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On the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey

Submitted by AWL on 27 June, 2020 - 10:28 Author: Ira Berkovic
Rebecca Long-Bailey

A worldview which sees the hidden hand of Israel behind every social ill, and which radically inflates the power of the Israeli state, are key aspects of what Workers' Liberty and others have called "left antisemitism". The claim in the actor Maxine Peake's recent interview in the Independent, that "the tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd's neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services", belongs to that worldview.

The claim itself is false. US police have attended conferences in Israel, and in other countries. There is no evidence to suggest the specific technique of kneeling on the neck, a restraint tactic seen in instances of police brutality all over the world, "was learnt from [...] Israeli secret services." To suggest that Israel is the source for some element of the USA's "systemic racism" is precisely to blame Israel for social ills, and to radically inflate its power. The reality, of course, is that the USA's systemic racism is very much homegrown.

For Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey to have promoted the interview with Peake without a critical comment on that claim suggests she either did not read it fully, or that she did not recognise that claim for what it was: an antisemitic canard. Neither are very much to her credit.

Nevertheless, Labour leader Keir Starmer's sacking of Long-Bailey from her Shadow Cabinet role will hinder, not help, the effort to uproot left antisemitism. It encourages those who advocate administrative and disciplinary responses to the issue rather than open political debate and education.

Moreover, the sacking cannot be viewed in abstraction from Starmer's political agenda: to accelerate Labour's rightwards lurch, and rid his Shadow Cabinet of the person most prominently associated with the "Corbyn project". Starmer has seized on an opportunity to further marginalise the left within the leadership of the party. As such, Long-Bailey's sacking must be firmly opposed.

The internationalist, class-struggle left in Labour must rally both to resist Starmer's drive to the right, and to fight for a new political common-sense on Israel/Palestine that rejects conspiracy theories.

• Maxine Peake has now corrected her claim - see here.
• For further explanation on why the initial claim was antisemitic, see this Twitter thread by the SOAS academic Yair Wallach.
• "Amnesty International: We never reported that 'neck kneeling' is taught by Israelis to US", from the New Statesman, 25 June

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