The letter below has been signed by several Jewish members of the Haringey Labour parties and submitted to the Guardian “Opinion is free” page and to the Jewish Chronicle [on 27th March]. Whether it gets printed is open to question.

However here it is. Please share far and wide.


As Jewish members of the 2 Haringey Labour parties, we are concerned that media reports of antisemitism have increased recently. However these accounts aren’t of physical attacks on Jewish owned buildings or communities, although worryingly these are still happening, but about antisemitism within the Labour Party.

Even more bizarrely, the perpetrators identified in these stories have for the most part themselves been Jewish. From Glyn Secker, Secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour who was suspended then reinstated, to Jewish members of Haringey Labour, (Sunday Times, 18 March).

We think it’s important to try and understand why this new development should be of concern to everyone of Jewish heritage.

It’s difficult to talk about one dominant set of ideas or beliefs in Judaism with its diversity of beliefs, cultures and ethnicities. The exception is a collective sense of our long history of persecution. Unless you are brought up as a Jew, it’s hard to comprehend how this awareness shapes us as individuals.

Remarkably one result of this long and brutal persecution is that Judaism has had a positive influence throughout history on the arts, philosophy, business and on politics.

We’ve almost always chosen the path of active resistance to oppression rather than going under. When unable to find employment due to legal prohibitions, we developed new trades and skills. Instead of closing our minds and focussing on what we knew, we opened them, challenged accepted ideas and developed new ones. We built a sense of community and solidarity, rather than competition, so we could thrive together. From this has grown a tradition of debate, argument, freedom of speech and thought and humour.

Where we could leave the ghettos we’d been forced into, these ideas and values placed many of us on the progressive left of politics, where we found a sympathetic space for our traditions.

Many of us started a leftward political journey because of what we learned in gatherings of family and friends at the Friday night dinner table, where food was served up with a healthy dose of vigorous political argument. Here ideas were never silenced, but forced through an examination of logic and evidence, bringing the religious tradition of interrogation of the scriptures into the home.

This tradition is central to who we are. It’s bound many of us together through periods of intense persecution. It’s guided us to become a diverse and vibrant community with a disproportionately positive effect upon the history of humankind. Not a dominant force, but an intelligent, warm and humane influence based on open-mindedness and freedom of expression, because Jews know better than most where not following this path leads.

That’s why this recent trend of denouncing fellow Jews for antisemitism is so worrying. The root cause appears to us to be differences over Palestine. The majority of Jews identify with the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland. Most British Jews are also concerned about the plight of Palestinians and finding a peaceful and just solution. This dichotomy has long generated intense debate amongst Jews. However, even in the very personal family arena, no matter how heated the argument, rarely will anyone attempt to close down discussion about this and deny someone’s right to speak.

Jewish traditions prevent that. And with good reason. If we stop discussion and argument, we move away from what has served us so well.

This tradition of tolerant debate no longer seems to operate for some Jewish members of the Labour Party. Jews who’ve advanced a pro-Palestinian argument are being accused of antisemitism by fellow Jews.

All allegations of anti semitism should be fully and fairly investigated under a transparent laid down agreed procedure. Yet where this has happened and the person investigated and the complaint dismissed, this is not sufficient for the accusers.

The Sunday Times article mentioned above is a good example. The article mentions that someone was investigated and cleared, and yet this is still mentioned seemingly in the hope of giving credence, to other allegations.

The other events mentioned in the article took place over a period of six years and are themselves a mix of misquotes, half truths and comments taken out of context.

In the article it is alleged that Haringey Labour party is not a safe space for Jews. The reality is nothing could be further from the truth. There are many Jews in Haringey’s Labour parties. We just don’t need to constantly identify ourselves. Falsely calling Jews out as antisemites doesn’t make that any more likely.

Even so, of course there are antisemitic comments made in the Labour Party. This should be rooted out and there should be no tolerance of it when it happens. However this is no different nor more frequent than in wider society and upon inspection, they come from both the left and right. More pertinently it comes from deep seated ignorance.

It has been said that the Labour Party should strive to be better than wider society, and it should, but being better doesn’t come from making ill thought out attacks, clouded in distortion and a lack of due process. The way to deal with ignorance is to educate and to enlighten the ignorant so they learn to improve. Where poor judgement is found it should be met with fair judgement. This is not just the traditional way of Judaism, it is the way of any progressive organisation or society.

Phil Rose, Bruce Grove Ward, Tottenham CLP
Zena Brabazon, Tottenham Hale Ward, Tottenham CLP
Alan Stanton, Tottenham Hale Ward, Tottenham CLP
Sue Hughes, Hornsey Ward, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP
Dana Carlin, Hornsey Ward, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP
Monica Gort, Muswell Hill Ward, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP
Charley Allen, Crouch End Ward, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP
Miriam Levin, Crouch End Ward, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP
Amnon Baron Cohen, Fortis Green Ward, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP
Beth Miller, Fortis Green Ward, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP
Astrid French, Alexandra Ward, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP