Jim Sheridan: Photo: Labour Party

JVL statement

In his post on the JVL Facebook page, reprinted below, David Rosenberg quite rightly takes Jim Sheridan to task for his Facebook post. Of course Jim Sheridan should not have put all Jews into one category, and categorised Blairite plotters as all being Jews or in some sort of conspiracy with them. His exact words are given in the post below.

There is, however, another lesson that we can draw from his tirade. It can be seen as a worrying sign of the immense anger aroused by the outrageous, repeated, unfair and vitriolic attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, and by the narrative of supposed endemic Labour Party antisemitism that has dominated political debate week after week, excluding discussion of Labour policies desperately needed by the wider population.

Exasperation is dangerous, especially in the current political climate, and Jim’s display demonstrates the need for proper education on antisemitism. This is one more example (and even one is one too many) of someone making an antisemitic statement – whether by carelessness of expression, anger or ignorance – which must of course be challenged and corrected. Depending on severity, the originator must be given a reprimand, or training, or, in egregious cases, sanction.

This behaviour needs to be distinguished from the racist words or actions of those whose interventions are driven by prejudice, hostility or hatred towards Jews.

The two are very different but are frequently being treated as one. It is a distinction that should always be made if the objective is to reduce and eliminate antisemitic statements rather than to have a witch hunt.

David Rosenberg writes

The former Labour MP, Jim Sheridan, who was suspended yesterday on an allegation of antisemitism in a facebook post, came into politics via the trade union movement. He was a shipyards worker then a printer, and has a history of support for progressive causes. He was responsible for introducing the Private Member’s Bill that became the Gangmasters Licensing Act, aimed at supporting the rights of vulnerable and super-exploited migrant workers.

His comments though, made in the context of an attack on Blairites plotting against the Labour leadership, cannot and should not be defended. (He has removed them – a clear indication that he recognises they were wrong and does not stand by them.)

We can point to hypocrisies and double standards re the disciplining or not of other Labour members who have made reprehensible comments. Many would consider the cheapening and trivialising of the Holocaust to be antisemitic but that is what Margaret Hodge has got away with this week.

However, we do have a duty to explain exactly what is wrong with Sheridan’s comments, both to point out the exact nature of the antisemitism, and to ensure that other members who are fuming about the cynical and relentless attack on Labour’s leadership by Blairites and their allies, don’t find themselves making similar wrong and dangerous remarks.

The reported part of the facebook post said (and I don’t know if it was part of a longer post): “For almost all my adult life I have had the utmost respect and empathy for the Jewish community and their historic suffering. No longer due to what they and their Blairite plotters are doing to my party and the long suffering people of Britain who need a radical Labour government.”

1. By “they” he clearly blames the whole Jewish community, for the actions against the Labour leadership of a section who claim to speak for all Jews but clearly don’t. Attributing collective guilt, he loses sympathy with the entire community and erases in particular many Jews who themselves are fighting against Blairite plotters.

2. He refers to “their” Blairite plotters. Blairite plotters come in all shapes, sizes, ethnicities etc. Some Blairite plotters are Jewish, others are not. His comment implies they are all controlled by the “Jewish community”.

3. He refers to the damage the Blairite plotters are doing to the hopes and needs of “the long suffering people of Britain” but clearly excludes all Jews from this “long-suffering” category. There are many Jews amongst the millions suffering the effects of austerity who need a radical Labour government.