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.

Signatories…

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

chakrabarti submission signatories final