Wednesday, 27 November 2019

The importance of facts in the debate over anti-semitism

Letter sent to The Times:

I am not Jewish, but do have several Jewish friends of very long standing. I am however an experienced researcher, and would like to correct several points made in the articles you published (“Labour antisemitism: how the charge sheet grew,” 26 November 2019; ) putting the Chief Rabbi’s very strong article on anti-semitism and the Labour Party leadership into context.(“Ephraim Mirvis: What will become of Jews in Britain if Labour forms the next government?”, 26 November 2019, )


One assertion under the ‘charge sheet’ list made by your deputy political editor, Steven Swinford, was that former Labour politician and London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, “claimed that Hitler had supported Zionism.” This is a misleading simplification of a very complex period of history in 1930s Germany.

I searched the on line documentation publicly accessible and found the following  in  two official Jewish archives.

In the summer of 1933, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the German Zionist 
Federation, and the German Economics Ministry drafted a plan meant to allow
German Jews emigrating to Palestine to retain some of the value of their property in
Germany by purchasing German goods for the Yishuv, [the Jewish population—including the pre-Zionist Jewish community—living in Palestine before the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948] which would redeem them in Palestine local currency. This scheme, known as the Transfer Agreement or Ha’avarah (Hebrew: הסכם העברה), met the needs of all interested parties: German Jews, the German  economy, and the Mandatory Government and the Yishuv in Palestine…


(The Transfer Agreement and the Boycott Movement: A Jewish Dilemma on the Eve of the Holocaust, by Yf’aat Weiss; Shoah Resource Center, The International 2/33 School for Holocaust Studies;


Another document in the archive of the US National Holocaust Memorial  museum in Washington DC on Chaim Weizmann, the  president of the World Zionist Organization during the Nazi era, who was  the first president of Israel, records the following:


“In August 1933, the Zionist Congress nominated Weizmann, to head the Jewish Agency's Department for the settlement of German Refugees. His first action was to try to coordinate and streamline all Jewish relief activities. His efforts met with little success. Weizmann opposed mere philanthropy; he always wished to bring about an organized, carefully controlled immigration of German Jews and other refugees to Palestine” (


A second assertion in the charge sheet was the claim that Mr Corbyn backed the artist, Mear One, ( a pseudomym for Los Angeles  muralist, Kalen Ockerman) who painted a mural which The Times states “depicted a group of Jewish bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of the poor.” (which you reproduced ).

In fact all of the bearded characters depicted were real, very rich Victorian men; but actually only two of them, Warburg and Rothschild, were Jewish. It is in the eye of the beholder to see them all as Jewish.

Such imagery are anti-capitalist tropes, not anti-Jewish ones.

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz reported seven years ago (“Mural in London's One-time Jewish Heart Sparks Debate on anti-Semitism,” Oct 14, 2012;“many residents had shown enthusiasm for the mural and encouraged Ockerman during the painting and were opposed to its removal.”


At such an important time as a General Election facts are important.

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