BBC’s anti-Corbyn hatchet job fails to land blow

If Corbyn’s allies can't fight back against the Israeli lobby within their own party, what chance will they have against the power of British imperialism?

Israel supporters protest alleged antisemitism outside Labour party headquarters.

Asa Winstanley

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This article is reproduced from Electronic Intifada with thanks.

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The BBC heavily trailed details from its recent Panorama programme, ‘Is Labour Antisemitic?’

The papers were full of headlines about it over the weekend before it was aired, and it was supposed to prove just how antisemitic Labour has become under left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In truth, all the programme proved was just how dishonest the British establishment and the Israel lobby have been in manufacturing this ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’ for the past four years.

Mike Creighton, Labour’s former director of complaints, admitted this candidly in the film itself.

Asked by Corbyn’s top aide Seumas Milne how Labour could deal with the ‘crisis’, Creighton says he insisted Corbyn should give a speech, “particularly saying that Israel had a right to exist”.

That sums up what this fabricated ‘crisis’ has been about all along.

Corbyn is a veteran Palestine solidarity activist.

That became the biggest weapon used to attack him from day one.

Israel’s supposed ‘right to exist as a jewish state’ is predicated on systemic racism and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians – as my colleague Ali Abunimah has for years patiently explained.

Therefore, recognition of Israel’s ‘right to exist as a jewish statej – as Israeli leaders and lobby groups demand – means recognising that Israel has a ‘right’ to be racist against Palestinians.

It is no surprise that a member of the old, ‘new’ Labour establishment like Creighton would support such racism.

Blogging about his retirement in 2017, Creighton complained in his goodbye speech that Labour was becoming a “party of protest” against things like the Iraq war.

He wistfully recounted an anecdote about his hero Tony Blair.

More recently, Creighton tweeted that although he was remaining a party member, he was “not interested in winning government. I’m interested in winning the party.”

In other words, he’s determined to win Labour’s civil war, even if it means sabotaging the party’s chances at the ballot box.

Israel lobby

This was a message endorsed on Twitter by two activists from the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Ella Rose and Adam Langleben.

Both also appeared on the Panorama programme.

The JLM is an explictly pro-Israel organisation that has close ties to the Israeli embassy.

Indeed, Rose herself is a former embassy employee, who came straight out of that job and into a role as the JLM’s executive director in 2016, soon after the JLM was reactivated to fight against Corbyn.

Yet not only were these affiliations unmentioned on the BBC’s programme, these two heavily partisan figures were not even named.

Instead, they appeared on screen, distressed, speaking straight to camera. The were presented as sympathetic whistleblowers against Labour party racism.

Yet, as The Electronic Intifada has reported in detail for the past four years, the JLM has been one of the main groups promoting and manufacturing the false ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’ all along.

If the BBC was so convinced of the truth of its claims, why did it not disclose their clearly relevant affiliations and let viewers make up their own minds?

The rest of the programme went mostly along the same dishonest lines.

The limits to criticising Israel

One of two main ‘experts’, portrayed as independent authors, was Alan Johnson, who tried to set what he claimed were the acceptable boundaries for criticising Israel.

“You can say the occupation is wrong, you can say the settlements are wrong,” he opined – but he spoke against calling Israel “an inherently racist endeavour”.

This is the typical line of Israel and its lobby groups – recognising the reality of Israel’s foundational and systemic racism against all Palestinians is deemed antisemitic.

It is no surprise to see Johnson putting forth this poisonous view – he is an employee of Bicom, the UK’s main Israel lobby group.

Once again, Panorama did not mention this affiliation.

The programme was chock-full of such figures – many who have been driving the manufactured ‘antisemitism crisis’ all along.

One further example is telling.

Fabricating antisemitism

Another of the young whistleblowers speaking “as a jew in the Labour party” was Alex Richardson – a member of the JLM executive.

The BBC did not name him, but I – and many others on social media – recognised him because he was a key figure exposed in Al Jazeera’s 2017 undercover documentary, The Lobby.

At the time of filming, Richardson was an employee of lawmaker Joan Ryan – who chairs Labour Friends of Israel, which is an Israeli embassy front group.

Ryan, who quit Labour earlier this year, was infamously exposed in Al Jazeera’s film fabricating an instance of ‘antisemitism’ at the Labour conference in 2016.

But the film also shows that Richardson was personally involved in that same fabrication.

“Joan convinced me to report the one yesterday because I was made to feel uncomfortable,” the undercover footage shows him telling Labour Friends of Israel’s director Jennifer Gerber.

Yet he privately admitted, ‘nothing antisemitic was said’.

You can watch the relevant clip in the video here: The Lobby P3: an Antisemitic Trope.

But a party member was still reported for ‘antisemitism’. She was Jean Fitzpatrick, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Fitzpatrick was formally investigated by the party and ultimately cleared of accusations of antisemitism. But the experience had a disturbing effect on her life, leaving her under a cloud of suspicion.

Hatchet job

Judging from social media, though, the grassroots base of the Labour party is not fooled by the narrative put out by Panorama.

Calling it the #PanoramaHatchetJob, Corbyn supporters have slammed the programme for its numerous misleading aspects, including selectively edited emails leaked by disaffected ex-staff members from the Labour right.

Labour’s press office has hit back, promising to lodge a formal complaint with the BBC and calling the programme “seriously inaccurate”, an “authored polemic” and “an overtly one-sided intervention in political controversy”.

But this could be far too little, far too late.

If Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the Labour leadership cannot even fight back and defeat the Israel lobby within their own party, what hope is there that, in government, they could successfully take on the far more powerful combined forces of British – and American – capitalism?