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Thursday 25 June 2020
Maxine Peake And No Anti-Semitism
Shadow education secretary Rebecca Long Bailey was “asked to step down” today by new Labour leader Keir Starmer. Her crime appears to have been to tell the world that actor Maxine Peake was a “diamond”, although there may also have been a bust-up between the two over Starmer’s support for the reopening of schools.
Why support for Ms Peake should be controversial is down to an interview which she has given to the Independent, where she made this claim: “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services”. This has brought forth a tsunami of condemnation.
John Rentoul, the self-appointed keeper of the Blair flame - rather in the same way that Charles Moore appointed himself to an equivalent status with the legend of Mrs T - showed that he was of less than perfect courage by saying merely “Oh my. Maxine Peake”. Evening squire, nudge nudge, know what I mean? Er, actually, no.
But Murdoch hack and Tory peer Danny Finkelstein was quite certain what it meant: "stupid ignorant Antisemitic conspiracist nonsense … 5G level stuff”. Nick Timothy, so brilliant that he helped Theresa May take a 20 point plus poll lead and nearly lose the following General Election, sniffed “In which not only does Maxine Peake blame the death of the George Floyd on Israel, but the Independent sees fit to tell readers that this might indeed be the case”. She didn’t. But you get the point.
And Dave Rich was on hand to labour it. “There is a deep well of antisemitic conspiracism that blames Jews for every calamity. There are people who will believe anything bad about Israel, however ludicrous. Maxine Peake's suggestion that Israeli police taught US police how to kill George Floyd is where these groups meet”. But here a problem entered.
Ms Peake did not “blame Jews”. Indeed, equating “Jews” and “Israel” is anti-Semitic, according to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, and that is what Rich just did. Lee Harpin, who recently landed the Jewish Chronicle with a big legal bill, added “one of Maxine Peake's claims is George Floyd's death was a result of techniques ‘learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services’. This is a false claim used to create hatred towards Israel and division between BLM and Jewish groups”. False? We’ll get back to that one.
Middle East Eye observed earlier this week “The Israeli police force has tried to distance itself from any perceived similarities, issuing statements denouncing what happened and stating that its officers are not trained to use knee-to-neck techniques. But photographs taken as recently as March have shown Israeli forces using the same restraint on unarmed protesters just yards from the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City”.
Officers from many US forces have travelled to Israel for training. Others have been trained by Israeli officials in the USA. Moreover, in 2018, the local council in Durham, NC, banned training and exchanges between their Police Department and the Israeli military.
Owen Jones put it this way: “US systemic racism is a home grown enterprise. The murder of George Floyd should squarely be blamed on that. The exchange in training between US, Israel or other countries is real but separate. Peake *and The Independent* got that wrong, but it doesn't justify this.” And I’d mainly concur.
The problem is that, as soon as anyone mentions something that involves Israel, and the something may result in Israel being perceived negatively, there are howls of “anti-Semitism”. But the only ones conflating “Israel” and “Jews”, falling foul of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, and indeed reaching as far as to say that Ms Peake claims that the IDF killed George Floyd (she didn’t) are those shouting her down.
The training of US law enforcement officers by the Israeli military is not an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theory”. It’s not “5G level stuff”. No-one “blames Jews”. But this does enable pundits to look away from holding a catastrophically inept Government to account.
And it allows the Tories to get away with rather more blatant anti-Semitism. The kind that none of those bleating at Maxine Peake seem to notice. I’ll just leave that one there.
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