AntiSemiticGate was ‘engineered’ by a loose alliance of tabloid media, Blairites and, primarily, a far-right blogger, who largely supports Tory extremism. Below is the timeline of what happened. As well as an expose of the main player who appeared to stage-managed the ‘crisis’.
(Note: given the recent – April 2017 – decision to suspend Ken Livingstone from the Labour Party for a further 12 months, I have decided to re-publish this April 2016 article.)
Intro to Mr Fawkes
Paul Staines is otherwise known as the blogger Guido Fawkes. He also has a fascinating history. Staines, worked as “foreign policy analyst” for the Committee for a Free Britain, a right-wing Conservative pressure group, alongside David Hart. Staines also acted as editor of British Briefing, a long-standing publication by the group that was a “monthly intelligence analysis of the activities of the extreme left” that sought to “smear Labour MPs and left-leaning lawyers and writers”. British Briefing was originally called The Background Briefing on Subversion , written by Charles Elwell (formerly of MI5’s F branch which targeted ‘subversives’) and was part of an intelligence operation conducted by Brian Crozier, who was prominent in the Institute for the Study of Conflict.
— Tom Coburg (@Undercoverinfo1) April 29, 2016
Paul Staines likes to boast. Yesterday he published details of the central role he believes he played in organising AntiSemiticGate.
Hoisted by his own petard? No. Because he also knows that the public read and believe a lot of tosh, particular the tosh retailed by the tabloids, which in this particular affair did not just come along for the ride, but smelt blood.
And while Livingstone was the initial target, it was Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who was the ultimate target – the end-game being to see his fall from grace.
Furthermore, Staines knew there were plenty of Brutuses waiting in the wings, their proverbial daggers at the ready. Chief among these was MP John Mann.
The media reaction
But what was not foreseen in this drama was the piss-weak reaction by the left of centre media, which made not the slightest attempt to analyse the real motives involved in this drama. Nor who the real players were. Never mind whether any of the accusations levelled were even remotely true. Journalists ceased being journalists, ignored history, and gave up all pretence of any investigative analysis.
So let’s look at the timeline as to what happened, according to Staines…
- Labour MP: Israelis Should Face “Transportation” Out of Middle East
- Labour MP Compares Naz Shah to Eichmann
- Naz Shah: “The Jews Are Rallying”
- Naz Shah Compared Israelis to Hitler
- Tory MPs Demand Labour Sacks Naz Shah
- Naz Shah Resigns as John McDonnell’s PPS
- Pressure Mounts on Naz Shah
- Naz Shah Runs Charity With Anti-Semitic Labour Councillor
- Naz Shah Employed “Zio”-Hater as Taxpayer-Funded Aide
- Shadow Cabinet Split: Lisa Nandy Tells Corbyn to Sack Naz Shah
- PM: “Extraordinary” Naz Shah Still Has Labour Whip
- Supporting Terror: Naz Shah’s Pro-Hamas Tweets
A narrative explanation
Earlier this week, Staines seized upon some old remarks, made two years back by Labour MP Naseem Shah:, who had shared a Facebook meme, suggesting that Israelis should “relocate” en masse to the United States. It was the sort of comment that some would find extremely insulting; others, possibly ironic.
Shah explained she had made the comments “before I was elected as an MP” and “at the height of the Gaza conflict in 2014, when emotions were running high”. (Shah’s comments were in response to an article by former deputy prime minister, John Prescott, who argued that Israeli air strikes on Gaza that month were “so brutally disproportionate and so grossly indiscriminate” as to constitute “war crimes”.)
That should have been the end of the story. But Staines sensed otherwise.
Staines’ research came upon another Facebook comment by Shah, in which she appeared to accuse Israel of practising Apartheid (against Palestinians). This sort of comment was commonplace at the time among Palestinian supporters and still is.
In the same Facebook comment Shah showed a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and a quote from his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The words quoted were part of Dr. King’s justification for breaking unjust laws through civil disobedience: “never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal.’” This was correct. The press, however, decided Ms Shah was comparing the practices of the Israeli Government with that of Nazi Germany. There are many who would argue that, proportionately, such a comparison is completely absurd; others may argue that such comparisons – however vile – are needed to shock our sensibilities, so that we do not condone practices that may even remotely resemble that horrific period in our collective history.
Staines exposed this old story again. This led to Ms Shah issuing an apology on Wednesday. This apology was given in print and in the House of Commons. She stated that “referring to Israel and Hitler as I did was deeply offensive to Jewish people.” However, Ms Shah was subsequently suspended by the Party.
That, again, should have been an end to the matter.
Livingstone the polemicist
But then along comes Ken Livingstone – not known for his tact. or any instinct for timing – who issued comments in Ms Shah’s support. He said: “Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel — he was supporting Zionism”. He added: “This was before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.
Livingstone insisted that Hitler’s “policy in ’32, when he won that election, was to deport Germany’s Jews to Israel, and the Zionist movement had secret meetings with his administration talking about that”. These comments were largely historically accurate (see below) but possibly unwise, given how the press might seize upon them and try to distort – which is exactly what they did.
A history lesson
Yesterday, The Intercept published an article that attempted to clarify some of the historical aspects Livingstone raised…
“Just months after Hitler came to power, in 1933, the Zionist-led Jewish Agency in British-administered Palestine did strike an agreement with the Nazis, to facilitate the emigration of about 20,000 German Jews to Palestine over the next decade. As the Israeli historian Tom Segev described it in his book, The Seventh Million: “The haavara (“transfer”) agreement — the Hebrew term was used in the Nazi documents as well — was based on the complementary interests of the German government and the Zionist movement: the Nazis wanted the Jews out of Germany; the Zionists wanted them to come to Palestine.” Segev noted that the agreement, which remained in force until the middle of World War II, was a point of contention between the Zionist leadership in Tel Aviv and Jewish leaders in the United States, who still hoped in 1933 that an international economic and diplomatic boycott of Germany could “force the Nazis to halt their persecution, so that Jews could continue to live in Germany.””
And was there any accuracy to Mr Livingstone’s remarks about Hitler and Zionists? Unfortunately, yes. Any historian will attest to that – including Jewish historians. Not only did the Nazi Party court Zionists to see if a Jewish homeland could be arranged, but two years into the war across Europe they liaised with members of the Stern Gang, the Jewish resistance, to see if that idea could be revived.
Back to that Intercept article for a summary of what happened… [According to a 2015 article in The Guardian by Jewish historian Tom Segev, who writes regularly for Israeli News]: “The mufti’s support for Nazi Germany definitely demonstrated the evils of extremist nationalism. However, the Arabs were not the only ones who were seeking a deal with the Nazis. At the end of 1940 and again at the end of 1941, before the Holocaust reached its height in the extermination camps, a small Zionist terrorist organization – Fighters for the Freedom of Israel, also known as the Stern Gang – made contact with Nazi representatives in Beirut, hoping for support for the struggle against the British. One of the Sternists, in a British jail at the time, was Yitzhak Shamir, a future Israeli prime minister.”
Segev added in that same article that according to Israeli PM Binyim Netanyahu, in a speech he gave at the World Zionist Congress in 2015, “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time; he wanted to expel the Jews”. Netanyahu was referring, again, to 1941, two years into the war. And the plan to expel Jewish people did not happen because the Mufti opposed it.
So does this mean, as the dumbed-down press would have it, that we should infer from the above that Zionists are Nazis or Nazis were pro-Zionism? No, of course not. Both assertions would be entirely absurd. (Note: see also an article in The Independent on this matter.)
Whatever the truth of what happened in the Nazi period of Europe, in the end it was Blairite, John Mann MP who sallied forth to finish the job of trying to discredit Livingstone. Or at least lay the groundwork for further anti-Corbyn comments from the press.
And Mann ensured there were plentiful TV cameras around when he confronted Livingstone and aggressively accused him of being a racist. Livingstone tried to calm Mann down, refusing to react. But the damage was done and the media swung in and played their part.
The next stage in this stage-managed onslaught was to target Corbyn, the media accusing him of reacting to slowly to the ‘crisis’.
Livingstone, meanwhile, was suspended from the Party.
John Mann Tells Ken “You’re a F**king Disgrace” https://t.co/0RixK3TBoe
— Guido Fawkes (@GuidoFawkes) April 28, 2016
Anti-Semitism is vile, but no government – including the Israeli government – is immune from criticism (see video below). The press have a duty to tell the truth, to be honest and to be ethical. Politicians rarely live up to these standards and journalists need to do better too.
The geo-politics of the Middle East, including the decades long struggle between Israel and Palestinians, affects the security of peoples world-wide. To simplify those politics in pure black and white terms of racism and anti-racism (either for or against Muslims or Jews – or any other religious grouping) is not only an insult to our intelligence, but dangerous in the extreme. We all deserve better.
Disclosure: My father-in law was Jewish (secular) and when young was imprisoned in a Naxi concentration camp during WW2, but survived and went on to live in a country other than Israel. A long-time associate and old friend (another secular ethnic Jew, now dead) took part in an attempt on Hitler’s life prior to the outbreak of WW2.