Guardian letter peddles same anti-Jewish smear condemned by EHRC

On Oct, 30, a day after the EHRC report on antisemitism in the Labour Party was released, the Guardian published a series of letters, including the following, by a former MP:

I have known Jeremy Corbyn for nearly 60 years. He has many faults. He was a hopeless leader of my (then) party and his lacklustre campaign directly caused the disaster of Brexit.

He is a decent, honourable man and a dedicated parliamentarian. He is about as antisemitic as the chief rabbi. His suspension from the Labour party is a disgrace (Labour in turmoil as Corbyn suspended in wake of antisemitism report, 29 October).

Like many of us, he loathes Israel’s present government and its treatment of the Palestinians. In October 2009 I went to Gaza. I went as part of a European group of parliamentarians in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, a retaliatory attack on Gaza by Israel in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians.

The British contingent consisted of members of the Lords and Commons, including Jeremy Corbyn. It was led by the late Sir Gerald Kaufman, a hugely experienced and distinguished parliamentarian. He was a Jew and a supporter of Labour’s Friends of Israel group. He was also a strong, persistent and highly articulate critic of Israel’s policies.

It cannot be said often enough. Some of those who are apologists for Israel’s conduct in Palestine persistently use the false accusation of antisemitism as a weapon against their critics. It does their cause no service and will generate precisely the prejudice and hatred they purport to abhor. 

Bob Marshall-Andrews QC
MP for Medway 1997-2010

To those unfamiliar with the history of the letter-writer’s smear that Jews make false accusations of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israel, it was first called out by Professor David Hirsh to describe a trope used by Ken Livingstone in 2006 – and thus referred to as the Livingstone Formulation.

Unfortunately, this ‘formulation’ – denying antisemitism by calling into the question the motivation of the Jewish victims – has not at all been limited to the former London mayor.  As CAMERA UK has documented, it’s been peddled and legitimised by British media outlets, including the BBC .

Further, as CST revealed in a 2019 report “The online networks behind the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis”, antisemitic narratives that took root in Labour-supporting online circles during that time included “allegations of antisemitism against Labour are a fake smear campaign” – that is, the Livingstone Formulation.

Of even greater relevance, the explosive EHRC report released on Thursday, which found the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn broke equalities law in areas including harassment and discrimination, cited Livingstone (pg 28) using this very smear as an example of Labour officials using antisemitic tropes:

2. Suggesting that complaints of antisemitism are fake or smears.
Labour Party agents denied antisemitism in the Party and made comments dismissing complaints as ‘smears’ and ‘fake’. This conduct may target Jewish members as deliberately making up antisemitism complaints to undermine the Labour Party, and ignores legitimate and genuine complaints of antisemitism in the Party. These comments went beyond simply describing the agents’ own personal experience of antisemitism in the Party. 

Example: In media interviews in April 2016, Ken Livingstone, a Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC) member, made reference to social media posts made by Naz Shah MP. Naz Shah’s posts included a graphic suggesting that Israel should be relocated to the United States, with the comment ‘problem solved’, and a post in which she appeared to liken Israeli policies to those of Hitler. Naz Shah apologised for her comments in Parliament and conceded that they caused ‘upset and hurt to the Jewish Community’. Ken Livingstone repeatedly denied that these posts were antisemitic and Investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party 29 sought to minimise their offensive nature. In his denial, Ken Livingstone alleged that scrutiny of Naz Shah’s conduct was part of a smear campaign by ‘the Israel lobby’ to stigmatise critics of Israel as antisemitic, and was intended to undermine and disrupt the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn MP.

“The basic idea behind most modern anti-Semitism”, argued The CST’s Dave Rich, “is that Jews must be up to something”. “Whatever Jews say and do”, he continued, “can’t be taken at face value: they must have some ulterior motive or hidden agenda that needs to be uncovered.”

In its decision to publish a letter arguing, in effect, that British Jews are lying when they expressed their belief that Corbyn and his party are antisemitic, and that this perfidious Jewish behavior will “generate…the hatred they purport to abhor”, the Guardian has sanctioned not only the Livingstone Formulation, but the even more odious charge that Jewish behavior explains antisemitism.

Related Posts
Written By
More from Adam Levick
Photo journalist Ali Ali and a repeat Guardian photo of a destroyed home in Gaza
An August 12, 2012 edition of the Guardian’s ‘24 hours in pictures‘,...
Read More
Join the Conversation


  1. says: Judy Keiner

    It is a gross error to attribute the term “the Livingstone formulation” to describe accusations that Jews make fake bad faith accusations of antisemitism to deflect supposedly just criticism of the supposedly evil deeds of Israel. This particular bad faith smear against Jews fighting antisemitism was promoted by Soviet antizionist campaigns long before Livingstone deployed such smears. A Pravda editorial of 1st April 1983 called for all Communists to devote their energies to fighting zionism in all their endeavours, and to refute what it called the “absurd” accusation by “zionists” that their critiques of antizionism were antisemitic. Antizionist publications produced in English by Soviet sources regularly repeated the smears. Here’s the key quote from the Pravda “antizionist manifesto”: “ …By its nature, Zionism concentrates ultra-nationalism, chauvinism and racial intolerance, excuse for territorial occupation and annexation, military opportunism, cult of political promiscuousness and irresponsibility, demagogy and ideological diversion, dirty tactics and perfidy… Absurd are attempts of Zionist ideologists to present those who criticize them, or condemn the aggressive politics of Israel’s ruling circles, as antisemitic… We call on all Soviet citizens: workers, peasants, representatives of intelligentsia: take active part in exposing Zionism, strongly rebuke its endeavors; social scientists: activate scientific research to criticize the reactionary core of that ideology and aggressive character of its political practice; writers, artists, journalists: to more fully expose the anti-populace and anti-humane diversionary character of the propaganda and politics of Zionism…”

    David Hirsh has done academic scholarship a great disservice by attributing this particular pernicious smear to a man of little long term political significance, instead of locating it where it belongs, at the core of the Soviet Union’s instructions to its followers to use antisemitic methods in campaigning against zionism.

  2. says: Harj

    Anyone who uses anti semtism to smear for political or other non religious purposes is the most anti semetic of all and should hand their heads in shame.
    EVERYONE knows Jeremy Corbyn is a life long anti racist. The proof is out in the open about what happened. Boris Johnson openly praises Nancy Aston and yet is a friend of the Jewish community, Jeremy Corbyn stands on the front line and physically confronts right wing Nazi’s and yet he is the enemy. The difference is that one supports the occupation of Palestine whilst the other does not. Nothing anti semetic here.

  3. says: Grimey

    It is established fact that the “The Grauniad” (sic Private Eye) is an anti-Israel, anti-Semitic rag – even worse than the institutionally arabist BBC World Service – if that were possible. Both should be hauled up before the UN OHCHR – with fat chance of punishment as that also is institutionally racist against Israel.

    1. says: Richard Turnbull

      No, it’s actually worse than that: the Guardian is perfectly capable of producing fair and accurate journalism, as well as excellent coverage of other news items, the sciences, the arts, environmental issues, sports, books, film — the works.
      But the Guardian has the relentless biases exposed on this website, when it comes to the State of Israel and the Palestinians.
      This indicates there are conscious prejudices and probably unconscious, systemic biases behind their coverage of the State of Israel and the Palestinians.

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *