Mike Sivier is the author of pro-Corbyn blog Vox Political. He was suspended for allegedly breaking the Labour Party’s rules on antisemitism. On Tuesday, his case was heard at the National Executive Committee (NEC) which now boasts of a hard-left majority with a new chair of the disputes panel to boot. The ousted chair, Ann Black, had received over 100,000 votes to sit on the NEC and was also elected chair of Disputes because her impartiality was implicitly trusted by all wings of the party to deal with very sensitive disciplinary cases including antisemitism.
A lot of antisemitism, in fact.
But as Luke Akehurst pointed out; the real reason for her ousting is because the chair of disputes “carries with it a seat on the NEC Officers Group that goes with that job, which is where the key decisions on appointing panels that control by-election & late selection shortlists are taken.”
So being trusted as the best person possible to deal with, as Ann Black herself said, the “obscene, racist, misogynistic, homophobic and antisemitic sewage which we have to wade through,” is not the reason you now appoint someone to do that job in Corbyn’s Labour.
This was the first NEC meeting with a hard-left majority panel. Three cases of antisemitism were heard, one of which was Mike Sivier’s. He claims in his blog that “the recommendation to refer my case to the National Constitutional Committee with a view to expulsion was rejected” and downgraded to a warning with training.
Vox Political is a minor pro-Corbyn blog. Although around for several years before, from what I can surmise it’s circulation increased greatly after an article which ‘uncovered’ the Ha’avara agreement – the document which is supposed to exonerate Ken Livingston from bringing the party into disrepute after he casually claimed that the greatest antisemite of all time supported the bid for Jewish emancipation.
Springtime for Livingstone
Back in the barmy spring of 2015, when Corbynistas first found themselves with voracious appetites for exclusively pro-Corbs narratives, an army of bloggers suddenly found themselves with an instant audience of thousands by simply penning articles in favour of the Labour leadership’s position on… well, anything really.
If Corbyn wanted to put a litter of puppies in the microwave, a phalanx of would-be journalists would be on hand to defend it as a socialist experiment.
If the public didn’t buy it, they were either under the spell of a biased media or, as Sivier pointed out in his comment section in reference to Labour’s poor showing in the local elections in May 2017, simply “ignorant British people”. If only they would read Vox Political, It would change everything.
On Livingstone, Sivier chalked up nearly a dozen pieces of Ken-fending and many more claiming that antisemitism was a smear and that suspended members were the victims of a witch-hunt.
Antisemitism is complex. It can be transmitted unintentionally through ignorance. It has different forms. It can be overt or covert. Sivier evidently had no understanding of contemporary antisemitism; and armed with an equally shoddy knowledge of the vagaries of pre-Holocaust Jewish history in Nazi Germany he wrote these articles, which were read and shared by thousands of leftists, with a breathtaking arrogance.
Overt antisemites in Labour, those who know they hate Jews, are rare. Then there are those who believe they don’t have anything against Jews – it’s just ‘the Zionists’ that are the problem and employ conspiracy theories as justification. Billy J Wells, selected to be a candidate in the local elections – whose suspension was also downgraded to a ‘warning’ by the NEC yesterday – wrote on Facebook:
“It’s the super rich families of the Zionist lobby that control the world. Our world leaders sell their souls for greed and do the bidding of Israel. They see the evil but their love for wealth makes them turn a blind eye.”
Then there are those who think they actually like Jews it’s just Israel that’s the issue, so they resort to using Holocaust inversion to make a political point about the Jewish state which for them is an unparalleled evil. Michelle Harris, who was shortlisted to be a Parliamentary candidate for Hastings and Rye wrote:
“I have often said that the Holocaust victims who died with dignity must be turning in their graves at the horrors done in the name of Judaism. Gaza is a ghetto being shelled.”
This would-be parliamentary candidate, who is a barrister, believes that the six million Jewish souls, who weren’t even fortunate enough to have graves, died with dignity.
On the 16,000 person-strong Labour forum that Harris ‘moderates’, the above sentiment is tame. One comment of many claimed that Zionists exhibit ‘learned behaviour’ from the Nazis, another said that an Israeli MP should be ‘put to sleep like a rabid dog’ yet another expressed his frustration at the evils of Zionism by saying that he now boycotts Jewish people.
Or comments like this on The We Trust and Support Jeremy Corbyn Facebook Group
Fourteen people liked that comment.
This is what comes from a politics where Israel is placed at the centre of the world as a unique evil. It is what passes for normal everyday conversation on the plethora of pro-Jeremy Corbyn Facebook groups.
Most Labour members are genuinely disgusted by the antisemitism but there is a further culture of denial. Those who spend inordinate amounts of time downplaying, denying and obfuscating for pretty much every single instance of antisemitism in the party. Mike Sivier mostly fits into this category and is a decent, and often comical, case study in examining the lengths that anti-racists can go to deny racism.
Once the Al Jazeera ‘sting’ The Lobby had been aired, Sivier’s blog reached conspiratorial hysteria. Defences of Jackie Walker’s disgusting comments were numerous. Reflexive, unthinking defences of antisemitic statements and actions clogged up his feed.
On the Al Jazeera doc: nothing encapsulates Labour’s Jewish problem more than the 2016 Conference, where being Jewish marked you out for secret surveillance, entrapment and covert filming by Al Jazeera.
In spite of wining and dining a junior Israeli Embassy official for months – eventually succeeding in entrapping him to say a handful of incriminating words, the other two hours of this documentary were contemporary antisemitism’s answer to Flat Earth Theory. This documentary was nevertheless heralded as proof positive the Elders of Zion were alive and kicking in the Labour Party.
More needs to be said about this documentary, which accused the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) of making false accusations of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israel.
What actually happened to Jewish people at that conference in 2016 went more like this:
Essential reading on this can be found in David Hirsh’s full statement about what it felt like to be spied on for no greater crime than for being Jewish and a scholar of contemporary antisemitism.
“This man who posed as somebody who had read, understood and liked my work, this man who said he wanted to learn from me, at my university, was actually an antisemite who was hoping to portray me in an antisemitic way as part of an antisemitic project. Of course it is likely that he doesn’t understand himself as an antisemite at all. He understands himself as a hero of the Palestinian revolution. Or whatever. But he had read my work. He should know better.”
Sivier clearly has a weakness for conspiracism. He appeared on conspiracy radio show The Richie Allen Show in 2015, which is sponsored by David Icke. In one piece on Vox Political he references “Rothschild merchant bankers” – an antisemitic conspiracy theory all of its own – so it was a natural fit for Sivier to take The Lobby documentary as conclusive evidence that the antisemitism row was being manufactured in order to… go on, guess?
Shortly before the May 2017 local election, in which Sivier was standing as a candidate, his membership was suspended pending a hearing.
The absurdity of Labour’s antisemitism issue is elucidated in no clearer terms than the spectre of pro-Corbyn journalists writing articles claiming antisemitism in Labour is being manufactured, then subsequently being suspended from Labour for antisemitism. Kerry Anne-Mendoza, editor-in-chief of The Canary, who composes pieces comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, would presumably be similarly afflicted.
So these are examples of what Sivier has written. Links are provided as the author is insisting he has been taken out of context.
- Written over a dozen articles defending Ken Livingstone’s assertion that the man who wanted to murder all the Jews also wanted them to be free. (before he went mad)
- Written a defence of the memes that Naz Shah shared (for which she apologised) on the bizarre grounds that one of the memes was first published by Jewish anti-Zionist Norman Finkelstein. Not that it matters but no, it wasn’t.
- Defended the SWP from charges of antisemitism for leaving Jews off the list of Holocaust victims. As you do. It was apparently just political correctness (although not gone mad thankfully)
“Your reference to the SWP in 2008 – I’m not going to comment on ‘thousands’ instead of “millions” because I don’t know, but the Nazi holocaust involved many other groups as well as Jews, and it seems likely that the SWP was simply being ‘politically correct’.”
- Defended Jackie Walker’s disgraceful comments at Labour Conference and her previous comment… “Many Jews were chief financiers of the slave trade (my ancestors TOO)” even teaming up with Tony Greenstein for good measure.
For the uninitiated: Greenstein is a Jewish anti-Zionist, suspended from Labour for… go on, have a stab? He is now part of the Labour Against The Witch-hunt gang. When not anti-Zioning around, you may find him sending young Jewish women in the Labour Party tweets like this:
- In the comments section of Vox Political, Sivier defended an antisemite who claimed, “Zionists start more wars and cause more murders than any other organisation…”
Sivier is probably more ignorant than antisemitic but it’s worth looking at this exchange to see how he dispatches the person (a Jew) who protested that the comment was antisemitic.
- Defended Maalia Bouattia’s charming line about “Zionist-led media outlets”
“Your comment about Maalia Bouattia conflates Zionism with Judaism and so I discount it out-of-hand. The two are not the same and unless you have performed extensive research into what she meant and why she meant it, you have no business making such a suggestion.”
- Suggested the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) are a front organisation for the Israeli government. In the comments section he agrees with the statement that UJS (which supports a two-state solution to the conflict) are “radicalised extremists.”
- Defended Tam Dalyell’s comment that Tony Blair was “unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers” from the charge of antisemitism:-
“I would point out that (without further information) concerns that Tony Blair was being “unduly influenced” by “a cabal of Jewish advisors” may have been entirely justified. No UK prime minister should be biased towards any special-interest group but should work for the benefit of everybody.”
- Also a handy reminder that re-tweeting ‘anti-Zionists’ who put the word Holocaust in speech marks is never the best look.
(Word to the wise: I think you’re supposed to criticise the Holocaust.)
- Claimed the Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby proved the conspiracy of an antisemitism witch-hunt and insisted, for some reason that Jonathan Arkush – the President of the Board of Deputies – should be “pulled in and checked out”.
“It is time to root out every last one of these operators.
Anybody who has been involved in the anti-Semitism witch-hunt within the Labour Party last summer needs to be pulled in and checked out. That includes Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes blog. It includes John Mann, who accused Ken Livingstone. Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who gave evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee when it was accusing Mr Corbyn, would be worth questioning – as would every member of the committee itself, as their performances in the evidence sessions made it clear that they had already made up their minds before asking a single question.”
- Went on to claim that ‘these people’ who are part of the ‘antisemitism witch hunt’ were ‘very dangerous indeed’ but thankfully haven’t resorted to light munitions yet.
“I was warned off, you know. Good friends told me to be very careful of what I was saying, because the people I was accusing are “very dangerous indeed”.
Maybe they are, but facts have a habit of getting out. And while my articles back then produced a strong opposing – verbal – reaction from certain of our favourite figures and organisations (including a few of the kind of ad hominem claims mentioned below) there have been no bullets or bombs (yet).”
- When Livingstone’s case was finally heard ,Sivier jumped back into action – chalking up yet more articles about Hitler’s philo-Zionism.
- Rebuffed David Baddiel’s emotive statement on why Livingstone’s comments were vile and calibrated to cause offence.
- When Jeremy Corbyn and Dianne Abbott spoke out strongly against Livingstone’s historical revisionism it didn’t give Sivier pause, instead he doubled down with conspiratorial aplomb.
And on and on…
This is new-left media. It is to the Jew what the worst aspects of the right-wing press are to the immigrant. That’s why the great and good of new-left media, such as the editor-in-chief of The Canary, know who the real victim in all this is.
The State of Play
None of the above is now considered sufficient to expel someone from the Labour Party.
The NEC, now with a Momentum majority including Jon Lansman, its sole owner, voted to downgrade Sivier’s recommended expulsion to a warning with training. At Limmud last month Lansman said there was “no place for Zionist conspiracies in Labour”
I’m going to stick my neck out here and call… bullshit.
According to today’s Guardian, Labour’s zero tolerance policy on antisemitism now extends to downgrading recommended sanctions for people who deem the term ‘yid’ acceptable.
It just gets worse every day for Jews in the Labour Party. Life-long Labour member Peter Hutchinson claims, “When Darren Williams and Christine Shawcroft came to our CLP they both defended Livingstone strongly.”
Williams, also of Momentum, yesterday even took to Twitter to declare that Sivier was the real victim.
A telling admission from Williams, as Sivier’s warning and referral for training still implies guilt. Although training is certainly a worthwhile endeavour, most of it will be pointless. Antisemitism exists in the conspiracy theory and as such is unfalsifiable. Any evidence given to contradict the conspiracy theory is taken as the very essence of its validity. That’s why Sivier has immediately announced that he is refusing the training as he believes the Jewish Labour Movement are part of the “very dangerous indeed” group of people who are part of the conspiracy unearthed in The Lobby documentary.
The Jewish Labour Movement could not possibly be motivated by a wish to talk rationally and calmly and educate people about Jewish life and contemporary antisemitism with a view to making the left less hostile to Jewish people than it feels to them at the moment. Honestly, who’d believe a story like that?
Plus there is also a case to be made for ignorance no longer being an excuse, particularly if you are member of a political party and your task is to knock on doors and persuade the public to think like you.
Sivier’s case is important. He didn’t come to these conclusions through an obsessive hatred of Israel and Zionism. He got there via Livingstone and transmitted his supreme ignorance to thousands of leftists desperate to believe that any criticism of Corbyn’s Labour is a smear, even if that means closing their ears to the genuine concerns of an ethnic minority.
The ballad of Mike Sivier is a marker of Livingstone and the damage he has wrought.