The real villains in this little melodrama are the elements of the Jewish Labour Movement who conspired to entrap the Momentum vice-president – and failed rather miserably.
Principle among these must be Mike Katz, vice-chair of JLM, who led the ‘training’ session where a discredited definition of anti-Semitism was put forward (intended to provoke a controversial comment, perhaps?) and the event was recorded on camera – a breach of Labour’s ‘safe space’ policy for training sessions – in order to provide the right-wing press with damning material.
But here’s the thing: The EUMC definition of anti-Semitism is discounted by the vast majority of interested parties – including the organisation that commissioned it. It has no official status and successor body the Fundamental Rights Agency ditched it.
(For a better definition, try my eBook The Livingstone Presumption, price £1.99, available here.)
Holocaust Memorial Day really doesn’t include genocides that took place before World War II – which was the point Ms Walker was making, and one which the Guardian article (quoted below) overglosses. Notice that comments on this article are switched off.
The article is notable for re-sparking the feud between Labour’s John Mann and Ken Livingstone, currently suspended after Mr Mann accused him of anti-Semitism over remarks made in April.
If Mr Mann’s claim about Ms Walker’s comments is any yardstick, Mr Livingstone’s suspension will be lifted soon.
But Mr Livingstone is wrong in his claim that Ms Walker was ignorant; she knew that the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism is not acceptable and that Holocaust Memorial Day does not cover historical genocides prior to World War II.
Perhaps the ignorance is all on the opposing side?
Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker has been suspended from Labour over controversial comments she made at a party training event.
Leaked footage showed the campaigner saying she had not found a definition of antisemitism she could work with.
The footage also showed her questioning why Holocaust Memorial Day was not more wide-ranging to include other genocides.
Labour said it did not comment on individual party memberships but it is understood Walker has now been suspended.
Labour MP John Mann called Walker’s comments “unacceptable in a modern political party” by any standard.
But former London mayor Ken Livingstone defended some of Walker’s comments, saying “there’s a difference between ignorance and antisemitism”.
When she was asked whether she had considered resigning given the outrage among some Jewish groups, Walker said: “Some other prominent Jewish groups, of which I’m a member, think a very different thing. What we have to look at when we’re talking about this subject, particularly at the moment, is the political differences that are underlying this as well.”
I was going to end the article here, but let’s have some words in support of Ms Walker by fellow Jews who were at the training session, shall we? Just to add a little substance to this story:
We are Jewish Labour activists who were with Jackie Walker at the training session on antisemitism led by Mike Katz, vice chair of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) during the Labour Party conference in Liverpool on Monday September 26. Like her, some of us were heckled when we raised questions unpalatable to others in the audience who share the JLM’s bias towards Israel, its coupling of Jewish identity with Zionism and its insistence on the uniqueness of Jewish suffering.
Jackie had every right to question the JLM’s definition of antisemitism and the tendency of mainstream Jewish organisations to focus entirely on the slaughter of Jews when they commemorate the Nazi Holocaust. We share her determination to build greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimised. Jackie responded appreciatively when one audience member described Holocaust memorial events involving Armenians and others.
We were shocked at the way the level of barracking rose as soon as Jackie began to speak. JLM supporters demonstrated contempt for her as a Jewish woman of African heritage who is a lifelong anti-racist advocate for the rights of minorities and a leading Labour Party activist in her Thanet constituency.
We unreservedly condemn allegations of antisemitism made against Jackie Walker. Calls for her to be disowned by the Momentum movement of which she is vice-chair, and for her to be suspended for a second time from the Labour Party, are reprehensible instances of the witch hunt to which she and other Corbyn supporters have been subjected over recent months.
The way Jackie has been treated demonstrates the unfitness of the JLM to deliver training on antisemitism. It is an organisation committed to one, contested strand of Jewish labour tradition to the exclusion of any other; it relies on a definition of antisemitism that conflates Jewish identity with Zionism; and it exploits its interactions with party members to set the limits of political discourse about the Middle East in accordance with its own partisan ideology.
By promoting the witch hunt, the JLM has helped to relegate the vile prejudice of antisemitism to a tool in the armoury of pro-Israel advocates, backed by Corbyn’s enemies in the political and media establishment.
Graham Bash, Hackney North CLP
Rica Bird, Wirral South CLP
Leah Levane, Hastings and Rye CLP
Jonathan Rosenhead, Hackney South and Shoreditch CLP
Glyn Secker, Dulwich and West Norwood CLP
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Chingford and Woodford Green CLP
So the JLM has a pro-Israel bias (rather than pro-Jew?), links Judaism with Zionism (when Jews can be opposed to Zionism and Gentiles can support it), and has trivialised anti-Semitism by accusing a person who is innocent.
Many of us may not have seen the leaked footage.
But I’m sure we all get the picture.
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