Jackie Walker: a suspense mystery

Reprinted from openDemocracy.

By Jonathan Rosenhead

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, to be suspended once may be regarded as a misfortune; twice looks like carelessness. But whose?

Like all great mysteries, the defenestration of Jackie Walker from the Vice-Chairship of Momentum, and her renewed suspension from the Labour Party, has quite a back story. Where to begin? In 1954 when she was born? On May 14, 1948, Israel’s birth date? On 12 September 2016, when Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party? In 1920 when the organisation Poale Zion affiliated to the UK Labour Party, or in 2004 when it was re-launched as the Jewish Labour Movement?  Or (as with most public accounts of the events causing Jackie Walker’s latest ‘offence’) at 11.30am on Monday September 26, ending one hour later when the training session on antisemitism at the Labour Party Annual Conference in Liverpool limped to a halt.

I think that we can do better than that.

Defining holocaust and antisemitism

I will start with that infamous training session and work back. It is by now well known that Ms Walker a) belittled Holocaust Memorial Day; b) said that the fuss about the danger of attacks on Jewish schools was being over-blown; and c) saw no need for definitions of antisemitism. Some facts will intrude on the elegant simplicity of this story.

On Holocaust Memorial Day she got her facts wrong, saying that it only commemorated the Nazi Holocaust, and ignored other genocides including that perpetrated on Africans by the slave trade. In fact International Holocaust Memorial Day does in principle mark all genocides from the Nazi holocaust onwards. In practice, however, the commemorations virtually ignore the slaughter of some 2 million Romani, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled and many others under Hitler’s regime, and for example, only pays  lip-service to Rwanda. It is the Jewish narrative that dominates.

But consider that arbitrary cut-off date. It handily excludes those undoubted but historically inconvenient earlier genocides. Evidently the United States might have felt sensitive about an annual focus on the deaths of so many millions of Native Americans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (even though historians dispute whether this was deliberate – or just stuff that happened). Britain had its significant role in the slave trade and the treatment of aborigines in Australia to keep out of the picture. And so on. The absence from Holocaust Memorial Day of the millions of slaves who died on the Atlantic crossing and then through the brutal conditions of slave labour is no accident, no act of God. And it is no sacrilege for Jackie Walker to point up this glaring omission.

It has been taken as read by most mainstream commentators that when Jackie Walker said (while asking a question of the training session tutor, Mike Katz, of the Jewish Labour Movement) that “I still haven’t heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with”, what she meant was that it wasn’t worth defining because it wasn’t that important. What actually happened before her intervention sheds a quite different light.

I was present at the training session, and have also had the advantage of consulting a transcript of the proceedings. This shows that a few minutes before Jackie Walker’s intervention a (Jewish) attendee at the session asked Katz “We don’t know what you’re working from. Do you think you can give us what your definition of AS is?”. Katz replied “The standard definition of antisemitism is actually the European Union Monitoring Centre….” at which point several other members objected that the EUMC definition had no status, was deeply flawed etc. This context clearly shows what definition Jackie Walker was objecting to.

How not to define antisemitism

The ‘EUMC working definition’ is a cause celebre. It is called a ‘working definition’ because it was never formally adopted by EUMC (which itself no longer exists). When it existed it was the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. In 2004 it commissioned a definition from a working group, which was effectively taken over by the European Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee, both bodies with a strong Zionist orientation.

It was in fact the American Jewish Committee’s specialist on antisemitism and extremism, attorney Kenneth Stern, who was the main author of the EUMC definition. Stern is deeply concerned about what he calls “politically-based antisemitism, otherwise known in recent years as anti-Zionism, which treats Israel as the classic Jew. Whereas the Jew is disqualified by antisemitism from equal membership in the social compact, antisemites seek to disqualify Israel from equal membership in the community of nations.”  In other words, according to Stern, if you are opposed to the Zionist political project, or indeed advocate a boycott of Israel, then you are an antisemite. So, despite its name, the EUMC definition did not originate in the EU at all but from a pro-Israel lobby group in the USA.  With this understanding, the American spellings in the document become understandable.

But why take so much trouble over a definition of something so straight-forward as antisemitism? Brian Klug, an Oxford academic who specialises in the study of antisemitism manages it in 21 words: “Antisemitism is a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are”. The EUMC working definition by contrast took 500 words, a whole page. That is because it lists a whole raft of types of statement that can be considered prima facie evidence of antisemitism, most of them about Israel. The purpose, which should have been transparent, was not to define antisemitism as commonly understood, but to extend its reach so as to embrace and proscribe a range of common criticisms of Israel, often called ‘the new antisemitism’, or even ‘antisemitic anti-zionism’.

The institutional history of this definition is chequered. It is called a ‘working definition’ because the EUMC itself never adopted it. When the EU closed down the EUMC in 2007 its functions were transferred to the Fundamental Rights Agency, which declined to endorse the definition and indeed removed it from its website.  The FRA is on record as stating that it is “not aware of any public authority in the EU that applies it”, and that it has “no plans for any further development” of it.

In 2006 the EUMC definition was taken up and promoted in a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism under its chair (then MP) Denis MacShane. But in 2015 under its new chair, John Mann MP, the group brought out a further report which did not repeat this call. Instead it commissioned a sub-report from Professor David Feldman (later Deputy Chair of the Chakrabarti inquiry) which came down in favour of – the Brian Klug definition. In 2011 my own union, UCU, after one failed attempt to use the EUMC definition internally, resolved at its annual conference to exclude it from any future role in disciplinary cases. In 2013 the BBC Trust agreed that the definition had no standing.

This was the ‘definition’ that Mike Katz and the Jewish Labour Movement refer to as the ‘standard’ definition – and which Jackie Walker said she could not work with.

The Jewish Labour Movement

The Jewish Labour Movement, mostly under its former name of Poale Zion, has been an affiliated organisation of the Labour Party since 1920. Its origins were as a movement of Jewish/Marxist/Zionist workers across Europe in the early days of the twentieth century. With Jewish immigration to Israel it became a major force there, and through a dizzying series of splits and re-mergers became the origin both of Mapai (Israel’s governing party for decades) and of its left rival Mapam.

In 1920 Poale Zion in the UK could be seen as an authentic representative of the then numerous Jewish working class. In the 1930’s its supporters included Labour NEC member (later party chair) Harold Laski. Postwar it retained influence – this was a period when almost all progressive people in the UK were moved by the trauma of the holocaust, excited by the socialist experiment of the kibbutz movement, and admiring of ‘plucky little Israel’ trouncing its many Arab neighbours. Prominent parliamentary backers included left icons like Ian Mikardo and Sidney Silverman. In 1946 Poale Zion had 2000 members.

How things have changed. Nearly 50 years of illegal occupation and settlement, population punishment by blockade, and the repeated deployment of a formidable state killing machine against civilians with nowhere to hide long ago ended the love-in. Large swathes of the left, and indeed of the centre ground of British politics, believe that the automatic support for Israel by the governments of the UK and other developed countries is both morally indefensible and in the longer term pragmatically disastrous.

How did all this affect Poale Zion? In effect it shrank, and despite a 2004 attempted rebrand as ‘Jewish Labour Movement’ became inactive and nearly invisible. It remained, as it still is, affiliated not only to our Labour Party but also to the Israeli Labour Party and the World Zionist Organisation. However as late as 2015 its website remained totally inactive, though it seems to have maintained an email list. In February 2016 its chair Louise Ellman MP (who during this year’s Labour Party conference in Liverpool asked for her own constituency Party in that city to be suspended on grounds of entryism) stepped down, to be replaced by Jeremy Newmark. It is from that point on that a new, brash and aggressive Jewish Labour Movement leapt into view. There is no publicly available information on where its evidently ample funding comes from.

Newmark is active in his local Labour Party, but was until the other day far more known for his former role from 2006 until 2013 as Chief Executive of the umbrella group the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC). Before that he was communications director for the then Chief Rabbi Lord Sachs.

It was while in charge of the JLC that he gave evidence at a 2013 Employment Tribunal case alleging anti-Semitic behaviour by the University and College Union (my own union, by the way), brought by one of its members. In dismissing the case in its entirety (“We greatly regret that the case was ever brought. At heart, it represents an impermissible attempt to achieve a political end by litigious means.”) the judgement remarked that “we have rejected as untrue” the evidence of Mr Newmark concerning an incident at the 2008 UCU Congress. And that’s not all – one “preposterous claim” by Newmark was described as a “painfully ill-judged example of playing to the gallery”. And yet more – Newmark’s statement (in the context of the academic boycott controversy in 2007) that the union was “no longer a fit arena for free speech”, was a comment “which we found not only extraordinarily arrogant but also disturbing.”

Clearly Newmark is a man with a mission. It seems to be the identification and rooting out of antisemitism. And his arrival on the national Labour Party scene has coincided with the uproar about left antisemitism.

The surge in antisemitism

What surge in antisemitism? We do know that antisemitic incidents reported in the UK in the first 6 months of this year, as recorded by the Community Security Trust, rose by 15% above those for the previous year.  But percentage changes like these tell only part of the story. The actual number of such incidents recorded for the first half of 2016 was 557. And that figure is still below that for 2014, which were boosted by the Israeli assault on Gaza, so no surge.

By comparison, the official figures for hate crimes of all types in the UK has averaged over 220,000 annually over the most recent 5-year period. Antisemitism is a foul attitude which has had dire effects over the centuries. Vigilance is needed. But right now in the UK it manifests itself as a pimple on the bum of the far too many other offences committed out of hatred or fear of the Other.

Is it possible that despite the low levels of antisemitic behaviour in the general population there is significant antisemitism within the left and specifically the Labour Party? Attempts have been made to show that such views are either historically endemic on the left, or brought on by the Corbyn ascendency. (That these explanations are mutually contradictory is glossed over.) Those who really want to see this argument in extenso could consider reading David Rich’s recent book, timed for publication just ahead of the Labour Party conference. But there is contrary evidence.

In response to a moral panic about Left antisemitism seemingly expanding without limit, the group Free Speech on Israel coalesced in April out of a loosely-knit band of Jewish Labour Party supporters. Some 15 of us got together at a couple of days’ notice for the inaugural gathering. We found that over our lifetimes we could muster only a handful of antisemitic experiences between us. And, crucially, although in aggregate we had around 1000 years of Labour Party membership, no single one of us had ever experienced an incident of antisemitism in the Party.

Some time in May the ex-Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was interviewed on Radio 4 about the antisemitism ‘crisis’ by now gripping the nation. Helpfully his interviewer invited him to share some of his own personal experiences of antisemitism. His response, from memory ran rather like this: “Well….actually I have never experienced antisemitism myself. Which is odd, because most people know that the Chief Rabbi is Jewish”.

The ex-Chief Rabbi and Free Speech on Israel are at one on this, if on little else.

The conundrum of evidence-free assertions

How then do we make sense of a ‘crisis’ for which evidence is so lacking? Well, one solution if you want a crisis and lack enough evidence is to invent some. Another is to redefine innocent behaviour as evidence of criminal intent.

The ‘crisis’ seems to have taken off big-time in February this year with the allegations (now known to be fabricated) of rampant antisemitism in the Oxford University Labour Club, leading to the establishment of an enquiry under Baroness Royall. Yet this ‘fact’ was factitious. The two students who made the claims have (respectively) resigned from the Labour Party and been kicked out of it! Both seem to have been supporters of another party. One of them formerly worked at BICOM, the well-funded PR operation that promotes Israel’s image.

As long ago as April a report in openDemocracy on accusations of antisemitism which led to early suspensions showed that nearly all of them related to remarks that people made, not about Jews, but about Israel and Zionism. Historical Facebook postings and Twitter feeds had been ransacked (by whom?) to find a careless nuance. A Labour member using the word ‘Zionist’ as a purely descriptive adjective in a tweet can be treated as a suspected antisemite for it. (I refer to the case of the Vice-Chair of my own constituency Labour Party, still suspended as I write.)

Curiously the mainstream media continue with their established narrative. Do their journalists investigate? Can they read?

Since the answer to at least one of these questions must be ‘yes’ we do need to look for another explanation of why, and indeed how, a crisis of antisemitism in the Labour Party which doesn’t actually exist has become a ‘fact’.

Making believe

If I were to say that there was a conspiracy to make this happen I would no doubt be accused of antisemitism (Jewishness is no defence) for an antisemitic trope and condemned to one of the circles of hell (the 6th probably), or at least suspension. So I won’t. But anyhow conspiracy was almost certainly unnecessary. There is a community of interest plus overlapping membership.

It is impossible to know from the outside exactly what and who have made this moral panic go with such a swing. Key individuals may well be Jeremy Newmark, well-placed in JLM, though only just in time, to fan these flames. The wily Mark Regev took up his post as Israeli ambassador in London at the start of April. In July Ella Rose left her job as public affairs officer at the Israeli Embassy to become Director of JLM. Who knows? Organisationally, judging by their public pronouncements there is an at least informal coalition of forces involving JLM, Progress (the Blairite pressure group), and Labour Friends of Israel which have all been promoting the idea that the left is permeated with antisemitism.

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Twitter/ 13 Oct 2016

What has made this alignment of forces a natural is that they have all wanted the same thing – the ejection of Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour leadership. The Blairites (but let’s not forget the Brownites) understood that his consolidation in post threatened their whole vision of the Labour Party and its place in an orderly capitalist society with a human face. The Israelis had every reason to wish for a short tenure for the first major party leader in a developed country to have a record of supporting Palestinian rights. All the significant Jewish community organisations, now including JLM, sing from the same psalm book – the refrain is that an attachment to Israel is an integral part of Jewish identity in the twenty-first century.

So – if attacks on Israel’s Zionist project of securing the maximum territory with the minimum number of Palestinians can be construed as antisemitic, and this can somehow be blamed on Corbyn, everyone gains.

Making unbelieve

The whole operation has been breath-takingly successful for the last 8 months. And it is not over. JLM, for example, is pressing for a change in the Labour Party’s constitution that would make it (even) easier to exclude people on suspicion of harbouring antisemitic tendencies. It has influence at the highest levels in the Labour Party. The very training session run by JLM that led to Jackie Walker’s second suspension was set up by the Labour Party bureaucracy in direct contradiction of the Chakrabarti inquiry. Their report recommended against such targeted training, and in favour of broader anti-racist education. But, hey, who’s counting? Not the Labour Party apparatus.

Free Speech on Israel aims to expose this soufflé of a Ponzi scheme. It rests on the shifting sands of unreliable evidence, and on assertions that contradict our (Jewish and non-Jewish) everyday experience. Not least, the claims about a Jewish community united in its alignment behind Israel is yet more make believe. The best survey evidence we have is that 31% of UK Jews describe themselves as ‘No, not Zionist’; and many of the remainder are deeply concerned over Israel’s policies.

We should suspend our belief.

Acknowledgement: I have been helped in writing this article by research carried out by The Electronic Intifada’s Asa Winstanley, and by his advice.

Sample letters to Momentum in defence of Jackie Walker

We are urging everyone who believes in Free Speech on Israel to write to momentum to urge them to end their harassment of Jackie Walker. There are many posts on this site giving the background to these events on this site. Messages should be sent to:

Messages need to be sent by Monday morning as the Momentum steering Committee is planning to meet on Monday to discuss removing Jackie from her position as Vice-chair: Jackie herself has not been invited to the meeting. Individually composed messages are most effective. If you are a Momentum and/or a Labour Party member please quote your Constituency in your message. Please send a copy of your message to info@freespeechonisrael.org.uk so we can let Jackie know of the support we are showing for her.

We are publishing the text of four letters sent by FSOI activists for you to quote from or adapt as you wish.

  1. An individual letter from Mike Cushman
  2. An individual letter from Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
  3. A letter from Tony Greenstein that has been signed by thirteen of Jackie’s supporters
  4. An individual letter from Helen Marks
  5. An individual letter from Sue Blackwell

1. Dear Jon

As a Momentum and Labour Party member I am alarmed to learn from the Guardian that Momentum is contemplating removing Jackie Walker as vice-chair.

I have shared platforms with Jackie and been impressed by her sophisticated understanding of the complex relationship between the twin evils of antisemitism and anti-Black racism. She speaks from an experience that few of us share and we should listen to her with respect.

Jackie, as a woman of dual heritage, has to deal with the inherited pain of two Holocausts, the Jewish tragedy and the African horror story. Dealing with one is difficult, managing to live with the impact of both doubly so. No one has developed a language for this. Jackie is trying to provide one, a difficult task in the best and most supportive environment; an almost impossible one when every utterance is malevolently misinterpreted.

Jackie is also being attacked for asking for the definition of antisemitism on which the JLM trainers were basing their session, a patently reasonable request. Definitions of antisemitism are highly contested and there is a large literature on the topic, both academic and polemical, which has reached no consensus. Anti-racism training sessions have consistently started from trying to reach a definition, or at least a description, of racism the participants can use to underpin a discussion. It appears that the JLM trainers both know with certainty what antisemitism is and, extraordinarily, are not prepared to share that definition with the trainees.

She is being attacked on the basis of leaks from a training session that were definitely unethical and very probably illegal. It is the officers of JLM who should be facing sanctions not Jackie.

I am shocked to see Momentum officers dancing to the tune of the JLM and the Labour right-wing, the very people I joined Momentum to oppose and to loosen their stranglehold on thinking in Labour.

If you believe that moving against Jackie will increase the security of Momentum and strengthened Jeremy’s position you are more naïve than I believed possible. You are not being enjoined to ditch Jackie to strengthen Momentum and Jeremy but just the opposite. If they get Jackie’s scalp they will not be sitting back saying ‘job done’. They will be setting their sights on their next target and then the one after that to weaken and divide us.

I joined other Momentum members in the pub yesterday to celebrate Jeremy’s re-election but what was meant to be a party turned into a bitter contemplation of Momentum’s leadership wrecking an organisation days after the success of TWT [The World Transformed] and wondering if they have a future in a Momentum that treats its best activists I this manner. I have been receiving emails all day from members in other constituencies telling the same story. According to the Guardian, “A spokesperson for the leftwing grassroots movement, which was set up to support Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party, confirmed members wanted her to go.” I do not know which members the spokesperson was talking about, there has been no consultation and many, many members want her to stay.

One of our aims is to democratise the Labour Party; we can’t do that through an organisation that mimics the worst practices of the Compliance Unit and works through a system of kangaroo courts.

Please, even at this late stage, draw back from the precipice and do not undermine our hopes for the future.

Fraternally

Mike Cushman
Streatham CLP and Momentum

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2. Dear Jon,

I am writing to you as a Jewish member of both the Labour Party (Chingford and Woodford Green CLP) and of Momentum. I have opposed racism and supported human rights and social justice for half a century – since my teens. Therefore, naturally, I have been a fervent supporter of Jeremy’s leadership of the party from the first.

I am also a long-standing supporter of the campaign for justice for Palestine – a position I regard as entirely consistent with the Jewish values I grew up with. It is axiomatic in my family that the mass slaughter inflicted on Jews in Europe should never be inflicted on any other people, anywhere.

This past year we have seen Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist project attacked by a powerful combination of forces. Pro-Israel lobbyists, well practised at alleging that critics are motivated solely by hostility to Jews, have handed the perfect weapon to the political and media establishment ranged against him. They assert that criticism of the state of Israel or of Zionism is an assault on Jewish identity and therefore a kind of hate speech. But as you know, many Jews are not Zionists, while plenty of non-Jews are.

I chaired a meeting in Liverpool last Sunday where Jackie Walker shared the platform with a British Palestinian lawyer and a leading Jewish pro-Palestinian activist. Her contribution to our understanding of the anti-Corbyn campaign was hugely appreciated by the Momentum supporters who packed into the hall to hear her speak.

Jackie’s unique perspective, with her combined Jewish and African-Caribbean heritage and her history of anti-racist, left-wing activism, makes her a hate figure for Corbyn’s opponents. It would be shameful for Momentum to capitulate to the witch hunt which has seen newspapers, broadcasters and social media pundits uncritically reporting every allegation against Jackie and other Labour or Momentum members – of antisemitism, misogyny, bullying and support for terrorism.  There is, actually, a nasty whiff of racism and misogyny in their targeting of Jackie. Her Jewish heritage is often deliberately passed over.

She has been a victim of distortions and deliberate falsehoods, such as those exposed by investigative journalist Asa Winstanley and still repeated with such frequency that they have become received wisdom, lightly tossed into the conversation in Radio 4 comedy shows.  Everybody now “knows” that Jews are not safe in Corbyn’s Labour Party and Jackie Walker is an antisemite.

As someone whose mother had been called a Christ-killer when she was a little girl at school, I think I am pretty sensitive to prejudice and stereotyping directed at Jews. I do not tolerate it – nor any other form of racism – in the Labour Party, the Palestine solidarity movement or any other setting. Though I personally I have not encountered it, I acknowledge that antisemitism exists in the party, as in the rest of society. There are recommendations in the Chakrabarti Report that would – if implemented – strengthen the party as a bulwark against all forms of racism, which is absolutely essential in the post-Brexit world. Jackie will be a great asset in building our anti-racist movement.

I have been alarmed at the reluctance of our side to fight back. Jeremy has been incredibly conciliatory, restricting himself to pleading his own impeccable anti-racist credentials and swearing to stamp out the antisemitism that is alleged but not proven, thereby giving credence to the idea that Labour does indeed “have a problem with Jews”.  Jeremy Newmark of the Jewish Labour Movement, in a debate at The World Transformed on September 25, used the fact that Jeremy had set up the Chakrabarti Inquiry, to explore antisemitism and other forms of racism, as proof that antisemitism was the huge problem the JLM alleges! We are in a Kafkaesque, looking-glass world where querying the veracity of an antisemitism allegation is taken as proof of antisemitism. Let’s throw in Catch 22 and a dollop of McCarthyism for good measure. Sacrificing Jackie will not do anything to keep the circling sharks at bay.

Please respect the voices of the vast number of Momentum supporters who value Jackie’s contribution and will feel disillusioned and betrayed if she is forced out.

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Labour Party and Momentum member

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3. Dear James Schneider and Jon Lansman,

We are Jewish members of the Labour Party.  We are writing to you concerning reports in the press, which you have not denied, that Momentum’s Executive Committee is preparing to throw Jackie Walker to the wolves at its meeting next Monday.  The reason for this is because of the wholly false anti-Semitism accusations that have been leveled against her.

We urge you not to remove Jackie as Vice-Chair of Momentum.  When a comrade is under attack then you defend them and extend the hand of solidarity.  An injury to one is an injury to all.  Betraying a comrade in order to ease the pressure on you is contrary to all Labour movement traditions of solidarity.   The Jewish Labour Movement [JLM] will not stop at Jackie Walker.  They will look for new targets for their ‘anti-Semitism’ witch hunt.

The JLM is not an ordinary affiliated socialist society.  It has a close relationship with Israeli state agencies, for example its newly appointed Director, Ella Rose, came directly from the Israeli Embassy.  The ‘anti-Semitism witchhunt’ over the last year has been a carefully orchestrated and co-ordinated affair alongside papers like the Daily Mail.  Jackie is but the latest target for those who are using ‘anti-Semitism’ as a means of attacking Jeremy Corbyn.

The JLM invited to Labour Party Conference representatives of Ha Avodah, the Israeli Labour Party.  This is a party that presided over the forcible expulsion of ¾ million Palestinian refugees and placed Israel’s Arabs under military rule until 1966.  The ILP initiated the settlements in the West Bank.  Earlier this year, its leader Isaac Herzog stated that the ILP mustn’t be identified as an ‘Arab lovers’ party.  If Jackie Walker had talked about ‘Jew lovers’ then the charges of anti-Semitism against her would be justified.  Herzog later described his ‘nightmare’ of waking up to find that Israel had an Arab Prime Minister.  If Jackie had spoken of her fears that Britain might one day have a Jewish Prime Minister then she would rightly be called an anti-Semite.  If anyone should be called out for racism it is the JLM.

Jews who are not Zionists cannot join the JLM because of its affiliation to the World Zionist Organisation and its Jerusalem Programme, which speaks of ‘the centrality of the State of Israel … in the life of the (Jewish) nation’.  The ‘Jewish nation’ means Jews in Israel or the Diaspora.  This includes ourselves and Jon Lansman.  The idea that we are Jewish not British nationals and Israel is the centre of our lives is a deeply anti-Semitic one.

The Jerusalem programme also speaks of ‘Settling the country as an expression of practical Zionism.’ Settlement means occupying the West Bank and Golan Heights as well as Judaising Israel.  That is why Israel is a racist settler colonial state.

Last Monday the JLM held an ‘anti-racism training’ session at Labour’s conference.  The session was filmed without the agreement of participants and contrary to all ethical considerations.  It was then leaked to the media in order to wage a vicious racist attack on Jackie Walker and other Jewish dissidents present.

Even before the ‘training session’ the JLM had been conducting a political lynching of Jackie.  It had refused to accept that the false accusations made against Jackie, that she had alleged that Jews were the main financiers of the slave trade, were untrue, despite her being acquitted of these allegations last May.

In the Jewish Chronicle of 24th September Jeremy Newmark, Chair of JLM was quoted as saying of John McDonnell’s appearance on a platform with Jackie that

“The Shadow Chancellor … must explain his defence of Walker which is inconsistent with his call for zero tolerance (of antisemitism). This raises serious questions. Our members expect him to explain himself.’

What happened at the session was all too predictable.  Having the JLM hold an anti-racist training course was like the General Medical Council asking Harold Shipman to organise a course on medical ethics.  This was why the Chakrabarti Report stated that:

‘having gauged the range of feelings within the Party, it is not my view that narrow anti-racism training programmes are what is required. There is a grave danger that such an approach would seem patronising or otherwise insulting rather than truly empowering and enriching for those taking part.’

Instead of stabbing Jackie in the back and running scared of the media’s faked concern for ‘antisemitism’ you would be better spending your time finding out why the JLM was allowed to undertake an ‘anti-racist training session’ in the first place.

What Jackie Walker said may have enraged the Zionists, for whom the holocaust serves primarily as an ideological justification for Israel’s crimes, but it was not anti-Semitic.

It is a fact that Holocaust Memorial Day has focused almost exclusively on the Nazi holocaust and has ignored the extermination of the Disabled and the Gypsies.  The doyen of Zionist holocaust historians, Professor Yehuda Bauer argued, in a debate with the late Dr Sybil Milton, Senior Historian at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum that ‘the Nazis only attempted to annihilate one people, the Jews: Roma were not Jews, therefore there was no need to murder all of them.’  According to Bauer, ‘the Holocaust is very much a unique case.’ [“Gypsies and the Holocaust” Yehuda Bauer; Sybil Milton The History Teacher, Vol. 25, (Aug., 1992)].  As the late Elie Wiesel put it, to compare the sufferings of others with Jews was a “betrayal of Jewish history”. [Elie Wiesel, Against Silence, v. iii, 146.]  The truth may be uncomfortable but it is not anti-Semitic.

Jackie Walker was also right to question the JLM’s assertion that the EUMC’s Working Definition of Anti-Semitism was the standard definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism.  This is simply dishonest.  In 2013, this definition was scrapped by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, as the Times of Israel reported ‘’The European Union’s agency for combating racism dropped its definition for anti-Semitism… We are not aware of any official definition [of anti-Semitism],” Blanca Tapia of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency told JTA on Tuesday.’

We are seriously disturbed by the report in the Guardian Momentum likely to oust Jackie Walker over Holocaust remarks and a similar report in the Independent that ‘Senior members of Momentum are “fuming” at her remarks’. It is your duty not to betray comrades.

The JLM voted 92-4% in favour of Owen Smith.  Anti-Semitism is a weapon to attack the left.  Any betrayal of Jackie Walker will be unacceptable to grassroots Momentum supporters who are sick to the back teeth of the cynical use of anti-Semitism to ward off criticism of Israel.

We also understand that Jackie Walker has not even been invited to the meeting which it is intended will dismiss her.  What kind of democracy is this?  Because of the racist abuse she has received from the JLM’s supporters Jackie has had to suspend her Twitter account.  Of, not being an  MP, this kind of abuse will not make the headlines.  Jackie is suffering extreme abuse which the JLM has given a green light to.  Abuse which openly states that Black people can’t be Jewish.  If you attack Jackie you will be a party to this abuse.

We are writing to you to demand that you stand up to the JLM when it demands the head of a well respected Black and Jewish anti-racist.  You will not be forgiven if you betray her.

Graham Bash                 Hackney North CLP
Haim Bresheeth            Hornsey and Wood Green
Mark Elf                         Barking CLP
Kenny Fryde                 Cambridge CLP
Tony Greenstein           Brighton & Hove District Labour Party
Abe Hayeem                 Harrow East CLP
Helen Marks                  Riverside CLP
Elizabeth Morley         Ceredigion CLP
Diana Neslen                Ilford South Constituency Labour Party
Dr Brian Robinson      Milton Keynes South CLP
Leon Rosselson           Brent Momentum
David Selzer                 City of Chester CLP
Sam Semoff                   Riverside CLP

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4. Dear Jon Lansman,

I am really concerned that as founder of Momentum your response to the anti-semitism witch hunt has not been more robust. Your advice to Momentum groups up to now has been that they should simply publish short statements condemning anti-semitism. Well, shouldn’t that be a given? You told them the problem would quickly go away if they did this. Well it hasn’t.

Why have you been leaving those of us who have been suspended or complained against to be falsely harangued in the press and to be at the mercy of a grossly undemocratic complaints procedure in the Labour Party that fails even to tell those suspended or complained against the grounds for the complaint and leaves them dangling not having any time scale for an investigation.In my case I haven’t even been informed of the complaint and just heard about it through the press and rumour.

It must surely be crystal clear to you that this sudden so called rise in anti-semitism in the Labour party is a cynical move to rid the party of Jeremy Corbyn, a leader who is both truly on the left and who has always been a campaigner for justice for the Palestinians.
Not only has this campaign by the JLM and the right of the party brought the party into disrepute and split it in a way that will make it harder to rid us of the Tories but it has totally debased the meaning of the term anti-semitic and whipped up a problem that was barely there before. Apart from some exceptions we Jews in the UK have been so fortunate that until recently we have been free of the kind of discrimination that other Jews have faced at different times. Even the former chief rabbi said he had not really experienced any incidents of anti-semitism.

I was at the training meeting that Jackie Walker attended during the Labour party conference. People may not have agreed with all she said but there was no way it was anti-semitic. She was doing what the trainer several times urged us to do, namely engage in debate. I have been at meetings in Liverpool where Zionist members of the community have come and heckled loudly and made their loud contributions but nobody ran to complain that they should be suspended or expelled or reported to the police. The occupation of Palestine and the actions of the Israeli government are emotive subjects and it is vital that people of different shades of opinion get together to discuss even if it is very painful at times.

Manuel Cortes is now bullying Momentum into taking action against Jackie Walker by threatening to reconsider TSSA’s support for Momentum if Jackie is still in post in a week’s time.His use of hyperbole is phoney and disgraceful.He talks about Jackie “holding such abhorrent racist views” . How can we discuss openly and with trust if those of us who hold views that don’t agree with pro Israel and pro zionists are vilified in this way?

Momentum itself is now the subject of concerted attack for being a hard left secretive body within the party. You surely realise that this too is just another form of attack on Corbyn? We at the grass roots are fighting off these accusations. Please do the same and stand by Jackie and the rest of us as we will try and stand by Momentum. You have done wonders in growing the Labour party. Don’t desert us when we most need your support.

Helen Marks

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5. Dear Jon and colleagues,

I write as a member of Momentum, and as a very new member of the Labour Party who joined after Jeremy Corbyn’s convincing re-election as
leader. I also write as an activist within my union UCU and as an
academic linguist.

In the welcome letter I received on joining the party, Iain McNicol
writes “The Labour Party always embodies the value of equality, fairness
and social justice.” I expect no less. Unfortunately these values do
not seem to be being applied in the case of Jackie Walker. I have read
in the Guardian that she has been suspended from the Labour Party for a
second time, and that instead of defending her against what is clearly a
witch-hunt, Momentum is joining in the attacks by proposing to remove
her as vice-chair at tomorrow’s meeting. This is apparently on the
basis of her contributions to a training session during the Labour Party
conference, which was a closed event but nonetheless secretly recorded.

I can understand why Jackie’s remarks may have caused offence to some
people, and perhaps they could have been better expressed. Nonetheless I
see nothing antisemitic or racist in them. What is wrong with calling
for Holocaust Memorial Day to be more inclusive?

But I would like to comment in particular on her statement “I still
haven’t heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with” which
has been greeted with outrage. To me it is perfectly comprehensible and
reasonable if taken in context. The Jewish Labour Movement, which was
running the training event in question, had stated that it was using the
EUMC Working Definition on Anti-Semitism. I have given conference
papers about the EUMC “working definition” and can state conclusively
that (a) it is not a definition and (b) it does not work. It is in fact
a motley collection of examples, several of which muddy the waters by
conflating criticism of Israel with genuine antisemitism. It is no
doubt because it is not fit for purpose that it has never been adopted
by the EU: the FRA (the successor body to the EUMC) does not use it and
it no longer appears on the FRA website. Despite this, many pro-Israel
groups continue to campaign vociferously for the definition to be
accepted as THE standard definition.

When I was on the National Executive of UCU, I was responsible for
bringing a motion to our annual Congress which distanced the union from
the EUMC “working definition” while continuing to fight all forms of
racism and discrimination. This motion was overwhelmingly carried and
is now UCU policy. In fact, I was the only non-Jewish speaker in
support of the motion: a succession of Jewish members of UCU stepped up
to denounce the EUMC “definition” as being completely unhelpful in
countering genuine antisemitism.

A member of UCU (Ronnie Fraser) subsequently brought a tribunal case
against UCU for alleged antisemitic discrimination, citing UCU’s motion
on the EUMC definition as evidence. One of his witnesses was Jeremy
Newmark, who was at that time the CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council.
He is now, of course, the chair of the JLM. The fact that his evidence
to the tribunal was dismissed by the judges as not being truthful should
give Labour Party members reason to doubt how constructive a role he and his organisation are likely to play in providing any training concerning antisemitism or winning Jewish voters.

I believe that when Jackie said “I still haven’t heard a definition of
antisemitism that I can work with”, Jackie was making a playful allusion
to the EUMC “working definition”. She is quite right not to accept it.
The Labour Party should distance itself from that definition, as my
union has done, and should encourage genuine debate about the nature of
antisemitism and how the party can identify and combat it.

I urge you to give Jackie your full support as a respected anti-racist
campaigner of long standing within the party. If you do not, the
witch-hunt will only intensify and those promoting it will not be
satisfied until they have the heads of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell
on a platter.

thank you for taking time to read this.

In solidarity,

Sue Blackwell
(South Suffolk CLP)

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Defend Jackie Walker, Vice Chair of Momentum from the Racists of the ‘Jewish’ Labour Movement

Jackie Walker is pilloried for saying that the Holocaust is the property of all humanity

By Tony Greenstein

At Labour Party Conference just gone, in open defiance of the Chakrabarti Report, the Jewish Labour Movement held a ‘training session’ on Racism and anti-Semitism. The supporters and advocates of a Jewish state, which is a state where Jews have privileges over non-Jews, were given the role of educating delegates on the meaning of anti-Semitism. It is as if the General Medical Council had decided to hold a training course on medical ethics and appointed the late Harold Shipman as course director. It is and was utterly absurd.

At the LP conference the JLM had deliberately invited as ‘fraternal delegates’ a delegation from the Israeli Labour Party. You can gain some measure of the racism of the ILP from an article Herzog slammed for remark about ‘Arab lovers’ in the right-wing Jerusalem Post:

‘Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog has been trying to move his party to the center, but he appeared to have gone too far late Tuesday, when he told an audience in Ashkelon that his faction’s MKs needed to correct an impression that they are always “Arab lovers.”

“A false impression exists that we take the needs of Palestinians into account before the needs of the State of Israel,” he said at a toast for Labor activists ahead of the Passover holiday.’

What kind of Party is it whose leader talks about the need to avoid being seen as ‘Arab lovers’? Imagine that Jeremy Corbyn said that the Labour Party needed to avoid being seen as ‘Jew lovers’? I can remember when fighting the National Front and BNP being accused of being ‘nigger lovers’. Herzog, who not so long ago was trying to give Corbyn lessons on ‘anti-Semitism’ is the racist leader of a deeply racist party, yet the JLM invited a delegation from the ILP to Party conference.

At the ‘training seminar’ of the JLM, which was really a propaganda session, participants like Jackie Walker were covertly filmed in order that anyone questioning the racist agenda could then be reported to Iain McNicol and Tom Watson and then subject to disciplinary procedures. The entrapment of people who attended is a disgrace and the JLM should have no further part in any form of anti-racist training. Indeed the whole concept of ‘training’ for anti-racism is itself a reactionary concept. Racism is eliminated by joint work and shared experiences not by lectures from on high.

Last week I wrote two  blog posts – an Open Letter to John McDonnell – Don’t Condone the Race Baiters of the Jewish Labour Movement and The Jewish Labour Movement and its Political Lynching of Jackie Walker describing how Jackie Walker, Momentum’s Vice Chair, has come under sustained attack by the supporters of the Israeli state. What Zionists cannot bear most of all is that Jackie Walker is both Black and Jewish.  Numerous abusive tweets (we only hear about abusive tweets directed at MPs) by people who could not possibly know her have confidently declared that she is not Jewish. Why? Because it is an article of faith amongst most Zionists that Black people are not Jewish.

William Fishman, a Jewish historian, tells how the Zionists played no part in Jewish socialism and trade union struggles in the East End - Zionism was a petit bourgeois delusion
William Fishman, a Jewish historian, tells how the Zionists played no part in Jewish socialism and trade union struggles in the East End – Zionism was a petit bourgeois delusion

These racists are being led by Jeremy Newmark and Mike Katz of the inappropriately named Jewish Labour Movement (until 2004 it was known as Poalei Zion). I say inappropriate because when there was a Jewish labour movement in this country, it wanted nothing to do with the Zionist movement, which was rightly seen as a scab movement. The Zionists were, as the enclosed scan from William Fishman’s highly acclaimed East End Radicals shows, held in contempt by a very real Jewish labour movement which, at its peak, consisted of over 30 Jewish unions. A labour movement which helped destroy Sir Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists at the Battle of Cable Street, a struggle which the Zionists desperately opposed at the time along with their bourgeois cousins in the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

In the early 20th century when there was a Jewish labour movement, Zionists were excluded as scabs
In the early 20th century when there was a Jewish labour movement, Zionists were excluded as scabs

The Zionists and the race baiters of the Jewish Labour Movement have never got over the fact that at her investigation Jackie was cleared of anti-Semitism. This was not surprising given that this indefatiguable fighter against racism and fascism in Thanet, helped lead the Kent anti-racist network in their fight against the National Front in Dover. You will never see Zionist groups at an anti-fascist mobilisation or doing work with asylum seekers or against state racism. Jackie made the ‘mistake’ of privately discussing, in a Facebook post with friends, the involvement of Jews in financing the slave trade. It is a historical fact that at certain times Jews did indeed play a major part in financing the slave trade. That does not mean and contrary to their allegations, Jackie has never said that it meant, that Jews therefore were the primary financiers of the slave trade.

It is because of these libellous attacks on Jackie that we asked John McDonnell to pull out of the JLM rally against ‘anti-Semitism’ last Sunday, which he did.

Zionist ‘anti-racism’ is purely an establishment affair. It is a right-wing form of ‘anti-racism’ which pillories the victims of racism and presents the racists in an anti-racist garb. It is an inversion of reality. Zionism manages to turn the victims of settler colonialism, the Palestinians, into the racists whereas the settlers are seen as the victims of those whose land they colonise. In the Zionist fantasy world, the Palestinians attack them, not because the colonists steal their land, water and resources – it is because they are Jewish!

What is most obscene is the Zionist use of the Holocaust to justify their settler colonial project. Zionism predated the holocaust, which began in 1941, by some 60 years. There was no connection between Palestine and the holocaust other than the fact that the Zionist movement sought to use the oppression and desperate situation of the Jews in Germany between 1933 and 1941 for their own advantage. What was despicable was that even during the Holocaust the Zionists preferred to look the other way. At no time during the years 1941 to 1945 was there a concerted Zionist campaign to save even a fragment of the Jews in Europe. The only interest of the Zionist movement was in emigration, selective emigration to Palestine.

It is a matter of historical record that the Zionist movement agreed a trade deal with Nazi Germany in August 1933, just when the Jewish boycott of Hitler was taking off world wide. It was agreed to by the Hitler regime precisely because it would destroy the Boycott of Nazi Germany. The Boycott had had a devastating effect on Germany’s economy. As Edwin  Black wrote in the ‘Transfer Agreement’

’For the entire first half of 1933 exports were down 51%. ‘That six month loss would have been greater except that the anti-Nazi boycott had not really commenced until late March.’ [p.223]

The Zionists preferred to break the Boycott because they wished to lay their hands on the wealth of German Jewry regardless of the fact that only the Boycott had restrained the hands of the Nazis. Between 1933 and 1939 60% of capital investment in Jewish Palestine was from Nazi Germany. The behaviour of the Zionists in Hungary and elsewhere has been well documented by more honest Zionists such as Ben Hecht inPerfidy. Suffice to say, the allegations of collaboration brought by the survivors of the Hungarian holocaust in Israel resulted in the Kasztner Trial in Israel between 1953 and 1958. The verdict confirming collaboration by the Zionist leaders in Hungary  caused the fall of the second Labour Zionist government led by Moshe Sharrett in 1955.

It is a matter of historical record that the Zionist movement was disinterested in the Holocaust whilst it happened. I post here 4 pages from ‘The Burning Ground’ the official biography of Ben-Gurion by Shabtai Teveth.ben-gurion-burning-groundben-gurion-burning-ground2

Jackie Walker raised the JLM’s hackles by questioning the uniqueness of the holocaust. To the Zionists it is a cardinal principle that the Holocaust is the property of the Jewish people alone.

Lucy Dawidowicz, a right-wing Zionist historian, in the Holocaust and the Historiansargued that subsuming Jewish losses under a universal or ecumenical classification is to effectively justify anti-Semitism. To Elie Wiesel it was a “betrayal of Jewish history”. [Norman Finkelstein, Holocaust Industry, p.45]  As Israeli journalist and historian Boaz Evron wrote, the real purpose of Zionist Holocaust awareness ‘is not at an understanding of the past, but a manipulation of the future’. 

For daring to raise the idea that mass genocide or holocausts might be the property of all humanity, that Africans, Cambodians, Jews and others have suffered at one time or another equivalent acts of genocide, Jackie Walker has been vilified. First into the fray was that well-known anti-racist newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. In a bizarre article Revealed: Jeremy Corbyn ally says Holocaust Memorial Day should not just be about genocide of Jews Jackie was attacked for being ‘insensitive and provocative’ i.e. debating the questions surrounding the holocaust and the lessons it imparts.  Particularly galling was her statement that it would be “wonderful” if Holocaust Memorial Day was not just about the genocide of Jews.

Although in theory HMD is open to all, in practice it centres around the holocaust of the Jews. Every other mass act of genocide is left on the periphery. On this Jackie is absolutely correct. In Israel school children are taken on trips to Auschwitz, not to learn about the lessons of racism but to reinforce their racism. Racism has become ‘a basic element in the everyday life of Israeli youth’ according to an article in Ha’aretz. Israeli Teenagers: Racist and Proud of It. This racism is as much part of the Labour Zionist tradition as that of Likud.

Again according to Ha’aretz, which is Israel’s sole liberal daily: ‘Nearly half of Israel’s high school students do not believe that Israeli-Arabs are entitled to the same rights as Jews in Israel’. The same poll revealed that more than half the students would deny Arabs the right to be elected to the Knesset. Poll: Half of Israeli High Schoolers Oppose Equal Rights for Arabs

This is the racism that the JLM should be focussing on. Instead they invite Israeli racists to the Labour Party conference.

The Independent reports Momentum vice chair Jackie Walker apologises over ‘appalling’ Holocaust comments quotes Jackie as saying that if she had caused offence she apologises. Jackie is and has been under an immense amount of pressure by those whose agenda is defending the United State’s guard dog in the Middle East. A state which has acted as the sponsor and supporter of every death squad regime in Central and South America. A regime which was the closest friend of Apartheid South Africa.  In reality Jackie has nothing to apologise for. The Zionists of course take offence when anyone questions their bogus assertions of ‘anti-Semitism’ precisely because they and we know that there is no anti-Semitism crisis in Labour. It is a great pity that Jeremy Corbyn has bowed to the prevailing wind. However it won’t do him any good because, as Kipling observed, paying Danegeld merely increases the appetite of the blackmailer and that is what Jeremy Newmark, Katz and the JLM are in the business of – blackmail.

The other ‘crime’ of Jackie Walker was to say that ‘I was looking for information and I still haven’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with’ Possibly this is because the Zionist movement have been busy peddling for years the discredited European Union Monitoring Committee’s Working Definition of Anti-Semitism. It was a working definition which the Fundamental Rights Agency deleted from their website. This definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ tried to marry opposition to Israel and comparisons between Nazism and Zionism with anti-Semitism. The University College Union and the National Union of Students rejected it and even the Zionists finally admitted that the EU had ditched the agreement [Israel lobbyists finally concede that EU has ditched anti-Semitism “definition”]. The JLM however, led by Jeremy Newmark, who was openly accused by an employment tribunal of lying on oath, pretended at its ‘training session’ that the EUMC definition was the standard definition. That is a lie and he knows it.

According to the Independent ‘Senior members of Momentum are “fuming” at her remarks’. If this is true then they should take a long and hard look at their own behaviour. Cowardice rarely pays. Any sign of weakness from Momentum’s leadership will be capitalised on by the Zionists and the Tom Watsons of this world. Momentum needs to stand firm and reject the attacks on Jackie Walker. If Lansman backs down now, we will remove him from the leadership of Momentum when eventually a conference is called.

According to the Independent, The Holocaust Education Trust, founded by the paedophile Blairite Greville Janner, accused Jackie Walker of undermining and belittling “the distinct nature of the tragedy itself”. This is utter rubbish. Placing the Holocaust in an anti-racist context rather than exceptionalising and essentialising it, is exactly the opposite of undermining and belittling it.

Exceptionalising it by suggesting that it could only happen to the Jews when holocausts and mass genocide have been the lot of many people is to take the holocaust out of history. Essentialising it is to divorce the holocaust from the reasons it occurred, in other words it wasn’t fascism, the destruction of the German labour movement, the medieval myths fashioned into modern racism, it was something about the Jews themselves. The Zionist idea of understanding the Jewish Holocaust is not to understand it.

The HET stated that ‘The deliberate use of term Holocausts – plural – undermines and belittle the distinct nature of the tragedy itself, ignores that genocides are the result of diverse and unique factors, and also deprives the Jewish community of their collective memory.” This is nonsense. It is precisely by placing the Jewish holocaust in a relative and historical context that one can make sense of it. There are also other questions to ask such as why the holocaust has taken on this importance over 70 years after it occurred when it was barely mentioned in the first 20 years after it occurred. The answer seems obvious. As Israel moves further and further to the racist Right, as mobs chanting ‘Death to the Arabs’ become a regular feature of Israel’s political scene (it used to be ‘Death to the Jews’ in Europe) so the Holocaust is the shield to deflect criticism of Zionist racism. What is obscene is the use of the holocaust in order to justify today’s racism.

See also Jewish activists criticize Labour anti-Semitism training

Jewish Labour activists in defence of Jackie Walker

jackie-walker-28sept

In Defence of Jackie Walker

We are Jewish Labour activists who were with Jackie Walker at the training session on antisemitism led by Mike Katz, vice chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) during the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on Monday September 26. Like her, some of us were heckled when we raised questions unpalatable to others in the audience who share the JLM’s bias towards Israel, its coupling of Jewish identity with Zionism and its insistence on the uniqueness of Jewish suffering.

Jackie had every right to question the JLM’s definition of antisemitism and the tendency of mainstream Jewish organisations to focus entirely on the slaughter of Jews when they commemorate the Nazi Holocaust. We share her determination to build greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. Jackie responded appreciatively when one audience member described Holocaust memorial events involving Armenians and others.  She has since issued a statement on this issue, reproduced below.

We were shocked at the way the level of barracking rose as soon as Jackie began to speak. JLM supporters demonstrated contempt for her as a Jewish woman of African heritage who is a lifelong anti-racist advocate for the rights of minorities and a leading Labour Party activist in her Thanet constituency.

We unreservedly condemn allegations of antisemitism made against Jackie Walker. Calls for her to be disowned by the Momentum movement of which she is vice-chair, and for her to be suspended for a second time from the Labour Party, are reprehensible instances of the witch hunt to which she and other Corbyn supporters have been subjected over recent months.

The way Jackie has been treated demonstrates the unfitness of the JLM to deliver training on antisemitism. It is an organisation committed to one, contested strand of Jewish labour tradition to the exclusion of any other; it relies on a definition of antisemitism that conflates Jewish identity with Zionism; and it exploits its interactions with party members to set the limits of political discourse about the Middle East in accordance with its own partisan ideology.

By promoting the witch hunt, the JLM has helped to relegate the vile prejudice of antisemitism to a tool in the armoury of pro-Israel advocates, backed by Corbyn’s enemies in the political and media establishment.

Signed:

Graham Bash, Hackney North CLP
Rica Bird, Wirral South CLP
Leah Levane, Hastings and Rye CLP
Jonathan Rosenhead, Hackney South and Shoreditch CLP
Glyn Secker, Dulwich and West Norwood CLP
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Chingford and Woodford Green CLP


A statement from Jackie Walker

“A number of people made comments in a private training session run by the Jewish Labour Movement. As we all know, training sessions are intended to be safe spaces where ideas and questions can be explored. A film of this session was leaked to the press unethically. I did not raise a question on security in Jewish schools. The trainer raised this issue and I asked for clarification, in particular as all London primary schools, to my knowledge, have security and I did not understand the particular point the trainer was making. Having been a victim of racism I would never play down the very real fears the Jewish community have, especially in light of recent attacks in France.

In the session, a number of Jewish people, including me, asked for definitions of antisemitism. This is a subject of much debate in the Jewish community. I support David Schneider’s definition and utterly condemn antisemitism.

I would never play down the significance of the Shoah. Working with many Jewish comrades, I continue to seek to bring greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. If offence has been caused, it is the last thing I would want to do and I apologise.”


Read Jackie Walker’s interview in the New Statesman
Read Asa Winstanley on Labour’s antisemitism training

Jewish pro-Corbyn activists respond to Kafkaesque “antisemitism” attacks

www.freespeechonisrael.org.uk          info@freespeechonisrael.org.uk

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Jewish pro-Corbyn activists retaliate against Kafkaesque “antisemitism” attacks

  • Jewish activists denounce “Kafkaesque” attacks on Corbyn
  • Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker confronts her abusers
  • Conference fringe meeting will expose “exaggerated and downright false claims of antisemitism”

Jewish activists have denounced as “Kafkaesque” attacks on Jeremy Corbyn by a extreme Zionist organisation, the self-styled “Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA),” which on Friday ratcheted up its campaign to brand pro-Palestinian campaigners as Jew-haters by filing a disciplinary complaint against the Labour leader.

“The CAA has managed to combine Catch-22, a McCarthyite witchhunt, a Kafkaesque nightmare and a surreal trip down Alice’s rabbit hole by alleging that anyone who questions allegations of antisemitism must be an antisemite,” said Jackie Walker, vice-chair of the grassroots Momentum movement.

Walker, a lifelong anti-racist campaigner of both African and Jewish heritage, has been subjected to an unrelenting campaign of vilification for discussing links between her Jewish ancestors and the slave trade.

She will confront her abusers when she speaks at two meetings about allegations of antisemitism on the first evening of the party conference in Liverpool on Sunday September 25.

Walker will join a panel discussion titled Jewish socialists against the anti-Corbyn witchhuntorganised by Free Speech on Israel (FSOI), a network of mainly Jewish activists opposed to the deployment of antisemitism allegations to silence Corbyn supporters who campaign for justice for Palestine.

The organisers call it “the only chance during the four days of conference to uncover the truth behind the devastation wreaked upon Labour by exaggerated and downright false claims of antisemitism.”

A meeting at Momentum’s conference fringe hub earlier the same evening will bring Jeremy Newmark of the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) face to face with Walker to debate “Does Labour have an Antisemitism Problem?”

Council Boycott Ban Slammed

Reprinted from the Morning Star

The government was accused yesterday of “an attack on democracy” over its ban on local authorities and institutions observing an “ethical boycott” of investment in firms and countries deemed to be beyond the pale.

In “new guidance” for councils issued this week, the government claimed that “using pension policies to pursue boycotts, divestment and sanctions against foreign nations and UK defence industries is inappropriate.”

The intervention follows announcements by a number of local authorities, universities and other institutions that they are disvesting from the multibillion-pound arms trade and regimes perceived as being unethical or in breach of international law.

War on Want senior militarism and security campaigner Ryvka Barnard condemned the guidance, accusing the government of seeking to protect countries such as Israel from criticism over their human rights abuses.

She said: “The government’s action is an attack on democracy and an explicit clampdown on the growing strength of the grassroots boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which aims to end government and corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

“The government has given itself the power to veto decisions that it doesn’t like, overruling the democratic process and blocking local councils from making investment decisions in line with community values. This is plain wrong.”

War on Want argues that Britain has an “obligation” not to enable or support countries accused of egregious violations of human rights and international law, “which includes making sure that it is not financially or otherwise supporting Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.”

Local communities in England and Wales must be allowed to make their own decisions as to how they choose to invest their funds without interference from the central government, the campaign group argued.

JLM want to punish thought crime

The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) has been a leading actor in the campaign to demonise Jeremy Corbyn and all other critics of Israel as antisemites. As part of their campaign they are trying to amend the Labour Party’s rules to make it easier to suspend or expel advocates of Palestinian Rights and are submitting proposed rule changes to this year’s conference. If their proposals went through the words ‘except in instances involving antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism’ will be added to the end of the section on actions detrimental to the Labour Party. So a crucial sentence will read ‘The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions except in instances involving antisemitism, Islamophobia or racism’.

It is a principle of British law that it is actions that lead to sanctions, not thoughts. Thoughts are only of interest to tribunals when manifested in words or actions. Only totalitarian regimes seek to control our thoughts – a situation ridiculed as thought crime by George Orwell. As Wikipedia describes it “The term was popularized in the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, wherein thought crime is the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party.” Suppressing the crime was the province of the Thought Police.

We do not know where the NCC – the National Constitutional Committee, the body responsible for Labour Party discipline – will recruit their thoughtpol and how they will collect evidence on the nature of our thoughts. The thoughtpol will presumably be part of the Compliance Unit (now that’s an Orwellian term) which has been running the purges of ‘unsuitable’ voters during the Leadership election. Orwell was explicit in how Thought Crime was to be investigated. Will the Labour Party be building its own Room 101?

Elsewhere on this site we describe the JLM’s affiliations to the Israel Labour Party, responsible for commencing the settlement programme in the West Bank, and to the World Zionist Organisation, responsible for channelling funds to the illegal settlements. Despite their public affiliation to Zionist organisations the JLM wish to see use of the term Zionist as a potential disciplinary offence. It appears from their proposed rule change they wish to see anyone who believes them to be Zionist to be disciplined as well. We are not only in the realms feared by Orwell we are in Kafka’s territory as well.

The JLM’s record of supporting a regime that abuses human rights has long cast a large question mark on their place in the Labour family. This latest initiative, displaying a willingness to introduce human rights abuse into the Labour Party rule book, must call their ethical judgement further into question; it should also pose a problem for all those in the Party who, in the past, have looked to the JLM for advice. We must ensure their advice is ignored by all in the Party in the future.

The proposed rule changes also include a wilful misreading of  Macpherson’s description of a racist incident and seeks to extend this misreading to all hate speech and incidents. The JLM proposes the addition of a section that states:

Where a member is responsible for a hate incident, being defined as something where the victim or anyone else think it was motivated by hostility or prejudice based on disability, race, religion, transgender identity, or sexual orientation, the NEC may have the right to impose the appropriate disciplinary options

Macpherson’s description was relevant to a particular time and place and related to the failure of the Metropolitan Police to take seriously victims’ perceptions of incidents. The intention was to require the police to investigate incidents, taking seriously the perception, not to prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

Professor David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism and vice chair of the Chakrabarti Inquiry was asked by the Parliamentary All-Party Committee on Antisemitism for guidance on interpreting the MacPherson principles

Macpherson wrote that ‘a racist incident’ is ‘any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person.’ If we look at the context in which this quotation appears, it is unambiguously clear that Macpherson intended to propose that such racist incidents require investigation. He did not mean to imply that such incidents are necessarily racist. However, Macpherson’s report has been misinterpreted and misapplied in precisely this way. Its authority has been thrown behind the view that such incidents should, by definition, be regarded as racist. In short, a definition of antisemitism which takes Jews’ feelings and perceptions as its starting point and which looks to the Macpherson report for authority is built on weak foundations.

Putting the rule changes together: if any Zionist thinks I am thinking an antisemitic thought, that is enough to get me expelled from the Labour Party.

Mike Cushman

FSOI MEDIA NOTICE – Zionism and antisemitism all the rage at Labour Party conference fringe

www.freespeechonisrael.org.uk          info@freespeechonisrael.org.uk

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Zionism and antisemitism all the rage at Labour Party conference fringe

  • Three fringe meetings in 3 hrs on allegations against Corbyn supporters
  • Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker confronts her abusers
  • Jewish activists will expose “exaggerated and downright false claims of antisemitism”

Defenders and opponents of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will clash over interpretations of Zionism and antisemitism in three separate meetings in the space of as many hours on the first day of the party conference in Liverpool on Sunday September 25.

The spectacle comes about because of an initiative by Free Speech on Israel (FSOI), a network of mainly Jewish activists opposed to the deployment of antisemitism allegations to silence Corbyn supporters who campaign for justice for Palestine.

A meeting originally planned by FSOI at the conference fringe hub of the grassroots Momentum movement has now been taken over by Momentum itself. It will bring Jeremy Newmark of the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) face to face with Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker to debate “Does Labour have an Antisemitism Problem?”

FSOI has organised a separate meeting titled “Jewish Socialists Against the Anti-Corbyn Witchhunt”, also featuring Jackie Walker, at the nearby Novotel later the same evening.

It will pose a direct challenge to the silencing of pro-Palestinian voices, while the JLM – one of the main architects of the silencing – has chosen to hold its own rally at the same time.

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi who will chair the FSOI meeting said it would be “the only chance during the four days of conference to uncover the truth behind the devastation wreaked upon Labour by exaggerated and downright false claims of antisemitism.”


NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. Who is Jackie Walker? (From Jews for Justice for Palestinians website)

Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker is a lifelong anti-racist campaigner of both African and Jewish heritage who has been suspended from the Labour Party for alleged antisemitism and then reinstated.

  1. What is FSOI?

Free Speech on Israel rejects the assertion, by die-hard supporters of Israel such as the JLM, that expressions of opposition to the political ideology of Zionism are equivalent to anti-Jewish racism. FSOI says opposition to Zionism is rooted in defence of Palestinian rights, which have been abused by Israel since its creation.

  1. At the Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) meeting at the Novotel, 40 Hanover Street, at 7.30 pm, Jackie Walker will share the platform with British Palestinian lawyer Salma Karmi-Ayyoub and Glyn Secker, who captained the Jewish Boat to Gaza organised by Jews for Justice for Palestinians in 2010. The vessel was seized by Israeli forces as it attempted to breach the siege of Gaza.
  1. The Momentum meeting at 5pm at 1 Great George Street will feature Jackie Walker, Jeremy Newmark (Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement); Rhea Wolfson (recently elected to the Labour NEC) and FSOI speaker Professor Jonathan Rosenhead.
  1. The JLM has devoted all its energies since Jeremy Corbyn took over as leader to denouncing him for failing to root out party members sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. It has been a prime mover behind the idea that Jewish identity is inextricably linked to Israel and Zionism. Its meeting, which coincides with the FSOI event, is advertised as a Rally Against Racism and Antisemitism, although the organisation has no record of anti-racist campaigning.

Jackie Walker Responds to Accusations of Antisemitism

Reprinted from Jews for Justice for Palestinians signatories blog

On 4th May this year Labour party activist and a vice-chair of Momentum, Jackie Walker, was suspended from the Labour party. The charge – alleged antisemitism. Jackie is a signatory of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Here we discuss the affair with her, partly in our words, partly in hers.

Who is Jackie Walker?

Jackie Walker

Jackie describes her background like this:

I am Jewish, my Russian born Jewish father and Jamaican born mother of Jewish descent brought together in their shared political commitment to the Civil Rights movement of 1950s America. My mother brought me to England in the late fifties. My experience is not untypical of blacks of that generation. I have been a victim of violent, structural, and persistent racism ever since I arrived in this country in 1959. As a young child I was spat at and beaten by adult racists in the street. I was bullied and ostracised at school, have been victimised at work, been refused accommodation and consistently excluded from structures of power. My personal response to this, my own everyday resistance, was not to become a particularist or a separatist but to be a universalist.

Indeed Jackie has been a long-standing antiracist activist, who used to train police in Dorset in anti-racism. Recently she played an important part in the defeat of Nigel Farage’s UKIP campaign in the Thanet constituency where she lives.

So an accusation of antisemitism against Jackie is bizarre, to put it mildly. What was the accusation?

The accusation was based solely on a quote taken out of context from Jackie’s Facebook page on 27th February 2016. It was not a public posting but part of a private discussion with a Zionist friend and others about the African holocaust and the fact that Jews – notably Jackie’s own Portuguese Jewish ancestors whose history she has researched – had been involved in the sugar and slave trade. Her Facebook contribution was reduced to a sensationalist and inaccurate headline in the Jewish Chronicle (in an article which appeared on the same day the Labour party sent her a letter notifying her of the suspension, well before Jackie could have even received official notification): “Momentum Activist says the Jews Caused the African Holocaust.”

It turns out that her discussion was made public courtesy of the Israel Advocacy Movement which had hacked Jackie’s Facebook page, no doubt as part of its campaign to target and attempt to discredit critics of Israel, particularly those who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The lifting of the charge and after

The Labour party is never very forthcoming about allegations, charges and suspensions or how it comes to its disciplinary decisions. But before the end of May, the charges against Jackie were dropped: “Following the outcome of an investigation, Jacqueline Walker is no longer suspended and remains a member of the party.”

For Jackie it wasn’t so simple – first being charged, now not, it was impossible to go back to the status quo. The world of hate which unfolded following her suspension might have been extreme – it got a lot worse after the suspension was lifted. Jackie says:

“As soon as the Jewish Chronicle wrote the first article, trolls circled for the kill, posting spooky blacked up faces (and worse) to my account. The Jewish Chronicle led the attacks, querying my Jewish identity (a racist move in itself), my work as an anti-racist activist and my political commitment.

When my suspension was lifted the Spectator added its journalistic spleen. Indignation at my alleged breach reached the heights of irony when Nigel Farage, anxious not to miss out on the fun being had by, among others, Labour MPs and officers of the Party, dedicated an article in Breitbart and a good dose of righteous indignation on national TV to publicly calling me out as a racist. This widespread hate campaign led to public abuse, strangers shouting ‘racist’ as I walked to the tube. With the murderous racist political discourse now taking the place of debate I became conscious I was recognisable on the street.

Then there were the smears, grist to the mill of every witch-hunt, the guilt by association innuendos like reproducing my Facebook post alongside the nonsense peddled by the Nation of Islam. These are barely worth a response except to say the Nation of Islam is an antisemitic group which seeks to set Jewish and Black people against each other. Any examination of my work, my writing, my life, would make clear my opposition to this ideology.”

What exactly did Jackie write on Facebook?

Jackie says:

My aim was to argue that there are no hierarchies of genocide; there is no way to quantify or qualitatively describe the indescribable, the indescribably inhumane acts that are part of our histories. When a friend raised the question of “the debt” owed to the Jews because of the Holocaust I replied “Oh yes – and I hope you feel the same towards the African holocaust? My ancestors were involved in both – on all sides as I’m sure you know, millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn’t for Jews… and many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice. And having been a victim does not give you a right to be a perpetrator.”

She elaborates:

Yes, I wrote “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”. These words, taken out of context in the way the media did, of course do not reflect my position. I was writing to someone who knew the context of my comments. Had he felt the need to pick me up on what I had written I would have rephrased – perhaps to “Jews (my ancestors too) were among those who financed the sugar and slave trade and at the particular time/in the particular area I’m talking about they played an important part.” The Facebook post taken by itself doesn’t, and can’t possibly reflect the complexity of Jewish history, of the history of Africa, the history of people of the African diaspora and the hundreds of years of the slave trade. The truth is while many peoples were involved in this pernicious trade it was the rulers of Christian Spain and Portugal that ordered the massacre and expulsion of thousands of Jews from the Iberian Peninsular who forced Jewish communities to seek refuge in the New World and the Caribbean. It was European and American Christian empires that overwhelmingly profited from the kidnap, enslavement and death of millions of Africans and I’m happy to make explicit and correct here any different impression my Facebook post gave. The shame is, at a time when antisemitism has been weaponised and used against certain sections of the Labour Party, nobody asked me before rushing to pin the racist and antisemitic label on me.”

And further:

“If my historical understanding is shown to be wrong by future research I will of course adapt and change my views as necessary. For the record, my claim, as opposed to those made for me by the Jewish Chronicle, has never been that Jews played a disproportionate role in the Atlantic Slave Trade, merely that, as historians such as Arnold Wiznitzer noted, at a certain economic point, in specific regions where my ancestors lived, Jews played a dominant role “as financiers of the sugar industry, as brokers and exporters of sugar, and as suppliers of Negro slaves on credit, accepting payment of capital and interest in sugar.” [1][2]

No people are exempt from truth. No people are better, more moral than any other. None deserve higher protection from the eye of history. All of us are subjects, products of material historical development. As Kagan & Morgan point out, “Jews in the Atlantic constituted a stateless minority, a ‘nation within a nation,’ the counterpoint to imperial cultures of early modern Europe; and yet from the fifteenth century onwards, Jews were also key participants in the effort to expand European empires into the western hemisphere and the broader Atlantic world. In short, they were, as Jonathan Israel has noted, simultaneously agents and victims of empire.”[3]

This was the point I was attempting to make on Facebook, in a comic-strip, abbreviated, inadequate, deficient sort of conversational way. This was my point, as the Israel Advocacy Movement could see even as they decided to weaponise my words. No peoples have a monopoly of suffering or virtue. No peoples are special or free of the complexity of history. That is as true in the Middle East now as it ever was anywhere, in all places, with all peoples, across the diversity of our globe and so it will remain until, and unless, we achieve the goal of all internationalists – the liberation of humanity.

Endnotes

[1] Arnold Wiznitzer, in Jews in Colonial Brazil, quoted in Jane S Gerber (ed.) The Jews in the Caribbean (The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2014) p51

[2] Indeed, Eli Faber says in his book Jews, Slaves and the Slave Trade: Setting the Record Straight: ”However, their contributions to the sugar industry were far more significant when it came to providing capital, exporting sugar, and advancing credit for slaves. As creditors, according to the historian of the Brazilian Jewish community, “they dominated the slave trade.” Faber’s footnote refers to Witnitzer, The Jews in Brazil, 67-73

[3] Preface ix, Atlantic Diasporas: Jews, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews in the Age of Mercantilism 1500-1800, (ed.) Richard L. Kagan & Philip D. Morgan (The John Hopkins University Press, 2009)

Postscript:

Jackie Walker’s memoir Pilgrim State appeared in 2008 and was described by Good Reads as “a stunning memoir which tells the story of Dorothy Walker – equal parts beautiful, headstrong, brave and tragic. Her life is lovingly recreated by her daughter Jacqueline in homage to the remarkable woman she was.” In an interview by Tamara Gausi, Time Out says: “Jacqueline Walker’s remarkable Pilgrim State employs the story of her mother, Dorothy, to create a mythically charged meditation on blackness, Britishness, and belonging.” Louise Carpenter reviewed the book in the Guardian (13 April 2008) in Who are you calling a bad mother?

________________________

Appendix: Response to Chakrabarti

Here, as a separate item, though relating to some of the themes in the discussion above, is Jackie Walker’s response to the Chakrabarti report, marginally revised by her and posted on her Facebook page on 6 August.

[Just to say … since I made a comment on Black Lives Matter and the Chakrabarti Commission I have been inundated with racist comments …. again!

For information, this was my response to the Report – I re-post it as it seems many commentators are entering into a debate at the moment on a report they haven’t actually read ……or thought too much about.]

Shami Chakrabarti’s Inquiry into Anti-Semitism and Racism in the Labour Party made big news soon as it was published – and for all the wrong reasons, just one of the ongoing consequences of the “occasionally toxic atmosphere” that is “in danger of shutting down free speech within the Party rather than facilitating it.” Chakrabarti makes it clear her intention is not to “close down debate on delicate issues around all kinds of personal and political differences within the Party” but to conduct these debates “in a more trusting and constructive environment.” My response is made with the same intent.

As a recently suspended Labour Party member, and the only person as yet (at the point of writing) exonerated, I was bound to read Chakrabarti’s report, and the coverage that followed, with more than a little interest. I write as a long time Labour Party and anti-racist activist for whom Chakrabarti’s findings are personally and politically important. My partner is Jewish, his family observant, but I comment as a woman of mixed Jewish and other heritages who identifies as, and is perceived by others as, a black person of African descent.

Much of the mainstream media response to the Inquiry focused on anti-Semitism, was superficial, poorly informed or with one intent – destabilising Labour and its present leadership. Chakrabarti’s generally well expressed ‘state of the Party’ contextualisation of race relations, and her many well thought through and sensible recommendations, were sidelined as charges of anti-Semitism yet again took centre stage, immediately undermining the Inquiry’s key findings on BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) members.
At the core of the debate is the way competing claims by minorities are positioned in the (at this point in time) supercharged arena of Labour Party politics. In the political arena, perhaps more than elsewhere, race is about power – who has it, who is chosen to represent the Party, who gives power to others and how that power is communicated. Two areas are highlighted in the part of the Chakrabarti Report that focuses on BAME members – that of representation and vocabulary.

Chakrabarti begins with evidence; that in 2010 the BAME community voted for Labour more than double in relation to whites. She describes an unwelcoming environment and a lack of representation at all levels, including in Parliament, but also in the administrative structures of the Party, singling out the lack of black members in the NEC for special mention. What an irony then that it is the voices of people of colour, in particular those of African descent, that were so effectively sidelined in reporting of the Inquiry.

In today’s Labour Party Chakrabarti situates anti-Semitism within a set of feelings and responses as reported in many submissions by some in the Jewish community. Stereotypes limit the ability of peoples to be treated and respected as individuals and Chakrabarti’s comments on the need for sensitivity in the language of debate, whether on issues that relate to Israel or elsewhere, are to be welcomed. But there is acknowledgement that it is power, or the lack of it, that excludes and discriminates against BAME people in the Party, as it does of course in the rest of society. Blacks do not only feel under-represented, or stereotyped in the Party. They are under-represented. They may be members and supporters, they are of course, particularly in Labour’s urban heartlands, often the foot soldiers and voters, but BAME members are effectively excluded where it matters – from power.

Given the terms Chakrabarti was given for her inquiry, with the separation of anti-semitism from other forms of racism, it is however difficult to see how this focus on one minority, could have been avoided. If anti-Semitism is set apart from ‘other forms of racism’, can we be surprised when the Inquiry fails to attract a significant number of submissions from BAME groups, or when black individuals are significant only by their absence at its launch? The reception of the Inquiry in the media and elsewhere underlines the relative powerlessness of the BAME community. The paucity of any black response, at a national level, confirms the exclusion the report attempts to redress. In this three card trick discrimination against BAME members is the card that appears, I hope only for the moment, to have been made to magically vanish.

I come now to the issue of vocabulary, in particular comments on the use of the term ‘holocaust,’ a point that concerns many people of African descent who await both recognition or recompense for past wrongs inflicted.

Chakrabarti makes plain her Inquiry is an attempt to bring people together. To stand in solidarity, as Chakrabarti suggests all minorities need to, people of African descent must see the structures that exclude them from power, and have kept them silenced for so long, being changed. This is the only way in which attempts to build an inclusive Party will succeed.

Groups that have suffered oppression need to have conditions, a level playing field, in which they can form united political fronts, working in solidarity with others, rather than having to fight for a place at the table, forever bogged down in disputes about equity, access to power, or the meaning of the past. If the Party does not succeed in this, Labour will remain entangled in the impossible task of being a moral referee as minority ethnic groups engage in a ‘competition of victimhoods’ in order to gain, build or protect recognition.

Others have argued elsewhere for dropping the use of the contested terminology of ‘holocaust’ and replacing it with ‘genocide’. Some suggest opening Holocaust Day more fully to all communities that have suffered mass murder. As Jews retain the word Shoah, so peoples of African descent refer to Maangamizi for their holocaust. Maangamizi describes the slave trade and history of enslavement when millions of Africans were killed, tortured, kidnapped and enslaved for profit but it also refers to the genocides and deprivations of colonialism and the ongoing, consequential suffering and oppressions of peoples of African descent.

I am in agreement with Chakrabarti there are, and can be, no hierarchies of suffering. The Inquiry rightly warns of dilution of effect ‘if every human rights atrocity is described as a Holocaust’. However, I cannot see the term ‘holocaust’ as something the Labour Party can, or should police, though it may provide a useful forum where terminology can be discussed. As ever, the Labour Party must recognise the right of minorities to both name themselves and choose how their history is narrated.

I trust in the strength of people of colour to keep with the struggle to change society for the better. I place my trust in the ability of the labour movement to not just listen to the experience of people of but to act in solidarity with them. It is with hope, as ever, that I ask our leaders listen to the concerns of people of colour whose voices before, during the Inquiry, and even now, remain barely attended to.