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

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: LIVERPOOL NOVOTEL, 7.30 PM, SUNDAY SEPT 25

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

 

Black People Matter – Jackie Walker responds to the Chakrabarti Inquiry Report

Via Momentum.
Jackie Walker is Vice Chair of Momentum Steering Committee.

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 it is difficult to see how this 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 simply underlined the 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.

It is in the ability of the labour movement to listen to the experience of people of African descent and other BAME peoples where I now place my trust. It is with hope that I ask that our leaders listen to the concerns of people of colour whose voices before and during the Inquiry, and even now, remain barely heard. I look forward to the changes to come.

Chakrabarti Rocks

Jonathan Rosenhead.

In this comment I will try to sketch out

  • the background to the Chakrabarti Inquiry
  • a summary of the Report’s conclusions
  • how it has been received by those who generated the panic
  • a scorecard of what it has achieved and avoided.

Despite having been Jewish all my life I have only experienced two antisemitic incidents. Neither had anything to do with the Labour Party. And I first joined the party in 1961! This is not a uniquely charmed life. The ex-Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, interviewed on television, rather embarrassedly confessed that he had not himself experienced a single antisemitic incident. There can be no doubt that antisemitism, an ugly deformation in any society, has a continuing underground life in Britain as elsewhere, and that we should be alert to its existence and possible increase. But its public manifestations are currently so small that it is really impossible to say whether it is actually going up or down.

How then to explain the moral panic over antisemitism, specifically in the Labour Party, that struck the UK body politic earlier this year? There is ample circumstantial evidence that it is the result of a manoeuvre, brilliantly successful, perpetrated (if that is the right word, and I think it is) as a joint enterprise by the friends of Israel and the enemies of Corbyn. These two groups, whose memberships overlap, made common cause, exploiting both their network of contacts in the media and the paid PR apparatus that boosts Israel wrong or wrong. The cause is common because the Labour Party enemies of Corbyn resent his election and are determined to take ‘their’ party back, while Israel has every reason to try to reverse the innovation of a major UK party leader who is a committed supporter of the Palestinian cause.

The Inquiry

Although quite wonderful in many ways Jeremy Corbyn is perhaps not a natural leader for a party or a movement; nor is he fleet of foot in dodging enemy bullets or turning them back on their originators. Which makes the establishment of an inquiry into Antisemitism and Other Forms of Racism in the Labour Party almost the exception that proves the rule. It was an intervention which quelled the hubbub, in particular because the chair of the Inquiry, Shami Chakrabarti, has such an unshakeable reputation for probity, and indeed a strong public affection. Her assistants, David Feldman and Janet Royall provided the necessary backup in terms, respectively, of antisemitism and the workings of the Labour Party. But they did not write or have to approve the Report. It is hers.

The report lists 85 organisational submissions, and there was also an unknown number (probably large) of individual contributions. Judging by their names about 30 of the organisations are likely to have taken what I will for convenience call a ‘pro-Israeli’ line (stressing antisemitism as a crisis needing strong action); and some 20 came from explicitly pro-Palestinian organisations. Another 10 came from within the trade union and Labour movement, while 10 came from other religiously-identified groups, mostly Muslim. (Not all are easily classifiable in this way.) The submissions by the considerable group of Jewish organisations that mobilised against the moral panic are collected together at the Free Speech on Israel website. (For completeness, a collection of opposing submissions is also available.)

Given the copious leaks about suspensions from the Labour Party that could only have come from the Labour’s HQ bureaucracy (effectively working for dissident MPs rather than the elected party leader) unusual precautions were taken about the report launch. The aim was to avoid selective leaks with their accompanying negative spin. Only one copy of the text was produced and, so we are informed, that was passed directly from Chakrabarti to Corbyn. However….

The Report

The launch of the report, despite measured speeches by Chakrabarti and Corbyn, was effectively hijacked by a press corps which only wanted to ask the latter about his travails with disloyal MPs, and by media-oriented stunts about antisemitism of exactly the kind that provoked the Inquiry in the first place. The result is that the content of this significant report has not had the attention that it deserves.

Any summary of the report is bound to be selective. The points I would pick out are Continue reading “Chakrabarti Rocks”

Labour Jews to Chuka Umunna – Stop using antisemitism smears against Corbyn

Dear Chuka Umunna,

We write as Jews who are members of the Labour Party. Some of us are also members of Momentum. We were shocked to witness the cynical manner in which you weaponised false allegations of antisemitism to launch an attack on the leader of the Labour party and on Momentum at the session of the Home Affairs Committee on Monday July 4th. [The questioning of Corbyn by Umunna starts at 17:02:50]

Some of the comments made at the press conference launching the Chakrabarti inquiry on June 30 by Mr Wadsworth (not a representative of Momentum as you claimed) were rude and unwarranted, however there is no evidence they were motivated by antisemitism. Wadsworth was clearly angry that the Daily Telegraph journalist had shared one of his leaflets with Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. He makes no reference to Ms Smeeth’s religion and asserts he had no knowledge she was Jewish and there is no evidence that this is not true. We have searched assiduously, including scrutinising the video footage of the incident, but have found no evidence of antisemitism, as opposed to incivility, in his words or actions.

The questions about Mr Wadsworth had been asked and answered several times by the time you asked your questions. Quite evidently your questions were not designed to elicit information but to pursue an internal Labour Party vendetta in a public forum. This relentless concentration on a confection designed to damage the Labour Party inhibits proper discussion on an important report into how the Labour Party can be more effective in combatting all forms of racism including antisemitism.

In your questioning you repeatedly employed guilt by association. For instance, you made reference to David Watson’s case. This is still under investigation and, as your legal background should have informed you, the allegations against him currently remain untested and unproven. These are allegations that, had you performed due diligence before asking your questions, you would have known are based on flimsy, if not fabricated, evidence.

We have been quite unable to detect any hint of animosity towards Jews in any of Watson’s social media posts. His critique of Zionism is one that many Jews share, in particular that the political Zionism dominant in Israel today is a racist ideology, both discriminating against Palestinians and stereotyping Jews as incapable of living alongside non-Jews in diverse societies. To then suggest that anyone who shares a platform with Watson is implicitly condoning antisemitism, and further that Jeremy Corbyn is answerable for all events organised by Momentum, is absurd.

You cite the example of the Oxford University Labour Club, and claim that “time and time again in these incidents of activity” in which offence is caused “to and against Jewish people Momentum seems to pop up quite frequently”. Yet Baroness Royall found no evidence of institutional antisemitism in OULC, and reported on at least one case of serious false allegations of antisemitism which had been reported to the police.

We ask you to cease your relentless undermining of the Labour Party. It would be more appropriate for you to concentrate your considerable energy on working to unite the Party so that we can displace this destructive Tory Government as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Sue
Bard
Edinburgh East & Musselburgh
Graham
Bash
Hackney North
Haim
Bresheeth
Hornsey & Wood Green
James
Cohen
Wanstead and Leyton
Sylvia
Cohen
Finchley & Golder’s Green
Ruth
Conlock
Manchester Withington
Judith
Cravitz
North Islington
Mike
Cushman
Streatham
Miriam
David
Islington North
Kenneth
Fryde
Cambridge
Alex J
Goldhill
Ealing Central & Acton
Tony
Greenstein
Brighton Kemptown
Mike
Howard
Hastings & Rye
Riva
Joffe
Holborn & St Pancras
Michael
Kalmanovitz
Hampstead & Kilburn
Shlomit
Ferguson
Enfield North
Arye
Finkle
Chipping Barnet
Abe
Hayeem
Harrow East
Rosamine
Hayeem
Harrow East
Richard
Kuper
Holborn & St Pancras.
Frank
Land
South West Devon
Stephanie
Lee
Gorton
Leah
Levane
Hastings & Rye
Rachel
Lever
Hastings & Rye
Yosefa
Loshitzky
Hornsey & Wood Green
Kay
Manasseh
Streatham
Miriam
Margolyes
Vauxhall
Stephen
Marks
Oxford
Karen
Merkel
East Ham
Diana
Neslen
Ilford South
Dr Brian
Robinson
Milton Keynes
Denise
Robson
Gateshead
Jonathan
Rosenhead
Hackney South & Shoreditch
Rina
Rosselson
Brent Central
Ian
Saville
Brent Central
Glyn
Secker
Dulwich & West Norwood
Sam
Semoff
Riverside
Roger
Silverman
West Ham
Vanessa
Stilwell
Dulwich & West Norwood
Stephen
Tiller
Hackney South & Shoreditch
Jackie
Walker
South Thanet
Sam
Weinstein
Hampstead & Kilburn
Naomi
Wimborne-Idrissi
Chingford & Woodford Green

You can watch the video of the Home Affairs Committee session here. Chuka Umunna begins questioning Jeremy Corbyn at approx. 17:04:00

Suspension of Jackie Walker is ‘an outrage against justice and truth’

UPDATE, 28 May: Walker’s suspension has been lifted

Via Labour Briefing
By Jamie Stern-Weiner, 26 May

imgresLEADING MOMENTUM ACTIVIST Jackie Walker has been suspended from the Labour Party for alleged anti-Semitism. The allegation is baseless. The evidence for it consists of two comments Walker made on Facebook. The first accurately dismissed allegations that Labour has a “major problem with anti-Semitism”, on the same grounds and in much the same language as did those notorious anti-Semitic hate-groups, the Jewish Socialists’ Group and Independent Jewish Voices.

The second took issue with the argument that the moral legacy of the Nazi holocaust forbids Europeans from boycotting the State of Israel, on the basis that – in Walker’s words – the “Jewish holocaust does not allow Zionists to do what they want”. No historical group is purely and perpetually a victim, Walker observed, drawing upon the experiences of her own Jewish and non-Jewish ancestors, and in any case, “having been a victim does not give you a right to be a perpetrator”.

As Jon Lansman, chair of Momentum, has written, there was “nothing” remotely anti-Semitic in either of Walker’s comments. Walker’s critics evidently agree, since they felt obliged to misrepresent her words to make the charges stick. In response to a comment decrying “[any] action against” Jews (i.e. boycotting Israel) as “shameful” because of the Holocaust, Walker wrote:

“Oh yes – and I hope you feel the same towards the African holocaust? My ancestors were involved in both – on all sides and 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.”

That is, in response to a particularist weaponisation of the Nazi holocaust to secure legal and moral impunity for the State of Israel, Walker urged a universalist compassion and a sober sense of historical perspective. The Jewish Chronicle rendered this thoughtful and nuanced plea as follows: “Labour suspends Momentum supporter who claimed Jews caused ‘an African holocaust’”. The obvious question is, if Labour truly were awash with anti-Semitism, would there be any need for such brazen and cynical misrepresentation as this? Continue reading “Suspension of Jackie Walker is ‘an outrage against justice and truth’”

A motion has been passed by Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency condemning the suspension of Jackie Walker

UPDATE, 28 May: Walker’s suspension has been lifted

Via Jackie Walker @stopthesuspensions

This is the motion passed last night:

“Islington North constituency Labour Party wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemns all forms of racism, including anti-semitism. We further wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the suspension by the Labour Party of Thanet Labour Party member Jackie Walker for alleged anti-semitism.

Jacqueline Walker (source: Facebook)
Jacqueline Walker (source: Facebook)

Jackie Walker is a long-standing member of the Labour Party, and was vice-chair of Thanet South Labour Party until her suspension. She played a key role in helping to organise the defeat of Nigel Farage when he contested Thanet South in the general election of 2015. She is an active anti-racism campaigner and a founding member of the Kent Anti-Racism Network. KARN has been organising for refugees stuck in the camps of Calais and mobilising opposition to openly fascist groups seeking to stoke anti-migrant sentiment and community divisions on Dover.

We welcome Jeremy Corbyn’s initiative to hold a full inquiry into anti-semitism in the Labour Party. Any member who has made obviously anti-semitic comments should face immediate suspension pending an investigation. But care must be taken not to suspend members on a spurious basis, and that is what Jackie Walker’s suspension clearly is.

Such suspensions are also a clear invitation to the party’s enemies to use our procedures to damage our party and its effective operation.

We call upon the National Executive Committee to lift the suspension immediately, to reinstate Jackie Walker and to apologise to her.

We resolve to send this motion to the National Executive Committee.”

It was carried by an overwhelming vote