There is a story I once read about a hunter, walking through a garden, taking birds
from the bushes and caging them. And as he walked,
his eyes shed luminescent tears.
Two birds saw the hunter approach. One of them said: “look at how beautifully this man weeps!”
To which the other responded: “My friend, do not watch his eyes. Watch his hands.”
On Thursday, the far-left Momentum group released a video about the dangers of certain conspiracy theories - in particular, the Rothschild conspiracy theory, and the antisemitism surrounding it.
On the face of things, the video was an excellent one - and many in our own community, even those on the front line of the battle against antisemitism in this country, commended it as such.
But I believe there are a couple of other things worth bearing in mind before issuing such fulsome praise.
Firstly, there is the case of Christine Shawcroft. For those who fail to recall the name, let me jog your memories.
Ms Shawcroft was appointed head of the Labour party’s disputes panel in January 2018. She resigned from the post in March 2018, after it had emerged she had called for the reinstatement of a suspended member, Alan Bull.
Mr Bull shared an article on Facebook with the title: “International Red Cross report confirms the Holocaust of 6m Jews is a hoax”. It showed a picture of the gates of Auschwitz, with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” replaced by “Muh Holocaust”, a taunt used by the far right to mock Jews.
Ms Shawcroft e-mailed members of Labour’s National Executive Committee, saying was “concerned” to hear of Mr Bull’s suspension, and claimed that the Facebook post had been “taken completely out of context and alleged to show antisemitism”.
She went on to say that some people had “political reasons for wanting Mr Bull suspended”, and recommended his “reinstatement”.
She was forced to resign after this came out, but posted her thoughts on Facebook. She claimed she “had not seen the appalling and abhorrent post which was shared, and if I had seen it I would not have sent the supportive e-mail.”
It is up to you to decide whether you believe that the head of Labour’s disputes panel could have written such a strong defence of Mr Bull’s post without having even seen it. Especially as she ended her own Facebook message with the claim that “this whole row has been stirred up to attack Jeremy Corbyn, as we all know.”
Why am I bringing this up? Because a thirty second search on Companies House reveals that Momentum has three current directors. And top of that list is Christine Shawcroft.
At this point, I’d like to tell you something else. The person Momentum chose to narrate their latest video, Michael Walker, is one of the presenters on the far-left Novara Media outlet.
I would like to make you aware of some of the things he tweeted last year.
In response to the claims that Jeremy Corbyn had referred to Louise Ellman, the Jewish MP for Liverpool Riverside, as the “Honourable Member for Tel Aviv”, he tweeted: “even if he did, that’s unlikely to be antisemitic. It’s fair to point out ties to Israel if someone repeats Israeli govt talking points, it needn’t have anything to do with whether or not they’re Jewish.”
Mrs Ellman, of course, is Jewish. And the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism includes, as one of its examples, “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”
Perhaps understandably, given the circumstances, Mr Walker is not overly fond of the IHRA definition either. In September last year, he described Labour adopting the full definition as “selling out the Palestinian cause”.
He'd previously gone further.
“Many members are genuinely scared of talking about what’s going on,” he tweeted.
“They can see many of the attacks on Corbyn are politically motivated, that many mainstream Jewish orgs have strong ties with Israel, and that part of this row is to suppress the Palestinians and their advocates.”
When such examples were presented to Mr Walker last week, his response was: “some of my tweets last summer I might have worded differently if it were today. I’ve come to take the problem of AS in Labour more seriously after initially seeing it primarily as a smear. But happy to discuss any of the substantive issues.”
That response is many things. What it is not is an apology. Maybe Mr Walker genuinely means it, but either way, he is patently not a person who should be presenting such a video.
Given what we have just discussed, I would put it to you that, far from Momentum’s video being “encouraging”, it is rather like seeing a petrochemical company releasing a video about the perils of deforestation, while its factories continue to pump gallons of toxic sludge into local rivers.
I would like to leave you with one final point. Last week, Chris Williamson, the loathsome MP for Derby North, was finally suspended from the Labour Party after a video surfaced of him speaking at a meeting on the subject of antisemitism.
“The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party,” he said.
I’ve got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that. Because in my opinion we’ve backed off far too much, we’ve given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic.”
The MP, who has defended a number of virulent antisemites in the past, went on to claim that Labour had done more than any other party to tackle antisemitism.
As the video shows, the audience applauded Mr Williamson’s comments.
Who were that audience? A Sheffield branch of Momentum.
And so to the people, both inside and outside the Jewish community, who are sharing Momentum’s latest video and praising it to the skies, I have a very simple message.
“Do not watch their eyes. Watch their hands.”