A letter from Andrew Northall in Solidarity 515 takes issue with Sean Matgamna’s claim (in Solidarity 509) that the Morning Star “actively foments antisemitism.”
Comrade Northall describes the claim as “completely disgraceful” and something that “any reader” of that paper will know to be “completely untrue.”
As a daily reader of the Morning Star, I’d say Sean’s description is fully justified.
The Morning Star has, by its own admission, published at least one clearly antisemitic article:
In June 2018 the paper published an article headlined ‘Rising antisemitism cannot be tackled without addressing Israel’s crimes’.
The article said “mainstream Jewish communities everywhere... appear unwilling to accept the connection between developing international antisemitism (or anti-Israel sentiment) and Israel’s decades long … acts of barbarism”.
It continued: “No amount of protestations about the symptoms of rising anti-semitism or anti Israel sentiment in Britain and elsewhere will end the problem until its root cause — Israel’s criminal behaviour — is dealt with.”
Only when two longstanding Jewish Communist Party members and Morning Star supporters – Phil Katz and Mary Davis, wrote a letter of protest, did the paper seem to realise it had made a mistake — running a too explicit and clear-cut statement of what it really believes. The article was taken down from the paper’s website and an apology printed.
Probably the most significant aspect of this minor scandal was that the article was not so different in tone and content to many others that had been published in the Morning Star as a matter of course.
Mary Davis, it should be noted, had previously written to the paper (in 2016) to protest at a regular column being given to Ken Livingstone immediately after his suspension from the Labour party:
“It is thus hugely embarrassing on our paper’s part to offer Livingstone this lifeline at the present moment and serves to muddy the waters among our allies while at the same time detracting from our own stated opposition to antisemitism”.
The paper’s coverage of the Chris Williamson affair has been all too predictable.
Having dismissed all complaints about Williamson’s speech (in which he said Labour had been “too apologetic” over antisemitism), the paper’s editorial (28 Feb) the Morning Star made its position clear on the substantive issue:
“The Labour Party does not have a widespread problem of antisemitism. If it did we would see a substantial proportion of its membership facing prosecutions for acts of violence or intimidation against people, convictions for hate speech in person or on social media and an avalanche of evidence-backed instances referred to the party’s disciplinary machinery…
“We would see police investigations and extensive monitoring by the security services.”
Think about that for a moment: unless the cops and MI5 are involved, there can’t be any antisemitism about.
The Morning Star routinely dismisses concerns about antisemitism within Labour by calling into question the motives of all those raising the issue, perpetuating the conspiracy theory that “combating anti-semitism is not the primary motivation...
"No, their prime motivation is becoming clearer by the week.
"It is to prevent a rare parliamentary champion of the rights of the Palestinian people from achieving the highest political office in Britain…
“This has been the common aim of leading lights in the JLM and Labour Friends of Israel and their associates in the Israeli embassy...” That quote, incidentally, comes from the paper’s editorial response (9 April 2019) to the Sunday Times revelations about the mishandling of antisemitism allegations within the party.
Comrade Northall’s letter refers to a quote from the same editorial that appeared in my Antidoto column at the time: “What appears to be undeniable is that no action has yet been taken against some individual party members whose comments about Jews or Israel are reprehensible, whether born of ignorance, prejudice or both”, as though that absolves the Morning Star.
But it doesn’t!
My point at the time was that this admission that Labour does have a real problem with antisemitism was tucked away near the end of an editorial 99% of which was devoted to dismissing the claims and casting aspersions on those making them.
In fact, Mary Davis and Phil Katz implicitly rebuked their own paper in a piece published in July of this year:
“Is the charge of anti-semitism in the Labour Party a fiction manufactured by a conspiratorial alliance between the Israeli government and anti-socialist forces seeking to discredit Jeremy Corbyn, thereby undermining the prospect of a left-led Labour government?
“Many writers in the Morning Star and many pro-Corbyn left activists accept this view. They argue that anti-semitism has been ‘weaponised’ and thus vehemently deny all anti-semitic indictments as politically motivated and mendacious.
“However, we have a problem. The fact that the leadership of the Labour Party itself has acknowledged that there is an anti-semitic element within its ranks”
I doubt very much that anyone other than two leading CPB members would have had such an article published in the Morning Star.
Out-and-out, blatant, racist antisemitism like the June 2018 article, is not that common in the Morning Star (though there have been other examples in recent years): what is common is denial that antisemitism is a problem within the labour movement, attacks on the motives of those raising the issue and repeated disparaging references to “Zionists” that effectively insult and belittle any Jewish person who identifies in any way (however critical) with Israel.
I’d say that amounts to “actively foment[ing] antisemitism.”