Riva Joffe – In Memoriam

JVL Introduction

We are sad to announce the death of JVL activist, Riva Joffe on 21st September. She died, in her eighties, after a short illness.

Riva was a psychotherapist, a socialist and anti-racist JVL activist, a mother, provider, cool style icon and “all round good egg” until the day she died.

We send our condolences to her friends and family who have been very moved by the many accolades to her on social media in the immediate aftermath of her death, and to learn how very many lives she touched.

On 25th August, Riva was informed that she was one of the many Jewish activists “under investigation” by the Labour Party for antisemitism.

She relished responding, not yielding an inch in her firm beliefs and turning her reply into a trenchant criticism of what she saw the party as in process of becoming.

As her response below makes clear, she was a fighter to the very end, with humour, insight and bite.

It beggars belief that the Labour Party today seems keen to jettison spirited and committed campaigners like her.

Riva’s response to the GLU

1) I acknowledge that the Facebook account you illustrate is mine

2) I posted, and indeed wrote the statement/s you allude to.

3) Herewith my response. I note too that you clearly don’t warm to this Facebook profile pic.

[inserted here – JVL web ed  ]

A) You ask me to retract a statement I made in April 2019 criticising Richard Burgon for retracting this statement: ‘the enemy of peace is NOT THE JEWISH PEOPLE (an anti-racist statement with which I agree) but ZIONISM’ (a political movement with whose aims and practice I disagree).

Now… you will have gleaned from many things I have written, demonstrations I have participated in, carrying placards of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, etc., that I am no fan of Zionism. I consider it an inherently racist ideology, whether the policies and practice are espoused by American Evangelical Christian Zionist politicians or by Israel’s government.

Thus, when Richard Burgon (a member of parliament for whom I have respect) felt he ‘needed to apologise’ (to persons or organisations unspecified) for what I consider a perfectly valid statement, I was disappointed and angry. Nobody should ever be afraid to call out racism, particularly racism enshrined in policy and practice.

B) Historically, the Labour Party’s principles of internationalism were grounded in a human rights-based advocacy for justice and equality. This party supported resistance movements in World War ll, but later, its support for resistance to colonisation was not reliably on the side of the colonised. I used to hope that (if in power) this party would hold to account any government across the world that colonises, occupies or oppresses other human beings. For a few short years I believed that a new principled policy might be enacted, but it seems now that the Party’s support for liberation struggles is contingent on whether the oppressors are theirs or ours.

This is essentially an issue of racism and equality. Well…racism has its nuances. Quite apart from direct hatred of ‘them’ (because they are different from ‘us’) there are more insidious aspects; the one relevant here is holding ‘them’ to less high a standard than expected of ‘us’ – the ‘tyranny of low expectations’. Failure to hold Israel’s government and the American evangelicals to an equally anti-discriminatory standard that you expect of Britain is deeply patronising. And if it is done out of fear of being accused of racism it is also cowardly and racist. Is it this fear of being accused of racism/antisemitism that keeps you in thrall to the Israeli government and its allies?

C) I am one of many being accused of something or other by the ‘new management’ (aka ‘House Committee…) for some purpose or other, that makes sense only to yourselves. What is it about those of us you are ‘processing’? Can it really be our views about Palestine that terrify you? Yes – we oppose most strongly Israel’s government’s oppression of the Palestinians, but then we campaign for justice for all minoritised people. We also want urgent action on climate change. We oppose the arms trade and consequent ‘foreign wars’. We are working for a safer, greener and more peaceful world. We are probably on the right side of history.

Honestly – a therapist would say, ‘this frenzy of purging you are driven to – it’s not the behaviour of mature adults. It smacks of desperation, fear and panic’. Is it really us – a quite reasonable group of democratic socialist citizens – that cause you such deep-seated and even pathological insecurity?

D) Oh – and I will not dignify with a response your suggestion that because I refer to ‘the Zionist Lobby’ I am antisemitic, other than to say it’s ridiculous. I am an internationalist. And that I happen to be of Jewish heritage is neither here nor there.

Nevertheless, as you seem to find us Jews so targetable, I will mention my family history: My grandparents were from Lithuania. They became political exiles (c.1894) escaping antisemitic oppression by the Russian Empire. My parents were socialist activists in South Africa who fought against racism long before Apartheid was established. My father was interned for a year as a political prisoner, then subjected to a banning order (1940-41). My family became political exiles in 1948. Now, in my eighties, and on a somewhat smaller scale certainly, I face becoming a ‘political exile’ from a Party that for a few hopeful years was my political home. We shall see if, when you have ‘gone the full McCarthy’, your new, slimmed-down party suddenly develops mass-appeal.

Meanwhile I will be joining a well-respected group of comrades and friends, all ‘processed and proud’.

With my best wishes for the Labour Party’s speedy recovery,




Comments (44)

  • John Noble says:

    We can trust in the future when people of Riva’s calibre are on the side of good.

  • I am very sorry to hear this. Riva was a fine socialist and a good comrade. She was with us from the start in Labour Against the Witchhunt. She had no time for this false narrative whereby racists accuse anti-racists of racism. Rest in Peace Riva, you deserve it

  • Tessa Gray says:

    I love her even though I have never met her. Seems to me she’s not the sort of woman to Rest In Peace. Go girl, radicalise whatever heaven you have gone to. A true sister.x

  • Angie Hudson says:

    RIP Riva. Thank you for your passion, your courage and your principled stand. An inspirational woman.

  • Jonathan Rosenhead says:

    What a stunning riposte! What a valediction.
    The Labour Party, or rather those who set this whole travesty of a disciplinary process in train, should be ashamed. But do they have the capacity to feel that?

  • Phil Cohen says:

    What a wonderful statement by a wonderful woman. She will be greatly missed

  • Christopher wortley says:

    A wonderful reply, she will be missed but not forgotten!

  • Dr Rodney Watts says:

    Saddened and shocked greatly by this news. What an amazing wonderful warm witty lady, who has left an indelible mark and an example for us all. As chairman of CAMPAIN I was grateful for her early signature to our open letter. I pray now for her eternal peace and for our collective strivings to see justice done in all those areas that Riva was so concerned about.

  • Les Hartop says:

    Condolences to all the people close to Riva.

    Her reply to Starmer’s hench’men’ is a fantastic and moving last testament.
    It would be deserving to have it etched on a pillar of granite, as a memorial to Jewish resistance… even when the oppression comes right from within their own party.

  • Dittany Morgan says:

    Love this. RIP dear comrade

  • Such sad news about Riva. As well as her very longstanding political commitments to peace and anti-racism, she was active in several left wing Jewish groups including the Jewish Socialists’ Group. She came to meetings, often marched with us on demonstrations, and enjoyed reading our magazine. She was an independent thinker, and, as shown by her letter to her inquisitors, a very sharp writer! She really will be sadly missed by so many who knew her and appreciated her!

  • What a lovely lady with such an interesting life .She will be sadly missed
    May she Rest in Peace
    Condolences to all her family and friends 🙏

  • Liz Shephard says:

    Riva’s response is so beautiful, so clear and spirited! It deserves more readers – could you put it up on facebook?

  • John Bowley says:

    So cool of the bad bunch in the Labour Party to send this fine lady a nasty letter shortly before she died. Although elderly, Riva gave them a superb riposte. I did not know her; indeed this may be the first time that I have heard of Riva. But what a splendid woman altogether. Being the disgraceful hypocrites, vile bullies and psycopaths that they are, implied criticism by the ‘Labour Party’ GLU creeps is in reality a further honour. I love you Riva.

  • Bonny Ambrose says:

    Wonderful woman

  • Graeme Atkinson says:

    RIP, Riva.

    What a comrade.

  • Margaret Johnson says:

    What a wonderful response to what is rapidly becoming the most famous Hunt Organisation in Britain.

  • Paul Browne says:

    Riva spoke her mind to power and was never cowed. She will be greatly missed.

  • Abby Hoffmann says:

    Rest in Power Riva and Long life to her family and loved ones..

  • I cannot believe how bad the labour party has become and the treatment of riva joffe is discasfull

  • Wendy morgan says:

    I am much moved by reading about a woman I haven’t known but who obviously had courage, convictions and compassion – the qualities the Labour Party once held, particularly under Jeremy corbyn’s leadership. Now I fear the Israeli lobby and Zionism have captured the party which I for one can no longer support after so many years.

  • Richard Hobson says:

    I never met her but clearly we’ve lost a great lady, a great human being, and a great socialist. My condolences and best wishes go to her nearest and dearest.

    I agree with Liz Shephard, Riva’s response should be disseminated more widely. Her words are an epitaph for the current Labour Party and a call to the rest of us to continue the fight to rebuild a socialist Labour Party.

  • John Coates says:

    Riva’s wonderful reply to the bullying accusations of the “inquisition” is inspiring.
    She will be sadly missed by comrades and friends.

  • Norma Cohen says:

    Riva has sadly gone but her sharp mind, wit and fighting spirit blaze strong. To encourage and inspire.

  • Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi says:

    Deeply saddened to hear of Riva’s untimely passing. Hugely heartened by the wonderful responses to her characteristically feisty riposte to the ludicrous charges against her.

  • Maureen Cooper says:

    A great loss. Such a measured and uncompromising response to the malicious attack on her. Shame on the Labour Party administration that brings decent members into disrepute.

  • May she rest in peace. עליה השלום aléha hashalóm/ole(ha)shólem.
    Wish I could of met her.

  • Naomi Wayne says:

    Do NOT rest in peace, Riva. I am sure it is the last thing you would have wanted to do! Come back and haunt those Stalinist idiots in the Labour Party who are trying so hard to destroy their finest members. You don’t need their acquittal to be free of their outrageous allegations. Fly high and continue to inspire. Venceremos – you and we know in the end we will win.

  • Pamela Blakelock says:

    What an inspiring riposte! I first met Riva at JVL and then LAW, the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions etc and most of the left demonstrations. I feel particularly connected to her because she was a psychotherapist who worked for an organisation which gives free psychotherapy to those who cannot afford to pay, focusing on immigrants to Britain, thus integrating professional knowledge with socialist practice. I will miss her.

  • Allan Howard says:

    I didn’t know Riva, but just reading the above I feel that I do now, and the following sums her up perfectly:

    ‘I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being, first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.’

    Malcolm X

  • Leah Levane says:

    Riva touched many people in her life and she would, I am sure, be astonished to learn how many people who did not know her have been touched by her excellent letter. She will live on as we continue to share this letter and many other stories. I am already learning how very interesting and varied her life was, for example, I have just learned that she started her working life as a paleontologist. Much to learn and these are the people this Labour leadership seem to think are not good enough for them and who was, apparently, one of the wrong sort of Jews.

  • Bernard Grant says:

    Oh Riva, I wish I had known you, we would have, not only be friends but have the same mindset when it comes to Apartheid States, which would of course include Israel, which is not only an Apartheid State but a brutal beyond belief invader of Palestine, in Gaza, they’ve created the World’s largest ever concentration camp, which they bomb regularly, with many deaths, they’ve stolen Palestinian land from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, bulldozing villages and farms right across the whole area, building huge settlements for Israelis to occupy them, they’ve even stolen land in the Syrian Golan Heights, killed tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children over the past 70 years. All this while the Western world does nothing to stop or even condemn them, in fact they support them, even selling them arms. Along comes a genuine caring man, who calls them out for their crimes but what happened to him, he was lied about, with daily propaganda against him in the Israeli supporting UK Press.
    Now the new Labour Party Leader Kier Starmer who supports Zionism and Israel, has kicked him out of the Parliamentary Labour Party and is suspending and or expelling members by the thousands.
    God Bless your family and may you rest in peace.

  • Roshan Pedder says:

    Those of us who refuse to be bullied out of the Labour Party will take inspiration and courage from this amazing woman. We will carry on the fight, Riva. Thanks for showing us the way.

  • Vera Maud Lustig says:

    I was never fortunate enough to meet Riva, but her wit, wisdom and humanity shine through. The Labour leadership should be ashamed. RIP, Riva

  • Kuhnberg says:

    Very moving – a fitting testament.

  • John Bernard says:

    Sad and mortified. I had some cheerful exchanges with her on facebook just last week when she told us all of her stay in UCH and then into ICU. She was a lovely woman. I’ll miss her, and without a doubt her loss will be very keenly felt by here nearest and dearest. Of blessed memory. Shalom.

  • Georgine Whiting says:

    I never met met Rivabut her spirit is the ancient voice of those who stand tall and fight the injustice from which others cower. Hers is the spirit which will empower others and whisper in our hearts “stand strong, this fight is yours”. Keep whispering Riva, thousands are still listening. Thank you

  • Chris Proffitt says:

    Riva was and still is inspiring and gives us all hope. I wish I could write and express my feelings in such a way. I hope the ‘investigation’ was not the reason for her demise…I cant think of anything more stressful and hurtful than being accused of antisemitism when Riva has worked so tirelessly against oppression.

  • Paul Gillingham says:

    A brilliant article by Riva.
    I hadnt seen her for nearly 60 years when, as Joyce Joffe, she dated my pal (the late) Alan Thomas while a student at Swansea University in the early 1960’s.
    Our mutual friend, Sandy, forwarded me the news of her passing. It is sad that she has gone, but what a woman she was, so dedicated to supporting fellow human beings of whatever status. An inspiration!

  • Annmarie says:

    Your legacy of greatness will live on!
    You were truly an amazing woman, an inspiration to so very, very many and much respected in all aspects of your life!
    We will not give up the fight for justice, to banish those shameful people who now run the no longer a Labour Party who treated you so unjustly and unfairly, until they are shown up for exactly what they are, and it’s so not socialism!
    God speed Riva May you R.I.P and that we have your strength and passion to carry on we’re you left off ❤️🙏

  • What a woman , I didn’t know you , I wish I had 💐🙏🏻

  • Carol Barac says:

    I agree with her comments, and identify with what she said, my views are pretty much the same, perhaps a bit more critical of the situation as I saw it in Israel over the years, such a pity it has come to this. And also such a pity that the Labour Party has come to this, expelling it’s own members. I am not one of them

  • Pat Melia says:

    What A Lady.Rest In Peace Riva..

  • John McGhee says:

    Wonderful story and a wonderful life…

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