FREE SPEECH ON ISRAEL (FSOI) was set up in Spring 2016 by a group of mainly Jewish activists under the slogan ‘Anti- Zionism is not antisemitism’. It was set up in reaction to a wave of suspensions and expulsions from the Labour Party of critics of Israel’s aggression and apartheid policies. The Labour Party disciplinary wave was a combination of anti-Corbyn fanatics looking for any weapon to undermine moves towards socialism in the Party and a Tel Aviv-inspired campaign to libel any support for Palestinian rights as antisemitic.
The two arms of the coalition had personnel in common such as John Mann and Wes Streeting. The Labour Party action was mirrored by a media campaign against Malia Bouattia and other student activists.
The assault brought two aspects of the Labour Party into greater visibility. Firstly, the capricious and unaccountable nature of Labour Party’s disciplinary procedures and the distance between the Compliance Unit and any notions of natural justice - suspensions without charges; no detailing of evidence; selective leaking to the press.
Secondly, the role and influence of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). The JLM and its predecessor Poale Zion had long affiliation with the Party but had been less significant than Labour Friends of Israel as a Hasbara (Zionist propaganda) channel.
The invention of an antisemitic surge in the Party was led by the JLM which successfully deflected attention from its close links to the World Zionist Movement and in particular its affiliation with the Israeli Labor Party (ILP). The ILP had been dominant in the Nakba, the expulsion and dispossession of Palestinians in 1947-8, and in the creation of the settlement programme from 1967 onwards.
The JLM is an important part of the drive to (mis-)define anti-Zionism as antisemitism. The allegations of antisemitism from the JLM were taken up by the Tories and the media. Its links with the Israeli Labor Party – responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity – were conveniently ignored. It has become apparent from the Al Jazeera investigation The Lobby that the resurgence of the JLM was energised by the Israeli Embassy to prevent the Labour Party committing to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.