Earlier in August, Shami Chakrabarti and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn were accused by anti-Palestinian campaigners of causing a “whitewash for peerages” scandal.
The charge came from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which is an organization that campaigns along reactionary “Israel, right or wrong” lines.
Corbyn had at the end of April tasked Chakrabarti, a well-respected civil liberties campaigner and lawyer, with leading an inquiry into allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. She delivered her report at the end of June, and it was initially well received, despite some ridiculous nonsense at the launch event cooked by buy the hostile media.
At the end of August, Chakrabarti was nominated by Corbyn for a peerage so that she could enter the House of Lords. The Labour leader, who says as prime minister he would replace the Lords with an elected chamber, nominated no one else.
The allegations of anti-Semitism that have dogged Labour since February were, in fact, almost entirely fabricated or exaggerated. The campaign was begun, led and encouraged by the right-wing of the Labour Party working in concert with pro-Israel propaganda groups within the party. The campaign was cynically concocted as a way of attacking and smearing Corbyn and other Palestine solidarity activists within Labour, and of pushing back against the left-wing upsurge that brought Corbyn to power.
The Chakrabarti Inquiry was an attempt to defuse the entirely manufacture “crisis” within the party over “anti-Semitism.” By and large, it worked. And the reason it worked is that the Chakrabarti report is a serious and sober piece of work which had one overriding principle: dealing with the facts and addressing the evidence – as you would expect from a lawyer of good repute.
Even some of the mostly strongly anti-Palestinian groups, such as the Jewish Labour Movement, and the Board of Deputies, at first grudgingly welcomed the report and its recommendations. They knew it was bullet proof in factual terms, so they would look ridiculous calling it a “whitewash” (although that didn’t stop some of the more extreme Zionist fanatics predicting as much even before publication).
But now the Board has changed its tune, accusing the Chakrabarti report of being a “whitewash” (even though they had earlier welcomed “aspects” of it) in exchange for elevating Chakrabarti to the House of Lords. But there is no evidence to support such claims.
There are some pretty obvious reason why the Labour right and the anti-Palestinian propaganda organizations want to abort the Chakrabarti report.
While there may be some valid debate to be had about the wisdom of nominating Chakrabarti for a peerage, it’s clear that most of the accusations against her in this regard are simply an attempt to abort the significant changes the report will bring to the way the Labour Party deals with allegations of anti-Semitism – and allegations of wrongdoing of any sort.
The current rules of the Labour Party mean that should anyone make a serious allegation against a member, such as anti-Semitism, party staff acting under the direction of the general secretary Iain McNicol (who seems to be vehemently anti-Corbyn) can essentially take unilateral action to temporarily suspend party members so accused while the allegations are looked into as part of a proper investigation by the party’s disciplinary body.
The fact that the vast majority of these investigations will find that there is no case to answer, and will ultimately quietly drop the allegations is cold comfort to Labour Party members who have had the right to vote in the leadership election taken away, or had their names smeared all over the right-wing press as “anti-Semites” – in hostile leaks that can far too often only have come from party HQ itself.
This poisonous process is how much of the “anti-Semitism crisis” was fuelled.
When the Chakrabarti report’s recommendations are implemented, there should be an end to all this. The report castigated the leakers (without naming party HQ or its main inquisitor, the Compliance Unit by name) and put in strong procedural changes which means that party staff will no longer be able to act unilaterally, and will have the power of interim suspension taken away. A properly-qualified legal panel will have to be put in place which will decide on cases where interim suspension will have to be used.
The party press unit will be required to follow up with a standard “no comment” line to media (hostile and otherwise) which will simply say that all complaints will be properly followed-up on, and that they don’t comment on individual cases.
This is the reason for the politicised attacks on Chakrabarti now. The report’s conclusions are so self-evidently just that they cannot be challenged on factual terms. But they would but a massive spanner in the works for prospect of resurrecting the anti-Semitism witch hnt.