Our demands of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

On January 13th this year the Board of Deputies of British Jews asked the Labour Party leadership and deputy leadership candidates to sign up to ten pledges to “end the antisemitism crisis” that it perceived as characterising the Labour Party.

Many Jews, all of whom abhor antisemitism wherever it occurs, see the focus on antisemitism in the Labour Party as misleading, counterproductive and politically motivated.

On 8th March, the authors of the letter below published their own twelve demands to the Board. It was delivered to the BoD’s offices by hand on 12th March.

Its aim: to encourage dialogue on antisemitism in our society, including our political life, that is rational, honest and fair and is set in the context of reducing all racism and discrimination.

[Post updated 12th March at 21.30 to include the text of the letter to Marie van der Zyl, and a few minor corrections.]

Deliveringn the 12 demands to the Board of Deputies in London on 12th March.

OUR DEMANDS OF THE BOARD OF DEPUTIES OF BRITISH JEWS

We are Jewish members of the Labour Party who abhor antisemitism and all forms of racism and discrimination. We know that to oppose antisemitism we have to recognise it and combat it wherever it occurs. We also call out racism and abuses of human rights whenever they happen.

The Board of Deputies claims to speak for a British “Jewish Community” but they represent only a minority of Jews and do not represent us. To claim that there is a single Jewish community who share the views of the BoD is discriminatory. To attempt to limit Jews to a single legitimate voice treats us less favourably than other groups and so is antisemitic.

The Board of Deputies has carried out a long hostile campaign against the Labour Party, which predates Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. The previous President of the BoD, Jonathan Arkush urged a vote for the Tories in 2015 when Labour had a Jewish Leader, Ed Miliband, and welcomed the election of Donald Trump. The current BoD President, Marie van der Zyl, has enthusiastically endorsed Boris Johnson as Prime Minister despite well-known allegations of racism against him.

We reject the ten demands the Board of Deputies has directed at the Labour Party leadership candidates as biased and counterproductive in our fight against all forms of racism and discrimination. We are issuing the Board with twelve demands of our own.

שלום


OUR DEMANDS

  • Be clear that to oppose antisemitism you must combat it wherever it exists in all institutions including your own.
  • Show that you are utterly opposed to all racism and discrimination and show your support for others who put antidiscrimination at the centre of their beliefs.
  • Recognise that there is no single Jewish community or a single legitimate Jewish community, and that it is antisemitic to pretend this is the case.
  • Be open about the Jewish communities that you represent and acknowledge that all groups have a variety of opinions.
  • Recognise that the campaign of allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party has exacerbated sectarian conflicts between Jews that have divided families and friends.
  • Acknowledge that while some allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party have been justified, many have been exaggerated and many spurious.
  • Be strong in your opposition to human rights abuses wherever they occur, including in the state of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
  • Make clear that it is not antisemitic to criticise Israeli policy by declaring your opposition to the Nation State Law, the continued occupation of the West Bank, the building of illegal settlements and Donald Trump’s ‘peace’ plan.
  • Be transparent about the political nature of your own organisation and its strong Conservative bias and try to be even-handed with all political parties.
  • Know that antisemitism education sessions where learning takes place and sensitive issues are addressed, requires confidentiality, which the Jewish Labour Movement has not maintained.
  • Recognise that according to the draft IHRA document the examples it gives do not count as antisemitism without separate evidence of intention to discriminate against Jews.
  • Link yourself to our Jewish traditions of dialogue and hospitality to the stranger so that you try to find common ground with those with whom you have partial disagreement.

Graham Bash, Katherine Booth, Tony Booth, Erica Burman, Mike Cushman, Miriam David, David Epstein, Debbie Epstein, Carolyn Gelenter, Alison Harris, Adam Hurst, Kenny Fryde, Jenny Kas, Richard Kuper, Leah Levane, Dorothy Macedo, Jenny Manson, Diana Neslen, Marion Roberts, Svetlana Robson, Jonathan Rosenhead, Glyn Secker, Justin Schlosberg, Steve Tiller, Charlotte Williams, Naomi Wimborne- Idrissi

Published by Tony Booth, [email protected]


Here is the text of the letter delivered to Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl

3, Norwich Street,
Cambridge,
CB2 1ND
11th March 2020

Email: [email protected]

Dear Marie van der Zyl,

I am writing to you on behalf of some Jewish members of the Labour Party who find unhelpful the ten pledges, which the Board of Deputies asked leadership and deputy leadership candidates to adopt. We abhor antisemitism and all racism and discrimination. We find your sole focus on antisemitism in the Labour Party misleading, counterproductive and politically motivated.

We have put together our own 12 demands for your organisation in the hope that this will promote some reflection on your position and recognition from you and the leadership candidates of a diversity of British Jewish voices on how best to reduce antisemitism. I enclose the leaflet we have produced with our demands.

Our aim is to encourage dialogue on antisemitism in our society, including our political life, which is rational, honest and fair and is set in the context of a determination to reduce all forms of racism and discrimination.

We are, of course, open to meeting with you at a mutually convenient time, so please get in touch if you and your colleagues would welcome such dialogue.

With best wishes,

Tony Booth


Click here for a downloadable PDF of the leaflet.

Below are images of the leaflet – double click on them for ease of viewing:

 

Comments (16)

  • Anti-fascist says:

    Well done, comrades! You are an example and inspiration to the left.

  • Stuart Williams says:

    False charges of AS degrade and devalue the struggle against real hatred.

  • Cyril Wheat says:

    An excellent set of demands. I commend you for shining some light on this issue and attempting to expose the nature of the attacks on the Labour Party as well as supporting resistance to all racism.

  • Steven says:

    “Recognise that according to the draft IHRA document the examples it gives do not count as antisemitism without separate evidence of intention to discriminate against Jews.”

    That anyone even pretend the IHRA text is a definition at all is a SCAM.

  • Benny Ross says:

    If I’d known about this letter, I’d have signed it too. Next time, please organise a bigger delegation and get as much media coverage as you possibly can. The Board urgently needs to be confronted at or outside its own HQ for its arrogant, mendacious assumption of the right to speak for all UK Jews and its increasingly desparate campaign to silence those of us who don’t agree. They don’t speak for me, and they won’t keep me silent any longer.

  • John Bowley says:

    An excellent balanced statement. I trust that the EHRC takes note of it. I hope that the English media can report it in a balanced manner. I wonder if all of our would be Labour Leaders are able to accept it without disclaimers or spin? Will the Board of Deputies of British Jews provide a clear response? I pray. Again, thank you, our loyal friends of JVL, working so hard for us all.

  • Jenny Hardacre says:

    Thank you, all! Perhaps you can all get this reported in your local media?

  • Paul Leach says:

    I would like to hear what the Labour leadership and deputy leadership contenders think of your 12 demands before I cast my votes.

  • Colin Leavitt says:

    Commendable and laudable but a complete waste of time and effort.
    No one is listening and we appear to be a tiny percentage, unless I am proved incorrect, of UK Jewry.

  • RH says:

    No, not a ‘complete waste of time’, even if the media studiously ignores journalism in favour of ‘churnalism’.

    It’s necessary to keep the flag flying.

  • Emma Tait says:

    Very good. Excellent. Needs to be well publicised.

    Number of signatories looks rather meagre.

  • Anti-fascist says:

    “a complete waste of time and effort”?…at least these people are doing something. You could always support them.

  • Gill McCall says:

    Another thoughtful piece of work from JVL: it certainly speaks for me.
    We must always speak out when we see or experience unfairness or marginalisation and this is what JVL is doing.
    What has been the response from either the BoD or JLM or any of the potential, new Labour Leadership?

    It would be good to get the widest circulation and publicity.

  • Linda Ruhemann says:

    Excellent work aimed at supporting true non-sectarian resistance to discrimination, racism, anti-Semitism and prejudice. I trust BofD will respond positively.
    Thank you.

  • Thank you for this clearly expression position which gives me personally, though not a Jew, some emotional and intellectual relief. I have Jewish grandchildren for whom this greater clarity and honesty about the complex nature of the issues will be supportive.

  • It’s about time that the Labour Party started listening to our good Friends the J V L
    They speak with great knowledge and are also very happy to give their advice .

    That letter that you have sent with the counter ten demands on to the BoDs is so very well written that I hope that the BoDs read and take note what you have wrote And also that they take up your offer of a meeting to discuss the contents of it .
    Dialogue is the best way of doing things and can lead to a sensible outcome that both parties can agree on

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