Congratulations are due to Labour deputy leader candidates Dawn Butler and Richard Burgon, who refused to kowtow to the Board of Deputies of British Jews by supporting their frankly anti-Semitic “10 pledges”.
In a hustings on Saturday, both confirmed that they did not support the demands, even though their fellow candidates for the deputy leadership – and all the leadership candidates have.
Ms Butler said she intended to wait until she had seen the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report on antisemitism in the party – and that she would support whatever it said. Personally, This Writer thinks that statement is premature; she should wait to find out what the verdict is before deciding whether it is worth supporting.
Mr Burgon, who has a history of questioning the so-called “witch-hunt”, said he had concerns about some of the demands. He made it clear that he would not support any move to pass investigation of anti-Semitism accusations to any external organisation.
He also said that he did not accept the Board of Deputies’ demand that only Jewish organisations it supported should be consulted on issues relating to all British Jews; all Jewish groups should have a voice. And he said the BOD needed to explain how the IHRA “working” definition of antisemitism could be implemented in the Labour Party without compromising freedom of expression or the rights of Palestinians.
(See this article for a full report – including video.)
Like the knee-jerk bigots they are, the Board of Deputies responded almost immediately – and stupidly.
“It beggars belief that after four and a half years of failure on antisemitism, Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler still think that they know better than the Jewish community how to fight this vile prejudice,” the BoD said in its statement. Trouble is, the Board of Deputies doesn’t represent “the Jewish community” because there isn’t a single, unified Jewish community in the United Kingdom.
Not only that, but neither of them said they knew better – this is falsely attributing words to people who did not speak them.
Oh, and after four and a half years, there is less anti-Semitism in the Labour Party than in the UK at large – and much less than in right-wing parties like the Conservatives. But we never hear the Board of Deputies complaining about that, do we? Because they are predominantly Tories, perhaps? (And don’t try to call this whataboutery; this is a political issue and the politics of BoD members is relevant.)
“No other minority would be treated in this way and this sort of thing is the very reason why Labour is being investigated for institutional antisemitism by the EHRC.” True in part: no other minority is treated the same as Jews, because the Board of Deputies has demanded that they be singled out for special treatment. This may be viewed as anti-Semitic in itself – applying double-standards by treating them differently from any other ethnic group.
And it is hypocritical to use the EHRC investigation against these candidates when one of them – Dawn Butler – specifically said she is waiting for its outcome.
Here’s a link to the tweet. Be sure to read the comments because many of them are scathing.
But don’t just take my word for it.
Jewish Voice for Labour has been a voice of sanity in this affair since the start, and its comment on the “10 pledges” is a damning indictment against the Board of Deputies.
“This organisation, deeply unrepresentative of British Jewry, presumes in effect to dictate to a major political party how it should run its internal affairs,” JVL states.
“Make no mistake – these are not ten requests: they are ten demands and one threat. The threat to each of the candidates for leader of the Labour Party. is in effect. accept our demands or we will attack you as enablers of antisemitism just as we contributed to making Jeremy Corbyn virtually unelectable. This not only brings shame on the Board of Deputies. It also brings danger to Jews living in the UK who will be seen as claiming a privileged place in determining how the country will be governed.” Applying double-standards by demanding that they be treated differently from any other group – see?
“It is deeply regrettable that all the Leadership candidates have succumbed to this blackmail.”
The statement goes on to explain what’s wrong with the “10 pledges”:
“Demand 1 is that all outstanding disciplinary cases should be swiftly concluded with a fixed timescale. That sounds good, but some cases are more complex than others. Those accused of something as serious as antisemitic behaviour must be allowed appropriate time to mount a defence, may need extra time because of serious illness, etc. Justice is complicated. The Board is simplistic. And underlying its attitude is the clear view that the only verdict that will satisfy the Board is ‘guilty’.”
Labour has a historic problem here, in that This Writer’s experience is that the party automatically assumes any accusation made against a member to be proof of that member’s guilt in any case.
“Demand 4 is that prominent offenders who were expelled or who left while under investigation should never be readmitted to membership. Never is a long time. The current Labour rules allow for the possibility of readmission after any offence, depending on behaviour, after a 5-year period. There is no reason, other than malice, that for this sole category of disciplinary finding the possibility of behavioural and attitudinal change should be excluded.
“The aim of this demand is revealed by its inclusion of the word ‘prominent’. How can it be just or appropriate to specify different penalties for people depending on how well known they are or have become? How can it possibly be acceptable to single out people by name? The explanation is that the two people mentioned [Jackie Walker and Ken Livingstone] were prominent ‘scalps’ claimed by a political campaign to extend the meaning of antisemitism. This is political vengefulness.”
“Demand 3 is that “Jewish representative bodies” (read, BoD) be given access to details of ongoing disciplinary cases. The confidentiality owed to ongoing investigations into allegations that have not been established to have merit is to be tossed out of the window. It beggars belief: the BoD is demanding the right to information that would give them, and their allies on the right of the Party, the ability to put pressure on how individual cases are determined. Out goes the independence of the judicial process. And what about the breaking of hard-won data protection laws?”
I seem to recall mentioning this myself.
“Demand 2 is the very purest chutzpah. The demand is that processing of all complaints, in effect the whole disciplinary process, be outsourced to an independent provider. This would mean that the Party would lose control of who was entitled to be a member! No autonomous organisation could implement such a scheme, least of all a political party. It strikes at the very heart of the freedom to organise for political change in this country. Parties are voluntary associations of people who come together to achieve shared ends, within national legal constraints. Their freedom of discussion and action and of self-regulation is the very fabric of our democratic processes.
“Demand 5 is headed “Provide no platform for bigotry”. But honesty in advertising would require it to be retitled “No platform for those who disagree with us”. What it says is that when people are going through the out-of-control disciplinary process assured by Demand 2, and while the details of the investigation are being fed to the BoD and its allies as a result of Demand 3, any other members who argues publicly that this treatment is misguided or unjust will themselves be suspended – and indeed perhaps expelled. If enacted this would ensure that no members could challenge unjust or slanted decision-making. Because those that did so would very likely cease to be members.
“Demand 6 – to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “international definition of antisemitism” with all its subordinate clauses, without qualification – begs many questions. Apart from the fact that the Labour Party has already done precisely this (misguidedly in our view), the IHRA document has proved ineffective in actual disciplinary situations. This is because its definition of antisemitism is so confused and its examples highly contentious, with no rules as to how to resolve the inevitable resulting disagreements as to what is and what is not antisemitic. The document was never drafted as a legally binding document, as countless critics (including Ken Stern, its drafter) have affirmed.
“Demands 7 and 8 both seek to define the “Jewish Community” by excluding many Jews – evidently the wrong sort. The right sort include those who run the Board, and the cadres of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM). The JLM it should be pointed out refused to campaign for the great majority of Labour MPs at the recent general election. It does not require its members to be either Jewish or in the Labour Party.
“Demand 7 is that all Labour Party internal training in antisemitism should be carried out by JLM. For two years from 2016 the aggressively pro-Israel JLM did indeed deliver the Labour Party’s antisemitism training. Its course content was both didactic and dogmatic, based on the supposedly revealed truth of the controversial IHRA document. When in 2018 the Labour Party asked them to revise their approach JLM walked away in a huff. Now they want it back, but on their own terms. Demand 7 is that they be given it.
“Demand 8 extends the same monocular approach to the UK’s Jews as a whole. The Labour Party is required to agree to communicate only with ‘mainstream’ Jewish Groups. That is to demand the exclusion of two-thirds of the country’s Jews. Why would they be so afraid that Labour might communicate with the wrong sort of Jews? The Jewish Chronicle had a ready answer when it reported Demand 8 as being ‘to engage with the Jewish community via its “main representative groups and not through fringe organisations” such as Jewish Voice for Labour (emphasis added)’. Are our demands for a pluralistic vision of the Jewish communities in Britain really so much of a threat that contact with them is contamination? For the Board is demanding, in essence, that expression of our views be banned in the Labour Party.
Let’s just go back to the Board of Deputies’ tweet for the last part of its statement: “In the Deputy Leadership election, members now have a clear choice about whether they want to become a credible party of opposition or waste yet more years fighting the Jewish community about who gets to define our oppression.”
It seems clear that it is the Board of Deputies that is “fighting the Jewish community” – by falsely claiming to be representing it and demanding the exclusion of all others.
But Labour Party members do have a clear choice now.
It is impossible to ensure that nobody votes for the candidates who have misguidedly supported the Board of Deputies’ childish demand.
But what a message it would be, if Dawn Butler and Richard Burgon received more support than any of the other candidates – by a significant margin.
If you are a Labour member, and you want sanity to be brought back to the party, then This Writer would like to appeal to you to abstain from voting for any of the candidates who have supported the Board of Deputies’ pledges.
Use your votes to make a statement that they cannot ignore.
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