Jewish Labour Party members slam decision to suspend Ken Livingstone

Ken Livingstone.

The following is the text of a press release by Jewish Labour Party members, in support of Ken Livingstone after Labour’s National Constitutional Committee decided to extend his suspension for another year.
The statement itself differs slightly from that made yesterday and reported in a previous article, and the press release also includes statements made by five Jewish Labour Party members to the disciplinary panel that made the ruling against Mr Livingstone.
They support his reinstatement. Don’t we all?
We are alarmed that the Labour Party’s National Constitutional Committee has bowed to demands for the suspension of Ken Livingstone, excluding him from the life of the party until April 2018.
Having failed to make a case that he was guilty of antisemitic conduct, his accusers alleged that he was nonetheless guilty of conduct grossly detrimental to the party because, according to them, he had upset the UK’s Jewish population. The grounds put forward for this were Ken Livingstone’s references to a temporary agreement prior to World War II, between some Zionist leaders and Hitler’s Nazi Party, to facilitate the emigration of a number of Jews from Germany. The Zionist motivation was to increase the numbers of Jews going to Palestine.
In our evidence to the NCC we explained that those claiming offence on behalf of all Jews have no justification for doing so. Such a claim deliberately ignores the views of large numbers of Jewish people, both in the Labour Party and in society at large. These are people who, like us, find their identity in a different tradition to the Zionist one; or who, while continuing to believe in the Zionist ideal, are deeply uncomfortable about ongoing inroads into free speech and believe that the history of the Zionist movement must be open to scrutiny.
According to a legal opinion (published on March 27) on the ‘definition’ of antisemitism adopted by the government and the Labour Party, criticising Israel for its ill treatment of Palestinians cannot be taken as evidence of antisemitism. For a political party to adopt the principle that causing offence to some part of the population is a reason for expulsion, would be to deny freedom of expression for what are legitimate political opinions. 
The decision to suspend Ken is mistaken. It is an attempt to protect Israel from criticism, while simultaneously weakening the position of the pro-Palestinian Left in the party. It is the verdict, not Ken Livingstone, that has bought the Labour Party into disrepute.
Jenny Manson
Diana Neslen
Jonathan Rosenhead
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
A letter from more than 30 Jewish Labour Party members was sent to the NCC in advance of Ken Livingstone’s hearing. The text and list of signatories can be read at 
Five Jewish members of the Labour Party who appeared before the Labour Party NCC hearing submitted the following statements.
Walter Wolfgang
I am a Jewish member of the Labour Party and was a member of its National Executive Committee from 2006 to 2008. I regard anti-Semitism as an extremely serious issue.
I am 93 years old. I was born in Germany in 1923. My family were persecuted by the Nazis. In 1937, at the age of 13, I left Germany and came to live in Britain. It was the strength of my commitment to Judaism and Jewish ethical values of human equality which caused me to join the Labour Party in 1948.
The Nazis embraced this vile ideology of anti-Semitism and exterminated six million Jews. Allegations of anti-Semitism should be made only when people express hostility to Jewish people because they are Jewish. Such allegations should not be made when this is not the case. It is not anti-Semitic to hold or express views about the government of Israel or about Zionism.
Ken Livingstone has an outstanding record of fighting against racism and anti-Semitism. Labour’s National Constitutional Committee hearing into Ken’s actions is a travesty. His public defence of Naz Shah MP in April 2016 was not offensive and did not involved him in  making any concession to anti-Semitism.
Ken Livingstone’s remarks in April 2016 about the Transfer Agreement were broadly correct. Hitler was in favour of Jews leaving Germany for Palestine. The agreements reached between the Nazis and some Zionists are simply indisputable facts.
Advocacy of Jews leaving Palestine was made by some Jews who were Zionist, some non-Jews who were anti-Semitic, by some non-Jews who were friendly and some who were indifferent to Jews. Anti-Semitism is hostility to Jews because of religion, race or ethnicity. It is nothing else. Many Jews, Zionist and non-Zionist – including myself – disagree with the present policy of the Israeli government.
It is evident that Livingstone is being attacked because he supports the Palestinians, and not because he is either offensive or anti-Semitic. He is not guilty of any conduct detrimental to the Labour Party. His suspension was unjustified. Any further disciplinary action would bring the party into disrepute.
Jonathan Rosenhead
I am a Jewish member of the Labour party, who grew up in a thoroughly Zionist family in Liverpool. Along with my many Jewish friends I did not and do not find Ken Livingstone’s public defence of Naz Shah MP in April 2016 as in any way offensive, or indeed making as any concession to antisemitism. Nor do I consider Ken Livingstone’s comments about the Transfer Agreement between the Nazi regime and European Zionists, though not perhaps expressed as elegantly as they might have been,  to be in any way antisemitic or offensive.
Charges of antisemitism need to be assessed against a consensual standard. Antisemitism has been well understood for many generations as to do with hatred of Jews as Jews. The IHRA definition, recently adopted by the UK government, is a seriously flawed attempt to extend the general loathing of the crime of antisemitism to interdict entirely non-racist criticism of Israel. It is deeply unhelpful as a means of combating hostility to Jewish people.
It would be a tragic mistake if the Labour Party were to find Ken Livingstone guilty of conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the Party.
I am an Emeritus Professor of Operational Research at the London School of Economics. My Labour Party involvement extends over many decades, including membership in Sheffield, South Kensington, Hammersmith, and currently in Hackney South and Shoreditch. I have been a GC member in three of these, and was a Labour Party Parliamentary candidate in the 1960’s.
 Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
I am a 64 year old member of Chingford and Woodford Green Labour Party, brought up in a staunch Labour Jewish household in Manchester.
 I have no hesitation in stating that the remarks for which Ken Livingstone has been castigated have caused me no offence whatsoever. Nor do I regard comments he made in April 2016 in defence of Naz Shah, or in reference to the relationship between Zionist leaders and the Nazi party in the 1930s, as in any way antisemitic.
 As someone of 100 percent Jewish heritage, with many like-minded family members, I cannot accept the current enthusiasm for alleging that criticism of Israel and Zionism is directed at Jews. None of the remarks or actions attributed to Ken Livingstone demonstrate any antisemitic intent or motivation.
 I would go further. To allege antisemitism against Ken Livingstone discredits the term. To find him guilty of conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the party on the basis of the charges laid against him would, in my view, bring the party into disrepute among its members and supporters and fair-minded members of the public, especially those from the BAME communities whose cause he has championed over many years.
Diana Neslen
I am a Jewish member of the Labour party. I am 77 years old and have been a member on and off since the 1980s, possibly the 1970s. I am currently a delegate to Ilford CLP General Committee.
I have been an active anti racist campaigner for many years, having been among other things the Chair of the Redbridge Race Equality and Community Council.
Personally I am very much aware of the nature of extreme anti-Semitism. My own family has had experience of violent anti-Semitism. My son was attacked by a member of an anti-Semitic party. The offender was jailed for three years. While the offender was in prison we were subjected to anti-Semitic phone calls that included threats from his supporters.
Over the years I have spent a lot of time with people who survived the 1930s/40s crimes of the Nazis and am familiar with the history of 1930s Germany and the Transfer Agreement involving the Nazi government and the Yishuv in Palestine.
I consider it important that charges of anti-Semitism are judged against a clear objective definition of anti-Semitism.  I also believe that anti Semitism must be fought alongside all other forms of racism that are on the rise. The threat is from the resurgent Right, not from activists campaigning for Palestinian rights
It is also important to recognise that support for Israel and being Jewish are not synonymous. There are many non-Jews living in Israel. Many Jews identify completely with Israel, even though they do not live there and feel personally offended when Israel is criticised.  However there are many Jews in the world that do not identify with Israel and its governments’ policies. There are many non Jews who identify as Zionists and support Israel. In fact there are many anti-Semites who support Israel. It is anti Semitic to treat all Jews as one cohesive group who all support Israel.
In 2013 the Daily Mail used classical dog whistle themes to attack Ed Miliband, the then Jewish Labour leader. The themes were that his father ‘hated Britain’ was a foreigner and a Marxist. Jews as Jews are often portrayed as foreigners and Marxists, in classical anti-Semitic attacks, the better to distance them from the body politic. The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council had little or nothing to say about this.
Labour has a responsibility to treat anti-Semitism very seriously and not abuse the meaning of this vile anti-Jewish ideology by misapplying the term to those who support the Palestinians. So Labour’s attitude to anti-Semitism should not be determined by organisations within the Jewish community whose loyalty to Israel makes them unable to recognise the difference between angry denunciations of Israel and attacks on Jewish people. Some of these organisations are also hostile to the Labour Party. For example, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews called for Jewish people to vote Conservative in the 2015 General Election.
I do not believe that Ken Livingstone’s public defence of Naz Shah MP in April 2016 was offensive or that it involved any concession to anti-Semitism. In fact in spite of her public apology, I do not regard what Naz Shah wrote on her Facebook page as anti Semitic. I also consider that Ken Livingstone’s remarks in April 2016 about the 1933 Transfer Agreement were not in any way anti-Semitic. They are based on evidence compiled by Edwin Black in the book The Transfer Agreement.
It would be a mistake if the Labour Party found Ken Livingstone guilty of conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the Party.
Jenny Manson
I understand that Ken Livingstone is accused of being offensive when he publicly defended Naz Shah MP in April 2016. I also understand that he is being accused of being offensive for referring to the Transfer Agreement between the Nazi government and German Zionist Federation in the 1930s. These actions by Ken were not offensive, nor anti-Semitic in any way, in my view.
 I am Jewish and have been a member of the Labour party since 1969. I was Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Hendon North in 1987 and I was a Labour Councillor from 1986 to 1990 on Barnet Council. I am 68 years old and remain an active Labour member. I am currently a member of Finchley and Golders Green CLP General Committee.
My family has personal knowledge of the violent anti-Semitism in eastern Europe in the twentieth century. My mother came from the Ukraine, which she had to leave in 1919 to escape the pogroms against Jewish people. She lived in Palestine for ten years and then moved to Britain where she settled after marrying Raphael Salaman, a member of a long established Anglo- Jewish family.  His mother was prominent in the early Zionist movement in the UK .
In my working life as a Tax Inspector I saw a (very) few instances of anti-Semitism, such as the characterisation of ‘Jewish Lawyers’ as lawyers who skated close to the edge.  I have never witnessed any instances of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
Anti-Semitism has to be treated as a serious issue, which is entirely separate from the different views people take on Israel and Zionism.

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21 thoughts on “Jewish Labour Party members slam decision to suspend Ken Livingstone

  1. John Thatcher

    Those Jewish party members are to be congratulated for sticking their necks out,the zionist are a nasty ruthless crew and there may be consequences for these decent people,though I hope not.

  2. Karl Greenall

    Totally fascinating to note that all the Labour List sites covering this classic “fake news” story have closed their comments sections. I wonder why…..?

  3. joanna

    Can’t the NCC see that their own conduct is exactly why Labour are not being elected. Last week I spoke with a neighbour (who I don’t see much of, thankfully) he told me that the best thing anyone can do for Jeremy Corbyn is to put a small piece of metal in his head between his eyes. Needless to say I was disgusted with him.
    I know that is not the same but the NCC needs to get perspective! I eat pork does that make me anti-Semite absolutely not!
    I hope Ken prevails but considering the testimonies the NCC seems to be a law unto it’self and as long as that is the case it will cause more people to have the same ideas as my neighbour does therefore leaving Labour to be un-electable!!!

  4. Neilth

    I am disappointed that the panel decided first to move the goalposts from an accusation of anti semitism to one of ‘bringing the party into disrepute’.
    From what I know Livingstone repeated a matter of historical fact. I.e. That Hitler supported the establishment of a Jewish ‘homeland’ in Palestine as a means of getting Jews out of Germany. The establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East was and still is a core Zionist policy.

    I would condemn and expect consequences for any member of the party for anti Semitic, anti Muslim, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc comments.

    I would support members who make anti Tory, anti UKIP, anti Zionist, anti racist etc etc comments and I would have issues with any member who didn’t challenge these enemies of democracy and freedom.

    What does bring the party into disrepute is elected members screaming at other members for the benefit of the TV cameras. Why hasn’t John Mann been sanctioned for his intemperate self publicising behaviour which was a thinly veiled attack on the comparatively newly elected leadership and part of an artificially manufactured series of allegations that there is an underlying anti semitism in the party.

    I have been a member for nearly 50 years and can honestly say I have never witnessed such vile behavior in meetings etc though there have been many fraternal disagreements over policies etc which can become quite emotionally charged. We need open, honest debate but when the matter is voted on and decided then it’s time to get behind the democratic decision.

    Just watching the BBC lunchtime news on this and again they are trying to damage Corbyn with this and repeating the trope that Livingstone was suspended for anti semitism. How the hell do we get the truth through when the spinners have all the means of shaping what people hear?

  5. Rob

    A great and sincere balance from within the Jewish community in Labour .
    Meanwhile Tom Watson and other right wing opportunist MPs leap at the chance to try and leaver out Livingstone. What was it John Major said about bastards in the his Tory party , looks like we have some of our own .

  6. Robert Davies

    The article and it’s links are a real eye opener, there is hope for common sense too prevail, hope all your readers sign the Petition, we need Ken inside the Labour Party not out of it.

  7. gerry

    I cannot fathom the cohort of voter that this stitch up is playing to. The LP is making a laughing stock of itself as an organisation. It is left to individuals to state the obvious. There maybe voters who like this decision but i fear they vote for another party or are likely to do so. The machinery of the LP is corrupt in as much as power is its horizon not democracy. I do not watch soap opera and this has the tension of a crisis in Corrie or the Archers; therefore I have no intention of paying it any mind whatsoever. The party is an irrelevance unless it is involved in melodrama of the most basic and tawdry kind. Why would anyone vote for these values?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      This is a sideshow.
      The Labour Party is entirely capable of running a government, regional parliament/assembly or indeed local government/council.
      The issues on display have little to do with Labour values and everything to do with pressure groups on the fringes of all political parties trying to impose their will on the wider public.

  8. Signor tbf


    Have to disagree with your line for once.

    Ken has never been concerned with whom he might offend & that’s why he was a great leader of the GLC & London Mayor. But it’s always been about Ken, fair enough back then, but is that what we need with Jeremy’s approach to presenting something different to the voters? Because one thing Jeremy is trying to move away from is the narcissistic sense of self-entitlement radiating from all parts of Parliament.

    I’m also concerned about the relevance of Ken’s history lesson to either Naz Shah’s tweet or the present actions of Israeli Governments. Why in hell’s name could he not have just said:

    a) The original tweet was by a Jewish-US writer.
    b) Naz wasn’t even a Labour Member when she retweeted it & she’s rightly apologised for doing it anyway, because it is offensive.
    c) The only anti-anything I or anybody else should be is anti-imperialist, regardless of whose imperialism I am condemning. If I condemn Putin, that doesn’t make me anti-Russian, so I am not being anti-Zionist by condemning the Israeli Government, I am being anti-imperialist.

    But, it’s all about Ken, so on he went.

    And why could he not have apologised publicly straight afterwards if anybody had been upset by his comments, regardless of the synthetic rage of some parties? No need to retract comments, even.

    And again, by dragging history (regardless of how correct it was) into it, he gives everyone an excuse at a sensitive time to beat Jeremy & the party up.


    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You make some interesting points. I cannot comment on your references to “Naz Shah’s tweet” because she was disciplined over three. Without knowing which one you mean, I can’t provide useful information about it.

      I like what you’re saying about anti-Imperialism, rather than anti-Zionism or any other similar word. I don’t think it quite covers what the aggressive Zionists have been doing (I referred to “aggressive Zionists” in my articles on this subject last year as I thought there certainly needed to be a divide between them and those who would use peaceful means to achieve their goal), but in an argument where the meanings of words is important and attempts are made to twist those meanings in different directions, it is useful to define your terms as well as possible.

      Mr Livingstone couldn’t apologise if anybody had been upset by his words, because his argument was that the offence they felt was founded on a false belief that he was inaccurate in what he had said. You’ll know I take the view that the statements for which he was suspended were not inaccurate, although his detractors certainly worked hard to twist their meaning in media reports, in order to stimulate exactly the kind of feelings of offence you mention.

      Now, if you were to mention Mr Livingstone’s more recent comments, that’s a whole different matter…!

      1. Signor tbf


        The other thing that concerns me re Ken (and this was before Jeremy, Emily & Baroness Chakrabati condemned him, so sorry I didn’t stick it in earlier) has been his comments about the make-up of the NCC.

        Before the start of his hearing, I note he was on about it being biased since it was 2 right-wingers & only one left. And now it’s concluded, he was saying the whole NCC consists 18 right-wingers & just 2 left-wingers. So he did ruddy well to get one left-winger!

        Look, I know as well as you do how things are set up at HQ & that there have been some gross decisions in the past. But that to me is frankly conspiracy theory gone mad.

        And, I’m getting more and more the impression of that sense of self-entitlement ie I’m Ken Livingstone, so I’m entitled to say what I like, regardless of if it actually offends anybody or not.

        Different sense of self-entitlement than some Labour people on the right, but still essentially more concerned with themselves, their ego etc before the Party.

        And, frankly, I don’t want ANYBODY trashing the party for the sake of their own ego, be it Blair or Livingstone or anybody else, especially if they’ve just had a final warning just 24 hours ago.


      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        I think he might say it’s not self-entitlement as much as a desire to put the facts into the public arena, rather than a convenient myth, and an ability to do so because nobody can hold him to ransom – he doesn’t have a job to lose and isn’t looking for another one.
        That is not to say that I believe him to be right or wrong – simply that I think that’s his attitude.
        I don’t know the constitution of the NCC so I can’t comment on its members’ political leanings.

      3. Signor tbf


        Forgot to mention re the label, so please add this to previous post if you wish:

        The danger with bringing Zionism into the equation is that it’s part of a significant proportion of Jewish culture, and partly to do with their religion. By the same token, would anybody use Hinduism if attacking about the current Indian government, or did anybody mention Catholic when we were inveigling against the tail-end of Franco’s or Salazar’s dictatorships?

        That is why a lot of people are offended by it-you could easily be seen as attacking their culture or race if you don’t limit the criticism to the government of the nation in question.


      4. Mike Sivier Post author

        Have a look back through all the previous articles on this subject and hopefully you’ll see where you’re straying into very dodgy territory.
        Your comment seems confused in its intent and you risk making some very dangerous assumptions.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Mr Corbyn was referring to comments made by Mr Livingstone from just before his hearing began last week until after the verdict was delivered.
      I’m currently researching the accuracy of those comments. Expect an article very soon.
      Do not expect me to support Mr Livingstone, just because I backed him up last time, by the way. This Site is concerned with the facts.

      1. Paul

        Diane Abbott forcibly criticised Ken Livingstone on Channel 4 news last night. Just sayin’.

  9. casalealex

    Not in my name
    Posted by The Jewish Labour Movement on April 05, 2017

    100 Labour MPs sign statement condemning betrayal of party’s values over antisemitism

    Following the decision by Labour’s National Constitutional Committee not to expel Ken Livingstone, 100 Labour MPs have signed the following statement:

    “This week the institutions of the Labour Party have betrayed our values. We stand united in making it clear that we will not allow our party to be a home for antisemitism and Holocaust revisionism. We stand with the Jewish community and British society against this insidious racism. This was not done in our name and we will not allow it to go unchecked.”

    Labour MPs

    it then goes on to list those who signed it

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The Jewish Labour Movement – formerly known as Paole Zion, a Zionist organisation with an agenda. Trustworthy?

      1. casalealex

        I checked this up on Wikipedia and found the following….

        Labor Zionism manifests itself today in both adult and youth organizations. Among adults, the World Labor Zionist Movement, based in Jerusalem, has affiliates in countries around the world, such as Ameinu in the United States and Australia, Associação Moshé Sharett in Brazil and the Jewish Labour Movement in the United Kingdom. Youth and students are served through Zionist youth movements such as Habonim Dror, Hashomer Hatzair and college-age campus activist groups such as the Union of Progressive Zionists of the U.S. and Canada.

        In Israel, Labor Zionism has become nearly synonymous with the Israeli peace camp.[citation needed] Usually Labor Zionist political and educational institutions activists are also advocates of a two-state solution, who do not necessarily adhere to socialist economic views.

        However, personally, I do not think that the Zionist government of Israel has any values which could possibly adhere to the values as stated in my Labour Party member pledge:

        “The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few, where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe, and where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.”

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