General Election Statement 2019

The Jewish Labour Movement's General Election Statement

Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader in 2015, a culture of antisemitism has been allowed to emerge and fester in the Party at all levels. From murals and wreaths, to Livingstone and Walker and Williamson, there are too many shameful examples to list – itself damning evidence of the Party’s moral slide.

Our Honorary President, Dame Louise Ellman MP, along with our former Parliamentary Chair, Luciana Berger MP were hounded out of Labour after years of relentless abuse, particularly in their local parties. Despite being well aware of this bullying, Jeremy Corbyn did nothing to address their concerns. When two accomplished and dedicated Jewish Labour MPs no longer see a place for themselves in the Labour Party, it’s clear that the party has lost its way. 

This crisis of antisemitism in the Labour Party stems from a failure of leadership from Jeremy Corbyn. When the answer has been to take swift, decisive action, the reality has been equivocation and token gestures. Time and time again, the Party has not engaged in good faith to try to implement the actions that we believe are necessary to tackle anti-Jewish racism.

The disciplinary process has buckled under the weight of antisemitism complaints, and instead of implementing an independent process we’ve seen delay, obfuscation and botched decision making. Political interference is endemic in the system, which is used to protect the leaderships’ friends and allies, rather than ensure the Party is a safe space for Jews.

It is little wonder that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is formally investigating the Labour Party for institutional racism against Jews; unprecedented scrutiny which will continue throughout the course of the general election.

The last four years have been catastrophic for Jews in the Labour Party. Nevertheless, the Jewish Labour Movement has kept true to our Labour values and resolved – for now – to stay and fight racism, rather than disaffiliate and walk away. At our Annual General Meeting in April, our members unanimously adopted a policy deeming Jeremy Corbyn unfit to be Prime Minister as a result of his abject failure on antisemitism.

We will not be campaigning unless in exceptional circumstances and for exceptional candidates, like our Parliamentary Chair Ruth Smeeth, and members of the Parliamentary Labour Party who’ve been unwavering in their support of us. We will not be giving endorsements to candidates in non-Labour held seats.

This does not mean that we no longer support the Labour Party’s policies and its historic values, nor do we wish to see Boris Johnson or Jo Swinson in Downing Street. The Jewish Labour Movement has a long and proud history of activism in Labour Party and the wider Labour movement and 2020 marks our 100th anniversary of affiliation to the Labour Party.

Fighting racism, prejudice and intolerance is at the heart of our Labour values – it is the failure of the leader and his supporters to live these values which has led us to take this stance.

 

Questions:

Where and how will the Jewish Labour Movement be campaigning in the general election?

The Jewish Labour Movement only will be campaigning for exceptional candidates and in exceptional circumstances. This includes for our Parliamentary Chair Ruth Smeeth. We will not be replicating the scale of our campaigning activity that we undertook in 2017, where JLM organised more than 50 campaign activities across six electoral regions and nations and in marginal seats. No JLM Officers will be standing for election.

Are individual Jewish Labour Movement members allowed to campaign for any Labour candidate?

Our General Election Statement is the Movement’s position and reflects the collective will of our members. What individual members decide to do during the general election is a private matter for each to decide; no doubt this will be a very difficult decision for many.

Will the Jewish Labour Movement campaign against candidates that they do not see to have been sufficient allies in the fight against antisemitism in the Labour Party?

We will seek to highlight candidates’ shortcomings or failings in the fight against antisemitism. Where this is the case, they will not benefit from any Jewish Labour Movement resources.

As a member of the Jewish Labour Movement, am I allowed to campaign for candidates from another political party?

To be a member of the Jewish Labour Movement you must support the aims and values of the Labour Party, and not be a member of any other political party. This is consistent with other socialist societies and trade union affiliates. Some of our members are not members of the Labour Party, having never joined or having resigned from it over the past few years. Individuals who are not able to meet the membership requirements of the Labour Party are unable to remain members of the Jewish Labour Movement. Individuals who publicly campaign for candidates who stand against the Labour Party in elections are not eligible for membership.

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Letter to the Shadow Cabinet

Ahead of the Shadow Cabinet meeting on antisemitism in the Labour Party, JLM Chair, Mike Katz, wrote to all Shadow Cabinet members. You can read his letter here.

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Letter to Nick Brown regarding Lisa Forbes

 

Our Chair, Mike Katz, wrote to chief whip Nick Brown following the election of Lisa Forbes. You can see the letter here.

 

Plain text version:

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Statement on the Peterborough by-election result

Following Lisa Forbes winning the Peterborough by-election, a JLM spokesperson has issued the following statement:

"Labour has consistently failed to take a zero tolerance approach to anti-Jewish hate. This has encouraged a culture to develop where not only is it acceptable for someone who has endorsed racist material and rejected the internationally accepted IHRA definition of antisemitism to be a member, but they can advance politically and seek public office.

"Labour's newest MP is a perfect example of this.

"Ms Forbes will have to go far, far further than her statements at the weekend to demonstrate to our members and the Jewish community that she isn't racist against Jews.

"The PLP called for the Party to adopt the IHRA definition. Given her previous rejection of IHRA, Ms Forbes should have the whip suspended immediately.

"This show how urgent and necessary the EHRC's investigation into Labour's institutional racism is. The Party is simply incapable of rooting out hate by itself"

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Letter to Ruth George MP

Following the revelations published in the Jewish Chronicle, about a newly elected councillor in High Peaks who shared Holocaust revisionist material and Ruth George's continued support for her, JLM's chair, Mike Katz, wrote to Ruth George- you can read the letter here.

 

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Statement on Richard Burgon

A statement from JLM Chair, Mike Katz, on Richard Burgon's completely unacceptable comments unearthed today.

"The vast majority of British Jews identify as Zionists- irrespective of their views on Israel's current government and policies. Insulting a core part of their identity, and then dissembling about it, is shameful behaviour from a senior frontbencher for our Party, let alone someone who aspires to administer our justice system.

You can't play at being Lord Chancellor-in-waiting whilst making dog-whistle attacks on British Jews and their right, through Zionism, for national self-determination.

We have written to Mr Burgon and the Chief Whip, asking for swift clarification and an apology, on behalf of our members."

To read our letter to Richard Burgon click here

To read our letter to the Chief Whip, Nick Brown, click here.

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Statement on Antisemitism Training

A statement following reports that the Labour Party have commissioned Birkbeck University to replace JLM as the provider of its antisemitism awareness training:

"Over the last few weeks, JLM has been contacted by hundreds of people asking us to run our antisemitism awareness training at CLPs, branches, Labour groups.

This reflects the fact that we have for a number of years provided this training to the Party for free, sending volunteers to speak at meetings across the country, paid from the subs we raise from our members, often to hostile audiences. This training was commissioned by the Labour Party in 2016, and had the support and involvement of Jewish communal organisations. 

We have made this training available to the Labour Party NEC, NCC, and staff which has not been taken up. Since the Party sought to redefine the IHRA definition of antisemitism last summer, and with no consultation having taken place on the Party’s still active antisemitism code of conduct, we have made it clear to the Party leadership that we cannot support attempts to commission new awareness training from their own preferred providers.

In 2018, we were asked if JLM would provide antisemitism awareness training to those subject to disciplinary proceedings. We made clear at the time that we did not believe training was an appropriate sanction in the Party's disciplinary process. 

In the past, the Party has said that they wish to deliver a “gold standard” antisemitism training programme. We cannot accept the suggestion that the Party knows better than its Jewish affiliate, or the Jewish community what constitutes antisemitism. Particularly when in recent days press reports have demonstrated the Party has failed time and again to identify clear cases of antisemitism, with senior members of the Leader of the Opposition's Office directly intervening in disciplinary cases.

Whilst the Equalities and Human Rights Commission explore our referral of the Labour Party for institutional racism, we cannot in good faith continue to provide our training whilst the Party seek to undermine our role in this way.

We will shortly be writing to all CLPs and organisations where training is currently scheduled to suspend our involvement.

The Party leadership have a choice. They can either address the concerns of its Jewish affiliate and those of the Jewish community. Alternatively, they can continue to act in a reckless and damaging way."

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JLM North West - Tackling Antisemitism and Islamophobia

The Jewish Labour Movement North West held an educational event in Manchester last Sunday on Tackling Antisemitism and Islamophobia

65 attendees, made up of Labour Party members from constituencies across the North West, were addressed by Jewish Labour Party MP and JLM Parliamentary Chair Luciana Berger, who spoke about antisemitism across the political spectrum. Berger was joined by her Labour Party colleagues, Manchester MPs Lucy Powell, Kate Green and Mike Kane. The panel spoke about their support for the Jewish community in fighting antisemitism and the need for communities to support each other.

JLM NW Education Officer Richard Gold delivered a training session on antisemitism. This was followed by a discussion of Islamophobia, led by NW Labour Party Fundraising and Events Officer Fatima Mahmood.

“It’s important for communities to come together to support each other against all forms of discrimination, both in politics and in wider society. The JLM is committed to educating Constituency Labour Parties about antisemitism,” said Richard Gold.

The evening was rounded off with a performance by JLM member, actor Marlon Solomon, whose one-man show, Conspiracy Theory: A Lizard’s Tale, has won critical acclaim.

The event was sponsored by Community Union, the modern trade union for a changing world. Community is an affiliated trade union to the Labour Party.

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Labour's NEC candidates on IHRA

Last Friday, JLM, Labour’s Jewish affiliate since 1920, asked every candidate for the NEC their views on the IHRA definition of antisemitism. We do not endorse any slate and our measures against Pete Willsman were due to the extraordinary nature of his attack on British Jewry. Allowing Jews to define their own prejudice is a matter of principle. We advocate a vote for any candidate who takes this principled anti-racist stand and supports Labour immediately adopting the full and unamended IHRA definition of antisemitism in full, including all the examples.

Please see below for the candidates’ responses, or lack of (in alphabetical order)…

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Press Release: 17th July 2018

The Labour Party, the leadership, most members of the National Executive Committee have all accepted that antisemitism is a specific problem within the Labour Party. And yet, the Labour Party has acted in a deliberate and reckless manner in choosing to redefine antisemitism

Whilst they have accepted there is an antisemitisim problem, they have chosen to tackle it without any consultation with the Jewish community and their representative bodies. We await to see if any further ‘reviews’ change this.

The Labour Party has acted in a deliberate and offensive reckless manner in believing it understands the needs of a minority community better than the community itself. This is in the face of 68 British Rabbis who crossed religious divides to co-sign a letter, the Chief Rabbi, the Jewish community’s representative organisations, the Parliamentary Labour Party (following the steer of its Jewish colleagues) and international experts.

The MacPherson Report was clear that victims should be respectfully dealt with and communicated with. The Labour Party by acknowledging the problems, acknowledge that there must be victims, but fail to follow the well-established MacPherson principle.

The question over specifics within the new Code of Conduct and the IHRA definition are not theoretical as the Labour Party guidelines want to suggest. They are practical and urgent. People are attacked, physically and verbally in the street due to Israel related antisemitism. Jewish buildings across Europe are targets for bombings due to Israel related antisemitism and the dominant form of antisemitism within the British left is Israel related antisemitism.

Furthermore, for two years running, the Community Security Trust has recorded record levels of hate crime perpetrated against Jews. Historically such spikes only occur during sustained periods of conflict in the Middle East. There has been no specific war in the Middle East over the past two years and it has been suggested that the ever-present media coverage of antisemitism and British Jews, due to the Labour Party’s inability to deal with antisemitism within its ranks, has been an all too important contributor to the sustained period of increased antisemitic incidents.

This is not the same Party that wrote the Equalities Act and has proudly championed minorities. The impact on Jewish Labour activists has been unprecedented and severe.  Rather than working with the Jewish community to solve this issue, the Labour Party have deliberately chosen to ignore those who know best, with no likelihood of this changing. 

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