Ian and the Cat

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On June 1st J4J’s Ian Saville was a guest speaker, on behalf of the Jewish Socialist Group, at a Brighton and Hove Momentum meeting on the current wave of expulsions and accusations of antisemitism in the Labour Party.  The main speaker was Jackie Walker, fresh from being reinstated after her period of suspension by the Labour Party. Louise Purbrick, from StopMfE also spoke about the local campaign against far right and fascist groups who are active in the area. This is Ian’s account of that meeting. 

Ian S SepiaMy own contribution outlined the way in which antisemitism has been used as a weapon to attack Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the left.

I talked about how this had been a rolling campaign, brought up first to try to prevent Jeremy gaining the Labour leadership, continuing throughout his leadership, and stepped up significantly during the recent elections. And now continuing as we move towards the election of a new Labour NEC.

I explained how powerful the accusation of antisemitism is. As far as those running these witch hunts are concerned, if I say that my cat isn’t antisemitic, that proves that my cat is antisemitic, otherwise why would I be saying it? It also proves that I am antisemitic, as I am now defending an antisemitic cat.

It is irrelevant that I am Jewish and don’t have a cat.

I pointed out that there are a range of people and organisations working to attack the left, including those outside the Labour Party, like the Tories, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Chronicle and other apologists for Israel, and some factions on the right within the Labour Party.

Jackie Walker

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Jackie spoke of the enormous blow to her of her suspension, and the undemocratic way in which it was accomplished. She also noted that the letter informing her of suspension was sent on the same day that a scurrilous article about her appeared in the Jewish Chronicle, so that it appears that there was some coordination between the paper and the Labour Party compliance unit.

She spoke of the awful abuse she had suffered on social media, and the attacks had not let up since she had been exonerated and reinstated by the party. She was still being subjected to abuse and calls for expulsion, and lies about her views were being spread by the right.

In fact, before the meeting an inaccurate and vicious leaflet about her was being handed out by right-wingers outside. She was subjected to people questioning the validity of her own heritage, which is offensive and unacceptable. Jackie explained the background to the private remarks on Facebook which had been objected to, which were part of a discussion with friends, one of whom, ironically, is an Israeli liberal Zionist.

Jackie stressed the need to oppose these attacks vigorously, and not appease the attackers, as this will just strengthen their hand. Her speech was greeted with great acclaim.

Discussion from the floor followed, with many people making points about the role of Israel in all of this, the role of groups like the Jewish Labour Movement within the Labour Party, and the dire situation of the Palestinians.  Tony Greenstein, who is still under suspension from the party, contributed a fighting speech, to much applause.

Rhea Wolfson

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 09.45.58There was some discussion of the events of that day, when a potential left candidate for the NEC, Rhea Wolfson, was blocked from standing after an intervention in the selection process by Jim Murphy, the right-wing former leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

Once again, the accusation of antisemitism had been brought up, despite the fact that Wolfson is Jewish, is supported by the Jewish Labour Movement, and is herself sympathetic to Zionism. This seems to demonstrate that, for the right, this accusation can be used in the most absurd situation, for the objective of gaining control of the Labour Party, and ensuring that Jeremy Corbyn’s ideas do not hold sway.

Following discussion of, and questions about the Jewish Labour Movement, I mentioned the initiative contained in our submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry, to set up a more inclusive Jewish organisation within the Labour Party which is not part of any Zionist federation.

The meeting finished on an upbeat note with the singing of the Red Flag, led by local singer Robb Johnson.

Unsurprisingly, within 24 hours, the meeting has already been written up in a negative way by the Jewish Chronicle.


The Chakrabarti Report

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Attached below is the text of a submission to Shami Chakrabarti’s report into alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party.   It was submitted yesterday June 1st 2016 by a group of Jewish Labour Party members who include members/supporters of Jews for Jeremy, JFJFP, IJV, Jewish Socialists’ Group. There are currently 97 signatories.

The submission has now been made, but if you agree with the contents and want to help in the formation of the new group, let us know.


Here is the text:

Submission to the Chakrabarti Inquiry

This submission has been drawn up by a group of Jewish Labour Party members who have been active within human rights organisations, anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigns and training, refugee support, education in a range of contexts and at all levels, and have been involved in a range of Jewish organisations and projects such as: Jewish Socialistsʼ Group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Independent Jewish Voices, Jewish Cultural and Anti-Racist Project, Jewish Music Institute, Friends of Yiddish, Kehillah North London.

Our submission is relevant to all the terms of reference of the inquiry, but we focus particularly on those aspects that aim to:

• understand and address antisemitism in the wider context of racism in general;

• provide the most effective context for training on these issues at all levels of the party; and

• ensure that Jewish people are welcomed and integrated into the party alongside other minorities.

We feel strongly that the education and training of Labour Party members and officers on issues relating to antisemitism must be the responsibility of an inclusive and progressive Jewish group that is able to meet the demands of this role because it would be positively focused on Jews in the Labour Party here in Britain.

Before this Inquiry was announced, a number of us had been discussing the need for such a representative group as a permanent element within the Labour Party. The events during the run-up to the local and Mayoral elections, and the establishment of the Inquiry, have encouraged us to address this more urgently. With our long, deep and broad range of experience, we intend to help form such an inclusive group, along the lines stated in the following proposal.

Proposal on Jewish representation in the Labour Party

We wish to see the setting up of a broad-based organisation which can become a “Jewish Section” or an affiliated organisation of the Labour Party.

It will be open to all Jews who are members of the Labour Party.

Its guiding principles will be rights and justice for Jews everywhere without wrongs and injustice to other peoples anywhere.

Welcoming the fact that Jews are an international people with communities in many countries, its outlook will be internationalist and anti-racist and it will link the interests of Jewish people with those of other minorities and oppressed groups.

While individual members of the new group may have particular attitudes towards or connections with Israel/Palestine or any other country, it will not impose on its members a stance on proposed solutions to conflicts in the Middle East; instead it will encourage a free and respectful exploration of the issues from Labour/socialist perspectives, and will reserve the right to criticise any regime on the grounds of human rights violations.

Its purposes will be to:

• provide a platform to represent the concerns and interests of Jewish members at all levels of the Party;

• campaign against antisemitism and all forms of racism and discrimination, and assert a progressive Jewish identity as part of multicultural Britain;

• strengthen links between Jews and other ethnic minorities in Britain;

• uphold and continue the long tradition of Jewish involvement in struggles against oppression and for social justice, both locally and globally;

• act as a cultural and social hub, which can share the cultural resources of Jewish members and organise social and cultural events as well as political forums in which issues can be freely debated from various viewpoints;

• seek support for the Labour Party among the wider Jewish community.

Its constitution will affirm that its primary allegiance is to socialism and the values of the Labour Party.

Such a section or group would expect to be consulted by the Party leadership and the National Executive Committee where issues directly concerning Jewish members arise.

It would also expect to fulfil a training role in the Labour Party, and act as an advocate in cases where disputes arise concerning Jewish matters.

We do not feel that the Jewish Labour Movement (known until 2004 as Poʼale Zion, Workers of Zion) is the correct vehicle for this role because it has an explicitly Zionist constitution, is committed to promoting “the centrality of Israel in Jewish life”, and requires that its members adhere to a particular view of the Israel/Palestine conflict and Zionism. In doing so it excludes a large proportion of Jewish Labour Party members, including many of the signatories to this submission. We believe our Jewish perspective has a natural home in the Labour Party, but would not wish to sign up to the constitution of the Jewish Labour Movement, nor would we be welcome to join it.


If you wish to see the signatories, they are contained in the pdf below.

chakrabarti submission signatories final


Antisemitism Meeting May 9th

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Jews for Jeremy attended the above meeting last night at London University Students’ Union with a great line-up of Tariq Ali, writer, journalist and filmmaker; John Rose, author of the Myths of Zionism; Leah Levane, Jews for Justice for Palestinians; Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism; Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition and Walter Wolfgang, veteran Labour Party activist. We were joined by our colleague Rania H academic, teacher, campaigner and broadcaster. Here are some reflections of hers we asked she contribute to the blog:

Antisemitism is still very much a problem in Britain. But not where the media is telling you it is. Antisemitism is alive and well where it has always lurked: in the machinations of right-wing politicians and media pundits who are happy to stoke fears and sow discord for their own ends. And there is one thing firmly in their sight; Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

With this in mind the public meeting Antisemitsm, Zionism and the Left was convened to discuss the current witch hunt waged by the right, both in the Labour party and beyond, on anyone who criticises Israel and calls for active support of the Palestinians through the BDS campaign .

Speakers included the veteran Labour party activist and NEC member Walter Wolfgang, who spoke about the liberation origins of Zionism and passionately defended Jewish values, especially against modern day Zionists. Leah Levanes from Jews for Justice for Palestinians also spoke about supporting Palestinian political and human rights including the establishment of an independent viable state of their own.

Lindsey German, from the Stop the war Coalition warned us againt the Islamphobia inherent in this witch hunt especially as it seeks to punish Muslim public figures who have shown support for the Palestinian cause. Both Lindsey and Weyman Bennett of Unite Against Fascism reminded the audience of the anti-racist credentials of some of those falsely accused of antisemitism, with Waymen urging all anti-fascists across the spectrum of faiths and ethnicities to unite, and asserting that the fight against Antisemitism is also the fight against the Islamophobia, Homophobia and Racism curretly spreading through Europe from right-wing groups

John Rose, Jewish author of The Myths of Zionism, brought the discussion back to the attempts to redefine antisemitism, not as a racial prejudice against Jews and Jewish fatih and culture, but as any political and civic action against the Israeli regime, including the call for a one state solution for Palestinians and Israelis. Tariq Ali, writer and film-maker, rounded off the speeches with a heartfelt appeal to support all those fighting oppression and not silence dissent and political expression by branding young people angry at Israel’s actions as antisemites  .

The discussion that followed included contributions from the floor in support of the speakers but also a plea not to lose sight of the fact that we need to mount an effective defence of the Left and take the fight against racism, Islamophobia and Antisemitism to the right – where it belongs.

As is usual in these meetings a couple of Zionist decided to join the debate and that led to some heated exchanges including shouts by them that Sir Gerald Kaufman was an antisemite!

The most important message to take away is that we stand united against all forms of racism, prejudice and discrimination and for the rights of all minorities. The popular revolution that saw Jeremy Corbyn win the Labour leadership is the people’s mandate for real democratic change. Antisemitism is a disease of the right and we will name it and fight against it.

J4J adds: The whole room felt these attacks will not stop, so more co-ordination and meetings such as this will need to take place. We also believe we at J4J have a contribution to make at future meets, Socialists and anti-racists at the coal face. 

Dear Mr Mann et al, Kindly Read. And Button It.

Jeremy Corbyn arrives for an election campaign poster launch in London
Jeremy Corbyn arrives for an election campaign poster launch in London. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters 

Jeremy Corbyn’s critics inside his party have set aside the possibility of a post-election leadership challenge in the face of warnings by pollsters that the party leader remains impossible to defeat in any vote of Labour members.

A day before polls are due to open in national and local elections, where Labour’s performance will come under intense scrutiny, MPs who are unhappy with Corbyn are indicating in private they do not believe it is the right time to mount a coup attempt.

Joe Twyman, head of political and social research at YouGov, said his data confirmed that Corbyn remained “a country mile” ahead of other potential candidates. “The bottom line is that those eligible to vote in the Labour party leadership election strongly supported Jeremy Corbyn last year and that has not significantly changed,” he said.

“So far no alternative candidate appears to have attracted anything like the kind of support and momentum needed to defeat him. Any challenger at this stage is only likely to be at best a stalking horse and at worse little more than a pursuant pony.”

The leader is also being shored up by the grassroots movement Momentum, which has compiled a database of more than 100,000 supporters that it believes could be used within days to help fight off any potential challenge. The group is preparing to set up phone banks to ensure that party members as well as registered or affiliated supporters can be recruited.

YouGov’s data has suggested that Corbyn would win 43% of first preference, rising to 62% when second and third preferences are taken into account.

The developments follow days of speculation about a potential challenge after Corbyn was plunged into an antisemitism row, with furious MPs accusing him of failing to act quickly enough to root out anti-Jewish sentiment within the party. On Friday, Corbyn set up an inquiry as it emerged that 16 members, including Ken Livingstone and the MP Naz Shah, had been suspended from the party.

Labour’s London mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, said the allegations had affected his campaign and he was “so unhappy” about the way Corbyn and his team had handled the claims. “The Labour leadership has got to get a grip,” he told the Evening Standard.

Across Labour there is disagreement about what constitutes success in Thursday’s elections across Scotland and Wales, as well as for local councillors in England and for the London mayoralty. A number of Labour MPs have claimed that anything less than 450 gains in council seats would amount to failure for Corbyn.

That is in sharp contrast to the expectations being set by the man running the party’s campaign, Jon Trickett. He has claimed that any improvement in Labour’s position when compared with the 2015 general election result would be positive, even though that could still see a significant fall in the number of Labour councillors in seats last contested four years ago.

Corbyn predicted that the party would not lose seats and said that rumours of a leadership coup had been whipped up by the “golden circle” of the media. At a campaign launch, the Labour leader said that the party was looking to “gain seats where we can” in the elections for local councils, regional assemblies and mayoralties.

A close ally of the leader agreed that he was being attacked unfairly. “There is a vocal minority in the PLP [parliamentary Labour party] who have deliberately set targets of council seats they know cannot be achieved. They want to set a hurdle that cannot be overcome, so they can say he has failed,” he said.

“If there is any challenge he will stand again and all the evidence suggests that he would win an even bigger majority among members than last year.”

Ben Bradshaw, Labour’s former culture secretary, said holding councils in the southern seats like his own in Exeter was vital for gaining power in 2020: “The polls are very discouraging. We should be 20 points ahead in the polls, with the Conservatives in disarray over Europe, destroying the NHS and education system. There is no reason we shouldn’t be 20 points ahead in the polls and winning hundreds of seats.”

It is also unlikely that any of the potential leadership alternatives who have the most support among MPs, such as Angela Eagle or Dan Jarvis, would want to see anything happen ahead of the EU referendum on 23 June. However, the only result that might trigger a quicker challenge would be Khan losing in London, where he is favourite to beat Zac Goldsmith.

But some Labour MPs think that even then Corbyn would be impossible to defeat, arguing that any manoeuvres against the leader should wait until 2018. “Being honest, I think that most of the party’s membership, if not enthusiastic, still thinks that he deserves more time,” said one politician who has been an outspoken critic of the leader.

Rumours that the veteran Labour MP Margaret Hodge could be used as a stalking horse challenger to Corbyn have emerged because some MPs think she fits the requirements for any challenger. They think a female MP who does not have any personal axe to grind and who is well respected would be best placed to take on the fight. Hodge could not be reached for comment.

To the Matter in Hand – May Elections

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 11.02.49Mayoral Elections. Local Elections.

Four days to go.

In London Zac Goldsmith should be beaten in the polls by a country mile. Not only because he is bland, inexperienced and has run a lack-lustre campaign.

But because, as he has fallen further and further behind in the the polls, his tactics have become more and more distasteful and reprehensible.

Yesterday in the Mail, came words and images connecting Sadiq Khan with the terrorists bus bombings of 2007. Of course, if questioned, neither Goldsmith or the Mail would accept any such interpretation of what appears on the left here.

But what other interpretations can be given?

You decide.


In the meantime, we include Owen Jones on Youtube talking about Goldsmith’s bottom of the barrel campaign style and (in the video at 6:45) the radicalisation it would promote should Khan NOT be elected:

Ken McCluskey Talks about the Jews For Jeremy Letter in the Guardian

Ken McCluskey talks about the Jews for Jeremy letter published in the Guardian this weekend. The proof of the pudding, folks, is in the eating. If 82 ordinary and longstanding Jewish members of Labour – teachers, academics, artists, historians, trade unionists, doctors and social workers –  have never come across antisemitism in the Party, where is it?