To those following the saga of antisemitism in the Labour Party it came as no surprise to see the issue back in headlines as Luciana Berger, the Jewish Labour MP for Wavertree Liverpool, faced a motion of no confidence from her own constituency Labour Party (CLP) for being critical of Jeremy Corbyn. Even though the motion didn’t explicitly mention antisemitism it became inescapable not to see it a causing factor given most of Berger’s criticisms of the Labour leadership stem from their inability to deal with the corrosive issue of anti-Jewish hatred in the party, which she herself had become a lightening rod for. A few days later, Berger, along with seven other Labour MP’s resigned from the party citing antisemitism as a major, if not defining, factor. With a Jewish Labour MP hounded out of the Labour Party because of racism, the debate on antisemitism in the party has reached a point of singularity. By examining in detail what happened to her the entire culture of conspiratorial antisemitism, that has become endemic in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, can be laid bare.
Over the past three years Berger has been subjected to an insidious campaign of abuse, on and off social media, from a section of Jeremy Corbyn’s support base; it reached a crescendo before and after the Labour Conference when it was revealed that she had police protection with her. This revelation resulted in a crusade of dehumanising conspiracy theory and vilification by a raft of pro-Corbyn blogs and media outlets, led by Skwawkbox, which even went so far as to call for her deselection.
Deselection because she needed security?
If this makes no sense, allow me the time to unpack and explain how the antisemitism industry works on the British left.
An ecosystem of left antisemitism, in and around the Labour Party, has emerged over the past 3 years. Key workings include: vast echo chambers on Facebook where pro-Corbyn groups with up to 60,000 people share posts to re-enforce their own views. Unchallenged antisemitic content is a regular feature in many of these groups. In a recent piece for the Guardian, Rachel Shabi concluded that “parts of the Corbyn-supporting social media apparatus are being used, by some, not just to support the Labour leader but, effectively, for antisemitism grooming.”
People who challenge the antisemitic content on many of these forums are removed from the group, an experience I had myself when reporting out-right Holocaust denial on The Labour Party Forum (16,000 members) to one of its administrators (the people responsible for removing abusive or hateful content) only be told I was a “frothing Hasbara troll”. (Hasbara is the public-relation effort to disseminate positive information abroad about the State of Israel). In fact in many of these groups it is the moderators themselves who post the antisemitic content.
Pro-Corbyn media blogs and fake news websites are the only trusted news source on these forums. Skwawkbox, the Canary, Another Angry Voice, amongst others, pump out pro-Corbyn propaganda to satiate a huge captive audience disenfranchised with the Mainstream Media (MSM) who they, with some justification, feel is overtly hostile to the Labour leadership and to Jeremy Corbyn himself. Many of their most widely circulated articles are on the issue of antisemitism itself, where there is a huge market for antisemitism “denialism”. The people who run these sites feed their pieces into the aforementioned Facebook forums and Twitter where they go viral. This creates a feedback loop. The media outlets which deny antisemitism in Labour simultaneously sustain and nourish the very culture of antisemitism they seek to deny.
The thing about feedback loops is that they have a tendency to get louder.
I first noticed the intense hatred towards Luciana Berger two years ago in early 2017. Having been shocked at some of the antisemitism in the largest Labour Party Forum I took a peek in a group billed as being for people who “Trust and Support Jeremy Corbyn”. Immediately I found myself reading a thread spawned from an article about Momentum seizing control of Berger’s CLP in Wavertree. The article had nothing to do with antisemitism, nor did it mention her ethnicity. The top comment on the forum read, “She is a Zionist parasite.” More comments followed in a similar vein. A reply soon came: “Does Zionist mean Jew?” to which another forum member responded, “They are as bad, if not worse than the Nazis.” (At the last count over 90% of British Jews in some way identify with Israel/Zionism and would be covered in this person’s description of them as Nazis.)
More alarmingly there was almost no dissenting voices. There it sat, a Labour supporter being groomed to view most Jews as the most evil thing you can possibly be. A Nazi. I often think back to that moment when reading stories about Jewish people who no longer attend CLP meetings because of the open hostility towards them should they dare raise the issue of antisemitism. Because what happens online doesn’t stay online. Where is that person now who learned that I am like a Nazi? Is he now one of those people who submits antisemitic motions and whispers acrid jibes when a Jew dares to speak out against antisemitism in their CLP?
“Zio. Jew. Nazi.”
Further down that thread came perhaps the most worrying comment. For context: a far-right thug had just been imprisoned for threatening to kill Berger and her family in 2013, he was one of four people who have been convicted for committing antisemitic acts towards her. As she described in her testimony in Parliament, “three of those were of a far right persuasion, including a member of the now proscribed National Action organisation. In the wake of one of those convictions, a far right website in the United States initiated the #filthyjewbitch campaign in 2014, which the police said resulted in me receiving over 2,500 violent, pornographic and extreme anti-Semitic messages in just one day alone.” After the final successful conviction in early 2017 she appeared on Channel 5’s daily current affairs programme The Wright Stuff to talk about her ordeal. If you think factional Labour politics would be cast aside when it came to showing solidarity with a Jewish female Labour MP whose family’s lives had been threatened by Nazis, then you haven’t been paying attention, “I find her extremely manipulative… her performance on The Wright Stuff was almost Oscar worthy, she always plays the victim for being Jewish or being a woman.”
That comment, dripping with misogyny, was one of the most popular in the thread. It was written by a woman.
Fast forward a couple of years and there are now two further convictions for people who have racially abused or threatened Berger, and at least one more being investigated. The only difference is that none of them were from the far-right, they all identified on the left and two were members or ex-members of the Labour Party and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.
The scale of the hatred, the lies and the antisemitic abuse that now exists online towards Berger has to be seen to be believed, even more shocking is how much of it comes from the left.
One fact that has got lost in the debate around Luciana Berger is that she actually served in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet for the first year, resigning when she, along with 171 colleagues, submitted a vote of no confidence in their leader. Despite several statements against Ken Livingstone’s Holocaust revision, Berger herself had not been at the centre of the row. In fact when Berger’s CLP in Wavertree was captured by Momentum, one member made a rather vituperative statement saying that Luciana Berger will “now have to answer to us” and her response was nothing short of placatory, agreeing to work together to bring about a Labour government. She continued gaining the respect of her fellow Parliamentarians with her dedicated advocacy for mental health, doggedly holding this parody of a Conservative government to account for their shameful lack of provision. Despite a lot of propaganda about Berger’s CLP always being hostile to her due to her being “parachuted’ in (despite winning a selection contest fair and square) a long serving activist in her CLP told me, “Nothing could be further from the truth. Her greatest support has some from long standing members, regardless of who they supported during that selection process, including one of the other candidates. The abuse and bullying has all been from members either new (or rejoined) since 2015 or not active until emboldened by JC leadership.”
Only when it emerged that Corbyn had defended an antisemitic mural did Berger really become a focal point in the antisemitism debate.
Disgusted at this slight of hand from the Leader of the Opposition’s Office (LOTO) – as Corbyn’s comment in support of the mural was clearly much more that a freedom of speech argument – Berger held their hands to the fire. This incident came shortly after news had surfaced that Corbyn had been an active member of a highly antisemitic Facebook group and had commented on threads where others were using antisemitic language. Although this got little traction in the MSM, it reverberated widely amongst British Jewry. The idea that Corbyn could not have seen the antisemitic material in the group was impossible to swallow. And after two years of incidents, cover-ups and fudges, Britain’s mainstream Jewish community finally said Enough is Enough and took to Parliament Square in protest. I was in that number. Luciana Berger, amongst other Labour MPs, spoke at the demo.
The antisemitism denial industry led by pro-Corbyn media immediately went into overdrive whilst torrents of abuse, much of it antisemitic, was directed at Berger and other Jewish and non-Jewish MPs who attended. Thangham Debbonaire was summoned to her CLP to “explain herself”, David Lammy, amongst others, faced calls for his deselection.
In response to the first Jewish anti-racist demo in Britain since the Second World War, Kerry-Anne Mendoza, editor-in-chief of new-left media site The Canary, re-published a completely fictitious story which claimed that Israel had a put up a $1million bounty for Labour insiders to bring down pro-Corbyn MP’s.
The inference was clear: those in Labour who protest against antisemitism in the party do so at the behest of an all-powerful evil Jewish collective, Israel. And do so for monetary gain. If you want to see an example of contemporary left-wing antisemitism in action – conspiracy theory, nefarious influence, illegitimate finance and dual-loyalty, all shrouded in anti-Zionism – this one’s got the lot.
Skwawkbox took the creative approach of emailing all the Labour MP’s who attended the demo with a demand that they supply a list of all other minorities they had spoken up for.
Rule of thumb in “Corbyn’s Labour”; if you speak up for Jews in the party who are suffering antisemitism you need to prove you don’t have an ulterior motive. This rule applies to Jews and only to Jews. Amen.
A smaller publication in Manchester, The Word Magazine, whose manifesto states that “the politics of this project are broadly in line with those of Jeremy Corbyn” produced a response to the demo which was redolent of 1930’s anti-Jewish propaganda.
In the days after the demo, Berger told of how she had received emails telling her to kill herself. “Momentum will be watching you Luciana… resign or perhaps kill yourself so that an actual Labour MP can take your place, Tory cunt.”
Jewish Labour councillor Adam Langleben told of abuse and violent threats filling his inbox.
It got so bad that a few days after the demo Luciana Berger was forced to call the police in, she said at the time, “I also have a responsibility to my staff. Their time last week was largely taken up with contending with people calling my office and literally screaming down the phone. They’ve had to give statements to the police about the threats they’ve been on the receiving end of, and been exposed to violent emails and messages on my social media. I’m very concerned about the impact it has had on them.”
During an antisemitism debate in Parliament the following month Luciana Berger gave harrowing testimony about the antisemitic abuse she faced, including from within her own party: “There are people who have accused me of having two masters. They have said that I am Tel Aviv’s servant, and called me a paid-up Israeli operative. Essentially, this is anti-Semitism of the worst kind, suggesting that I am a traitor to our country. They have called me Judas, a Zionazi and an absolute parasite, and they have told me to get out of this country and go back to Israel.”
Below is a snapshot of the reactions to that testimony on one pro-Corbyn Facebook group: “Jeremy Corbyn – True Socialism”
It is in this climate that convictions and police investigations against Labour supporters have now been brought so it was no wonder that come the 2018 Labour conference in Liverpool it was deemed necessary for Berger to be issued with police protection – just as Ruth Smeeth was issued with at the previous conference.
Step forward Skwawkbox and possibly the most sordid chapter in this affair:
Berger Escort Trutherism
Skwawkbox is a pro-Corbyn blog written, and I use that term loosely, by Steve Walker a member of the Labour Party who sits as chair of Haleswood & Garston CLP in Liverpool.
Skwawkbox differs from other pro-Corbyn blogs as it is an open secret that it is briefed by (unknown) senior source(s) in the Labour Party. Ann Black who finished her 25 year tenure on Labour’s National Executive Committee opined in her last dispatch of how details of the meeting had already been published in Skwawkbox by the time it was over. The results of the NEC election were given to the site four hours before they became available to the press.
Skwawkbox readers are fed on a hyper-partisan diet of fake-news, double-think and conspiracy theory that Pravda would approve. As Private Eye recently revealed, numerous outstanding cases for incorrect reporting from independent media regulator Impress, are for Skwawkbox alone.
One particularly egregious example was an entirely fake story about the government putting a ‘D’ notice to hide the true death toll of the Grenfell fire. Like the most sinister tabloid hack, Walker wasted no time in picking over remains of the dead to find a conspiracist tract for his website that would go viral.
The publication has been accused of harassing moderate female Labour MP’s including the “deeply sinister bullying” of Stella Creasy over her attendance of a Shed Seven gig, with several colleagues, including a Tory MP. I mean, there were better 90’s indie bands but still…
Most recently, after a young woman on Question Time told of how Corbyn’s equivocation on Brexit had resulted in her withdrawing her support for him, Walker put out a call on social media for her to be identified.
Public show trials for dissent, they’re all the rage this season.
On antisemitism in the Labour Party: Skwawkbox has been at the forefront of spewing out disinformation and conspiracy theory about Jewish identity and antisemitism, trolling Jewish communal institutions with relish; even taking the side of the most reactionary elements of British Jewry if they buck the overwhelming trend within the community of showing any support for Jeremy Corbyn. In March of this year Walker promoted a letter defending Corbyn from the charge of antisemitism by Charedi Rabbi Shraga Stern, who at the time was part of the anti-gay demonstration at a Birmingham school, protesting against LGBTQ awareness education.
Stern had also identified Rabbi Pinter, a former Labour Councillor, as a “kapo”. The most despicable moniker a Jew can assign to another Jew. The result is Skwawkbox’s readership, who identify as socialists, trolling Jewish communal organisations in tandem with some of the most homophobic, ultra-conservative fringe elements in the Jewish community; all in a bid to deceive its readers that Jewish people are more divided on the issue of Labour antisemitism than they really are.
This would almost funny were it not part of a constant assault on Jewish identity which is then taken up by a large chunk of people involved in the Corbyn project.
The necessity of this is paramount for much of the Corbyn faithful because in their heart of hearts they know that when a minority group, virtually en masse, complains of discrimination the left has to down-tools and listen. The only antidote is to disseminate lies. To fabricate stories about what Jews really think, who they really are. Take for example the 2018 local elections, Labour lost Barnet council (one of the few places in the country where the Jewish vote matters), Jews deserted Labour almost completely, local canvassers reported unprecedented hostility on the doorstep. In Kersal, Salford, the council ward with the largest percentage of Jews in Britain (41%) there was a dramatic swing from Labour to Tory, supposedly the most in any ward.
Rather than concede that a racialized minority group was genuinely affected by racism, Skwawkbox did this instead:
The old MSM conspiracy. Gateshead may be known for its sizeable Jewish population but Jews make up less than 0.4% of the British population and their voting intentions have real impact in only a few wards and parishes, certainly not Gateshead where Jews only make up a small percentage of the local populace. Fake news. Fake news that hurts, that matters. To Jews and to Jews alone. As a personal aside, it’s this charade that pierces the heart most keenly. It hurts more than the Holocaust denying Labour candidates or the thirty local members that complained about the suspension of one of the Holocaust denying candidates. It’s this. The attempt to erase our opinion from the record. This darkness at noon. What are you without an opinion?
Several months later, when rumours began to circulate that Luciana Berger needed police protection to attend the Labour Conference several MSM news outlets ran stories about it, some capturing photographs of her with police officers.
Subsequently Andrew Marr quizzed Corbyn about it during a lengthy interview at the start of the Conference – which we’ll come back to. SPOILER: I’m going to criticise him.
Skwawkbox then ran a piece with the headline “No security for Luciana Berger IN #Lab18 Why Not Set Record Straight.” Not even a question mark in sight.
The gist being that Berger had been seen inside the Conference without an escort.
Liverpool Police had responded to Skwawkbox’s request for information. They confirmed that no one needed “armed” protection but several people had been issued with additional security. Obviously the police don’t give sensitive and confidential security details out to the public, let alone to conspiracist bloggers who are harassing her; and although Berger had been photographed numerous times accompanied by police officers outside the secure zone, and the threats made to her and her staff from people associated with the party were of public record, it was considered enough to spin a story where the onus was place at Berger’s door to set the record straight.
There is something demeaning and quite filthy about having to set said record straight; like picking bits of excrement out of a sewer whilst bucketloads more pour on top of you.
Armed and unarmed police along with stewards are a heavy visible presence in the Conference secure zone but many conference events are held outside this area – such as the Jewish Labour Movement rally which Berger was escorted to and from. This is still part of the conference and these events appear on the official conference guide. Most pro-Corbyn media outlets made the issue about a few news reports not differentiating between inside and outside the secure zone, not, of course, that a Jewish Labour MP needed police protection in the first place. Rather creepily, Walker himself admitted to observing her leaving the secure zone with police!
And as if it could get any worse, he even made me use an exclamation mark there.
So hungry is the appetite for minimising and denying antisemitism in the Labour Party that the piece got shared many thousands of times across social media. Berger was constructed as a liar, the photographs were staged, she’s set them up to damage the party’s reputation. Facebook groups filled up with the bile, thousands of tweets sent to her everyday. Liar, false flag, Zionist, Israel agent.
(Facebook group Jeremy Corbyn – True Socialism)
Remember that Berger hadn’t spoken about her security detail publicly but nevertheless was constructed by new-left media as an evil dissembler engaged in a conspiratorial act of sabotage working hand in hand with the media. Narratives which are a perfect fit for an antisemitic worldview.
So was born an army of “Berger Escort Truthers”. Human Rights Lawyer, Adam Wagner, Jewish himself, described this episode as “the most extraordinary and depressing of all the issues around Labour antisemitism.”
This is straight up totalitarian politics in action. Berger could never be a victim. A Jewish woman, an anti-corbyn Jewish woman, the worst thing you can possibly be. The findings of a report unveiled at the recent Sara Conference on antisemitism – convened because there are now provable links between antisemitism and misogyny – revealed that Jewish women receive over 15% more abuse than their male counterparts, and from what many us witness everyday, it feels like a lot more than 15%.
When news of Berger’s police escort was reported in one pro-Corbyn blog, Vox Political, written by Mike Sivier, the by-line simply stated, “you reap what you sow.”
She was asking for it, lads.
*And just a quick note for all you pro-Corbyn bloggers out there, if you feel the need to write “anti-semitism” in speech marks, why not just write, “I hate Jews” instead?
So where was Jeremy Corbyn in all this you may ask? Was he telling that section of his support base who find it palatable to spam social media with antisemitic abuse directed at Berger using the #JC4PM tag to wind their necks in? I’d like to use his well worn phrase of being present but not involved but it doesn’t quite cover his complicity. On an interview with Andrew Marr on the eve of conference where he was shown a picture of Berger with a police escort, he truculently responded, “There is no threat being made in this conference to anybody.”
It’s worth watching this to see how Corbyn not only evades the meat of the issue but is unable to show any empathy for his own Jewish MP needing police protection. Corbyn took the Skwawkbox line. When pushed about the abuse she was on the receiving end of he managed to splutter his condemnation of antisemitism in those general terms he is so fond of: he is against all bad stuff.
Well so is Skwawkbox, it says so. So do the people over on the Facebook forums which bear his name, who thought it acceptable to refer to Luciana Berger as a “cancer” that needs to be gotten rid of.
“There is no threat being made IN this conference to anybody!”
Jeremy Corbyn could not be more complicit in this if he tried.
The stark truth is that no matter how many times Corbyn proclaims his opposition to antisemitism, Steve Walker and the phalanx of pro-Corbyn bloggers fermenting this ancient hatred are not receiving any signals that they are doing anything that the Labour leadership does not want them to do.
Within ten days of the Labour Conference Skwawkbox had found another Jewish target in Jon Lansman, the founder of Momentum, the pro-Corbyn pressure group. The knives had been out for Lansman, as they are for all those perceived to be but the most ideologically pure Jews, since Momentum, to their credit, removed Pete Willsman from their “slate” for the upcoming NEC elections for his unhinged conspiratorial rant about “Jewish Trump fanatics” manufacturing antisemitism. (Momentum only removed Willsman from their slate after his rant became public despite Lansman being present in the meeting).
Lansman’s head was next on the block and what better way to indict him than for his alleged suggestion that deselecting a pregnant Jewish female MP in the midst of a catalogue of abuse might be bad optics.
Read all about it: EVIL JEW CONSPIRES TO HELP OTHER EVIL JEW
So the hate intensified.
And the penance exacted on Luciana Berger for being a victim of antisemitism didn’t end there, rather like the proverbial snowball it was gathering Momentum.
On Question Time over two months after the conference, a Conservative MP, Clare Perry, attacked Labour for antisemitism and mentioned Berger’s police protection. The morning after Berger woke up to thousands of tweets, as usual, most were abusive, many antisemitic.
Once again Berger was found guilty of not doing anything. Few people on the Corbyn left have managed to work out yet that if they don’t want the Tories to “weaponise” antisemitism they should stop supplying them with endless rounds of ammunition. The incredulity on display from so many people that a rival political party would attack you for one of your biggest weaknesses is, well… incredulous.
An incredulity perhaps matched only by Jewish people watching the left prevaricate over the “weaponisation” of a form of racism which exists in a vacuum whereby no other form of racism has ever been described as being weaponised. They call it “walking and chewing gum.” We call it bullshit.
Presumably out of patience, Berger finally responded with a Twitter thread explaining that she did need a security detail but is restricted by a certain amount of confidentiality and expressed her distress at being targeted in this way..
Skwawkbox/Steve Walker responded thus:
Two days later he was still at it…
The thrust being that none of the abuse of was coming from people associated with Labour.
But Steve Walker knew that this was not true.
Not only had such threats been a matter of public record for over a year, Walker had reported on it himself several weeks earlier. God I hate writing this.
A whistle-blower in the Labour Party had given a dossier of alleged antisemitic hate-crimes, committed by members of the Labour Party, to LBC. Contained in it was at least one threat to Luciana Berger made by a Labour member: this “Zionist extremist” was apparently “going to get a good kicking.” (Which Berger referred to in her final tweet in the thread Walker replied to). The party had not informed her about the threat and in fact had sat on it for six months, hence the need for a whistle-blower.
After the release of the dossier, the backlash from pro-Corbyn media was predictable. Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media led the charge: “a story made by the media for the media” he spat out on Twitter as he shared Skwawkbox’s whitewash of the dossier.
You can tell a lot about an organisation by how it treats its whistleblowers.
Four arrests have so far been made due to the contents of the dossier.
Novara Media is supposedly the more respectable new-left media outlet but couldn’t bring themselves to condemn the contents of a dossier of hate-crime against Jewish members of the Labour Party before trying to discredit it. It is after all asking an awful lot of the British Left in 2019.
Pulling the same stunt they did with Berger’s security at conference, Skwawkbox took a virtually non-existent error in the reporting to engineer a rebuke to the dossier; Walker made the story about how it wasn’t the Labour Party itself that was under investigation. And that it condemns all abuse. Just like its leader. Just like its readers. Walker neglected to comment on the threat to Berger.
So given that context it makes it these responses even more degenerate:
Stalinism in action
Walker then publishes yet another piece on Berger, doubling down on his previous fake news.
Now mark that. Confessed.
Luciana Berger had “confessed” about a claim that she never made in the first place on a matter of absolutely no relevance. People who have done wrongdoing – criminals and sinners – confess. Victims of racism, who have had death threats issued to themselves and their families, do not confess. The charge-sheet: not responding to a conspiracist bloggers demand, who had previously harassed her, for highly sensitive and confidential information about her security arrangements, which if given out publicly could endanger her and family even more. She had become Josef K.
And it should be noted: Steve Walker is a member of the all the Facebook forums featured in this piece and injects his fake news about Jews and antisemitism directly into the bloodstream of these extremist groups. Other pro-Corbyn bloggers do similar.
So to recap: A week after Steve Walker twists a story about a dossier of anti-Semitic hate crime carried out by Labour members – which contains at least one physical threat to Luciana Berger – he follows it with an article rebuking the notion that any threats had been made against her by people associated with Labour and then retweets a declaration that Berger deserves to be deselected… for not confirming that she had threats made against her from a Labour supporter. And that is the most maddening paragraph I will ever write.
This is where we are. All of the above is not only compatible with membership of the Labour Party but you can do this as chair of a CLP, with the ear of the Labour leadership and be celebrated by a significant slice of the Corbyn left. Skwawkbox is also regularly championed by Chris Williamson MP.
The Twitter account Walker retweeted @warmongerhodges is one of the many anonymous Twitter accounts which relentlessly troll Jews on the issue of antisemitism. This account has 20,000 followers, claims to be a Labour member and is named after Holocaust survivor Hajo Meyer, whose photograph is used as the avatar.
If this seems strange then you’ve obviously missed the bit about Hajo Meyer being one of the only Holocaust survivors to have tragically disseminated ideas which are considered antisemitic. Meyer compared Israel to Nazi Germany on numerous occasions, claimed Mossad were responsible for 9/11 and that Israel are behind ISIS.
This is the sewer that currently Jewish people inside (and outside) the Labour Party exist in. Predatory antisemites mining the history of a confused and very old Jewish Holocaust survivor to use as cover for their own bigotry.
And the narrative span by many left-wing commentators, that the antisemitism is transmitted by a “tiny minority” of Labour activists is shown to be untrue when one considers how much traction these accounts get.
The Lynch Mob Epithet
One of the most callous and dangerous aspects of the saga is the attempt to turn other minority groups against the Jewish community. Jews are not only accused of opposing antisemitism to silence legitimate criticism of Israel (although I do wish they’d just get on with criticising Israel and leave us Jews alone) but the old tropes of Jews being an enemy of socialism have returned. The official policy of Labour against The Witchunt – a group launched to defend members accused of antisemitism – explains: “The Zionist lobby will do anything to prevent Jeremy Corbyn, an outspoken supporter of the rights of the Palestinians to become Prime Minister, they cannot be relied on to run capital in their interests.”
Alongside these slanders Jews are charged with oppressing other minority groups. Jackie Walker expelled from Labour for “grossly prejudicial behaviour” for a litany of comments, has likened her treatment to being strung up from a tree by racists. Her play The Lynching frequently plays to audiences of Labour activists up and down the country, and is championed by now suspended MP Chris Williamson. After the Enough is Enough demo Walker made a video titled “Reflections of the last week’s nonsense on antisemitism and the Labour Party”, she said “There is a hierarchy of race, we all know it. We know that there are some groups that are seen as more important than others. We know that there are some groups who can get to the media more than others”. Walker also attacked people at the demo as being, “absolute enemies of Muslims, enemies of people of colour, enemies of our tolerant society.”
Despite timely interventions from the left-wing Black, Asian, Jewish Alliance (BAJA), all of these wanton narratives inevitably spilled over into the treatment of Luciana Berger. When Marc Wadsworth’s suspension hearing took place at Labour HQ after he verbally abused Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth at the launch of the Chakrabati report – a crowd of people involved in Labour Against The Witch Hunt gathered outside replete with megaphones and “Justice for Wadsworth” signs. In response, Smeeth was escorted by her closest friends and colleagues from Parliament into the building. Predictably this was turned against Smeeth in the blogs and fake-news websites by marking her out as the oppressor rather than the victim – a definitive marker of antisemitism, the racism that views its victims through a lens of power and privilege.
It was also noticeable that out of all MP’s who escorted Smeeth into the building it was Luciana Berger who attracted the most vitriol. And the metaphor repeatedly used, mostly by non-Jewish white people, was of a “lynching” taking place, and the epithet has stuck. Perilously so. Also as an indefectible example of how Jews are gaslit by their tormentors in the Labour Party, Ruth Smeeth had two choices… walk alone through a crowd of people shrieking at her and waving placards in her face or receive visible support from colleagues and be equated to a racist murderer.
The top two tweets above were shared or liked over 5000 times. Which mean their “impressions” (how many people see the tweet) would have been in the hundreds of thousands. The language we use, the epithets we choose, matter. They have real-life consequences for people.
It must be emphasised that the antisemitism shown in this piece is not indicative of an entire political movement, my friends and acquaintances who are broadly supportive of the Corbyn project are genuinely disgusted by the antisemitism on display from some of their supposed comrades. There are many people on the Corbyn left who agree that Skwawkbox and The Canary is an embarrassment to the left and did pushback against “Berger Escort Trutherism”, problem is that the antisemites and their more numerous enablers are far louder, their ideas are disseminated in the blogs and on the forums to a huge political movement, virtually without challenge, and the leadership, unable or unwilling to turn back the tide of this rising culture, remain totally complicit.
Finally came the vote of no confidence motion issued against Luciana Berger by members of her own CLP. The motion stated that it was because of her public criticism of Corbyn. Most of the public criticism came because of the leadership’s inability to deal with antisemitism and lack of support offered to her so, whether directly or indirectly, the motion had everything to so with antisemitism. Publicly swear allegiance to the man whose name the abuse is carried out in or you will be deselected.
The reaction on two pro-Corbyn Facebook groups to the no confidence vote:
After this episode, sociologist and scholar of left antisemitism David Hirsh commented, “This specific phenomenon occurs at the intersection between antisemitism and sexism. It is more than the sum of the two structures of illegitimate power. It is something specific and something shocking.”
If you’ve been thinking “well these are just internet cranks, they’re nothing to do with the Labour Party” then I’m afraid you’re in for shock. I posted the comments directly above on Twitter and Momentum asked me submit a complaint, to which I duly obliged. They found 14 people, (just under 50% of those in the screenshots), according to their profiles or database, are members of Labour or Momentum. Mostly the former. This is why on the 18th February 2019, Luciana Berger left the party. And this is why eventually other MPs will leave. Antisemitism and misogyny. Visceral. Endless. And even if none were members it wouldn’t make any difference. These people have social media profiles adorned with pictures of the Labour leader, the clenched fist, they promote Labour’s policies, they are activists, they try and persuade others to think like them, its what activists do, and they spread hate against Jews in Britain. It’s unavoidable that to so many Jews, Corbynism means antisemitism. Nothing more, nothing less. (A helpless fact indeed for those more sensible people in the movement).
Indeed, because of this toxic environment many Jewish people I know have admitted that they now view the Labour rose as “a hate symbol.”
Yes, when the violence comes it will mostly be from the far-right and yes, its terrible but the psychological damage is being inflicted by what is now the mainstream left. And the sheer volume and relentlessness of it is making many Jews begin to question their place in British society. Not only does psychological abuse exist on the same moral plane as its physical variant but the section of the left responsible for this is close to power so yes, of course that frightens a great mass of Jewish people. How could it not? As Howard Jacobson opined, “I cannot speak for all Jews but a profound depression has taken hold of those I know.”
Of the four signatories who signed the motion of no confidence in Berger: one was found to have described Berger as a “disruptive Zionist” and another had made appearances on a conspiracy radio show sponsored by David Icke where amongst other things he discusses the legitimacy of the Rothschild conspiracy. SPOILER: He thinks its legit.
Another high-profile Twitter account (#MurdochsDemocracy) with 18,000 followers who identifies on the left and as a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn released this meme about Berger after the no-confidence vote. It was widely shared.
Even campaigning on a different issue, such as a Brexit, didn’t spare Berger from receiving antisemitic abuse, including from those who purport to support the same party. These were some of the responses to a tweet she sent in support of a People’s Vote:
And it didn’t end when Berger left the party. Even her unborn baby wasn’t out of bounds for some as one tweeter threatened her unborn child’s life. On the one hand, the sickening threat was widely condemned across the left, on the other hand viral tweets and Facebook comments abounded from activists on the left saying she should keep her mouth shut about it, including from Labour members.
And yet still the deniers came. It’s a vocation for many. Jewish Voice For Labour – a tiny fringe organisation with a huge following amongst the far-left – who have mastered the dark arts of denial and obfuscation for left antisemitism, recently promoted a piece claiming Berger was lying about threats made to her from people in and around Labour.
The whole cavalcade of Berger Escort Trutherism was there and even apologia for the Labour member who said she “was going to get a good kicking”. Well you’ve got to have a go haven’t you? Apparently the “kicking” for this “zionist extremist” was but a figure of speech. So we can all sleep easy now, thanks guys. The article of course neglected to mention why the police deemed it worthy of investigation. A sordid piece of victim-blaming marinaded in misogyny, from Bob Pitt, formerly of the Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) whose leader, Gerry Healey, was accused of sexually assaulting 26 women.
There are so many more examples of the bullying and racially-charged intimidation against Berger from within Labour that could be included in this piece but there simply isn’t room, but as a final example: The Community Security Trust’s annual report, which once again showed an increase in antisemitic incidents, (at their highest levels since records began in 1984) contained some examples of the abuse Luciana Berger had received, including a letter hand delivered to her office on the eve of the Labour Conference.
There is no way to prove that the person/people who wrote that letter identify on the left and is indeed a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn but is it that hard to believe?
History has shown us many times where narratives like this lead:
One imagines the outcry from the Corbyn-left and its media outriders should The Daily Mail run with the headline: “The Immigrant War Against Theresa May: Risks Bringing Real xenophobia to Britain” – and they would be quite right to do so, yet those pamphleteers such as Owen Jones (correct to highlight the anti-immigrant sentiment stoked in the British press) and the cast of Novara Media; Ash Sarkar, Michael Walker, James Butler and Aaron Bastani, who spent the summer of 2018 making TV appearances arguing against the IHRA definition of antisemitism because it afforded Jews “special protections” can’t muster between them a column about the anti-Jewish hatred stoked in pro-Corbyn fake-news factories like Skwawkbox. And when you consider their daily bread is a war against the MSM it’s no surprise that so many people in the Jewish community, including many on the left, look at these left-wing commentators with nothing but a deep sense disdain and distrust.
Because everything that is thrown at Muslims and immigrants in the pages of our worst right-wing tabloids is thrown at Jews in pro-Corbyn media and where there should be solidarity there is ice in the veins.
All that is left from the rump of the pro-Corbyn commentariat are empty platitudes – antisemitism is a sickening disease that needs eradicating from the Labour movement. The sources of where the disease is being contracted from and how it is spread is never commented on.
Because taking on media outlets like Skwawkbox means taking on the cranks and the antisemites in the new Labour movement. And just as in the NEC elections – where many of the 70,000 votes for Pete Willsman came not in spite of him claiming Jewish Trump fanatics were manufacturing antisemitism but because he’d said it – taking on new-left media risks tearing their political movement apart, thus mainstream Jews – as I am now compelled to call them – are left with the bitterest of tastes as they are forced to listen to the endless drone of whatever hollow rhetoric passes for opposition to antisemitism on the British Left with Jeremy Corbyn at the helm of the Labour Party.
Quite simply antisemitism in the Labour Party is out of control. The Labour establishment will tell you it’s 0.1% of members that are causing this problem, reducing a cultural and institutional problem to a statistical inevitability.
The Labour establishment will tell you that there’s more antisemitism somewhere else. They will tell you it’s a “tiny minority” or a few bad apples. They do this because they cannot engage in discussion about a culture of antisemitism where high-profile social media accounts and blogs gain viral content on the left by inciting hatred towards Britain’s Jewish community. They won’t talk about pro-Corbyn FB groups being used as antisemitic grooming schools and what the real-life consequences of that are, they won’t talk about the Labour leadership’s complicity in every aspect of this, and how, as Jamie Susskind, former staffer of Ed Miliband, stated in his resignation letter, “the Labour Party has now become the foremost expresser of antisemitism in British public life.”
It must also be emphasised how much dignity Luciana has taken all that has been thrown at her. She has fought for herself, her identity and for her people with bravery and honour. The cliché of being “Labour through and through” applies to no-one more than Berger, whose great-uncle Manny Shinwell, a Labour MP, once crossed the floor to strike a Tory MP on the chin who told him to “go back to Poland.” No doubt he’d be proud of how his great-niece has dealt with similar whilst finding it equally incomprehensible to see how much of it has come from her own side. A Jewish female Labour MP has been hounded out of the Labour Party by antisemites, the records will show that, and in my view it will take a generation to wash the stain off.
As Luciana said in her address to the demonstration in Parliament Square just over a year ago: “We have a duty to the next generation. Denial is not an option. Prevarication is not an option. Being a bystander who turns the other way is not an option. The time for action is now. Enough really is enough.”