Jewish Voice for Labour targeted in Peterborough purge

Trial by Media - “We believe this to be the latest move in a concerted campaign by the leadership to eliminate its opponents within the party who refuse to accept censorship of their views."

JVL Introduction

Media reports last week added a new chapter to the shameful story of Labour Party members being publicly pilloried and suspended without any chance to answer charges laid against them. The Jewish Chronicle, Jewish News and the Peterborough Telegraph named more than a dozen individuals. These reports breached the party’s confidentiality rules and gave currency to unsubstantiated allegations of antisemitism against a number of those named.

Now the Peterborough Telegraph has published a letter from several of those accused denying antisemitism charges and demanding an apology for their names being leaked, and from the chair of the Joint Mosques Council on behalf of others.

It also quoted from a statement by Jewish Voice for Labour which we publish here. The text of both letters appears below the JVL statement.

Jewish Voice for Labour targeted in Peterborough purge

The nationwide wave of suspensions of left-wing Labour Party members, that hit two Peterborough constituencies last week, appears to be targeting members and supporters of Jewish Voice for Labour, a group that has been at the forefront of opposition to attempts to ban discussion within the party of issues related to Israel, Palestine and defining antisemitism. It has stood up strongly against attempts to brand criticism of Israel as antisemitic.

Since new leader Keir Starmer last year appointed David Evans as general secretary, party members have been threatened with disciplinary measures for advocating affiliation to JVL, elected officers have been told that they may not invite JVL’s education team to hold workshops about antisemitism, and three members of JVL’s 17-member national committee, all Jews, have been suspended from the party.

In NW Cambridgeshire constituency party, which is affiliated to Jewish Voice for Labour, six out of eight executive officers are now suspended. They are among 19 party members across the two Peterborough CLPs, including sitting councillors and candidates in the current council elections, to have been suspended over recent weeks.

“We believe this to be the latest move in a concerted campaign by the leadership to eliminate its opponents within the party who refuse to accept censorship of their views,” said JVL’s media officer Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, suspended vice-chair of Chingford and Woodford Green CLP. She and two other leading left members of her constituency were suspended on December 4.

In common with hundreds of other cases across the party, including those in Chingford and Woodford Green, disciplinary letters sent to the 19 suspended in Peterborough and NW Cambs not only provide no evidence of wrong-doing;  they also demand complete confidentiality on the part of the recipients. But media reports in Jewish News and the Jewish Chronicle as well as Peterborough Telegraph, name many of them, link them to questionable racist statements and suggest that they have engaged in antisemitic behaviour.

Jewish Voice for Labour does not comment on specific cases, but we have seen too many instances where a few problematic statements are distorted and amplified in media reports, giving a false impression of widespread hostility to Jews. This serves a factional agenda and does nothing to counter real racism against Jewish people in our society.

In the Peterborough case, JVL calls on the Labour Party leadership to deplore such trial by media, which breaches confidentiality rules and undermines any faith that the individuals vilified will have a fair and just disciplinary hearing.

These suspensions should be withdrawn, the circumstances surrounding leaking of information about them to the media should be investigated, and the individuals named should receive apologies from the publications in question and a right of reply to set out their case.


Letter sent to the Peterborough Telegraph by eight suspended party members.

Labour Suspensions: Right to Reply

National and local media have named individuals and reported allegations against Labour Party Members in Peterborough and North West Cambs. This follows earlier suspensions of two serving Labour Councillors whose names have also been released.

Media reports suggest antisemitism on the part of all the party members in this most recent set of suspensions which includes councillors and candidates in local elections, linking us to a number of questionable racist statements.

We the undersigned totally refute the suggestions that we have engaged in antisemitic behaviour.

Suspension letters sent to us do not allege it, and no specific charges have been made.

No formal investigation has taken place to establish any facts, including the possibility that any allegations may be vexatious, especially as this is a politically sensitive time because of imminent local elections.

Suspension letters categorically demand that the utmost confidentiality is required of everyone involved.  News media reports quote “labour sources” referring to antisemitism claims which are not mentioned in the suspension letters sent out.

This source may not be official, or even connected to the Labour Party. However even if it is not, the Party still has a responsibility to do all it can to protect the identity of the individuals named and its own reputation and process by making a statement to clarify that the source was not official. Also it should request (if not demand), that the names of accused members should in future be redacted, and warn that action would be taken against any future publication of names in any public information/news outlets until the investigation is concluded.

The Labour Party has a responsibility to protect members; a responsibility it makes clear to us in the suspension letter, but one it has failed to live up to.

Because the Party’s Governance and Legal Unit (GLU) has shown itself unable to exercise control of its own sensitive information it is now difficult to have any faith that a fair and just outcome will result.  Indeed for many people reading the story, this ‘trial by media’ will already be complete and sentences passed.

Legal avenues are being explored to establish whether any formal investigation has been corrupted as a result of both false and confidential information being disseminated in the press, potentially denying justice to both accused and accuser.

In the meantime we ask that all future press statements redact names, and we ask that an apology is given for contravening the Data Protection Act 2018.

signed

Alan Gasparutti
Colin Watson
Heather Skibsted
Janet Armstrong
Jonathan Orchard
Kit Hubback
Linda Watson
Richard Strangward


Letter from chair of Joint Mosques Council published in the Peterborough Telegraph.

‘The councillors and members I know are not anti-semitic’

I am deeply disturbed to read a three-page story in Peterborough Telegraph on the 29th of April, front page head lined: “A Stain on our City”. It mentioned several local councillors as well as candidates, mainly Muslim – some of whom are taking part in the current elections and some who took part in previous elections, alleging that their historical comments were anti-Semitic.

I do not have any political linkage with any party, hence my response is as Chairman of Joint Mosques Council.

No doubt those who are accused of anti-Semitism will respond to the allegation levied against them. However, I am rather surprised of why such historical allegations, some of which go back several years, have been raised by the “Jewish Leadership Council” just a few days before the local elections. Why didn’t the local Jewish community raise their concern at any time previously regarding such serious allegations and why the leadership of political parties have decided now to suspend their Councillors/candidates? What prompted them to raise it at this time?

I believe the public should be made aware of the answers to all these questions.

I personally know all the current and previous councillors and candidates of Muslim/Pakistani heritage and I can vouch that none of them are against Judaism or anyone who is Jewish. The fact of the matter is that all Muslims believe and respect all Prophets from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Dawud and Jesus – peace be upon them. You cannot be a Muslim unless you believe in and respect all these Prophets. To suggest that a Muslim is anti-Semitic, against Jews or Judaism is completely incorrect as it is contradiction with the Islamic faith and the essence of what a Muslim believes.

Most Muslim’s around the world and many others have very strong views regarding the Israeli government concerning the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people and despite many resolutions passed by the United Nations, Israel has not vacated the land that was occupied during the 1967 war, including Jerusalem, West Bank, Golan Heights, and other areas in the region. Rather than vacating the occupied land, successive Israeli governments built up thousands of settlements in occupied land and forced the Palestinian people to live in camps in squalid conditions for more than half century.

I have personally spoken with some of the people mentioned in the newspaper article and they have expressed the same views. “No disrespect for Jewish religion or people but no love for Israeli government”. Sadly, some of them may have mixed up their feelings about religion and politics and no doubt they should be careful before making any such comments and some have already apologised for their comments. These are the same views of many British people as well as the prominent politicians. Late Sir Gerald Kaufman who was a Jew and minister in Labour government in 1970s also shadow minister for many years. He was one of the severest critics of Israel government about Palestine issue till his death.

The situation in Kashmir which is occupied by India is same as that of Palestine, if not worse. Most Pakistanis condemn the Indian government and its prime minister Modi for the atrocities being committed in Kashmir but there is no hate of any kind for Hindu religion or Hindu people. Criticism of the Israeli government and state is not and should not be considered anti-Semitic. We should be able to criticise actions of aggression of any government against humanity. Whether it is the Israeli government’s oppression of Palestinians, which includes Muslim and Christians origin, whether it is China’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims population, or any oppression of minorities in Muslim majority countries, as Muslims we are always ready to speak up for justice against oppression, justice for humanity wherever it may be. This is one of the basic teachings of Islam.

Peterborough is a shining example for others to follow where all Faith Groups work together for the betterment of its people and not a “Stain on our city” We have a Faith group, which was set up at the beginning of Covid 19, where all the faiths, including Jews, Christians, Muslims Sikhs, Hindus, and others work together and have meetings every fortnightly to discuss issues mainly regarding Covid 19 and how to work together to reduce the effect of Covid 19. There is also an Interfaith organisation representative all faiths.

Let me conclude by saying that the teachings of Islam are not to disrespect any other religions but to stay firm in your own faith. I will not touch on the issue of Islamophobia as my letter will become too long for publication.

The Joint Mosques Council will be happy to participate in any meeting with the JLC to thrash out the issues of their concern.

Abdul M. Choudhuri
Chairman, Joint Mosques Council Peterborough

PS. We are very sad about the accident which took place in Israel over religious festival killing several people and injuring many more – our sympathy is with all the bereaved families. A message was already sent to local Jewish community about this tragedy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (5)

  • Allan Howard says:

    Isn’t it amazing how often such episodes happen just before local council elections, as with Naz Shah in 2016. It’s just purely coincidental of course that her post about Israel from 2014 should just happen to come to light and become headline news a week or so before the local council elections in 2016.

    And perish the thought that Ken Livingstone was then set-up! I mean only devious, duplicitous, conniving, deceitful subverters of democracy could possibly do such a thing, and surely we don’t have people like that in the Labour Party or the MSM.

  • Rodney Watts says:

    If it weren’t so serious it really would be laughable, indeed utterly farcical.
    This time though the Jewish Leadership council have replaced the BoD as orchestrators and at least some tories are in the firing line too. However it is only the Labour GU issuing the suspensions in the usual unfair and probably illegal manner. It would appear that the tories (sensibly?) let the complaints go down a “black hole”, while 25 miles from me a conservative MP has been elected in Hartlepool.

    Interestingly the Tory had 51.9% of the votes with a reduced turnout of 42.3% . If the turnout drop was due to Labour voters just not voting, then if they had turned out Labour would have got back in with about 50% of the votes. Time for Starmer to go — not JVP members to be suspended!.

  • Charlotte Williams says:

    Abdul Chaudhuri’s letter is both powerful and heartwarming. Long live dialogue and collaboration between different peoples.

  • Will Scott says:

    I’m particularly impressed with Mr Choudhuri’s letter. I think his point about the timing of the complaint is significant.

  • John Bowley says:

    Here has been another example of the political use of claims of antisemistism against the Labour Party, here shortly before elections. Shame on the media.

Comments are now closed.