Gidley identifies one of the five main anti-semitic themes he has uncovered as "variations on the historic blood libel" whereby Jews in Medieval Europe were massacred following Christian claims that Jews kidnapped Christian children and used their blood for religious rituals. From that odd starting point he moves to suggest that talking about Israeli snipers killing Palestinian children is problematic since it could upset Jews with a folk memory of 12th Century pogroms and the pretext sometimes adduced to launch them.
21 June 2020
Neale Hanvey is the elected Member of the UK Parliament for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath in Fife. Last November, he was suspended from the SNP following allegations that he had posted anti-semitic material on social media, specifically by comparing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people to Nazi treatment of Jews and by alleging the political influence of George Soros.
The media posts are no longer available to judge but the MP was told that he could only be re-admitted to the governing party in Scotland if he underwent a re-education programme to convince him of the unacceptability of the offences he had committed. The details of the course on anti-semitism that was mandated for him are not clear but what we already know raises some troubling questions.
Neale Hanvey has posted on Facebook his thanks "to the Antisemitism Policy Trust (APT) for their engagement and guidance over the past few months." The APT website states that the group provides the secretariat to the British All Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism (APPG).
Both groups endorsed a 2015 report that includes a section written in December 2014 called 50 days in the summer: Gaza political protest and antisemitism in the UK by Dr Ben Gidley.
Gidley makes some assumptions to frame his pro-Israel conclusions, for example that “It is clear that the war in Israel/Palestine receives a disproportionate amount of attention in the UK press” not justified by Israel’s kill rate. This leads him to identify and condemn a sinister “heightened and exceptional emphasis on Israel’s crimes among all the world’s conflicts”. The Israeli Embassy, of course, would prefer there to be no coverage at all of what Gidley concedes are "Israel’s crimes".
Gidley claims the prevailing mood among people he calls “anti-Israel activists…minimises or tolerates anti‐Jewish racism… which is reinforced by the disproportionate focus on Israel/Palestine within the left.” Gidley then asserts without evidence that there is “a convergence…between far right and anti-Israel activists,” despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary, namely a consistent presence of extreme-right, anti-semitic activists and groups on pro-Israeli street events.
The piece by Gidley is one of many efforts to smear solidarity campaigning with Palestine, baseless allegations that are endorsed by the Anti-semitism Policy Trust. His examination of the "extent and degree of antisemitism in the anti-Israel protests”, by which he means the mass opposition to the massacres of Palestinians during Operation Cast Lead, serves to obscure real anti-semitism by categorising an unspecified proportion of opposition to Israeli war crimes as anti-semitism.
Revealingly, Gidley claims to be investigating anti-semitism within the context of world-wide condemnations of Israel’s then-ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity; however he attaches no importance to fierce denunciations of Israeli mass killings by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, the UNHCR, and the Scottish Government. The resignation of a Tory Foreign Minister, Baroness Warsi, over the government’s “morally indefensible” stance on Gaza gets no mention in Gidley's piece. Is Warsi another example of an unhealthy obsession with Israel’s behaviour, suggesting anti-semitism.
Gidley identifies one of the five main anti-semitic themes he has uncovered as "variations on the historic blood libel", whereby Jews in Medieval Europe were massacred following Christian claims that Jews kidnapped Christian children and used their blood for religious rituals. From that odd starting point he moves to suggest that talking about Israeli snipers killing Palestinian children is problematic since it could upset Jews with a folk memory 12th Century pogroms and the pretext sometimes adduced to launch them.
Might it be better to avoid all talk of Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian children, spilling their blood in huge amounts? The author has to admit that "it is clearly not in itself anti-semitic to accuse Israel of targeting children or to draw attention to the high numbers of child casualties in" what he calls “the conflict.”
How could he claim otherwise; the 2019 publication by the UNHCR presented damning evidence to show that Israeli snipers on the Gaza periphery had killed "Palestinian children knowing them to be children", the same conclusion reached by other investigators over many years.
Gidley nonetheless takes exception to "the prevalence of these images and in particular the emphasis on blood…[since] these images can evoke the historical blood libel against Jews, the accusation...that Jews murder Gentile children to use their blood for ritual purposes."
Denouncing the spilling of Palestinian blood in a recent Israeli massacre, specifically the 551 children killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza in summer 2014, is anti-semitic because "British Jews [are] sensitive to the use of the blood libel in triggering pogroms historically".
So although the last pogrom, i.e. massacre, of British Jews occurred in York in 1190, led by crusaders preparing to go to Palestine and infected by a heightened religious fervour against unbelievers, Gidley suggests we avoid discussing on-going Israeli bloodletting, massacres of Palestinians that punctuate Israeli history from its beginnings until now.
Gidley concedes that some discussion of Israeli child killing can be allowed; it is the "prevalence" of images related to well-documented Israel child murder that seems to make the topic "anti-semitic". He claims, however, that the very existence of a campaign that publicises inter alia Israeli mass bloodletting, including a degree of Israeli public acceptance of child killing, will inevitably make UK Jews think of the 1190 atrocity in York.
Gidley claims that only talk of Palestinian blood resurrects British Jewish fears of anti-Jewish pogroms from the twelfth Century; blood letting in Yemen or elsewhere that also uses British weaponry doesn’t have the same effect. This is strange considering that another of Gidley's anti-semitic offences is associating British Jews as a collective with the state of Israel, an association on which Zionists insist but which they consider to be anti-semitic in critics of Israel. Dr Gidley seems relaxed trying to hold a cake in his hands that he ate earlier.
For anti-Zionists there is no contradiction; it is Zionism which is anti-semitic in its origins, and was seen as such by the majority of Jews and even some of the minority of Jews who were Zionists.
Full disclosure: Gidley's bizarre claim was made, cut and pasted, word for word, by a Scottish prosecutor in a trial in Glasgow of two SPSC members, of whom I was one. We and others had protested an Israeli cosmetics stall in Intu Braehead Shopping Centre and referenced Israel's massacre of 2,200 Palestinians a few weeks earlier by carrying this placard.
The Glasgow Procurator Fiscal’s case rested primarily on the claim that the placard not only evoked memories of the Medieval blood libel but was intended to do so, regardless of the fact that most of the protesters holding this placard in Braehead were as blissfully unaware as the general population of the legend of Little Saint Hugh or the Medieval notion of blood libel. Sheriff Barry Divers felt his summary rejection of the argument needed no explanation.
Questions need to be asked concerning the compulsory re-education Neil Hanvey has received from the Anti-semitism Policy Trust, which supports Gidley’s work as a framework to help people understand anti-semitism. It does nothing of the sort but works to protect a foreign government from criticism by creating a framework where denouncing Israel's repeated mass Palestinian blood-letting is seen as problematic.
It is fair to assume in the current atmosphere, which the Anti-semitism Policy Trust and its allies have done much to create, that ambitious or cautious politicians might well decide that it is better to cross to the other side of the road when Palestinian lives are lost to Israeli snipers, shells, bombs, torture, denial of medical care, or a siege restricting food brought in to Gaza.
The compulsory re-education of an elected Member of Parliament on a highly contested issue such as supposed anti-semitism is a matter that should concern us all. The re-educators are advancing a claim that has been rejected as worthless by a Scottish court.
The materials and assessment criteria and methods used to re-educate elected representatives should be open to public scrutiny and critique.
21 June 2020
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