Long-Bailey campaign manager agreed with candidate that defensiveness over racism allegations was never right – but reacts angrily when questioned over 2012 ‘Jewish Apartheid’ article
On Sunday Jon Lansman – Momentum founder and manager of Rebecca Long-Bailey’s campaign for the Labour leadership – praised Long-Bailey’s article that said that the ‘only’ response to ‘any’ accusation of racism must not be defensiveness, but ‘self-scrutiny, self-criticism and self-improvement’:
However, when the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) – the same body whose new list of demands Long-Bailey says she will back – complained that a 2012 newspaper cartoon was antisemitic, Lansman said that the BOD had brought shame on itself.
In the same year, Lansman wrote an article that would certainly result in a flurry of complaints if such comments were made today. In the current discourse, many supporters of Israeli policies routinely state that to describe Israel as practising ‘apartheid’ against Palestinians is antisemitic:
In his October 2012 article, the title of Lansman’s article used the term ‘Jewish apartheid’ – a term many would consider even more problematic:
The body of Lansman’s article is far more nuanced, discussing comments by Israeli commentators and a survey of the attitudes at the time of Jewish Israeli citizens to their government’s policies – but while Lansman says that he personally avoids the comparison of Israel’s policies with Apartheid, he does so:
not because they do not have any validity but because in all such comparisons there are significant differences as well as similarities, and they antagonise at least as often as they illuminate. However, 58% of Israelis already accept [sic], according to this poll, in some or most ways.
Even more problematically, Lansman says that comparisons of the situation in Israel with nazi Germany are ‘best avoided’, but also that
This too has some validity
The IHRA ‘working definition’ of antisemitism – whose adoption by the Labour Party Lansman promoted – includes comparison of Israeli policies with nazi Germany as one of its examples of discourse that may be antisemitic. Labour general secretary Jennie Formby wrote to all MPs in 2018 to warn that:
Inflammatory and incendiary remarks based on Nazi comparisons fall well below the bar we have set in this Code of Conduct and will not be tolerated.
The IHRA definition does not say that such comments are automatically antisemitic, but that they may be, “taking into account the overall context”. However, such detail and nuance rarely feature either in complaints or in media analysis of them.
Lansman’s article also criticises:
the UK’s Hasbara (literally ‘explanation’, but really Israeli government propoganda [sic] presented as grassroots opinion) mouthpiece, BICOM
The SKWAWKBOX contacted Jon Lansman. It asked, in view of his 2012 comments, the way in which such accusations are frequently made on the basis of such comments and his current endorsement of Rebecca Long-Bailey’s support for the BOD’s ten demands on the treatment of members accused of antisemitism:
Isn’t 2020 Jon Lansman advocating the suspension of 2012 Jon Lansman?
However, Mr Lansman’s response did not match his recent endorsement of Ms Long-Bailey’s comments on the acceptable response to ‘any’ claims of antisemitism.
Instead, Mr Lansman attacked the question as ‘sensationalist tabloid’ journalism that ignored ‘nuanced arguments’ – even though the point of the question was that complaints often ignore nuance, as does the BOD’s list of demands for Labour’s treatment of such complaints and of those complained about.
Adding that he supports Palestinian rights and the boycott of goods from illegal Israeli settlements, he went on:
I was arguing then for being careful about language and making easy but flawed comparisons in what was otherwise legitimate support for Palestinian rights
This was, of course, the point. Lansman’s article was doing that – but still used language and reached conclusions that would almost certainly result in a flurry of complaints if another Labour member made them today. And once those complaints have been made, adherence to the BOD’s list of demands would mean pariah status for anyone so accused, even if the complaints were ultimately found to be groundless.
Yet ‘2020 Jon Lansman’ applauded Rebecca Long-Bailey’s article committing to accepting them.
Mr Lansman’s anger at being asked the question could be perceived in his closing remarks, which involved derogatory remarks about the SKWAWKBOX and others.
Jon Lansman supports Rebecca Long-Bailey’s claim that the ‘only’ acceptable response to ‘any’ accusation of ‘racist prejudice’ is ‘self-scrutiny, self-criticism and self-improvement’ – and that ‘it is never ok to respond… by being defensive.
But he responded to even a question about how previous comments would be treated today with defensiveness – and offensiveness.
And he demanded nuance in the assessment of his 2012 article – a nuance that is as absent from most of the discussion about antisemitism as it is from many accusations and from the BOD’s list of demands.
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