An Open Letter about the Labour Tribune MPs Group Statement on antisemitism in the Labour Party

A strong critique of the Panorama Programme “Is Labour Antisemitic” and of the Tribune MPs who signed a statement of support for its allegations is offered by a dozen members of the Cambridge Labour Party in an open letter to their MP Daniel Zeichner.

[You can download a PDF of this open letter here.]

Daniel Zeichner MP
Cambridge Constituency

19th July 2019
Contact: David Plank [via JVL web]

Dear Daniel

Labour Tribune MPs Group Statement on antisemitism in the Labour Party – Open Letter

We, the undersigned Cambridge Labour Party members, disassociate ourselves entirely from your decision, with other Labour Tribune Group MPs, to sign the “Statement on antisemitism in the Labour Party”, dated 14th July 2019 – including its recommendations, which we believe to be ill-judged and retrograde.

The shameful BBC Panorama programme, “Is labour antisemitic?”, on which the Statement is based, is a grossly inaccurate and false piece of propaganda written and produced by known enemies of Jeremy Corbyn and the socialist and international policies he strikingly represents. It is not the impartial journalism we have every right to expect from the BBC and rarely receive these days. That you should sign this Statement on the basis of such a programme is unacceptable to us, even more so when your action entirely ignores the Labour Party’s complaints made before and after its broadcast. Yet again members of the Parliamentary Labour Party act to undermine the leadership of the Party and the Party itself – for no good reason and without regard to the Party’s members.

The distortions and untruths in the programme are legion. To name some of the more egregious:

Unreliable witnesses

  • Anonymous Party members or former members appearing in the programme are in fact officers of the Jewish labour Movement. For example, the moist eyed woman who starts the programme, is in fact Ella Rose, former JLM Director and now its Equalities officer, who was an employee at the Israeli Embassy and of the Israeli lobby body BICOM. She was filmed with the then JLM Chair, the since discredited Jeremy Newmark, in Al Jazeera’s The Lobby, at the 2016 Annual Conference in a private meeting with Mark Regev, Israel’s Ambassador, which was also attended by Shai Masot who had to leave the UK subsequently due to his “outrageous interference” in our democratic process (according to Peter Oborne). The Israeli Embassy is well known to have active links with Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs whose job it is to undermine the perceived enemies of Israel through programmes of disinformation and misinformation.

The timorous figure who appeared in Panorama, was also filmed in The Lobby threatening violence to Jackie walker with the use of her Krav Maga training (an Israel Defence Force and security services self-defence technique based in the martial arts). This deliberately engineered image of Ella Rose does not square with her actual character and experience.

Other JLM officers who appeared are listed in the Annex to this letter.

  • JLM is a partisan body, not an impartial source; it is one of the co-complainants to the EHRC. It is affiliated to the World Zionist Organization which funds illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, involving bulldozing of Palestinian homes and eviction by other forceable means. It has acted to undermine Jeremy Corbyn since his first election as Leader because his “world view” includes strong support for Palestine and for a true two state solution. Despite their lip service, this is not JLM’s world view, which, according to its rule book exists “To … promote … Socialist Zionism (and) … the centrality of Israel in Jewish life”. In practice, JLM subscribes to Israel’s actions right or wrong – and there are many that are illegal under international law, including “practices and policies which appear to constitute apartheid and segregation” [United Nations General Assembly, Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur, 13 January 2014]
  • Some of the former staff appearing in the programme have made untrue statements either in the programme itself or as filmed in Al Jazeera’s The Lobby at the Party’s 2016 Annual Conference. As detailed later, Ben Westerman and Louise Withers Green made untrue statements about their claimed interviews in Liverpool Riverside CLP and with Jackie Walker respectively. Alex Richardson was shown in The Lobby making an untrue statement in support of Joan Ryan’s false allegation of antisemitism – subsequently not upheld, having caused great distress to the entirely innocent Party member, Jean Fitzpatrick, against whom the complaint was maliciously made.
  • Some of these staff led or participated in the scandalous auto-exclusion of hundreds of Party members to prevent their participation in the 2015 and 2016 leadership elections – they showed little mercy then to those they opposed, but expect us to be totally sympathetic to them now. Sam Matthews, former Head of the Disputes Team, who also appears in the programme, played a lead role in this.
  • Some of these staff also participated in the scandalous unauthorized shredding of thousands of documents held by the Disputes Team, with the apparent objective of delaying the Party’s handling of complaints in order to discredit the new leadership. They also, it subsequently appeared, kept copies of these documents to use against the Party after they had left, as evidence of dilatory handling of cases of antisemitism, of which, by their own act, the Party was not aware. Not only is this a gross breach of their former contract of employment but also of their legal obligations under the General Data Protection Regulations relating to personal data. [Skwawkbox. “Departing right-wing Labour staff “shredded” 1000s of disciplinary docs – but gave copies to the press”, 20 May 2019]
  • In their interviews on the programme, two of the staff breached their GDPR responsibilities towards individuals, viz Ken Livingstone and Jackie Walker, by giving alleged details of disciplinary interviews. They also gave false accounts of their contact with these two former Party members who did not say and were not accused of what the staff reported. Contrary to the claim made by Louise Withers Green, she did not interview Jackie Walker who claims never to have met her.
  • Claims made by staff against the alleged antisemitic actions of Party members are false. For example, a recording made by Liverpool Riverside CLP, shows that Ben Westerman, who was not known to be Jewish, was not asked by a member where do you come from, as he alleged. The elderly member, who is also Jewish, attended an interview as a silent friend – he was not familiar with the process or the Party’s arrangements, and asked entirely innocently, “what branch are you in”. This was nothing whatsoever to do with ethnicity.
  • Other claims made against conduct by Party members are so extreme as to beggar belief. They are not credible. For example, “I joined the Labour Party in 2015. The anti-Semitic abuse I received was what I was subjected to every single day … telling me Hitler was right … telling me Hitler didn’t go far enough. In Labour Party meetings we saw people engage in Holocaust denial. I don’t think the Labour Party is a safe space for Jewish people anymore.” Not only is this nonsense but grossly offensive nonsense.
  • Much is made in the programme of so called “gagging orders”. It transpires that these were introduced and made use of by one of the main witnesses for the prosecution in the programme, Ian McNicol, former General Secretary, who was markedly silent about this in his contribution. Staff who left under these agreements in Mr McNicol’s time, benefited to the tune of many hundreds of thousands of pounds. When Jennie Formby was told of this after her appointment, she ensured, with commissioned legal advice, that the form of the non-disclosure agreements included proper transparency provisions, which they had not previously. The account given in relation to these agreements is partial and designed to present a picture which is not accurate. [Skwawkbox. “Labour “gagging orders” put in place by McNicol – and gave hundreds of 1000s to allies.” 16 July 2019]

The witnesses within the Party on which the programme relies are unreliable sources. It is reprehensible that you and your colleague Tribune MPs should rely upon such evidence for your very public statement, which serves to undermine the Party and its leadership.

Alternative views

  • No alternative views were presented of the many thousands of Jewish Party members who experience the Labour Party as a safe space, contrary to the lurid claims made in the programme. Nor were the different voices of Jewish members accurately represented. For example, no space was given to the views of members of Jewish Voice for Labour, who do not share the experience or views of the Jewish Labour Movement, or the Board of Deputies. JVL’s views of the Party, which run entirely counter to those of the predominant narrative of these bodies and of the British media, are yet again marginalized in this programme – an everyday experience for JVL members who are consistently abused by some as the “wrong sort of Jew”.
  • The so-called experts deployed in the programme are in fact polemicists for a view of these vexed issues which has no place within it for the wide range of views and experiences which exist. This “expert testimony” was provided by authors sympathetic to the paradigm of the “New Antisemitism”, which deliberately conflates antisemitism with anti-Zionism. These included Dave Rich(The Left’s Jewish Problem)and Alan Johnson (Contemporary Left Anti-Semitism). Their motivations and assumptions went unchallenged, and no alternative perspective was put forward.

Presentation

  • The programme’s inquisitor, John Ware, and the programme company’s managing director and executive producer, Neil Grant, have a long history of personal and political antipathy towards Jeremy Corbyn and those of us who share his views – due to his “world view”, a phrase used a number of times in the programme. Neil Grant’s production company, Films of Record, was responsible not only for this programme but also with John Ware for the earlier hatchet job, “Jeremy Corbyn: Labour’s Earthquake” broadcast by the BBC shortly after Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 election, which met with multiple complaints. Neil Grant also produced Channel 4’s “Battle for the Labour Party”, which is also markedly anti-Corbyn. Mr Grant is a former Labour activist and Brent CLP Chair who had a twenty-year falling out with Ken Livingstone. The recorded excerpts of speeches or appearances made by Jeremy Corbyn are selective and partial, and presented visually and aurally in a grainy manner to convey a seedy and furtive image. This is deeply disreputable.
  • Outrageously selective material was used throughout the programme. This is particularly the case in relation to Seamus Milne’s email which the programme deliberately did not make clear was in response to a request from a staff member of the Disputes Team on a case concerning a Jewish party activist and the son of a holocaust survivor. It was not unsolicited or out of the blue, as the programme clearly and intentionally implies. Nor was there anything untoward whatsoever in Seamus Milne’s reference to a “review”, which related to the disciplinary procedure itself not to the individual case, as shown in his unreported comment that, “… if we’re more than very occasionally using disciplinary action against Jewish members for anti-Semitism, something’s going wrong and we’re muddling up political disputes with racism.”

In her subsequent report, Shami Chakrabarti, a human rights lawyer, described the procedure at that time as follows:

“As with other major political parties, complaints and disciplinary procedures are wanting. They lack sufficient transparency, uniformity and expertise in delivery. I recommend amendments to procedural rules capable of giving greater confidence to everyone involved in disciplinary processes, whether they fear the “witch-hunt” or the “white-wash” at any given moment. In particular, the essentially lay and untrained handling of matters of discipline is inadequate in modern political parties.”

This substantiated Seamus Milne’s initial impression.

It may not be surprising that Shami Chakrabarti’s assessment did not go down well with some of the then staff of the Disputes Team, whose views feature so largely in this programme. It is clear that these staff were hostile to the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report, in particular the “New End to End Process”, which is now Party policy. This removed staff’s ability to auto-exclude, or “interim suspend”, members off their own bat, which explains in part their derogatory comments. The procedures existing at that time lacked the natural justice through due process which Shami Chakrabarti, rightly, argued is essential to the Party’s disciplinary process.

  • The programme ended with the following voiceover by John Ware:

“Notions about Jews, their supposed power, their hidden influence and malign intent have surfaced within Labour as never before, if not Mr Corbyn, who in the Party has the leadership to bury them.”

This is a grossly inaccurate and malign comment.

We could add yet more instances to this list of distortions and untruths. Yet you and your Tribune Group colleagues chose in a very public way and without further enquiry to make your Statement on the basis of this shabby and disreputable hatchet job – which is not worth the airwaves it was transmitted on. As your constituents and Cambridge Party comrades, we have the right to expect more of you.

A number of us have drawn these issues to your attention on previous occasions, most recently concerning your signing of the prejudicial and inaccurate joint MPs letters concerning Chris Williamson MP, as sponsored by Clive Efford, also a signatory of the Statement, and latterly by Tom Watson, whose efforts to undermine Jeremy Corbyn have become notorious. Your responses have been dismissive.

This is why we disassociate ourselves entirely from your action in signing the Tribune Group MPs Statement, and do so openly so that others are aware. It is deeply regrettable that you are contributing again to the McCarthyite maelstrom which surrounds this fraught matter and threatens not only the Party itself but also the right to freedom of expression.

Yours sincerely

Tony Booth
Tarin Brokenshire
Jill Eastland
Wenche J. Gran
Kathy Hamilton
Ken Hamilton
Richard Hopper
Mujahid Islam
Andy Kennedy
Paul Lythgoe
David Plank
Jen Runham

Cambridge Labour Party members


ANNEX

Jewish Labour Movement officers who were interviewed anonymously as Labour Party members in the BBC Panorama programme, “Is labour antisemitic?”

Rebecca Filer – Political Education Officer
Joshua Garfield – Local Government Officer
Joe Goldberg – Joint National Chair
Adam Langleben – ex Campaigns Officer
Izzy Lenga – International Officer
Alex Richardson – Membership Officer
Ella Rose – Equalities Officer, formerly National Director
Stephane Savary – Joint National Chair

 

 

Comments (29)

  • steve mitchell says:

    Absolutely spot on. This completely rebuts the BBC allegations. There is a strong possibility our country will soon be groaning under a Far Right government. Jewish groups will be amongst those who will suffer most. The Labour right will bear a heavy responsibility for the emergence of such a government, having deliberately wrecked the only institution which could defend Jews. It seems to me the right will do anything to make sure Labour policies so necessary for our people will never be implemented. A centrist Labour government will make no attempt at change.. They would consolidate neoliberalism as they did in the days of New Labour. Right wing MPs are not socialists and never have been socialists My membership card says the Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. Right wing members are in the Party on false pretenses. I have in the past opposed automatic reselection; no longer. It must become Labour policy.At those moment in time I cannot see how the two wings of our Party can be reconciled. My political opponents are Tories; my political enemies reside in the Labour Party.

  • Mary Davies says:

    A brilliant, insightful, detailed letter.

  • I can only assume a deselection meeting must follow.

  • Charlotte Peters Rock says:

    This challenge is absolutely right. JLM’s continual ‘threat to free speech’ is an utter disgrace.

  • Colin Davies says:

    Well done Cambridge Labour party members & very well said Steve Mitchell, I concur totally. In Jeremy we trust!

  • John Toomey says:

    Well done Cambridge Labour Party members. An excellent and accurate analysis of these recent events.
    I will gratefully circulate your excellent work.
    In solidarity,
    John Toomey

  • David McNiven says:

    I’m one of the many who joined Labour in hopes of a sharp left turn by the Party on the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader.
    I support the left because neither the right nor the so-called ‘centrists’ have any answers to the accelerating wealth gap – and nothing short of reversing that trend by strongly redistributive measures can possibly prevent the 1% eventually owning 100% of the planet instead of the mere 50% they presently own.
    To that end I believe all Labour MP’s and PPC’s must be required to guarantee their total commitment to that aim because time is short – within two parliaments AI will create unprecedented and unmanageable levels of unemployment.
    The new technology will so greatly enrich and empower the 1% that it will destroy the last vestiges of governmental freedom to deny them anything – without which democracy is a chocolate fireguard.

  • John says:

    An excellent letter – and excellent responses from comrades.
    Let us also not forget that discredited Newmark was let off the hook by being allowed to resign on claimed medical grounds from his post as Chief Executive of the so-called Jewish Leadership Council due to alleged financial irregularities by the former Chair of the JLC – Sir Mick Davies – who now holds the post of Chief Executive and Treasurer of the Conservative Party.
    This highlights the degree of collusion between arch-zionists in Britain, arch-zionists in Israel and the British Conservative Party in attempting to destroy Jeremy Corbyn and the British Labour Party.

  • Michelle Laufer says:

    Excellent and very useful summary and critique.

  • SF Reza says:

    I fully support this letter to Daniel Zeichner MP. These MPs are doing a disservice to LP. They offered no evidence whatsoever, only hearsay , conjecture and outright lies. No facts, none whatsoever. I believe they owe an apology to LP and its members, Jewish and Non-Jewish alike.

    I do not recall these MPs denouncing in the strongest term for Israel’s wanton murder of innocent Palestinians babies, children and adults and subjugating them in a open air prison, destroying their farmlands, olive trees and their means of sustenance. Shame on these MPs

  • John says:

    We need to go further. We need to complain to the BBC and OfCom about the Panorama Programme – and target the Director General of the BBC directly, demanding his resignation. This appalling piece of propaganda is a breach of the BBC charter.

  • Katherine Morgan says:

    Well done Cambridge Labour Party members. Deselection on the cards I hope?

  • Tony says:

    Sad to see some of the names who could endorse such nonsense as that programme.

  • Stewart Eames says:

    Excellent letter: I agree entirely.

  • Alan Marsden says:

    This intelligent response needs to be duplicated in all constituencies of Labour MP’s who have attacked the Party on the basis of the Panorama Programme, Is Labour Anti-Semitic?

  • Kathrine Brannan says:

    Thank you for the time and courage involved in this response. ‘The truth will out’ Kathrine Brannan

  • Stephen Latham says:

    An excellent deconstruction of the programme, I wish this was available a week ago when I complained to the BBC

  • Stephen Kelly says:

    I was shocked at the lack of balance and objectivity in the BBC Panorama programme. I think you letter is an excellent comprehensive rebuttal with which I entirely agree. As usual, the rebuttal and (subsequent apology!!) will get little or no publicity.
    Thank you

  • Les Hartop says:

    Time to take the offensive ?
    Charges for bringing the party into disrepute.
    Crowd funded legal charges claiming defamation.
    Deselection.
    All three of the above for some individuals.
    Oh, and the Israeli authorities for interference in the internal political processes of the UK.
    So much to do !

  • Mary-Anne Potts says:

    Brilliant letter. I’m absolutely appalled by how the right wing narrative has dominated this issue & how you have been ignored and delegitimised.

    Thanks so much for your courage to speak. I

  • Pam J says:

    This is an excellent letter, it explains much that the general public will be totally unaware of. Thankyou for doing this, to tell some truths about a serious matter.

  • Sylvia Cohen says:

    All of the above. Well done and thank you for putting the points so clearly.

  • Basil Creese says:

    A forensic dismantling of the execrable Panorama program. It was very much needed. Thank you so much.

  • Ann Miller says:

    This is excellent work. Has the information in this letter been sent to the BBC? And to the Guardian?

  • Mohammad says:

    BBC needs to become a non partisan news outlet once again
    Such little diversity in front of the camera
    And even less width on political savvyness
    BBC seems to have become a soft touch on the right wing and alt right

  • John dunn says:

    Excellent letter, I will urge our CLP to follow suit.

  • steve says:

    Very well said and a breath of truth in a fetid atmosphere of lies and smears. May I humbly suggest that as it is now crystal clear that there are powerful factions within the party who are actively determined to prevent a progressive labour government coming to power – if indeed they haven’t done so already – we need to address this fact with the utmost urgency. Open Selection is simple, fair and eminently democratic. By itself it may not deter the more determined culprits from actively undermining the party but it may well concentrate the minds of the more casual participants and will certainly make every wannabe candidate/MP accountable to the members they are seeking the privilege of representing in elections to parliament and/or other democratic institutions. Enough is enough.

  • i agree with this letter

  • Michael Cook says:

    At 65 I have always been a Labour supporter though not a member. I was motivated to join the party by the unjust sanctions applied to Chris Williamson MP. It was “the straw that broke the camels back”. Having witnessed the unjustifiable way Ken Livingstone had been driven from the party and more particularly John Mann’s over theatrical confrontation “for the cameras” it was time to have a legitimate voice in the Party. Therefore I thank you for this open letter and the stand you make against the malign smears upon OUR party.

Comments are now closed.