The weaponisation of antisemitism – the case of Heather Mendick

JVL Introduction

Heather Mendick has posted a powerful response to the Notice of Investigation she received from the Party’s Governance and Legal Unit earlier in September.

Mendick has played a prominent and important role in her CLP, as Hackney South and Shoreditch CLP secretary from 2017 to 2020, and Vice Chair of Hackney Central Branch since 2016.

She is also Jewish, and now finds herself being investigated for “undermining the Party’s ability to fight against racism” and maybe being involved in “antisemitic actions, stereotypes and sentiments”.

She made the “charges” public last month and they are reposted below.

A further account by her appeared on LabourHub on 21 September under the title Under investigation.

Her latest comments are not offered as a “defence” against what are ludicrous accusations.

Rather she treats this as a “teachable moment”, showing how “antisemitism”, long used to police Jewish identity and the right to speak as a member of the UK Jewish community against the views of the Jewish communal establishment on Israel, is now being used additionally to destroy the grassroots left insurgency that was inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party.

Twitter announcement of the investigation, 11 September

I’m being investigated by Labour for action that “undermines the Party’s ability to campaign against racism” and “may reasonably be seen to involve antisemitic actions, stereotypes and sentiments”. Summary charges are below with links to the 14 items in the rest of the thread.

This was followd by  screenshots of the materials that were alleged to be unacceptable. They are posted below as an Appendix.

Response to NOI CN-9748

I am happy to confirm that the newspaper article, 12 tweets and one ‘like’ that you have cited in NOI CN-9748 are authored by me. These express widespread political opinions about the way that antisemitism is functioning both in the party and in wider society. If taken seriously, the position that I articulate will help the Labour Party to fight against racism.

I do not intend to legitimise these so-called ‘accusations’ with a defence. However, I believe that this is a teachable moment and so will use this NOI to explore problems with the way ‘antisemitism’ is operating in the Labour Party. I want to ask questions of the people who are placed in a position of judgement over me.

First I note that in August 2019, my Twitter account was listed in the Community and Security Trust’s report Engines of Hate. The report’s authors do not discuss my account except generically but they do state that after looking in detail at my Twitter feed they found no antisemitic material. Nine of the 14 items of evidence cited in the NOI pre-date this report. This exemplifies the shift that has taken place during the past two years not only in what one is allowed to say about Jewish people and antisemitism, but in the very way that we are defining antisemitism.

I received the email accusing me, a Jewish person, of antisemitism on Erev Rosh Hashanah when Jews believe that G-d writes our fate for the coming year in the book of life or the book of death. The email requested a response during the ten days of repentance before Yom Kippur, the day when G-d seals our fate. This was done in the name of fighting antisemitism and making the party welcoming for Jewish people. In making this claim, the Labour Party is excluding me from the category of ‘Jewish people’. I cannot express in words how painful and offensive this is. Mine is not an isolated case. There is clear evidence that Jewish members appear disproportionately among those being investigated, suspended and excluded for ‘antisemitism’. This is unsurprising as the Party is using its disciplinary processes to police what members can say about Jewish identity and about anti-Jewish racism, and these are topics on which Jewish people are understandably more likely to speak out than non-Jews.

The policing of Jewish identity and the legitimacy to speak as a member of the UK Jewish community have long been fiercely contested. Nearly a decade ago, Tony Lerman detailed in a Guardian article how this has functioned to protect Israel from criticism in the Jewish diaspora ‘mak[ing] it harder for Jews to criticise by accusing them of disloyalty, succumbing to “Jewish self-hatred”, and being “fellow travellers” of antisemites – spurious and groundless charges. Jewish critics … are subjected to a process of vilification, demonisation and marginalisation. Since such Jews often describe themselves as being outside the organised Jewish community, ostracising them has been effective. The Jewish establishment in the UK – which includes the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, the Zionist Federation and numerous private groupings of the great and the good – is highly experienced at this. I saw it happen in the 1980s when communal leaders sought to make life impossible for the small but highly active radical Jewish Socialists’ Group. And I became a target for such treatment myself when I was appointed head of the influential Jewish Policy Research (JPR) thinktank for a second time in 2005’. The Labour Party to its shame has become implicated in this.

These processes no longer function just to protect Israel. As Jamie Stern Weiner has documented, they have been extended to destroy the grassroots left insurgency that was inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party. This is the most beautiful and powerful political movement in this country during my lifetime. As I say in one of the tweets cited in the NOI: ‘the only logical end point of this is to say that the whole global left is guilty of supporting antisemitism and needs to be destroyed. After which, there’ll be nobody left to stand against the spread of fascism, to protest the people doing Nazi salutes in the streets’. In other words, the process in which you are complicit at this very moment, has terrifying implications for the fight against racism and has already played its part in helping to elect a far-right Conservative government.

This systematic ongoing attack on the Labour left within which the party’s disciplinary processes are being used to destroy a left political insurgency, is also a means to extend the bullying and abuse to which left-wing members have grown accustomed. As I say in another of the tweets cited in the NOI: ‘The Labour Party will never be a welcoming and safe space for anyone. It contains groups who have very different ideas of what changes we need and of how we make these changes happen. These differences matter. They lead to insults, rows, attacks, bullying, harassment, slander…’ In writing this I was drawing on Ralph Miliband’s arguments in Parliamentary Socialism: A study in the politics of Labour. However, the tweet is also based on my personal experience and that of close comrades. While I was Hackney South and Shoreditch CLP secretary, members sent me abusive emails, trolled me on Twitter, shouted at me repeatedly and aggressively in meetings and made a multitude of unevidenced public accusations against me. I know through the CLP Secretaries Forum on Facebook that such experiences are the norm. In December 2020, another Hackney Labour Party member made defamatory statements about me in a meeting attended by around 100 people, forcing me to instruct a solicitor in order to secure a retraction and an apology.

On one occasion, after my attempts to resolve an instance of abuse informally were shut down, I tried to use the Party’s disciplinary system to address it, by submitting a formal complaint for online abuse and for bringing the party into disrepute. This report concerned personal and public attacks on me. I have received two code numbers in relation to it (S10069 and CN-3960) but nothing more. It is now over two years since I submitted this complaint and it has yet to be assigned to an investigator. Instead, the Party’s extensive disciplinary apparatus is being turned on me, most likely given the timing and content of the NOI, at the instigation of a local Hackney Labour Party member who has abused me in the past. This makes you and the system complicit in that behaviour, and complicit in the suppression of dissenting voices in the party, and complicit in silencing Jewish socialists in speaking the truth. This, in its starkness and brutality, is the weaponisation of antisemitism.

Dr Heather Mendick
8th October 2021

Appendix: the attachments to the original Notice of Investigation



Comments (16)

  • Kuhnberg says:

    A brave fighter for truth and justice. Her stance sets an example for all who share her principles.

  • Jack T says:

    It’s abundantly clear that Starmer does not want to make the Labour Party a safe space for Jews as he claims. He wants to make it a safe space for racists i.e. Zionists.

  • Jan Brooker says:

    Very well-argued and succinct points. There is no response one can make that will change the pre-judged outcome. My two 10+page responses [at the 2 stages on my non-hearing] to the charges against me were summarised in 6 lines by some party apparatchik, that I only got to see from a well-overdue [and still incomplete] SAR. The Summary [their caps] was one I would have referred back to any adult student that put it in front of me [as a Social Work & Community Work student supervisor].
    This weekend I’m going down to a book launch for *Babylon’s Burning* ~ in Ladbroke Grove ~ detailing music-based responses to both racism and neo-Nazism, the real antisemites. Even though I was both a key initiator of Hull Rock Against Racism plus Hull TUC’s Anti-Fascist Coordinator I was accused of undermining the Labour Party’s ability to fight racism. Pfft! There is no answer to false charges ~ as one cannot prove a negative. The old “When did you stop beating your dog” has no answer [mine was “I never owned a dog”] as it’s a leading question which negates any reply. Double pfft …

  • Mary Davies says:

    Love & Solidarity Heather x

  • Peter Johnson says:

    It’s the usual surreal nonsense directed at an Ethical, rational, leading Sister – just the sort of person who should be supported by All who want to build a better Society in these frightening times.

  • We have a comment from the infantile Rachel Riley, a person so unspeakably stupid that she actually tried to prove that Corbyn was racist by posting a photo of Corbyn being arrested for protesting against racism!! This is typical of the low level mentality of those who fabricate antisemitism. Those who indulge in this invention can never answer one simple question, WHEN did the Labour Party and or Jeremy Corbyn actually BECOME “antisemitic”. Their is no answer to this question because this “event” never happened.

  • Harry Law says:

    Noam Chomsky wrote this…
    “Fifty years ago, the distinguished Israel statesman Abba Eban wrote that “One of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all. Anti-Zionism is merely the new anti-Semitism.”
    As the examples he gives make crystal clear (e.g., the committed Zionist I.F. Stone), by “anti-Zionism” he means criticism of the policies of the government of Israel and some sympathy for Palestinians.
    That principle has become a last-ditch defense of apologists for Israel crimes under the occupation. Any critic, any proponent of Palestinian rights, can be tarred as an anti-Semite. This weapon has recently been wielded to great effect against Jeremy Corbyn in a campaign of vulgar deceit and slander that is shocking even beyond the disgraceful norm.
    It would not be surprising if DiEM25 is soon subjected to the same treatment as its success increases and its outreach grows. Be prepared”.

  • steve mitchell says:

    I am nearing the end of my time on this earth after 81 years. The current political situation is like nothing I have experienced before. It is like living in an Orwellian nightmare. Truth has been abandoned. The country is ruled by PR . Politicians in the two major parties lie every time they open their mouths. Johnsons speech yesterday was masterpiece of contradiction. A callow economics student would instantly recognise the man is economically ignorant. Starmer and the Labour Right are deliberately disavowing socialism. Destroying democracy within the Party. There can be no democratic process without truth. The 60 decades spent as a Labour member seem like they never happened. The country is heading for a ultra right wing populist government such as those which exist in Hungary and Poland. Our leader says nothing about it. He is too busy fighting the Left and it particular the Jewish left. Is this not some perverted example of antisemitism.

  • Hilary De Santos says:

    This evening on Zoom, the chair of my CLP, reporting about the ‘excellent’ Conference, said that Labour Friends of Israel had declared themselves very content.

  • Terry Cohen (my mother's name) says:

    Thank you, Heather.

  • Kenny Fryde says:

    Perfect clarity from Heather, for which profound thanks – “And they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee…”

  • Emma Tait says:

    Wow, Heather. Such a powerful account. Another disgraceful attack – on you, and so many other socialists, especially Jews, by the Jewish communal establishment via the Labour Party. The timing of your letter and expected response is truly shameful, and shows how the LP really is just a lily lived front.

  • Allan Howard says:

    I just did a search on the black propaganda CAA website to try and determine when they started referring to JVL as an ‘anti-semitism denial group’, and 153 results came up. The listing of results just contains the headline and a brief description consisting of a sentence or two. Anyway, quite a few of the said headlines referred to JVL IN the headline, but there were some that didn’t, and so I clicked on one that didn’t (posted on Jan 1st, 2020) so as to ascertain whether or not JVL IS mentioned at some point in the article. As it transpired, in the article I clicked on it DIDN’T mention JVL, but needless to say, I had to read through the the article (and I use the word very loosely!) so as to determine THAT and, as such, came across the following paragraph, a paragraph that exemplifies their despicable and malevolent black propaganda narrative regarding Jeremy:

    Most insulting of all was Jeremy Corbyn, who has himself been guilty of numerous counts of antisemitism. Over the past several years, the Jewish community has watched the descent of the Labour Party into abject racism with horror. Mr Corbyn is an antisemite and under his leadership, Labour has become institutionally antisemitic, defending antisemites and victimising those who stood up to them, cultivating animosity towards Jews at all levels and hounding out of the Party Jewish MPs and the most decent of their colleagues.

  • Allan Howard says:

    oops, I thought I’d better just check the article again – which I initially skimmed through – and it DOES mention JVL (in passing), which leads me to believe that JVL is mentioned in all the articles that don’t mention JVL in the headline.

    PS I just checked out another of the articles that came up in the results (that didn’t mention JVL in the headline), and this one DOESN’T mention JVL in the article, but comes a close second to the article I linked to above in its malevolence and hate-mongering and fear-mongering:

    CAA rejects Jeremy Corbyn’s apology, saying he is “taking the public for fools” and it is “too late”

  • Margaret West says:

    A snippet from the article mentioned by Allan Howard:
    “….cultivating animosity towards Jews at all levels and hounding out of the Party Jewish MPs and the most decent of their colleagues….”

    Well there is irony .. considering the purge of Jews from the Labour Party under Starmer .. !!

  • John Bowley says:

    Thank you, Heather. All well said. The new management of the Labour Party under Starmer is clearly highly antisemitic, particulary purging British Jews because of their fundamental identity and beliefs. How ironic after Starmer’s hypocritical use of invented antisemitism for his own political purposes. It is disgusting, actually. Starmer is the worst ever Labour leader, politically constipated, unappealing, an ultimate loser for the Labour Party.

Comments are now closed.