Friday 30 October 2020

A Belated Look at the EHRC Report

The publication of the EHRC's report into the Labour Party was always going to be a painful experience. For those genuinely interested in combating antisemitism, there was uncertainty over how endemic and institutionally embedded the EHRC woud declare it to be in the party. And for those who don't care and are concerned mainly with point scoring and score-settling, they were hoping for damnation. Well, having now read the investigation, it's about as fair an establishment report into a left-led Labour Party is going to be. It doesn't condemn the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and it does draw attention to the messy, dysfunctional and oft jerry-rigged culture of the Labour machinery.

There's always a however. The EHRC's report is fundamentally incomplete. While it acknowledges (impefect) efforts made from 2018 onwards in sorting antisemitism out once and for all, it barely touches on the real problem preventing the investigation of complaints: factionalism. Thanks to the now infamous leaked report, any fair-minded observer saw how spanner after spanner was thrown into the party's workings out of political spite. On page 69, the report notes "If the scale of informal handling of complaints portrayed in the leaked report is accurate, it fundamentally undermines confidence in the fairness of the antisemitism complaint handling process." The anti-Corbyn staffers should be thankful the EHRC didn't pry to deeply into this evidence and was content to gloss over it. What this means is the report, if anything, was not thorough enough.

For example, in the report's consideration of indirect discrimination it singles out the aforementioned political interference in the complaints process by LOTO. It acknowledges cases where this was done to speed up the process and bulldoze through delays, while noting times when pressure was applied to dismiss complaints. As this disproportionately effects Jewish members by virtue of their more likely to submit a complaint, this means they were, as far as the EHRC is concerned, on the receiving end of indirect discrimination. Okay, but if this is indirect discrimination, what are we to make of the complaints inbox left untended accidentally on purpose for weeks on end, or the refusal to process complaints, or excuses found to delay action - all set out in the leaked report and in the words of the perpetrators themselves? Is this not indirect discrimination? According to the definitions supplied by the EHRC which are derived from the 2010 Equality Act, it's difficult to reach any other conclusion.

Where the EHRC report is helpful is scotching the idea the Labour Party is institutionally antisemitic. The report found a party ill-equipped and incapable of dealing with antisemitism but was, at its best, groping toward resolving matters, despite mistakes - such as the poor level of training belatedly brought in for party staff. The report also makes plain the leadership were acting in good faith, even if its efforts were somewhat cackhanded. Additionally, the report goes some way to placing antisemitism in Labour in its proper context. Of the three areas in which the party broke the law, one instance involved two cases of clear cut harassment (by former members Ken Livingstone and Pat Bromley, as a NEC member and councillor respectively) and 18 borderline cases. They say this is not exhaustive and was taken from the complaint sample of 70 cases, but as we know the total number of antisemitism complaints were still very low as a proportion of the membership. One case is one case too many, and the report helpfully squelches the idea antisemitism wasn't a problem. As page 31 notes, the files provided by the party covered cases of members who had

"• diminished the scale or significance of the Holocaust
• expressed support for Hitler or the Nazis
• compared Israelis to Hitler or the Nazis
• described a ‘witch hunt’ in the Labour Party, or said that complaints had been manufactured by the ‘Israel lobby’
• referenced conspiracies about the Rothschilds and Jewish power and control over financial or other institutions
• blamed Jewish people for the ‘antisemitism crisis’ in the Labour Party
• blamed Jewish people generally for actions of the state of Israel
• used ‘Zio’ as an antisemitic term, and
• accused British Jews of greater loyalty to Israel than Britain."

Hardly revelatatory, but worth pointing out these submissions were provided by Labour while Corbyn was in charge and while Jennie Formby was general secretary. These are not "made up" nor concocted for factional reasons - in my experience those who deny antisemitism is a problem often indulge one, two, many examples of antisemitism above.

There are the political uses of the report, and something's due here tomorrow about the unjustifiable and stupid suspension of Jeremy Corbyn. The media have talked up the examples given in the report to cast the party as a fetid swamp of antisemites, when this is far removed from its critical but constructive tone. And then there are the internal consequences of the report. In his bobbing wooden-topped signature style, Keir has declared sensible and sober discussion of the scale of antisemitism out of bounds, which is not the most forensic way of approaching a persistent and damaging difficulty. Apart from the tuss enough posturing, the acceptance of the recommendations - it's not like the party has a choice - is the right thing to do. Putting antisemitism complaints on a firm footing actually helps the goal of natural justice in the party machinery, as opposed to the customary factional (and largely kangaroo) justice that has presided in the party for so long - and what the left has campaigned against for years. This is a plus. But there are dangers here too, especially around administering disciplinary measures and who sits on the "independent" complaints' process. The left should pay close attention to how Keir and David Evans go about implementing matters.

A mixed bag but one, ultimately, that might have been avoided. 2015 found me a Corbyn-sceptic, but it was obvious antisemitism could derail the project if he won the leadership and stayed in the saddle for any length of time. Not because Corbyn was antisemitic, but thanks to certain associations and a turning-a-blind-eye by some sections of the left. We know what happened next - the alienation of the Jewish community from Labour has accelerated over the last five years, and the party's reputation was dragged through the mud. After all the unnecessary damage and pain, please let it be this lesson has finally sunk in.


SpiritSkill said...

The other aspect of this report that I found noteworthy - although not surprising - is the lack of due process. Of the 70 cases examined 42 showed unfairness to the respondent. In 62 cases the decisions by the NEC and NCC reasons for the decisions were not clearly recorded. The scale of this is disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

The problem appears to be the championing of the Palestinian issue - note the word 'championing'. It has been THE international issue, in parallel with South Africa, since the 70s.

The Left has always been drawn to its glamour, and in a sense, much like the grotesquery of German Leftist terrorists targeting Jews in the name of Palestinian liberation, the sheer dissonance of the act given the thousand years of prejudice resulting in the Holocaust. I/P is the cause that has everything, including of course the role of Israel as an American proxy.

Although distasteful, this is all very well for student politics, but it is not a grown-up way to behave, and that is the problem with the far-Left in general, a refusal to grow up. This, in turn, leads to teenage-like exaggerations and obsessions, which result in conspirital thinking and antisemitism.

It is perfectly reasonable to be critical of Israel like any other nation - say, the UK in Northern Ireland - without descending into racism. There are plenty of Israelis critical of their own government - why not take a lead from them? Instead, Corbyn has aligned with the likes of Press TV, run by a regime which on any measure is worse than the Israelis (and yet, many Leftists would rush to disagree). Another example of unthinking grotesquery, and another measure of irrational antisemitic emotions that power much of Left thinking.

gastrogeorge said...

Surely the point about institutional antisemitism is that Labour is, due to the continuing failure to handle cases properly, but to spell that out means that Corbyn can't be blamed for it, and can be shown to have taken significant, though incomplete, steps to resolve it.

Jim Denham said...

Corbyn’s response to EHRC report:

“One antisemite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.

“That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated. My sincere hope is that relations with Jewish communities can be rebuilt and those fears overcome. While I do not accept all of its findings, I trust its recommendations will be swiftly implemented to help move on from this period.”

This is all of a piece with what one observer wrote more than two years ago:

“Corbyn agrees there is a problem. He responds under pressure, moves in the direction his critics are pointing to, but it is as if he cannot understand what the fuss is about. He apologises, retracts, insists that he meant no antisemitism or to be offensive; was not responsible for and did not agree with what other people said, uncontradicted, in his presence. But everything is low energy, insufficient, ineffectual, can be seen or portrayed as evasive, as lacking conviction. John McDonnell has gently distanced himself from Corbyn.

The truth, I think, is that Corbyn really does not “get it”, or “get” enough of it. In the thirty-five years he has been an MP, and earlier, he has lived in a world in which what other people defined as antisemitism was commonplace among much of the ostensible left. Labour Party antisemitism is in large part an infection from the ostensible left. Corbyn and the people around him and much of the left have been desensitised to antisemitism because it has long been the norm on the ostensible left. He says he is for two states in Israel-Palestine. Some of his political friends do not support a two-state solution. The intense rhetoric against Israel, its demonisation, the comments on events, is always at a higher volume, is more intense, more all-encompassing, more hysterical, more ‘hate Israel’ than is compatible with a two-state solution”.

David said...

Highly prescient column in 2015 Phil! I too voted Yvette, but with a similar lack of enthusiasm. Who knows what her leadership might have been like but she is doing a great job in the home affairs subcommittee. Interesting that she is not in the Starmer shadow cabinet, any thoughts on why not??

David Timoney said...

Re "the alienation of the Jewish community from Labour has accelerated over the last five years". The decisive turn of Jewish voters away from Labour to the Conservatives happened in the 2010-15 period, when Ed Miliband was leader. The suggestion that it was occasioned by Corbyn's elevation is incorrect and part of the wider calumny that he is personally to blame for every ill, from Brexit to the poor performance of Scottish Labour.

Boffy said...

Much of what Jim Denham says is true, but also irrelevant.

Firstly, does Labour have a problem with anti-Semitism, yes. Is that problem bigger than in society as a whole probably not, and almost certainly less than it is a problem in the Tory Party, which also has an even bigger problem with racism in general, and Islamophobia. Is the problem with anti-Semitism in the LP down to Corbyn, absolutely not, because it was, always there, and probably worse in the past, as with racism, sexism and homophobia.

When I was a kid, my local labour Councillors response to proposals for a gypsy site to be established was to say that he would be in favour of petrol bombing it. At the next Council election he was elected with a bigger majority. In the 1970's and 80's, the LP was full of people who were racists and sexists and homophobes, but those that voted for it expressed those views in even larger numbers. Its just the middle class leftists have never wanted to accept it existed.

Was anti-Semitism used to attack the Left? Of course it was. The pro-Zionist AWL were themselves accused by the Right of being anti-Semitic! What was that if not an example of the Right using it as a battering ram? Nor is that unique to Britain. Its being used against even moderate social-democratic, and liberal-democratic forces everywhere. In the US, Mike Pompeo has similarly branded Oxfam, Human Rights Watch and other liberal organisations as anti-Semitic, on the same grounds that have been used to attack Corbyn and the Left.

Dipper said...

@ Anonymos "The problem appears to be the championing of the Palestinian issue - note the word 'championing'. It has been THE international issue, in parallel with South Africa, since the 70s."

well ... I thought that, and now I think it goes a bit deeper than that.

At the heart of far left politics is the notion that there is a conspiracy of rich people to disposes the poor workers of what is rightfully theirs. What needs to happen is the poor people need to rise up and persecute those who have been stealing from them.

Hmmm let me think of a distinct group of people who are overly represented in the rich.... it is no surprise that those who deal in conspiracies end up targeting Jews.

So the key to stop anti-semitism on the left is to stop seeing secretive cabals of rich people conspiring to rob people.

Dipper said...

'The other aspect of this report that I found noteworthy - although not surprising - is the lack of due process.'

Yes. Having done a fair amount of people management in large corporations, when you get an issue, pick up the phone to your friendly HR person and follow their advice. Arse-covering should be an instinctive and automatic response by anyone and everyone at any level of an organisation.

Anonymous said...

@Jim Denham. I think this is absolutely not the right time to start banging on about Israel/Palestine and your sect's preferred number of states. The justification for any solution/way forward in the middle east needs to come from the state of play there not from the state of play here.


Mick Kennedy said...

I feel it relevant to point out that 'the alienation of (some of) the Jewish community from Labour has accelerated over the last five years'. Based on what I've gleaned from non-Zionist and
secular jews.

A Careful Harvesting of Words said...

Palestinians bave the right to both survive and live well, on their own land, in their own homes, with their own families.Racist UK Governments, in their denigration of the rights of those human beings, have done a terrible amount of damage to Palestinians by not recognising those facts - over generations. Hiding them behind walls of covering rhetoric, does not change that. Palestinians deserve at last to have a fully recognised and peaceful status. This comment has nothing to do with being 'Left', as your derision puts it, but to do with'do as you would be done by'.

Jim Denham said...

Anon: the problem with what you say about now not being the right time to start "banging on" about Israel/Palestine, is that the SWP/STWC-influenced left's absolute anti-Zionism and refusal to even acknowledge Israel's right to exist in any shape or form, underlies and is the root cause of Corbyn's weakness and incoherence on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Dipper: the left is to stop seeing secretive cabals of rich people conspiring to rob people.

Except that is patently true, it just happens not to be particularly Jewish.

Boffy said...

"Palestinians bave the right to both survive and live well, on their own land, in their own homes, with their own families."

Who says, and who is to enforce such a "right"? There have been literally hundreds if not thousands of nationalities over the centuries that could claim such a "right", and yet they have all disappeared from existence. They form what Engels called "non-historic peoples". The "right" you describe might be some ephemeral moral right that liberals wish to associate themselves with, but Marxists, as materialists base themselves on what is and what can be not on what "ought" to be if the world were governed by purely moral principles and some kind of Kantian Categorical Moral Imperative, of the kind that determines the politics of moralists and subjectivists such as those of the so called Third Camp, be they of the variety of the AWL, or their mirror image the SWP.

You statement that this right is based on the principle "do as you would be done by" is itself an example of the Kantian imperative that moral actions are those that are universalisable. It is as meaningless, here, as the idea that workers have a right to a Fair Days' Wage for a Fair Day's Labour. Rights only ever exist to the extent that those claiming them can enforce them.

In terms of the latter type of economic rights, as Marx says,

"Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby."

Whatever "moral" right the Palestinians, or the Kurds, or numerous other nationalities might have to a state of their own is irrelevant if they are unable to realise it, and clearly they cannot. Moreover, the question for Marxists is, is the pursuit of such a goal one we should support anyway, or does it mean pursuing this purely bourgeois-democratic demand subordinates our own goal of bringing about the unity of workers across borders.

As Lenin put it,

“As the party of the proletariat, the Social-Democratic Party considers it to be its positive and principal task to further the self-determination of the proletariat in each nationality rather than that of peoples or nations. We must always and unreservedly work for the very closest unity of the proletariat of all nationalities, and it is only in isolated and exceptional cases that we can advance and actively support demands conducive to the establishment of a new class state or to the substitution of a looser federal unity, etc., for the complete political unity of a state."

(The National Question In Our Programme)

Boffy said...

@David Timmoney,

I think you will find it goes back considerably before that. The Jewish community in Britain long since stopped being the community of impoverished immigrants escaping pogroms in Eastern Europe, of he late 19th century that led to the Tories introducing the Aliens Act, and who formed a lot of the membership of radical socialist groups, and who provoked such hatred from the likes of Churchill and the owners of the Daily Mail etc.

The main organs of the Jewish community were seized by middle class Tories long ago, such as the Jewish Chronicle and so on, and its quite rue that these organs, and the leading lights pronounced their support for Trump, Orban et al, just as Netanyahu is associated with this international band of right-wing authoritarians and Bonapartists, and whose adherence to this ideology far outweighs any concern with the rights of Jews, or fighting anti-Semitism they might have.

In fact, a similar process can be seen more recently with the British-Indian bourgeoisie that has been growing in influence, as witnessed by the roles of Patel, Sunak et al., which also goes along with the increased role of Indian imperialist capital such as that of Tata, Mittal and so on its control of the British steel industry, car industry, chemical industry and so on.

Boffy said...

In his book "The Jewish Vote" Geoffrey Alderman writes,

"After 1945 an upwardly mobile but still working‐class Jewish electorate became disenchanted with the Labour Party. Conservative politicians were quick to exploit this alienation. In the 1960s and 1970s Jewish voters became substantially middle class and also substantially Conservative in outlook."

By the 1980's, the majority of Jewish voters voted Tory. And, the majority grew larger and larger into the 1990's, long before Corbyn or even Miliband. The main motivation seems to be politico-economic, as they opposed the social-democratic agenda of Labour, even in its conservative manifestation under Blair.

That, of course, was the real objection of all those right-wing Labourites to Corbyn, and for whom anti-Semitism was a convenient whip to beat him with to cover their real agenda, whatever longer term damaging consequences for fighting actual anti-Semitism that might have.

Boffy said...

In 2015, a survey of British Jews showed that 69% intended to vote Tory, with only 22% saying they would vote Labour.

Anonymous said...

@Jim Denham. Root causes never exist. The very concept is incoherent and is usually a device for short cutting understanding for politically convenient blame. See also eg. the root cause of terrorism is imperialism. For you the political convenience lies in directing the blame to your political rivals. And whereas the SWP etc. may not be entirely blameless it is flatly unserious to trace the problem in the Labour Party back to the SWP's position on their preferred number of states in Israel/Palestine.


George Carty said...

Anonymous (31 October 2020 at 02:15) brings up how the Palestinian cause as something glamorous among the Western Left, along with the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Were they describing Israel as an "apartheid" state even back in the 1970s, or did that only come later (and if so, when did it get going in a big way)?

Blissex said...

Why wasn't the Labour member who wrote this not expelled immediately?

Whether it is Hamas launching rockets, or the IDF bombarding Gaza or bulldozing Bedouin villages to make way for illegal settlements, we oppose any and all actions that lead to the death and destruction that have so tragically come to define this conflict. [...] But Israel’s consistent flouting of UN resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention has undermined the rules-based order for decades, and the international community can no longer look the other way.

Jim Denham said...

Eric: Corbyn's problem with antisemitism *is* directly traceable to his association with the likes of Tariq Ali, John Rees, the STWC, Milne, Murray etc. He's not bright or well educated politically, and those people miseducated him.

Richard said...

"the key to stop anti-semitism on the left is to stop seeing secretive cabals of rich people conspiring to rob people" - that is a spot on point very well made. The antisemitic comments I've seen in Labourite circles, and there is quite a lot of it compared to a total absence of condemnation of 'Saudi' Arabia or Iran, is completely along that theme.

"Corbyn's problem with antisemitism *is* directly traceable to his association with the likes of Tariq Ali, John Rees, the STWC, Milne, Murray etc. He's not bright or well educated politically, and those people miseducated him." That may be a reason for what Corbyn has done, but it's not an excuse. He has been an MP for 30+ years and has had plenty of opportunity to educate himself. And if he couldn't do that, he really should have gone away years ago. A man of his age and seniority can't rely on the excuse that he was too stupid. Because the Daily Mail would then have been right. How could the Labour Party have ended up with a leader who could not think his way out of a paper bag? I know, I hear many people who say he was a really nice guy, but a 'really nice guy' who appears to have pressed Labour HQ to expel Walker, Williamson and co to build better relations with the Jewish community? They are Corbyn's words, but the words of an unprincipled half-wit.

Stuart Davis said...

I've not dug deep but I've yet to see an example of this so called anti Semitism in the LP specifically . Sympathy for Palestine, criticism of the Israeli regime and Zionism is not "racism" OR AS.
Anti left bullshit. Does "growing up" entail accepting the status quo and say nothing about cruelty injustice or vile dictatorship?

Boffy said...

Presumably, for five years, Starmer did not see much of it either, and certainly not in the shape of Corbyn, otherwise why would he have had a prominent position in the Shadow Cabinet of such a rabid anti-Semite?

Oh perhaps its because he was more interested in climbing the greasy pole, and so just as he's become a bigger Brexiter than Corbyn, he will say whatever best fits his interests at the particular time.

Blissex said...

«Corbyn's problem with antisemitism *is* directly traceable to his association with the likes of Tariq Ali, John Rees, the STWC, Milne, Murray etc. He's not bright or well educated politically, and those people miseducated him.»

His official political education on the issue has been summarized by himself in an official declaration he made to the Board of Deputies, and reported verbatim by The JC:
«Mr Corbyn and two advisers held talks with Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush and chief executive Gillian Merron this afternoon. Following the meeting Mr Arkush said: "We had a positive and constructive meeting and were pleased that Mr Corbyn gave a very solid commitment to the right of Israel to live within secure and recognised boundaries as part of a two state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. [...]“
“The Jewish community is a vibrant and much valued part of our diverse UK society, and I will continue to defend the right to religious freedom and practice, including specifically shechitah and the brit milah, Jewish faith schools, and culturally sensitive youth and social care services.
I have a long interest in campaigning for peace and justice in the Middle East, and reiterated my commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Israelis and Palestinians both have the right to a state, and to live in peace and security.”

It is easy to see from his shameless words why many people think that he is an unrepentant antisemite who has become so because of his dim intelligence and letting himself be miseducated by the usual suspects.

Blissex said...

«criticism of the Israeli regime and Zionism is not "racism" OR AS.»

The leader of the israeli Labour Party has given clarity about this:
«Gabbay said in a letter sent to the British Labour party leader on Tuesday that it was “my responsibility to acknowledge the hostility that you have shown to the Jewish community and the antisemitic statements and actions you have allowed”. In the letter, Gabbay said Corbyn had expressed “very public hatred of the policies of the government of the state of Israel, many of which regard the security of our citizens and actions of our soldiers – policies where the opposition and coalition in Israel are aligned”.
[...] Gabbay, who is likely to be the centre-left alliance’s candidate for prime minister at the next election, has signalled a shift to the right in recent months, backing Israeli soldiers’ actions over the shooting of protesters in Gaza and suggesting Israeli settlers should not be forced out of their homes in the event of a peace deal.»

George Carty said...

Richard: The antisemitic comments I've seen in Labourite circles, and there is quite a lot of it compared to a total absence of condemnation of 'Saudi' Arabia or Iran, is completely along that theme.

Wasn't Corbyn a major critic of Saudi Arabia though?

(And Ken Livingston – a Labour politician against whom accusations of antisemitism would if anything be more justified than against Corbyn – actually fantasized about the lynching of the al-Saud dynasty!)

Braingrass said...

I generally agree with this analysis, but word 'problem' is rather subjective. Is 1 antisemite in the Labour a problem, 10, 100, 1,000 or 10,000? I would rather be a little more objective about it. Antisemitism in the UK population is historical low and amongst the lowest in the world at about 5-8% There is some anecdotal evidence that it is on the increase, but the research hasn't come out yet. I would say if antisemitism were a problem objectively speaking in the Labour party it would have to he higher than this. That would be a problem. The numbers would have be to be in the tens of thousands for this to be case. You seem to suggest that anyone who even dares to discuss what we objectively mean by a problem are themselves antisemitic, which is absurd. Of course, even this argument does not justify one single case of antisemitism in the Labour party of which there should be zero tolerance. And anyone who says there is no antisemitism in the Labour party is simply wrong.

Boffy said...

Corbyn and others on the Left also campaigned against Saddam Hussein in the 1980's, whilst the Tories in support of their US allies were helping him to acquire chemical weapons to attack Iran.

Very few of the Labour Right were to be seen on any of those issues just as few of them have ever been seen on the streets confronting the actual fascists and anti-Semites of the NF or BNP et al, whereas Corbyn and other son the left have always been prominent in such mobilisations.

Given Netanyahu's links with fascists like Putin, Trump, Orban etc., (which is also why you never see any of these right-wing Jewish figures on the streets mobilising against real fascists and anti-Semites, its no wonder that they have tried to sully the name of all those that have been responsible for opposing real fascism and anti-Semitism, along with all other forms of racism in the past.

And, it is of course nonsense to think that the israeli state does not engage in such activity, because every state engages in covert and overt activity to further its interests. The fact that Zionists ry to pretend that the Israeli state does not do that is not just ridiculous but does what they accuse Left anti-Semites of doing, i.e. requiring the Israeli state to be seen as different, held to higher standards than any other state.

Just look at BICOM, for example, and its staff is openly filled with many people either currently or previously tied to the Israeli State, and BICOM feeds directly into many of the pressure groups including those operating inside the Labour Party. If the Israeli state were not using such links to further the interests of Israel, and particularly the Israeli ruling class, it would not be fulfilling its function, because that is solely what a state exists to do!

To suggest it doesn't do that is to suggest that the Russian state, or British state does not act overtly and covertly to further the interests of the ruling class in those places too. Its ridiculous. yet even to point out this truism is to leave yourself open to be accusing of promoting anti-semitic tropes, just as now the ground is shifting for the Right to claim that Socialism itself is anti-Semitic.