So much for free speech

by Daphne Liddle

THE GOVERNMENT and the media are hounding various old and new members of Labour with spurious accusations of ant-Semitism for remarks that, when seen in full context, are nothing of the kind, in order to undermine support for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour in the run-up to the local elections.

Meanwhile David Cameron is planning new “anti-terrorist” measures that add up to a major crackdown on free speech and can truly be described as creeping fascism.

The news measures, reportedly to be announced in the coming Queen’s speech will include measures to gag individuals, close down premises and ban organisations. Programmes perceived to contain “unacceptable extremist material” will be shut down by Britain’s broadcasting watchdog Ofcom, under the Extremism Bill.

According to the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU), domestic extremism relates to the activity of groups or individuals who commit or plan serious criminal activity motivated by a political or ideological viewpoint.

This seems reasonable but the Government has redefined “serious criminal activity” to suit its agenda: That the conduct involves the use of violence; results in substantial financial gain or is conduct by a large number of persons in pursuit of a common purpose. When that is combined with “motivated by a political or ideological viewpoint” that description could fit any political party or campaign group.

And when the Government starts to redefine the meaning of “hate speech” we begin to understand where it is all leading and how it ties in with the current ruling class-backed campaign to paint Labour supporters and campaigners for rights for Palestinians as anti-Semites.

They want to scare us into silence and to be afraid to challenge injustice and exploitation for fear of being smeared as monsters — while they are really becoming those monsters.

It is ironic that a Government that is channelling tax-payers’ money into the Ukraine, along with some British troops, to support an illegal government in Kiev that includes self-confessed Nazi supporters and Banderists has the gall to accuse lifelong anti-fascist activists like Ken Livingstone and Gerry Downing of being anti-Semites as well as the rising young people like Naz Shah MP and newly elected National Union of Students leader Malia Bouattia.

Bouattia is the first Black Muslim woman to lead the NUS and is guilty of nothing but supporting the rights of Palestinians. Naz Shah is “guilty” of posting an image of the state of Israel imposed on a map of the United States with the hint that it would be cheaper for the US to accommodate the entire Israeli population than to continue supporting Israel.

The image she reposted was first posted by Professor Norman Finkelstein, an American Jewish son of Holocaust victims, a campaigner for Palestinian rights who has clashed with Zionists many times. And she posted it in response to suggestions by Zionists that the whole Palestinian population could be moved elsewhere in the world.

This smear campaign is doing no favours for thousands of Jewish people living in Britain who do not support the policies of Zionist Israel.

The Jewish Socialist Group put out a very reasoned and moderate response to the smears. After saying that anti-Semitism exists and must be combatted like any other form of racism, the JSG statement says: “Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative.

“Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews. Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not anti-Semitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the anti-Semites.

“We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy out of bounds...”

The statement concludes: “The Jewish Socialists’ Group sees the current fearmongering about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party for what it is — a conscious and concerted effort by right-wing political forces to undermine the growing support among Jews and non-Jews alike for the Labour Party leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and a measure of the desperation of his opponents. We stand against anti-Semitism, against racism and fascism and in support of refugees. We stand for free speech and open debate on Israel, Palestine and Zionism.”