If They Come In the Morning

Neck restraint as used by Israeli forces

The Labour Party’s antisemitism witchhunt has just claimed its highest profile victim, with the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey from Starmer’s shadow cabinet for the crime of tweeting a link to an interview with the actor Maxine Peake in the Independent. This decision, taken just a few hours after a peremptory demand by the unrepresentative Board of Deputies of British Jews, makes a mockery of Starmer’s claim that he intends to “reunify” the party.

Peake made the mistake of claiming that Israel had trained the US cops who killed George Floyd in restraint techniques. This is probably incorrect – the US police were killing Black and Native Americans long before the Israeli state or the Zionist movement existed. But the bigger picture is correct: despite official denials, Israeli forces do use similar techniques, including kneeling on the necks of prisoners. And many US police forces have received Israeli police training, as Amnesty International USA has long been documenting. This comment was just one sentence in a long interview, the gist of which is that people in the left should stay in the Labour Party to defeat the Tories and fight for social change. And it was in no way antisemitic, except for those who believe (as fascists and many Zionists do) that all Jews support Israel, and therefore should be held accountable for Israel’s crimes.

Long-Bailey’s tweet of the interview, with a comment that “Maxine Peake is a diamond”, was enough to trigger the BoD’s demand for a retraction and apology, to which Starmer responded by sacking Long-Bailey. This action has several apparent goals. Starmer clearly hopes to appease those who relentlessly attacked Corbyn, and may initially think that he has done so. His decision has been applauded by the renegades Mike Gapes, Joan Ryan, Louise Ellman and John Mann, as well as by Margaret Hodge (who for some unaccountable reason has still not been disciplined for bringing the party into disrepute by her foul-mouthed and libellous attack on Corbyn) and by the Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign against Antisemitism, who are also calling for further scalps. It would be naïve to believe that this will bring an end to the witchhunt. The BoD has already demanded that the party take disciplinary action against Dianne Abbott, Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Salma Yaqoob for taking part in an online meeting hosted by Jewish Voice for Labour, and Starmer’s capitulation will only embolden them to redouble these attacks, and launch others.

With this action, Starmer has removed the only prominent supporter of Corbyn still in the shadow cabinet. And Long-Bailey is likely to be replaced as shadow Education Secretary by a career politician who will not follow her unwavering support for the NEU in its opposition to the premature and unsafe reopening of schools.

All this comes on the eve of Israel’s threatened formal annexation of large parts of the areas it occupied in 1967. It remains to be seen how Starmer will act when the Israeli coalition government – of which the Labour Party’s sister party, the Israeli Labor Party, is a member – takes this step confirming that Israel has become, in law as well as in long-standing practice – an apartheid state. His dismissal of Long-Bailey suggests that he will be more likely to take action against those who denounce this than against Israel and its supporters in the Labour Party.

There are signs of resistance to this shameful action. MPs Richard Burgon, John McDonnell Zarah Sultana Ian Lavery and Jon Trickett have already tweeted their solidarity with Rebecca Long-Bailey, as have Len McCluskey and Jon Lansman. Petitions have been initiated by the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs (who are meeting Starmer to discuss this) and Momentum.  Reports from across the country suggest a groundswell of opposition.

Of course Starmer will resist all demands that Long-Bailey be reinstated, but we must make clear that we will not allow this scapegoating, which comes in the context of a renewed witch hunt including against ‘dissident’ Jews, to continue. Long-Bailey may have hoped that her agreement to the BoD’s Ten Pledges, and her failure to support earlier targets of the witchhunt, would  safeguard her position. In this she was mistaken. And if even she can become a victim of this vicious campaign, then clearly none of us are safe.

Solidarity with Rebecca Long-Bailey!  Resist Israeli Apartheid!

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6 Comments on If They Come In the Morning

  1. It now seems that any criticism of the Government of Isreal, it’s foreign policy or its military is deemed antisemitism. We are now afraid to voice comment, which is exactly what the Government of Isreal wanted. Helped by the British right wing, l am afraid they have done a superb job in silencing critics. BUT, we can not speak out for justice now.

  2. Dr. Paul Grayshan // 26th June 2020 at 5:29 pm // Reply

    Ms. Long-Bailey has been sacked for referencing an interview with someone who happened to make a remark which apparently criticised the Israeli government.

    Is criticism of an elected government racist? Specifically, is criticism of the Israeli government anti-semitic? What about the Israelis who didn’t vote for the Israeli government, an implied criticism; are they too anti-semitic? It’s a dangerous nonsense.

    Applying this “logic” to British politics, Mr. Starmer, a critic of the British government, should himself be fired for antibritishness.

  3. Darryl Jones // 26th June 2020 at 6:26 pm // Reply

    Keir Starmer needs to listen to the victims of the racist endeavour that is the Israeli state.Paletinian lives matter.Palestinians were not responsible for the holocaust.We are not innocent. Our ruling class santioned the expropriation of the Palestinians.

  4. Darryl Jones // 26th June 2020 at 8:01 pm // Reply

    Two state solution is dead. Who’s side are we on.Demonstrations in France against further annexations over the weekend show the way.

  5. We must all speak up more than ever defend the right of Rebecca and anyone else the right to speak freely without the fear of being labelled as racist. Solidarity.

  6. Interestingly there is an article by Daniel Finn in the current London Review of Books (available on-line) dealing with USA / Northern Irish politics around policing which points out that.the militarisation of the RUC developed technologies such as rubber bullets and techniques which did transfer to the US. Without disagreeing with anything above it is necessary to question the judgement of the leader of the Labour left retweeting comments containing a reference to Israeli police actions which were not factually correct. Given there are every day many true instances of oppression, and the planned annexation of the Occupied Territories, this mistake has given the Labour Right an opportunity they can take and use to further cover up crimes against the Palestinian people. I make this comment because the left need to campaign on the Middle East without repeating untrue comments. Indeed part of the Left’s challenge should be to openly campaign vigorously but making a fetish of only saying what is factually true and verifiable. I realise Labour under Corbyn allowed itself to be saddled with a extraordinarily biased definition of anti-semitism. I note that neither the whip nor party membership was not removed from R L-B, which shows Starmer does not want or feel comfortable about mass expulsions. Maybe it’s time for the Left to go on the offensive eg around the annexation and invite a challenge eg who runs Labour the members or the B of D?

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