A November 2020 edition (no. 1101) of the Muslim Brotherhood’s, UK-based weekly Arabic newsletter, Risalat al-Ikhwan, drew attention to a report produced by the Europal Forum, which discusses the controversies surrounding antisemitism in the Labour Party.
Europal Forum describes itself as “an independent and non-party political organisation based in London, working to build networks throughout Europe in support of the promotion and realisation of Palestinian rights.” The Dutch former intelligence analyst, Ronald Sandee, and Steven Merley, an investigative expert on Islamist networks, have both identified Europal as aligned ideologically with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Its Chairman is Zaher Birawi, a prominent UK-based activist who is also a spokesman for ‘Palestinian Forum Britain(PFB)’ and a director of the ‘Palestinian Return Centre (PRC)’. Birawi was recently in the news for having successfully sued the World-Check financial database, which had placed him on a Terrorism watch-list. Under the terms of a settlement, his name was removed from the list and he received financial compensation from the company.
On 29 November 2020, Europal had published an Arabic-language report titled The British Labour Party – Internal Crisis and Its Implications on the Palestinian Issue, which was quickly taken up in some Arabic media, such as Arabi21, and featured in the UK based, Muslim Brotherhood’s Risalat al-Ikhwan. The report has a noteworthy subtitle: “The report of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), targeting Jeremy Corbyn, the working class left and the potential consequences for showing solidarity with Palestine under the leadership of Keir Starmer”.
The report considers whether the policies adopted by both the Government and the Labour Party, to counter antisemitism, may damage the ability of the British left to promote solidarity with the Palestinians. It claims that the publication of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in 2016 was a turning point, which has made criticism of Israel much more difficult. The report suggests that the IHRA definition has been promoted in Britain primarily by ‘Blairites’ (especially within the Parliamentary Labour Party), the ‘Israeli occupation state’ and Conservative politicians. The definition, it is claimed, has been used to facilitate right-wing dominance of the British political arena; and to prevent criticism of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians.
According to the Europal report, accusations of antisemitism have been used as part of an organised and highly political campaign, which began in Britain during Ken Livingstone’s term as Mayor of London (2000-2008). This campaign, it is claimed, targeted high profile leftists (and supporters of Palestine), and led eventually to the suspension of Livingstone from the Labour Party in 2016, for his comments about the relationship between Zionism and the Nazis. Furthermore, it was this campaign, says Europal, which led to Livingstone’s dismissal from Labour in 2018, as a result of the “enormous pressure” it put on the party.
The report argues that this, coupled with the Labour Party’s 2018 acceptance of the IHRA definition, was a catalyst for subsequent suspensions and expulsions targeting notable Corbyn supporters and members of the working class left. The result, it maintains, is an atmosphere of “McCarthyism” that endures within the Party until today.
According to the Europal report, after Corbyn’s defeat in the general election of December 2019, the IHRA campaign attracted renewed attention within Labour. It is alleged that Israel-supporting pressure groups have played a decisive role in this, including: the Jewish Board of Deputies (BoD), the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Labour Friends of Israel (LFI), the Community Security Trust (CST) and the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). Their influence has been so great, the report claims, that they have effectively monopolised and dictated the Party’s discourse on antisemitism. And it was for this reason, the report argues, that Keir Starmer, like other candidates for the Labour leadership, was forced to accept the BoD’s ‘Ten Pledges to end the Antisemitism Crisis’.
Europal identify the October 2020 report by the EHRC, as an important moment – not least because it led to the suspension of Corbyn from the party. Though Corbyn was later reinstated as a member, his experience is said to be indicative of the atmosphere of fear that has been created over the subject of antisemitism within British political circles. Indeed, the Europal report goes on to argue that the implementation of the EHRC’s recommendations, and the further implementation of the IHRA definition of antisemitism will render impossible any discussion of Palestine or the rights of Palestinians.