JVL Introduction

John Lansman gave a radio interview on the Today programme on 25th February about antisemitism in the Labour Party. The Guardian reported it under the headline Labour has widespread problem with antisemitism – Momentum founder

Mike Cushman was asked by members of his local Labour Party to respond to it. This was his retort.

Jon Lansman. Photo: twitter

Jon Lansman – a rebuttal

Mike Cushman, 26 February 2019

I will respond but it is a sign of the intimidation of party members that many of them feel frightened to comment on this issue and have asked me to write on their behalf..

There are a few points in John Lansman’s piece I agree with. Tweets and Facebook comments leave a trace that can be exploited by those trying to damage the Labour Party; gossip in the golf club bar leaves no such trace for those seeking to explore Tory members’ attitudes.

He is right that Jeremy is no racist or antisemite and as leader he should not meddle in individual cases – it is the General Secretary’s responsibility to manage the process and she is doing a good job. Her report to the PLP which they demanded like petulant 4-year olds was detailed and thorough but all it demonstrated that no matter what the Party does it will never satisfy those who are set on defaming it. The Party can never do enough.

Are there some conspiracy theorists among the hundreds of thousands of new members? Quite possibly. Are there a significant number? No one has produced any evidence of that. Are the new members (and most of the old members) overwhelmingly people motivated to build a better Britain and a better world on the basis of equality and human rights? Certainly.

Where I see a mass of conspiracy theorists it is on the right of the Party among those who keep on asserting there is a conspiracy to turn the Labour party into a Jew-hating machine. The lack of evidence for their claims and the damage they do is similar to the anti-Vaxxers. The anti-Vaxxers are making our children vulnerable to measles and other preventable diseases; the antisemitism witch hunters are making Palestinians vulnerable to abuse by the Israeli regime by making people scared to speak in their defence.

Whether the number of ‘hardcore antisemites’ are a handful or a few dozen I don’t know but I doubt very much they are the few hundred Lansman claims. I have seen no tweets that appear to be driven by hatred of Jews, I have seen screen shots of some that confuse Jews, Israelis and Zionists and drift into making hurtful statements. Such statement cannot and must not be tolerated but the response is intelligent engagement and education not knee-jerk reaching for the executioner’s axe. If people keep on getting it wrong after engagement then, of course, sanctions must follow.

The confusion that individuals make between Jew, Israeli and Zionist is not surprising when the Israeli Government asserts it represents Jews worldwide (full disclosure: they don’t represent me). Similarly when the Board of Deputies and the Chief Rabbi, who are both representative of only a minority of British Jews, claim that Zionism is integral to Jewishness, that further confuses. The Zionist movement only dates back to 1880 and until the Holocaust was a minority movement among European Jews. Bundism, the commitment to using Jewish traditions to build a home where we live in a free and equal society, was the dominant trend based on a principle of hereness (doykeyt). This is the diaspora tradition that JVL seeks to continue: we live here, we belong here, we are committed to struggling for a better, fairer society for all.

Lansman says ‘”I don’t want any Jewish member in the party to be leaving. We are absolutely committed to making Labour a safe space.” It would be good if there was a commitment to making the Labour Party a safe space for non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews and would take the daily abuse we face seriously and sanction those who call us ‘fake Jews’ and ‘self-hating-Jews’ and Kapos and Quislings. It’s open season on Jews who try to speak up for what we see as a struggle for freedom and justice for the Palestinians and who try to advance the Corbyn project.

Whether Jon Lansman is driven by personal ambition, a residual commitment to his childhood Zionism and a totally mistaken concept of how to defend Jeremy is between him and his therapist and not for me to comment on – it is a mystery to me.