Whose ‘Jewish community’?

Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, Jeremy Newmark, whose evidence of alleged institutional antisemitism at UCU was described as false and preposterous by the tribunal judge, has questioned the remit and independence of the Chakrabarti inquiry into antisemitism within Labour.

Writing in the Times of Israel blog today, Newmark argues that,

It would have been better for this to have been addressed in consultation with our community before it was announced.

Having said that the inquiry and a new ‘code of conduct’ has the ‘potential to enable the party to embark on a long and complicated road to regaining the confidence of the Jewish community,’ he appears, however, to be pre-empting it by implying it is already failing in its obligations to certain Jewish groups he represents. Newmark was formerly Chief Executive of the UK’s Jewish Leadership Council – ‘the umbrella body for the major institutions of the UK Jewish community.’

JLC Chairman Sir Mick Davis wrote an article, published in the Telegraph on 1 May, asserting he is ‘a proud Zionist’ and ‘a passionate supporter of the state of Israel,’

and I am not alone. More than 90 per cent of British Jews see Israel as part of their Jewish identity. Attacks on her legitimacy are an affront to our consciousness, an assault on our religious, cultural and moral heritage.

Davis also referred to what he called ‘the brazen nature of anti-Zionist anti-Semitism.’ Adding that ‘Israel’s legitimacy is unassailable and its democracy vibrant,’ despite all evidence to the contrary.

Groups such as JLM and JLC have been at the forefront of attempts to re-define anti-Zionism as antisemitism. (See JLM’s Labour Party membership rule change proposal).

Other British Jewish voices, which struggle to be heard beyond the letters pages of liberal newspapers, have repeatedly rejected the premise that the Party has lost the confidence of its Jewish members. Since March, Labour members have sought to convey a very different experience. This letter in the Guardian by Sue Lukes is just one example of several in the same vein:

As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor I never stop worrying about how we can make “never again!” meaningful. But as an active member of both the Labour party and my Jewish community, I can say that the assertion that “Labour has become a cold house for the Jews” is simply not borne out by the facts. The party has become a much warmer place for everyone, including Jews, since Jeremy Corbyn was elected. However, some people, inside and outside the party, appear to use allegations of antisemitism to pursue other, political ends.

Newmark’s intervention follows that of the Jewish Chronicle, which claimed last week that Professor Feldman, who is the inquiry’s vice-chairman, was biased because he ‘dismissed most regularly used definitions of antisemitism,’ when he wrote that,

Definitions of antisemitism based on double standards, the EUMC working definition, perceptions and outcomes have not been adopted in this sub-report [submitted to last year’s All Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Antisemitism].

This problematic and contentious ‘working definition’ was neither produced nor adopted by the EUMC (now the European
 Union Agency for Fundamental Rights).

Free Speech on Israel has confidence in the Chakrabarti Inquiry, and will be making a submission in the name of a number of Jewish members of the Labour Party.

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