Labour’s “Action Plan for Driving Out Antisemitism” will do no such thing

Before Christmas the Labour Party published its “Action Plan for Driving Out Antisemitism”. This was its response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report issued on October 29.

In response to criticism in the EHRC report, the Action Plan commits Labour “to greater transparency in our complaints processes to increase trust and confidence in our procedures” – a promise it has instantly reneged on by deciding the membership of a crucial new advisory body behind closed doors.

The Action Plan says the party will set up “an Advisory Board composed of members from the Jewish community and a Reference Group to act as a sounding board and critical friend.” But as reported here, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Jewish Labour Movement were given a veto over membership of the Advisory Board. The result: eminent and distinguished nominees who represent much of the diversity of Jewish opinion have been excluded.

Which Jewish Stakeholders?

The EHRC required the Labour Party to consult with Jewish Stakeholders, among which we certainly would include ourselves. But the Labour Party has interpreted this to mean that they could ignore the real diversity of the actually existing Jewish communities. These, rather like the rest of society, are a mix of contrasting views and values, not one monolithic bloc.  Instead it has identified as, and consulted with, only those in “the (fictional) Jewish community” who are united around a determination to make support for Israel axiomatic, support for Palestine deeply suspect.

By restricting the consultation to members and supporters of the BOD and JLM the Plan gives a critical role in overseeing the changes to the Party’s complaints system to the very organisations that fuelled the infamous wave of antisemitism allegations against Jeremy Corbyn. This seems to presage an even more punitive disciplinary process dominated by the factional interests of the current leadership.

So when the Action Plan says that:

  • “Consultation with the Jewish community will be built into all aspects of the Action Plan”; or
  • it will “deliver, alongside Jewish stakeholders, appropriate antisemitism training for all staff”; and
  • it will “develop all education and training programmes in consultation with Jewish stakeholders”

this is code for “We will work only with the right kind of Jews.” They will exclude not only dissenting Jews, but also others intensely concerned about how the disciplinary system in the UK’s only viable political opposition party works. At the top of the list of those disadvantaged by this approach are the tens of thousands of Muslim and Black party members whose concerns have slipped far down the leadership’s hierarchy of racisms.

Hierachy of racisms

In the preamble Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner pledge to establish “an independent process to investigate complaints of antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, sexual harassment and any discrimination based on protected characteristics”. But the Action Plan goes on to place all its emphasis on antisemitism as if this were the only problem.

Making the Action Plan dependent on establishing a powerful stakeholder group for “the Jewish community” raises the question – is this to be the model for addressing all forms of racist behaviour? Are we eventually to have stakeholder groups for all communities of interest? If not, why not? But if so, consider the divisiveness and sheer impracticality of having to decide, across a whole array of communities of interest, which groups should be represented and by whom.

This Action Plan is based on the unrealistic idea that racism can be “driven out” of any institution by hunting down, rooting out and expelling people allegedly guilty of holding certain opinions. It fails to recognise that most of the foolish, hurtful things people say about Jews (as opposed to about Israel) – or about any other discriminated against group – do not stem from a deep antipathy but from unexamined assumptions that remain endemic in the wider society.

The remedy for that is education, which should have been at the heart of the Action Plan. But it fatally confuses education with training, using the terms interchangeably. The only concrete action proposed is designing “a training programme to identify and tackle antisemitism for those handling complaints.” And will that programme be determined by, perhaps delivered by, JLM with a Jewish Advisory Board selected by the JLM and the BOD as arbiter?

Expert education banned

Jewish Voice for Labour has delivered educational (not training) workshops to dozens of branches, CLPs and other Labour movement groups over the last three years. We don’t tell people what to say or not say. We help them to think – about possibly unconscious prejudices, in themselves and others. We have learned in practice how to do that. But now Labour Party members interesting in drawing on our expertise have been banned from doing so, and our single nomination for the Advisory Board has been rejected (as has the former head of Liberal Judaism and well-known independent researchers in the field).

The party appears to have learned nothing from its own authoritative but ignored 2016 report from Shami Chakrabarti, former head of the civil liberties organisation Liberty, into antisemitism and other forms of racism in the Labour Party. She said:

“…it is not my view that narrow anti-racism training programmes are what is required. There is a grave danger that such an approach would seem patronising or otherwise insulting rather than truly empowering and enriching for those taking part.”

For a full discussion of what real education about antisemitism, and other forms of racism, might look like, see this piece by JVL member Professor Tony Booth. It is tragic that the party has produced an “Action Plan for Driving Out Antisemitism” without giving any thought to how to change minds rather than purge individuals.

Links to all JVL statements and other articles on the EHRC report



Comments (14)

  • Dave Kirby says:

    It is a side-issue but does not this article treat the language of the geography concerning Israel and Palestine in a confusing way? Palestine is not just the West Bank and Gaza. We should avoid language which is unconsciously based on the conception of a two-state solution, when such a solution is already inconceivable because of settlement proliferation, causing the division of the occupied part of historic Palestine into bantustans. Moreover the true scale and nature of apartheid in Israel/Palestine can only be grasped by considering the whole territory as well as the refugees who want to return.

  • This is a matter which must horrify the EHRC, surely – where did they say certain Jewish groups should be excluded in Labour’s response/’action plan’? Or am I just dreaming? Perhaps the EHRC could be persuaded to reveal what they think the ‘right kind’ of Jew is?

  • Harry Law says:

    JLM derives its legitimacy from being an affiliate of the UK Labour Party. But it also organizes within the pro-settlement World Zionist Organization, and alongside its sister party in Israel, the pro-apartheid Israeli Labour Party.
    In 2017, a UN report said that, “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” UN Under-Secretary-General Rima Khalaf said at the time that the report “clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people.”
    B’Tselem a human rights group in Israel recently declared that Israel is an Apartheid state
    The Israel Labour party supports the settlement enterprise and has done so when it was the governing party in Israel and encouraged settlement construction in the West Bank under most of its leadership after 1967. Former Israel Labour party leader Avi Gabbay described illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank as “the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism.”Gabbay has also vowed that under his leadership, Israel’s government would never include parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel.
    As an affiliated group within the UK Labour party the JLM is supposed to follow LP policy which is to oppose settlements and abide by International law i.e. Article 49.6 of the 1949 Geneva conventions and the International Criminal Court [ICC] both insist the transfer of citizens of the occupier into occupied territory is a grave war crime. The World Court called the ‘International court of Justice’[ICJ] in the Hague in its ‘Wall’ Opinion’ in 2003 by 15 Judges to 0 said that all settlements are grave war crimes. Will these training exercises by the JLM be asked why their organization
    1/ Organizes within the WZO and Israeli Labour party and
    2/ Why they refuse to abide by International Law as required by its affiliation to the UK Labour party.
    How is it legally and morally possible for the JLM not only to teach LP members that International Law is not applicable to Israel, but how such a group can remain members of the UK Labour party at all. Will Labour party members who might broach these questions be accused of making our Jewish colleagues uncomfortable and unwelcome and risk being expelled?

  • “Out, out damned spot, out, I say. Why here is the smell of the blood still.” Lady Macbeth trying to cleanse herself of what exists only in her mind! As Starmer “tries” to remove what only exists as his invention.

  • Sabine Ebert-Forbes says:

    I agree with your analysis wholeheartedly. For me this plan is divisive, and an example of practical antisemitism as well as open discrimination against other groups insociety and the Labour Party who experience discrimination, bullying and similar.
    This plan is not thought through properly and risks causing more damage than actually improve and change things.
    If we were at school or a uni, this plan would be a clear fail due to all the issues raised in your analysis.
    The leadership should feel ashamed about presenting this action plan.

  • Jack T says:

    Labour’s ‘Action Plan’ is in effect a plan to drive out Socialists from the Labour Party, it has nothing to do with tackling anti-Semitism. Socialists are well aware of racism and it is inherrent in Socialism to oppose all forms of racism. Zionism is racism, therefore it follows that Socialists will oppose it. Starmer has declared himself to “support Zionism without qualification” which clearly identifies him as a racist and this is the real reason he does not want Socialists in the Labour Party.

    Starmer, Rayner, RLB and others are attempting to change the Labour Party from a ‘Democratic Socialist Party’ to a social democrat Party without democracy and without Socialists. We’ve already seen this with the ‘gang of four’ and we know how far that went!

  • Martin Read says:

    Try explaining any of this to Lord John ‘Shouty’ Mann!

  • Paul Crowther says:

    A statement full of hope for what could be, balanced against deep sadness for the mire Labour has slid into.
    JVL’s approach to education on antisemitism could be used as model pedagogy for all anti-discrimination courses – to bring about internalised change in the participants. Instead, one has to fear Labour will go for giving a list of rights and wrongs, with the false expectation of that resolving problems. Patronising rather than empowering, as the authors put it.

  • Andrew Dinkenor says:

    UK is a multi-culture country, Israel is a single-culture country. How can I be expected to support both, without looking totally discredited?

  • Hazel Davies says:

    A sad but accurate portrayal of the current situation. Antisemitism, for Starmer and the right wing, is useful mainly as a weapon to drive out of the Party anyone who disagrees with the leadership.

  • Bill Risebero says:

    The Right has painted itself into a corner. Having concocted accusations of anti-semitism in order to achieve a political objective, it now finds it necessary grimly to carry on, so that its calumnies are not shown up to be merely opportunistic. The more it invents rules, stifles debate, prefers exclusion to education, the flimsier its arguments are seen to be, and the more they divert from the real task of confronting serious anti-semitism.

  • Jack T says:

    Dave Kirby, completely agree. Your comment shows the danger of subconsciously accepting the premise of apartheid whereby Palestine is viewed as belonging to two separate groups inhabiting two separate areas. Palestine belongs to ‘Palestinians’ who, just like in most developed countries, have a multitude of beliefs.

  • John C says:

    Expulsion is never the answer.

  • Catherine Turner says:

    The Jews have a right to the land based on the Bible or have I as an ignorant “Goy” missed something??
    The Palestinians also have the right to their own homeland.
    Perhaps base a two state solution on the pre 1967 war boundaries !
    But whom am I but an insignificant member of the Hoi Poloi

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