The Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has sacked the party’s shadow education secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, for tweeting a link to an interview in which actress Maxine Peake gave vent to an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
Peake repeated the baseless claim that has been bouncing round the internet that the tactics used by American police on George Floyd, who died under the knee of a police officer pinning him down, were “learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services”.
This is a malevolent falsehood. As the Israeli police have said: “There is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway”.
The original source of the claim, which has been repeated in recent weeks by Palestinian activists and supporters, was a 2016 article by the viciously anti-Israel Amnesty International which accused Israel of training US police forces in abuses of human rights.
Israel certainly trains foreign specialist officers in counter-terrorism, but that’s very different from training ordinary police officers. Bryan Leib, former national director of the Americans Against Antisemitism watchdog, called these allegations “disgusting and completely false”.
“It’s true that special operations teams in local and state law enforcement like SWAT do train with Israel but the average police officer has never received training from Israel!”
Long-Bailey’s sacking by Starmer marks a decisive and welcome change from the extreme reluctance by his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, to take condign action against the antisemitism that has engulfed his party.
Starmer’s office said today he had made it his first priority to deal with this. Good for him. However, the scale of the challenge he faces has been demonstrated by the reaction from within his ranks.
Long-Bailey was a prominent Corbyn supporter. Her high profile meant she was one of the few survivors from that hard-left regime to be given a post in Starmer’s front-bench team, a position she has now lost.
The outraged reaction of the Corbynites shows an incomprehension of antisemitism that would be comically imbecilic were it not such distressing evidence of ideological brainwashing. For they still cannot see what Starmer immediately recognised – that the claim was an antisemitic conspiracy theory.
One Corbynite declared that Starmer had merely displayed incomprehension of the northern working class. In other words, there was nothing wrong with Peake’s claim, and Long-Bailey’s sacking was just metropolitan liberal class treachery.
Even more extraordinarily, Corbyn’s former deputy, John McDonnell, reacted with a display of antisemitism denial. He tweeted: “Throughout discussion of antisemitism it’s always been said criticism of practices of Israeli state is not antisemitic. I don’t believe therefore that this article is or @RLong_Bailey should’ve been sacked. I stand in solidarity with her”.
But what had been claimed was not the practice of the Israeli state. The claim was baseless and vicious. McDonnell thus showed no understanding at all that it was an example of the unhinged belief that the Jews are somehow behind every bad thing that happens in the world.
And the reason for that is that he clearly believes anything bad said about Israel is legitimate, presumably because be believes Israel is inherently bad, and is therefore to be called “legitimate criticism” while bad stuff said about Jews is beyond the pale because that’s “antisemitism”.
But this wasn’t rational “criticism of Israel”. This was a blood libel straight out of the medieval antisemitism playbook directed at the Jewish state. No country, cause or people other than Israel and the Jews is subjected to this demonic and potentially murderous set of fantasies.
That’s why this kind of attack against Israel, which happens all the time on the left (as well as among their Jew-bashing soul-mates on the far-right) is indeed antisemitism. And that’s why Starmer’s task in ridding his party of this scourge will prove impossible.
And what about Maxine Peake, who actually made this claim? A few hours after Long-Bailey was sacked, Peake tweeted that she had been “inaccurate in my assumption of American police training and its sources”. She added: “I find racism & antisemitism abhorrent and I in no way wished, nor intended, to add fodder to any views of the contrary.”
“Inaccurate”? Peake cannot just dismiss this as if this were an honest mistake. The fact remains that she believed and endorsed an antisemitic blood libel. Her hatred of Israel appears to be so deep and irrational that she actually believed the patently ludicrous claim that the Minneapolis police have the hidden hand of Israel up their backs.
If anyone criticises black people or Black Lives Matter or denies that either the American or British police or society are systematically racist or that all white people are guilty of white privilege, self-styled “progressives” instantly subject them to character assassination, social and professional ostracism and try to get them fired – and if anyone comes to their support, they get the same treatment.
Yet if someone from these “progressive” ranks utters an anti-Jewish blood libel, and another appears to endorse what she has said, these same group-think enforcers start a hue and cry if these bigots are (very properly) called out and treated to the pariah status they deserve.
Why the double standard? Don’t Jews’ lives matter?
I think we know the answer.