When Freedom of Speech is Under Attack, What do we do? Sit down, write a blog post

Recently, after years of extensive undercover research, Jewdas leaked a shocking expose to our social media of the shady network of organisations and individuals proposing up Jewdas in Britain.

Good reporting can sadly come with unintended consequences. As a result of tweeting this, we quickly realised we’d unwittingly created a monster we never set out to create: Twitter discourse. In particular, a war of words was sparked by some of the left wondering if maybe we weren’t quite as good Jews as they wanted us to be.

For those out of the loop, the graphic we posted took some inspiration from one created by spinwatch, a project of university lecturer David Miller.

David Miller has been facing accusations of antisemitism for a couple of years now from Jewish students at Bristol University. These have accelerated over the past couple of weeks, with the Bored of Deputies stepping in to request the university fires Miller. Several people saw our post as an endorsement of these attacks.

In response to this situation, we’ve put together an overly long, nuanced post without any concrete suggestions to improve the situation. We hope Yachad will forgive us for culturally appropriating them just this once.

The first thing to note is that David Miller is, to use the academic term, bad vibes. He is Director of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies, which has been accused of spreading conspiracy theories about the white helmets. His website Neocon Europe uncritically published the writings of a neo-Nazi. Miller’s writings on Jewish institutions contain few outright falsehoods, but they are embarrassingly conspiratorial, significantly overstating the influence and aims of various organisations.

Let’s take the above graph for example. For starters, the lack of arrows connecting the key players is poor effort; we could add in at least an extra five off the top of our head. There’s at least a 75% chance these people are all second cousins to each other. Describing the JLC as a ‘key’ Israel lobbying group, more so than the Zionist Federation, is unfairly flattering to them. All this exposition by Miller’s organisation shows is that Zionist Jews with too much time on their hands get involved in several Zionist Jewish causes. It’s tempting to blame the ills of the British government on a small, powerful group of people manipulating our politicians. But the left needs to remember that the UK isn’t pro-Israel and anti-Muslim because of a well organised Jewish lobby. The UK is pro-Israel and anti-Muslim because it’s an imperialist, racist shitstain of a country.

Yet, having said all this, it’s important to remember this is all happening in the wake of some pretty terrifying suppression of pro-Palestine and more broadly left-wing organising at UK universities. The government is threatening to cut off funding to universities which refuse to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and looking into plans to fine universities which don’t promote free speech in a way the government agrees with (the irony seems totally lost on them). Many opponents of Miller don’t want him fired because his lectureship is dodgy, they want him fired because he said Zionism is a racist, violent, imperialist ideology.

It is therefore incumbent on us to loudly say that Zionism is racist, violent and imperialist, and that nobody should lose their job solely for holding this belief. Some Jewish students may feel deeply uncomfortable that an ideology dear to them is being attacked, but this does not make criticising Zionism antisemitic. Now is a crucial time to defend pro-Palestinian organising on campus and to push back against the interference of a right-wing government in universities.

Whether David Miller’s writings about Jews and Zionism cross a line into outright antisemitism, whether he is an irredeemable antisemite or someone who could benefit from conversations with left-wing Jews, whether someone with his beliefs should be fired from being a university lecturer, are all questions we don’t wish to answer. We don’t all agree on what transformative justice looks like in cases of antisemitism, and we don’t know enough about this particular case.

What we do feel confident saying is that avoiding conspiracy theories is hard for the left, because a lot of them turn out to be at least partially true. Police really did go undercover to spy on vegans, America did hire Nazis to defeat communism, pharmaceutical companies did knowingly spread AIDs in Asia and Latin America, Israel did steal Mizrachi children and give them to Ashkenazi families. We’re pretty sure, but not certain, that Avril Lavigne is dead and Justin Trudeu is Fidel Castro’s son.

How then do we proceed with critically examining the information we get from state institutions and billionaire-backed media, without falling into conspiratorial fantasies? How do we protect our communities from spreading dangerous misinformation, whilst protecting freedom of speech? How can we encourage people to think critically about the role of Zionism in the Jewish community, whilst also being proportional and sensitive to the genuine fears of a people who have experienced genocide in living memory? There aren’t easy answers, but we would suggest a good start is to engage in these issues with a great deal of humility, curiosity, and empathy.

It’s hard work being on the left, and being committed to building a better world out of this horrendous, imperialism-scarred, capitalist nightmare of a planet. Paranoia, anger and tribalism are perhaps inevitable in these building conditions, but too much of them paralyses us. The good news is when we take a break from Twitter arguments and internet rabbitholes, and speak openly and compassionately with our comrades across differences, solidarity can emerge which actually sustains what we do. It’s hard work building this new world, but it’s holy work too.

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5 thoughts on “When Freedom of Speech is Under Attack, What do we do? Sit down, write a blog post”

  1. Being subject to the daily onslaught of msm/bbc establishment narrative with it’s conspicuous omissions,mutings,unchecked stories to the point that they are as mendacious as,and quite similar in invention to,conspiracy theories-for instance,the lack of acknowledgement of the widespread weaponisation of antisemitism in mainstream/the establishment narrative-is disturbing.The establishment/official narrative cannot be trusted and is weaponised too.And alternative sources of information are castigated as if the official narrative is journalism.Reliable information tends to be derived from different sources.

  2. I’m not going to get into a long polemic but when a comrade and activist is under attack from the BOD and the other Zionist organisations as David Miller has been, the first place you start with is by expressing solidarity.

    Does anyone think that the multiplicity of Zionist organisations going in for the kill would be at all concerned if David Miller was a genuine racist or anti-Semite? Did they say even a dicky bird about David Starkey’s support for genocidal racism and slavery? Have they ever said anything meaningful about Tory racism, Boris Johnson’s 72 virgins, Trump’s virulent anti-Semitism, Rees Mogg’s repeated references to the Illuminati, George Soros etc.

    As it is the above piece comes across as grossly self-indulgent, the writing of someone whose opposition to imperialism stops short of doing anything about it.

    The reference to ‘uncritically publishing the writings of a neo-Nazi’ refers to something 10 years ago on the website of neo-con Europe. I went to the link in a Guardian article (not the most reliable of sources!) to read that ‘Miller has since removed all references to MacDonald from his site, apologising for their appearance and dissociating Neocon Europe from MacDonald’s views.’ If David had defended the appearance of Kevin MacDonald that would be a different matter.

    The question of the White Helmets and their alleged collaboration with Jihadists is a separate matter but from my understanding there are very good reasons to be skeptical about them, not least because of the support of US imperialism for them. However whether they are bona fide or not is a legitimate matter for discussion.

    The writer of the above piece also fails to differentiate between conspiracies and conspiracy theories. However the reasons why people form conspiracy theories around Israel that involve Jews is simply that for most people the explanation for the West’s support for Israel is not obvious. The fact that the most reactionary and racist shits like Eric Pickles use ‘anti-semitism’ and Jews as the camouflage for their own politics leads people to think that ‘the Jews’ are behind Western support because of their influence.

    Unfortunately Zionism reinforces and indeed creates anti-Semitism in the West by associating Jews with what Israel does. That is a fact.

    However when David Miller is under attack from the Board, the CAA, the CST etc. in addition to Starmer, Kate Green, Thangam Debonnaire etc. it is a no brainer that he should be defended because it isn’t just about him. It’s about an attack on any dissident academic who steps out of line. Your inability to understand this makes you little more than petit-bourgeois dilettantes. Clearly you don’t understand that an injury to one is an injury to all.

    And if you were indeed involved in Palestine solidarity and anti-Zionist work on a serious and sustained basis rather than as an occasional past-time you would know that David Miller is not the first academic at Bristol University to be targeted. Professor Rachel Gould (who is herself Jewish) was also target 3 years ago by the CAA because she had audacity to write an essay ‘Beyond Antisemitism’ in which she discussed how the memory of the Holocaust had been used to justify Israel’s atrocities. To the CAA this was a multiple breach of the IHRA which Bristol has adopted.

    There is nothing wrong with criticising David IN THE CONTEXT OF SOLIDARITY but your piece above comes across as churlish, self-indulgent and sectarian. I am sorry that Jewdas has sought to go down this road but if I’m not mistaken you have done this before. You supported the expulsion of Ken Livingstone and from memory Chris Williamson. This suggests to me that you are not a serious group unlike say the new Palestine Action.

    I write this as someone who has contributed articles to your site in the past and as someone who has admired some of your previous actions. I’m sorry you seem to be politically at sea.

    I only came across this because a link was posted in my PSC group. I don’t know whether this comment will be put up but I shall be posting on our site anyway.

  3. I have also just been referred to the link to posting neo-Nazi comments above. It references Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens. Here is what Wikileaks says about this creature:

    ‘Dr. Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is an American think tank researcher who undertook his higher education in London and according to the Policy Exchange has worked in US right wing and neoconservative think tanks, though it is unclear when.[1] Since 2007-9 he has worked – in particular on Islam – successively at Standpoint, Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion.[2] He has also blogged at the Henry Jackson Society[3] and Hudson New York websites[4]. He is the son of the journalist Christopher Hitchens.’

    So using the same guilt-by-association technique that you use, you are now guilty of being a bunch of Islamaphobic racists is not semi-fascists, which is what HJS and the associated Gatestone Institute is. Of course you are not but you can see how easy it is to fall into the same trap that you set

    https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Alexander_Meleagrou-Hitchens#Connections

  4. JVL’s UTTER AND COMPLETE IRRESPONSIBILITY IN POSTING THIS ARTICLE – PLEASE TAKE IT DOWN

    I am staggered that at a time when Professor David Miller is under attack by the British Establishment and a full spectrum of Zionist organisations – the Board of Deputies, CAA, CST to say nothing of Starmer’s Labour and the Tories, that JVL carries a snide, bitchy, scabby little article by Jewdas.

    Whatever minor disagreements there may be with David the overwhelming need today is for solidarity. Not just with David but with all those who believe in academic freedom and freedom of speech.

    Has Jewish Voices for Labour lost all sense of proportion that you should consider this article the only thing you have to say at this particular time? Do you not recognise that when Zionist organisations begin demanding the dismissal of a university lecturer that we are entering into a new ball game where basic democratic rights are under attack?

    Authoritarian regimes such as the one in power in Britain today always target universities and dissident academics. It is noticeable that Gavin Williamson, who is so concerned to protect free speech for racists and fascists in academia has also signaled his approval of David Miller’s dismissal. The same Williamson who is doing his level best to impose the IHRA.

    The CAA has made attacks on dissident academics something of a speciality. 3 years ago it demanded the dismissal of Rebecca Gould, also at Bristol University. Other academics it has targeted include Moshe Machover and Richard Falk We have just had the attack on Ken Loach at Oxford. It seems that this tactic is now being embraced by all Zionist groups.
    There is such an important democratic principle at stake here that I wonder whether the editors of JVL blog have completely lost their minds. What were they thinking about when they reprinted this self-indulgent nonsense from Jewdas?

    I don’t expect, since comments on JVL blog are moderated, for my response to be published hence I will copy it to selected recipients. In addition I will repost what I wrote in response to the original article.

    Really I think you should hang your collective heads in shame. Your tactics are similar to those of the old RCP (now the neo-liberal Spiked!) during the miners’ strike. They used their disagreement over a secret ballot as the pretext to continuously attack Arthur Scargill. It is now clear where they were coming from. The question is where is JVL is coming from?

    Original Reply to Jewdas as edited

    When a comrade and activist is under attack from the Board of Deputies and other Zionist organisations as David Miller has been, the first place to start is by expressing solidarity.

    Does anyone think that the multiplicity of Zionist organisations going in for the kill would be at all concerned if David Miller was a genuine racist or anti-Semite? Did they say even a dicky bird about David Starkey’s support for genocidal racism and slavery? Have they ever said anything meaningful about Tory racism, Boris Johnson’s 72 virgins, Trump’s virulent anti-Semitism, Rees Mogg’s repeated references to the Illuminati, George Soros etc.

    The above piece comes across as grossly self-indulgent, the writing of someone whose opposition to imperialism stops short of doing anything about it.
    The reference to ‘uncritically publishing the writings of a neo-Nazi’ refers to something published 10 years ago on the website of Neo-con Europe. I went to the link in a Guardian article to read that ‘Miller has since removed all references to MacDonald from his site, apologising for their appearance and dissociating Neocon Europe from MacDonald’s views.’

    If David had defended the appearance of Kevin MacDonald’s article that would be an entirely different matter. I don’t know what the circumstances of its appearance 10 years ago and they are frankly irrelevant.

    The question of the White Helmets in Syria and their alleged collaboration with Jihadists is a separate matter but from my understanding there are very good reasons to be skeptical about them, not least because of the support they received from British and US imperialism. However whether they are bona fide or not is a legitimate matter for discussion.

    The writer of the above piece fails to differentiate between conspiracies and conspiracy theories. The reasons why people form conspiracy theories around Israel that involve Jews is simply that for most people the explanation for the West’s support for Israel is not obvious. The fact that the most reactionary and racist shits like Eric Pickles use ‘anti-semitism’ and concern for Jews as a camouflage for their own politics leads people to think that ‘the Jews’ are behind Western support Israel.

    Unfortunately Zionism reinforces and indeed creates anti-Semitism in the West by playing along with this and associating Jews with what Israel does.

    When David Miller is under attack from the Board, the CAA, the CST etc. in addition to Starmer, Kate Green, Thangam Debonnaire etc. it is a no brainer that he should be defended because it isn’t just about him. It’s about an attack on any dissident academic who steps out of line. Your inability to understand this makes you little more than petit-bourgeois dilettantes. An injury to one is an injury to all. This is scabbing.

    If you were indeed involved in Palestine solidarity and anti-Zionist work on a serious and sustained basis rather than as an occasional past-time you would know that David Miller is not the first academic at Bristol University to be targeted. Professor Rachel Gould (who is herself Jewish) was also targeted 3 years ago by the CAA because she had written an essay ‘Beyond Antisemitism’ in which she discussed how the memory of the Holocaust had been used to justify Israel’s atrocities. To the CAA this was a multiple breach of the IHRA which Bristol has adopted. Eric Pickles, the Tory racist who heads the delegation to the IHRA, compared Gould’s writings to Holocaust denial.

    There is nothing wrong with criticising David IN THE CONTEXT OF SOLIDARITY but your piece above comes across as churlish, self-indulgent and sectarian. Jewdas has gone down this road before. You supported the expulsion of Ken Livingstone and from memory Chris Williamson. This suggests to me that you are not a serious group unlike say the new Palestine Action.

    This was added later

    I have also just been referred to the link in the Jewdas article to an article in the Guardian re Neocon Europe posting neo-Nazi comments. It references Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens. Here is what Wikileaks says about this creature:

    ‘Dr. Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is an American think tank researcher who undertook his higher education in London and according to the Policy Exchange has worked in US right wing and neoconservative think tanks, though it is unclear when. Since 2007-9 he has worked – in particular on Islam – successively at Standpoint, Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion. He has also blogged at the Henry Jackson Society and Hudson New York websites. He is the son of the journalist Christopher Hitchens.’

    So using the same guilt-by-association technique that you use, you are now guilty of being a bunch of Islamaphobic racists if not semi-fascists, which is what HJS and its close associate the Gatestone Institute is. Of course you are not but you can see how easy it is to fall into the same trap that you set. See

    https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Alexander_Meleagrou-Hitchens#Connections

  5. Tony Greenstein begins by saying “I’m not going to get into a long polemic” but then posts three comments in a row, longer than the actual article he’s replying too. Definitely not mad online.

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