What Jewish Socialists are saying to the Labour Party’s Chakrabarti Inquiry

The Jewish Socialists' Group has submitted this document to the Inquiry set up by Jeremy Corbyn in response to the accusations that the Labour Party is a hotbed of antisemitism. As an organisation with decades of experience of fighting racism and antisemitism alongside other minority communities, we believe we are well placed to add clarity and make recommendations to the Inquiry and wish them luck in reaching constructive outcomes.

Submission to Shami Chakrabarti Inquiry from the Jewish Socialists’ Group
BM3725 London WC1N 3XX      www.jewishsocialist.org.uk


The Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) is an independent left wing political group in the Jewish community, formed in the mid-1970s, which is active in social justice campaigns and produces a magazine called Jewish Socialist. A significant number of its members, including all current members of its National Committee and of its Magazine Editorial Committee, are members of the Labour Party. Throughout its existence the group has fought antisemitism and other forms of racism, supported migrants and refugees, and engaged with international issues including the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The JSG has always sought to work with like-minded people within and beyond the Jewish community and has played a significant role in broader initiatives, for example:

In 1983 JSG members helped organise the first public meeting in Britain (at County Hall, London), featuring spokespersons of the Israeli Peace movement (Uri Avnery) and the PLO (Issam Sartawi).

In 1987/88 an Indian Jewish member of JSG, Shalom Charikar, founded Jews Against Apartheid, a group that mobilised many Jews in support of activities against apartheid in South Africa

From 1993 a JSG member, David Rosenberg, chaired the Zygielbojm Memorial Committee, which successfully campaigned for a plaque for Szmul Zygielbojm, a Polish Jewish socialist and anti-fascist, who committed suicide at his London home in 1943, as an act of political protest, after the simultaneous destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto by the Nazis, and the Allied Powers’ failure to commit to taking Jewish refugees at the Bermuda Conference.

In 2004 The JSG was one of the founders of European Jews for Just Peace, a coalition of 16 groups from across Europe engaged in activities supporting Israeli anti-occupation groups and in support of peace with justice for the Palestinian people.

This year, 2016, a JSG member is chairing Cable Street 80, through which Jewish and Bengali groups, trade unions, anti-fascist organisations, and local political parties/organisations (including Tower Hamlets Labour Party), are preparing a march, rally, exhibition and cultural events marking the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable street.

Our membership includes people from their 20s to their 80s. The group’s founders had their own political awakening as young adults fighting poverty, antisemitism and fascism in the 1930s. They fought also against conservative forces in their own community who didn’t want to “rock the boat”, and those who prioritised work for a Jewish state in Palestine over daily struggles against exploitation and oppression in the diaspora.

Those sharp clashes of political perspectives within Jewish life remain central to the issues this Inquiry is investigating. Many of the charges of antisemitism made against Labour Party members have been made or shared by conservative/Zionist bodies in the Jewish community, who have defined antisemitism according to their own ideological outlook. We urge the Inquiry Team to recognize that definitions of antisemitism are contested within the Jewish community and within the wider society. In this submission we wish to provide evidence that will support our contentions that:

• “Zionism” is not an integral part of Judaism, despite Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis proclaiming it as such in his polemic against the Labour Party, published in the Daily Telegraph just before the recent Mayoral/local government elections.[1]

• Opposition to Zionism is, in most cases, not antisemitism, though some antisemites piggy-back on genuine opposition to Zionism.

• Several individuals whom the media treat as spokespersons for the whole Jewish community when they accuse Labour of antisemitism, have no democratic mandate among Jews. They cannot and do not reflect the diversity of Jewish opinion and their past record of combating antisemitism has been criticised.

• Many false/distorted charges of antisemitism have been weaponised to damage Labour, (especially its democratically elected leader, Jeremy Corbyn), and also to undermine free speech by Labour Party members on the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Our submission concludes with a set of recommendations that we hope you will give serious consideration to incorporating in your final report.

We have attached two annexes:

• A statement on “Labour’s problem with antisemitism” published on the JSG website on 28th April, viewed by 97,000 people within four days of appearing there. We received many emails from Jewish and non-Jewish Labour Party members, strongly supporting this statement
• A JSG membership leaflet outlining our key principles of socialism, diasporism and secularism.

1. Zionism –contested political ideology, not a religious imperative

The spiritual idea of a “return to Zion” as an act of redemption has long been part of Judaism. A physical return was possible In the 1880s, when more than 2m Jews (out of 5.5m) fled persecution and discrimination in the Tsarist Russian empire. A tiny number settled in Palestine. They called themselves “Lovers of Zion” but made no claims to statehood. The overwhelming majority of Jews leaving Russia, religious and secular, chose to stay in the diaspora, settling primarily in North America, and in Western Europe too.

Political Zionism was born at a conference in Basel in 1897 convened by a middle-class, Viennese Jew, Theodore Herzl. In an 1896 pamphlet, Der Judenstaat, Herzl claimed that a Jewish state in Palestine was the only solution to European antisemitism. He rejected efforts towards emancipation and integration as futile. He argued further that a Jewish State in Palestine, would be “a rampart of Europe against Asia, of civilisation against barbarism". He advocated a “process of expropriation and displacement” to be “carried out prudently and discreetly”.

That same year, working class Jews in the Russian Empire met in Vilna (Vilnius) to form the Bund (Yiddish for Union) – an anti-nationalist, left wing political organisation which argued for doikayt – “here-ness”. The Bund urged Jews to liberate themselves from tyranny and gain equal rights in the lands where they lived, through class struggle alongside other oppressed and exploited citizens. Until the Nazi invasion, Zionism remained a minority political opinion among Jews throughout the world.

Poland, with 3.3m Jews, comprised Europe’s largest Jewish community before World War 2. The Polish local elections in 1938/39 were the last test of political opinion there before the war. Several Jewish parties, including Zionists and religious parties, competed for the Jewish vote. The secular, anti-Zionist Bund swept the Jewish vote in most Polish towns and cities, also polling strongly among very religious Jews because, together with the left wing of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS), the Bund led the fight against antisemitism in Poland. Zionists were almost entirely absent from that fight in 1930s Poland.

Zionists here were equally marginal to the simultaneous fight against Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists centred on London’s East End. The anti-fascist struggle was led by the Communist Party, the Independent Labour Party, the Labour League of Youth, and by a militant local Jewish body – the Jewish People’s Council Against Fascism and Antisemitism (JPC).The JPC clashed ideologically with Jewish establishment bodies such as the Board of Deputies and Jewish Chronicle newspaper who advised a “softly-softly” approach towards Mosley’s movement. East End Jews roundly ignored “advice” from conservative bodies to stay indoors when Mosley sought to invade the East End in 1936 in what became known as the “Battle of Cable Street”.[2]

It was only after the Holocaust, with the terrible situation of survivors languishing in Displaced Persons’ camps for several years, with no states willing to take them, and the subsequent creation of Israel, which welcomed those refugees, that Zionism gained wider Jewish support.The Bund was almost entirely obliterated in the Holocaust but its diasporist outlook, which held that it was possible and desirable for Jews to live as minorities working for equality in multicultural societies, remains strong. Nearly 70 years after Israel’s creation, the majority of Jews – including many Israelis – still choose to live in the diaspora.

The 1960s and ’70s were the heyday of diaspora Jewish support for Zionism. Since the Lebanon War (1982) such support has gradually declined. Community “leaders” still claim that nearly all Jews are Zionists, and describe attacks on Zionism as attacks on Jews, but a survey of Britain’s Jews by the respected Jewish Policy Research institute (JPR), in 2010,[3] revealed that less than three quarters (72%) of the sample considered themselves “Zionist”; 21% described themselves as “not Zionist”, with the remainder unsure.

A critical pro-peace Zionist group, Yachad (Hebrew for “Together”), asked a similar question to JPR’s in 2015, to a comparable sample. [4]. Support for Zionism registered just 59% against 31% describing themselves as “non-Zionist”, (10% unsure). Growing numbers of Jews are more focused on issues affecting their lives in Britain than with Israel and Zionism.

The JSG broadly shares the Bund’s principles. We reject Zionist solutions to problems facing Jews. Most of our members define themselves as “anti-Zionist” or “non-Zionist”, or more positively as “Diasporists”.

In recent years a young, British, radical Jewish grouping has emerged called “jewdas” (founded by a Jewish Labour Party member). Many jewdas supporters contribute to a Facebook page, “Young Jewish Left”, which now has nearly 800 members. Many jewdas/Young Jewish Left supporters who were members of Zionist youth groups in their teens, explicitly link themselves now to Bundist views. During the 2013 Gaza conflict, jewdas/Young Jewish Left activists mobilised a “Jewish bloc” on major demonstrations organised by Palestine Solidarity against the Israeli state’s military actions. The “Jewish Bloc” included banners from several critical Jewish organisations, and many unaffiliated Jews marched in the bloc.[5]

In America, too, there is a rapidly-growing Jewish organisation in support of Palestinian rights to self-determination and equality, called Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), formed in 1996. JVP has 60+ chapters (branches) across the USA, and has secular and religious supporters (it has a rabbinical council). JVP supports the demand from Palestinian civil society organisations for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), as a non-violent action against Israeli state policy. Its rabbinical council underlines our assertion that “Zionism” is not an article of religious faith.

2. Antisemitism in Britain

Many forms of racism, including antisemitism, persist in Britain. Different groups have experienced stereotyping, media hostility, discrimination, unfair treatment by authorities, intimidation and violence. Racism in Britain has proved very versatile often targeting different victims at once, while at other times being particularly focused on certain communities, but also able to switch targets adeptly.

Islamophobia has undoubtedly been at a high level in recent years. Racial profiling of black youth remains a persistent problem. Media hostility targets refugees with virulence. Antisemitism is present but clearly does not match anything like the levels experienced by these other communities at this juncture, which makes the excessive media headlines about it seem extraordinary.

Nevertheless, antisemitism has deep cultural roots in Britain going back several centuries. A political party with hundreds of thousands of members is unlikely to be immune from it. Some individuals will have accepted rather than questioned stereotypes or negative attitudes about Jews.

This year the Labour movement celebrates the 80th anniversary of the victory over Mosley’s fascists at the Battle of Cable Street. Mosley’s support came from all classes. The Jewish conspiracy theories that he and his European counterparts propounded in the 1930s have not been eradicated. Today, the internet is awash with them and some, alleging Jewish power and nefarious influence, reappear in crude campaigning around Israel and Zionism. We are aware of cases of left wing pro-Palestinian campaigners sharing material on the internet that superficially targets oppressive Israeli state policies, but actually harbours antisemitic messages.

Labour members who genuinely support the Palestinians in their just struggle against occupation and for self-determination must take care not to taint that struggle with antisemitism, and must be absolutely clear in their distinctions between Jews, Israelis, Israel’s government, and Zionism.

3. Antisemitism and anti-Zionism

Zionism is a political ideology that continues to be contested within and beyond Jewish communities. As with any political ideology, it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express positive or negative opinions about it. Not all Jews are Zionists (see statistics above), and not all Zionists are Jews. Many strident supporters of Zionism today in Britain and America are right wing Christian fundamentalists who include antisemites.

Support for Zionism does not imply support for Jews, or for anti-racist attitudes.

Several European Far Right movements – the English Defence League and British National Party here, the Front National in France, Vlaams Belang in Belgium – make strongly pro-Israel statements. Next year, many British Jews will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Conservative politician Arthur Balfour promising Palestine as a future Jewish State, and will forget that, as Prime Minister, he had promoted and overseen the Aliens Act of 1905 against Jewish immigration into Britain. While many right-wing supporters of Zionism combine this support with racist attitudes towards Muslims and other minorities, many critics of Zionism (Jewish and non-Jewish) have consistently opposed antisemitism and other forms of racism.

Anti-Zionism can be a cover for antisemitism. In most cases it is not. For example, some talk of a “Jewish lobby” which, they say, strongly influences American (and British) foreign policy. Given the diversity of Jewish opinion here and in America, talk of a “Jewish lobby” is a mistaken antisemitic formulation. But there is concerted action by Christian and Jewish pro-Zionists to pressure our government and the USA government. It is not antisemitic to identify and challenge Zionist lobbies.

For Palestinians, Zionism is more than an ideology. When that ideology was put into practice in the traumatic post-Holocaust years, it inflicted a fundamental injustice on the Palestinian people that persists today. Zionism solved one refugee crisis, but created a new one which is still unresolved. Almost every Palestinian is anti-Zionist for entirely understandable reasons. Conflating anti-Zionism with antisemitism effectively labels (and libels) almost every Palestinian as an antisemite, and empties antisemitism of its meaning.

Opponents of the current Labour leadership, within the Labour Party itself, have formed an unholy alliance with traditional right wing bodies and media outlets as they attempt to depict supporters of Palestinian rights as antisemites. Completely legitimate criticisms of Israel state policy are falsely cited as examples of antisemitism. Such criticism of Israeli state actions is rarely antisemitic. Nevertheless, genuine critics of Israeli policy or Zionism should always take care that they talk of the “Israeli government” rather than “Israel” in their statements, otherwise they risk attacking the people of Israel rather than its government.

Ironically, many Israelis campaign daily against the Israeli state’s treatment of the Palestinians, without being labelled antisemites. Their criticisms are often harsher than those of Labour Party members here who have been suspended pending investigation. For example, at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony in Israel in May 2016, Major General Yair Golan made a speech comparing modern day Israeli society with Nazi Germany: “If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance,” he said, “it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then … and finding signs of them here among us today … There is nothing easier than hating the other.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of antisemitism for being “friendly” towards Hamas. He has stated clearly that he does not agree with Hamas but believes they must be part of any negotiated solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. The 2015 Yachad survey of British Jews’ opinions, cited earlier, found that 42% favour negotiations with Hamas, with 42% against, and the remainder “don’t know”.

While the BDS movement is regularly condemned as “antisemitic” by the Jewish Chronicle – a newspaper which has undoubtedly fomented a popular notion among its readers of a “crisis of antisemitism” in the Labour Party, the Yachad survey found that 24% of its respondents would support sanctions against Israel to encourage its government to engage in the peace process.

The JSG campaigns against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and for a “socialist solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, based on equality and self-determination for Israeli and Palestinian Jews and Arabs”. We argue against any forms of discrimination within Israel, and support the demand of Gush Shalom, the radical Peace Bloc in Israel, for Israel to become a state for all its citizens, with full equality between Jews and non-Jews. Our trenchant critiques of Zionism in practice – i.e. Israeli government policy – do not constitute antisemitism, but support for human rights. Labour Party members here should be free to make trenchant and heartfelt critiques of Israeli government policy without being suspected or accused of antisemitism.

The JSG is also concerned about the way in which Israeli governments treat diaspora Jewish communities. Successive Israeli governments have exploited the empathy shown by one Jewish community for another and transformed the Israel/diaspora relationship into a colonial relationship in which the social, economic and cultural needs of diaspora Jewish communities are subordinated to the demands of the Israeli state.

This was formalised through the 1953 “Jerusalem Programme” of the World Zionist Organisation, revised in 1968 and 2004, which affirms the absolute “centrality of Israel, and is capital Jerusalem”, in Jewish life. This Programme privileges Israel’s Jewish community over other Jewish communities and treats criticisms levelled at the Israeli state as criticism of Jews.

In contrast to the Israelo-centric conception worldview promoted by supporters of the Jerusalem Programme, the JSG holds a polycentric view. It regards all Jewish communities as equally valid and equally deserving of support. We would strongly recommend the Labour Party to adopt this concept too.

The JSG is especially concerned that the only body which claims to represent all Jewish members in the Labour Party – the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), known until relatively recently by its Hebrew name Poale Zion (workers of Zion) – is signed up to the Jerusalem Programme.Who represents the many Jews in the Labour Party who who are non-Zionists and anti-Zionists? The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), is exclusive. It is affiliated to the World Zionist Organization and open only to those who explicitly sign up to its Zionist programme.

The JLM’s conception and definition of antisemitism cannot be extracted from its Zionist/Israel-centred perspective. It looks at antisemitism through a Zionist prism, rather than viewing it objectively. The JLM is structurally unable to prioritise the interests of Jews in Britain/in the British Labour Party over what it believes to be the Israeli state’s interests.

Despite this, the Royall Report into matters at Oxford University Labour Club, which was unable to support the wild claims that it was a hotbed of antisemites, nevertheless recommended that the JLM should be put in charge of education about antisemitism. The JSG regards this as unacceptable. If such a task is to be given to a Jewish body, it must be one that is open to all Jews in the Party, Zionist, non-Zionist and anti-Zionist, which reflects the breadth of Jewish Labour Party opinion.

4. Voices and representation within Britain’s Jewish community

British Jews constantly demonstrate diverse opinions over Israel and Zionism and other political matters, but the Jewish voices quoted by the mainstream media in reporting Labour’s alleged “problem with Jews” display a narrow uniformity. Critical voices from the grassroots of the community have struggled to air opinions publicly that challenge this uniformity. They have broken through to some some newspaper letters pages, but have not been treated as authoritative or representative.

The Jewish Chronicle has both highlighted and promoted the charges of antisemitism being thrown at Labour. In one recent issue it gave over its first 22 pages to this matter alone. The paper was founded in 1841 and proclaims itself “the organ of British Jewry” – though it has always represented the most conservative elements in the community. Recently it has moved even further rightwards. Its current editor, Stephen Pollard, has been criticised even by friends for supporting the pro-Israel Polish Politician Mikhal Kaminski, whose background is in the Polish Far Right and is on record relatively recently as making antisemitic statements. Pollard is not a neutral observer, but a UKIP-friendly Conservative and right wing Zionist, falsely generating fear among British Jews with sensationalist headlines and lurid articles conflating anti-Zionism/criticism of Israeli policies with antisemitism, in what appears to be a blatantly anti-Labour crusade. It made no comment on the racist campaign run during the same period by Zac Goldsmith against Labour’s Sadiq Kahn.

The Board of Deputies (BoD), formed even earlier than the Jewish Chronicle, in 1760, regards itself as the representative political leadership of the Jewish community. Until the end of the 1930s the Board was comprised principally of middle class Jews of German and Sephardi (Spanish/Portuguese) heritage rather than working class Jews of East European heritage who, by that time constituted the largest section of the community. Working class Jews frequently condemned the Board as unrepresentative.

Until shortly before World War 2, the majority of the Board was indifferent or opposed to Zionism, fearing accusations by other Britons of dual loyalty. A rising group of lower-middle-class Zionists captured key positons in the Board just before the War and strengthened their hold over the next decade. In recent decades the BoD has been overwhelmingly Zionist, and defence of the Israeli government of the day has been one of its prime tasks, regardless of the diverse views held by the wider Jewish community.

The BoD’s current president, Jonathan Arkush, has fuelled the controversy over Labour and antisemitism, with repeated attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and claims, through the Evening Standard, that Jews “cannot trust Labour any more”. Although it is customary for BoD leaders to be impartial towards Britain’s mainstream political parties, when Arkush stood for the Board’s presidency in 2015 he was criticised within the Jewish community for emails he sent claiming that a Conservative victory at the 2015 General Election would be “in the best interests of the Jewish community”.

The Board of Deputies which has been so vocal about Labour’s alleged antisemitism has, at best, a chequered history of combating antisemitism itself. It was criticized even by the Jewish Chronicle at the time for failing to campaign against the Aliens Act of 1905. It was widely condemned by East End Jews in the 1930s for complacency and wrong-headed advice as they faced daily violence and intimidation from Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF). Board leaders denounced antisemitism but not Mosley’s fascism. They were more concerned to condemn the Jewish People‘s Council – a popular local body leading the fight against antisemitism in the East End together with non-Jewish anti-fascists. The weekend before the Battle of Cable Street, the BoD advised Jews to stay indoors rather than demonstrate. East End Jews roundly ignored this advice and, together with local non-Jewish allies, inflicted a decisive blow on the BUF.

In 1978 the BoD stayed aloof from Britain’s largest post-war anti-fascist initiative – the Anti-Nazi League – a body supported by many Labour politicians, trade unionists, church leaders, and ethnic minority organisations (including Jewish groups). It said that the ANL leadership included “anti-Zionists”. It therefore prioritised defence of the Israeli state from challenging views stated verbally or in print, over the vital practical unity against racism and antisemitism with communities in the front line of racial violence. This was at a time when the National Front were regularly attempting incursions into areas with large immigrant populations to intimidate and abuse their residents.

Despite the BoD’s current behaviour of seemingly spotting antisemitism everywhere, in the early 1980s, the BoD was heavily criticised for withholding information about antisemitic attacks from the Jewish community. The JSG obtained an internal report which listed, on average, 20-25 attacks a month in London alone: physical attacks, swastika daubings on cemeteries, threats and verbal abuse, distribution of Holocaust denial material – incidents typically associated with the Far Right.The BoD clashed with the Labour-controlled GLC when the GLC included these statistics in a report on Racial Harassment in London in 1984. The BoD preferred behind-the-scenes conversations with police and Home Office officials to Jewish community members taking part in anti-racist street protests, alongside other minorities the BoD didn’t favour politically.

The Labour-run GLC of the early 1980s played a very valuable and pioneering role in bringing representatives of London’s ethnic minorities together and raising the profile of anti-racism and multiculturalism through its innovative Ethnic Minorities Unit. Grassroots groups from London’s minorities, including several Jewish groups, benefitted from GLC grants. In late 1983, the BoD suspended participation in the work of this Unit citing five separate concerns. The fifth (e) was “a grant by the Council’s Ethnic Minorities Unit, to the Jewish Socialists' Group, against the advice of the Board.” Internal minutes of the BoD’s Defence Committee, leaked to the JSG by a dissident Board member, stated that “in the light of (e) the committee feels it appropriate to suspend participation in the work of the Ethnic Minorties Unit.”

The BoD’s approach to combating racism and antisemtism has historically been contingent on other political agendas, especially defence of Israeli state policy, and continues to be so. It has shunned practical alliances with organisations, including those representing other ethnic minorities, that it disagrees with over Israel.

The BoD holds a monthly “parliament” style meeting among members elected mainly through synagogues and some communal organisations. Few of these elections are contested. In many synagogue elections women are denied a vote. Major decisions are not made by the BoD’s “parliament”, in any case, but in committees led by paid officials.

The positon of Chief Rabbi (of the mainstream United Synagogue) is even less democratic. He is chosen by a Council of Rabbis with no wider community involvement. The current incumbent, and his predecessors in recent decades, have tended to be conservative politically and unquestioningly pro-Zionist.[6] In that sense they do not represent the more conflicted views of the wider Jewish community. Liberal Judaism and Reform Judaism, though they embrace a minority of synagogue-affiliated Jews, are more involved with social justice campaigns and are closer to Labour Party values.

Evaluating charges of antisemitism

The spate of accusations that have led to this Inquiry being formed are very different from the kind of Far Right antisemitism that typified Jewish communities’ experience in the 1980s and 1990s when the BNP, NF, and fringe neo-Nazi organisations were more active. Recent alleged incidents have typically been passing remarks in social media posts and verbal statements relating to Israel that certain individuals and bodies, often outside the ranks of the Labour Party, have defined as antisemitic. While some charges relate to clearly antisemitic incidents,[7] other charges have been contested by a number of Labour Party members who regard them as legitimate, if harshly expressed, criticisms of Israeli state actions.

The JSG’s own examination of the incidents that have come to light suggests that three separate kinds of incidents have been unhelpfully conflated into one category and all are being treated as similar, and responded to with the same level of outrage, generating much more heat than light.

• The first consists of a very small number of real cases of antisemitism, maliciousyexpressed by Labour members. These must be exposed, and not excused, and there is a case for using very firm disciplinary measures.

• The second category of incidents is trickier and larger: this is where genuine critics of Israeli policy unintentionally blur the distinction between Jews and Zionists, or between the Israeli government and Israeli people, or they unknowingly borrow and apply traditional antisemitic tropes to Israel and its supporters, such as implying excessive control over the media. Their words are based on ignorance, not malice, and should be challenged by argument, not heavy-handed discipline through suspensions and bans. But it is important that they are challenged through education soon after such incidents occur. If they are not, such ignorance will grow and spread.

• The third category concerns incidents that are not antisemitic at all, but are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology.

For the JSG it has been striking that many of these incidents which have formed the basis of lurid newspaper headlines targeting the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, were actually committed long before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader. If they were known to people who considered these incidents to be serious, why did they not raise them under the previous leadership? Other charges seem to have been stored up by Conservative supporters and leaked to the press when they would potentially do most damage to Labour. One recent accusation that originally resulted in a suspension came from the Jewish Chronicle via an organisation called the Israeli Advocacy Project, which trawls back through individuals’ Facebook accounts. It is hard not to conclude that instead of dealing with spontaneous responses to real incidents we are seeing a manufactured crisis whereby accusations of antisemitism have been weaponised in an attempt to damage Jeremy Corbyn politically.

The JSG is worried about this on four counts:

• the instrumental use of false charges of antisemitism shows a callous disregard for the victims of real antisemitism

• the cynical way that false accusations have been used may result in victims of real antisemitism not being believed in the future

• Labour members who recognise that this has been a manufactured crisis are worried about saying so because they fear being called antisemites themselves

• Labour members who wish to explore some of the more difficult and complex aspects of the Israel/Palestine situation and express their opinions and conclusions are censoring themselves – which cannot be healthy for a movement dedicated to supporting social justice and the causes of those fighting oppression.

6. Recommendations

In this final section we make some recommendations that link to the specific terms of reference of the Inquiry:

- Consult widely with the Jewish community, other minority representatives and Labour Party members to investigate allegations of anti-semitism and racism within the Party.

The Labour Party must take all accusations of racism, including antisemitism, seriously and become confident in its ability to quickly distinguish real claims from false claims. It needs to recognise that there is a range of perspectives within the Jewish community, and that those who claim to be representative of the community as a whole often represent its more insular and conservative sections. The Labour Party should seek comment from a wide range of Jewish groups.,

The Labour Party, as a party which in general terms challenges the right wing establishment, and challenges the interests of the rich and powerful, should build strong relationships with grassroots Jewish campaigning groups that are as keen to combat anti-Black racism and Islamophobia as they are to combat antisemitism. It should be wary of accusations of antisemitism coming from those who are selective in their anti-racism. In its international work the Labour Party should build links not just with the Israeli Labour Party but with progressive campaigning groups in Israel such as Yesh Gvul, Gush Shalom, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demoilitions

- To establish guidance about the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and language.

All racism must be challenged and if it is coming from another Labour member, should have the aim of educating the perpetrator.

The Labour Party must take notice of context and intent when investigating incidents that have been brought to its attention. The party should encourage members to explore issues, and acknowledge that members might express controversial opinions in discussions where they are pursuing a better understanding.

- To develop clear and transparent compliance procedures for dealing with allegations of anti-semitism and racism.

If a member is being investigated for a charge of antisemitism/racism they must be told what they are being accused of and given an opportunity to retract or explain what they meant. If disciplinary procedures are being applied, bans must be a last resort, and lifetime bans only given to those who have practised malicious racism, shown no remorse and no inclination to reflect and change. The aim should be as far as possible to deal with such problems through education.

- To scope out the need for training programmes for parliamentary candidates, MPs, Councillors and others to ensure all representatives understand the code of conduct as well as how to respond to allegations of racism.

There is a strong case for involving members of the community under attack in training programmes, since they will usually possess expert knowledge and experience that can inform education about that issue. If such a task is to be given to a Jewish body In relation to antisemitism, it must be given to one that is open to all Jews in the Party – Zionist, non-Zionist and anti-Zionist – and reflect the breadth of Jewish Labour Party opinion.

- To make recommendations for changes to the code of conduct and party rules if required.

See Compliance Procedures above

- To recommend other actions to ensure that the Labour party is a welcoming environment for members of all communities.

The Labour Party must show itself to be a champion of equality and true multiculturalism and anti-racism at all levels of the organisation, and in its actions within civil society.

We have been very encouraged by the fact that in recent months Labour candidates in council by-elections, using positive and principled anti-racist and socialist arguments, have been winning back a significant  number of working class voters who had deserted to UKIP.

The lead needs to come from the top - and in our view it has.That is why so many members of the Jewish Socialists' Group continue to be members of the Labour Party, and a number of them very active ones at that.

Annex 1: Statement on “Labour’s problem with antisemitism”

Annex 2  JSG Membership leaflet

Who we are

The Jewish Socialists’ Group (JSG) is a campaigning organisation which fights for freedom and equality. We are active on issues that affect the Jewish community, other minorities and oppressed groups, and the wider labour movement. We are a socialist voice within the Jewish community and work within the left for a socialism that embraces cultural diversity.

We stand for rights and justice for Jews everywhere, without wrongs and injustice to other people anywhere. We know that antisemitism has not gone away, and we work within the antiracist and antifascist movement to challenge stereotypes of all minorities, including Jews, and to combat antisemitism and other forms of racism wherever they emanate from.

We work and campaign with other organisations that share some or all of our aims, and always welcome new members who support our political principles. We want to create an open, democratic and equal society, and we are committed to working in an open, democratic and inclusive way.

Our Politics

We are socialists, diasporists and secularists. As socialists we know that there can be no secure future for Jews, other minorities, working people and the unemployed under an economic system that promotes greed over need. We are anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist and we campaign for social justice locally, nationally and internationally. We join with others to fight discrimination and persecution and we also challenge conservative forces within our own community. We work for a socialist solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, based on equality and self-determination for Israeli and Palestinian Jews and Arabs, and we challenge the leaders of the Jewish community when they defend or excuse Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

As diasporists we celebrate the fact that the Jews are an international people. We support the right of Jews and other ethnic minorities to live in security and harmony with other communities wherever they are in the world, and to be free to express and develop their historical and cultural identities. In the diaspora we are at home, not in exile. We reject the negative ideology of Zionism, which subordinates the political, social, economic and cultural needs of diaspora communities to the demands of the Israeli state.

As secularists we fight for democracy, equality and the right to dissent within the Jewish community and in the wider society. Jewish identity is diverse and dynamic, and we are especially committed to strengthening a progressive, secular Jewish identity. We challenge our communal establishment’s attempts to confine Jewishness within a religious or Zionist framework and to marginalise and exclude people from Jewish life on the basis of their politics, gender or sexuality. As secularists we argue for the separation of religion from the state, so that individuals of all religions and none are citizens on equal terms; we also apply this principle to our own community so that all Jews have an equal right to express themselves.

An alternative voice

The needs of ordinary Jewish people, and the diverse range of opinions within our community, are constantly misrepresented by powerful individuals and institutions such as the Chief Rabbi, the Board of Deputies, the Israeli Embassy, the Jewish Leadership Council and the mainstream Jewish press. They claim to speak on our behalf but they share a narrow set of political orthodoxies and interests. Our group gives a voice and a platform to anti-racist Jews, Jewish feminists, working class Jews, gay and lesbian Jews, secular Jews, diasporist Jews. We give a voice and a platform to Jews who do not fear open debate or interaction with other communities.

Our history

The group was set up in the 1970s and stands within a tradition of Jewish socialism and a struggle for social and economic justice going back more than 100 years.

The JSG draws inspiration from

 • Jewish revolutionaries – Bundists, Anarchists and Communists – who were active in the Russian Empire and in all the countries of mass Jewish immigration

 •   Jewish radicals who led the fight against fascism in the 1930s and ’40s, from the streets of Britain to the Warsaw Ghetto

 •  Jews who joined movements for social justice and equality in Europe, the USA and Canada, Latin America, South Africa and the Arab world

 •  Jews who campaign alongside people from other communities for workers’ rights, civil liberties and the rights of refugees, and against discrimination and injustice.

What we do

The JSG shares and develops its ideas through campaigning activities, regular meetings, occasional dayschools, a website, pamphlets and our own magazine – Jewish Socialist. We have lively, unorthodox social and cultural events, and secular celebrations of Jewish festivals.

All members receive a regular internal discussion bulletin, a frequent newsletter detailing meetings and events, can participate in determining our policies at our annual conference and can be involved in any aspect of the group’s work.

If you agree with these ideas then join us. With your help we can bring about change – in the Jewish community, on the left and in the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement. And together we can act powerfully for peace with justice in Israel/Palestine and elsewhere in the world.



[1] ‘Ken Livingstone and the hard Left are spreading an insidious virus of antisemitism’, The Telegraph 3 May 2016. Rabbi Mirvis is head of the largest mainstream orthodox group of synagogues – the United Synagogue. He is not Chief Rabbi of the Federation, Reform or Liberal synagogues, nor of the Chasidic or secular communities

[2] See David Rosenberg’s Battle for the East End (Five Leaves Publications, 2011)

[3] Committed, Concerned and Conciliatory: the attitudes of Jews in Britain towards Israel, Graham, D. and Boyd, J. (JPR 2010)

[4] The Attitudes of British Jews Towards Israel, Miller, S. Harris,M.  Shindler, C. 2015

[5] jewdas/Young jewish Left have simultaneously been very involved in anti-racist/anti-fascist activities

[6] Rabbi Jakobovitz who stepped down in 1991 was a partial exception. He was politically very close to Mrs Thatcher, but a “dove” with regards to Israel/Palestine politics.

[7] For example, a Tower Hamlets member was suspended after linking to a blogpost from a neo-Nazi/Jewish conspiracy site headed “Timeline of the Jewish Genocide of the British People”.

Posted: 10 June 2016