I have never been overly sold on Owen Jones. From his platform at the Guardian, he has spent far too much time whining about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his failure to reach out to voters rather than using his rare spot in the mainstream media to help him to do precisely that.
But this news has knocked me sideways. It was announced yesterday that Jones is to give a memorial lecture in April on behalf of the Jewish Labour Movement – the same group implicated in the recent efforts of the Israeli embassy to damage a Corbyn-led Labour party with confected allegations of anti-semitism. All of this was exposed last month in an undercover Al Jazeera investigation.
The Jewish Labour Movement was effectively shown to be acting as a front for the Israeli government’s efforts to oust Corbyn over a supposed anti-semitism crisis in the party. Israel hates Corbyn because of his long-standing position in support of Palestinian rights.
The announcement of Jones’ lecture was written by Ella Rose, the former Israeli embassy official who tried to conceal her past after she became the director of the Jewish Labour Movement.
She was one of those caught on Al Jazeera’s hidden cameras – in her case threatening to beat up black-Jewish Labour party activist Jackie Walker, who has been the prime target of these phoney anti-semitism allegations. None of this is secret history. I first wrote about the Jewish Labour Movement’s role in trying to subvert Corbyn back in September.
It is not even as though we can credit Jones with some kind of live-and-let-live attitude to free speech. Remember back in 2013 he pulled out at the last minute, and without warning, as a speaker at an important Stop the War rally to prevent British military intervention in Syria. His grounds? He had come under fire from the armchair interventionists because he was to speak alongside Mothers Agnes, a Syrian-based nun who was seen as being too pro-Assad. (The reasons Syrian Christians like Mother Agnes might support Bashar Assad were pretty obvious even then, but are blindingly so now.)
Mother Agnes pulled out of the rally to try to salvage it, but Jones continued to refuse to take part.
I criticised Jones then over his cowardly and irresponsible behaviour. Now he needs to explain how the principles that drove him away from the Stop the War rally can allow him to support a group, the Jewish Labour Movement, that is so clearly and maliciously attempting to subvert the elected leader of the Labour party.
Owen Jones has responded to this blog post both on Twitter, calling it “tedious nonsense” in his usual, dismissive style, and with a post here that tries to deflect attention from my argument with a straw man: that a conspiracy theory is painting him as a stooge of the Israeli government.
No conspiracy is being posited here – only very, very poor judgment. I have also not accused him of working on behalf of the Israeli government. Only of assisting, presumably thoughtlessly, those who are working on behalf of the Israeli government inside the Jewish Labour Movement, including most definitely its current director, Ella Rose.
Sadly, though predictably, he has avoided addressing the point of my criticism.
It is great that he wants to pay his respects to a friend’s late father, and I am sure there are responsible ways he can do that. But one of them is certainly not by adding his name and credibility to an organisation that was recently exposed by an undercover investigation to have been acting as a front for Israeli government efforts to subvert the elected leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.
The Jewish Labour Movement has been working to confect allegations of anti-semitism against other Labour party members. That is a serious form of verbal violence against members of Jones’ own party that has the power to do its victims great harm, personally and professionally.
Let’s not also forget, as I pointed out, that Ella Rose, who will be hosting Owen Jones’ lecture, was filmed threatening physical violence against a fellow Labour party member, Jackie Walker.
I was astounded that Jones accepted this offer from the Jewish Labour Movement. I am even more astonished that he is so casually dismissive of the very real harm caused by the actions of this organisation and its leaders.
Depressing to see that Owen Jones has now retweeted approvingly a conspiracy theory against critics like me. Apparently we are CIA-funded.
Paradoxically, in Jones’ original response, he accused his critics of being “conspiracy theorists”. (PLEASE SEE UPDATE 3)
This has unleashed a social media torrent of support and of opprobrium that I was not prepared for. Two points have been raised that I want to address briefly.
First: The author of the Tweet in update 2, Jonathan Stone, the political correspondent of the Independent, has noted that the Tweet was a joke and has asked me to retract the suggestion that he was indulging in a conspiracy theory. I happily do so.
Second: Some have objected that I am arguing here for some kind of no-platforming or boycott of the Jewish Labour Movement. I am not, as should be obvious from a proper reading of what has gone before. I would not have criticised Jones if he had chosen a neutral venue to criticise Ella Rose and the compromised leadership of the Jewish Labour Movement. And let’s be clear: that is what is required here from someone in Jones’ position, for all the reasons I have set out in the preceding sections.
But Jones is doing something else entirely. He is giving a memorial lecture on behalf of the JLM and hosted by it. There is an implicit relationship here: Jones has been invited, he is a guest speaker, he is giving a memorial lecture in which a certain kind of etiquette should be followed of respect and decorum, not least because, as he says, he was a family friend of the man in whose honour it is being held.
And he is doing this while the JLM is still led by those who were exposed in the Al-Jazeera investigation trying to smear fellow Labour party members in an attempt to subvert the party’s elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on behalf of a foreign country. That is no small matter. It is a covert assault on the party’s democratic structures by the Israeli government. Leaders of the JLM are the enablers of that attack. And Jones has accepted their invitation to give a lecture. He is laundering their image whether he intends to or not. It’s simply irresponsible for someone with the principles Jones claims to have to take part in this event.