GS candidate Hilder: “we must not blur lines between antisemitism and criticism of Israeli policies”

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Labour General Secretary candidate Paul Hilder – the least well-known to many Labour members of the three known to have applied so far – has spoken at length to the SKWAWKBOX about his view of the General Secretary position and how he sees the future organisation of the Labour Party.

But one area of particularly sharp interest at the moment, in view of recent events, is that of the suspension or expulsion of a number of predominantly Jewish members on charges of antisemitism. Hilder spoke frankly of his view of the situation.

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SKWAWKBOX: What do you make of the suspensions, particularly those of largely Jewish people accused of a/s and what would you do about those and the cases of people suspended during the purge who still haven’t had their cases resolved or suspensions lifted?

PH: I’m not sufficiently informed about the detail of the current controversies around anti-semitism investigations to comment on specific cases, nor do I think that would be appropriate. Let me instead state a few simple principles.

First, anti-semitism is always and unequivocally wrong. This worldview has a genocidal legacy and a toxic nature. Anti-semites are not welcome in the Labour Party, and in any incident where a hate-crime may have been committed – against a person from any background – the police should be involved.

Second, every member is entitled to justice and due process, with decisions being made as swiftly as possible, and on the basis of evidence and reason rather than factional interest. But I would review the process if appointed as General Secretary, because it seems (from a distance) to be imperfect at present.

Third, we must not blur the lines between anti-semitism and legitimate criticism of the policies of the state of Israel. I spent almost five years working around the edges of the Middle East peace process, talking to everyone from settlers to militants.

I spoke with Hamas leaders in Gaza and in Beirut; anti-Semitic opinions were impossible to avoid. I also spoke with radical settlers who openly proposed acts of genocide and war crimes against the Palestinians, such as bombing the Temple Mount.

People adopt extreme opinions in the midst of hot conflicts, and there are shades of grey. But there are also clear lines you cannot cross if you want to be a member of the Labour Party, and anti-semitism and Islamophobic prejudice are two of those red lines.

I hope my experience has helped me understand these issues better; and I also believe that a background in conflict management and conflict resolution may be helpful to the party in the months and years to come.

The three candidates have so far taken different approaches to their candidacy.

Unite’s Jennie Formby has maintained – with the exception of a dignified comment on Nick Cohen’s vile article in today’s Observer – a public silence on her suitability for the General Secretary job, letting her critics expose their own prejudices, as indeed Cohen has done, and feeling that a public debate on a non-elected position may generate more heat than light to the detriment of the party.

Jon Lansman has spoken to media largely through spokespeople. Some journalists have claimed Momentum has also been ‘briefing’ to the media, but this has been hotly denied by Momentum’s official press office.

Hilder – widely considered to be the outside chance but personally confident – has gone on record with details of his views and plans.

Whichever candidate you think will make the best General Secretary, his comments on controversial allegations of antisemitism and the distinction between that and legitimate criticism of Israeli policies ought to be welcomed by all who have been critical, from whatever viewpoint, of their handling up to now.

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  1. I welcome this message from Hilder “WE MUST NOT BLUR LINES BETWEEN ANTISEMITISM AND CRITICISM OF ISRAELI POLICIES” However, although I support Jennie Formby at the moment, I have no idea what her views are on false claims of antisemitism. Could SKWAWKBOX ask her please?

    1. I think THAT’S a forgone conclusion David, given that SHE herself has been falsely accused of a/s.

  2. One is either for or against apartheid.

    There is no middle ground on this issue.

    Apartheid supporters routinely falsely use the grave charge of anti-semitism to stamp out protest against Israel’s apartheid policies.

    There is no place in the Labour Party for those who support apartheid.

  3. I’ll take a wild guess that she’s not in favour of them.
    You think it’s possible she might be?

  4. The issue of the appalling lack of due process and natural justice in the complaints system is of paramount importance. We should ask for a statement on this issue from all applicants for G.S.

    1. Yerse……but then again, people say things to get themselves elected, but once they ARE………

      Jeremy obviously knows Jennie and trusts her implicitly, and THAT’S good enough for me.

  5. Genuinely need help with this…given that many of those expelled or disciplined are Jewish, how can they be antisemitic rather than prejudiced in some way? I ask this as there are power issues involved, if black, unable to be described as racist against people of colour? Apologies if I’ve totally missed something here.

    1. Well may you ask; but Israeli government agencies and their supporters abroad have a strategy of attempting to equate anti-Zionism and anti-semitism — for the example mentioned in my earlier comment, see https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/asa-winstanley/israeli-anti-zionist-expelled-labour-amid-anti-semitism-smear.

      For obvious reasons they regard this as an effective way of shutting down discussion of Israel’s behaviour and policies.

    1. Well, sort of. And did you see Julian’s comment below, re how Paul supported Iain McNicol when he stood as a candidate for GS (and won)?

      1. I believe choice was between a Rock and a Hard Place.
        Other one was staunch Blairite! Maybe McNicol’s true colours were yet to be revealed.

        Maria Carroll may put her hat in the ring, justice would then prevail. She is remarkable!

  6. Thanks to Hilder for daring to approche the subject, as it seems to be the most sensitive one for labour’s left (they seems to be silenced by the antisemitic smears) To me it is still short of what all the gensec candidates should express because lets face it, Israël is the most extrem right wing government in the world at the moment (US isn’t far behind) They pretend to be a democracy but what democraric country jails kids by the hundreds, commits war crimes, threatens his neighbors on a daily basis and steps on international law as if it’s not it’s business. The left is rightly keen to critic the tory gouvernment for it’s desastrous and inhuman foreign policies as it dix lately with it’s links to Saudi Arabia but fail to do so for aparteid Israël. To me this line is simply the one who reveal who is truly an universal leftist living its core values or just an opportunist.

  7. Hilder says “I’m not sufficiently informed about the detail of the current controversies around anti-semitism investigations to comment on specific cases, nor do I think that would be appropriate.”

    Whether or not it’s appropriate (I think it’s very appropriate, e.g. in the case of Moshé Machover, whose prominence led to him being swiftly reinstated after his arbitrary suspension) to comment on particular cases, Hilder will have get up to speed on the details before the interview, since I hope all the candidates will be questioned closely on their views about the compliance unit and its antics.

    Also, while his comments on due process are welcome, it should be noted that he is on record as having regarded McNicol as the best candidate (after Hilder wasn’t shortlisted) last time round.

    To quote from his New Statesman article (https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2018/03/paul-hilder-labour-general-secretary-NEC) “I then met privately with Iain McNicol, who was the underdog but seemed like the candidate whose agenda was closest to my own”.

    1. I wonder if McNicol will be reciprocating? I have a gut feeling he WON’T be somehow!

      Good on yer for digging that one out Julian.

  8. “GS candidate Hilder: “we must not blur lines between antisemitism and criticism of Israeli policies”

    I fully support this statement. Why then do I feel uneasy, especially as it surfaces on the same day rumours abound that Lansman may be stepping down from the GS selection race?

    In my view Labour has to be brave and sort this particular issue, meeting it head on and decisively or it will plague and hobble the Corbyn led project.

    Fine rhetoric and words abound in politics…

  9. When I hear a GS candidate not only condemn antisemitism but also Zionism, the most disruptive force in the Labour Party, I will be 100% behind them.

  10. Despite Jon Lansman’s call to one-and-all to put themselves forward – which sounds all very well but is totally unrealistic – the reality is that anyone who is on board with JC will be backing his favoured candidate. In other words, WHY would you stand against Jennie if you WERE.

  11. And can I just say – completely off topic – that Theresa May was always going to ‘win’ the leadership election, and THAT’S precisely why they kept her out of sight during the referendum, and all the stuff that went on to arrive at that ‘result’, was scripted well beforehand.

    They wanted it over and done with as quickly as possible so that their chums could focus solely on JC – ie vilifying and smearing him. Their black propaganda ‘department, that is, the Sun and the Mail and Express etc.

    PS And I don’t know if it’s been mentioned elsewhere on SB, but the latest Survation poll has JC’s LP eight points ahead of the Tories:


    1. Footnote And YES, they DID know well in advance that there was going to be a leadership challenge to JC. ‘They’ were the ones who wrote the script after all, including a brick through the window and hundreds of abusive phone-calls (to Angela Eagle’s office), and homophobic comments (at a meeting of her CLP) etc, etc. And it would ALL be down to Jeremy of course!

  12. I appreciate that anti-semitism is the must discuss thing at the moment but instead of just focusing on that can we not have it so that ANY abuses are equally unacceptable??

    I personally think its unacceptable for MPs to be rude to their constituents on one end of the scale up to the phobic style attacks against any group, all should be equally unacceptable. At the moment we appear to have the situation where anti-semitism is stamped upon from on high but others are potentially ignored presumably because the media focus in on anti-semitism so much.

  13. For someone applying for such a pivotal position at the core of the Labour Party to admit they’re “not sufficiently informed about the detail of the current controversies around anti-semitism investigations” and follow this with vague generalities is frankly just not good enough and most certainly not what we need at the moment.

    We need someone who’s willing to call a spade a spade and flatly condemn the witch hunt surrounding ‘anti-semitism’ within the Labour Party.

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