Jackie Walker is on trial, but who is the target?

Jackie Walker. Photo: Facebook

JVL Introduction

After two-and-a-half years the trial of Jackie Walker is reaching its denouement. Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi explores its meaning and consequences.


Jackie Walker is on trial, but who is the target?

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
27 March 2019

(This is an updated version of a post originally filed on Monday March 25)

On Tuesday March 26 a modest building at a secret location in southeast London played host to an apparently mundane bureaucratic procedure with potentially far-reaching consequences for the UK Labour Party.


Three members of Labour’s National Constitutional Committee met to sit in judgement over Jackie Walker, black Jewish antiracist campaigner and trainer, suspended from the party since September 2016 on allegations of antisemitism. During the two and a half years since then she has been subject to unremitting personal abuse and vilification.


The three-person panel whose identities remained secret until the hearing began, was tasked with deciding whether Walker’s remarks or conduct, “taken collectively and in context, might reasonably be perceived as demonstrating hostility or prejudice based on race, religion or belief, including anti-semitism.”


A request from Walker that racist and discriminatory evidence be removed from the bundle in the disciplinary process had been refused, as had a request for an adjournment to consider new evidence served on her as late as March 20.


When the tribunal also refused to hear a personal statement from Walker at the start of Tuesday’s proceedings, she was persuaded that she had no hope of a fair hearing. She left the panel to ponder its best course of action and issued a statement explaining her reason for withdrawing.


To be clear – both the official and gutter press allegations against Jackie Walker throughout the past years are that words she spoke or wrote are antisemitic. What is not clear is what criteria the panel would be using to determine if the charge is true.


However, Walker knew for sure that they had been presented with a barrage of hostile testimonies from anonymous complainants, several of whom prefaced their allegations with racially-barbed comments such as calling her “a white middle-aged woman with dreadlocks” who “claims to be part Jewish.”


Certain prominent opponents of Jeremy Corbyn have made  no secret of their conviction that Walker – a long-standing supporter of the Labour leader – deserves nothing short of public evisceration. Hardly a week goes by without Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman, vice-chair of the parliamentary lobby group Labour Friends of Israel, calling for Walker’s head, often in near-defamatory terms.

“Why is Jackie Walker, who repeats Louis Farrakhan’s racist lies that Jews were the main financiers of the slave trade, still in the Labour party?” Ellman  demanded in Parliament on February 20. No matter that Walker, a socialist internationalist, has nothing in common with the black nationalist Farakhan; that her remarks about the slave trade were not about Jews in general but appeared in a private Facebook conversation about her own Jewish ancestors; and that a party investigation, even though carried out by a hostile bureaucracy in early 2016, found that she had no case to answer about these remarks.


For Ellman and others who have opposed Corbyn’s leadership from the beginning, which includes those who have recently deserted Labour to form the so-called Independent Group, the rules to apply to every left winger accused of antisemitism are those of a medieval witchhunt. Allegations may be true or false – and there certainly have been cases brought where the accusations appear justified. But to Ellman and her allies, once an allegation has been made the only outcome permissible is a guilty verdict.


It gets worse. Anyone who queries any of these allegations is judged thereby to have proved their own guilt. This was the mistake made by Chris Williamson MP. He was  suspended from the  Labour Party on February 27 for saying what most party members fervently believe to be true – that the party leadership, while doing its best to combat real antisemitism, has shot itself in the foot by apologising for a non-existent hostile environment for Jews in the party.


What seems to have triggered the move to suspend Williamson was his denunciation the previous day by MP Ruth Smeeth, for  having booked a room in parliament for a showing of the film WitchHunt. Corbyn’s deputy Tom Watson also tried to claim the credit for Williamson’s suspension – tweeting that, as soon as he heard from the Board of Deputies of British Jews about the planned screening, he had reported Williamson to the Chief Whip and to party General Secretary Jennie Formby.

Witchhunt is a documentary that lays bare the interlocking elements underpinning the campaign to discredit Corbyn – the activities of the Israel lobby in UK politics, the alignment of hardline Zionism worldwide with a far-right white supremacism invigorated by Donald Trump, and the deliberate use of allegations of antisemitism to delegitimise supporters of justice for Palestinians, a cause which itself is linked to other anti-racist campaigns. Jackie Walker’s story provides the thread connecting all the dots.


What the film, by Edinburgh-based activist Jon Pullman, does very effectively is to expose the antisemitism charges against Walker for the fabrications that they are. Most importantly, she has never denied that antisemitism exists in the Labour Party. She has, though, questioned the definition used by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) and others to attribute antisemitic motives to those who criticise Zionist ideology.


Nor has she has denied or in any way minimised the horrors that the Nazi Holocaust inflicted upon the Jewish people. What she has done is make an eloquent case for acknowledging all racist atrocities and uniting against all forms of prejudice, especially now that we are confronting an emboldened, racist right wing, in the UK and elsewhere.

The forces lined up against Jackie Walker are largely the same as those that are determined to take down Jeremy Corbyn and destroy the movement around him that has given hope to millions.  They are the same forces for whom a departure from the neo-liberal consensus of the past 30 years and a challenge to the alliance with the United States on the world stage is simply impermissible.


The JLM is set to debate a motion at its AGM on April 7 stating that Jeremy Corbyn is “unfit to be Prime Minister and that a Labour Government led by him would not be in the interests of British Jews”. Tom Watson, applauded by dozens of Labour MPs hostile to Corbyn, has publicly challenged and sought to undermine the party’s leftwing General Secretary Jennie Formby, as she attempts to reform the woefully dysfunctional disciplinary processes she inherited from her predecessor. Watson and others of like mind, seem intent on securing the removal of the maximum number of Corbyn-supporting party members as quickly as possible by means of fast-tracked antisemitism charges, a process also calculated to scare many others into silence.


Margaret Hodge, too, has not been quiet. Apart from having the gall to call Jeremy Corbyn “a fucking antisemite” to his face in a public place she has already tried Jackie Walker and can’t wait for the sentence to be pronounced:  “It’s extraordinary’, she said last week,  “that it has taken so long to bring her to an expulsion hearing. Tough action must be taken but one expulsion will not solve a far deeper cultural problem that has infected the party.”


Jackie Walker’s case represents a pivotal moment in the party’s history. The disciplinary panel, which had still not announced its verdict at the time of writing on Wednesday, faces an impossible task – to appease a baying mob which gives no quarter, while trying to maintain some semblance of natural justice and fairness. The result can hardly avoid resembling a show trial.




Comments (4)

  • dave says:

    “Watson and others of like mind, seem intent on securing the removal of the maximum number of Corbyn-supporting party members as quickly as possible by means of fast-tracked antisemitism charges, a process also calculated to scare many others into silence.”

    As we know all along this isn’t anything to do with antisemitism.

    “Margaret Hodge, too, has not been quiet.”

    as demonstrated by Hodge, who is the most blatant example of fake outrage when her real target is the left.

  • SteveH says:

    Jackie Walker has been expelled from Labour – for “prejudicial and grossly detrimental” behaviour.
    Whatever that means
    The use of these entirely subjective so called crimes to eject members from the party is manifestly unjust.

  • Glenn Bowman says:

    I have just sent the following to my local labour chairman: “I am regrettably submitting my resignation from the Labour Party in light of its appalling treatment of Jackie Walker and the deeply flawed (and frankly colonialist) attitude of the party towards the Zionist project of politicide if not ethnocide of the Palestinian people. What cowardice on the part of the Labour Party at precisely the time we need ethical leadership and example. Shame on all those implicated in this travesty of justice and on those who have stood quietly and watched it happen.
    I have withdrawn from the Wat Tyler site and am cancelling my standing order to the Labour Party.”

  • Annie McStravick says:

    We know that the lobby, the Blairite MPs and the msm are determined to destroy Corbyn. But lately the grassroots support for him has been falling away, due to his failure to support those members who have been unjustly attacked. It’s a damn shame, but he has brought this upon himself.

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