FSOI Labour Conference meeting packed and enthusiastic

0001-2Free Speech on Israel’s Labour Conference fringe meeting on Sunday was packed to capacity and beyond. An audience of 300 heard the FSOI analysis of the fabricated antisemitism scare which has been rocking the Labour Party all summer in an attempt to undermine Corbyn’s position. The title of the meeting ‘Jewish Socialists against the Anti-Corbyn Witch-hunt: Anti-Zionism is not Antisemitism’ chimed with many hundreds of delegates.

Earlier in the evening, people wanting to hear the Free Speech on Israel message were turned away from a packed meeting at the Momentum hub  – the day after Jeremy Corbyn’s decisive re-election as party leader.

The meeting at the Momentum hub, chaired by Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP), heard a debate between the FSOI and Zionist positions. The latter was represented by Jeremy Newmark, national chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM); also on the panel were Rhea Wolfson, newly elected to the Labour Party National Executive Committee; Jackie Walker, vice-chair of Momentum, only recently reinstated after suspension from the party; and Jonathan Rosenhead speaking for FSOI.

In the discussion Newmark revealed that the JLM had ended its long-standing affiliation to the World Zionist Organisation.  Clearly criticism of that link had hit home.

Update: Newmark has since said it has not ended its links with WZO: it has “never been affiliates,” but organises within it.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-12-51-33
From their membership page

Their home page states “we are members of the progressive coalition of Avodah/Meretz/Arzenu/Ameinu within the WZO”. If anyone can elucidate the relationship between Newmark’s latest statement and the entries on their website we would be pleased to hear

Jackie Walker spoke again at the FSOI meeting which focused explicitly on the witch hunt. She shared the platform with British Palestinian lawyer Salma Karmi-Ayyoub and Glyn Secker who captained the Jewish Boat to Gaza in 2010.

Salma Karmi-Ayyoub’s contribution in particular detailed the potential damaging affect of the attempt to silence the anti-Zionist critique on the Palestinian struggle against injustice. The audience response indicated an appetite for actively resisting the witch hunt.

A video of the meeting will appear on this site soon

Naomi Wimbourne-Idrissi

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?”

The Answers that Corbyn Should Have Given to the Question What He Most Admired about Israel

By Tony Greenstein

At the JW3 ‘debate’ earlier this week, Jeremy Corbyn was asked what he most admired in Israel. This was an ideal opportunity to tell the audience and the questioner some home truths about both the Occupied Territories and Israel itself.

He could have told them that Israel today is an Apartheid Society.  Of the approximately 6 million Palestinians it rules over, just 1.5 million have a vote and that is increasingly circumscribed with the Arab parties in Israel under increasing attack. Balad arrests won’t be the last in Israel’s ethnocracy

Unfortunately, Jeremy felt the need to fawn and flatter his audience rather than telling them some home truths.  Some people will say ‘what does it matter’.  I suggest this is why.  In the event Corbyn becomes Prime Minister he would, on this evidence, bow and buckle to the much greater pressure of the City of London and industrialists.  But also because a strategy based on appeasement is destined to failure.  You stand up to your foes you don’t hand them olive branches to hit you in the face with.  This is not just true of the Zionists.  It is equally applicable to his MPs.  Those who refuse to accept the legitimacy of his election should be told to depart or they will be deselected and have the whip withdrawn.

I have therefore taken the liberty of drafting the answers to the question that Corbyn was asked which he should have given!  It is in the hope that next time he will have the courage of his convictions.

Q:        Jeremy & Owen – I wanted to find out from you what aspects of Israel & its achievements do you most admire

Jeremy Corbyn:  Thank you for a most interesting questions. The things I admire most about Israel include:

Its no nonsense arrest of Palestinian children as young as 12 and their shackling in chains.  In particular Israel’s willingness to assault and even torture them if necessary, as articulated by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel.  It really takes some nerve to do this and claim you are still a democracy.  You can’t help admiring Israel for this.  I have to say I particularly like the Military’s practice of getting the children to sign confessions in a language they don’t understand (Hebrew).  Serves the blighters right.  It’s downright anti-Semitism refusing to learn the language of the occupying power.  It is pleasing to note that the Military Courts under which these brats – sorry children – are charged have a 99.7% conviction rate.  That might seem rather high but on the other hand it does demonstrate that it is possible to obtain a conviction but given the genius of the Israeli military it’s not surprising that they only get it wrong about once every 300 times.

It really is irrelevant that Jewish children in the same territories are entitled to things like a responsible adult attending an interview, social workers, nice warm offices and of course that they can’t be tried if they are under 14.  We really must understand that there is no comparison between Palestinian and Israeli Jewish children.  Those who take umbrage at this are, as my friend Jeremy Newmark says, out and out anti-Semites and Janet Royall has already had harsh words for those who alleged Apartheid at Oxford University Labour Club.

I particularly admire the annual Jerusalem day demonstration where thousands of settler youth express their tender and loving feelings towards Jerusalem’s Arabs by shouting ‘Death to the Arabs’.  You have to admire Israel’s ability to get away with this and in particular the actions of Israel’s police in arresting any anti-racist protesters out to cause trouble.  I understand that this year, the slogans were more varied and included the quite novel one, A Jew is a soul, an Arabis a son of a whore.’  You have to give it to Israel’s democracy, it is most inventive.

I also admire the determination of Israel to ‘cleanse’ the Negev (southern desert area) of Israel of Bedouin villages such as Al Arakabh which get in the way of those nice, Jewish towns.  This process of Judaisation might upset people but we must remember this is a Jewish state.

Of course I deprecate the repeated vandalism and arson at the Hand to Hand school, one of the few mixed Jewish-Arab schools in Israel.  However Israel is a Jewish state and it is understandable that State schools in Israel are segregated.  It is anti-Semitic to compare this with similar schools in Apartheid South Africa.  Israel is a Jewish state.  South Africa was a White Apartheid state.  Anyway if do gooders insist on setting up private mixed schools which encourage Jewish and Arab children to mix,  thus encouraging the possibility of sinful Jewish-Arab relationships, is it any wonder that religious Jews take offence?I personally applaud the efforts of the Israeli government to discourage miscegenation.  Tzipi Hotoveli, Israel’s religious nut of a Deputy Foreign Minister was quite correct, when she said that it was “important to examine procedures for preventing mixed marriages, and Lehava members are the right people for that,”   It’s true that Lehava is technically a fascist organisation that hates gays, beats up Arabs and sets fire to Churches and Mosques, but it is doing important work to preserve the Jewishness of the Jewish state.  Those who oppose this work are, Mr McNicol informs me, anti-Semitic and will be suspended forthwith from the LP. Continue reading “The Answers that Corbyn Should Have Given to the Question What He Most Admired about Israel”

Petition: Calling for the withdrawal of John McDonnell from the JLM rally against ‘anti-Semitism

Please add your name, and share on social media.

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

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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.

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.

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”

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