Why can’t Jews talk about antisemitism?

JVL’s Education Group has produced this statement on the banning of Labour Party branches and constituencies participating in JVL’s political education workshops or from affiliating to JVL

Political education is and ought to be the lifeblood of the Labour Party: currently it is under threat.

JVL is committed to working for the elimination of all forms of discrimination – antisemitism, anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, misogyny, sexism and homophobia.

As Jews, we know that antisemitism is harmful, hurtful and persecutory. But it has to be seen in the wider context of racism and discrimination. Education has to be central to any strategy to tackle discrimination. Forms of discipline, including suspension or even expulsion must only be a very last resort (qv Chakrabarti report, 2016).

The aim of any adequate education is to encourage people to explore difficult areas, to express their doubts and uncertainties and even to express politically incorrect views if they hold them. In a proper educational environment, in a safe setting, these can be explored and challenged.

JVL’s education workshops are based on these core principles.

Yet Labour Party branches or constituencies are being denied the right to affiliate to JVL and our workshops are being proscribed. Regional officials have insisted that workshops already planned by several LP branches and CLPs be cancelled – in Yorkshire, the South East and elsewhere. No evidence of what is wrong about our workshops is presented. The reason given is that as Labour is committed to developing education and training programmes in consultation with Jewish stakeholders: “it is not appropriate for Party units to commission their own training and education sessions”.

This is extraordinary: it demonstrates a total lack of trust in the integrity of LP members wanting to learn, and of us as Jewish educators. It implies that we are ‘the wrong type of Jew’. It also shows contempt for freedom of expression and for proper education.  It is a threat to the culture of democratic participation of which the Labour Party is so proud.

Our work is open and transparent. You can find details of what we do on the education page on our website. You can find discussion about our education philosophy by two Professors of Education here.

Our work is fully in line with and helps develop Labour values as expressed in the Rule Book:

We work “to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few… in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.”. (Ch I, clause IV, p.3)

We take seriously the proposition that “At all levels the Party will ensure that members, elected representatives, affiliated organisations and, where practicable, the wider community are able to participate in the process of policy consideration and formulation.” (Ch 1, clause V (p.3)

The aims of CLPs as stated in Ch 7, Clause II D (p.38) is “To provide the opportunity for all individual members of the Party within the constituency to contribute to the development of the aims and policies by ensuring that a full range of Party activities are available to them, including local policy forums, and that they may participate fully in discussion to broaden the political education of members of the Party and to increase their influence over the formulation of the Party programme.

It is fully in accord with the NEC Codes of Conduct (App 9 of the 2020 Rule Book) including our commitment “to combating and campaigning against all forms of racism, including antisemitism and Islamophobia.” (p.116).

In conclusion, JVL believes that our antisemitism education workshops make a vital contribution to achieving these aims. The Party is committed to consulting Jewish stakeholders in tackling issues of antisemitism, as Jews and Labour Party members, we are clearly a significant stakeholder. The current rulings banning affiliation to JVL and specifically to our workshops are in violation of the Party’s own aims. They are beyond the scope of legitimate action by a Party that wishes to be seen as a democratic socialist party and totally counterproductive in terms of implementing an effective anti-racist policy. We believe these bans are antisemitic in their suppression of authentic Jewish opinion.


Comments (33)

  • Alf Kelly says:

    But your not the right sort of Jews 😢

  • David Foat says:

    Lama lo?

  • Paul Smith says:

    Does this ban apply to all education programmes – e.g. refom of local government finance, devolution, voting systems, labour history, Ramsey MacDonald, and trade union law, to name only a few?

  • John Plass says:

    More confused all the time about the Labour Party’s definition of anti-semitism or the motives behind the refusal to accept JVL as a legitimate expression of liberal, socialist values

  • Abe Hayeem says:

    This is definitely antisemitic, and a complaint should be made to the NEC against the officials banning a Jewish Labour organisation, extremely experienced in all aspects of antisemitism and socialism, from delivering training, as opposed to the JLM, an organisation linked to the Zionist Federation, which is given ‘carte blanche’ to deliver training based on Israeli hasbara, and also with the intent of smearing and dis-associating the socialist Jewish left, as clearly shown in the Al Jazeera documentary on the Israel Lobby. JVL’s training is based on objective and accurate historical and socialist analysis, based on the solid foundation of anti-racism and human rights which are clearly necessary in training and discussion of Labour Party issues. This ban not only smacks of censorship it is anathema an insult to democracy and free speech, and a stalinist approach to political organisation, and also geared to attacking and driving out true socialists and human rights activists (especially on the Israel/Palestine issue) from the Party.

  • Elizabeth Ramsden says:

    In full agreement with the above article. There is nothing I’m surprised about in the above article. The party has shown what the true colours of the neoliberals are.

  • Pauline Fraser says:

    With you all the way. In my right-led CLP those of us on the left have experienced the proposal to organise JVL workshops rejected. Love the last sentence especially. We need to turn the tables on the suppression of our rights to discuss freely and fairly with our Labour Party comrades.

  • dave says:

    At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, the reason you can’t talk about antisemitism is because this isn’t about antisemitism but anti-left. None of the right in the party give a flying fig about antisemitism as a substantial issue.

  • Kuhnberg says:

    Does Starmer really believe that he can dissociate the Labour Party from reasonable criticism of the government of Israel? Perhaps he should subject himself to training in basic socialist principles and the party’s history of support for oppressed people everywhere in the world.

    Joking aside, he must be well aware of the violence he is doing to the democratic fabric of the party and its spirit of comradely solidarity. I can only suppose that he does not place any value on those things.

  • Mary Davies says:

    Time for this LP fascist dictatorship to end.

  • James Dickins says:

    “More confused all the time about the Labour Party’s definition of anti-semitism or the motives behind the refusal to accept JVL as a legitimate expression of liberal, socialist values”

    No need to be confused. Keir Starmer is a “Zionist without reservation” (https://green-socialist.com/2020/10/30/starmer-shows-his-true-colours/), and intends to make sure that that is the position of the Labour Party too. Hence anyone who is a Zionist with reservation(s), or a non-Zionist, or even (perish the thought) an anti-Zionist (including Palestinians, of course) is no longer welcome in the Labour Party. In Starmer’s new model Labour Party, not to be a Zionist without reservation is to be an ‘anti-Semite’.

  • Hilary Williams says:

    I’m totally shocked by this. Abe Hayden expresses it well. As a liverpool wavertree member I know that any intention to invite jvl would be referred by our exec to region who would block it. How dare they, do we have no autonomy to arrange our pol ed in line with lp principles?
    Do comrades have suggestions about what we can do about this?

  • Marge Berer says:

    This is beyond belief. What action is JVL going to take? A formal complaint surely needs to be made, calling for their reasons to be spelled out to the whole Party so they can be challenged in their own terms. Everyone in the Party has a right to know that this is being done in their names. This is discrimination writ large.

  • Sabine Ebert-Forbes says:

    I am with you all the way. I have benefitted from sessions facilitated by yourselves.
    I cannot understand nor condone the thinking of those up top. To me their behaviour is just wrong on so many levels.

  • Peter Jenner says:

    One of my last acts as a member of the Labour Party was to attempt to get a motion passed in my CLP to affiliate to the JVL.

    The visceral hatred of the JVL by my JLM affiliated MP at this meeting was tangible.

    Not long afterwards, I was suspended from the Labour Party. One of the supporting pieces of ‘evidence’ was a smear by a local Labour councillor attempting to paint me as a ‘global Jewish conspiracy’ theorist.

    In my view, the Labour Party under its present leadership is no longer fit for purpose.

  • DJ says:

    We all knew this was coming. This latest undemocratic edict must be resisted somehow. Ultimately it’s up to the membership and the affiliated organisations to demand the leadership backs down on this issue. If they are allowed to get away with this,I fear membership or support for JVL could result in expulsion from the Labour Party.

  • John Bowley says:

    As democratic socialists, we are wrong and are discriminated against.

    I suspect the hierarchy of planning enforced training in support for Israel.

  • Doug says:

    The advice is to ignore the advice and carry on as usual
    The various legal challenges are just around the corner and it is only a matter of time before Temporary Embarrassment is challenged
    The membership up with this they will not put

  • Harry Law says:

    Associations can in some circumstances discriminate against members, but they must be justify it on non racial [or other other characteristic grounds as set out in the legislation]. This would involve the County court, I think you might have a good case.
    UK Equalities Act 2010…. Here is the relevant legislation…

    101. Members and Associates.
    2)An association (A) must not discriminate against a member (B)—
    a)in the way A affords B access, or by not affording B access, to a benefit, facility or service;
    (b)by depriving B of membership;
    (c)by varying B’s terms of membership;
    (d)by subjecting B to any other detriment.

  • Rin Roche says:

    This is awful!! What can people do? Write to MP?

  • Dave Peck says:

    Absolutely agree that banning CLPs and branches participating in JVL workshops is anti-semitic.
    So worried about the direction the party is heading in.

  • Colin Lomas says:

    To JVL supporters:
    Reading this piece made me profoundly depressed about Keir Starmer’s leadership.
    With little hope for change and in frustration I sent the message below to Mr Starmer and my MP.
    “It’s difficult to believe what I’m reading – that the party is preventing JVL Jewish Voice for Labour from offering training workshops on combatting anti-Semitism.

    I support the statement on the JVL web site:
    “We believe these bans are anti-Semitic in their suppression of authentic Jewish opinion”.

    I note with dismay that the party has given entire control of antiracism training to a body quite separate from the Labour party – the Jewish Labour Movement – which accepts members from anywhere”.

    Colin Lomas

  • Linda P says:

    It would seem that Kier Starmer and his ilk are out to destroy socialism in the Labour Party and are quite prepared to be anti Semitic to achieve this goal, sadly this behaviour from Starmer does not surprise me.

  • Steve Griffiths says:

    I’m devastated. We are beyond formal complaints: democracy in the party is suspended. I think two things, but am open to debate. One, focus on no-confidence in Starmer – how long can they keep the lid on this? But, two, there has to be a wider campaign for democracy in the UK: this is consistent with the whole shebang, from the appointment of far right figures as regulators, to the Orwellian disciplining of Jews by Gentiles for anti-semitism, to the giant lie machine that destroyed Labour’s 2017 election campaign and demonised many good people. This is much bigger than the Labour Party, but the LP is pivotal: if there is no democratic opposition, we are stuffed. The Coalition for Media Reform is great, but we need a movement, and it needs to channel positive energy. We are on the back foot too much. My heart goes out to the brave JVL members who have carried this fight, but they shouldn’t have to carry it alone. We have tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.

  • Thank you JVL for saying what we all believe…if it hadn’t been for you I would’ve left labour …but your words keep me in hope

  • Abby Hoffmann says:

    I managed (as a JVL member) to get ours (Norwich Sth) to affiliate in 2019… I wonder how they are going to walk that back? And any others who are similarly affiliated…. Surely a motion will have to be moved and voted on, who would put their name to such a thing.. calling to be disaffiliated from a Jewish socialist organisation………

  • Ian Hickinbottom says:

    The more this type of behaviour from the leadership goes on, the more I’m convinced that Starmer is being used as the patsy for the right of the party. He will bring in these dictatorial edicts and the members will complain and take action via the courts if necessary and some will leave. Then when the worst is over for the party, Starmer and Evan’s will be replaced with the real preferred candidate for 2024. I think Starmer may be gone by September if elections in May are a disaster, but sometime in 2022 if not.

  • Marian Carty says:

    Current labour leadership’s determination to silence the voices of true anti-racists, such as JVL, is extremely sinister. We must support JVL and all Labour Party members who are serious about challenging racism in all it forms.

  • Neil Garratt says:

    Not only is Starmer making the Labour Party the Zionist Labour Party – his acts are historically those of the Zionists – the racists, colonial imperialists: whose agenda is to support the status quo and its racist agenda.

    The paradox, is that by suppressing free and democratic debate in order to impose the Zionist agenda, the hand of the racist, anti-semitic organisation are being empowered and strengthened by Starmer and his apparatchiks.

    The real enemy of Judaism, democracy and socialism is the political ideology represented by Starmer and his fellow travellers. The appointment of an Israeli “spy” to gather intelligence on members epitomises the extent to which members are treated with contempt. The methods the right are using – even more overtly day by day – are designed to extinguish Socialism and rely on big financial backers to support them through elections and media propaganda campaigns.

    This leaves all ordinary members and working class people under attack during austerity – at a time when the Labour Party should be a shining beacon of light in the darkness.

    I find this a really dangerous return to a previous time, when being gay, Jewish, black, a trades unionist, public sector worker or a socialist meant you were “the enemy within”.

    The real “enemy within” wears a suit, sits comfortably with racism and apartheid and backs the most right wing party in Government for decades: never challenging or presenting alternative policies, his agenda is to destroy the party at whatever cost.

    The only answer is to take our fight for democracy and socialism onto the streets, in places where ordinary people like us go.

  • Sue says:

    The leadership of the Labour Party is discriminating against a certain section of the membership because they are Jews.
    This action, therefore, is anti Semitic.
    So we are now, officially, an institutionally anti Semitic party.
    Must be time to call the EHRC back in.

  • Siddharth Mehrotra says:

    Not to remind JVL of the obvious, but it might be of use to include the ongoing occupation of Palestine among the racisms opposed. To do so would be to demonstrate opposition not to antisemitism itself, but to all similar persuasions.

  • Seamus Curley says:

    I think this type of narrow mindedness does more to fuel the fire of antisemitism than bringing the discussion into the open .
    For years it was regarded as a derogatory remark to address a black person as such and I well remember what was accepted as normal .
    No Blacks, No Irish .No Dogs.
    We’ve come a way since then .

  • Yunus Moosa says:

    This is not the labour party i have supported and voted for and been a member of it appears to no longer embodies all the principles and values of the working class and also has forgotten how the party began i now for one am considering of cancelling my membership of this now totalitarian party and will never vote for this party in its present state no transparency no voice at grass root supports and acts like an affiliate Tory Party a complete disgrace

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