Did the Jewish Chronicle’s reviewer Tanya Gold even read my book?

Originally published by Jewish Voice for Labour, 26 May.

The Jewish Chronicle last weekend dedicated a full page of its print edition to what was ostensibly a review of my new book, Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (out now from OR Books).

I say “ostensibly” because there’s reason to suspect that the reviewer – high-profile freelance columnist Tanya Gold – has not actually read my book. She certainly hasn’t read the whole thing.

Her piece is, in short, a gross distortion. A fictional, almost-through-the-looking glass take on my book, as if viewed through some sort of topsy-turvy fairground mirror. A mirror which has large chunks of its glass missing to boot.

Gold accuses me of psychological projection. “He is writing about himself,” she claims. I would humbly suggest that Gold is the one guilty of narcissism, of the habitual ignoring of inconvenient facts, and of leaving gaping plot holes in her narrative.

But first here’s the nice things she wrote about me, just to show that I too, can be fair and balanced (much like the good old BBC is supposed to be). And she does – despite her best efforts – write several things that my publisher will no doubt make good use of in its publicity campaign.

Gold writes that my book is “styled like a murder mystery,” which is pleasing to hear, as I intended just such an effect. Rather than producing yet another (with all due respect) dry academic tome, I wrote it as a true-crime thriller; one that is no less serious and precise in its facts for being a page-turner.

She also notes that in my book, “Every drama of 2015-19 is replayed,” which is true. I tried to re-examine and document the most significant and high-profile events that took place in the course of the manufactured Labour anti-Semitism “crisis” of the Corbyn years.

Finally, Gold seems to grudgingly admit that I am a thorough journalist (or one who “blogs,” as she insists on referring to my profession – as if writing online has less validity than writing in print). Weaponising Anti-Semitism “digs out every document on the relations between early Zionists and Nazi Germany,” she concedes.

This is in reference to chapter 5, in which I focus on Ken Livingstone’s political assassination by Labour right-winger John Mann, and the undisputed historical fact that the German Zionist movement collaborated with Hitler’s Nazi government in the 1930s (as I show in some detail).

But as far as accuracy in Gold’s piece goes, that’s about it.

As Jonathan Rosenhead put it in a response to another piece of creative writing she authored to attack JVL last year, “She has made a promising start as a writer of fiction.”


Gold’s piece on me seems to positively revel in an world of her imagination; a world in which Zionism has no rough edges worthy of mentioning and that therefore any critic must be wholly and exclusively motivated by irrational, hateful animus.

She has a very bad habit of conflating the Israel lobby – which most emphatically does exist – with “Jews” as a whole.

The most laughably glaring error in Gold’s piece is her false claim that I left a “plot hole,” by neglecting to mention that “JC editor Stephen Pollard exposed Jeremy Newmark — then leading the Jewish Labour Movement — for alleged accounting irregularities.”


Reading Gold’s piece gives the uninformed reader the impression that I made this omission for my own nefarious reasons: namely the invention of a monolithic, monomaniacal “cabal” that worked to destroy Corbyn.

But there’s a problem: I made no such omission.

The book includes two and a half pages dedicated to the Newmark affair; pages which extensively cite the Jewish Chronicle (pp. 68-70) and explore the likely reason that Pollard exposed Newmark.

I write that there was “an intra-Zionist disagreement about the usefulness of the JLM and the personal behaviour of Newmark. Pollard’s Chronicle tended to argue that Jews should leave the Labour Party altogether,” while people like Newmark wanted to argue “Israel’s case” from within (p. 62).

Gold is either blissfully unaware of this passage or simply chose to ignore it. Neither possibility reflects well on her.

But there’s a second gross distortion in Gold’s “review” which I find quite hard to believe was not deliberate, because of the way she’s misleadingly edited the quote.

Allegedly summarising me, she claims I wrote that “the current Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely is unpopular with British Jews because she is ‘too crass for the “refined British ear”’.”

Gold’s dismaying conflation of opposition to Israel’s crimes with anti-Semitism is as dangerous as it is untrue.

But this is what the actual passage in the book says (emphasis added): “British Zionists objected to her [Hotovely’s] London appointment. They worried she would ‘alienate’ Israel’s supporters and would be too crass for the refined ‘British ear.’”

If Gold had bothered to check the sources I cited in the footnote, she would have learned that the latter quote was not my characterisation at all, but actually came from the Jewish Chronicle itself (the quote marks should have been a dead giveaway).

The words were actually written by right-wing columnist Melanie Philips, who worried that Hotovely “sounded to a British ear like a blustering zealot” and “didn’t have a clue how the British mind works.” Jewish News writer Jenni Frazer similarly fretted that Hotovely “will alienate so many British Jews” away from supporting Israel.

And as you can see from the full quote, I wrote nothing about the opinions of “British Jews” on Hotovely. As any fair minded reader will testify (including JVL’s own reviewer Deborah Maccoby) I am very clear throughout the whole book to distinguish between Jews and Judaism on the one hand, and Zionists and Zionism on the other.

Gold’s misrepresentation of my chapter on Ken Livingstone is particularly unreal.

Summarising her own spin on my book, she says I argued that: “The goal of the Haavara agreement was ‘to save German Jewish capital, not German Jewish lives’ and it ‘stabilised’ the Nazi regime. This is a monstrous distortion.”

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It’s notable here that she is unable to rally any counter-evidence to my essential point. It’s also notable that she has sloppily misquoted me: I did not write that Haavara “stabilised” the Nazi regime. The real quote: “Although Haavara’s defenders today like to claim that it saved lives, the opposite is the case. By undermining the boycott campaign, it actually helped Hitler’s regime to stabilise itself” (p. 150, emphasis added).

A nuanced distinction perhaps, but I think precision here is crucial.

More importantly, Gold wrongly claims I insinuated “that Jewish Nazis performed the Shoah on themselves” – the motive for my alleged “monstrous distortion” about the Nazi reasons for supporting Zionism.

In fact, on page 143, I explicitly condemn such “neo-Nazi, ‘revisionist’ myths about the Holocaust having been a Jewish plot to frame the innocent Nazis.” Again, it’s unclear whether she just hasn’t read this part of the book, or she simply chose to ignore it.

Despite admitting to the fact that there were (in her words) “relations between early Zionists and Nazi Germany,” she is seemingly unwilling to reach the obvious conclusion that follows. Namely that, as I prove in chapter 5, the Nazi regime and Hitler himself gave extensive support to the German Zionist movement (a tiny minority of Germany Jews at the time, recall) throughout the 1930s as a way of helping to remove German Jews and send them to Palestine as settlers.

As I summarise it: “Hitler was supporting Zionism. Ken Livingstone was right” (p. 154).

Another massive plot hole in Gold’s “review” is the insinuation that the only real anti-Semitism I documented in the book is the relatively minor issue of how John Mann was bizarrely dubbed the “Antisemitism Tsar” despite the very real anti-Jewish violence perpetrated by the real-life Tsarist royals.

I’ve already explained how the Livingstone chapter goes into some detail on the Nazis’ anti-Semitism. But on pages 50-3, I also explain how the Labour Party really does have a decades-long (and almost entirely ignored) anti-Semitism problem – an anti-Semitism problem which was seriously challenged by the Corbynite movement.

This was (and, I contend, still is) the anti-Semitism of Labour’s dominant right-wing, pro-imperialist and (crucially) pro-Zionist faction.

For example, Britain’s first Labour prime minister Ramsay MacDonald not only writing heaping praise on “the Jewish colonisers in Palestine” (i.e. the small minority of European Jews who had chosen to become settlers in British occupied Palestine) he also attacked “the rich plutocratic Jew” as people “whose views upon life make one anti-Semitic. He has no country, no kindred. Whether as a sweater or a financier, he is an exploiter of everything he can squeeze. He is behind every evil that Governments do” (p. 51).

Classic anti-Semitism.

But – staggeringly – MacDonald’s pamphlet printing this vile invective was printed by none other than Poale Zion, the group which the Jewish Labour Movement proudly claims as its forerunner still today, without a hint of condemnation.

All this is of course ignored by Gold.

Yet probably the worst single crime against reality in Gold’s piece is her heavy insinuation I wrote that, “Jews represent the malevolent forces of Capital.”

Gold is of course unable to rally even a single quote from my book to that effect –because there simply aren’t any.

I actually wrote the opposite. The following are all quotes from my book, omitted by Gold.

Page 144: “the Nazi party’s worldview was the idea that there was a vast international Jewish conspiracy for the overthrow of Germany and of European civilisation more broadly.” Page 145: Hitler embarked on a “conspiracy theory that the Jews were out to take over the world.” Page 233: “the word ‘Rothschilds’ is sometimes used as a sort of code word by right-wing anti-Jewish conspiracy theorists.”

Furthermore: “The [Israel] lobby [emphatically not British Jews as a whole] in alliance with the British establishment, the Labour Party right, and the Israeli state itself, had succeeded in convincing a significant chunk of the wider British electorate” against Corbyn (p. 253-4).

Gold’s dismaying conflation of opposition to Israel’s crimes with anti-Semitism is as dangerous as it is untrue.

And her attempt to distort my book is just yet more proof that pro-Israel organisations like the Jewish Chronicle are hell-bent on weaponising anti-Semitism against their enemies.

In other words, her review just reinforces the argument of my book.

Asa Winstanley is an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. “Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn” is out now from OR Books.


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