Prof John Ashton
And, as with the hatchet job on Audrey White, it is Labour-supporting figures who are being targeted, the first high profile subject being Professor John Ashton, who has had the audacity to possess expert knowledge on epidemiology. This meant he was in demand for media appearances on the Coronavirus pandemic. He criticised the Government’s approach. And with the certainty of night following day came the personal attacks.
Ashton had been a Labour supporter. Thus his expertise could be dismissed. Then in waded Harpin, who had been trawling through Ashton’s Twitter back catalogue. Like what? “Writing in November 2012 in response to Israeli military actions in Gaza, he stated: ‘Sickening to see Zionists behave like Nazis.’” He said that in response to former Labour MP John Woodcock. Woodcock is one of those on the consortium taking over the JC.
He also Tweeted “Time for an enquiry in Labour Friends of Israel. A party within a party”. What else has offended Harpin’s sensibilities? “The academic, who has held positions at Liverpool and Southampton universities, wrote in April 2018 that: ‘In Germany in the 1930s the Nazis blamed the Jews for everything. In UK in 2018 the Tories blame Corbyn for everything.’” And then came an anonymous follow-up article.
Lee Harpin. Twitter feeds trawled while you wait
Let’s just take a step back and consider the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which, let us not drive this one around the houses for too long, is what is being implied against Ashton. “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities”. Was Ashton practising Jew-hatred? No, he was not.
He may have been unwise to use terms such as “Zionist”, given that its abbreviated version “Zio” has become a loaded term right now. But not anti-Semitic. That, though, is not where Harpin and Pollard are at. They are trying to drive John Ashton out of public life.
That’s the same John Ashton whose expertise is key to understanding Covid-19, which is killing British Jews at a disproportionally high rate - three times the national average. But hey, what’s a nudge-and-wink hit job between friends? Funny old world.