December 4, 2019
By Jamie Stern-Weiner and Alan Maddison
The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) alleges, on the basis of polling it commissioned from YouGov, that ‘antisemitic views are most widespread on the far-left’ while ‘the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, was particularly popular among people with antisemitic views’.
It is, the CAA notes, ‘the first survey’ to conclude this.
Indeed, all previous studies found the opposite. The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) reported, on the basis of the largest survey of its kind ever conducted, that ‘[t]he political left, captured by voting intention or actual voting for Labour, appears . . . a more Jewish-friendly, or neutral, segment of the population’. The CAA itself observed, in 2017, that ‘Labour Party supporters are less likely to be antisemitic than other voters’.
So, how did the CAA achieve its surprising results?
Whereas previous surveys asked respondents whether they agreed with a number of negative generalisations about Jews, this new study also tested for agreement with a handful of propositions about the State of Israel:
1. ‘Israel and its supporters are a bad influence on our democracy’.
2. ‘Israel can get away with anything because its supporters control the media’.
3. ‘Israel treats the Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews’.
4. ‘I am comfortable spending time with people who openly support Israel’.
5. ‘Israel is right to defend itself against those who want to destroy it’.
The CAA defined endorsement of the first three statements, and disagreement with the last two, as antisemitic.
This novel procedure is what produced the anomalous result.
Only by conflating these findings with the results for Israel-related statements, under the overall heading ‘antisemitism’, was the CAA able to reach its unique and unprecedented conclusion that the political Left is more tainted by antisemitism than the political Right.
In fact, the CAA’s new study confirms previous survey evidence that agreement with traditional ‘antisemitic’ stereotypes about Jews is:
– higher on the Right than on the Left;
– higher among Conservative voters than among Labour voters;
– higher among supporters of Boris Johnson than supporters of Jeremy Corbyn.
And whereas it has been widely alleged that antisemitism has increased since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the new CAA report finds that the prevalence of traditional ‘antisemitic’ prejudices ‘has remained fairly consistent over the past five years’.
Put otherwise, had the CAA replicated its previous methodology, and not inserted the additional questions about Israel, it would have perforce concluded—consistent with all previous studies—that ‘antisemitic’ prejudices are not increasing and are disproportionately concentrated on the Right, among Conservative voters, and among supporters of Boris Johnson.
* * *
The CAA justifies its conflation of negative statements about Israel with negative statements about Jews on the basis of what it refers to as ‘the International Definition of Antisemitism’.
This is the CAA’s propagandistic term for the non-legally binding Working Definition of Antisemitism adopted in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and a tiny fraction of the world’s countries since.
But, first, eminent researchers, jurists, and civil liberties groups have dismissed the IHRA and cognate ‘definitions’ of antisemitism as incoherent, vague, and menacing to free speech. Second, whereas the IHRA appeared to set a high bar for antisemitism (‘hatred toward Jews’), the CAA does not attempt to relate endorsement of stereotypes to anti-Jewish animus. Third, whereas the IHRA emphasised that ‘the overall context’ must be taken ‘into account’ in order to establish a remark as antisemitic, the CAA ignores this crucial qualification. Fourth, the CAA polled statements (e.g., ‘I am comfortable spending time with people who openly support Israel’) that are not covered by or derived from the IHRA document.
In truth, none of the Israel-related statements polled by the CAA necessarily constitute antisemitism.
Let’s consider two examples.
– I am comfortable spending time with people who openly support Israel. The CAA reasons that, since studies have found ‘that the overwhelming majority of British Jews support Israel’, it follows that discomfort around supporters of Israel means discomfort ‘with Jews’—or, ‘perhaps’, a willingness ‘to tolerate Jews only as long as they keep their opinions quiet’. (Perish the thought!) In the current context, ‘people who openly support Israel’ is typically construed as people who support the criminal actions of the Israeli Government, such as its blockade of and periodic attacks on Gaza. In the era of Jim Crow, was it ‘anti-White’ to feel uncomfortable around open supporters of segregation and lynching? In the 1980s, was it ‘anti-Afrikaner’ to feel uncomfortable around open supporters of apartheid? So, then, why should it be considered ‘antisemitic’ to feel uncomfortable around open supporters of Israel’s racist and brutal regime?
– Israel is right to defend itself against those who want to destroy it. But doesn’t Israel deploy criminal violence against civilians, abet legislation that suppresses criticism of Israel, and deport respected human rights defenders on the grounds of its ‘right to defend itself against those who want to destroy it’? It would appear that, to be free of the taint of antisemitism, the CAA demands full-throated support for Israel each time it invokes the spurious claim of ‘self-defence’.
The CAA’s entire ‘study’ reduces to this: left-wingers are disproportionately critical of Israel; right-wingers are disproportionately critical of Jews; and the CAA misleadingly muddles the two.
* * *
The CAA was established in August 2014 to discredit as antisemitic the popular mobilisation against Israel’s criminal assault on Gaza.
In January 2015, it published a pair of surveys purporting to document a ‘crisis’ of antisemitism in Britain. (Sound familiar?) The publications were uniformly dismissed by established Jewish research bodies as—to quote the representative judgement of the JPR—‘littered with flaws’, ‘sensationalist’, and ‘irresponsible’.
Nearly five years on, what has changed?
The CAA remains a vulgar propaganda outfit.
The difference is that, today, the JPR, the Community Security Trust, the Pears Institute, and co., are silent. All have enlisted in, or succumbed from cowardice to, the anti-Corbyn juggernaut.
* * *
The CAA’s candid objective is to eject Jeremy Corbyn from ‘any public office’.
Its report is a crude attempt to weaponise ‘antisemitism’ to achieve this:
– ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s most loyal supporters are more likely to be anti-Semitic than those of other party leaders, YouGov poll reveals’ (Daily Mail)
– ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s most ardent supporters “more likely to be anti-Semitic”’ (Telegraph)
– ‘Antisemitism on the far-left has “overtaken” antisemitism on the far-right according to research’ (Jewish Chronicle)
(All these claims, we have seen, are false.)
Such headlines are intended to build momentum ahead of a CAA-organised rally against ‘antisemitism’—read: ‘Labour’—on 8 December. A film by David Hirsh, who also provided intellectual inspiration for the CAA paper, will be released the same day. (RottenTomatoes.com has devised a new category in anticipation: decomposed-on-arrival.)
The recklessness of this strategy can scarcely be overstated.
We might well be one financial crisis, one climate shock away from a far-right resurgence. Yet just as conditions are ripening for a fascist revival, Jewish organisations have set out to discredit our leading bulwark of antifascism—in the name of combatting ‘antisemitism’. History is rarely kind to such monumental betrayals.
Jamie Stern-Weiner is a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford and the editor of Antisemitism and the Labour Party (Verso, 2019).
Alan Maddison is a Strategic Analyst and associate member of Jewish Voice for Labour.
 The CAA also canvassed opinions of the statement: ‘Israel makes a positive contribution to the world’. But these were begrudgingly excluded from the ‘antisemitism’ calculations, on the grounds that disagreement with it ‘is not antisemitic in itself’.