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

The role of Jews in the financing of the slave trade

Jackie Walker was suspended for ‘antisemitism’ earlier this year when a private Facebook conversation she was having with a Zionist friend, was broken into by the Israel Advocacy Movement. Jackie was explaining her own Black and Jewish background and discussed the holocaust, not only of Jews but Black people in the Slave Trade. An estimated 14 million Black people were murdered in the course of the slave trade, both on the Middle Passage between Africa and the West Indies and on the Plantations. This is of course of no account to the Zionists for whom there is only one holocaust. Jackie was reinstated after an investigation but the Zionists have refused to accept her acquittal and have waged a campaign of villification against her ever since.

(Sugarman is a journalist for the Jewish Chronicle).

The discussion she was having was about the role of Jews in the financing of this trade. It is a matter of fact that some Jews had a prominent role in the Brazilian, Surinam and Dutch slave trade. In Labour’s Thought Police claims another victim – Black Jewish activist Jackie Walker I quoted from an article in the Jewish Journal, the largest Jewish weekly newspaper in the United States outside of New York City, on Jewish involvement in slavery in The Netherlands. The article How culpable were Dutch Jews in the slave trade? Describes how, in October 2013, Lody van de Kamp, an unconventional Orthodox Dutch rabbi, wrote a scathing critique about the involvement of Dutch Jewry in the slave trade.  He wrote that:

“The portrayal of ‘Peter the slave’ dates back to a period when we as citizens did not meet the social criteria that bind us today,”

“I wrote the book and I got involved in the Black Pete debate because of what I learned from my Dutch predecessors on what it means to be a rabbi — namely, to speak about social issues, not only give instructions on how to cook on Shabbat,” van de Kamp told JTA.

“Money was earned by Jewish communities in South America, partly through slavery, and went to Holland, where Jewish bankers handled it,” he said. “Non-Jews were also complicit, but so were we. I feel partly complicit.”

The article described how, although van de Kamp holds no official position in the Dutch Jewish community, he is among the best-known Orthodox rabbis in the Netherlands, a status earned through his several books on Dutch Jewry and frequent media appearances.

His book, a historical novel entitled “The Jewish Slave,” followed an 18th-century Jewish merchant and his black slave as they investigate Dutch-owned plantations north of Brazil in the hope of persuading Jews to divest from the slave trade. In researching the book, van de Kamp discovered data that shocked him.

In one area of what used to be Dutch Guyana, 40 Jewish-owned plantations were home to a total population of at least 5,000 slaves, he says. Known as the Jodensavanne, or Jewish Savannah, the area had a Jewish community of several hundred before its destruction in a slave uprising in 1832.

Nearly all of them immigrated to Holland, bringing their accumulated wealth with them.

Some of that wealth was on display in 2012 in the cellar of Amsterdam’s Portuguese Synagogue, part of an exhibition celebrating the riches of the synagogue’s immigrant founders. Van de Kamp says the exhibition sparked his interest in the Dutch Jewish role in slavery, which was robust.

On the Caribbean island of Curacao, Dutch Jews may have accounted for the resale of at least 15,000 slaves landed by Dutch transatlantic traders, according to Seymour Drescher, a historian at the University of Pittsburgh. At one point, Jews controlled about 17 percent of the Caribbean trade in Dutch colonies, Drescher said.

The suggestion that it is antisemitic to engage in such a historical debate is nonsense. John McDonnell is to be congratulated for withstanding the pressure to ostracise Jackie Walker and for speaking on the same platform as her.

The Jewish Labour Movement on the other hand has run a disgraceful, race baiting campaign against Jackie. It has been part and parcel of a Zionist attack on her which has questioned her Jewish ancestry on the basis that she is Black. A large section of the Zionist movement refuses to accept that Black people, for example the Black Hebrews, can also be Jewish.

Unsurprisingly a major dispute has blown up this week concerning the invitation to Jackie Walker. A number of Zionists have objected to the invitation to John McDonnell because he has shared a platform with Jackie Walker, whom they deem ‘antisemitic’ as part of an ongoing racist campaign of villification. Far from defending McDonnell, JLM’s Jeremy Newmark, a man branded a liar and perjurer by the Fraser v University College Union Employment Tribunal when he tried to portray UCU as ‘antisemitic’, attacked his invitee.

Newmark is quoted as saying that John McDonnell 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.’  John McDonnell has no need to explain anything.  Jackie Walker is a long standing anti-racist and anti-fascist activist, unlike the luminaries of the Jewish Labour Movement.

Tony Greenstein

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2 thoughts on “Open Letter to John McDonnell: Avoid the ‘race baiting’ Jewish Labour Movement”

  1. As usual, Class-consciousness rather than Race is the over-determinant of how we behave. As a jew I support the Palestinians both as a matter of justice but also as a matter of history. Class and power put jews, arabs, christians et al on all sorts of sides of arguments and wars.

  2. It’s time The Labour Party adopted general and inclusive policies and procedures relating to racism and prejudice. There should be no sub-classification of different forms and a league table of ‘importance’. To do so is divisive and is basically saying that racial abuse directed to one group has to be taken far more seriously that of others – what is inclusive and ‘socialist’ about that?

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