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Statement of Principles:

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The NEC amendment to the disciplinary rules – JVL view

By Jenny Manson, chair, Jewish Voice for Labour

We’ve tried hard to get LabourList to publish a piece about Jewish Voice for Labour and in particular this piece on the proposed rule changes. Depite encouraging words on a number of occasions nothing has appeared, so we are publishing it  here.


Contrary to the spin, the NEC amendment agreed this week is NOT the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) amendment. The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), formerly Poale Zion, is a specifically pro-Zionist group that does not require its members to be either Jewish or Labour party members. It has been quoted as saying it “could be a big, healing moment for the party” if conference next week approves the sort of changes they have been pushing for over a year now.

The newly formed Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), which gives Jewish members of the party an alternative to JLM’s specifically Zionist agenda, takes an entirely contrary view: that the changes JLM favours has nothing to do with combating racism against Jews: nor will it heal internal party rifts.

But in the discussions leading to the proposals on disciplinary procedures that the NEC is taking to Conference JLM was certainly given an inside-track, while, for instance, Hastings and Rye CLP which had submitted an alternative rule change was never contacted.

The JLM’s original proposal advocated a new definition of antisemitism (the IHRA definition) that has been questioned by top lawyers, since it makes criticism of Israel a feature of antisemitism. Our fear is that the JLM intends the proposed new Rule, which mentions unspecified ‘codes of conduct’, to be the portal through which this anti-democratic restriction on political debate formally enters our disciplinary procedures. There will be a prima facie assumption that harbouring antagonistic views of the State of Israel is equivalent to hating Jews, that the result would be that this idea, which has underlain the two-year long wave of often unjust disciplinary action against mainly pro-Corbyn activists who support justice for Palestine, is projected indefinitely into the future.

Rather than healing rifts in the party, adopting the NEC rule change runs the risk of giving the stamp of approval to those opposed to Corbyn’s leadership to drive out more of his supporters and to put a wedge between Jews of differing views.

Proponents of the change have suggested that it could win back estranged Jewish voters. But in our experience it has been the JLM and its supporters allied with Progress who have alienated numbers of former Labour voters by stirring up an unfounded panic about the party having “a problem with Jews”. This seems to have lost the Party several winnable North London seats at the recent election.

Sadly there are few sections of British society which are entirely free from prejudice. Antisemitic ideas are present, alongside more prevalent discrimination against Muslims -and other minorities. Discussion about Israel sometimes turn unpleasant, especially when people outraged on behalf of Palestine believe the Israeli assertion that Israel represents all Jews, but also when defenders of Israel assert that entirely legitimate support for Palestinian rights is motivated by antisemitism.

The solution to such altercations is not summary suspension and public vilification. It is comradely debate on the full range of issues, including difficult and sensitive questions about Israel, Palestine and antisemitism. Training on the latter needs to be undertaken by non-partisan experts on racism and disciplinary procedures need to promote understanding and fairness.

If conference accepts this rule change it will be crucial that the codes of conduct that remain to be drafted are subject to full participation by party members in all wings of the party.

Jenny Manson
Chair JVL

 

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1 comment to The NEC amendment to the disciplinary rules – JVL view

  • Assia Shah

    I concur with your views. You are presenting a balanced objective view, highlighting the scope of issues which are sensitive and can be contentious but as a party United in terms of the overarching vision and mission of the Labour Party we must have training, respectful debate where we disagree..✊️

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