For the past four years I, like many others, have watched with incredulity as I have witnessed the unfolding of the antisemitism ‘crisis’ within Labour, trying to make sense of it. I have witnessed good people, proven, seasoned, antiracist campaigners and others suspended or expelled for grounds that I cannot comprehend, this has included left-wing non-Zionist or anti-Zionist Jews.
I have spent many hours trying to work out the best way of responding, that recognised the genuine hurt of some Jewish members of the party I am a member of, but also addressed what had morphed into a clear attempt to shut down Palestinian solidarity and to designate anyone who calls out Israel for the apartheid regime it is as an antisemite and at a time when very real and very dangerous antisemitism is on the ascendency.
The apartheid nature of Israel is not something that ought to need to be debated, it is proven by the facts on the ground, so clearly demonstrated in the well-researched scientific report by Richard Falk and Virginia Tilley; it is evidenced by the formal adoption of Israel’s ‘Nation-State’ law, that determines that ‘Jews only’ have the inherent right to self-determination within the region and most recently it is proven by the US’ so-called ‘peace plan’, a rather disingenuous label for what is clearly an apartheid plan formally creating bantustans for Palestinians to subsist in.
So many of us felt powerless and especially in the face of the promise by all of our new leadership contenders to adopt the ‘ten pledges’ demanded by the right-wing Board of Deputies. It was as if we were all just waiting for our turn to be suspended and then expelled. The final straw for me came when the Jewish Labour councillor, Jo Bird, a popular, inspiring and proven socialist and antiracist was suspended last week for ‘antisemitism’, just as it became evident that she was one of the leading and preferred candidates for the NEC election, along with Mohammad Azam and thus, of course, this translates into her not being able to officially stand.
Initially, my plan was to quit, but following reflecting on the situation and the injustice of it all, I decided to take a different approach, a principled approach in the hope that others might be inspired to do the same and feel empowered and recognise that they do not have to be passive in the face of what is happening within our, what now feels like an autocratic, party.
I made the decision to refer myself to the Labour Compliance Unit for ‘antisemitism’, I believe, although I know what the outcome will be, that this allows me to determine under what charge I will be excluded from the membership, it enables me to state publicly that I recognise what is happening within our party, it is nothing more than our generation’s McCarthyism and to state that I reject this witch hunt. It provides me with an opportunity to expose the charade and if sufficient numbers of us do this, it gives us a chance to reclaim the narrative and more than that, it allows us an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity in a real and meaningful way with those who have fallen victim to the purge.
This is my open letter to the general secretary of our party, which I have sent directly to the Labour party and invite others to use, if they so wish, as a template for their own letters. It is regrettable that it is Jenny Formby that I must address given I do not believe that she is supportive of what has occurred and especially since she has been through a difficult time, nonetheless, because of her position she is the appropriate person to write to. Let us never doubt the power and agency that even we as ordinary members have:
Dear Ms Formby
Submission to Compliance Unit
I should like to refer myself to your Compliance Unit, for ‘antisemitism’ for the reasons I detail below. Firstly, however, I should like to share with you a little bit of background about myself.
I gave up on politics a long time ago; because I believed all politicians to be corrupt and self-serving and those who were not, would never have a chance within the structures that exist to effect really any change. Then Jeremy Corbyn, a man with a 40yr record of standing up for the most vulnerable in our society, both nationally and internationally came along. When he was elected as leader, this gave me a reason to hope, a spark was lit that made me begin to imagine that there was an awakening and that perhaps the movement that was being built could start paving the road to a fairer and kinder society. This hope led me to join, for the first time in my life, a political party, Labour. I campaigned hard, spoke for the first time to people about the need for them to vote, told them that for the first time in our generation we had the chance to vote for real change, a real alternative to neoliberalism that is decimating our communities and planet.
Then the antisemitism accusations started. Now as an antiracist, with one of the first books I remember choosing to read as a child being ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, I was appalled and frustrated that there would be people holding such views within the party I belonged to, views that we know from history led to centuries of persecution and ultimately to an attempt to annihilate a people. After calming down I reflected upon it, as a pragmatist, I realised that any party would have members that unfortunately held the similar broad range of views that society does and this includes at times racist and bigoted views. I was relieved, however, when the investigation was undertaken and the figure was proven to be 0.08%, it needed to be dealt with, but made me feel confident that, as I would expect from a ‘socialist’ party, this was a minority view and a very small minority at that. I was disappointed; however, that there appeared to have been no investigations into other forms of racism.
The situation didn’t end there, however, the accusations continued, we were apparently now suffering a ‘crisis’ and then we started seeing more and more people being suspended, but now it was different, members were being suspended for ill-informed and clumsy posts, indeed I have had to go on my own journey of understanding of antisemitic tropes, given I knew very little about Jewish history outside of the basics of the Holocaust and what my first boyfriend, who is Jewish, told me. Others though, were being suspended for reasons that do not hold out under any reasonable scrutiny and the meaning of antisemitism began to change so it no longer appeared to be about protecting Jews, but rather protecting those and only those who adhere to a political ideology. A political ideology that in practice is used to dispossess, oppress and subject the Palestinian people to an apartheid system. These people included proven veteran antiracists, people of colour, lifetime socialists. Meanwhile, others, high profile individuals within the party who threatened members, who smeared our twice democratically elected leader got a free pass to undermine our party, to weaken the movement and helped the re-election of what is clearly a far-right government that threatens to take our country into neofascism.
So now, I will set out the reasons as to why I should be referred to the compliance unit for antisemitism, according to your policies, according to the IHRA definition of antisemitism, a definition that even its creator, Kenneth Stern, said was not to be used in this way and is being abused by right wing Jews. Also, because I am and promise to continue to, violate the ‘pledges’ that the far-right supporting, Conservative voting, Board of Deputies has demanded that all potential leadership candidates sign up to. Pledges, which of course they have promised to uphold, because when it comes down to it, politicians who are truly ambitious, as I had always expected, even if they were originally motivated by the desire to help and perhaps have convinced themselves they still do, lack integrity, they are self-serving and will water down their values for expediency, even if it means selling out their comrades, especially those with a limited platform.
So firstly, I would just like to highlight that I served as a Human Rights Monitor for 3 months in Hebron, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and that experience and everything I witnessed there taught me something. Although, I can acknowledge the centuries of persecution of the Jewish people and why this would lead some to feel that the only way they could ever feel safe was to have a Jewish state and thus the political ideology of Zionism was conceived; I also have to acknowledge that whatever its original aims, it in practice means perpetual ethnic cleansing, incremental genocide and the attempted erasure of the culture, history and identity of the Palestinian people. Zionism is an ideology adopted by the far-right, by the Trump supporting, Christian Evangelical movement, by individuals such as Richard Spencer, Tommy Robinson, Katie Hopkins and others. Zionism is a political ideology rooted in ethnic supremacy, despite what groups have tried to state, it is not inherent to Jewish identity and you would know that if you were actually listening and interested in keeping Jews safe and making them feel welcome. A significant number of Jews have categorically stated that it is not a necessary part of their identity, more than that, there are others who have explicitly declared that it is an affront to Judaism and yet you ignore them, more than that, you silence and enable the smears against them.
So let me state this, unequivocally, so that you are not confused about the viewpoint I hold: Israel is a racist, apartheid endeavour and was from its very inception, we know this because it was built on the destroyed villages and broken bodies of Palestinians. International law is on my side and so I do not fear, nor quake as I write these words.
I will continue to support and would share platforms, if ever I have the privilege to do so, with Jackie Walker, a black Jew, with Chris Williamson, who answered a question put to him by the audience that had many Jews who supported him in it, with Marc Wadsworth, with any and every Jew in the Jewish group, Jewish Voice for Labour and with Asa Winstanley and I am and would be proud to do so!
So there you have it and know this, I will not take part in a witch trial, which would even offend the accusers in The Crucible, you should cease with the charade of a ‘trial’ and rather just invite the accused to a body of water.
These are my final thoughts:
When you allow left-wing, non-Zionist or anti-Zionist Jews to be targeted, threatened and smeared and then suspended and expelled for stating proven truths, then it is YOU that is antisemitic.
When you expel veteran antiracists of colour for exposing racism and capitulate to far-right supporting, apologists for racist settler colonialism, then it is YOU that is racist.
When you allow the disgraceful undermining of our party, its members and its hope of winning an election, by neoliberals and/or apartheid apologists who label our leader, a man of honour, as a “f*cking anti-Semite” & target our BAME representatives to continue and these individuals to remain in OUR party, it is YOU who bring our party into disrepute.
When you allow the destruction of a desperately needed progressive, true democratic socialist movement, as we face neo-fascism; when you make an oath to adopt pledges that are rooted in racist, anti-Palestinian ideology, including pledges that are arguably illegal then YOU are neither progressive, nor socialist, more then that, when you suspend at this time, during elections for the NEC, popular, upstanding, inspiring and proven socialists, such as Jo Bird, not coincidentally I am sure, a non-Zionist Jew, then you are not only undemocratic, but rather exhibiting fascist like tendencies yourselves.
So by all means label me, label us, just as other shameful instigators and enablers of other historical purges have done similar before you. Your labels have no meaning because they do not come from a place of honour, nor truth. Our stances are rooted in international humanitarian law and if we, as the human race get through this dark period and the commencing catastrophe of climate destruction, then it will be US that is vindicated and history will record YOUR shame, each and every one of you that sold not just the Palestinians out, but left-wing Jews, antiracists, true socialists and people of conscience.
I will continue to stand proud as I call out racist Israeli apartheid and the political ideology that enables it, Zionism and recognise that I chose to keep my integrity, the question is will you?
I will conclude my letter to be submitted as evidence of my ‘antisemitism’ to the Compliance Unit with the words of Martin Luther King Jr. that I have etched in my memory:
‘in the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’.
This post originally was published February 10 on Medium, in Nine by Five media, a forum for views from the Island of Jersey.