Jewish Chronicle finally allows Roger Silverman the right of reply

Roger Silverman, standing outside the sole remaining synagogue in Iasi, Romania, the birthplace of his grandfather Myer Silverman

JVL Introduction

Under the title “Labour shadow minister backs ‘antisemitism is Israeli smear’ candidate for party election” the Jewish Chronicle published a bilious attack on Roger Silverman, then standing as a candidate for the NEC.

Finally, 3 months later, the editor has added a statement by Silverman at the end of the article on the Jewish Chronicle website, correcting the distortions of its original report.

Based on others’ experiences of the JC’s eagerness to align its reporting with reality or to apologise for its “mistakes”, we doubt that this correction was offered freely and willingly.

This article was originally published by the Jewish Chronicle on Tue 15 Dec 2020. Read the original here.

Labour shadow minister backs 'antisemitism is Israeli smear' candidate for party election


The following statement by Roger Silverman was added on 15 December 2020:

I am grateful to the editor of the Jewish Chronicle for finally allowing me a right of reply to this article. It was published following my nomination as a candidate in elections to Labour’s National Executive Committee, and it was clearly timed to prejudice the outcome of this election. In all fairness I should have been contacted for comment before publication.

The article describes me as “a hardline anti-Zionist activist”. The implication that I am in principle opposed to the existence of the state of Israel is untrue. I have argued consistently for a democratic secular state in which all communities – Jewish, Muslim and Christian – live in harmony.

The article’s reference to my having been “suspended by Labour in 2016″ is misleading. My brief administrative suspension from the party was lifted unconditionally following a satisfactory telephone interview. The assertion that my suspension was based on “an investigation that looked into [my] involvement with the far-left Militant organisation” is incorrect; the simplest research could have proved that I broke decisively with Militant almost thirty years ago. Likewise, the statement that I “was reinstated under Mr Corbyn” gives the groundless impression that I was readmitted only through preferential patronage.

My grandparents fled to Britain from pogroms in Eastern Europe, and one of them was the victim of an anti-Semitic murder in Liverpool soon after his arrival. As chair of the British section of the World Jewish Congress in 1940, my father Sydney Silverman MP was among the first in the world to provide documentary evidence warning of the impending Nazi holocaust (see his entry in Wikipedia), and as a Labour MP he campaigned vigorously against the policies of his own postwar Labour government in sinking the ships carrying Jewish concentration camp survivors across the Mediterranean to Palestine. His record was officially honoured by the Israeli government on his death in 1968. I consider my family background a relevant factor which should have been mentioned in your article.

[Here is a link to Roger Silverman’s article on Zionism and Antisemitism.]

Comments (5)

  • Harry Law says:

    When Sydney Silverman contested Exchange constituency in Liverpool for the Labour party in 1933 he faced the Conservative JJ Shute a prominent Catholic and friend of the former MP for Exchange, and Privy Chamberlain to the Pope Sir JP Reynolds. Local Labour Leaders, however were conscious that Silverman was not the best possible candidate for Catholic Exchange, but they were ill prepared for the sectarian nature of the campaign which followed against Silverman [who was of Jewish origin] Thomas White the Conservative leader, regarded the candidature of Silverman as “a blunder of the first magnitude” for Labour as it ignored the susceptibilities of the large Catholic vote in the constituency.
    JJ Shute had obviously been chosen because of his religion and because there was no large orange vote in the constituency, they could exploit his religion for all they were worth.
    A public declaration issued by well known Catholic politicians favouring the candidature off JJ Shute was distributed outside Catholic Churches, it read….
    “Catholics must vote for JJ Shute because
    1/As Catholics you cannot accept the extreme socialist policy of Mr Silverman, it is not sound, it is not good for the working class
    2/ You cannot expect Mr Silverman to further the just claims of our Catholic schools.
    Altogether ten Catholic councillors, as well as several Priests and laymen, publicly reproved Silverman for opposing state aid for Churh schools and for his brazen socialism. But regardless of the attacks, or maybe because of them, prominent Catholic Labour politicians like David Logan and veteran dockers leader James Sexton MP for St Helens did campaign for him. But during the door to door canvassing, attacks on Silverman as an enemy of the Catholic Religion and as a Jew went on relentlessly. Silverman said after his defeat that……
    “This election was a triumph of religious prejudice over political conditions. My opponent throughout fought the campaign purely on a religious basis and managed to persuade enough hungry , ill clad, badly housed people to vote for him on the basis of their religion” This quote from the book ‘Sidney Silverman’ by Emrys Hughes.

  • Edward Hill says:

    There were probably not many Labour Party members who were put off voting for Roger Silverman in the NEC election by reading the original Jewish Chronicle article, but equally there were probably few who were minded to vote for him because (if the Jewish Chronicle is for once factually correct) he was a member of Jewish Voice for Labour. Jo Bird received much support and merited a “Vote for” article on the JVL website when she stood in the earlier NEC bi-election; Roger Silverman, like her, and unlike the Grassroots Voice Six, a challenger of the ‘antisemitism is rife in the Labour Party’ narrative, rated no mention, not even as a candidate to consider after the Six. No doubt this was a consequence of a deal being done at the big table when the NEC left slate was decided. But for me the right choice was: 1/ Silverman, fo!lowed by the Six.
    In the event of any future NEC, perhaps JVL would consider working with Labour Left Alliance, which backed Roger, rather than groups like Momentum, numerica!ly stronger but apparently at best indifferent to the weaponising of antisemitism.

  • Margaret West says:

    Read with interest and feelings of nostalgia at Silvermans heritage as a son of Sydney Silverman .. the MP most famous (to me at least) for his opposition to Capital punishment . There were
    other left wing causes too – many related to pacifism.

    I cannot remember what Roger Silverman wrote in his “candidates” statement – did he mention that he was
    the son of Sydney Silverman? There were so many candidates
    and so much to read ..

  • Graeme Atkinson says:

    I don’t know if Roger is a member of JVL but I do know, having first made his acquaintance in 1965, that he is one the most principled, committed and sincere socialists I have ever met.

    Though our ways separated politically, with him a key cadre of Militant and me eventually winding up in the Socialist Labour League, his articles which I frequently read were always a perceptive and thoughtful read that demonstrated a remarkably sharp understanding of the nuances of the class struggle and a real internationalism.

    For those reasons, I voted unreservedly for him in the NEC election on the clear understanding that he represented no other interest than that of the working class. Unfortunately, he fell way short of election.

    For him to have been treated in that way by the JC is nothing short of scandalous and highlights the paper’s ongoing rejection of the fine traditions of socialism among Jewish people in these islands.

  • Martin Read says:

    Edward, in fairness to Momentum and in the current climate, is it not more likely that the group are being ever mindful of the current leadership’s purge of socialists from the party? Viewed from outside the Labour Party it appears that 1. Corbyn has been anti-Semitic. 2. There is no ongoing purge, or weaponisation of anti-Semitism. 3. That the conveniently labelled or implied ‘left-leaning’ Guardian and the ‘open and honest’ BBC consider that 1. and 2. are correct. Fearful times for true socialists!

Comments are now closed.