The Electronic Intifada / October 22, 2020
The UK’s press regulator ruled on Thursday that The Jewish Chronicle misled its readers in a story about “anti-Semitism” in the Green Party.
The paper falsely claimed last year that the Greens’ former deputy leader Shahrar Ali had compared Israel’s 2008-2009 war against Palestinians in Gaza to the Holocaust on Holocaust Memorial Day.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) ruled that the claim had breached the first clause of their editors’ code of conduct – accuracy.
Not only had Ali not made such a comparison, his 24 January 2009 speech had not, in fact, taken place on Holocaust Memorial Day (which is on 27 January).
“The publication had failed to take care over the accuracy of these statements,” which were “significantly misleading,” IPSO said in its ruling.
As required by IPSO, the paper published a correction on its website on Thursday. It is also due to be published in the weekly print version on Friday.
Ali said in a video that he was “absolutely delighted” at the ruling.
He said it was “good news for all those Green Party candidates and politicians who want to continue to speak up for the rights of Palestinians against their daily oppression by the state of Israel.”
The Jewish Chronicle deleted the article from its website soon after publication without explanation – a further breach of the code, IPSO ruled.
In the emotional 2009 speech, Ali had addressed a demonstration in London against Israel’s war on Gaza.
Israel killed more than 1,400 Palestinians during that offensive. Most were civilians; they included 313 children.
In the speech, Ali called for former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former US President George W. Bush and the then Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert to face a war crimes tribunal.
“Listen up, warmongers,” Ali said, “just because you observe the niceties of Holocaust Memorial Day, does not mean that you have learned the lessons of history.”
The Jewish Chronicle did not bother to quote these words, instead asserting as fact that Ali had “compared” the Israeli war “to the Shoah on Holocaust Memorial Day.”
The paper’s editor did not reply to a request for comment.
The article was only the latest in a long line of misleading stories the paper has published about alleged anti-Semitism on the left and among the Palestine solidarity movement.
Green Party disputes IHRA
Ali is the home affairs spokesperson for the Green Party of England and Wales.
He has twice ran for leader of the party. In the most recent leadership contest – which took place last month – he won almost a quarter of the vote.
The Greens automatically hold a leadership election every two years.
This year Ali ran on a platform of “a radical socialist Green vision.”
One of the arguments he made during the contest was that the Greens should firmly reject the definition of anti-Semitism endorsed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Ali has described the IHRA definition as “intellectually bogus,” stating that it is “designed to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel.”
The definition could prevent the party from campaigning in favor of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
The Green Party has so far refused to adopt the IHRA definition, an anti-Palestinian document pushed by Israel and its network of lobbyists.
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s only member of the House of Commons – the lower house in the UK parliament – has an ambivalent attitude toward the pro-Israel definition.
But the party’s co-leader Sian Berry supports it, telling pro-Israel lobbyists earlier this year that she had “been trying to push the IHRA definition through. I see no problem with signing up to it.”
According to a Green source, two opposing motions on the IHRA definition were placed on the agenda of the online conference they held earlier this month.
One, backed by Berry and her co-leader Jonathan Bartley, supported the definition. But the other, supported by Ali, would have committed the party to actively campaigning against it.
But no formal vote was held on either motion as the plenary session of the conference ran out of time.
Straw polls held at “workshop” debates earlier in the conference indicated that the anti-IHRA motion would have narrowly passed, while the other motion (if unamended) would have lost with 55 percent voting against it.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada; he lives in London