Analysis Exclusive

Exclusive extract from new book ‘Weaponising Anti-Semitism’: Ruth Smeeth ‘strictly protect’

In his new book, Asa Winstanley dissects the antisemitism smear perpetrated against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour left. Read below for an exclusive extract

Journalist Asa Winstanley has been one of the most consistent and compelling voices exposing the ‘Labour antisemitism’ scam perpetrated against Jeremy Corbyn and the left to prevent a left-wing government – a weaponisation since confirmed even by the Starmer-commissioned Forde Report. In his new book, ‘Weaponising Anti-Semitism’, Winstanley provides a convincing history of the development of the smear before Corbyn was ever in the frame to lead the party – and the way it was used to help bring Corbyn’s leadership down after the left terrified the Establishment by coming close to winning the 2017 general election.

‘Strictly protect’: the extract from a Wikileaks document mentioning Ruth Smeeth. Smeeth said she had “no recollection of saying what has been attributed to me.”

In this exclusive extract, Winstanley examines one of the most prominent figures in the construction of the ‘Labour antisemitism’ narrative and the different aspects of the role she played, including her unfounded claims about Black activist Marc Wadsworth:

“Ruth Smeeth (strictly protect)”

Ruth Smeeth MP had good reason to delete the post [claiming Black activist Marc Wadsworth had used an antisemitic smear toward her at a Labour event] —the idea that Marc Wadsworth had said she was part of a “media conspiracy” was completely untrue. Importantly, he did not make any kind of anti-Jewish comment. In fact, he didn’t refer to Smeeth’s Jewishness in any way—he later clarified that he hadn’t even known she was Jewish. Wadsworth replied to Smeeth’s false allegations in a statement the same day, describing them as “poisonous slander.” He said her claims played “into a Jewish media conspiracy theory that I utterly reject and have never espoused.” [Video of the incident here]

Wadsworth’s instincts about Smeeth “working hand in hand” with the right-wing press to overthrow Corbyn were totally correct. Only three days earlier Smeeth had played her own minor part in the coup attempt against Corbyn. She announced on Twitter “with a heavy heart” that she was resigning from a junior role in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. It was timed to coincide with a series of resignations by dozens of hostile MPs, in a failed attempt to force him to resign. They came after the no-confidence vote tabled by Margaret Hodge and the firing of Hilary Benn, another right-wing shadow minister Corbyn had fruitlessly attempted to bring on board as part of his abortive “big church” approach.

But unlike Wadsworth and the others, as a journalist reporting on the UK’s pro-Israel lobby, I happened to be pretty well acquainted with Smeeth’s work.

I wrote a story about her in 2014, when she was selected as a Labour candidate. I did so because of two key facts, ignored by a media that would later pay her such close attention: she had worked as a spin doctor for the Israel lobby and had acted (wittingly or otherwise) as a secret Labour Party source for the US government.

*      *      *

Over the next two years, Smeeth campaigned relentlessly to have Marc Wadsworth expelled. In 2018, Smeeth rallied a group of white MPs to accompany her to a hearing of Labour’s disputes panel where she gave evidence against Wadsworth. His supporters later called this a modern-day political lynching. The case undermined Corbyn’s leadership and divided Labour’s newly enthusiastic left-wing mass membership. Smeeth wasn’t motivated so much by personal animus against Wadsworth as by a calculated political strategy. She was so dedicated to sabotaging her own party that she didn’t seem overly concerned that her campaign ultimately came at the cost of losing her own Labour seat in 2019.

Journalists gave Smeeth sympathetic puff-piece interviews. She told London newspaper the Evening Standard that her critics were motivated only by racism. “I don’t talk about Israel or Palestine,” she claimed. “This is not about anything I’ve said on Middle-East politics. I don’t participate.” This was, at best, incredibly misleading, as I knew from my prior reporting.

Smeeth was hired by lobbyists BICOM in 2005, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, as director of public affairs and campaigns. A public relations industry publication reported at the time that she had arrived there from a position as head of government relations for Sodexho, a company providing support services to the military. BICOM’s chief executive told the publication that Smeeth would help strengthen their relationships with the “Foreign Office, party leaders, think-tanks, and academia.” She worked for BICOM until 2007. After a brief stint in public relations for Nestlé, she returned to the Israel lobby, joining the Community Security Trust for two years. Although a registered charity tasked with documenting anti-Semitism, the CST also has a more clandestine mission: lobbying for Israel.

According to Antony Lerman, the founder of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, the CST even has ties with the Mossad, Israel’s foreign spy agency. The CST is another key part of the network of pro-Israel lobby groups that constantly pushed the “crisis” narrative on Labour.

After several abortive attempts, in 2014 Smeeth made her move into politics. She was selected as Labour candidate for the then–safe seat of Stoke-on-Trent North. Smeeth seemed an odd choice. She’d tried once already as Labour’s candidate in nearby Burton, losing to the Conservatives by more than 6,000 votes in 2010. She finally managed to enter Parliament in 2015.

Far from cutting her Israel lobby ties while an MP, the register of MPs’ financial interests reveals that Smeeth was given thousands of pounds in donations by two key BICOM figures: Poju Zabludowicz and Trevor Chinn. The founder of Smeeth’s ex-employer BICOM, Zabludowicz is the scion of an Israeli arms dealer and a billionaire property speculator. Chinn is a retired motor industry tycoon who uses his wealth to support a raft of Israel lobby groups, including the Jewish Leadership Council and BICOM.

While the nearest US equivalent to BICOM—AIPAC—has increasingly become more partisan and affiliated with Trump and the Republican Party in recent years, BICOM from its outset was closely aligned with the Atlanticist, neoliberal wing of the Labour Party. They were always going to consider the left-wing, pro-Palestinian leadership of Jeremy Corbyn to be a threat. Smeeth and her pro-American tendency aimed to keep the party stubbornly pro-Israel and pro-NATO.

The extent of Smeeth’s commitment to US empire was revealed by WikiLeaks in 2011. In one of the many classified US diplomatic cables revealed by whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, the US embassy in London secretly reported that “Ruth Smeeth (strictly protect)” had in 2009 given American diplomats inside information about Gordon Brown, then the UK’s prime minister. The intelligence concerned Brown’s strategy on when to hold a general election and the confidential cable’s author thought Smeeth’s report important enough to note that “this information has not been reported in the press.” Smeeth declined to deny the cable’s contents, claiming to the Daily Telegraph at the time of the WikiLeaks revelation that she had “no recollection of saying what has been attributed to me.” But she confirmed contact with the US embassy, claiming she had had “a friend” who happened to work there. “I would not consider myself to be a source for the US government,” she said.

‘Weaponising Anti-Semitism’ is now available to purchase in print or as an e-book here. Skwawkbox has not received any kind of incentive or benefit for printing this excerpt or featuring the book and purchased a copy from its own funds.

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