Since then, there has been a steady flow of
claims by Israel’s supporters that Corbyn has
not done enough to combat anti-Semitism.
This has only accelerated in the lead-up to a
major test for Corbyn, the UK local elections on
Even as this story was in preparation, two
more victims were claimed in the war against his
Lawmaker Naz Shah and the former mayor of
London, long-time Palestine campaigner Ken
Livingstone, were also suspended from the party
– within hours of being accused of
But an investigation by The Electronic
Intifada has found that some of the most
prominent stories about anti-Semitism in the
party are falsified.
The Electronic Intifada can reveal that a key
player in Labour’s “anti-Semitism crisis”
covered up his involvement in the Israel lobby.
Most Labour members so accused are in reality
being attacked for expressing opinions in favor
of Palestinian human rights and particularly for
supporting the boycott of Israel.
Labour activists, many of them Jews, have
told The Electronic Intifada that false
anti-Semitism are being used as a weapon
against Corbyn by the party’s right-wing.
Corbyn has been active in the Palestine
solidarity movement for more than three decades.
an interview with The Electronic Intifada
last year, he endorsed key elements of the
Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel. For
example, he urged an end to weapons trading with
His election represented a radical shift in
Labour, a popular revolt at the grassroots
Although Labour’s membership has grown since
Corbyn’s victory, he has been under constant
attack from right-leaning politicians within the
party. In an attempt to weaken his position,
some of his critics have manufactured a “crisis”
about alleged anti-Semitism.
Attacks on Corbyn have escalated in the
lead-up to next week’s local elections. Poor
results would be seized upon by his enemies
within the party.
Charley Allan, a Jewish member of the party,
and a Morning Star columnist,
has described the current atmosphere in the
press and Labour Party as a “witch hunt.”
It has reached such an absurd volume that any
usage of the word “Zionist” is deemed to be
anti-Semitic – although tellingly not when used
Where real instances of anti-Jewish bigotry
have come to light, the leadership and party
machine have taken robust action.
According to The Spectator, the
party’s general secretary Iain McNicol told a
recent meeting of Labour lawmakers that everyone
who had been reported for anti-Semitism had
either been suspended or excluded.
Corbyn has responded to the media storm by
repeatedly condemning anti-Semitism and
saying that anyone making an anti-Semitic
remark is “auto-excluded from the party.”
John McDonnell, the shadow finance minister
and a long-standing Corbyn ally,
told The Independent that any party
member found by an investigation to be
expressing anti-Semitic views should be expelled
for life. “If people express these views, full
stop they’re out,” McDonnell said.
Smears of anti-Semitism against Corbyn
started even before he was elected.
During his leadership campaign in the summer
of 2015, the establishment media worked itself
into a frenzy of anti-Corbyn hysteria, led more
than any other paper by the liberal
One of the recurring themes in this campaign
was Corbyn’s long-standing support for
Palestinian human rights.
Because of this, attempts were made to say
outright, or to imply, that Corbyn was a secret
anti-Semite, or that he associated with, or
tolerated “notorious” anti-Semites.
Although these hit jobs gained some traction,
were soon debunked, and ultimately seemed to
have little impact on the leadership election.
This dishonest theme is now being revisited.
In February, the slow drip of anti-Semitism
scare stories burst into a flood.
An “anti-Semitism scandal” erupted in the
Oxford University Labour Club – an association
of student supporters of the party.
public Facebook posting Alex Chalmers, the
co-chair of the club, resigned his position over
what he claimed was anti-Semitic behavior in “a
large proportion” of the student Labour club
“and the student left in Oxford more generally.”
But as evidence he cited the club’s decision,
in a majority vote, to endorse Oxford’s Israeli
Apartheid Week, an annual awareness-raising
exercise by student groups which support
This connection was clearly designed to smear
Palestine solidarity activists as anti-Semites –
a standard tactic of the
In fact, the similarity was no coincidence.
The Electronic Intifada can reveal for the
first time evidence that Chalmers himself has
been part of the UK’s Israel lobby.
Chalmers has worked for
BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and
Funded by the billionaire Poju Zabludowicz,
BICOM is a leading pro-Israel group in London.
Chalmers once listed an internship with BICOM on
his LinkedIn profile, although the page
was deleted some time in February.
But even were this key fact not known,
Chalmers’ accusations were not credible.
No one specific was named in his Facebook
posting. He claimed that shortening the word
Zionist to “Zio” and expressing support for the
Palestinian political party and resistance
Hamas were enough to prove anti-Semitism.
Chalmers did not reply to an emailed request
for comment. He set his
profile to private the day after the email
was sent by The Electronic Intifada.
One of his tweets from 2014 sought to smear
The Electronic Intifada with “Islamism.”
One of his tweets from 2014 sought to smear
The Electronic Intifada with “Islamism.”
Chalmers has also been accused of disseminating
a false allegation that a left-wing Labour
student at Oxford had organized people into a
group to follow a Jewish student around campus
calling her a “filthy Zionist,” and that he had
been disciplined as a result.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the
accused student said that he had reason to
believe Chalmers may have been behind the
dissemination of this smear.
Paul Di Felice, the current acting principal
of the Oxford college in question, confirmed to
The Electronic Intifada the authenticity of a
statement from its late principal denying all
the allegations. “I have found no evidence of
any allegations being made to the college about”
the student “involving anti-Semitism, or indeed
anything else, during his time at the college,”
the statement read.
The Electronic Intifada put all this to Alex
Chalmers in an email, but he failed to reply.
The Oxford University Labour Club responded
a statement saying it was “horrified” at the
accusations and would fully cooperate with an
investigation launched by the party organization
It did not take long, however, for someone to
leak names to the right-wing press.
Citing an anonymous “source at the club,”
The Telegraph named two
left-wingers at Oxford who were supposedly
“being investigated over alleged anti-Semitism
at Oxford University.”
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Again, there were no further details.
Chalmers’ dubious and obviously politicized
accusations were raised in general terms.
One of the two, James Elliott, was a
vocal advocate at Oxford University of BDS,
the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement
against Israel, and was photographed in the
Telegraph article sitting next to Corbyn.
But in an email to a Daily Mail
journalist, seen by The Electronic Intifada,
Chalmers privately admitted that Elliott wasn’t
involved. “I haven’t heard any allegations
relating to him,” Chalmers wrote.
Both activists named by The Telegraph
are part of Momentum, the grouping founded by
Labour left-wingers in the wake of Jeremy
Corbyn’s election victory to support his
The Electronic Intifada has seen evidence of
a whispering campaign against the activists at
Oxford. A dossier of allegations against the
student Labour club is said to have been filed
with the union’s Jewish society.
That society has posted a summary of the
Asked in an email if he had been behind the
dossier or the press leaks, Chalmers did not
Alex Chalmers’ Facebook post resigning from
the Oxford University Labour Club was seized on
by anti-Corbyn forces aiming to influence key
internal elections to the Labour Party’s youth
wing, in which the Momentum pair were both
But because such negative campaigning is
against Labour rules, Beckett cautioned
supporters to distance themselves from her. She
asked her supporters to remove “twibbons” –
promotional badges for her election campaign –
from their social media accounts before making
allegations against Elliott.
One supporter, Josh Woolas – son of former
Labour MP Phil Woolas – cautioned it “needs to
look like a genuine complaint about racism and
not a smear campaign!”
In a Facebook group chat titled #TeamJB (viewable
in full on the Labour blog Left Futures,
edited by the chair of Momentum), Beckett
encouraged other young Labour members to share
unsubstantiated hit pieces on Elliott from
She asked “do you actually want an
anti-Semite as NEC rep?” She suggested her
friends “get a few people tweeting saying
‘shocked my union GMB are supporting James
Elliott who is anti-Semitic’ or something.”
“Let’s just get it out there,” agreed Labour
activist Tom Jennings. “We’ve got a huge
opportunity … thus shaving off votes for him at
[the Young Labour] conference.”
The complaint against Beckett was
rolled into another investigation into
Chalmers’ allegations of anti-Semitism at
Oxford, one ultimately
taken over by Janet Royall, the Labour
leader in the House of Lords, the unelected
upper chamber of the UK parliament.
Labour Students conducted a hasty
investigation into the Oxford allegations. But,
Labour activists told The Electronic Intifada,
it was so obviously botched that it was not
That investigation was led by Michael Rubin,
Labour Students’ national chairperson – who
happened to be the boyfriend of one of Beckett’s
allies, Rachel Holland. Holland was part of
Beckett’s dirty tricks campaign, expressing
support for it in the #TeamJB group chat.
Elliott told The Electronic Intifada he could
not comment until the Royall investigation is
That seems unlikely to happen until after the
crucial local elections at the earliest, and
probably not until the summer,
the BBC says, when Beckett is due to take
her seat on the NEC.
The witch hunt expanded.
In March, Huffington Post
talked up a “fresh row over Labour
The website referred to how union official
Jennie Formby had allegedly pointed out at a
meeting of Labour’s NEC that Royall once took
part in a sponsored trip to the Middle East
Labour Friends of Israel, a pressure group
within the party.
Formby has successfully pushed at the NEC to
have private security firm
G4S banned from Labour conferences, due to
its supply of equipment to Israeli prisons that
practice torture against Palestinians.
The Jewish Chronicle claimed Unite’s
Jennie Formby was “to be moved from her role
partly as a result of her anti-Israel activism.”
It cited no evidence.
The paper claimed the move represented a
demotion by the union, the UK’s largest.
But the report was instantly
denied by Formby and her union.
Formby said she never questioned Royall’s
ability to conduct the investigation.
Formby said, she was appointed to the new
job long before Chalmers made his allegations on
@stephenkb JF applied for the post 5 months ago. It is a promotion. She will remain on the NEC. Please check facts.
In March, the witch hunt reached
Tony Greenstein, a Jewish anti-Zionist well
known in Palestine solidarity circles.
Despite supporting other left-wing parties in
the past, Greenstein had joined the Labour Party
after the election of Corbyn, hoping it would
take a new, leftward direction.
But on 18 March he
received a letter from the party’s
Compliance Unit (also known as the
Constitutional Unit) saying that his membership
had been suspended pending an investigation into
a possible breach of party rules.
“These allegations relate to comments you are
alleged to have made,” wrote John Stolliday,
head of the unit. Greenstein asked to see the
allegations against him, but his request was
Although the party refused to let Greenstein
know what he was being accused of,
further vague allegations were leaked to the
In April, The Telegraph
published a story citing Greenstein’s
admittance to the party as the “latest
anti-Semitism scandal” to hit Labour.
Greenstein says he is considering legal
The Telegraph later
added a “clarification” saying it wanted “to
make clear that we had not intended to imply
that Tony Greenstein is anti-Semitic.”
It would, however, be difficult to read the
article as intending to do anything else.
Ironically, Greenstein has been at the
forefront of moves to combat genuine cases of
anti-Semitism on the fringes of the Palestine
“I’m going to fight”
For years Greenstein has been perhaps the
most vocal foe in the UK of
Gilad Atzmon – an Israeli jazz musician
based in London who claims to express solidarity
with Palestinians, even while opposing the BDS
movement and relentlessly attacking activists.
Four years ago, Atzmon was
criticized by prominent members of the
Palestine movement over racism and anti-Semitism
in his work.
“I’m going to fight it of course,” Greenstein
told The Electronic Intifada. He also
accused the Compliance Unit itself of being
behind the leaks – The Telegraph
article cited “evidence compiled” by the unit.
The visit was organized by the Israeli
foreign ministry, which slandered the BDS
movement as “evil.”
As an MP, Streeting has been consistently
hostile to Corbyn.
Term of abuse
Streeting and Newmark are arguing for tougher
action and changes to the party’s rules.
The head of Progress
proposed rule changes in the Mirror
which would put “a modern understanding of
anti-Semitism” into the party. “It is not
acceptable to use the term ‘Zionism’ as a term
of abuse,” the article stated, arguing for
people who did so to be expelled.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a Labour
Party staffer told The Electronic Intifada that,
even were the rule change to pass, such
expulsions would still have to be approved by
The staffer emphasized that for many within
the party, concerns about incidences of
anti-Semitism were genuine.
But the member of staff said that for the
“non-Jewish Zionists” in groups like Progress,
“anti-Semitism is just a tool” in “a field of
battle” to “smash up Jeremy at all costs.”
“Whatever gets agreed will not be good
enough” for them, the member of staff said.
Streeting did not reply to emails requesting
Labour is a mass membership organization,
which now has more than 380,000 full members,
according to party figures.
The staff member said that, amid all the
politicized attacks in recent months, there had
been about five actual cases of alleged
anti-Semitism within the party.
2015 survey by Pew found that seven percent
of the UK public held “unfavorable” views of
Jews. By contrast, about a fifth held negative
views of Muslims and almost two-fifths viewed
Roma people unfavorably.
There’s no evidence to suggest that such
views are any more prevalent in the Labour Party
– and the tiny number of anti-Semitism
complaints suggests they may well be less so in
a movement many of whose activists have been in
the frontline of anti-racist struggles.
The staff member said that in the five or so
cases that had come to its attention, the party
had taken swift action to expel, or suspend the
membership of those alleged to have made
One of the most prominent of these was Vicki
Kirby, a Labour Party candidate in Woking who is
alleged to have tweeted that Israel is “evil.”
She also reacted to Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza
by tweeting in August: “Who is the Zionist God?
I am starting to think it may be Hitler. #FreePalestine.”
Speaking to the media for the first time,
Kirby told The Electronic Intifada that her
choice of words had been “awful” and
“appalling.” It was “a reaction. I didn’t think
it through. I’m not a born politician,” she
Later, still under the leadership of Corbyn’s
predecessor, Kirby’s suspension from the party
was lifted. But, after Corbyn became leader,
leaked a photo of Kirby posing with Corbyn
to the party’s enemies in the media.
The hard-right gossip blogger known as Guido
Fawkes, then proceeded to trawl through her
entire Twitter backlog. He found a Tweet from
2011, a time when Kirby says she was not even in
the Labour Party.
Guido Fawkes then doctored a screenshot of
the tweet, making it appear as if she had
tweeted “What do you know abt Jews? They’ve got
big noses and support spurs lol.” The screenshot
of the Tweet on Guido’s site has
clearly been cropped.
The wider press then ran with the story and
started to use Kirby as a stick to beat Corbyn.
Kirby says she has received “death threats”
to her and “hate email” from around the world,
including the wish that “your children get
cancer and die.” She says she even had to take
legal actions against a constant barrage of
journalists door-stepping her and harassing her
Despite swift party action to suspend Kirby
once again, the incident was still weaponized by
“Jeremy Corbyn needs to answer some serious
told the Mirror.
Stoking the flames
Writing in the Jewish Chronicle,
Momentum founder Jon Lansman – a key Corbyn ally
– said that “my Jewish identity and
anti-Semitism are at the core of my left Labour
politics and so I welcome an investigation into
anti-Semitism at Oxford University.”
But Lansman cautioned that “within the Labour
Party, some people have factional reasons for
stoking the flames.”
He acknowledged that “racism, including
anti-Semitism” had historically been part of the
Labour movement. “It was not until the 1980s
that the efforts to eradicate it became serious,
and that was thanks in part to Ken Livingstone
as leader of the Greater London Council,”
During that period, Livingstone, and what the
right derided as the “looney left” in local
government, became the prime targets of
Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
But with her party unable to defeat Livingstone
at the ballot box, she simply abolished London’s
city-wide government altogether.
It wasn’t until the Blair years that the
capital once again had a London-wide government
and Livingstone was elected mayor. It would now
seem that with his suspension, the Thatcherite
campaign against Livingstone has resumed, but
this time from within the Labour Party.
Ian Saville, who started the group Jews For
Jeremy and then later joined the party, told The
Electronic Intifada that “some in the Labour
Party, who do not have an understanding of the
complexities of the situation, take [the
accusations of prejudice] at face value, and
quite understandably wish to oppose
He said that “unfortunately, this
‘opposition’ to anti-Semitism has support of
Israel and Zionism bundled in with it, so it
fulfills the double purpose of isolating the
left and supporting Israel uncritically.”
wrote that “false allegations of
anti-Semitism are akin to the boy who cried
wolf. They immunize people against the real
thing. As a Jewish anti-Zionist my main
experience of anti-Semitism is from Zionists … I
have even been told that it was a pity I didn’t
die in Auschwitz.”
In the Tony Blair years, the Labour Party
took a major rightward shift.
Blair notoriously led the UK into a war of
aggression against Iraq in 2003 – which even he
later admitted was a major factor in the
emergence of Islamic State.
Blair is also staunchly pro-Israel.
The 2006 Israeli war against Lebanon killed
1,191 Lebanese, “the overwhelming majority of
according to Amnesty International. But
Blair stood strongly behind Israel in that war.
He later admitted in his memoir this caused him
political damage. “I suffered accordingly,”
For career-minded, rising Labour MPs, joining
Labour Friends of Israel was long seen as the
place to be. That has been
Under Blair, Jeremy Corbyn was a backbench
MP, and a gadfly of the big business and
war-friendly clique that had captured Labour’s
voted against Blair’s party line
hundreds of times.
The scale of Corbyn’s victory – almost
60 percent of 422,664 voters – last summer
put the right on the back foot.
So now they are resorting to ever more
desperate tactics, blaming alleged anti-Semitism
in the party on Corbyn’s leadership.
Michael Levy, a Labour member of the House of
Lords who was a
key fundraiser for the party during the
Tony Blair years, is a strong supporter of
Israel. He has made a number of media
appearances in recent weeks
denouncing Corbyn for supposedly not doing
enough against anti-Semitism.
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a local Labour Party
activist and founder of Jews For Boycotting
Israeli Goods, told The Electronic Intifada that
it has become a “really pernicious … pincer
movement” by the Israel lobby and the Labour
“Maybe the’ve overstepped themselves” this
time, she said, before cautioning that what
happens would depend on how well activists
fought back and
educated people on the true nature of
anti-Semitism and Zionism.
For the moment, the manufactured
anti-Semitism crisis shows no sign of abating.
The same day Ken Livingstone was suspended
from the party, BICOM appealed to the mob,
posting a tweet with the words: “save your pitch
fork for Corbyn.”
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