by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld
Irene Kuruc co-authored this article
The JVL's primary mode of attacking the IHRA definition was the release of an alternative definition of antisemitism. Their text stated that comparing Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis should not automatically be seen as antisemitic.
Small radical Jewish political organizations can obtain disproportional publicity in several ways. Taking strong anti-Israeli attitudes is one such tactic. Non-Jewish anti-Israelis look out for these Jews as legitimizers of their incitement. In the process radical Jews receive far more attention than they can get by themselves or merit because of their size. Another way for such Jewish organizations to get exposure beyond their weight is by helping to fend off antisemitic accusations against organizations which contain Jew-haters.
In recent years the UK Labour party has been in dire need of such a Jewish organization. A small group of Jewish leftist extremists realized the opportunity. In 2017 they created the Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL). This movement should not be confused with the much older and far bigger Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). The latter has been very involved in fighting antisemitism in their party.
John Lansman is a key figure among Labour leftists. He is a member of the party’s nine member National Executive and the founder of Momentum. This grouping is the main supporter of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Yet Lansman has come out on various occasions against JVL. He is quoted as saying that the very existence of JVL is inflaming tensions between Labour and the Jewish community. One of his associates said Lansman believes that senior JVL figures claim to speak for the entire Jewish community while they in reality only reflect the views of a small faction of anti-Zionist Jews.
JVL's techniques of whitewashing antisemitism should be analyzed. This enables one to understand how some of these methods are also used in other Western environments. After lengthy discussions this summer, the Labour party accepted the definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This is the world’s most widely agreed definition of antisemitism. It has been adopted for internal use by a number of countries including the UK and Germany. Like any such text it is not perfect, yet it is much better than anything else that has been suggested until now.
The JVL's primary mode of attacking the IHRA definition was the release of an alternative definition of antisemitism. Their text stated that comparing Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis should not automatically be seen as antisemitic. The JVL added an obfuscating statement "whether such comparisons are antisemitic must be judged on their substantial content and the inferences that can be reasonably drawn about the motivations for making them, rather than on the likely degree of offense caused."
One of JVL’s apparent main goals is to whitewash Corbyn’s misdemeanors. Their alternative definition of antisemitism would take some blame away from the Labour leader. In 2010, on Holocaust Memorial Day, Corbyn, held a meeting in parliament in which the Netherlands’s best known Jewish antismite, Hajo Meyer, compared Israel to the Nazis. The latter has done so frequently, even in Germany.
Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust, the defense organization of the British Jewish community said that the JVL's contempt for the community leads to false claims that the “community’s deeply held fears about antisemitism are fakery, lies and smears." He added that JVL's definition of antisemitism “says nothing about modern antisemitism, in which the word Zionist now operates as the word Jew used to.”
A second important antisemitic trend JVL whitewashed was the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Campaign against Israel (BDS). The JVL claims that "advocating for BDS, could only be antisemitic if accompanied by evidence that it is motivated by racially based hostility towards Jews." As no anti-Israel inciter will make such a specific declaration, BDS has been cleared by the JVL as not being antisemitic.
JVL indeed knows how to get publicity. In March of this year, the Jewish community held a major demonstration against antisemitism attended by thousands within Labour at Parliament Square in London. JVL held a counter-protest and claimed that the official gathering "had more to do with the local elections than the fight against racism."
In the UK Jewish community there also what might be called “second degree whitewashers.” They give a declaration of good conduct to JVL or some of its members. One such “once removed whitewasher” is Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism. He is a Labour Councilor and a member of the Jewish Labour Movement.
Rich has said that JVL chair, Jenny Manson, is a very decent woman. According to the Jewish Chronicle, Manson has admitted that she only began to identify as a Jew in order to argue against the State of Israel. Rich furthermore gave the job of a tour leader to Israel to a woman who had participated in the public Kaddish in London for Palestinians including many Hamas operatives killed by the IDF.
Several JVL supporters are well-known long term anti-Israel inciters. They are likely to continue to whitewash Corbyn, as well as various terrorist supporters and other extremists close to him. By doing so, JVL creates publicity for itself as Jewish legitimizers of the Labour leader. Corbyn is a terrorist sympathizer, associates with Holocaust distorters, incites against Israel and is a part time antisemite. That JVL’s actions damage the British Jewish community does not matter to them as they can hardly be considered part of it.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.
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