STATEMENT BY JEWISH VOICE FOR LABOUR IN RESPONSE TO FORMER PETERBOROUGH CITY COUNCILLORS FERRIS AND MAHABADI

On November 5, Richard Ferris and Matthew Mahabadi published a lengthy statement about their decision to resign as Peterborough Labour city councillors. As reasons for their decision they cited “incompetence and pettiness” on the part of the Tory administration, but they also attacked their own party with charges of “pressure, bullying and alienation by a powerful minority of ‘militant’ elements” they said were trying to silence their objections to antisemitism.

Central to this serious charge was their allegation that a party branch had “affiliated themselves with an organisation condemned by Jewish Community Leaders, which is intent on the dismantling of Israel and on the removal of Jews from the Levant (specifically, the so-called “Jewish Voice for Labour”).”

These charges against Jewish Voice for Labour and Peterborough Labour Party are entirely false.

JVL was formed in July 2017 by and for Jewish Labour Party members who are not represented by the pro-Israel organisations that claim to speak for us all. It has won considerable support from Jews and other party members who agree with our stand for justice and human rights for everyone in the UK, the Middle East and throughout the world. To state that we are “intent on the dismantling of Israel and on the removal of Jews from the Levant” attributes to our organisation views that bear no relation to JVL’s actual position.

Jewish Voice for Labour is motivated by a desire for justice in the Middle East so that Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and security, in accordance with our statement of principles which can easily be found on our website. These views are also in line with established Labour Party policy.

Since JVL become known for its staunch defence of Jeremy Corbyn and his socialist project as Labour leader, we have been obliged to rebut a great many lies and distortions about our organisation. Ferris and Mahabadi’s statement is one of the most extreme examples we have faced.

They have refused to respond to a request from us that they retract their potentially defamatory allegations. Publicly on Facebook, Mahabadi has reiterated them, using as a source “JVL Watch,” a group set up specifically to undermine and demonise our organisation since its inception. His public justification of his allegations against us is based solely on evidence-free assertions from this group.

Mahabadi’s evident partisanship must raise doubts about other charges he and Ferris have made, against Peterborough Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and the party as a whole.

At least one of these is simply wrong. It is not true, as they state, that any local branch has affiliated to JVL, although affiliation has been proposed and would be welcomed by JVL.

They offer no proof for their assertions about bullying and threats. However, we understand that Mahabadi reacted with hostility to a letter he was sent in late October by the Local Campaign Forum – the body which acts for both Peterborough and North West Cambridgeshire CLPs with regards to local government matters in the city. LCF officers had been obliged to question him about his role as an elected representative of a ward in Peterborough, since he had been living abroad for a number of months.

The former councillors’ charge that the party has failed “to take seriously the disease of antisemitism we have diagnosed” is in our view entirely groundless. Labour is giving the issue of antisemitism far more attention than almost any other political institution in the UK.

The very few real cases of antisemitism – that is, hostility towards Jews as Jews – within the party, locally and nationally, are being dealt with under disciplinary procedures which need to be seen to be fair and just. Ferris and Mahabadi have clearly identified with factions hostile to the Corbyn leadership in undermining those procedures by airing internal matters publicly.  They have, in our view, brought the party into disrepute with their latest public attacks on JVL and the Peterborough CLP.

Leah Levane and Jenny Manson
Co-chairs, Jewish Voice for Labour