Open Letter to John McDonnell: Avoid the ‘race baiting’ Jewish Labour Movement

To: John McDonnell MP,
Shadow Chancellor

Dear John,

As a Jewish member of the Labour Party who has been suspended for ‘antisemitism’, I am writing to you to express my disappointment that you should have agreed to speak on September 25th at the Conference fringe meeting of the Jewish Labour Movement [JLM]. I would seriously ask you to reconsider your decision.

As you will know from the current witch hunt of Jeremy’s supporters, ‘antisemitism’ is a weapon that has been wielded against anyone who speaks up in support of the Palestinians or against Zionism, the settler colonial movement which created the Israeli state.

The JLM is the British affiliate of the Israeli Labour Party/Zionist Union [ILP]. Far from supporting a just solution in Palestine, the ILP supports segregation and a Palestinian Bantustan. Its leader Isaac Herzog recently explained that:

‘I want to separate from the Palestinians. I want to keep a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. I don’t want 61 Palestinian MKs in Israel’s Knesset. I don’t want a Palestinian prime minister in Israel.’ 

If someone said they didn’t want a Jewish Prime Minister in Britain I am sure you would be the first to denounce this as racist and antisemitic. [Who needs the Right when we have Isaac Herzog?] In an ILP election video Herzog was described as ‘someone who “understands the Arab mentality” and “has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations,” including “in the crosshairs.”  Why did we forget about Herzog’s anti-Arab campaign? If someone in the Labour Party spoke about the ‘Jewish mentality’ they would rightly be called antisemitic, yet this is standard talk for Israeli Labour politicians.

The Israeli Labour Party is the original party of Zionist colonisation. It was the party which was responsible for perpetrating the Nakba (‘Catastrophe’) in 1948 when three-quarters of a million Palestinians were expelled in order to create a Jewish state. This was ‘necessary’ because, even in the 56% of Palestine that was allotted by the UN to the proposed Jewish state, half of the population were Arabs.

The JLM is also affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation [WZO] which openly funds and supports illegal settlement in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. At the present time it is implementing the destruction of Bedouin villages such as al-Araqib in Israel’s Negev and afforestation of the area as part of the official programme of ‘Judaisation’ (as per the Prawer Plan).

The WZO’s Jerusalem Programme, speaks of ‘the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital, in the life of the [Jewish] nation’. This assertion, that the real homeland of Jews, including British Jews, is Israel rather than the countries where they live, is itself anti-Semitic. It has long been an antisemitic rallying cry that Jews do not belong in the countries where they live.

From its inception the Labour Zionist movement was a racist movement.  As David HaCohen, Managing Director of Solel Boneh, the Histadrut owned building company exclaimed:

I had to fight my friends on the issue of Jewish socialism, to defend the fact that I would not accept Arabs in my Trade Union, the Histadrut; to defend preaching to housewives that they should not buy at Arab stores; to defend the fact that we stood guard at orchards to prevent Arab workers from getting jobs there… to pour kerosene on Arab tomatoes; to attack Jewish housewives in the markets and smash Arab eggs they had bought… to do all that was not easy.[David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch, p.185, Faber, 2003 citing Ha’aretz 15.11.69].

Because the JLM is an openly Zionist organisation, its membership is not open to Jewish members of the Labour Party who are opposed to Zionism.

The JLM purports to support a two state solution in Israel/Palestine but there is no known example of where it has opposed any aspect of military rule in the West Bank such as the detention and torture of Palestinian children as young as 12 or the separate legal systems for Jews and Palestinians. The JLM has never opposed the theft and seizure of Palestinian land for Jewish-only settlements, the building of Jewish only roads or the network of checkpoints in the West Bank, with separate entrances for Jewish settlers and Palestinians. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and leaders of the ANC rightly described Israel as worse than Apartheid in South Africa. [Desmond Tutu: Israel guilty of apartheid in treatment of Palestinians]

It is dispiriting that you will be speaking on the platform of an organisation that has engineered and orchestrated the ‘antisemitic’ witch hunt in the Labour Party. The JLM has consistently confused antisemitism and anti-Zionism. It is led by Jeremy Newmark, who was branded a perjurer by the Employment Tribunal Fraser v University College Union when he tried to portray UCU as ‘antisemitic’.

The JLM represents a minority of Jews, the most right-wing Jews, in the Labour Party. It was no surprise that in its ballot, the JLM voted for Owen Smith by 92-4%.

What is particularly offensive though is the race-baiting campaign that has been carried out by the JLM against Jackie Walker, the Vice-Chair of Momentum. They have repeatedly lied and misrepresented what she said, in a private conversation, about Jewish involvement in the financing of the slave trade. They have refused to accept the fact that she was reinstated very soon after her suspension. Jackie is being subject to a political lynching.

Zionists and JLM supporters have openly stated that being Black, Jackie cannot be Jewish. This is a widespread view in Zionist and Israeli circles. Just this week Jeremy Newmark stated [Anger as Jeremy Corbyn supporters invited to speak at Jewish Labour event] that

“The Shadow Chancellor was invited a while ago before his apparent defence of Jackie Walker and in light of his call for zero tolerance on antisemitism and support for our rule change proposals. He must explain his defence of Walker which is inconsistent with his call for zero tolerance. This raises serious questions. Our members expect him to explain himself.’

Jackie Walker is someone of Black and Jewish parentage. Far from being an antisemite she is a long-standing anti-racist and anti-fascist activist.  John, are you really willing to speak on the platform of this anti-Palestinian, race-baiting organisation? I appeal to you to reconsider your decision to speak at this event. Whatever this rally is about it is not about fighting anti-Semitism.

Yours sincerely,
Tony Greenstein –
Brighton & Hove DLP

Jackie Walker speaking with John McDonnell on far-left
Jackie Walker speaking with John McDonnell on far-left

Continue reading “Open Letter to John McDonnell: Avoid the ‘race baiting’ Jewish Labour Movement”

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.

New venue for FSOI Labour Party Fringe Meeting

Updated details – New Venue

Jewish Socialists against the Anti-Corbyn Witch-hunt:
Anti-Zionism is not Antisemitism

Sunday September 25
7.30 – 9.00 pm

This meeting has been organised by Free Speech on Israel (FSOI), a Jewish-led network formed to counter the pro-Israel right-wingers, inside and outside the Labour Party, who try to brand the campaign for justice for Palestinians as anti-Semitic, along with Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.

Venue: Novotel Hotel, Liverpool Centre, 40 Hanover Street, L1 4LN

Map

Speakers

  • Jackie Walker, vice-chair of Momentum
  • Salma Karmi-Ayyoub, British Palestinian lawyer
  • Glyn Secker, Captain of the Jewish Boat to Gaza which challenged the siege

Chair:
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Free Speech On Israel

Many of Corbyn’s supporters have been falsely accused of antisemitism. Why has the Labour Party, despite Chakrabarti’s strong recommendation, abandoned all forms of fair procedure and suspended members without even telling them the charges?

Why is there so much emphasis on antisemitism, rather than other much more prevalent forms of racism? Is free speech for critics of Israel to be curtailed by Israel’s devoted backers working with the enemies of Corbyn?

Antisemitism and other forms of racism are too important to be exploited for factional goals.

Join the fight back.

 

What is Free Speech on Israel leaflet

The Jewish Millionaire Trying to Oust Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn

http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/.premium-1.738869

The campaign being waged by Jewish millionaire Michael Foster against Jeremy Corbyn is one of the most fascinating stories in the ugly battle to lead Britain’s Labour Party.

For some reason, it hasn’t been adequately covered by the British media — perhaps because both of the involved parties are perceived as being on the wrong side of the story. One is a Labour donor who, up till recently, controlled Rights House, a literary and media agency that represented prominent actors like Sacha Baron Cohen and Hugh Grant, as well as authors such as Simon Schama and Jeanette Winterson. Foster’s empire also controlled TV production companies such as Carnival Films, which was behind the TV series “Downton Abbey.”

The other person is Corbyn, the man most of the media loves to hate.

If you asked people on the street who Corbyn is, you’d most likely hear opposing views. His supporters believe he’s the right person to head the British Labour Party, a man of integrity and principles who fights for his views, not a chameleon who changes colours according to public opinion. In their eyes, he’s the right person to stand up to the Conservatives and fight for the rights of the working and disadvantaged classes in Britain, in contrast to the policies of austerity and cuts of the present government.

His opponents, however, see him as a dangerous man with extremist positions, and whose stubbornness could lead to the breakup of the venerable left-wing party.

For the ex-media agent, Corbyn is a reviled figure, the leader of a “group of thugs” Foster terms the Sturm Abteilung (Nazi storm troopers).

The struggle within Labour is an ideological one concealed behind a personal battle. Behind the personal arguments against Corbyn for his lack of charisma and inability to lead, there are power struggles from the party’s right, trying to preserve the hegemony it attained during the rule of Tony Blair. Opposing these are thousands of Labour members who joined the party after Corbyn’s 2015 election as leader. These are new members, or ones who’d left and are now returning to the fold. They view Corbyn as the person who can restore the socialist hue the party lost during Blair’s tenure (1994-2007). Continue reading “The Jewish Millionaire Trying to Oust Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn”

A scurrilous and ill-informed attack on the left

Review of THE LEFT’S JEWISH PROBLEM: JEREMY CORBYN, ISRAEL & ANTI-SEMITISM

Dave Rich (2016, London Biteback Publishing)

I am writing this review as a long-standing Jewish feminist academic and activist. I am a social scientist and have been involved with research on higher education, feminism, gender and socialist politics throughout my academic life. I have written numerous personal, political and professional articles, chapters, and books – most recently Reclaiming Feminism: Challenging Everyday Misogyny (Bristol, Policy Press, 2016) and A Feminist Manifesto for Education (Cambridge, Polity Press, 2016).  Reclaiming Feminism is both a memoir and an argument for transforming the neo-liberal global academy in the direction of gender equality and socialist-feminist values. I focus especially on aspects of campus politics today. A Feminist Manifesto for Education is based upon my collaborative research, including with colleagues across the European Union (EU) (especially Ireland, Italy and Spain), to deal with gender violence and transformative politics. I was a founder member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) and the British Shalom-Salaam Trust (BSST) a charitable organisation giving funds for projects on education, health, welfare and women in Israel and Palestine.

All of this preamble might sound incredibly defensive – perhaps it is – but I mention it as I don’t want to be attacked for my lack of knowledge or rigour. I also don’t want to be attacked for my Jewish credentials, familiar though this is as a Jewish trait. By way of further justification, I am the daughter of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and I was brought up in Zionist-socialist family, attending Habonim throughout my adolescence. In adulthood I have wavered over my Jewish socialist commitments: my children attended a Northwest London Jewish day school. I remain committed to secular Jewish socialism and, living in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency, I am supportive of his approach.

Dave Rich argues that what he hopes to have done is to transform his ‘academic research’ for his PhD (although he never tells us who supervised it and in what field it was examined) into a more popular book. This is entitled, somewhat provocatively, The Left’s Jewish Problem where, on the cover, the o is a Magen David. The sub-title is Jeremy Corbyn, Israel and Anti-Semitism. Rich’s research is about the rise of the new left, mainly but not only in the UK, and its consequences in the UK Labour party today. However this is not a dispassionate or even a so-called insider account as a Jewish academic and activist. Either one of these approaches is what I expected. Not so: it is an extremely limited account of some narrow aspects of the British new left, those whom he dubs ‘the anti-Israel left of Jeremy Corbyn, Ken Livingstone and George Galloway…that now allies itself with Islamist extremists who demand Israel’s destruction’.

At first glance, the book appears quite erudite, having numerous endnotes for each chapter and a substantial index. There are 6 substantive chapters, with an additional introduction and conclusion and a brief foreword. But there the semblance of scholarship or rational argument ends. The organisation of the chapters is not particularly logical in terms of the history of socialism and its relation to nationalism and/or Zionism. Nor is there any account of the rise of the British Labour party and its association with the rise of the new left and the role of Jews and/or Zionists within this.

There is no bibliography or even list of references. Book and chapter titles and references are buried in the endnotes. Even a cursory search of the index reveals many lacunae in the scholarly international work on the rise of the new left. I searched for names of Jewish left activists normally associated with the new left: names such as Judith Butler (who gets one very cursory mention), the late Professors Hannah Arendt or Stan Cohen, Danny Cohn-Bendit, Claude Lanzmann (the French socialist who made the film Shoah in 1985), the late Professor Ralph Miliband, Professor Steven Rose, Jerry Rubin or Professor Michael Walzer (long-term editor of Dissent in the US) to name but a few.  None of them appear in the index. Yet they are part of the rise of the new left both intellectually and ideologically, and are critically important to its current formation.

The book starts off rather propitiously and I was initially drawn to the project of looking at the twists and turns in the politics of the British Labour party, with which I have an ambivalent relationship. I had hoped to get some clarity and peace of mind about the current debates about anti-semitism and anti-racism in the Labour party. These had led to the setting up and subsequent publication of the excellent Chakrabarti report, published on June 30, 2016.

Unfortunately, the book does not look at left-wing Jews and their relations with feminism, socialism and the Labour party. It is, in fact, a rather tedious journey through a particular brand of left-wing politics, with a focus on very minor political groups and individuals, cherry-picking issues such as anti-apartheid, anti-racism, anti-Zionism, Islam and Palestine.

The most important omission, however, is any reference to the key role played by Ralph Miliband in the rise of the new left, from the post-war period. Michael Newman’s brilliant biography entitled Ralph Miliband and The Politics of the New Left (The Merlin Press 2002) illustrates how Miliband ‘stood as a beacon on the international left for the way he articulated and redefined socialist politics’.

Even more curiously, there is absolutely no reference to either of his sons – David or Ed Miliband – and the role that they have played in the Labour party.  Are they also part of the Left’s Jewish Problem or are they immune from anti-semitism? Given these lacunae I lost faith with this book being at all credible: it is quite simply a scurrilous and ill-informed attack on the left.

Professor Miriam David

Richard Kuper’s review

Open Letter to Joan Ryan MP – Chair of Labour Friends of Israel

Dear Ms Ryan,

As the only Jewish member of the Labour Party to have been suspended for ‘anti-Semitism’, I note with interest the open letter which you recently wrote to Richard Burgon MP regarding his comments that Labour MPs should quit Labour Friends of Israel and that Zionism is the enemy of peace.

You suggested that the comments were so far outside the boundaries of what passes for acceptable political debate in the salons and interview rooms of Westminster, that they must have been misreported.  I think we can assume that this is merely a literary device on your part.  If you had any doubts that the above comments were genuine, you would have written a private not public letter.

I shall not indulge in fake politeness on a subject which involves the racial subjugation and immiseration of millions of human beings.  When one and a half million Palestinians in Gaza are forced to live through a decade long siege, when people die because basic medicines cannot be imported and when they are forced to drink polluted water, 95% of Gaza’s water is polluted as a result of Israel’s water theft and bombing of water purification plants, then one should not engage in semantics.  Keeping Palestinians thirsty is no doubt part of Israel’s war on ‘terrorism’.

You profess outrage that anyone could suggest not wanting to associate with LFI.  You must be aware that in 1982 large numbers of MPs, Tony Benn and Eric Heffer among them, resigned from LFI because of its support for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, when some 20,000 civilians were killed and 100,000 injured.

During the invasion of Lebanon, Israeli soldiers besieged Beirut in alliance with their fascist friends the Phalange (named in honour of Franco’s Falange).  Israel’s army lit up the night sky with flares and sent Phalangist death squads, armed with knives, to perpetrate an ISIS style slaughter of the inhabitants of the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps.  Some 2,000 women, children and old people were slaughtered, women had their breasts cut off and young boys were castrated.

Despite this atrocity, Israel’s then Defence Minister, Ariel Sharon went on to become Israel’s Prime Minister between 2001 and 2006.  Your friends in the Israeli Labour Party formed a coalition with Sharon, the ILP ‘s current leader, Yitzhak Herzog, serving as Minister of Housing and Construction.

You profess to be surprised that Richard described Zionism as an ‘enemy of peace’.  You even advise him to take note of Shami Chakrabarti’s advice to use the term ‘“Zionist” advisedly, carefully and never euphemistically.’  I am happy to follow her advice.  I can assure you I would never use Zionism ‘euphemistically’ given it is one of the most pernicious racial movements in colonial history.

The Zionist movement was formally established in 1897 by Theodor Herzl, at the first World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland.  As you probably do not know, it was originally scheduled to be held in Munich, Germany but the local Jewish community objected because Zionism was seen as a form of Jewish anti-Semitism.  Zionism reflected the anti-Semitic belief that Jews did not belong in the countries of their birth.

Zionism’s aim was the formation of a Jewish state in Palestine in alliance with a colonial power.  In 1917 it formed just such an alliance with British imperialism, in what became known as the Balfour Declaration.  Like many colonial movements it campaigned on the slogan of ‘a land without a people for a people without a land.’  The native Palestinians were invisible in the eyes of the Zionists.

You claim that Zionism is ‘the broad ideological movement for Jewish national self-determination in Israel.’  Perhaps you would enlighten me as to when Zionism was first described as a ‘national liberation movement’?  It appears you are attempting to bask in the reflected glory of liberation movements such as the African National Congress.  Incidentally, the notion that Jews form a separate nation is, in itself, deeply anti-Semitic and basis of the world Jewish conspiracy theory.

Zionism was a movement of settler colonialism.  That was why Israel was the best friend of Apartheid South Africa, breaking the arms embargo and supplying it with weaponry including nuclear weapons.  Perhaps you were not told about the visit of John Vorster, South African Prime Minister to Israel in April 1976?  Vorster, who was interned during the war for his support of the Nazis and membership of the Broederband, nonetheless paid homage to the Holocaust dead at Yad Vashem!

Israel is the state that helped train the death squads of Central America, supplied the Argentinian Junta with weaponry (despite murdering up to 3,000 Argentinian Jews) and armed and trained the Guatemalan army which in the 1980’s murdered up to 200,000 Indians.  Your suggestion that Zionism shares anything in common with the ANC is obscene.

The aforementioned Theodor Herzl wrote to Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia, asking for his support for Zionism.  Herzl wrote ‘How, then, do I happen to turn to you since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you?  How indeed?  Because it is something colonial.’  This can be found in Herzl’s Diaries, Vol. 4, page 1194.  The founders of Zionism always saw it as a colonising movement.

You are right.  Zionism was indeed a consequence of European anti-Semitism, in the 19th (not 20th) century.  It was unique amongst Jewish movements since it accepted the basic premise of the anti-Semites that Jews were aliens in the lands in which they lived and were born.

You said that it is a great pity that ‘the Labour Party’s relationship with the British Jewish community has been so damaged by the events of the past year.’  I agree.  The deliberate making of false claims of ‘anti-Semitism’ by MPs such as Ruth Smeeth and papers such as the Daily Mail, which in the 30’s opposed the entry of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, has indeed been damaging.  I can only hope that you use your influence to bring these false accusations of anti-Semitism to an end.

You profess to support a two-state solution.  Why then do you support the military dictatorship in the West Bank and the unremitting attacks on Gaza?  Your call for a 2 State solution serves only as a cover for Apartheid.  It enables Jewish settlement to take place whilst providing a pretext for the denial of any political or civil rights to the indigenous Palestinians.

Perhaps you could name even one Israeli government Minister who believes in a 2 state solution?  Deputy Foreign Minister Tsipi Hotoveli is typical when she said that ‘This land is ours. All of it is ours. We expect as a matter of principle of the international community to recognize Israel’s right to build homes for Jews in their homeland, everywhere.”

Even the ILP does not support a 2 state solution.  It supports segregation and a Bantustan.   Herzog explained that ‘I want to separate from the Palestinians. I want to keep a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. I don’t want 61 Palestinian MKs in Israel’s Knesset. I don’t want a Palestinian prime minister in Israel.’  If you don’t understand why this is racist imagine someone saying they didn’t want a Jewish Prime Minister in Britain. [Who needs the Right when we have Isaac Herzog?]

In an ILP election video Herzog was described as ‘someone who “understands the Arab mentality” and “has seen Arabs in all kinds of situations,” including “in the crosshairs.”  Why did we forget about Herzog’s anti-Arab campaign? +972 Magazine 23.3.15.  Again imagine someone describing the ‘Jewish mentality’.  Racist?  Historically the Israeli Labour Party was more racist than Likud.  It was the party of the Nakba, the expulsion of ¾ million Palestinian refugees.

You state that you support a negotiated settlement in Israel/Palestine.  Israel has spent billions of dollars on building its settlements and stealing its land and water.  It’s not going to negotiate them away.  As Martin Luther King famously wrote in Letter From a Birmingham JailLamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.

You say you support peace.  Perhaps you could tell me if you have ever opposed Israeli repression in the Occupied Territories?  You supported the 2014 war in Gaza which killed 550 children.  You have kept silent about the continued destruction of Palestinian homes and European Union funded structures, over 600 of which have been destroyed this year alone, in the West Bank.  Have you nothing to say about Jewish roads and separate entrances for Jews and Palestinians at checkpoints?  What I do know is that Louise Ellman, an LFI officer, supported the imprisonment and torture of Palestinian children as young as 12 in a recent debate in the House of Commons.

Your complaints about Hamas’s Charter, which is a dead letter, would be more impressive if it wasn’t for the fact that Israel played a crucial part in the creation of Hamas as a counterweight to secular Palestinian nationalism.  [see Israel’s Jerusalem Online News Agency for Wikileaks revelations or the Wall Street Journal How Israel Helped to Spawn Hamas]

I would be more impressed by your concern about anti-Semitism if you displayed an equal concern about the most recent survey by Pew Research Centre which found that a plurality of Israeli Jews (48%) support the physical expulsion of Israeli Palestinians and 79% believe that Jews should be given preferential treatment. [Israel’s Religiously Divided Society]

You will be pleased to hear that I agree with you that ‘fostering links with, and supporting, progressive forces in Israel is an important task for an internationalist party’.  However the ILP is not such an organisation.  There are such organisations, like the soldiers group Breaking the Silence, which has revealed the truth about Israeli military atrocities but the ILP is hostile to it.

I hope you will now understand why increasing numbers of Jews oppose Zionism and why we join Archbishop Desmond Tutu in supporting a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.  Boycotting Apartheid is never anti-Semitic nor racist.

Yours sincerely,
Tony Greenstein

Guardian publishes letter by 100+ Jews defending Corbyn and Chakrabarti

This letter appears in the Guardian on 9 August 2016

Shami Chakrabarti, the former director of Liberty and a lawyer with a well-deserved reputation for integrity, produced a thoughtful and important report on antisemitism and racism in the Labour party at the request of Jeremy Corbyn. It is highly regrettable that they are both now under attack because her inquiry did not find evidence to support allegations of rampant antisemitism in the party.

Such attacks say more about her detractors than they do about Chakrabarti. Their real objections concern her recommendation that the party’s disciplinary processes conform to the principles of natural justice, so that allegations of antisemitism and other forms of racism will be properly investigated, members cannot be suspended without knowing the charges against them, and people are protected against scurrilous and ill-founded allegations.

As Jews whose views are not represented by the chief rabbi, the Board of Deputies of British Jews or the pro-Israel lobbyists of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, we dissociate ourselves from the attacks on Chakrabarti and urge Corbyn to hold firm in implementing the positive recommendations in her report.
George Abendstern
Liane Aukin
Daphna Baram
Julia Bard
Sue Bard
Hannah Basson
Sandi Beecher
Shereen Benjamin
Sarah Benton
Craig Berman
Jo Bird
Rica Bird
Carla Bloom
Jenny Bloom
Louise Bloom
Professor Haim Bresheeth
Elizabeth Carola
Linda Clair
Mike Cushman
Ivor Dembina
Dr Judit Druks
Claudio García Ehrenfeld
Nancy Elan
Mark Elf
Liz Elkind
Deborah Fink
Sylvia Finzi
Louella Frankel Jones
Kenneth Fryde
Tessa van Gelderen
Claire Glasman
Monica Gort
Tony Greenstein
Abe Hayeem
Rosamine Hayeem
Professor Susan Himmelweit
Sue Hughes
Claire Jackson
Dr Vivienne Jackson
Selma James
Riva Joffe
Ann Jungman
Michael Kalmanovitz
Roisin Kalmanovitz
Monash Kessler
Simon Korner
Richard Kuper
David Landau
Pam Laurance
Leah Levane
Rachel Lever
Les Levidow
Susanne Levin
Rosalind Levy
Vivien Lichtenstein
John Lohrenz
Ruth London
Professor Yosefa Loshitzky
Deborah Maccoby
Professor Moshé Machover
Beryl Maizels
Jenny Manson
Miriam Margolyes
Stephen Marks
Martine Miel
Professor Simon Mohun
David Mond
Professor Mica Nava
Chaim Neslen
Diana Neslen
Esther Neslen
Helen Pearson
Rina Picciotto
Frances Rifkin
Roland Rance
Michael Rosen
David Rosenberg
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead
Leon Rosselson
Maureen Rothstein
Michael Sackin
Caroline Salinger
Ben Samuel
Professor Donald Sassoon
Ian Saville
Miriam Scharf
Amanda Sebesteyn
Glyn Secker
Khalil Secker
Sam Semoff
Alexander Seymour
Professor Avi Shlaim
Ray Sirotkin
Dr David Sperlinger
Vanessa Stilwell
Alexandra Trone
Professor Clare Ungerson
Professor Philip Wadler
Margaret Wayne
Naomi Wayne
Sam Weinstein
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Devra Wiseman
Naomi Woodspring
Ben Young
Dr Gillian Yudkin
Professor John S Yudkin
Professor Nira Yuval-Davis

Labour women refute bullying allegations aimed at Corbyn and McDonnell

A growing group of women members and supporters of the Labour Party have publicly comdemned attempts by some women MPs to discredit the leadership with allegations of gender based bullying.

Read below their letter in the Independent Online.

See also their new website.

We, female Labour members, condemn attempts by some women MPs to blame the Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell for alleged bullying in the party. These accusations form part of an unceasing witch hunt against Corbyn and his supporters.

Women in politics have no right to discredit legitimate political opposition as gender based intimidation. MPs are supposed to be public servants, not masters, and we all have a right to peacefully hold them to account.

It is the anti-Corbyn hierarchy that has banned constituency meetings, cancelled the results elections such as in Brighton and Hove CLP, and denied members the right to vote in the leadership election unless they pay an additional £25.

Corbyn’s leadership, the most democratic, anti-sexist, anti-racist and anti-war this party has ever had, has inspired the mass participation of women and men in shaping Labour politics. His anti-austerity programme targets “inequality, neglect, insecurity, prejudice and discrimination” – not only gender balance in Parliament but pay equity for women who are “over-represented in the lowest-paying sectors: cleaning, catering and caring – vital sectors of our economy, doing valuable work, but not work that is fairly rewarded or equally respected.”

It is sad that women MPs, some of whom were part of the first-ever shadow cabinet with a majority of women, have not welcomed this “new politics”. We are glad that one of them has unresigned and we hope that the others will reconsider.

Niki Adams, Kilburn 

Nana Asante, Ealing

Cristel Amiss, Kilburn

Caroline Barker, Kilburn

Lynda Bennet, London

Amanda Bentham, Stoke Newington

Nechamah Bonanos, Brixton

Kristina Brandemo, Kensal Rise

Jessica Burke, Brighton 

Emily Burnham, Barnet

Linda Burnip, Warwickshire

Sara Callaway, South Kilburn

Vee Cartwright, Brighton

Ellen Clifford, Lewisham

Petra Dando, Camden

Miriam E David, Islington North

Hanna Demel, Kensal Rise

Nina Douglas, North Broxtowe

Una Doyle, Holborn and St Pancras

Marlene Ellis, Streatham 

Roisin Francis, South Kilburn

Claire Glasman, Gospel Oak

Beth Granter, Brighton

Bethan Griffiths, Birmingham 

Sibyl Grundberg, Tottenham

Charlie Hall, Cambridge 

Jo Hammond, Vauxhall 

Linda Heiden, Streatham

Christine Hemmingway, Norfolk

Michelle Hemmingway, Rowley Regis, Birmingham

Amy Hills-Fletcher, Hackney South 

Jenny Hardacre, Cambridge

Becka Hudson, Islington North

Selma James, Kilburn

Coral Jones, Hackney

Eleanor Kilroy, Winchester 

Jem Lindo, Haringey

Ruth London, Kilburn

Nina Lopez, Kilburn 

Marie Lynam, Kilburn

Nicola Mann, Childs Hill

Sandra Mann, Childs Hill

Helen Marks, Liverpool

Delia Mattis, Enfield Southgate

Juliet McCaffery, Brighton

Denise McKenna, Welling

Heather Mendick, Hackney South

Firinne Ni Chreachain, Brent

Marion Pencavel, Keighley, West Yorkshire

Paula Peters, Bromley

Rachel Remedios, Oxford

Mena Remedios, Oxford

Ariane Sacco, Kensal Rise

Harriet Sampson, Ealing

Awula Serwah, Brent

Vanessa Stilwell, Dulwich

Cindy Taplin, Hackney South

Mary Taylor, Greenwich

Chrissie Tiller, Hackney

June Turvey, Brent South

Rosa Valdez, Brighton

Flora Wanyu, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire

Laura Watson, Kilburn

Ann Whitehurst, Stoke-on-Trent

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Chingford

 

A Right Royall Mess

In Mid-February this year the Labour party announced an inquiry into antisemitism allegations in the Oxford University Labour club, following the resignation of Alex Chalmers, a vice-chair of the club who wrote on Facebook that: “A large proportion of both OULC and the student left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews.” The resignation, and the outcry that followed, came swift on the heels of the club deciding to support Israeli Apartheid Week.

It was clear from the immediate reactions that many accepted the accusations at face value and such people found no difficulty is getting a spot in the media. John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire, for example, who, as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary group on Antisemitism has form, finds antisemitism everywhere. He called for the party to sever ties with the club. Louise Ellman, vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel was “deeply disturbed by the news that Oxford University Labour Club has decided to support Israeli Apartheid Week and by the revelations from Alex Chalmers about the troubling tone of the discourse in which this debate appears to have been conducted.” She said comparisons between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa were “a grotesque smear and the Labour party should dissociate itself from them”.

Baroness  Royall, a Labour party whip in the Lords, was appointed to investigate and produced a report in May. Curiously, only a brief summary of the report was published, in which Royall made clear that she did not believe there was institutional antisemitism within OULC, but there were issues of ensuring a safe space for Labour students to debate and campaign. No reason was given for the non-publication of the Report and it was generally but erroneously assumed that it would be released when Shami Chakrabarti published the results of her wider investigation into the topic of antisemitism, racism and the Labour party.

Two rumours circulated as to why the report did not see the light of day. The first was that it revealed so many embarrassing incidents of antisemitism, its publication would do the Labour party untold damage. The other was a simpler one: that the report itself was a shoddy and embarrassing piece of work, best left unseen.

The Report has now been leaked to the Jewish Chronicle and we are in a position to assess these conflicting interpretations. The JC, unsurprisingly, headlines its story Baroness Royall report reveals Oxford Labour students engaged in antisemitism. The full Report is available for download here.

Naomi Wayne

See also Tony Greenstein’s analysis of the report: Baroness Royall’s Flawed Report on ‘anti-Semitism’ at Oxford University Labour Club 

FSOI deplores attacks on Shami Chakrabarti

Shami Chakrabarti, a human rights lawyer with a justified high reputation for integrity, produced a thoughtful and important report on antisemitism and racism in the Labour Party at the request of leader Jeremy Corbyn.

It is highly regrettable that both she and Corbyn are now under attack from sections of the Jewish community, incensed at the prospect of her joining the House of Lords simply because her inquiry did not find evidence to support their hysterical charges of rampant antisemitism in the party.

Such cheap attacks tell us more about the character of her detractors than they do about her. Her report recommended that the Labour Party radically transform its procedures so that well-founded allegations of racism and antisemitism can be fully investigated and action taken against perpetrators, while protecting members against scurrilous and ill-founded charges.