The right’s attack on Michael Rosen – and the questions they are ignoring

Renowned author Michael Rosen has long been a target of venom from the Labour right for being a Jewish man who – though not a Labour member – supported Jeremy Corbyn.

And Rosen was the innocent bystander victim in one of countless egregious attacks on Corbyn when Northumbria University lecturer – and director of the anti-Corbyn group ‘Labour against Antisemitism’ (LAAS) – Peter Newbon chose to tweet an image that had originally shown Corbyn reading Rosen’s famous ‘Bear Hunt’ book to a group of schoolchildren. In Newbon’s tweet, Rosen’s book had been photoshopped to look like the vile and fictitious antisemitic propaganda book ‘The Protocols of Zion’, though it is unlikely that the photoshopping was done by Newbon.

But Newbon, whose profile at the time did not mention being Jewish or a director of LAAS, did not stop there. He also bastardised the words of Rosen’s book into a deeply antisemitic form. Rosen objected and asked Northumbria University to intervene – yet in the perversion of reality so common in the ‘Labour antisemitism’ smear campaign, the victim was cast as the villain and the bully, along with those who objected to the abuse directed toward one of Britain’s best-loved authors. Newbon launched a lawsuit against Rosen for his objection to what Newbon had done.

Tragically, last week Newbon died – and rather than leave his family to grieve in peace, the Labour right and its media allies launched a series of disgraceful and barely-veiled attacks on Rosen, attributing Newbon’s death to the reaction to his tweet – not mentioning or else deeply burying the fact that more than half a year separated the two – and casting its content as ‘satire’ or a ‘prank’. Some even implied – and a few baldly stated – that claims the content of the tweet was antisemitic toward Rosen were fabricated – a claim that would see any left-winger hounded in the same media were it to be made against a right-winger.

But the supposedly ‘professional’ journalists circling Rosen omitted to ask a number of key questions, or skirted them in the most oblique possible terms, in their eagerness to cast Rosen as villain. Others need to be asked of those engaged in the attacks on Rosen themselves. Here are some of those questions:

  • why are Rosen’s attackers linking events that are eight months apart and doing so as if it is simply a given, when there are other factors that intervened?
  • the coverage admits that Newbon was also being sued by someone else at the same time as he was trying to sue Rosen. Why was there no mention of what he was being sued for, nor any consideration of any possible implications in Newbon’s tragic death?
  • some of the media coverage mentions that Northumbria University gave Newbon a ‘final warning’ as a result of his tweet, as if that made Rosen to blame. But ‘final’ warnings are usually not ‘first warnings’. What else had Mr Newbon been warned for?
  • why did most of the coverage state that Rosen had called Newbon an antisemite when this was not the case? Rosen had said that the photoshopping of an antisemitic text onto a Jewish author’s book was an antisemitic act
  • why does the coverage fail to properly address the fact that Newbon was a director of LAAS?
  • another LAAS director had tweeted the BBC trying to have Rosen taken off air by the BBC, while yet another had tweeted mentioning the value of his house – an implication that they knew his home address – and implying that he may not have been able to control himself toward Rosen when he had seen him, if the LAAS director’s wife had not been present. Why did the media ignore this in their coverage?
  • why did the media underemphasise the fact of Rosen’s Jewishness
  • why did they fail to mention the long history of abuse by the rest of the pro-Israel right in and out of Labour toward Rosen – which includes verbally abusing him when he was an invited guest speaking to a parliamentary committee?
  • and why do the media feel free to dismiss Rosen’s assessment of antisemitism in the image Newbon tweeted when they would never dream of doing the same to a right-winger and indeed have mobbed and hounded former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for suggesting even that some claims of antisemitism might have been merely exaggerated?

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1 comment

  1. I would be surprised if any member of LAAS was Jewish.

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