Keir Starmer's knee-jerk reaction to the repost of an article reflects the degree to which a co-ordinated system of intimidation has taken hold of the agenda. We all witnessed this in operation in the campaign against Jeremy Corbyn. Starmer is clearly afraid of facing the same fate of political assassination.
This state of affairs has seriously eliminated the open transparent assessment and rational deliberation of vital importance to decisions taken in our democracy. Starmer, a person with a good understanding of legal procedures, paradoxically by-passed this minimum level of due diligence and, in panic, acted as judge, jury and executioner.
It is worth examining if any of this bizarre behaviour is linked to the well known allegations of the co-ordinated pressure and "lobbying" and early efforts by the Israeli embassy in support of the secret operations managed by the government of Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy (MSAPD).
The independent Israeli medium, Haaretz, has referred to the MSAPD in an editorial as "Israel's Ministry of Strategic Harm" , stating that "In recent years Israel has waged all-out war against the BDS1 movement, exerting diplomatic, legal and even economic pressure."
It further states that:
"BDS is a nonviolent political civil movement that uses consumer sanctions to protest the Israeli occupation. In recent years Israel, in an effort led by Erdan [this refers to Likud official Gilad Erdan, the past head of the ministry], has waged all-out war against the movement and its activists, exerting diplomatic, legal and even economic pressure. The Strategic Affairs Ministry has conducted
" Now it emerges that in this battle Israel has been using its premier espionage agency, the Mossad, against foreign citizens all over the world who support BDS. All this was done under a cloak of secrecy that a government ministry in a democratic country is not meant to use."
"The government treats BDS movement as a danger to security, or a terrorism threat, and uses the resources of its security agencies and other means to monitor citizens who express opinions it doesn't like; even worse, it does so beyond the borders of the state. This is a battle against the freedom of political expression of the Palestinians and their supporters throughout the world. The means Israel employs in this battle are anti-democratic and draconian, and they often achieve the opposite of the desired effect, distancing liberal Diaspora Jews from Israel."
"This editorial from March 2019 saw the forthcoming elections in Israel as an opportunity to close what they referred to as "this superfluous ministry, which does Israel more harm than good." and the editorial concluded with
"Instead of conducting pursuits that undermine the freedom of expression of foreign citizens, the government would do well to change the circumstances behind the BDS movement — the occupation — and let the Mossad focus on activities that are truly important to national security."
MSAPD does not limit its efforts to supporters of BDS but also those who support Palestinians through dirty tricks and media campaigns. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected head of the Labour party, as a well known supporter of the Palestinian cause, the MSAPD invested major efforts to undermine his status within Labour and UK politics by concentrating on anti-Semitic accusations.
The absurdly elaborate IHRA definition of anti-semitism does allow criticism of Israel. In practice this is a Catch-22, since if anyone levels what are sometimes reasonable criticisms, comments or even questions concerning the antics of the Israeli government or security forces, they are in danger of being branded antisemitic as a tactic to intimidate by a same co-ordinated group who undermined Jeremy Corbyn. This is completely in line with Netanyahu's campaign against Jeremy Corbyn as opposed to one that complies with the IHRA definition. Corbyn, it should be emphasized, never supported the BDS.
The stated responsibilities of the MSAPD as presented on their official website include:
"Leading the campaign against the actions of anti-Israel delegitimization and boycott campaigns.
The formation, inclusion and coordination of government efforts to deal with the phenomenon in all its aspects. These include diplomacy, consciousness, academic, economic, cultural and legal activity. Professional guidance to government ministries in all matters relating to their activities regarding the campaign, including activities and events in Israel and abroad, while strengthening the activities of civilian bodies operating in the field. The formation of current and up-to-date database with a focus to build the knowledge infrastructure of the campaign and its accessibility to the relevant authorities.
Representing the government's position with regard to the campaign vis-a-vis non-governmental organizations in Israel and around the world, and working with them to advance the objectives of the campaign its strategies."
It will be noted that all of the Labour party internal antiseminitism investigations were basically carried out in secret but this appears to have been a tactic applied to obfuscate the nature of what was stated by those accused of being antisemitic. Quite often what was stated referred to unfortunate facts including the blatant racist attitudes and actions by the Israeli government including arbitrary murder to children and destruction of houses as a continuation of the ethnic cleansing based on threats, intimidation and community clearances, initiated as far back as 1948. The reason this tactical obfuscation takes place is the risk associated with permitting an open public enquiry in front of a jury. This, in many cases, could lead to the conclusion that the accusers are in favour of the settlements and daily abuse of the people of Palestine and therefore are themselves supporters of a particularly violent form of racism. Factual statements concerning the ethnic discrimination of the State of Israel cannot be construed as being antisemitic. This is why keeping these facts away from an open session and a jury, provides the antisemitic charge a better chance of standing.
It is encouraging that in spite of insidious pressures, there are many liberal and enlightened UK citizens of the Jewish faith, many who are still in the Labour party. Fortunately, these have an innate understanding of the role of their conscience and, as citizens of this country, to distance themselves from any association with, or support for, this increasingly unacceptable racism and aggression of the state of Israel.
Where accusations of antisemitism relate to the disrespectful treatment of others, through the use of written or verbal racially loaded slurs, the question becomes one of intent and here again an open, jury-based resolution could decide such questions in a rapid and more appropriate manner.
1 BDS-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement - a description is provided below.