The witchfinders were never interested in the political reality. They wanted a never-ending war – a policy of “zero tolerance” – to root out an evil in their midst, a supposed “hard left” given succour by Corbyn and his acolytes.

This is the context for understanding Williamson’s “crime”.

Despite the best efforts of our modern witchfinder generals to prove otherwise, Williamson has not been shown to have expressed hatred towards Jews, or even to have made a comment that could be interpreted as anti-semitic.

One of the most experienced of the witchfinders, Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, indulged familiar McCarthyite tactics this week in trying to prove Williamson’s anti-semitism by association. The MP was what Freedland termed a “Jew baiter” because he has associated with people whom the witchfinders decree to be anti-semites.

Shortly before he found himself formally shunned by media commentators and his own parliamentary party, Williamson twice confirmed his guilt to the inquisitors.

First, he dared to challenge the authority of the witchfinders. He suggested that some of those being hounded out of Labour may not in fact be witches. Or more specifically, in the context of constant claims of a Labour “anti-semitism crisis”, he argued that the party had been “too apologetic” in dealing with the bad-faith efforts of those seeking to damage a Corbyn-led party.

In other words, Williamson suggested that Labour ought to be more proactively promoting the abundant evidence that it was indeed dealing with what he called the “scourge of anti-semitism”, and thereby demonstrate to the British public that Labour wasn’t “institutionally anti-semitic”. Labour members, he was pointing out, ought not to have to keep quiet as they were being endlessly slandered as anti-semites.

As Jewish Voice for Labour, a Jewish group supportive of Corbyn, noted:

“The flood of exaggerated claims of antisemitism make it harder to deal with any real instances of antisemitism. The credibility of well-founded allegations is undermined by the less credible ones and real perpetrators are more likely not to be held to account. Crying wolf is dangerous when there are real wolves around the corner. This was the reality that Chris Williamson was drawing attention to.”

As with all inquisitions, however, the witchfinders were not interested in what Williamson actually said, but in the threat he posed to the narrative they have created to destroy their enemy, Corbynism, and reassert their own power.

So his words were ripped from their context and presented as proof that he did indeed support witches.

He was denounced for saying what he had not: that Labour should not apologise for its anti-semitism. In this dishonest reformulation of Williamson’s statement, the witchfinders claimed to show that he had supported anti-semitism, that he consorted with witches.

Second, Williamson compounded his crime by publicly helping just such a readymade witch: a black Jewish woman named Jackie Walker.

He had booked a room in the British parliament building – the seat of our supposed democracy – so that audiences could see a new documentary on an earlier Labour witch hunt. More than two years ago the party suspended Walker over anti-semitism claims.

The screening was to inform Labour party members of the facts of her case in the run-up to a hearing in which, given the current atmosphere, it is likely she will be expelled [as subsequently happened – read my previous post]. The screening was sponsored by Jewish Voice for Labour, which has also warned repeatedly that anti-semitism is being used malevolently to silence criticism of Israel and weaken Corbyn.

Although Jewish and black, Jackie Walker, a co-founder of the grassroots pro-Corbyn group Momentum, was one of the first to be victimised by an orchestrated campaign to defame leftist party members – something I have discussed at greater length in an extended post.

Cook continues:

First, she produced a one-woman show about her treatment at the hands of the Labour party bureaucracy – framed in the context of decades of racist treatment of black people in the west – called The Lynching.

And then her story was turned into a documentary film, fittingly called Witch Hunt. It sets out very clearly the machinations of the Blairite wing of MPs, and Labour’s closely allied Israel lobby, in defaming Walker as part of their efforts to regain power over the party.

For people so ostensibly concerned about racism towards Jews, these witchfinders show little self-awareness about how obvious their own racism is in relation to some of the “witches” they have hunted down.

But that racism can only be understood if people have the chance to hear from Walker and other victims of the anti-semitism smears. Which is precisely why Williamson, who was trying to organise the screening of Witch Hunt, had to be dealt with too.

Walker is not the only prominent black anti-racism activist targeted. Marc Wadsworth, another longtime ally of Corbyn’s, and founder of the Anti-Racist Alliance, was “outed” last year in another confected anti-semitism scandal. The allegations of anti-semitism were impossible to stand up publicly, so finally he was booted out on a catch-all claim that he had brought the party “into disrepute”.

Jews who criticise Israel and support Corbyn’s solidarity with Palestinians have been picked off by the witchfinders too, cheered on by media commentators who claim this is being done in the service of a “zero tolerance” policy towards racism. As well as Walker, the targets have included Tony Greenstein, Moshe Machover, Martin Odoni, Glyn Secker and Cyril Chilson.

Cook then questions fellow Momentum founder Jon Lansman’s recently stated call for “making Labour a safe space”. He writes:

First, it is impossible to be a home to all Jews in Labour, when the party’s Jewish members are themselves deeply split over key issues like whether Corbyn is a force for good and whether meaningful criticism of Israel should be allowed.

A fanatically pro-Israel organisation like the Jewish Labour Movement will never tolerate a Corbyn-led Labour party reaching power and supporting the Palestinian cause. To pretend otherwise is simple naivety or deception. […]

Further, if a proportion of Jewish Labour party members have such a heavy personal investment in Israel that they refuse to countenance any meaningful curbs on Israel’s abuses of Palestinians – and that has been underscored repeatedly by public comments from the JLM and Labour Friends of Israel – then keeping them inside the party will require cracking down on all but the flimsiest criticism of Israel. It will tie the party’s hands on supporting Palestinian rights.

In the name of protecting the “Israel right or wrong” crowd from what they consider to be anti-semitic abuse, Labour will have to provide institutional support for Israel’s racism towards Palestinians.

In doing so, it will in fact simply be returning to the status quo in the party before Corbyn, when Labour turned a blind eye over many decades to the Palestinians’ dispossession by European Zionists who created an ugly anachronistic state where rights accrue based on one’s ethnicity and religion rather than citizenship.

Those in Labour who reject Britain’s continuing complicity in such crimes – ones the UK set in motion with the Balfour Declaration – will find, as a result, that it is they who have no home in Labour. That includes significant numbers of anti-Zionist Jews, Palestinians, Muslims and Palestinian solidarity activists.

If the creation of a “safe space” for Jews in the Labour party is code, as it appears to be, for a safe space for hardline Zionist Jews, it will inevitably require that the party become a hostile environment for those engaged in other anti-racism battles.

Stripped bare, what Lansman and the witchfinders are saying is that Zionist Jewish sensitivities in the party are the only ones that count, that anything and everything must be done to indulge them, even if it means abusing non-Zionist Jewish members, black members, Palestinian and Muslim members, and those expressing solidarity with Palestinians.

This is precisely the political black hole into which simplistic, kneejerk identity politics inevitably gets sucked.

In a more recent article published on March 7th by Middle East Eye and entitled “Labour’s civil war on Israel has been a long time coming”, Cook returns to this point:

Threats by a Jewish group to split from Labour is not evidence of anti-semitism, but of the party’s long indulgence of anti-Palestinian racism.

An announcement this week by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) that it is considering splitting from the British Labour Party could not have come at a worse moment for Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader is already besieged by claims that he is presiding over a party that has become “institutionally anti-semitic”.

The threats by the JLM should be seen as part of concerted efforts to oust Corbyn from the leadership. They follow on the heels of a decision by a handful of Labour MPs last month to set up a new faction called the Independent Group. They, too, cited anti-semitism as a major reason for leaving.

On the defensive, Corbyn was prompted to write to the JLM expressing his and the shadow cabinet’s “very strong desire for you to remain a part of our movement”. More than 100 Labour MPs, including members of the front bench, similarly pleaded with the JLM not to disaffiliate. They apologised for “toxic racism” in the party and for “letting our Jewish supporters and members down”.

Their letter noted that the JLM is “the legitimate and long-standing representative of Jews in the Labour party” and added that the MPs recognised the importance of “calling out those who seek to make solidarity with our Jewish comrades a test of foreign policy”.

That appeared to be a swipe at Corbyn himself, who is the first leader of a British political party to prioritise Palestinian rights over the UK’s ties to an Israeli state that has been oppressing Palestinians for decades.

Only this week the Labour leader renewed his call for Britain to halt arms sales to Israel following a UN report that said the Israeli army’s shooting of Palestinian protesters in Gaza’s Great March of Return could amount to war crimes.

He concludes his criticism of JLM, an organisation he lambasts as “a relic of a period when it was possible to claim to be anti-racist while turning a blind eye to the oppression of the Palestinian people”, as follows:

Under Corbyn and a much-expanded membership, these prejudices are being challenged in public for the first time – and that is justifiably making the party an “unsafe” space for groups such as the JLM and Labour Friends of Israel, which hang on to outdated, hardline Zionist positions.

The JLM’s claim to speak for all Jews in Labour has been challenged by anti-racist Jews like those of the Jewish Voice for Labour. Their efforts to defend Corbyn and Labour’s record have been widely ignored by the media or, encouraged by JLM, dismissed as “downplaying” anti-semitism.

The JLM’s discomfort may be unfortunate, but it cannot be avoided. It is the price to be paid for the continuing battle by progressives to advance universal rights and defeat racism. This battle has been waged since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was published in 1948 – paradoxically, the year Israel was established by violating the core principles of that declaration.

Israel’s racism towards Palestinians has been indulged by Labour for too long. Now history is catching up with Israel, and with groups such as the JLM.

Labour MPs have a choice. They can stand on the wrong side of history, battling the tide like some modern King Canute, or they can recognise that it is time to fully enter the modern era – and that means embracing a programme of anti-racism that encompasses everyone, including Jews and Palestinians.

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s full article entitled “Labour’s civil war on Israel has been a long time coming” on his official website.

The conclusion to Cook’s Counterpunch article is more worrisome for supporters of Corbyn. As he writes:

Right now, the establishment – represented by Richard Dearlove, a former head of the MI6 – is maliciously trying to frame Corbyn’s main adviser, Seumas Milne, as a Kremlin asset.

While the witchfinders claim to have unearthed a “pattern of behaviour” in Williamson’s efforts to expose their smears, in fact the real pattern of behaviour is there for all to see: a concerted McCarthyite campaign to destroy Corbyn before he can reach No 10.

Corbyn’s allies are being picked off one by one, from grassroots activists like Walker and Wadsworth to higher-placed supporters like Williamson and Milne. Soon Corbyn will stand alone, exposed before the inquisition that has been prepared for him.

Then Labour can be restored to the Blairites, the members silenced until they leave and any hope of offering a political alternative to the establishment safely shelved. Ordinary people will again be made passive spectators as the rich carry on playing with their lives and their futures as though Britain was simply a rigged game of Monopoly.

If parliamentary politics returns to business as usual for the wealthy, taking to the streets looks increasingly like the only option. Maybe it’s time to dust off a Yellow Vest.

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s full article entitled “Britain’s Witchfinders are ready to Burn Jeremy Corbyn” published by Counterpunch on March 1st.

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Additional:

  1. “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby” | Jeff Cohen

The following extract is taken from an article written by Jeff Cohen, former director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and co-founder of the online activism group RootsAction.org, in which he discusses the case of Democrat Representative Ilhan Omar and the furore that was sparked over two of her tweets. Cohen, who describes himself as “a proud Jew raised in a liberal family that supported civil rights and human rights”, titles his piece “This Jew Tells Speaker Pelosi: ‘You May Well Prove Ilhan Omar Correct’”. It was originally published in ‘Counterpunch’ on March 7th.

The initial media frenzy in February over two of Omar’s tweets was so huge that it obscured the fact that the uproar was sparked by a total of seven words – and six of those words are the refrain of a famous Puff Daddy song.

It began when Omar retweeted Glenn Greenwald’s comment about GOP congressional leader Kevin McCarthy’s “attacking the free speech rights” of Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib for criticizing Israel – to which Omar, a known critic of money in politics, simply added the Puff Daddy refrain:  “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” (Benjamins refer to $100 bills.) When a tweeter asked her who Omar thinks is funding politicians to defend Israel, Omar responded with a one-word tweet: “AIPAC!”

The feeding frenzy over these two flippant but truthful tweets forced Omar to apologize (something Trump has not been forced to do over hundreds of dishonest, racist and/or threatening ones).

Yet if you spend a day on Capitol Hill and talk (off-the-record) with a member of Congress about this topic, you’ll hear plenty about AIPAC’s awesome clout and its ability to unleash “Benjamins”  to bully Congress.  Books and articles have documented this truism.

Click here to read more of Jeff Cohen’s defence of Ilhan Omar and why the campaign against her has so badly backfired.

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  1. “Criticizing Israel isn’t Anti-Semitic, Here’s What Is” | Sarah Gertler

The following article is another written in defence of Ilhan Omar. Sarah Gertler shares, like Cohen, a Jewish background, and tells us that in her formative years:

Like most American Jewish youth, I grew up knowing Israel. During holidays, I sang prayers about Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. In Hebrew school, I learned about the country’s culture, its cities, its past prime ministers. At my Jewish summer camp, we started every day with the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah.

My image of Israel was a rosy one. When I finally visited it in college, I was spellbound by the lush landscapes and sparkling cities, certain I would one day move to this golden ancestral home myself.

All this emotional buildup made it all the more sickening when, in the years that followed, I learned the realities of the Israeli occupation.

 Published by ‘Counterpunch’ on March 8th, her full article (with the paragraph above replaced by ellipsis) is reprinted below:

Weeks ago, when the first accusations of anti-semitism were being leveled against Representative Ilhan Omar, I was deeply agitated.

Not long ago I saw her address these accusations at a local town hall. She reminded the world that, as a Black Muslim woman in America, she knows what hate looks like — and spends her life laboring against it. Her words were clear, bold, and unflinching.

When members of Congress not only continued to gang up and falsely smear Omar as anti-semitic, but even created a House Resolution painting her words as hateful, I wasn’t just agitated. I was absolutely disgusted.

Omar has criticized the U.S. government’s support for Israeli actions that break international law. And she’s spoken out against the role money in politics plays in shoring up that support.

Neither is anti-semitic.

What is anti-semitic is the cacophony of mainstream media and politicians saying that criticizing U.S. policy toward the state of Israel is the same as attacking Jewish people. […]

The modern state of Israel was established by Zionists — a nationalist movement started by European Jews with the aim of creating a “Jewish state” as a refuge for persecuted Jews.

It’s true that Jews have faced centuries of brutal persecution in Europe. But the Zionists’ project shared unmistakably European colonialist roots.

In 1948, Israel’s war of independence led to the Nakba, an invasion driving 700,000 Palestinians from their homes. These Palestinians were never allowed to return, creating a massive refugee population that today numbers over 7 million.

While I was able to travel freely up and down Israel, the Palestinians who once lived there are legally barred from returning. While I wandered the marketplaces trying stews and shawarmas, Palestinians in Gaza can’t afford even the gas to cook their food because of the Israeli blockade.

Zionism didn’t create an inclusive Jewish refuge either. In fact, the diverse Mizrahi — or Arab — Jewish population that was already thriving in Palestine was pushed out of Israeli society as Ashkenazi — or European — Jews became the elite class.

What it did create is an imperialist stronghold that continues to break international law by building settlements deeper and deeper into Palestinian territory, giving Jewish Israelis superior legal status to Arab Israelis and Palestinians, and attacking all who protest.

Since Israel’s origin, the U.S. has supplied tens of billions of dollars of military aid and ardent political support. Congress consistently ignores dozens of UN resolutions condemning Israeli abuses, and year after year gives it more resources to violently oppress impoverished Palestinians.

Pro-Israel lobbying groups’ considerable political influence has even pushed Congress to consider bills punishing Americans who support Palestinian rights. (Around half of all states already have such laws.)

More broadly, they rely on villainizing critics with false claims of antisemitism — especially when the criticism comes from a person of color, as we’ve seen with Angela Davis, Marc Lamont Hill, and Michelle Alexander before Rep. Omar.

I, along with an increasing number of young American Jews, want to discuss U.S. support of Israel. Talking foreign policy is not anti-semitism.

What is anti-semitic — always — is saying that all Jews support violence and imperialism.

Click here to read Sarah Gertler’s article in its original form at Counterpunch.

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  1. “Anti-Semitism Pandemic!” | CJ Hopkins

CJ Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. In this climate of stifling ‘political correctness’ and suffocating insincerity, I find his writing is a breath of fresh air. The following excerpts are taken from his latest piece in which he locates the origins of the “deadly anti-Semitism pandemic”:

The origins of this pernicious, panic-inducing pestilence remain shrouded in mystery, but epidemiologists now believe that it began in the Spring of 2015, shortly after the resignation of Ed Milliband as UK Labour Party leader, and went global in the Summer of 2016, right around the time of the Brexit referendum and the nomination of Donald Trump…

Virologists are working around the clock to map the genome of this scurrilous scourge, about which very little is known, other than that it has a sudden onset, and attacks the language center of the brain, causing the sufferer to express opinions about “Zionism,” “globalism,” “the Israel lobby,” “banks,” and other code words for “Jews.” Patients appear to be unaware that they are spouting these anti-Semitic code words until they are told they are by the corporate media, or their colleagues, or some random account on Twitter, at which point their symptoms alter dramatically, and they suffer a series of petit mal seizures, causing them to repeatedly apologize for unintentionally advocating the extermination of the entire Jewish people and the establishment of a worldwide Nazi Reich.

At the moment, Britain is taking the brunt of it. Despite the best efforts of the ruling classes and the media to contain its spread, several new cases of anti-Semitism have been reported throughout the Kingdom, or at least among the Labour Party, which, at this point, has been so thoroughly infected that it resembles a neo-Nazi death cult.

Jeremy Corbyn, who contracted the virus more or less the moment he assumed the leadership, is now exhibiting symptoms of late-stage disease. Reliable sources close to the party, reached for comment at a brunch in Qatar with Tony Blair and a bunch of Saudis, report that Corbyn is running around Momentum HQ in full Nazi regalia, alternately heiling Hitler and looking for journalists to apologize to.

Another Labour MP, Chris Williamson, had to be summarily quarantined after publicly apologizing for not apologizing for inciting a gathering of Labour members to stop apologizing for refusing to apologize for being disgusting anti-Semites … or something basically along those lines. Owen Jones is fiercely denying denying that the party is a hive of Nazis, and that he ever denied that denying the fact that there is zero actual evidence of that fact is essential to preserving what is left of the party, once it has been cured of anti-Semitism, or disbanded and reconstituted from scratch.

Emergency measures are now in effect. A full-scale Labour Party lockdown is imminent. Anyone not already infected is being advised to flee the party, denounce anyone who hasn’t done so as “a Hitler-loving Corbyn-sympathizer,” and prophylactically apologize for any critical statements they might have made about Israel, or “elites,” or “global capitalism,” or “bankers,” or anything else that anyone can construe as anti-Semitism (preferably in the pages of The Guardian).

Click here to read CJ Hopkin’s full piece as reprinted by OffGuradian.

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Jewish Voice for Labour deplores the suspension of Chris Williamson

On February 27th, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) issued the following statement in support of Labour MP Chris Williamson.

We are shocked at the suspension from the Labour Party of Derby North MP Chris Williamson, despite his apology.

As a Jewish organisation we condemn antisemitism unreservedly. And, of course, we support robust measures to deal with any instances.

Like Chris Williamson we stand in a long tradition of opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism. We support the statement in which he apologised to anyone hurt by his words. But we agree with him that the number of instances of antisemitism in the Labour Party, though small relative to its size, is still too high. Any antisemite in the Party is one too many.

Williamson based his statement on the official statistics published by the General Secretary of the Party, Jennie Formby. They confirm that over the last 10 months complaints received led to 453 cases being investigated for antisemitism. This represents 1/12th of 1% of the membership. There is no wave of antisemitism in the Party.

The existence of antisemitism in the Party, as everywhere in society, is not in doubt. It needs to be contested, and the Party’s beefed up disciplinary processes are doing just that. But these figures, and the experience of the hundreds of our Jewish members in the Labour Party, give the lie to the false narrative that the Party is rife with antisemitism. Such a description bears no resemblance to reality.

The flood of exaggerated claims of antisemitism make it harder to deal with any real instances of antisemitism. The credibility of well-founded allegations is undermined by the less credible ones and real perpetrators are more likely not to be held to account. Crying wolf is dangerous when there are real wolves around the corner.

This was the reality that Chris Williamson was drawing attention to. His suspension from the party is unjust and should be rescinded.

Click here to read the statement on the JVL website

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In Summary: the truth behind the stats [on cases of antisemitism in the Labour Party]

On February 24th, Labour Briefing published an article by Glyn Secker, secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour, and Dr Alan Maddison, a solidarity member, that looked into the data recently released by General Secretary of the Labour Party, Jennie Formby. The article is reproduced in full below.

FROM THE MOMENT Jeremy Corbyn emerged as leader of the Labour Party a barrage of allegations of antisemitism was levelled at him and the party. These allegations have tarnished the party’s image and deflected it from promoting its core programme of anti-austerity and redistribution of wealth.

Representing several hundred Jewish members of the party, Jewish Voice for Labour from the very start challenged the existence of this antisemitic wave. Never denying for a moment the existence of serious, isolated expressions of antisemitism, none of us – many with decades of party membership – experienced anything at all resembling such undercurrents. Why was Labour singled out for such interrogation, and was antisemitism really more prevalent in the party than elsewhere?

The wave of allegations swamped the party machinery. After Jennie Formby became General Secretary, the implementation of some of the Chakrabarti recommendations and expansion of staffing levels, it is clear that this wave of reported allegations is being managed promptly, with only 24 cases outstanding.

And a clear picture has finally emerged. Jennie Formby’s data confirms that the grounds for the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have indeed been grossly exaggerated, and in some cases fabricated. Over the last ten months there were:

» 1,106 referrals of antisemitism allegations;

» 433 of these had nothing to do with party members, leaving 673 to be investigated;

» 220 of these were dismissed entirely for lack of evidence;

» this left 453 cases;

» 453 is 0.08% of the party’s 540,000 members – that’s about 1/12th of 1%;

» 96 of these resulted in suspensions – that’s 0.01%, or 1/100th of 1% of members;

» there were twelve expulsions – that’s 0.002%, or 1/500th of 1% of members!

By no stretch of the imagination can a 0.08% incidence support the claim of a ‘”rampant problem in Labour”. Of course, even one case of antisemitism is one too many. But these are vanishingly small statistics, especially when you consider that 2-5% of the general population are considered to be antisemitic.

This is not a wave, it is not even a ripple. In nautical terms it’s almost a dead flat calm.

Furthermore, there is no record of the thousands of abusive messages MPs like Ruth Smeeth claimed to have received, alleging most emanated from the Labour Party. The source of these might well have been traced to the ten fake twitter accounts masquerading as Labour Party members, unmasked by journalist Asa Winstanley. But to our knowledge, such numbers have never been submitted for investigation.

Margaret Hodge MP was informed by Jennie Formby that of the 200 dossiers of cases of antisemitism she had submitted, only 20 were found to be by Labour Party members. In other words, her allegations of antisemitism in the party had been exaggerated tenfold. And single handedly she accounted for approaching one fifth of all referrals.

Headlines proclaiming there was “no safe place for Jews in Corbyn’s Labour”, or that Labour needed, in the words of Marie van de Zyl, when vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, to “drain the cesspit of antisemitism”, have been shown to be contradicted by the evidence.

When the Shami Chakrabarti inquiry was presented we learned that there was no evidence of widespread antisemitism in Labour, but there were some offensive comments often borne out of ignorance. In cases such as these 146 written warnings were issued.

If the facts are at such odds with the accounts of leading politicians and mainstream media, there can be only one explanation – these accounts are driven by ulterior political agendas. Other forms of racism, for which manifestations in the UK are 70 times more prevalent than those for antisemitism, barely get a mention.

At the last election Labour fell short of becoming the government by a few percentage points. The next election is predicted to be as close. The damage to the party inflicted by the allegations of antisemitism is calculated to impact on this tipping point – to keep the party out of office. Ironically, the Labour Party is the only party in western Europe which has both the programme and the potential to govern, and thus the power to address the economic and political causes of the very real rise of fascism across Europe. The stakes couldn’t be higher!

Click here to find the original article entitled “Labour antisemitism: the Truth Behind the Stats” written by Glyn Secker and Alan Maddison published by Labour Briefing.

And here to read the same article with a brief introduction on the JVL website.

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Additional: The Boris Johnson Supporters’ Group

While every fresh accusation of Labour Party antisemitism makes headline news, our media shows a deplorable lack of interest when it comes to reports of racism within the Conservative Party. The following extract is part of a report published today by Evolve Politics about The Boris Johnson Supporters’ Group on facebook:

The group appears to have been ostensibly set up to support the current Tory MP and former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, in his bid to become the leader of the Conservative Party.

However, a huge amount of the posts use unashamedly racist, far-right language – especially ones lambasting immigration, refugees, minorities, and in particular, Muslims.

Amongst the disgustingly racist posts and comments that the Tory-led administration team have failed to remove, and in some cases even endorsed, are:

At least 7 comments that describe Muslims and immigrants as “ragheads”

There is also a comment that describes BAME people as “wogs“; another telling a black British soldier to “p**s off back to Africa”; another telling an EU immigrant to “f**k off back to Poland”; a comment directed to Bradford-born Labour MP Naz Shah telling her to “p**s off to [her] own country”; another that describes London Major Sadiq Khan as a “conniving little muzrat”; one comment calls black Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler “monkeys”; another says black former Labour MP, Fiona Onasanya, should be “put on a banana boat back home”; there is a joke about bombing mosques; numerous jokes about shooting immigrants and their families; and lastly, numerous posts spreading white-genocide conspiracy theories.

I shall not include any images of these facebook posts, however they can be found embedded in the original article.

The most incriminating revelation is that one of the people running ‘The Boris Johnson Supporters’ Group’ is a serving Conservative Party councillor:

Among the people running the Boris Johnson: Supporters’ Group are a current, serving Tory Councillor in Wellingborough, Martyn York (Moderator), and a failed Conservative Party Council candidate in Newcastle Under Lyme, Dorinda Bailey (Administrator).

In addition to these two Tory politicians is another Administrator called David Abbott. Abbott currently serves as an Independent Councillor and is the Deputy Mayor of Houghton Regis.

Click here to read the full article entitled entitled “Tory Politicians are running a VILE Facebook Group where members joke about BOMBING MOSQUES and SHOOTING IMMIGRANTS” written by Tom D. Rogers published on March 1st by Evolve Politics.

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Update:

Back in June 2018, former Conservative co-Chair Baroness Warsi gave an exclusive interview to Business Insider in which she accused the party leadership of ignoring “widespread” Islamophobia, and of deliberately stirring up anti-Muslim hatred to win elections. She told Business Insider:

[T]he “poison” of Islamophobia had now affected all levels of the party.

“It’s very widespread [in the Conservative party]. It exists right from the grassroots, all the way up to the top.”

Adding:

“It has been a classic case of ‘we’re not racist — we like brown people but we like this kind of brown people as opposed to this kind of brown people.”

“It’s saying ‘these are the acceptable brown people and those are the unacceptable brown people’ and I think that is really dangerous.”

The article continues:

She cited the example of the 2016 London mayoral election where the party was condemned for targeting Hindu voters with leaflets suggesting that the Labour candidate Sadiq Khan, who is a Muslim, was attempting to take away their jewellery.

“We specifically went out for Hindu voters saying Sadiq’s after your jewellery and I love Modi and by the way, Sadiq is an extremist. It was really amateur dog whistle politics,” Warsi told BI.

Click here to read the full article entitled “The Islamophobia scandal in the Conservative party goes ‘right to the top’” written by Adam Bienkov, published by Business Insider on June 11th, 2018.

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On March 2nd, the Guardian published an article by Miqdaad Versi in which he details “A litany of unpunished bigotry by [Conservative] MPs”. Here is an excerpt:

An unbelievable 42% of Tory voters have a positive view of the way Yaxley-Lennon [aka Tommy Robinson] highlights issues ignored by the media (compared with 18% of Labour voters).

One might have assumed that such a positive view about a widely reviled and hateful figure would not have any place in a modern Conservative party membership.

But the problem seems to be far worse.

The Conservative MP Bob Blackman retweeted an anti-Muslim post from Tommy Robinson, yet he did not even get a slap on the wrist from the party. In fact, depite having subsequently hosted anti-Muslim extremist in parliament (Tapan Ghosh), shared an Islamophobic story on Facebook, and been found as a member of a number of Islamophobic social-media groups, the party seems to have no real concern and the prime minister even chose to campaign with him.

He’s not alone. Conservative MP Nadine Dorries shared a tweet from Tommy Robinson before using far-right tropes against Sadiq Khan, Yasmine Alibhai-Brown and Muslims more generally and – despite being personally against same-sex marriage – weaponised gay rights to attack Muslims. Unlike Blackman, she didn’t even apologise once she was found out.

And I could go on – whether it is Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell’s Facebook account being found to have joined a “Free Tommy” group, or Conservative MPs Jacob Rees-Mogg, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson meeting Steve Bannon, who famously praised Tommy Robinson as representing the working class. Johnson’s burqa comments have led to many claiming that he is using Islamophobia as part of a populist, Trump-like appeal to anti-Muslims in the party.

Click here to read the full article entitled “The Tories’ response to raging Islamophobia? Turn a blind eye” written by Miqdaad Versi, published in the Guardian on March 2nd.

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just imagine… a second Labour coup — on Chuka Umunna and so-called ‘Independent Group’

Act I: the first whiff of a second Labour coup

The following section written in September 2016 has remained unpublished until now.

Just imagine:

On September 24th 2016, Jeremy Corbyn wins reelection. Within hours he moves to consolidate his control of the party. One-by-one, MPs start declaring their independence from their reelected leader; eventually over 150 have done so. Local Labour Parties begin to split along leader-rebels lines. Staffers in Labour’s headquarters formally disregard Mr Corbyn. A True Labour declaration of independence and social democratic principles is promoted by leading MPs and Labour grandees like Mr Kinnock. A majority of Labour MPs rally around it and appoint a True Labour interim leader and shadow cabinet sporting the best of the party’s parliamentary talent (perhaps: Angela Eagle as leader, Rachel Reeves as shadow chancellor, Tom Watson as a continuity deputy leader).

The extract above is taken from an opinion piece published in The Economist by the columnist Bagehot on August 12th. It is an open call for a new splinter party calling itself “True Labour” to emerge from amongst the ranks of the 170+ PLP ‘rebels’ (obviously I apply the term ‘rebel’ loosely) after detaching themselves one by one and then almost surreptitiously reassembling into a new makeshift party. If we look past the unintended comedy – a list of “best of the party’s parliamentary talent” which begins “perhaps: Angela Eagle as leader”, because if that isn’t hilarious, then frankly what is? – this newest plot against Corbyn, and the vast majority of Labour members who support him, is certainly elaborate in its conception:

True Labour obtains recognition from John Bercow as the official opposition. Donors are sought and local branches established. These swallow the moderate segments of Constituency Labour Parties and welcome a flood of new centre-left and centrist members, including many previously unaligned voters politicised by the Brexit vote.

The conception being that:

True Labour’s role would then not be to compete amicably with Mr Corbyn’s “Labour” but to marginalise or, ideally, destroy it by appropriating the Labour mantle through sheer weight, dynamism and persuasiveness. 1

My attention was originally drawn to this piece thanks to former BBC Economics Editor, Paul Mason, who points out that Bagehot isn’t just any old neo-liberal mouthpiece, but the nom de plume of Jeremy Cliffe, “formerly intern at the Party of European Socialists in Brussels, aide to Chuka Umunna and activist in the Ed Miliband for Leader campaign.” A figure Mason flatteringly describes as “one of the best informed UK journalists in the sphere of Labour and European social democracy.”

In the same article, Mason also reminds of the run up to the initial coup against Corbyn, and what has followed since:

During their attempt to stop Corbyn getting on the ballot paper, the right launched Saving Labour  — there’s no information about where it gets its money, who its officers are, what it’s statues [sic] are. It organised a day of street stalls, issued three press releases and went quiet on 28 July.

It’s been superseded by “Labour Tomorrow” — a private company with a reported £250,000 war chest to fight Jeremy Corbyn once he wins. This money will be distributed only to “moderate centre left organisations”. No other other information provided on its website apart from a single blog post by David Blunkett and Cold War union rightwinger Brenda Dean. No explanation of what “centre left” means, again no indication of where the money’s coming from.

Continuing:

Every signal from the Labour right appears to point towards a second coup against Corbyn, once he wins the leadership election, which will make Owen Smith’s current effort look like a sideshow.

The plan was spelled out in the Bagehot column of the Economist two weeks ago: declare yourselves “True Labour” in parliament; claim the legal role of HM Opposition; attempt to take unions and CLPs with you — if necessary by bureaucratic declarations; fight for the party’s name and assets in the courts on the grounds that it is you — the breakaway group — which truly represents Labour’s social democratic heritage. 2

Mason finishes his article with an entreaty to Owen Smith, who he rightly judges a dire candidate but a “willing dupe[s]: like the Auguste clown at the circus, who stands there pretending he doesn’t know the Whiteface clown has a custard pie behind his back”, to curtail his lamentable campaign for leadership in order to save himself and the party. Or, failing that, for Smith to issue a public statement saying he refuses to join with any breakaway faction and will respect the result of the election.

His appeal is, of course, a futile one. You cannot expect a snake to change its spots. On the other hand, party members and all Labour supporters are now in a position to make a difference. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, but that is of little significance if we remain passive. I therefore strongly favour pre-emptive action.

Whether Mason is right or wrong, it does no harm to send a volley of letters to each of our constituency MPs politely asking what they intend to do in the event that “True Labour” is launched (and let’s call it a coup this time before it happens). Will our MPs remain loyal to the party and its members and their leader who has twice received a democratic mandate, or will they jump ship… but, to reiterate, let’s keep this polite.

We have the chance to hold the feet of our elected representatives to the fire and, as Corbyn supporters, to get on to the front foot. My own letter is already dispatched and I will let you know if and when I receive a reply. Meanwhile be encouraged to steal my words (reprinted below), rework them, or else write something far better. What is needed is #stopthecorbyncoupmark2… but snappier. The snappier the better.

Click here to read Paul Mason’s full article

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Act II: Chuka Umunna and the Blairite deserters

That Chuka Umunna and a faction of disaffected Blairite Labour MPs including Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker and Luciana Berger have been planning to jump ship is surely the worst kept secret in Westminster. As far back as October 2016, The Mail on Sunday was reporting on Umunna’s secret talks with Hillary Clinton’s campaign team “to advise her on how to beat a Democratic rival for the presidency [Bernie Sanders] dubbed the ‘American Jeremy Corbyn’”. A meeting took place in July 2015 and a few months prior to Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in September:

A leaked email from Mrs Clinton’s private server, released by the WikiLeaks website, reveals that a member of Mr Umunna’s team sent a message to John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton campaign, on July 19 last year saying: ‘Chuka Umunna… is in NYC [New York City] on Thursday… he’d love to come by and see you and share his insights on why Labour did so badly in May, and what HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] campaign might take away from that.’

Sources close to Mr Umunna confirmed he met Mr Podesta and discussed the rise of Corbynism and the threat posed by Bernie Sanders – her Democratic rival dubbed ‘the US Jeremy Corbyn’ because of his pledge to redistribute the country’s wealth – who at the time was starting to surge in the polls. 3

Then, two years later in June 2017 and the wake of May’s cataclysmic election defeat, rather than getting solidly behind Corbyn, his leadership reinvigorated by Labour’s remarkable election gains, Umunna was instead slinking off to hold secret talks with Conservative MPs in a cross-party alliance to force a ‘soft Brexit’. This betrayal of the party was also in defiance of Labour’s manifesto pledges to honour the referendum decision on which Umunna had been re-elected just days earlier:

A source told the Daily Mail: “Chuka sees himself as the leader of the Remain fight back and is rallying troops on all sides of the House.

“He has got much more in common with open-minded Tory MPs than he does with Corbyn anyway.” 4

Firmer evidence of Umunna’s plot finally came to light last August, when it was disclosed in the Daily Express that a dozen Labour “moderates” (for some reason they have an aversion to being labelled ‘Blairites’) were gathering for weekends together at Fair Oak Farm in Sussex at a cost of £144 per night to hatch plans to “take back control and repair the damage that has been done”:

The group would catch the 7.18pm train from Waterloo East on a Thursday evening to Stonegate before taking a seven-minute taxi ride to the luxury bed and breakfast estate Fair Oak Farm in Sussex. […]

It was claimed attendees at the events included former leadership candidate Liz Kendall, former shadow cabinet members Chuka Umunna and Chris Leslie, and other senior MPs including Gavin Shuker.

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock, one of the most outspoken critics of Mr Corbyn, also attended but has recently quit the party to become an independent. 5

The article is headlined in screaming capitals “CORBYN’S CURTAIN CALL: Furious MPs vow to ‘COLLAPSE’ leadership at SECRET MEETINGS”.

It continues:

A source at the meetings told the Daily Express: “We are getting together regularly to discuss how to take back control of the party.

“At some point the Corbyn leadership is going to fail and collapse, we only need to see what is happening with the anti-Semitism problem, and we need to be ready to step in, win the leadership rebuild the party as a credible force and repair the damage that has been done.”

Meetings have taken place with the group at other locations and there is a wider group of rebel MPs numbering more than 20.

The Daily Express has learnt that one proposal put forward was to wait for a Corbyn election victory and then to use the large group of moderate Labour MPs to prevent him from becoming prime minister.

Another attendee at the away days told the Express: “As things stand Labour could win the next election simply because the Tories have made such a mess over Brexit and look so incompetent.

“If that happens we will break away and either form a separate Labour Party within parliament or a new party.

“There are [Remainer] Conservative and Lib Dem MPs who are interested in joining us if we do form a new party because of Brexit.”

The MP added: “The issue would be then whether we would have time to create a proper identity before an election or if there would need to be an election soon after. In that sense it is complicated.”

All of which brings the story up to date. Efforts to topple Corbyn can be traced all the way back to his first leadership election and the weeks leading up to it. As the architect of New Labour, Peter Mandelson, admitted rather too candidly when speaking to editor of The Jewish Chronicle, Stephen Pollard, shortly after Corbyn’s second leadership victory:

“The problem with Jeremy is not that he is a sort of maniac – it’s not as though he is a nasty person. It’s that he literally has no idea in the 21st century how to conduct himself as a leader of a party putting itself forward in a democratic election to become the government of our country.” […]

“Why do you want to just walk away and pass the title deeds of this great party over to someone like Jeremy Corbyn? I don’t want to, I resent it, and I work every single day in some small way to bring forward the end of his tenure in office.

“Something, however small it may be – an email, a phone call or a meeting I convene – every day I try to do something to save the Labour party from his leadership.” 6

Click here to read the full Guardian article entitled “Peter Mandelson: I try to undermine Jeremy Corbyn ‘every single day’”.

Likewise Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker and the rest of yesterday’s deserters have each dedicated countless days in seeking to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Not really over the trumped-up allegations of antisemitism – the media outcry over antisemitism inside the Labour Party was for the most part manufactured – and not because they fear that Corbyn is unfit to lead the party, as the lamentable Owen Smith parroted during his laughably inept leadership challenge, but – paraphrasing the source who spoke anonymously to the Daily Mail – because they have more in common with open-minded Tory MPs than with Corbyn anyway.

So while it is true that Corbyn’s conciliatory and democratic stance over Brexit certainly does infuriate them, this is the full limit to their honesty. And such last gasp defections at this critical moment as Britain prepares to leave the EU not only highlights the total contempt these Blairites have for the party and its membership, but for the country as a whole; their unwillingness to resign their seats and fight by-elections, a further indication of their overweening sense of entitlement.

As Novara Media senior editor Ash Sarkar told resigning Blairite, Angela Smith, on yesterday’s BBC2’s Politics Live show:

Not being Jeremy Corbyn, unfortunately, is not a manifesto in itself. People are going to be looking at things like your record on water privatisation. You are like one of the last people left in the country who still believes in it. They will look at the fact you are in the all-party water group, which is mostly paid for by the water industry. And they’ll go: ‘You know what? That stinks of corruption.’ 7

 

Click here to read an excellent piece also published by The Canary that reminds readers of the voting history of the seven defectors who are now calling themselves ‘The Independent Group’.

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Addendum: my open letter to the seven Labour Party defectors

Yesterday I individually emailed all seven of the Labour Party defectors (addressing each singly) under the subject heading “Two questions about The Independent Group” as follows:

Dear,

Firstly, after Douglas Carswell changed political allegiance in August 2014 moving from the Conservative Party to UKIP, he promptly announced his resignation as an MP, thereby necessitating a by-election. In September 2014, Mark Reckless did likewise. Given that you won your parliamentary seat on the back of Labour Party support and finance and on the pledge of honouring Labour’s election manifesto, do you intend follow the same course and observe these dignified precedents?

Secondly, according to your website: “The Independent Group of MPs is supported by Gemini A Ltd a company limited by guarantee.” This is a private company, registered with Companies House on January 16th, which Gavin Shuker controls “75% or more” of the shares. Can you make clear in what way your organisation is not a political party, or if as appears to be the case it is a new party, that it will be subject to Electoral Commission rules that ensure transparency as regards finance and donations?

Kind regards,

James Boswell

The email addresses of all MPs are publicly available but I have included a list of addesses for the seven members of The Independent Group below in the hope of encouraging others to express their opinions directly:

Chuka Umunna: chuka.umunna.mp@parliament.uk

Luciana Berger: luciana.berger.mp@parliament.uk

Ann Coffey: ann.coffey.mp@parliament.uk

Mike Gapes: mike.gapes.mp@parliament.uk

Chris Leslie: chris.leslie@parliament.uk

Angela Smith: officeofangelasmithmp@parliament.uk

Gavin Shuker: gavin.shuker.mp@parliament.uk

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An earlier letter to my constituency MP

Dear Paul Blomfield,

I have read that in the likely event that Jeremy Corbyn is again elected to serve as leader, there may be moves to encourage Labour MPs to disregard the democratic mandate of Labour members, declare independence in parliament, and seek recognition from John Bercow as the official opposition. In such circumstances, can you please assure me that you will actively repudiate any invitation of this, or any similar kind, that betrays the wishes of the members and seeks to create a further division of the party.

James Boswell

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Additional:

Back in 2016, Sharmini Peries of The Real News interviewed Leo Panitch, Professor of Political Economy at Yory University, Toronto and author of many books including The Making of Global Capitalism and The End of Parliamentary Socialism. Panitch provides very insightful analysis on the grassroots origins of “Momentum”, how its emergence helped Corbyn win the first leadership election, and how it has been traduced by both by opponents within the party and the media:

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Update: Craig Murray on the Corrupt Seven and the media response

On February 19th, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and whistleblower, Craig Murray, published a lengthy article from which the following is an extended excerpt. Here he is discussing the Corrupt Seven’s (as he calls them) “deeply dishonourable” decision not to stand for re-election, and why Luciana Berger’s complaints of antisemitism cannot be blamed on Corbyn:

Democracy is a strange thing. This episode has revealed that it is apparently a democratic necessity that we have another referendum on Brexit, while being a democratic necessity not to have another referendum on Scottish Independence, while the notion that the MPs, who now have abandoned the party and manifesto on which they stood, might face their electorates again, is so disregarded that none of the fawning MSM journalists are asking about it. In rejecting this option, the Corrupt Seven are managing the incredible feat of being less honorable than Tory MPs defecting to UKIP, who did have the basic decency to resign and fight again on their new prospectus.

Dick Taverne is a more directly relevant precedent, particularly as he was deselected as sitting Labour MP precisely because of his support for the EU. Taverne resigned, and fought and won his seat in a by-election in 1973, before losing it in the second 1974 election. There are also precedents for crossing the floor and not resigning and fighting under your new banner, but then there are also precedents for mugging old ladies. It is deeply dishonorable.

Luciana Berger is a one trick pony and it is worth noting that her complaints about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party date back to at least 2005, while Tony Blair was still Prime Minister. Berger had already by April 2005 spotted anti-Semitism in the National Union of Students, in the Labour Party and in her student union newspaper, those being merely the examples cited in this single Daily Telegraph article. I am extremely sorry and somewhat shocked to hear of the swamp of anti-semitism in which we were all already mired in 2005, but I do find it rather difficult to understand why the fault is therefore that of Jeremy Corbyn. And given that Tony Blair was at that time Prime Minister for eight years, I cannot understand why it is all Corbyn’s fault and responsibility now, but it was not Blair’s fault then.

On the contrary, the Telegraph puff piece states that Berger had met Blair several times and was Euan Blair’s girlfriend. This was of course before the privately educated Londoner was foisted on the unfortunate people of Liverpool Wavetree, doubtless completely unfacilitated by her relationship with Euan Blair.

The kind of abuse Berger has evidently been attracting since at least 2005 is of course a crime. Two people have quite rightly been convicted of it. Joshua Bonehill-Paine and John Nimmo sent a series of truly disgusting tweets and both were jailed. Both are committed long term neo-nazis. Yet I have repeatedly heard media references to the convictions squarely in the context of Labour Party anti-semitism. I have never heard on broadcast media it explained that neither had anything to do with the Labour Party. Like the left wing anti-semitism Berger has been reporting since at least 2005, this Nazi abuse too is all somehow Jeremy Corbyn’s fault.

It is further worth noting that in that 2005 article Berger claims a 47% increase in attacks on Jews, which is highly reminiscent of recent claims from community groups, such as the 44% increase claimed 2015 to 2017 or the 78% increase in violent crimes against Jews in the UK in 2017 alone claimed by the government of Israel.

One antisemitic attack is too many and all anti-semitism is to be deplored and rooted out. But if all these claims repeated again and again over decades of 30, 40, 50, 60 or 70% increases in attacks per year were true, then we would be now talking of at least 12,000 violent attacks on Jews per year, if we take Ms Berger’s 2005 claim as the baseline.

Yet we are not seeing that. The average number of convictions per year for violent, racially motivated attacks on Jewish people in the UK is less than one.

If we add in non-violent crimes, the number of people convicted per year for anti-semitic hate crime still remains under 20. And I am not aware of a single such conviction related in any way to the Labour Party.

Let me be perfectly plain. I want everybody convicted and imprisoned who is involved in anti-semitic hate crime. But the facts given above would cause any honest journalist to treat with more scepticism than they do, the repeated old chestnut claims of huge year on year increases in anti-semitic incidents.

There really are in logic only two choices; either anti-semitism is, contrary to all the hype, thankfully rare, or the entire British police, prosecutorial and judicial system must be systematically protecting the anti-semites. And I hardly see how they could blame Jeremy Corbyn for that.

None of this will stop the relentless promotion of the “Corbyn anti-semitism” theme, as the idea of a leader not completely behind the slow extirpation of the Palestinian people is unthinkable to the mainstream media class. The Corbyn anti-semitism meme is possibly the most remarkable example of evidence free journalism I have ever encountered.

Click here to read Craig Murray’s full post entitled “Democracy and the Corrupt Seven”.

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1 From an article entitled “Why a “True Labour” splinter party could succeed where the SDP failed” written by Bagehot, published in The Economist on August 12, 2016. http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2016/08/labour-pains

2 From an article entitled “The sound of Blairite silence: Owen Smith has become the willing dupe of the Labour right” written by Paul Mason, published by Medium.com on August 19, 2016.  https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/the-sound-of-blairite-silence-aed2ef726c8a#.tktnlfuww

3 From an article entitled “Labour’s Chuka held secret talks with Hillary Clinton’s campaign team to advise on how to defeat ‘US Corbyn’ written by Glen Owen, published in The Mail on Sunday on October 23, 2016. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3863494/Labour-s-Chuka-held-secret-talks-Hillary-Clinton-s-campaign-team-advise-defeat-Corbyn.html

4 From an article entitled “Chuka Umunna ‘holds secret talks with Tory MPs plotting to force PM to accept soft Brexit’” written by Aletha Adu, published in the Sunday Express on June 25, 2017. https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/821016/Chuka-Umunna-Tory-remainers-soft-Brexit-DUP-theresa-may-repeal-bill-Queens-speech

5 From an article entitled “CORBYN’S CURTAIN CALL: Furious MPs vow to ‘COLLAPSE’ leadership at SECRET MEETINGS” written by David Maddox, published in the Daily Express on August 7, 2018. https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/999804/jeremy-corbyn-labour-leadership-coup-brexit-antisemitism

6 From an article entitled “Peter Mandelson: I try to undermine Jeremy Corbyn ‘every single day’” written by Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot, published in the Guardian on February 21, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/21/peter-mandelson-i-try-to-undermine-jeremy-corbyn-every-day

7 Quote taken from an article entitled “Ash Sarkar takes down a resigning Blairite MP so brutally, a BBC host intervenes” written by James Wright, published in The Canary on February 18, 2019. https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/02/18/ash-sarkar-takes-down-a-resigning-blairite-mp-so-brutally-a-bbc-host-intervenes/

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, Craig Murray

Israelgate disclosure: Al Jazeera’s censored “The Lobby – USA” now released in full

Introduction

“You would think that since the United States has this special relationship with Israel and gives it so much largesse and protects it diplomatically at every turn and gives this assistance unconditionally, that the Israelis would do less spying here than other countries do, but on the contrary what we see is that Israelis are probably at the top of the list when it comes to foreign countries spying inside the United States.” — John Mearsheimer, Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago 1

“If China was doing this, if Iran was doing it, if Russia was doing it, there would be uproar. You would have Congress going after them. You would have hearings. You would have prosecutions. The question is how does Israel get away with this?” — Ali Abunimah, author of The Battle for Justice In Palestine. 2

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This extended post has been constructed as an augmented synopsis for Al Jazeera’s “The Lobby – USA”. It is also a companion piece to my overview published two years ago of Al Jazeera’s original investigative series about the Israel lobby and its machinations inside the UK.

As I wrote in March 2017:

The investigation came to wider public attention following the release of shocking footage of “Israeli diplomat” Shai Masot speculating about how to “take down” Deputy Foreign Minister, Sir Alan Duncan, and other senior politicians less than “solid on Israel”. After the story broke, the press were of course compelled to report on it: it was impossible to ignore such serious allegations that a foreign power was trying to subvert Britain’s democracy. Yet reaction both from the media and the government has been remarkably tepid since. There have been no sustained investigations and we see no push for an official inquiry – this in defiance of Labour demands that the government launch an immediate inquiry into what it rightly calls “a national security issue”. […]

The altogether miserly extent and scope of British media coverage of a plot to subvert our democracy can be usefully measured against the unlimited column inches and headline space given over to unfounded allegations of Russian hacking of the DNC in America. But no less importantly, the plot against Tory ministers occupies a mere ten minutes of one episode of what in full amounts to two hours over four parts of broadcast material. The revelation is damning in the extreme but it should not have been allowed to totally overshadow the real focus of the documentary: a dirty tricks campaign against pro-Palestinian Labour party members and other efforts to subvert the party’s elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn. This chicanery against Corbyn in the interests of a foreign power is something the media has helped to bury.

Click here to read my full post entitled “Shai Masot, the Israel lobby, and its part in the ongoing coup against Jeremy Corbyn.”

I urge all readers, but most especially the supporters of the British Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn, to watch both series of these powerful documentaries in their entirety.

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Israel first

“The settler agenda is defining the future of Israel, and their stated purpose is clear: they believe in one state: Greater Israel. In fact, one prominent minister declared just after the US election, and I quote, ‘the era of the two-state solution is over’. If the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic, it cannot be both.” — John Kerry. 3

“The activism has to be very provocative and attention-getting and total no f—ks given. We’re going to be more pro-Israel than you can even imagine. Just to provoke everyone… The majority of Americans are pro-Israel. Whereas you take a poll of Israel in the UK, it’s just pure hatred of Israel. Your country basically let half of f—king Pakistan move in. So you have a different problem than we do here— Noah Pollak, the Executive Director of the Emergency Committee for Israel. 4

One month ago, on Friday January 11th, Amal al-Taramsi, a 43-year-old Palestinian woman, was shot in the head by an IDF sniper. She is just the latest victim of more than 240 Palestinians who have been killed close to the Gaza fence since the Great March of Return protests that began in March last year:

At least 25 other Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire on Friday, including two members of the media and one paramedic, according to al-Qedra.5

Click here to read a full report by Al Jazeera.

Amal Mustafa at-Taramisi, 43, from Sheikh Radwan, north of Gaza city.

On the same day, Israeli missiles and artillery shells were fired into three sites in proximity to Gaza city and Khan Younis inside the Gaza strip. 6

And on the very same day, Israel also illegally launched unprovoked airstrikes on Damascus international airport as Prime Minister Netanyahu afterwards confirmed, citing warehouses containing Iranian arms as the pretext. 7

None of this is abnormal for Israel, of course. The IDF murders unarmed civilians as a matter of routine, maiming for life thousands of others who have committed no greater crime than hurling stones. They demolish houses even with the residents trapped inside in order to collectively punish the Palestinians and annex their land and water. Periodically Israel also “mows the grass” in the open air prison of Gaza; a policy of ethnic cleansing that is as brazen as it is ruthless. Back in 2012, the UN issued its “most comprehensive report on the Palestinian enclave” warning that, as Reuters reported:

Gaza will no longer be “liveable” by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve water supply, power, health, and schooling…

“Action needs to be taken now if Gaza is to be a liveable place in 2020 and it is already difficult now,” U.N. humanitarian coordinator Maxwell Gaylard told journalists when the report was released on Monday. 8

The action called for was never taken and 2020 is now less than twelve months away.

Meanwhile in America, on the same day Amal al-Taramsi was murdered, and as 25 other Palestinians were seriously wounded (among the casualties two members of the press and one paramedic), and as it rained down missiles over Gaza and Damascus, the US Congress was busy passing H.R.221 – Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act: “to monitor and combat anti-Semitism globally, and for other purposes.” The US House of Representatives in fact voted 411 to 1 in favour of the bill; Republican Justin Amash of Michigan, the single dissenting congressman.

Under this new legislation, a special envoy who is tasked to monitor criticism of Israel will be appointed to the rank of ambassador:

The Special Envoy shall serve as the primary advisor to, and coordinate efforts across, the United States Government relating to monitoring and combating anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incitement that occur in foreign countries. 9

The appointee will be able to pursue offenders in accordance with the full IHRA definition (as codified under The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act) and under the guise of defeating the “new antisemitism” – the falsehood that equates any criticism of Israel to racism against Jews – to curtail open debate about Israel’s constant violations of international law and crimes against humanity.

Moreover, on both Tuesday 8th and Thursday 10th, the US Senate voted to further protect Israeli interests in the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, S. 1. In violation of First Amendment rights to boycott, it provides federal support and protection for state anti-BDS laws, and was only very narrowly defeated:

[But] In the 2019 GOP-controlled Senate, the first bill to be considered — S.1 — is not designed to protect American workers, bolster U.S. companies, or address the various debates over border security and immigration. It’s not a bill to open the government. Instead, according to multiple sources involved in the legislative process, S.1 will be a compendium containing a handful of foreign policy-related measures, the main one of which is a provision — with Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio as a lead sponsor — to defend the Israeli government. The bill is a top legislative priority for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

From an article entitled “U.S. Senate’s First Bill, in the Midst of the Shutdown, is a Bipartisan Defense of the Israeli Government from Boycotts” written by Ryan Grim and Glenn Greenwald, Published by The Intercept. The same piece continues:

These are the Israel-defending, free speech-punishing laws that Rubio’s bill is designed to strengthen. Although Rubio is the chief sponsor, his bill attracted broad bipartisan support, as is true of most bills designed to protect Israel and supported by AIPAC. 10

Click here to read the full article.

On January 28th, Senator Mitch McConnell brought the bill back to be voted on for a THIRD time and it was passed: 11

The bill was adopted by the Senate in a vote of 74 in favor to 19 against, with seven abstentions. The bill had previously been blocked by Senate Democrats by a 56-44 vote as part of their objection to acting on legislation during the government shutdown. However, many of those Democratic senators who had previously blocked the bill ultimately voted in support of the measure. In order to become law, the measure would still need to pass the Democrat-run House of Representatives. However, given the amount of support for the measure among Democrats and the power of the Israel lobby, the bill stands a considerable chance of passing the House.

writes Whitney Webb in an article entitled “The US Senate Just Quietly Advanced A Free Speech Busting Anti-BDS Bill”. The article continues:

The bill includes several measures that were promoted by the Israel lobby last year but did not make it through the previous Congress. These include the “Ileana Ros-Lehtinen United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2019” which would give a record-breaking $38 billion to Israel over the next 10 years, and which ultimately failed to pass after Sen. Paul threatened a filibuster against it. That bill also requires Congress to give at least $3.8 billion to Israel every subsequent year after the initial 10 years.

Other measures in the bill include the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019”  — which imposes more sanctions on Syria and has been described as a “rebuttal” to President Trump’s proposed Syria troop withdrawal, which Israel also opposes – and the “The United States-Jordan Defense Cooperation Extension Act,” which would also give money to Israel. Some analysts have long asserted that U.S. security assistance to Jordan and other regional countries such as Egypt is aimed at securing regional support for Israeli and American geopolitical objectives in the Middle East.

Yet, the most controversial part of the bill by far is the “Combating BDS Act of 2019,” which would authorize state and local governments to retaliate commercially against entities that support BDS, such as by halting business with or refusing to contract or hire companies or individual citizens who either actively participate in or support the movement. A previous version of the bill included possible jail time as punishment for supporting a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlements, their violation of international law notwithstanding. 12

Click here to read the full article published by Mint Press News on Jan 29th.

So why does the US Congress expend such Herculean efforts to bend over backwards for the benefit of Israel? The short answer is the lobby…

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The Lobby – USA

“The big media companies will tell you – well, maybe they won’t tell you this – but they have been harassed. If they had Palestinian journalists who knew the ins and outs of the Palestinian authority, for example, they were blatantly told to get rid of them. That they weren’t trustworthy journalists.” — Jim Clancy, former correspondent and presenter with CNN (1982–2015) 13

“AIPAC has moved so far to the right that it’s losing the young people. By the time of the next presidential election, Democrats will not glibly in a debate, say, ‘I’m running for President and I love Israel…’ The terrain has changed dramatically.” — MJ Rosenberg, former editor of AIPAC’s policy journal, Near East Report. 14

“The foundation that AIPAC is sat on is rotting. There used to be actually widespread public support for Israel in the United States. So I don’t think that AIPAC is going to remain as influential as it is. I don’t think AIPAC is the tip of the spear anymore, which is worrisome because who is?” — Eric Gallagher, former Director (2010–2015) at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 15

As a sequel to its damning investigation into the Israel lobby’s activities inside Britain (released two years ago), Al Jazeera’s Director of Investigative Journalism, Clayton Swisher, announced in October 2017 that a different undercover journalist James Kleinfeld (under the pseudonym ‘Tony’) was likewise embedded within the US Israel lobby:

Swisher made the announcement soon after the UK’s broadcast regulator dismissed all complaints against Al Jazeera’s film The Lobby.

That documentary, broadcast in January 2017, exposed Israel’s covert influence campaign in the UK’s ruling Conservative and opposition Labour parties. The film revealed an Israeli embassy agent plotting with a British civil servant to “take down” a government minister seen as too critical of Israel.

Although Swisher promised the US film would come out “very soon,” nearly five months later it has yet to be broadcast.

In fact it was not until November 2018 before a complete copy of the 4-part documentary series was finally released, and then not officially by Al Jazeera, whose director-general claimed there were outstanding legal issues with the film – assertions flatly contradicted by his own journalists – but leaked instead by the Electronic Intifada and simultaneously by France’s Orient XXI and Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar, (versions subtitled respectively in French and Arabic).

On November 13, 2018, ‘The Real News’ discussed with Ali Abunimah, editor and co-founder of ‘The Electronic Intifada’, the documentary’s explosive revelations:

What is revealed is a highly sophisticated psychological operation with close ties to Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, directed at spying on, smearing and sabotaging the Palestine solidarity movement. However, in spite of tremendous resources and assiduously cultivated networks of Zionist sympathisers, we learn that support for Israel is haemorrhaging.

Even in America, where the Israel lobby is at its most influential, it has been losing the battle for hearts and minds, as remaining pockets of support are reduced to the ever more extreme right wing margins. For this reason, the attack on outspoken opponents of Israel, and most especially the leading advocates for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), is being intensified.

Read more about Al Jazeera’s investigation into Israel’s meddling in British politics as well as Qatar’s subsequent censorship of its twin investigation in the US in a post published September 21st entitled forget ‘Russiagate’, why is no-one talking about ‘Israelgate’…?

Each of the four parts is embedded below in sequence. Here is the first, which is subtitled “The Covert War”:

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Israel’s secret war: the smoking gun

“We are a different government working on foreign soil and we have to be very, very cautious. We have three different sub-campaigns, which are very, very sensitive. Regarding data gathering, information analysis, working on activist organisations, money trail. This is something that only a country with its resources can do the best.” — Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. 16

“Think tanks are the folks that used to work in government, have PhDs, and decided not to become professors… In the Middle Eastern studies field academics have failed. That’s why people like me are considered useful at least to some.” — Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. 17

Speaking at the Israeli American Council (IAC) conference, Sima Vaknin-Gil tells delegates:

“Ambiguity is part of our guidelines, that’s why I’m not going to say too much about each one of the legs. The first one is intel, intelligence, or data, or information. What we’ve done is mapped and analysed the whole phenomena globally. Not just the United States, not just campuses, but campuses and intersectionality and labour unions and churches. We started to establish a project called ‘Israel Cyber Shield’. This project is actually a civil intelligence unit that collects, analyses and acts upon the activists in the BDS movement. If it’s people, organisations or events… we are using the most sophisticated data system, intelligence system in the Israeli market. Let’s take the defence activity that we’re doing, and make it into proactivity and offence activity.” 18

In response, Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement told Al Jazeera: “Israel has used cyber sabotage. We suffered from intense denial of service attacks, hacking attacks, on our website. Israel decided to go on cyberwar against BDS publicly – they said we shall spy on BDS individuals and networks, especially in the West. We have not heard a peep from any western government complaining that Israel is admitting that it will spy on your citizens. Imagine Iran saying it will spy on British or American citizens. Just imagine what could happen.” 19

Sima Vaknin-Gil also told delegates at the conference:

“Everybody out there who has to do anything with BDS should ask themselves twice, do I want to be on this side, or do I want to be on the other side? If I’m submitting to BDS what would be the effect? We’ve got the budget. We can bring things to the table that are quite different. We have three different sub-campaigns. Data gathering, working on activist organisation, money trail. We have FDD. We have others working on this.” 20

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) is officially “a nonpartisan policy institute” and yet by the admission of the Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Sima Vaknin-Gil, it is also a foreign agency working on behalf of a foreign power, running covert operations to spy on American citizens.

As Asa Winstanley points out, the FDD operates in complete violation of US law:

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, commonly known as FARA, US organizations and individuals who work on behalf of foreign governments are required to register with the counterintelligence section of the Department of Justice.

A search on the FARA website shows that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies is not registered.

The same piece continues:

Soon after she was appointed to lead the ministry at the start of 2016, Vaknin-Gil promised to “create a community of fighters” who would “flood the internet” with Israeli propaganda that would be publicly distanced from the government.

Adding:

As well as getting funding from Sheldon Adelson, the anti-Palestinian billionaire and number one donor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has close ties to the United Arab Emirates.

In hacked emails last year the Emirati ambassador in Washington encouraged the foundation to push for moving a US military base from Qatar to his own country. 21

Click here to read the full article entitled “What’s in Al Jazeera’s undercover film on the US Israel Lobby?” published in March 2018 by the Electronic Intifada.

As John Mearsheimer, Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007), tells Al Jazeera: “They try to ‘educate’ people to understand that Israel is effectively a western, liberal democracy in the sea of terrorist states, which is the Arab world. The other goal is to intimidate and to smear people.” 22

Here is the second episode of “The Lobby – USA”, which is subtitled “Managing Elites”:

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‘Information superiority’

“In the air force when you want to win, you have to have aerial superiority. If you want to win a campaign, you must have information superiority. And this is exactly the added value of Israel’s capabilities, technological and otherwise, we can bring to the game and we are working on that very hard.” — Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. 23

“For years we are trying to defeat the BDS and the delegitimisation movement. We are all on the defensive. I think we should move to the offensive. Using especially cyber and internet tools to try and defeat this ugly movement.Sagi Balasha, former CEO of the Israeli-American Council (2011–2015) who works with cyber-intelligence organisations. 24

“An American should not be spied on by a foreign government that is able to access all this information and possibly undermine their ability to exercise their democratic rights in this country. So we’re not dealing with amateurs, this is not an amateur work, we’re dealing with a government that has a ministry… engaged in the systematic targeting of activists outside of its sovereign borders.” — Hatem Bazian, founder of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). 25

Jacob Baime is the Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). He tells ‘Tony’: “The research operation is very hi-tech. When I got here a few years ago the budget was $3,000. Today it’s like a million and a half or more. Probably it’s two million at this point. I don’t even know it’s huge. It’s a massive budget.” 26

Baime continues: “We’ve got major political consulting firms on retainer that are here all the time. We have our own opposition researchers. We have a lot of communications capabilities and what’s most interesting about it, I think, is that 90% of the people who pay attention to this space very closely have no idea what we’re actually doing, which I like.” 27

Adding: “There’s a company called Sensus. It’s very pricey though you know. We had to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars just for it. It’s going to increase our discovery rate. We’re discovering just about everything we need. It’s also going to bring new sources online that we weren’t able to access in an automated fashion. Like message boards and… we have ways to crawl message boards right now and to monitor them but it’s disconnected from the event and activity discovery mechanism, so we want that system to be all integrated. We just signed a contract yesterday for them to start that work. They’ve actually already started it. Good friends in Israel that are helping us with that.” 28

‘Tony’ also learns from Baime that, “It’s modelled on General Stanley McChrystal’s counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq. We’ve copied a lot from that strategy that has been working really well for us actually. And one of the pieces is this Operations and Intelligence Brief. We’re using social media intelligence. A tool called Radian 6. We’re phasing that out over the next year and we’re bringing on more sophisticated technology that is developed in Israel.” 29

I shall return to Jacob Baime and the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) in later sections.

In episode 3, ‘Tony’ also speaks to Eric Gallagher, a former Director (2010–2015) at AIPAC, who confirms to him that: “there’s a group of anonymous people who have a very sophisticated digital strategy for exposing these people [anti-Israel campaigners] and making sure the stuff stays with them.”

Gallagher adds reassuringly: “There’s no one on their side doing it so you don’t have to worry about your reputation.” 30

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Influencing Washington

“I know that getting $38 billion in security aid to Israel matters, which is what AIPAC just did. That’s what I’m proud to have been a part of for so long… Everything AIPAC does is focused on influencing Congress. Congress is where you have leverage. So you can’t influence the President of the United States directly but the Congress can.” — Eric Gallagher, former Director (2010–2015) at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 31

“The Ministry of Strategic Affairs brings together this group called the Global Coalition for Israel, and it’s leading pro-Israel advocacy groups around the world. My view and the view of Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, which we co-ordinate with sometimes, we communicate with sometimes, is Europe is lost and it’s basically over and they’re turning a lot of attention now to the US because they feel we’re on your path.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC).  32

“[W]e don’t ask a goddamn thing about the f—king Palestinians. You know why? Because it’s a tiny issue, that’s why. It’s a small insignificant issue. The big issue is Iran. We want everything focused on Iran.” — David Ochs, the founder of Ha Lev 33

In part 2, David Ochs, the founder of Ha Lev, an organisation that pays for young people to attend the AIPAC conference, invites reporter ‘Tony’ to attend a fundraiser held in a wealthy suburb of Washington. He emails ‘Tony’ with a list of the people the group supports. Those named on the list which Ochs describes as “the biggest ad hoc political group and definitely the wealthiest in DC” include:

Senators: Mark Kirk, Democrat from Illinois; Richard Burr, Republican from North Carolina; Kelly Ayotte (“she’s fantastic!”), Republican from New Hampshire on the Arms Committee; Robert Menendez, Democrat from New Jersey; Rob Portman, Republican from Ohio; Jamie Raskin, Democrat from Maryland.

And Congressmen: Ted Deutch, Democrat for Florida; Barbara Comstock, Republican for Virginia; David Scott, Democrat for Georgia; Joe Heck, Republican for Nevada [now retired after he stood and was defeated in 2016 race for the Senate]; Chris van Hollen, Democrat for Maryland; Steny Hoyer, Democrat for Maryland too. 34

Och then fills in the picture and tells ‘Tony’: “They’ll walk into the room and say, ‘Everything here is off the record.’ Then they’ll say, ‘Here’s a little bit about me’ and people will ask very specific questions.” 35

Continuing: “It’s the AIPAC group. It makes a difference, it really, really does. It’s the best bang for your buck and the networking is phenomenal… Congressmen and Senators don’t do anything unless you pressure them. They kick the can down the road, unless you pressure them. The only way to do that is with money.” 36

The fundraiser event was for Anthony Brown, the former Lieutenant Governor of the state of Maryland, who in 2016 was running for Congress. “Brown is going to use that £30,000 to do ad campaigns”, Ochs tells ‘Tony’ adding:

“[W]e want the Jewish community to go face to face in this small environment: 50, 30, 40 people, and say ‘This is what’s important to us.’ We want to make sure, if we give you money that you’re going to enforce the Iran deal. That way, when they need something from him or her, like the Iran deal, they can quickly mobilise and say ‘look, we’ll give you $30,000.’”  37

Ochs also talks about a more impressive fundraising event held in New York which included donors from Wall Street, one of whom was hedge fund manager, Jeff Talpins:

“What happens is Jeff meets with the congressmen in the backroom, tells them exactly what his goals are – and by the way, Jeff Talpins is worth $250 million. Basically they hand him an envelope with 20 credit cards and say, ‘You can swipe each of these credit cards for $1,000 each.’” 38

Asked by ‘Tony’ the name of the group behind the event, Ochs says:

“It doesn’t have a name. There’s no name. It’s an ad hoc political group. For all the legal reasons, people pool their money.” 39

Al Jazeera showed their evidence to Craig Holman from the campaign group Public Citizen who explained that although individual campaign contributions are limited by law to no more than $2,700, this can be circumvented (legally or illegally) when a group of fifty or so bundle these already considerable donations together. It becomes illegal once any of the donors begin pooling resources in such a way that one who can afford more than the maximum $2700 passes on extra money to someone who is unable to. Holman told Al Jazeera:

“He’s actually saying we’re buying these office holders and that’s the point. We’re chipping in all this money so we can hand over $100,000 or £200,000 to the office holder so we can buy him.” 40

Adding:

“There is a disclosure law that is designed to highlight whether there may be potential money-laundering going on in events like this. And that is if the funds are earmarked and that means the organisation has to disclose who showed up at their events and how much each individual will chip in and what they handed over to the lawmaker… What this specific group is doing to try to avoid that disclosure requirement: it isn’t taking money and then putting it in its own account and then handing it over to the office holder, [instead] it’s just collecting credit card information and then turning that over directly to the candidate. Therefore it’s not violating the earmarking law and they’re not reporting this. All we would see on the campaign finance reports are the individuals who contributed. But there will be no record on those campaign finance reports [showing] that they worked together as a bundling group.” 41

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“They have questionnaires. Anyone running for Congress is expected to fill out a questionnaire. And they evaluate the depth of your commitment to Israel on the basis of that questionnaire. And then you have an interview… If you get AIPAC support then more often or not you’re going to win. You realise it’s not just the money, it’s the number of concerned activists: they’ll send out postcards; they’ll make phone calls; they’ll organise. That’s the democratic process – they understand the democratic process.” — Jim Moran, member of Congress from 1991–2015 42

“We made sure there were people in every single congressional district and then you’d call them up and say I’m calling from AIPAC in Washington. I did these calls: ‘We hear you’re good friends with congressman so-and-so.’ ‘Oh, my God yes! We’ve been friends since elementary school.’ ‘Well what does he think about Israel?’ ‘I never talked to him about Israel.’ ‘Well, can I come down and talk to you and help you figure out a way to talk to him about Israel?’ ‘No, just tell me. What should I say? I’ll just tell him.’ MJ Rosenberg, former editor of AIPAC’s policy journal, Near East Report. 43

AIPAC is by far the most prominent and important of all the hundreds of pro-Israel lobby groups in America and every year it hosts a stadium-sized gathering of delegates. The power of the Israel lobby, and of AIPAC in particular, can perhaps best be judged during election years.

In 2016, nearly 20,000 delegates attended the annual AIPAC conference and of this number some 4,000 were students. Also in attendance were many high ranking Republicans and Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden, and Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan; also shoulder-to-shoulder with presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and all equally eager to the please the crowds with rousing speeches about America’s enduring and unbreakable friendship with Israel and its Lukidnik leadership. They come because the lobby is powerful and in search of backers:

Money is an important part of the equation. AIPAC is not a political action committee, and the organization itself doesn’t give a dime in campaign contributions. But its Web site, which details how members of Congress voted on AIPAC’s key issues, and the AIPAC Insider, a glossy periodical that handicaps close political races, are scrutinized by thousands of potential donors. Pro-Israel interests have contributed $56.8 million in individual, group and soft money donations to federal candidates and party committees since 1990, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

AIPAC helps to steer American foreign policy in other ways too:

For overstretched members of Congress and their staffs, who don’t have the time or resources to master every subject in their domain, AIPAC makes itself an essential tool. It briefs. It lobbies. It organizes frequent seminars on subjects such as terrorism, Islamic militarism and nuclear proliferation. It brings experts to the Hill from think tanks in Washington and Tel Aviv. It provides research papers and offers advice on drafting legislation on foreign affairs, including the annual foreign aid bill. And behind it is a vast network of grass-roots activists in each House district who make a point of visiting individual members of Congress, inviting them to social events and contributing to their reelection campaigns. 44

Click here to read the full Washington Post article entitled “A Beautiful Friendship?”

Here is the third episode of “The Lobby – USA”, which is subtitled “The Witch Hunt”:

*

In principle, the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 45 prohibits lobbyists from providing gifts or travel to Members of Congress, limiting reimbursement for trips to one-day maximum. But that was before a loophole was inserted, widely known as “the AIPAC loophole”, a clause excluding ‘educational trips’ arranged by a charity that doesn’t itself hire lobbyists. AIPAC happens to be affiliated to the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF), which is just such a charity. Created in 1990 the AIEF “funds educational seminars to Israel for members of Congress and other political influentials”. Its own mission statement continues:

These AIEF-sponsored trips help educate political leaders and influentials about the importance of the U.S. – Israel relationship through firsthand experiences in Israel, briefings by experts on Middle East affairs, and meetings with Israeli political elite. 46

Every year they fly hundreds of members of Congress to Israel. Jim Moran, who as a member of Congress from 1991–2015 actually visited Israel on one of these lavish all-expenses paid trips, told Al Jazeera: “You are told that Israel continues to be under siege from hundreds of millions of its neighbours who are Muslim and who hate Israel. Who hate Jewish people. You are told that Israel survives because of the United States and because of American politicians like you, who support us” 47

*

“They threaten. They immediately threaten. Even if they know that AIPAC can’t defeat them, AIPAC can make their lives more difficult. They can make sure that at their next town meeting or something, some members of the Jewish congregation jump up and say ‘But you’re anti-Israel!’” — MJ Rosenberg, former editor of AIPAC’s policy journal, Near East Report. 48

“The executive director of AIPAC said that his most important accomplishment was his securing the authorisation of the use of US military forces in Iraq. AIPAC was pushing very hard… the United States getting involved in wars in the Middle East is ultimately in Israel’s interest. They have a stake in the region.” — Jim Moran. 49

Along with inducements, AIPAC also has the power to strike out against candidates who wander off the reservation as Jim Moran was to discover later. In 2002, AIPAC was lobbying him to vote in favour of the invasion of Iraq. When Moran refused, a sequence of events took place beginning with a single question asked at a public meeting:

“A Jewish woman actually stood up in the town hall and she said ‘Why aren’t more Jews involved in the marches against the war?’ I said ‘If leaders in the Jewish community were opposed to the war that would make a difference.’” 50

The lobby reacted saying that Moran was perpetuating an antisemitic conspiracy theory that Israel was leading America to war:

“There was a conservative rabbi in my district who was assigned to me, I assume, by AIPAC. And he had warned me that if I voice my views about the Israeli lobby that my career would be over and implied that it would be done through The Post – and sure enough The Washington Post editorialised brutally; everybody ganged up.” 51

The initial hit piece was written by Marc Fisher and bluntly titled “Sorry, Mr Moran, You’re Not Fit For Public Office”. It begins:

Jim Moran is very sorry. The congressman from Northern Virginia is often sorry. He is sorry about the things he says, the money he takes, the people he insults.

And continues:

It doesn’t matter whether you think this war would be right or wrong: What we have here is a United States congressman endorsing and spreading one of the oldest and most pernicious myths in the annals of ethnic hatred: It’s those all-powerful Jews. 52

*

Fighting the infowar

“We are in charge of fighting this phenomenon and to this end we have four legs. Warning, deterrence, attack and public relations. If you want to win a campaign your actions must be as vague as possible. Just as I worked… as an intelligence officer, we didn’t go to the other side and tell him what we intend to do. We left him in the dark.” — Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. 53

“We are giving them data, for example, one day Sima’s deputy is sending me a photo. Just a photo on Whatsapp. It’s written ‘Boycott Israel’ on a billboard. In a few hours our systems and analysts could find the exact organisation, people and even their names, where they live. We gave it back to the ministry [of Strategic Affairs] and I have no idea what they did with this. But the fact is, three days later there were no billboards.” — Sagi Balasha, former CEO of the Israeli-American Council (2011–2015) 54

Having passed through a training course in pro-Israel advocacy, undercover reporter ‘Tony’ got a placement as a volunteer working inside what they call the ‘war room’ at The Israel Project (TIP) where media and communications are monitored. Staff said they forged friendships with reporters who worked at numerous media outlets. One claimed that during talks on the Iran nuclear deal, TIP had applied pressure to the Associated Press news agency to alter a headline. TIP’s admitted aim according to its annual report is to build an echo chamber for pro-Israel information as well as “neutralizing undesired narratives”. 55

This approach was afterwards confirmed by David Hazony, Managing Director at TIP, who explained how: “They’re not things we do loudly. A lot of them are things we do behind the scenes… You can get a lot more done by making questions get asked by journalists. And if you create it from multiple directions at the same time through multiple journalists, then you create a kind of sense of crisis… We develop relationships. A lot of alcohol to get them to trust us.” 56

Such chaos is purposefully exacerbated by ostensibly non-partisan ‘think tanks’ such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) which spuriously links pro-Palestinian groups to Hamas. Such unsubstantiated and false allegations then permit prominent voices within the Israel lobby to smear opponents and to coerce the US government. On the back of such claims, Morton Klein, President of the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA) told delegates attending the Israeli-American Council IAC:

“We should promote the fact that according to Jonathan Schanzer [Senior Vice President at the FDD], who knows terrorism… He said a group of people who were actively funding Hamas, have now formed a group, American Muslims for Palestine. Schanzer testified and said they were leading driver of the BDS campaign, they were the most important sponsor and organisers of SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine]. We have to make it clear in every way possible, that they’re being funded and trained by vicious lovers of Hamas.” 57

A research associate working at TIP, Amanda Botfeld, confided to ‘Tony’: “The stuff we produced, I felt was like bigoted. It would be like pictures of Palestinian kids with a knife. Those videos of kids going to stab people. You would need to put this on Facebook and then have me make memes, so there could be graphics about that… I was embarrassed to be associated with it.” 58 She later alleged that her boss at another pro-Israel group, StandWithUs, had instructed her to label BDS a “‘racist hate group’ as often as possible because it polls well”. 59 Botfeld also claims StandWithUs included a “covert group” who would slander others as antisemites.

Asked by ‘Tony’ whether she believed there had been “well-intentioned activists on American campuses who have found themselves in very difficult situations because of these pro-Israel groups have tarnished them as antisemites?” she replied “Oh, absolutely.” 60

Here is the final episode of “The Lobby – USA”, which is subtitled “Marketing Occupation”:

*

Killing the messenger

“If we want to win, we have to change our ways. We have to think differently. And this is waging a holistic campaign against the other side. Take him out of his comfort zone. Make him be on the defensive.” — Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. 61

“Antisemitism has come to mean anti-Israel. The AIPAC crowd doesn’t really care very much about whether or not a person likes Jews or wants one to move in next door. All they care about is what their position is on Israel.” — MJ Rosenberg, former editor of AIPAC’s policy journal, Near East Report. 62

“I think we need to worry. The polling isn’t good and all you probably know that if you look at the polls, the younger you get on the demographic scales, the lower support for Israel is.” — David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which combats BDS on American Campuses, speaking at the annual conference of the IAC. 63

Although the Israel lobby has the US Congress mostly in its pocket, it is at the same moment losing the battle for hearts and minds at a grassroots level in America as elsewhere. As awareness of the cruel illegality of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and the daily atrocities carried out under its apartheid system grows, so support for Israel amongst progressives and liberals has waned. As mainstream America slowly turned their backs on Israel, the residue of support is today strongest amongst Christian Zionists who believe in the end time prophecy that for Christ to return it is necessary for Israel to control all of historical Palestine. Meanwhile, as the Palestinian solidarity movement steadily rises, Israel and its dwindling base of supporters is making ever more concerted efforts to put a stop to the threat posed by BDS.

As Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President of FDD, confides to ‘Tony’: “BDS has taken everybody by surprise. It’s come up behind everyone’s back and bit them on the ass. Yeah, that’s a complete mess. I can tell you that I don’t think anybody’s doing a good job. We’re not even doing a good job. We did some good research but we haven’t figured out how to do anything with it… Personally I think antisemitism as a smear is not what it used to be.” 64

Likewise, David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which combats BDS on American Campuses, tells delegates at the annual conference of the IAC: “When you get to the millennials and the students, it’s a bad situation. And it’s getting to the point now where the majority is more favourable towards the Palestinians than the Israelis.” 65

The younger generation of Jews in America are also drifting away from Israel and have increasingly joined the ranks of BDS supporters. As Sima Vaknin-Gil explains: “Today we haven’t only lost the millennial generation of Jews. I hear this from their parents who come and explain to me what a hard time they’re having with their kids at Friday dinners. They don’t recognise the State of  Israel and don’t see us as an entity to be admired.” 66

The response from some in the Israel lobby is summed up neatly in the words of David Hazony, the editor of The Tower magazine and also a Managing Director at TIP:

“They’re all crazy liberals. As far as I’m concerned American Jews had one job, which was to preserve Jewish identity from one generation to the next. They failed. So I don’t think they have any place to be telling Israel what’s what. If they choose to stop giving money to Israel, Israel will find money elsewhere.” 67

*

The Algemeiner, which claims to be the fastest growing Jewish newspaper in America, pays special attention to events on college campuses. In Part 2 of Al Jazeera’s investigation, undercover reporter ‘Tony’ is unwittingly recruited by the Algemeiner to help carry out a covert investigation inside the Palestinian Solidarity movement. Rachel Frommer, Algemeiner’s Senior Campus Correspondent tells him:

“We’re working on a project now about ranking US universities and colleges in terms of their antisemitic and anti-Israel [attitudes]. We have a campus bureau that monitors this sort of behaviour and these incidents and these campaigns all day long, all week long.” 68

She continues: “The language that comes from those arenas move into that sphere of the new antisemitism, which is anti-Israelism. That’s a big focus at the campus bureau, looking at the blurring of those lines and where those boundaries have eroded.” 69

Then, in Part 3, ‘Tony’ is informed by Editor in Chief of the Algemeiner, Dovid Efune, “There’s a long history of crime affiliated with the BDS movement that have been judged as such by US courts. For example, the Holy Land Foundation… Are these people still active and present within the movement? Who seem to be the people running the show here? Is there any acknowledgement of any sponsors?” 70

Likewise, Rachel Frommer tells him: “This is an incestual business. You know, they’re all interconnected. This is not just me spouting off because I’m paranoid. There have been actual cases like the Holy Land case that happened a few years ago… A lot of these guys had worked with those people, and they themselves have not yet been indicted but they’re all interconnected. Part of the reason why that is so crucial is because when you’re making lines from one organisation to the other, eventually you make a line to Hamas. To Hezbollah. To Iran.” 71

The trope of pro-Palestinian activist ties to terrorist groups is a narrative that serves interests of the Israel lobby and one that is repeated by Executive Director of the Emergency Committee for Israel, Noah Pollak, who states during a panel discussion at George Mason University:

“There is an actual direct between the people who were raising money for Hamas and people who are involved in BDS activism on American campuses today… You’ll notice their name is Students for Justice in Palestine. You don’t hear the word ‘Islamic’, don’t hear the word ‘Muslim’ in that name. You hear the word ‘justice’ which is kind of a buzzword on campuses today. Everyone’s for justice, right? You’re not for injustice.” 72

The irony of sharing the same platform with Jonathan Schanzer of the so-called Foundation for Defense of Democracy is somehow lost on everyone. But Pollak then goes on to let the cat out of the bag altogether:

“If you actually get into the weeds on SJP they’ve aligned with groups that are for the… not just the destruction of Israel, the destruction of America… [advising the audience] When you talk about SJP and when you talk about BDS, you talk about them as a hate group, as a movement that absolutely endorses violence against civilians – not military conflict – but violence against civilians, aka terrorism. You discredit the messenger as a way of discrediting the message.” 73

*

For the record the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was run by Palestinian-Americans and had been the largest Islamic charity working inside the United States. However, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the HLF was accused by John Ashcroft, then-Attorney General better remembered for his advocacy of the USA Patriot Act, of sponsoring terrorism.

By December 2001, the Bush administration had designated HLF a terrorist organisation, frozen its assets, and closed it down. Then in 2004, a federal grand jury in Dallas charged HLF and five former employees with providing material support to Hamas and related offenses. An Al Jazeera article entitled “The Holy Land Five” picks up the story:

The claims made were that the charity was a front for an illegal money-laundering operation, diverting funds to Hamas via zakat committees in the Occupied West Bank. Hamas, in turn, had been designated “a terrorist organisation” by the US government.

“It was a huge record that the government created, an administrative record – and it was basically garbage. It was newspaper articles, interviews that were translated from Arabic to Hebrew to English,” says Nancy Hollander, one of the lawyers defending Shukri Abu Baker, a founder of the foundation.

“And we discovered when we did our own translations that their translations were completely wrong, that the government was relying on information that was completely false. But it didn’t matter.”

The five foundation founders were charged with providing “material support” to Hamas. During the first trial in 2007, their defence team struggled to deal effectively with two secret expert witnesses called by the prosecution whose “evidence” was not shared in advance. Nonetheless, the jury failed to agree on the charges brought against them and the judge declared a mistrial.

“More than 8,000 documents and the United States government didn’t have a single American document that condemns the Holy Land Foundation. They might have had circumstantial evidence or doubts, but the only evidence was Israeli. And these documents were forged,” says journalist Osama Abu Irshaid.

“More than 8,000 documents and the United States government didn’t have a single American document that condemns the Holy Land Foundation. They might have had circumstantial evidence or doubts, but the only evidence was Israeli. And these documents were forged,” says journalist Osama Abu Irshaid. […]

Just as the Five were celebrating their apparent acquittal, the judge asked the prosecution if they would be prepared to bring a second case against the men. They were re-charged and faced a year-long battle against evidence which has since been criticised for being ‘untested, untestable, hearsay and prejudicial’. In the second trial a year later, the men were convicted of providing ‘material support’ to Hamas and in 2009, were sentenced to between 15 and 65 years in prison. 74

Click here to read the full report on the Al Jazeera website.

In October 2016, Al Jazeera also released two documentaries entitled “The Holy Land Five” about the case:

*

Israel’s covert campus army

“[BDS] seems to be achieving its goals and I think it threatens future American support for Israel. Younger people are leaving college less sympathetic to Israel than when they entered.” — David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which combats BDS on American Campuses, speaking at the annual conference of the IAC. 75

“If one of these terrorists on campus wants to disrupt a pro-Israel lecture or something and unfurl a banner or whatever else, we’re going to investigate them and look into the bad stuff they’ve done. That stuff becomes very useful in the moment and there are any number of ways to push it out. The only thing is that we do it securely and anonymously and that’s the key.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 76

“So nobody really knows what we’re doing. But mainly it’s been a lot of research, monitoring BDS things and reporting back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs… When they talk about it in the Knesset, we’ve usually contributed to what the background information is. I’m not going to campuses. It’s more about connecting organisations and I guess campuses, providing resources and strategies if students need it.” — Julia Reifkind, Director of Community Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. 77

AIPAC has an established network across American high schools and universities and closely allied to the umbrella organisation Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) against BDS.

In Episode 3, Lila Greenberg, who is Senior National Field Organiser for AIPAC, tells ‘Tony’: “So in AIPAC we focus on the political. We have one very specific, very effective angle for combating BDS. But the ICC pools resources from all the campus organisations, so that they’re tapped in on all angles.” 78

He also interviews Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), Jacob Baime, who says: “There are about 100, maybe 120 professionals working for a dozen national ICC partner organisations like AIPAC, Hasbara Fellowships [HF], StandWithUs, Hillel, Chabad [on Campus] and AEPi [the fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (ΑΕΠ)]” 79

Baime tells ‘Tony’: “We’re working so closely with StandWithUs and we have such a tight partnership with them today, that it’s totally seamless.” 80

And he adds: “We should stand behind our work, not in front of it. It’s not helpful for StandWithUs to say to a pro-Israel student or The Israel Project to say to a pro-Israel student, “Oh sure we’ll help you, but you have to put our logo on it.” 81

According to Ben Brownstein who is employed by StandWithUs and works in the ICC’s office “The Israel on Campus Coalition… oversee the whole movement.” 82 Brownstein illustrates their overarching relationship with an example: “Let’s say next week a BDS resolution comes to campus. So the ICC will be the ones, they’ll organise a conference call with all the partners. So they might say, ‘Okay StandWithUs, we need a little more of your help because we need something regarding a BDS resolution. The campus newspaper wants us to write an op-ed, can you guys help us write the op-ed?” 83

Sumayyah Din is a student at University of California Berkeley who stood for the university senate as an independent candidate. She had decided to pun on her surname which means ‘faith’ or ‘governance’ and inspired by the Palestinian cause, launched her campaign with catchword #Dintifada. The word ‘intifada’ is Arabic for ‘uprising’. When this upset StandWithUs, they retaliated with a social media assault both on her campaign and her character.

At their annual conference in Los Angeles, one of the delegates is Joshua Cahn who tells ‘Tony’: “We had StandWithUs attack this girl in an article released on their Facebook. They shared the screenshots and stuff and talk about how ‘This isn’t okay’.” 84

In pursuing their offensive, StandWithUs had effectively redefined ‘intifada’ to mean, as Din puts it, “the killing of all Jews”, and in consequence she received a barrage of abuse calling her “sexually repressed” and “scum” as well as inevitably “a terrorist”. There were even demands for Din to be expelled from the country. Din says: “I would go out and I would be walking on campus, everyone would be looking at me. I felt like I needed to hide. 85

As Joshua Cahn tells ‘Tony’: “They [StandWithUs] have all sorts of followers and some of those people are a little crazy. We have people that are saying, ‘That person should die.’ This girl was getting death threats.” 86

*

The new antisemitism

“Right now the challenge is that there are people who say, ‘You know what, anti-Israel politics have nothing to do with antisemitism.’ What you’ve got to show is that they’re not the same, but they’re not entirely different either.”  — Kenneth Marcus, Founding President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law. 87

“We’re basically messaging on the following. BDS is essentially a kind of hate-group targeting Israel. They’re anti-peace. We try not to even use the terms, because it builds their brand. We just reference to ‘boycotters’… The goal is to actually make things happen. And to figure out what are the means of communication to do that.” — David Hazony, Managing Director at TIP. 88

Despite its name, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law is primarily a pro-Israel lobby group. Founding President Kenneth Marcus tells ‘Tony’: “The goal is to have the federal government to establish a definition of antisemitism that is parallel to the State Department definition.” 89

The US State Department adopted the so-called “three Ds” test or 3D test in 2010. The three Ds stand for Delegitimization of Israel; Demonization of Israel; and subjecting Israel to Double standards, each of which, according to the test, indicates antisemitism.

Joseph Berman, a rabbi and campaigner to Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) told Al Jazeera: “There have been attempts by some to try to define antisemitism in such a way that conflates actual antisemitism with completely legitimate criticism of Israel or Israeli government policies. They are overly broad and vague to the point where any kind of criticism of Israel or of Israeli government policy can be labelled as antisemitic.” 90

John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at University of Chicago and an outspoken critic of Israel adds, “One of the major tactics that the lobby uses to defend Israel – and it’s done this for a long period of time, but it’s using it more and more these days – is to identify people who criticise Israel as an antisemite.” 91

Al Jazeera also spoke to The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah who pointed to the inherent inconsistencies in these definitions of the new antisemitism: “According to their definition, if I say to you that I believe that instead of separate Israeli and Palestinian states there should be a single state, where Jews, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, everyone has full equal rights they way they do under the constitution of the United States, that would make me an antisemite because I’m denying Israel’s right to be a Jewish state… They have created this perverse version where calling for everyone in Palestine-Israel to have equal rights is somehow an attack on Jews. And they’re trying to get this pushed into official definitions and this has been a key goal of people like Kenneth Marcus and the Brandeis Center. So that they can then go after people who are advocating for equality and bring them up on charges that they are actually antisemitic bigots.” 92

*

Fake news and ‘troll farms’: The Israel Project

“TIP changes the way thousands of media reports appear every year and then we add platforms of our own, getting people talking, taking command of the situation…” — from a promotional video for The Israel Project. 93

“We exist to articulate the reasons that the notion of a Jewish state is a good thing for us as Americans, and it’s a good thing for Jews, and a good thing for Israel, and a good thing for the West, and a good thing for everybody.” — Josh Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project (TIP). 94

“You’ve got the lobbying and the politics, and you’ve got the ideas and the think tanks. But you can’t define the meaning of those ideas, other people are doing it for you. Then the third leg of the stool isn’t there and it falls over.” — Josh Block. 95

Speaking about Josh Block, ‘Tony’s boss, Eric Gallagher, tells him, “He’s brilliant in a mad scientist sort of way. He was AIPACs spokesman. He was the troublemaker, always breaking the rules and always getting s—t done. He’s very effective at strategic communications and dealing with journalists.” 96

Gallagher continues: “At AIPAC he was the man. I mean he could get anything onto the front page of the Washington Post.” 97

Block, who is in the habit of brainstorming every conversation, tells ‘Tony’ “The most effective thing you can do in Washington is both explain your point of view and explain why other people disagree with it. Everyone knows that people come with perspectives. You know reporters are people… We live in a sophisticated world, but the question is: ‘are you credible?’” 98

He continues: “People aren’t reading as much, they’re not interested in fact, history is a little bit bunk, you know. A lot of people come up now, and there’s this notion of postmodernism and nothing is true anymore. We are at this interesting moment in time where we need to understand what it is that affects people’s understanding and perceptions about what’s right and what’s wrong… All these visual stimulus and stuff, how are people learning things?” 99

David Hazony is the editor of The Tower magazine and also a Managing Director at The Israel Project. He explains to ‘Tony’ that, “Every month we do a national poll exactly looking for the kinds of messages that work. We know that people get their news mostly through scanning headlines. So the headlines are very carefully messaged.” 100

Hazony says, “We don’t have any reporters, we just have three people who churn out carefully crafted headlines, with article texts that convince you that the headline is true.” 101

Understanding how the headline alone carries the story enables The Israel Project to maximise the propagandistic impact of this kind of pseudo-journalism. The point is never to get to the real debate.

“You can send me the greatest article on you want about the Iran deal,” Hazony tells ‘Tony’, “but I promise you that a ten second video will get a thousand times as many views.” 102

*

“The visual media is trumping words. More imagine, more visual, more accessible, non heavy thinking stuff.” — Josh Block.  103

“Kittens are easy to sell; apartheid is a much harder product to get people to buy.” — Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada. 104

Jordon Schachtel, another employee at TIP, tells ‘Tony’: “We’re putting together a lot of pro-Israel media through various social media channels that aren’t The Israel Project’s channels.” 105

He adds: “So we have a lot of side projects that we are trying to influence the public debate with. That’s why it’s a secretive thing. Because we don’t want people to know that these side projects are associated with The Israel Project.” 106

An article published by The Electronic Intifada based on leaked footage from the documentary was first to disclose the operation of (what should properly be called) ‘troll farms’ operating under the cover of The Israel Project (TIP), with sockpuppet accounts to sway public opinion and disseminate propaganda on the social media platform Facebook:

 The Israel Project, a major advocacy group based in Washington, is running a secret influence campaign on Facebook.

The video above, exclusive to The Electronic Intifada, shows the latest excerpts to leak from the documentary.

Earlier leaked footage published by The Electronic Intifada and the Grayzone Project has already revealed underhanded tactics by anti-Palestinian groups planned and executed in collusion with the Israeli government.

In the newest clips, David Hazony, the managing director of The Israel Project, is heard telling Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter: “There are also things that we do that are completely off the radar. We work together with a lot of other organizations.”

“We produce content that they then publish with their own name on it,” Hazony adds. 107

A major part of the operation is the creation of a network of Facebook “communities” focused on history, the environment, world affairs and feminism that appear to have no connection to pro-Israel advocacy, but are used by The Israel Project to spread pro-Israel messaging.

The same piece continues:

One of these Facebook pages, Cup of Jane, has almost half a million followers.

Cup of Jane’s “About” page describes it as being about “Sugar, spice and everything nice.”

But there is no disclosure that this is a page run for the purpose of promoting Israel.

The “About” page does identify Cup of Jane as being “a community launched by TIP’s Future Media Project in DC.”

There is however no direct and explicit mention of Israel or indication that “TIP” stands for The Israel Project.

The Electronic Intifada understands that even this vague acknowledgment of who is behind the page was only added after The Israel Project learned about the existence of the Al Jazeera undercover documentary and presumably anticipated being exposed.

The Israel Project also added an acknowledgment on its own website that it runs the Facebook pages. However its website is not linked from the Facebook pages themselves.

There is no evidence in the Internet Archive of the page existing before May 2017 – months after “Tony’s” cover was blown.

According to [former employee Jordan] Schachtel, The Israel Project is putting considerable resources into producing Cup of Jane and a network of similar pages.

“We have a team of like 13 people. We are working on a lot of videos, explainers,” he tells Tony in Al Jazeera’s documentary. “A lot of it is just random topics and then maybe like 25 percent of it would be like Israel or Jewish-based.”

“Cup of Jane” is just one of many such fake websites:

Other pages identified by the censored Al Jazeera documentary as run by The Israel Project include Soul Mama, History Bites, We Have Only One Earth and This Explains That.

Some have hundreds of thousands of followers.

History Bites does not reveal its affiliation with The Israel Project, not even with the vague formula used by Cup of Jane and the other pages.

History Bites simply describes itself as conveying “The awesome of History in bite-sized chewable pieces!”

That page re-posted Cup of Jane posts presenting Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister who implemented racist and violent policies against indigenous Palestinians, and viewed Palestinian women giving birth as an existential threat, as a feminist hero.

A 2016 This Explains That video spreads false Israeli claims that the UN cultural agency UNESCO “erased” Jewish and Christian reverence for holy sites in Jerusalem.

History Bites reposted the video last December stating that it “seems to support President Trump’s declaration today that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish state of Israel.”

The video has received almost five million views.

Another video posted by History Bites attempts to justify Israel’s June 1967 surprise attack on Egypt, launching the war in which Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights.

The video describes Israel’s military occupation of East Jerusalem as the city being “reunified” and “liberated.”108

Click here to read the full article at The Electronic Intifada.

*

Dirty tricks on the campus – Part I

“We use all sorts of technology. We use corporate-level, enterprise-grade social media intelligence software. Almost all of this happens on social media so, we have custom algorithms and formulae that acquire this stuff immediately… Generally within about 30 seconds or less of one of these things popping up on campus, whether it’s a Facebook event, whether it’s the right kind of mention on Twitter, the system picks it up, it goes into a queue, alerts our researchers and they evaluate it. They tag it, and if it rises to a certain level, we issue early-warning alerts to our partners.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 109

“In terms of information sharing, we did add the Ministry of Strategic Affairs to our operations and  intelligence brief. Which kind of goes back to how we get information about what’s going on on America college campuses” — Ian Hersh, Director of Operations for the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 110

In August 2016, the Algemeiner reported that:

“A ring of anti-Israel students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) has created a “cesspool” of antisemitism and racist behaviour…” 111

The allegations were based on monitoring carried out by a secretive organisation called ‘Canary Mission’ and they quickly caused a stir not just within Washington’s pro-Israel circles but also further afield. In Britain, the Daily Mail reported the same story under the title “University of Tennessee is a ‘cesspool’ of anti-Semitic and racist behaviour, anonymous watchdog group claims”. Interestingly the Daily Mail’s own version is likewise anonymous, the byline merely crediting ‘Dailymail.com reporter’. 112

Undercover reporter ‘Tony’ met up with Aviva Vogelstein, the Director of Legal Initiatives at the pro-Israel group Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law. She told him:

“The thing that I’m working on you might have seen in the news recently about a cesspool of antisemitism at the University of Tennessee. So the exposé was on these antisemitic tweets. They uncovered 14 current students, five recent graduates at the University of Tennessee that had tweeted all these horribly anti-Semitic things.” 113

Continuing: “They’re called Canary Mission. Nobody really knows who they are. They expose antisemitism, anti-Israelism and anti-Americanism in the US on college campuses. They study it and then release these exposé reports, but they’re secret, they don’t reveal who they are.” 114

Later Vogelstein drafts a letter on behalf of the Louis D. Brandeis Center calling for the University of Tennessee to take a stand. It says antisemitism is “a long-standing problem on the UTK campus” and asks the university to adopt a definition such as the 3D test used by the State Department. 115

Vogelstein tells ‘Tony’:

“We’re telling them that basically they need to issue a stronger statement. They need to investigate the students that were involved. They need to offer education and training… The problem right now I think, on universities is that administrations don’t realise that anti-Israel statements or anti-Zionist statements often are also antisemitic.” 116

Adding:

“We’re trying to get universities to adopt a uniform definition, whether it’s the State Department’s definition or a similar version of it. Because then we think that the administrators would be able to understand antisemitism better and discipline students for hateful and discriminatory actions.” 117

The Brandeis Center also called for the university to screen what it described as a “path-breaking film” entitled Unmasked Judeophobia: The Threat to Civilisation. Made by Gloria Z. Greenfield, the Honorary Artist in Residence at the University of Tennessee/Knoxville, the film includes interviews with Alan Dershowitz, John Bolton, Jonathan Sacks, Melanie Phillips, and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alonalso amongst others. It also prominently features President of the Brandeis Center, Kenneth Marcus. The central claim made by the film is the ‘clash of civilisations’ notion that Muslims have adopted Nazi-like antisemitism and are going to lead the next holocaust. It was duly screened at UTK on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In formal testimony given before the Tennessee State Assembly, former Jewish Society President, Jordan Shipowitz, later states on record: “When people say things like we are facing antisemitism, it hits us pretty hard. When we were told that this was being said about our university… we were really confused because we had never heard about any form of antisemitism happening on our campus… so if we’re the students who are supposed to have been affected by this climate you would think we would know about it…” 118

*

Psychological warfare

“With the anti-Israel people, what’s most effective, what we found at least in the last year is you do the opposition research, put up some anonymous website, and then put up targeted Facebook ads… Every few hours you drip out a new piece of the opposition research. It’s psychological warfare. It drives them crazy… They either shut down or they spend time responding to it and investigating it, which is time they can’t spend attacking Israel. So that’s incredibly effective.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 119

“Canary Mission is highly, highly effective to the extent that we monitor the Students for Justice in Palestine and their allies.” — Jacob Baime. 120

Professor of American Studies at Purdue University, Bill Mullen had been an active campaigner in the BDS movement for many years. He was targeted by a more elaborate smear campaign that started when his wife was sent a link to a website. On the website was a letter purportedly written by a former student that accused her husband of sexual harassment. Soon he found other accounts making similar allegations. Mullen says: “Within about 48 hours we were able to establish that these multiple sites that we had found attacking me had been taken out almost at the same time, and that they were clearly the work of the same people… one of the accounts said that in the process of putting my hand on her [Mullen’s accuser], I had invited her to a Palestine organisational meeting. I thought well you’re sort of putting your cards on the table there, whoever you are…” 121

A student at Purdue who Mullen worked with and a former activist with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had also been targeted by one of the sites. Speaking anonymously to Al Jazeera, she said: “It said that I would get drunk and go and have sex with multiple guys and that was just a huge attack on my character and a massive lie… My parents were very upset, they immediately told me to quit my involvement with SJP… The main focus was to attack my reputation and my character. Pretty much to mess with me so that I don’t want to continue my involvement with SJP.” 122

Bull Mullen says: “It was really an attempt by people who didn’t know us to think well maybe I can destroy this marriage at the very least. Maybe I can cause them tremendous personal suffering. The same letter… used the name of our daughter. I think that was the worst moment. I think we thought these people will do anything – they’re capable of doing anything.” 123

*

BDS = terrorism

“Quite a few among the BDS leaders hold ties… financial, organisational ties and other ties with hostile elements to the State of Israel. Our role is using intel to expose these ties. And by exposing that, we will know how to act against them, to isolate them, to transfer information to different intelligence agencies around the world. Israel must carry out a targeted civil thwarting of the leadership of BDS activists.” — Yisrael Katz, Israeli Minister of Intelligence. 124

“Just stay on message. And what is that message? BDS is a hate movement.” — Yeal Lerman Mazar, the Director of Legal Affairs for StandWithUs. 125

“When you talk about SJP and when you talk about BDS, you talk about them as a hate group, as a movement that absolutely endorses violence against civilians – not military conflict – but violence against civilians, aka terrorism. You discredit the messenger as a way of discrediting the message.” — Noah Pollak, Executive Director of the Emergency Committee for Israel. 126

While it was true that a handful of the tweets posted by students at UTK were unpardonably vile and antisemitic, the main aim of pro-Israel campaigners was to construct a far larger blacklist of students and to spuriously accuse the Palestinian solidarity movement as a whole of sympathising with terrorism. Soon afterwards, posters appeared that linked BDS supporters to Hamas.

Similar posters appeared on campuses across America and the David Horowitz Freedom Center sent out a press release claiming responsibility as “part of the Freedom Center’s campaign, ‘Stop the Jew Hatred on Campus,’ which seeks to confront the agents of campus anti-Semitism and expose the financial and organizational relationship between the terror group Hamas and Hamas support groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine”:

On the night of October 4th, 2016, the David Horowitz Freedom Center launched a campaign to combat the terrorist support groups on college campuses across the country. UCLA was chosen as the first campus for this effort where dozens of posters linking Students for Justice in Palestine to their terrorist heroes were placed on campus. Posters have subsequently been placed on 9 other campuses including UC-Irvine, UC-Berkeley, Brooklyn College, Vassar College, San Francisco State University, San Diego State University, Tufts University, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Chicago. 127

In response to the campaign, Mondoweiss reported:

Palestinian rights activists on American college campuses have become the target of posters that attempt to smear them as supporters of violence, with a new round of posters calling out students and teachers by name.

“Do you want to show your support for HAMAS TERRORISTS whose stated goal is the elimination of the Jewish state?” one poster asks. Then, posing as the national Palestinian rights group, says “Join us! Students for Justice in Palestine.” The poster drives home its point with a cartoon of a man wearing a kaffiyeh, pointing at the viewer like Uncle Sam. 128

Click here to read the full article entitled “New campaign uses racist posters to target Palestinian campus activists by name”.

As The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah told The Real News on September 10th:

‘Canary Mission’ is part of a much bigger effort, effectively orchestrated by the Israeli government, in which groups like the ‘Israel on Campus Coalition and ‘The Foundation for Defense of Democracies are acting as agents, or front groups, for the Israeli government, helping it to gather information on US citizens; to harass US citizens; and other activities – without being registered as foreign agents of the State of Israel.

Click here to read more in an earlier post entitled “forget ‘Russiagate’, why is no-one talking about ‘Israelgate’”

*

Divide and conquer: anti-apartheid and Black Lives Matter

 “Martin Luther King will turn in his grave if he saw the anti-Israel tendencies or policies that are starting to emerge with Black Lives Matter.” — Andy David, the Israeli Consul General in San Francisco. 129

“What’s the model for the BDS movement? The model is South Africa, so was that a bad thing to do?” — Keith Weissman, a former analysis with AIPAC (1993 – 2004). 130

One of the latest strategies developed by The Israel Project (TIP) in efforts to halt BDS has been to co-opt African-American activists by means of a manufactured campaign titled “Stop stealing my apartheid”. The idea is to drip-feed articles by black South Africans into the mainstream press with claims that BDS is subverting their cause.

This appeal to prominent black campaigners has been surprisingly successful as Andy David, the Israeli Consul General in San Francisco, explained to delegates at the annual conference of the IAC:

“Dr Clarence B Jones who wrote the draft speech for Martin Luther King, ‘I have a dream’. He was his lawyer. He was his close friend. He’s somebody that I reached out to, he became a very close and personal friend. Because of that relationship, he published three articles in the Huffington Post, explaining why their agenda was hijacked.” 131

David Brog, Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which combats BDS on American Campuses, also confirmed that this approach can be effective: “Black South Africans who were apartheid activists, who were brought to Israel, saw the reality, came home angry with BDS. They felt lied to, they felt someone had tried to steal their narrative… This is an effective tool. Bringing these black South African former BDS supporters, now Israel supporters, to America campuses.” 132

In their efforts to cultivate a new generation of black leaders that are pro-Israel, the lobby is today inviting black delegates to AIPAC conferences as well as on all-expenses paid trips to Israel. Another speaker at the annual IAC conference, Judith Varnai Shorer, the Israeli Consul General in Atlanta, gave delegates an example of her own:

“I had last week a sit-down dinner at my house for 40 people, which I considered the leadership of the black community. Many very important people. They can be part of our doing and activities.” 133

Along with the usual carrots, the Israel lobby also carries a big stick as Black Lives Matter discovered soon after it declared support for BDS. One New York nightclub was forced to cancel a fundraising event. Eric Gallagher, ‘Tony’s boss, told him that The Israel Project had been behind that decision: “I don’t know if you saw this club ditched a Black Lives Matter event. It was one of our donors, we just put in a call to him and he put in a call to the place.” 134

As Khury Petersen-Smith, an activist with Black Lives Matter, told Al Jazeera: “If you’re disgusted by segregation in this country. If you’re disgusted by South African apartheid, then you should also be disgusted by Israeli apartheid.” 135

Adding: “There’s something on the one hand laughable about it, but there’s something also really insidious about this. You’re using the credibility of a freedom struggle to try to oppose another freedom struggle. And I think that’s appalling.” 136

Keith Weissman told Al Jazeera: “They’re worried that the BDS movement will get to the stature that the South Africa boycott got to, and they’re trying to stop it now. Imagine if the apartheid regime of de Klerk was able to have a lobby in America that made it a crime to support that boycott. Imagine that.” 137

*

Dirty tricks on campus – part II

“We are for example in the process of creating a comprehensive picture of the campuses. If you want to defeat a phenomenon you must have the upper hand in terms of information and knowledge.” — Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. 138

“We built up this massive national political campaign to crush them, and to fight back and to fight fire with fire… What we saw was a growing global movement to destroy Israel that was manifesting on American college campuses. It makes sense that they would try to poison our next generation.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 139

Back in episode 1, ‘Tony’ asked Julia Reifkind, Director of Community Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, to describe a typical day. She told him: “It’s mainly gathering intel, reporting back to Israel. That’s a lot of what I do. To report back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and make sure they have the right information, it’s in The Knesset, of what’s going on here. So that’s why I do a lot of reporting. I talk to people from tons of organisations. Just trying to get the information that I could to report back. Kind of like just talk through some of the issues with those people, see what their plan was, tell them maybe some ideas we’ve had, give them our support in that behind the scenes way. ” 140

However, Reifkind has no contact with her handlers in Israel. Instead, she writes her intelligence briefs and then awaits their instructions: “I write a report and give it to my boss, who translates it. It’s really weird. We don’t talk to them on the phone or email. There’s a special server that’s really secure, that I don’t have access to because I’m an American. You have to have clearance to access the server. It’s called ‘Cables’. It’s not even the same in Hebrew, it’s like literally ‘Cables’. I’ve seen it, it looks really bizarre. So I write reports that my boss translates into the ‘Cables’ and sends them. Then they’ll send something back and he’ll translate it and tell me what I need to do.” 141

Reifkind had also been president of the Pro-Israel group Aggies for Israel at University of California Davis (‘Aggies’ being the collective nickname for all students of UC Davis which was formerly an agricultural college):

“I came to UC Davis, which had a reputation of being really pro-Israel. Now it’s in the top five most anti-Israel schools in the US.” 142

Asked by ‘Tony’, “Is the embassy is trying to leverage faculty?” Reifkind replies flatly, “yeah.” She then adds: “We’re working with several faculty advocacy groups that kind of train faculty, so we are helping them a little bit with funding, connections, bringing them to speak, having them to speak to diplomats and people at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that need this information.” 143

In early 2015, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) brought a BDS motion before the student senate. Marcelle Obeid, who was then President of SJP at UC Davis, read out a statement denouncing her university “for supporting apartheid and genocide of my people in Palestine”.144 She says: “I was very, very nervous. The entire room was filled. I think we had about 600 students and people from the community coming in to witness this vote… I ended the speech with something along the lines of being on the right side of history and for the university to end its unethical ties with these corporations which were doing brutal things to Palestinians.” 145

Reifkind tells ‘Tony’: “We knew they were going to win because our entire student senate was all pro-BDS. They ran for that purpose and won for that purpose and we had been pushed out of student government for months.” 146 In response, and following on from Obeid’s statement in favour of the motion, Reifkind had issued a very carefully rehearsed address to the senate 147. Then, and not wishing to enter into any actual debate, a pro-Israel student faction staged a walkout; all of which was filmed for later purposes:

“We went into it knowing we were going to lose, so our strategy was how to ultimately win while losing the vote.” 148

Although the BDS motion was resoundingly passed, the campaign waged by the Israel lobby was next stepped up a gear:

“That day all of us released 50 op-eds in major news sources, so that when people made a hashtag [and it was trending] when people opened their Facebook, it wouldn’t be them celebrating their victory, it would be us sharing our stories. Once it blew up, then random people like the Huffington Post contacted me and it was like, ‘Do you have anything to say?’ And I was like, ‘Conveniently I wrote an op-ed two weeks ago just in case.” 149

The op-ed entitled “My 16-Day Journey Confronting Divestment at UC Davis” reads not unlike a personal statement. It begins:

Fifteen days.

I only had 15 days in office before my university faced the Divestment, Boycott and Sanctions Resolution. […] Fifteen days to plan, strategize and act. Fifteen days to delegate, collaborate and struggle. Fifteen days to lose sleep. Fifteen days to gain the trust of a whole community and empower them to believe in me, as a leader, and to believe in themselves.

But those 15 days don’t define me.

And continues:

This past year, I have been involved with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, otherwise known as AIPAC.

After attending two AIPAC Saban Leadership Seminars within the last year, I have learned valuable leadership skills that have taught me how to mobilize, lobby and educate others about the importance of the American-Israel relationship. Now, as the AIPAC Campus Liason for UC Davis, I believe it is very important to take this positive pro-Israel message and be proactive. 150

Reifkind tells ‘Tony’: “We had a ‘Davis Faculty for Israel’ group, and they were hugely helpful to us. Some of them were retired lawyers, so they’d write legal documents for us. They knew the administration. They were tenured. They had pull.” 151

Muslim student Azka Fayyaz was another committed pro-Palestinian activist at UC Davis who the pro-Israel group chose to single out. On the basis of a mischievous Facebook post by Fayyaz in which she had written tongue-in-cheek that “Hamas & Sharia have taken over UC Davis. Brb crying over the resilience” they accused her of political violence: “They just came up to me and said ‘you’re a terrorist’, ‘are you a terrorist?’, ‘are you going to bring terrorism to the student government?’ And things of that nature.” 152

Then, when Fox News picked up the story, they linked footage of the walkout to Fayyaz’s Facebook post. As the story went viral, the course of events was now significantly altered to lend the impression that rather than leaving willingly, the pro-Israel protesters had been forced out of the meeting by baying Islamic extremists. The following dialogue is from Fox News:

“Reports say when the Israel supporters tried to object to this vote, the pro-Palestinian students you just saw tried to shout them down with cries of Allahu Akbar… and what does that represent? The subjugation of women, the torture of homosexuals, the torture of Christians, the crucifixion of Christians, that’s what it has come to represent and that’s what they’re shouting.” 153

Demonisation of the pro-Palestinian cause was then given another tremendous shot in the arm after someone anonymously defaced the Jewish fraternity house by painting it with obscene antisemitic graffiti. The news media arrived at the scene within hours to report on how SJP’s victory in the senate was the trigger for campus hate crimes. Roseanne Barr tweeted: “I hope all the Jews leave UC Davis & it [sic] then it gets nuked!”

Speaking with ‘Tony’, Julia Reifkind confides:  “I was dealing with news outlets, the media, and it was the day after, there were some swastikas on campus and it was like… it all blew up… We don’t even know [who did them]. We just think it was some random white supremacist type people who just came, did it and left. We don’t think it was students.  ” 154

“That’s very surprising”, says former President of SJP, Marcelle Obeid, who had been at the centre of the storm, “because it was very clear from their behaviour towards us and their attitude towards us that we had done some heinous crime to them and now we deserved to pay for it.” 155

Azka Fayyaz told Al Jazeera: “Students who were part of the divestment movement painted swastikas on the fraternity: that’s what she was hinting, that’s what she was trying to imply.” 156

And nor do Reifkind’s remarks to ‘Tony’ accord with her statement reported given to the Jewish Journal which reads:

Reifkind said she is “grateful” for the UC Davis administration’s condemnation of the swastika incident, but she also expressed disappointment that school leaders have not drawn a more direct and public “connection between the divestment resolution itself and anti-Semitism.” 157

“Why would we act against our interests” asks Marcelle Obeid, “and do that at a moment when we were victorious? The fact that [this crime] was so quickly tossed on to us… was damaging. It was hugely damaging.” 158

And if the antisemitic attack was in fact a hoax then if would not be the only instance:

Reflecting on events, Marcelle Obeid told Al Jazeera: “Wow, it looks like the State of Israel is employing little spies and you can’t take a breath without Israel hearing about it… They actually were found to have put cameras in the rooms where there were meetings going on – I liked meeting outside where there are no rooms, and no possible cameras under the chairs or wherever they may have put them.” 159

“Every single event that I put on you would have these pro-Israel groups coming out before our guests even got there with their cameras videotaping….” 160

“After looking back on everything I feel a little creepy because of what happened after the vote. People that were affiliated with the group were smeared and had to deal with these very personal crises of the world calling us terrorists and the world thinking that we were this spiteful hate group.” 161

She adds: “It’s pretty unequivocal how organised they were. How brutal and ruthless that narrative was and how it affected us in the end.” 162

*

 Canary Mission and the new McCarthyism

“Ensure that today’s radical’s are not tomorrow’s employees” — from Canary Mission promotion video. 163

They are terrified of Canary Mission and it’s about time.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 164

Finding her name on the Canary Mission site, Marcelle Obeid says, “It was shattering to me because I had to look for a job… and now I had this website smearing my name before I even got a chance to really make a name for myself.” 165

Summer Awad was another pro-Palestinian activist who discovered her name was listed. She told Al Jazeera: “Somebody did contact my employer and asked for me to be fired based on my profile and my pro-Palestinian activism. They said you know that if they continued to employ me that their values are antisemitic… It can be really scary at first. I was mostly harassed on Twitter. They were tweeting me every two to three days. They take screenshots even way back to my Facebook pictures that don’t even look like me anymore. Just digging and digging through my online presence.” 166

Another pro-Palestinian activist and member of SJP, Mohammed Abou Ghazala, said: “We had always been afraid of ending up on there. It was very personal. They see us as such a threat that they have to twist and turn and delve into our personal lives as if they are trying to scare us into stopping our work. Their Twitter campaign is relentless.”167

Drost Kokoye is another member of SJP who was blacklisted by Canary Mission. She told Al Jazeera: “Every picture that I post on Facebook, it goes on to one of their websites. With every tweet that I put out, every hashtag that I post on to Instagram, goes into one of their files.” 168

At the end of the first half of episode 3, we are reminded of Jacob Baime’s somewhat incriminatory denial. Regarding the dirty tactics employed by Canary Mission to smear and blacklist activists, he tells ‘Tony’: “F—k them, we’re doing it back.” Before quickly inserting, “I mean, not ‘we’, just some anonymous group.” 169

*

The man behind Canary Mission: Adam Milstein

“There’s a guy named Adam Milstein who you might want to meet, he’s a convicted felon. That’s a bad way to describe him. He’s a real-estate mogul.” — Eric Gallagher, former Director (2010–2015) at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 170

“It is very important that we are proud Jews. We’re not, ‘Oh you know, I was born Jewish, but I’m really not Jewish and I’m not sure. We are proud Jews, we are proud about our history. We have a strong connection to the land of Israel. So this Israeli identity is now all over the world.” — Adam Milstein. 171

Adam Milstein, the son of a real estate developer Hillel Milstein, was born in Haifa. In 1971, he was conscripted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and served during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He then moved to the United States with wife Gila in 1983 and became the co-founder and Chairman of the Israeli-American Council (IAC) in 2007. Two years later in 2009 he was convicted of tax evasion. Gallagher tells ‘Tony’ that when he was at AIPAC and working with Milstein: “I was literally emailing back and forth with him while he was in jail.” 172 He adds, “But he’s loaded. I mean he’s close to half a billion dollars.” 173

In 2000, Milstein founded the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, which today funds a plethora of pro-Israel campaign organisations, while he personally sits on the board of AIPAC’s National Council, Hasbara Fellowships, StandWithUs and (unsurprisingly) the ICC. In 2015, he collaborated with Trump’s largest campaign donor Sheldon Adelson, and Israeli-American media proprietor Haim Saban, as one of the organizers of the Campus Maccabees Summit, an anti-BDS event held in Las Vegas that had involved more than fifty major pro-Israel groups gathered to promote the concept of a “boycott of boycotters” as advocated by hardline Israeli Education Minister, Naftali Bennett. 174

He told Arutz Sheva TV:

“We are going to boycott the boycotters once we understand clearly who the boycotters are, what groups they are comprised of, who are the individuals behind them, where is the funding coming from. We will boycott them and we will make them illegal on campuses and in the United States.” [from 2:10 mins] 175

Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate, financially backed Milstein’s Israeli-American Council and transformed it into a major force within the lobby. 176 He attended the 2016 IAC conference with another of Trump’s most prominent campaign backers and current advisor, Rudy Giuliani. In the official video from the conference, Milstein and Adelson discuss their partnership. Milstein says: “You said ‘you see the vision’ and you tell us ‘go and do it’ and we took your orders and we made it happen… and we took your money!” 177 Adelson replies: “Is there somebody else around who can give you $50 million?”

When ‘Tony’ finally meets up with Adam Milstein at IAC conference, he asks how Milstein believes they should deal with Israel’s critics. Milstein replies: “First of all, investigate who they are. What’s their agenda? They’re picking on the Jews because it’s easy, because it’s popular. We need to expose what they really are. And we need to expose the fact that they are anti- everything we believe in. And we need to put them on the run. Right now they can do whatever they like, terrorise us… We’re doing it by exposing who they are, what they are, the fact that they are racist, the fact that they are bigots, they’re anti-democracy.” 178

‘Tony’ then asks: “Do you think there is a good role to just name them as antisemites?” And Milstein replies: “Not just antisemites, it’s too simple. We need to present them for what they really are. They’re anti-freedom, they’re anti-Christian. They are anti-democracy. That’s what we need to do.” 179

At the end of episode 3, ‘Tony’ speaks again to Eric Gallagher, who tells him: “In this country you have these billionaire types who are starting to realise… I don’t need to participate in the Republican or Democratic Parties, I can build my own apparatus and have influence in Los Angeles or Detroit. Adam Milstein is one of those guys. He funds The Israel Project. He does a lot of great work.” 180

‘Tony’ then asks who is behind Canary Mission, to which Gallagher replies, “It’s him, it’s him – Yeah, I don’t know who he hired to oversee it. Adam Milstein, he’s the guy who funds it.” 181

*

Dirty Tricks on campus – Part III

“The one thing every member of Congress and president and ambassador and newspaper editor has in common is by and large they spent a little bit of time on a college campus and probably those were formative years.” — Jacob Baime, Executive Director of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC). 182

“It’s a chance to shout at Arabs” — an unnamed pro-Israel ‘protester’ on his way to the SJP event. 183

In episode 4, ‘Tony’ joined a protest organised by Noah Pollak that aimed to disrupt the national conference for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) taking place at George Mason University. ‘Tony’ soon discovered that all of the other ‘protesters’ were on a fellowship programme run by the Hoover Institution, a right-wing ‘think tank’.

Marshall introduced himself to ‘Tony’ on the coach and told him, “The whole fellowship strategy is like, ‘You have to be foot soldiers of the conservative movement.’” 184

He admitted to ‘Tony’ that the protest had been poorly planned: “It’s a very fly-by-the-pants procedure. It was basically just Noah Pollak coming in and being like, ‘Look, there are these jihadhis who basically support suicide bombing and they’re on a campus and you have to stop them.” 185

Adding: “They did a really s—ty job of getting me excited to show up and protest.” 186

Eventually Marshall confesses to ‘Tony’ that protesting was just one of the duties expected on the fellowship, telling him: “As we’re leaving, we mentioned to our boss yesterday that we’re going. She was like, ‘Oh, that’s mandatory, you need to go.’” 187

As further proof that the protest has been entirely staged, Marshall then jokes, “Do you know what my worst nightmare is? I’m actually not kidding, it’s a photo of Dion and I together and we’re clearly identifiable. And they’re like, ‘Oh, who are these traitors who sold out to the Jewish conspiracy for money?’” 188

Much to the amusement of his fellow ‘protesters’ on the bus, and relishing his spot in the limelight, Marshall then replies his imaginary interlocutor, saying, “I’m like we did, we cost $50,000 plus benefits.” 189

As the laughter dies down, the ‘protesters’ then have a prolonged discussion over whether or not the protest is actually worth doing. Marshall says, “If I were a high-level Jewish donor I would be a whole lot more realistic about the expectations… I’d continue to do what you’re actually doing which is focussing on the actual power structures and the power structures in and of themselves. The reality is there is not a single college president in this country that would actually sign BDS.” 190

When ‘Tony’ puts it to him that this whole protest appears like astroturfing, Marshall replies, “No, no, no, this is astroturfing… [But] it’s not that astroturfing is wrong. It’s just that Astroturf has to be committed.” 191

The escapade then gets even more farcical as the ‘protesters’ realise they are unable to locate the venue. One says, “We should pull over and ask, ‘Hey, where are the jihadhis?’” 192

Having finally arrived, the ‘protesters’ reconvene with Noah Pollak and legal advisor Yeal Lerman Mazar, the Director of Legal Affairs for StandWithUs. Mazar warns them to behave as “guests of the university” and to avoid types of behaviour that may result in them being accused of disrupting a school-sponsored activity. She ends her briefing with a reminder to “stay on message”, asking: “And what is that message? SJP is a… hate movement.” 193

She ends her briefing on the advice: “The only thing you probably want to mention is that SJP endorses violence, terrorism, things like that.” 194

Afterwards, Al Jazeera spoke to Mohammad Abou Ghazala, who is a member of SJP at George Mason University about the incidents that followed. Ghazala told them: “We start seeing groups of people coming towards us who don’t seem familiar. And they’re brandishing Israel flags and posters and signs…” 195

He continues: “… How do you respond to such wild accusations? It takes a lot to hear this and not respond… Our content is grounded in human rights, morality, ethics and international law.” 196

Although the protest against SJP had had little direct impact on the day, once again the idea was use it to plant and promote what would soon become a much bigger story online and across social media.  The story of the day as it would be told on these platforms was prescripted: that advocates for BDS are antisemitic supporters of terrorism. For instance, this is from a report of the event as it was afterwards portrayed in the Washington Free Beacon, a neoconservative website whose publisher, Michael Goldfarb, has also served as an advisor to Pollak’s Emergency Committee 197:

SJP organizers instructed their members not to acknowledge the [pro-Israel] protest, but that didn’t stop some from speaking out. One SJP member was calling the protestors “Zionist terrorists” before he was scolded to return to his workshop room. Others remarked that “Zionists are so ugly.” Another repeated numerous times that he “can’t even.” One waved his middle finger at the protesters before being escorted away by other anti-Israel activists. 198

The article was provocatively titled “Anti-Israel Hate Group Met With Protests” and carried the deliberately misleading strapline “Hamas-linked activists create student blockade to keep protesters out of annual conference”. Another article, this time published in The Tower was entitled “Why Is George Mason U. Hosting Anti-Israel Activists Who Bully Students and Excuse Terror?” It begins with an appeal to re-evaluate the First Amendment:

As a law student at George Mason University, I can certainly appreciate and defend the First Amendment rights to which all Americans are entitled. Yet we should all be deeply concerned that our university is hosting Students for Justice in Palestine’s (SJP) national convention this weekend. SJP disguises itself as an organization promoting social justice and the Palestinian cause — yet in reality, SJP promotes war, hate, and destruction, with numerous SJP leaders, members, and guest speakers going so far as to endorse terrorism. The GMU student body deserves to know who is using our university as a place to spread extremism and lies. 199

Which is always the point, of course. Not to engage in debate, but to stifle it.

*

Final thoughts

Founded upon a Zionist conviction that denies absolutely the existence of an extant Palestinian people as encapsulated in the slogan, “a land without a people for a people without a land”, last July, The Knesset passed the so-called “nation state law” with a vote of 62-55 in favour, thereby instituting a fully-fledged apartheid system across Israel and the occupied territories. Indeed, the charity War on Want provides a factsheet that details why Israel is an apartheid state:

Under Israeli law, and in practice, Jewish Israelis and Palestinians are treated differently in almost every aspect of life including freedom of movement, family, housing, education, employment and other basic human rights. Dozens of Israeli laws and policies institutionalise this prevailing system of racial discrimination and domination.

Segregation is carried out by implementing separate legal regimes for Jewish Israelis and Palestinians living in the same area. For example, Jewish Israeli settlers living in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are governed by Israeli civil law, while Palestinians also living in the occupied West Bank are governed by Israeli military law.

Israel carries out various acts that are prohibited by the UN Apartheid Convention including:

  • Forcible transfer of  Palestinians to make way for illegal Israeli settlements.
  • Preventing Palestinians from returning to their homes and lands.
  • Systematic and severe deprivation of fundamental human rights of Palestinians based on their identity.
  • Denying Palestinians their right to freedom of movement and residence.
  • Murder, torture, unlawful imprisonment and other severe deprivation of physical liberty, especially of Palestinians living in Gaza.
  • Persecution of Palestinians because of their opposition to Apartheid.

Click here to read more at the War on Want website.

Israel can no longer defend its position on the basis of human rights, morality or international law, and having already forfeited the argument, falls back instead on a strategy that thwarts debate. The main tactics involve deflecting attention onto other rogue regimes, pleading for special privilege and immunity on the basis of the sui generis historical precedent set by The Holocaust, and lastly, most importantly, falsely accusing all opponents of the very crimes it itself commits. Anti-Israel criticism becomes antisemitic; pro-Palestinian organisations are labelled “hate movements”; and BDS supporters are blasted as “terrorist sympathisers”.

Meanwhile, as pro-Israel organisations lend financial support to brown-shirted agitator Tommy Robinson, a latter-day Oswald Mosley, as well as anti-Islam Dutch politician, Geert Wilders; and while Prime Minister Netanyahu is glad-handing his Hungarian counterpart, welcoming the ultra-nationalist Nazi sympathiser Viktor Orbán, on a state visit as a “true friend of Israel”, in Ukraine ultra-right factions of the National Guard are being supplied with Israeli weapons:

Surely then, every friend of Israel should begin asking its government this one deeply serious question. Why would a nation established as a sanctuary and homeland for Jews; one that invests multiple millions in surveilling and blacklisting supporters of BDS on the spurious grounds of antisemitism; simultaneously, be working in league with the SS-wearing Azov Battalion?

Click here to read an earlier post published last September.

*

Update:

On Monday 4th, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed in April 2016 by the Louis D. Brandeis Centre against the American Studies Association’s (ASA), the oldest scholarly organisation devoted to the interdisciplinary study of American culture and history, over its resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions:

The ruling is a significant victory for human rights campaigners and a blow to efforts by Israel lobby groups to use courts to harass, intimidate and silence supporters of Palestinian rights in U.S. universities – a tactic known as lawfare. It’s also a major boost for Americans sacked from their jobs on the back of anti-BDS legislation, denounced by critics as unconstitutional. […]

In the court’s 20-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras wrote that the pro-Israeli group had “danced around key issues” and was unable to show that they had suffered enough monetary damages to warrant a federal case.

The judge found that at most, the individual plaintiffs could seek damages of a few hundred dollars to cover membership dues they allege were misappropriated, but they would have to find some other venue to pursue their claims.

Radhika Sainath, senior attorney with the civil rights group Palestine Legal, summed up the court’s judgment saying that “the court basically said, in no uncertain words, that the plaintiffs suing ASA lied when they claimed to have ‘suffered significant economic and reputational damage’.”

“But, as the court explained, ‘nowhere’ in the lawsuit could the plaintiffs explain what that damage was. It didn’t pass the smell test,” she added.

Click here to read the full report written by Middle East Monitor and reposted by Mint Press News on Thurs 7th.

*

Additional: Quotes on Israel’s press relations & Trump’s campaign

“In my job I get to work with every major news network, and I don’t even do media. I do academic affairs. Every university president takes our calls, takes our meetings, works with us because we’re a legitimate government organisation… There are so many organisations focussed on BDS. For the most part when it comes to BDS, we are very behind the scenes. I’m meeting with university presidents, faculty, students. What they’re doing is building relationships with local politicians, making sure politicians know to turn to them when Israel-sensitive things come to the table. ” — Jackie Retig, Director of Academic Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York. 200

“One of the reasons why Israel is covered disproportionately is the overwhelming majority of journalists covering the Middle East are based in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a place where you know after a four o’clock deadline, you can get drunk in a bar and meet beautiful women.” — Eric Gallagher, former Director (2010–2015) at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). 201

“When there’s a terror attack in Israel, our staff usually gets to the scene before the press does… They have bulletproof vests, they have cameras, and as soon as there’s… Twitter… an attack, we have like four guys at the scene. [Lior Weintraub, Director of The Israel Project’s Jerusalem office] has this rapid response team where he has people strategically placed around the country. So if there’s an attack… like the Sarona attack on Sarona Market in Tel Aviv. They take pictures and they get testimonies and by the time the press gets there, we do their jobs for them. They need a quote, they need information, they need… a picture, or a video clip, the full-service shop, you know we just give it to them. By the time the press got there, we were able to help affect the narrative because you know they’re all scrambling, they need to get this stuff to their editors immediately on what happened, back in Brussels or Washington. We’re able to get them information.” — Eric Gallagher. 202

“I was one of the first employees on the [Jeb] Bush campaign. The first time Trump came up in a conversation was when we were going to solicit him for Jeb. And we were like, ‘Why isn’t he writing a cheque?’ We would joke, this is the donor who went nuts… I hope the Justice Department doesn’t make an example out of Bush, because we were operating in a real grey zone. We raised enough money. We figured, ‘Let them come at us, we’ll defend ourselves’. We thought he was going to be the Republican nominee, everyone did at that stage.” — Eric Gallagher. 203

“The 200 families whose giving constitutes 90% of all political giving, are not giving because they want a government contract or because it’s good for their business. They’re doing it because they actually care. In my view, it’s obscene how much money there is.” — Eric Gallagher. 204

“Whatever a journalist reports, if it’s not liked by TIP or people within the government, they will put pressure on the media houses, the big networks.” — Jim Clancy, former correspondent and presenter with CNN (1982–2015). 205

‘Tony’: “So what are the main outlets that TIP work with?”

Eric Gallagher: “Washington Post is the biggest one.” 206

*

1 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 40:35 mins

2 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 38:40 mins

3 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 6:45 mins and 7:20 mins.

4 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 13:35 mins and 14:00 mins.

5 From an Al Jazeera report entitled “Israeli forces kill Palestinian woman during Gaza protests” published on January 11, 2019. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2019/01/israeli-forces-kill-palestinian-woman-gaza-protests-190111154925517.html

6 Read more at the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) http://imemc.org/article/israeli-army-bombards-gaza/

7

The strike Netanyahu was referring to occurred on Friday night.

Syrian state news agency SANA cited a military source saying on Friday that Syrian air defences had shot down Israeli missiles, but a warehouse had been hit.

Most of the missiles fired by “Israeli military planes” were intercepted at around 11:00pm (2100 GMT), the source said.

“Only a ministry of transport warehouse at Damascus international airport was hit,” SANA cited the military source as saying.

From a report entitled “Netanyahu confirms air strikes on Iranian targets in Syria” published by France 24 with AFP, Reuters on January 13, 2019. https://www.france24.com/en/20190113-israel-claims-air-strike-iran-target-syria

8 From a report entitled “Gaza not ‘liveable’ by 2020 barring urgent action: U.N” written by Nidal al-Mughrabi, published in Reuters on August 27, 2012. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-palestinians-gaza-un/gaza-not-liveable-by-2020-barring-urgent-action-u-n-idUSBRE87Q0OE20120827

9 https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/221/text

10 From an article entitled “U.S. Senate’s First Bill, in the Midst of the Shutdown, is a Bipartisan Defense of the Israeli Government from Boycotts” written by Ryan Grim and Glenn Greenwald, Published by The Intercept on January 5, 2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/01/05/u-s-senates-first-bill-in-midst-of-shutdown-is-a-bipartisan-defense-of-the-israeli-government-from-boycotts/

11 Hat Tip to The Last American Vagabond  broadcast January 13, 2019:

12 From an article entitled “The US Senate Just Quietly Advanced A Free Speech Busting Anti-BDS Bill” written by Whitney Webb, published in Mint Press News on January 29, 2019. https://www.mintpressnews.com/the-senate-just-quietly-passed-a-free-speech-busting-anti-bds-bill/254408/

13 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 31:10 mins

14 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 42:20 mins

15 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 48:05 mins

16 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 4:50 mins. Sima Vaknin-Gil, Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, was speaking to a gathering of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

17 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 30:20 mins and 30:35 mins.

18 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 36:10 mins

19 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 37:20 mins

20 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 28:15 mins and 28:50 mins.

21 From an article entitled “What’s in Al Jazeera’a undercover film on the US Israel lobby?” written by Asa Winstanley, published by the Electronic Intifada on March 5, 2018. https://electronicintifada.net/content/whats-al-jazeeras-undercover-film-us-israel-lobby/23496

22 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 35:35 mins.

23 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 5:50 mins.

24 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 34:45 mins

25 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 39:15 mins

26 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 22:15 mins

27 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 22:30 mins

28 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 39:55 mins

29 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 38:55 mins

30 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 49:15 mins

31 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 6:00 and 6:20 mins.

32 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 37:55 mins

33 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 12:45 mins.

34 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 9:30 mins.

35 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 10:15 mins

36 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 10:25 mins

37 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 11:40 mins.

38 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 13:05 mins.

39 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 13:55 mins.

40 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 12:20 mins.

41 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 13:25 mins and 14:05 mins.

42 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 7:55 mins.

43 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 8:40 mins.

44 From an article entitled “A Beautiful Friendship? In Search of the Truth about the Israel Lobby’s Influece on Washington” written by Glenn Frankel, published by The Washington Post on July 16, 2006. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/12/AR2006071201627_pf.html

45 Pub.L. 110–81, 121 Stat. 735, enacted September 14, 2007

46 Taken from the current American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) mission statement. http://www.aiefdn.org/

47 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 17:40 mins.

48 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 20:25 mins.

49 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 20:50 mins.

50 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 21:30 mins.

51 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 21:50 mins.

52 From an article entitled “Sorry, Mr Moran, You’re Not Fit For Public Office”, written by Marc Fisher, published in The Washington Post on March 11, 2003. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/2003/03/11/sorry-mr-moran-youre-not-fit-for-public-office/f87b84d3-1564-45fd-8653-cb87196b4097/?utm_term=.d04f16ceb5c3

53 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 15:55 mins.

54 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 6:15 mins.

55 Source: The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 12:55 mins.

56 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 13:15 mins.

57 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 37:50 mins and 38:15 mins.

58 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 6:15 mins and 7:00 mins.

59 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 7:40 mins

60 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 8:40 mins

61 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 5:25 mins.

62 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 23:05 mins.

63 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 34:10 mins

64 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 40:20 mins and 41:10 mins.

65 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 5:05 mins

66 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 46:55 mins

67 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 45:05 mins

68 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 26:15 mins.

69 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 16:45 mins.

70 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 38:40 mins.

71 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 39:05 mins.

72 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 45:20 mins and 45:35 mins.

73 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 45:50 mins and 47:00 mins.

74 From an article entitled “The Holy Land Five” published by Al Jazeera on October 5, 2016. https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2016/10/holy-land-foundation-hamas-161004083025906.html

75 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 33:25 mins

76 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 15:35 mins.

77 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 18:00 mins.

78 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 3:55 mins.

79 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 5:05 mins.

80 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 15:20 mins.

81 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 15:05 mins

82 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 5:25 mins.

83 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 5:35 mins.

84 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 12:15 mins

85 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 13:45 mins

86 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 14:15 mins

87 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 33:00 mins.

88 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 13:45 mins.

89 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 33: 25 mins.

90 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 33: 50 mins.

Although a Jewish organisation, JVP is also pilloried by the Israel Lobby: “Jewish Voice for Peace or as I call it Jewish Voice for Hamas… It would be like having a group called ‘African Americans for Slavery’. It’s crazy right? A lot of the JVP people are not Jewish. They’ve had a real problem of people basically pretending to be Jews because the anti-Israel activism sounds – it’s a little more sexy.” — Noah Pollak, Executive Director of the Emergency Committee for Israel.

An accusation that Joseph Berman, a rabbi and campaigner with JVP, described as “an absurd claim”

From The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 46:25 mins

91 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 34: 10 mins.

92 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 40: 00 mins and 41:10.

93 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 31:50 mins

94 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 32:05 mins

95 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 32:30 mins

96 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 32:45 mins

97 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 33:00 mins

98 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 33:05 mins

99 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 35:55 mins

100 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 34:20 mins

101 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 34:55 mins

102 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 35:45 mins

103 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 39:40 mins

104 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 39:55 mins

105 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 37:30 mins

106 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 37:35 mins

107 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 37:00 mins

108 From an article entitled “What’s in Al Jazeera’s undercover film on the US Israel Lobby?” written by Asa Winstanley, published in The Electronic Intifada on March 5, 2018. https://electronicintifada.net/content/whats-al-jazeeras-undercover-film-us-israel-lobby/23496

109 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 6:55 and 7:40 mins.

110 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 7:20 mins.

111 From an article entitled “EXCLUSIVE: ‘Cesspool’ of Anitsemitic, Anti-Israel, Racist Behavior at U of Tennessee Uncovered by Covert Watchdog Group” written by Lea Speyer, published in the Algemeiner on August 4, 2016. https://www.algemeiner.com/2016/08/04/exclusive-cesspool-of-antisemitic-anti-israel-racist-behavior-at-u-of-tennessee-uncovered-by-watchdog-group/

112 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3730310/University-Tennessee-cesspool-anti-Semitic-racist-behavior-anonymous-watchdog-group-alleges.html

113 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 27:15 mins.

114 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 27:55 mins.

115 From The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 34: 30 mins.

116 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 32:00 mins and 32:25 mins.

117 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 34: 45 mins.

118 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 44: 15 mins.

119 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 16:40 mins, 17:05 mins and 18:10 mins.

120 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 19: 05 mins.

121 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 16:50 mins and 17:15 mins.

122 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 17:50 mins and 18:20 mins.

123 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 18: 25 mins.

124 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 16:45 mins. Yisrael Katz, Israeli Minister of Intelligence speaking at the International Convention Center, Jerusalem.

125 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 20:35 mins

126 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 47:00 mins.

127 http://www.stopthejewhatredoncampus.org/news/images-freedom-center-posters-targeting-hamas-and-bds-supporters-fall-2016

128 From an article entitled “New campaign uses racist posters to target Palestinian campus activists by name” written by Wilson Dizard, published in Mondoweiss on October 27, 2016. https://mondoweiss.net/2016/10/campaign-palestinian-activists/

129 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 11:50 mins

130 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 5:30 mins

131 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 11:20 mins

132 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 7:55 mins

133 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 9:30 mins

134 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 12:40 mins

135 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 8:40 mins

136 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 12:00 mins

137 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 5:50 mins

138 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 17:30 mins.

139 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 4:25 mins and 4:35 mins.

140 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 41:20 mins

141 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 44:45 mins

142 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 19:25 mins.

143 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 18:40 mins.

144 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 20:20 mins.

145 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 20:00 mins.

146 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 20:35 mins.

147

“We have been ignored and disrespected year after year, but we have never been silenced. We are a beacon of peace and inclusion on a campus plagued by anti-Semitism… The intolerance that spawned this resolution is the same kind of intolerance that has spawned anti-Semitic movements throughout history.”

Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 21:10 mins.

148 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 22:10 mins.

149 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 24:20 mins.

150 From an op-ed entitled “My 15-Day Journey Confronting Divestment at UC Davis” written by Julia Reifkind, published by the Huffington Post on February 12, 2015. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/my-15day-journey-confront_b_6669890

151 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 32:40 mins

152 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 25:40 mins.

153 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 28:10 mins

154 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 30:20 mins

155 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 30:40 mins

156 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 31:05 mins

157 From an article entitled “UC Davis Community, ADL respond to hate-crime graffiti, written by Ryan Torok, published in the Jewish Journal on February 4, 2015. https://jewishjournal.com/news/nation/154873/

158 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 31:10 mins

159 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 41:55 mins and 43:45 mins

160 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 44:25 mins

161 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 33:10 mins

162 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 1: “The Covert War” from 33:30 mins

163 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 20:30 mins

164 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 21:30 mins

165 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 20:40 mins

166 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 20:55 mins

167 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 21:35 mins

168 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 22:00 mins

169 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 23:25 mins

170 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 24:35 mins

171 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 26:50 mins

172 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 24:50 mins

173 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 24:55 mins

174 http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/196406

175 From an article entitled “We Will Boycott the Boycotters” written by Yoni Kempinski, published in Arutz Sheva on June 9, 2015.  http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/196465#.VZtjehNVikp

176 IAC activities are funded by its board of directors, its members, and donors within the Israeli-American and the Pro-Israel American communities, including Sheldon and Miri Adelson, Haim and Cheryl Saban, Beny and Adele Alagem, Leo and Ruth David and David Wiener. In addition, the organization receives support from several Jewish-American foundations in the U.S.

From a report entitled “Israeli American Council Announces Major U.S. Expansion Plan” published by eJewishPhilanthropy.com on September 11, 2013. http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israeli-american-council-announces-major-u-s-expansion-plan/

177 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 26:05 mins

178 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 27:15 mins

179 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 27:50 mins

180 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 47:50 mins

181 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 48:15 mins

182 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 3: “The Witch Hunt” from 4: 45 mins.

183 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 15:40 mins

184 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 14:55 mins

185 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 15:25 mins

186 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 17:25 mins

187 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 15:40 mins

188 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 15:55 mins

189 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 16:05 mins

190 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 16:55 mins

191 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 17:35 mins and 18:00 mins.

192 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 18:25 mins

193 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 20:35 mins

194 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 20:45 mins

195 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 21:15 mins

196 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 21:50 mins, 22:45 mins and 23:20 mins

197 https://grayzoneproject.com/2018/08/28/leaked-scenes-from-censored-documentary-expose-israel-lobbyist-noah-pollak-astroturfing-an-anti-palestinian-protest/

198 From an article entitled “Anti-Israel Hate Group Met With Protests” written by Brent Schler, published in the Washington Free Beacon on November 11, 2016. https://freebeacon.com/culture/anti-israel-hate-group-protests/

199 From an article entitled “Why Is George Mason U. Hosting Anti-Israel Activists Who Bully Students and Excuse Terror” written by Jessie Nejberger, published in The Tower on November 6, 2016. http://www.thetower.org/why-is-george-mason-u-hosting-anti-israel-activists-who-bully-students-and-excuse-terror/

200 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 3:20 mins and 3:45 mins

201 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 24:55 mins

202 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 26:25 mins, 26:40 mins and 27:15 mins

203 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 16:35 mins.

204 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 17:00 mins.

205 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 4: “Marketing Occupation” from 31:30 mins

206 Quote taken from The Lobby – USA, episode 2: “Managing Elites” from 22:30 mins.

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Filed under did you see?, Israel, Palestine, USA

an alternative review of the year by Chunky Mark

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget — Arundhati Roy

When I came across Chunky Mark’s (aka the Artist Taxi Driver) three hour youtube upload entitled “JEZZA the movie 2018” I was intrigued. Three hours later I was impressed: it had really felt like three hours well spent.

The film includes interviews with Dr Bob Gill, producer of The Great NHS Heist; David Graeber, anthropologist and author of Debt: The First 5000 years; Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media; Paul Mason, former Economics Editor for BBC Newsnight and Channel 4 News; Magid Magid, the incumbent Lord Mayor of Sheffield; as well as comedians Norman Lovett and Eddie Izzard. He speaks with Ed Miliband, and about half the current shadow cabinet: Emily Thornberry, Barry Gardiner, Richard Burgeon, Dan Carden, Jon Ashworth and John McDonnell. He even gets an interview with French presidential candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. He also introduces us to Chilean filmmaker Felipe Bustos Sierra and his newly released documentary Nae Pasaran which tells the remarkable story of four factory workers at the Rolls Royce plant in East Kilbride who downed tools in solidarity with the victims of Pinochet’s reign of terror:

(Caution: strong language in parts)

A lot of ground is covered as he slow tours Liverpool, Sheffield and London; the trail of his video diaries interspersed with an occasion lyrical rant which is the trademark of Chunky Mark’s online performances. Topics range from austerity, tax havens, pensions, fracking, homelessness, the privatisation of the NHS, the Windrush scandal, the neglect of the Grenfell survivors, the march against Trump’s visit, the ongoing fight for justice for the Hillsborough victims, the plight of refugees, to the peril of a resurgent far right. Mark McGowan (his real name) speaks to those most deeply affected and closely involved. To a young man who is living on the streets of London, to three Muslim women who run a soup kitchen, to nurses and doctors, to a fellow (he is actually one) taxi driver and to a handful of the WASPI women. Most poignantly he visits a few of the migrant camps near Calais including that one nicknamed “The Jungle” (isn’t that shameful enough?)

In truth I paused a few times during the three hours – there’s a lot to take in and some sequences are a little slack, which is only to be expected. Judged fairly, this is a fine piece of amateur filmmaking: sensitive, constantly thought-provoking, and in parts hilarious. Though it will not win any Golden Globes, it deserves an audience, which is why I am recommending it.

Oh, and at one point I stopped for about half an hour to gaze out of my bedroom window over the rooftops and the gardens, watching as fireworks lit up the Sheffield sky welcoming in the New Year. The annual people’s firework display (as I regard it) is one recent tradition I look forward to. How different from our long-established Bonfire Night which goes on and on for days and means what? Why do we celebrate the uncovering of the so-called ‘gunpowder plot’ to blow up parliament by detonating lots of mini explosives? Yet it feels right that we celebrate something as arbitrary and ephemeral as the passing of the minute hand at the start of every year with such a nonsensical flurry of sound and fury. Countless individuals in countless backyards lighting blue touch papers that launch into one glorious, synchronised citywide spectacular.

Reflecting upon the moment of yearly rebirth can feel a bit like pinching yourself; uncannily becoming aware of the thing you are forever forgetting. Not merely another year passing and I am still here, but right now I am here. And in a way Chunky Mark’s review is a gentle slap to our political consciousness (whereas most other annual reviews are to entertain and distract). His appraisal of Britain’s mounting social problems is unsettling, but there is constant encouragement too. It is not so much a homage to the Labour leader as a heartfelt tribute to grassroots activism.

Incidentally, Corbyn is featured just twice (in spite of the title) — quoting the beautiful words of Arundhati Roy at the beginning and then at the end rallying supporters saying:

That is why those great people who founded our movement, those great people who struggled against enormous odds in the last two centuries to try to bring about the kind of strength and organisation that we’ve got in trade unions and in the Labour Party [made] all those things possible for us. Now my friends, let’s dedicate ourselves absolutely to taking that message of decency, justice, social justice, socialism out there on the streets all around this country and say to the Tories “we are many, you are few — We are for the many, you are for the few.”

Wishing you all a very happy New Year!!!

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Correction:

Mark McGowan is a real minicab driver although in the original post I had written that he spoke to: “… a (‘fellow’ – he’s not actually one) taxi driver…”

You can read more about him in this Guardian review by Dawn Foster published in January 2015.

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Additional:

New Year’s greetings from Syria courtesy of independent journalist Eva Bartlett:

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, did you see?, Syria