This article was published in Israel National News, and republished here with the author’s consent.
The Highly Unprofessional Inquiry into British Labour Anti-Semitism
On June 30, Shami Chakrabarti published her report on the investigation of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of racism in the British Labour Party. The document is highly unprofessional.
The opening sentence of her foreword already embodies a double manipulation. Chakrabarti writes, “The Labour Party is not overrun by anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism.” The first manipulation in this sentence is that the scandal engulfing the British Labour Party for the past months, exclusively concerns extreme anti-Semitic remarks by elected representatives of the party. The addition of Islamophobia and racism to her assignment, of which Labour had not been accused, dilutes the specific multiple accusations of anti-Semitism.
The second manipulation in this opening sentence is a fallacy called “a strawman” – a tactic of attributing an extreme and easily refutable statement to your opponent and then “disproving” the invented argument, which he has not made. In this case, Chakrabarti denied that Labour has been “overrun by anti-Semitism.” Nobody, however had made this claim. Far more MPs protested against the anti-Semitism than the few MPs and other leading figures in the party who attempted to minimize its relevance.
What was really at stake was something else entirely. Chakrabarti had requested for submissions to her inquiry. I published an open letter, in Israel National News, which I also submitted to her inquiry. I wrote, “There are strong indications that the anti-Semitism in the Labour party does not only concern just a few individuals, but is a far more widespread phenomenon. Elected representatives of the Labour Party would not be making extreme anti-Semitic and anti-Israel statements if they were encountering any significant opposition to such statements from their constituents. Their hate slurs posted on social media platforms are easily accessible to their constituents and the number of such posts indicates that there is little or no resistance to them. Jewish MP Luciana Berger has received thousands of extreme hate mails, some threatening her with rape or murder, in response to her criticism of the Labour Party’s refusal to condemn anti-Semitism. It seems logical that these are all or mainly Labour members or supporters. Indeed, why would people who do not support Labour care about MP Berger’s criticism of that party? A poll by the Times daily found that only one in ten Labour party members consider that the anti-Semitism issue is a problem in the party.”
One might summarize all this as “Substantial parts of the Labour party are permeated by anti-Semitism or are insensitive to it.”
Chakrabarti’s next manipulation is that she praises Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who gave her the assignment for not interfering in it. Nowhere in her report is it mentioned that this extreme leftist is a legitimizer of anti-Semitism. Corbyn invited representatives of the terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas to the British parliament, calling them “my friends.” Despite pressure for months, he had at the time Chakrabarti’s report was published, not yet admitted that this was a mistake. Corbyn has also given important party assignments to the Hamas friend Seamus Milne, who has called the creation of Israel a crime and the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. In that position the latter gave a red-carpet reception to the Egyptian-born, Qatar-based Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. This leading Sunni cleric condones suicide bombings and has both anti-Semitic and homophobic views.
It is secondary whether one calls several other major distortions by Chakrabarti, manipulations or omissions. The most extreme example of the report’s excessive lack of professionalism, is that in its 28 pages it uses no specific definition of anti-Semitism. How can one investigate the anti-Semitic character of a lengthy series of Jew- and Israel-hatred slurs if one does not define what is anti-Semitic. Chakrabarti also does not publish in her report the list of the anti-Semitic remarks of the elected representatives suspended. She apparently does not want to make clear that it is the number and the extreme character of these slurs which led to her assignment.
That the IHRA/EUMC definition of anti-Semitism should be used was recommended for instance, in the submission to the Chakrabarti inquiry by the Board of Deputies, the umbrella organization of British Jewry. I made the same recommendation in my open letter to her.
The Chakrabarti report, by not using any definition of anti-Semitism is a step backwards for the Labour Party in the fight against this hate mongering. The 2006 Report of the British All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism recommended that “the EUMC definition – is adopted and promoted by the [British] Government and law enforcement agencies.” The inquiry was initiated by a Labour MP and was headed by another Labour MP. Six of its 14 members were Labour MPs.
Chakrabarti makes a rather cryptic remark about her being a Muslim saying, “I was often (especially on social media) described as a Muslim terrorist sympathizer. I never denied the Muslim label.” Is that a valid reason to omit all the evidence that a disproportionately large number of those suspended or accused of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party are Muslims. Furthermore, the most extreme slur, a genocidal one, against Israel has been made by a Muslim local counselor. She has allegedly tweeted that she hoped Iran would use a nuclear weapon to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’ It must also be noted that various suspended elected representatives in the Labour Party come from areas with a high percentage of Muslims, for instance the Bradford region, where about a quarter of the population is Muslim.
Corbyn has made a huge number of mistakes. Choosing Chakrabarty to carry out the inquiry however, is not one of them. She writes: “As a free speech campaigner, I have always believed in the right to offend. But as a lawyer I know the difference between a right and a duty.” An investigator with such an attitude toward hate speech is unlikely to be very severe in her judgment about the numerous Jew- and Israel-hate slurs in the party.
There is also what one might call a propaganda section, in the report, which Chakrabarti — who only recently became a Labour party member — devotes to outlining how the party in the past has welcomed Jews. That is irrelevant to the actual situation. It is also historical revisionism as she forgets to mention the former Foreign Affairs Secretary Ernest Bevin, a Labourite, who was one of the most hated politicians in large parts of the Jewish world when he strongly opposed Israel’s independence.
Is it compensation for all her omissions that Chakrabarti gives us yet another extra? She regularly writes in the report about her and her family’s experiences. This egotrip is yet another distraction from what this report should have been about: investigating the extreme anti-Semitic hate slurs by Labour representatives.
The Chakrabarti text meanders through various statements without any guiding light. Some remarks are relevant, such as that the Holocaust should not be abused. Others are marginal at best, such as recommending not to use the terms “Zio” or “Paki.” She was once shocked when somebody was referred to as a Paki and mentions this in the report. Not worth a mention however are slurs by a Labour representative including “Adolf Hitler was the ‘greatest man in history.’”
Chakrabarti also does damage control for the Labour Party in yet another way. She suggests that there should a moratorium on thepast. If additional past cases of anti-Semitism should come to the light these should not be dealt with.
Many more criticisms of the report can be made, but that would require an essay. There is another reason why the report has some value. It is a collection of important manipulations, major omissions and dilutions of what should have been its sole subject. In short a prime example of whitewashing and damage control, mixed with ego-tripping. When teaching anti-Semitism, it is an ideal text to let students comment on it and explain to them how anti-Semitism should really be investigated and what is radically wrong with the Chakrabarti report.
4. www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3566667/Jewish-Labour-MP-speaks-vile-anti-semitic-abuse-subjected-online-bullies.html; www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-labour-mp-posts-anti-semitic-abuse-she-received-online/
6. www.labour.org.uk/page/-/party-documents/ChakrabartiInquiry.pdf, p.3
10. Report of the British All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism (London: Stationery Office Ltd, September 2006), para. 26.
11. www.labour.org.uk/page/-/party-documents/ChakrabartiInquiry.pdf, p.4
13. www.labour.org.uk/page/-/party-documents/ChakrabartiInquiry.pdf, p. 11.