Why JVL was established

The Board of Deputies of British Jews recently wrote to a voluntary organisation that “Jewish Voice for Labour was set up to deny allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party”.

This accusation is a lie which does not become any more true by dint of repetition.

Despite this, it is constantly repeated by those who believe that Jews who disagree with mainstream Jewish opinion are not entitled to a dissenting opinion.

JVL was set up in 2017 by Jewish members of the Labour Party who wanted a body that could represent them without demanding allegiance either for or against Zionism as a condition of membership: a group that was based on broad socialist, anti-racist and internationalist principles and was not afraid to actively support Palestinian rights.

We were, and remain, concerned that the body affiliated to the Labour Party, Jewish Labour Movement – known until 2004 by its original and more accurate name of Poale Zion (Workers of Zion) – claims to speak for all Jewish members. It actually speaks only for those willing to affirm that they wish ‘to ‘maintain and promote Labour or Socialist Zionism’ and ’to promote the centrality of Israel in Jewish life’. Many Jewish members of the Labour Party do not accept “the centrality of Israel in Jewish life” and believe that this stance devalues the Jewish diaspora of which we are proud to be a part. The formation of JVL allowed collective expression to the views of this previously unrepresented strand of Jewish opinion within the Party.

We welcome as members those who support our ideas, which are articulated clearly and publicly in our statement of founding principles, easily accessible on our website:

Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) is a network for Jewish members of the Labour Party.

Our political priorities are universal human rights and dignity; justice for all; freedom of expression; and democracy in the Labour Party.

Our mission is to contribute to making the Labour Party an open, democratic and inclusive party, encouraging all ethnic groups and cultures to join and participate freely. As such we aim to strengthen the party in its opposition to all forms of racism including antisemitism, broadening the party’s appeal to all sections of British society. We take inspiration from the long history of Jewish involvement in the socialist and trade-union movements and in antiracist and antifascist struggles, including the anti-apartheid and civil-rights movements.

We stand for rights and justice for Jewish people everywhere, and against wrongs and injustice to Palestinians and other oppressed people anywhere. We uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities, such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. We oppose attempts to widen the definition of antisemitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews.

At a time of profound divisions in Jewish communities, JVL offers a space to explore and debate the many questions (personal, social, cultural, political) that are important to us as progressive Labour Jews.

We will work where appropriate with existing groups involved with issues of common concern from an internationalist and anti-racist perspective.

We were open and transparent when we set up JVL and have continued to publicise and abide by these principles since. We are proud of our fierce antiracism which includes a total opposition to antisemitism – prejudice, hostility or hatred towards Jews as Jews.

We celebrated when Labour gained hundreds of thousands of new members inspired by Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader.  We believed that his election represented the best opportunity in several generations for establishing a Labour Party truly ‘For the Many, not the Few’.

JVL was horrified by the tide of ill-founded allegations of antisemitism that engulfed Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.  We saw that these included malicious charges which deflected and continue to deflect attention from the real antisemitism that occasionally surfaces within the Labour Party and much more frequently elsewhere. Such unfounded allegations put all Jews in real danger by sowing confusion about what constitutes antisemitism. They also commanded so much attention from the Party machine that issues of anti-Black and anti-Asian racism were marginalised. The leaked Labour Party report discloses that an anti-Corbyn party apparatus ignored several appalling instances of blatant antisemitism which were reported to them, concentrating instead on pursuing enemies on the left. We have attempted to reduce the confusion by issuing our joint declaration with Free Speech on Israel  on What is – and what is not – antisemitic misconduct.

Rebutting large numbers of unfair allegations; supporting those unjustly accused, Jewish and non-Jewish; and dealing with the hurt and suffering they experienced has taken up far more of JVL’s energy than we would have wished: diverting us from more positive political action.

We remain committed to combating antisemitism and all forms of racism and discrimination.

Despite claims to the contrary, JVL has many hundreds of Jewish Labour Party members, young and old, with diverse views and concerns. We are a broad shul.

 

Comments (28)

  • Johnnie says:

    Thank you for your courage and lucidity.

  • John Leonard says:

    Wish I could type but a few words takes me ages! But reading this latest post – I have to say something starting with how clear. Comforting and uplifting to know and have you around. For me you became the authority on most things Jewish. With Corbyn leading the Labour Party I was filled with hope. Then the AS claims came raining in thick and fast. I began having doubts. I began to think I was AS. But was I just a simple working class AS oaf? I forget why but I happened to click on to pone of your posts and was hooked. You have taught me so much and continue to enlighten. Many thanks. 🙂

  • Si says:

    Keep up the good work.

  • Michel Trainer says:

    As a 78 year old Jewish woman I can’t express how much I value my membership of the JVL . I feel at home with other members’ experience and values as socialist Jews. The posts are so well written, interesting and informative they give me reason to stay in the Labour party at a time when it’s tempting to leave.

  • David Aldred says:

    Thank you for this succinct explanation. Although I am atheist/gentile I support JVL. These are peculiar and sad times indeed, when Socialists who follow the Jewish faith; when Left-wing folk – some of whose relatives were murdered in the late-20th Century just for the yellow star they were forced to wear – when they can be treated like traitors now, by the one British party that should always embrace them.

  • Henry Ho says:

    Having a JEWISH voice for Labour is in my opinion exclusive and parochial and debunks the notion that you are Internationalists.
    Your need to have a separate group inside the Labour Party has the same rationale as those calling for a two state solution in the Israeli Palestinian conflict !!

  • David Roger says:

    An excellent clarifying statement that we can all use : Israel does not have to be “ central to jewish life “ and Palestinian empathy does not imply anti Semitism

  • Tony Riley says:

    Tony Riley has submitted many accusatory comments, designed to add nothing to any argument, merely to score points. They’ve all ended in the bin.

    But your web editor – against all advice not to feed the tolls – decided to respond to this one:

    Yes, we condemn human-rights abuses by all parties including Hamas in Gaza and the PA on the West Bank. Satisfied? I doubt it, since the point of your comment is not have a dialogue but, as usual, to score points. Normal binning service on your comments will be resumed from now on.

    Be honest.

    You’re just an anti-Israeli organisation.

    Prove I’m wrong by criticising the human rights abuses carried out by Hamas in Gaza.

  • Griff O'Malley says:

    Excellent

  • The ill-founded untrue anti-Semitism campaign against so many genuine Labour members and the Party in general, was designed to prevent Corbyn becoming PM. As a periphery, it led directly to Labour to losing the last general election – but those who waged the campaign, knowing of this possibility, didn’t care.

    Those who joined with the BBC in this false claim are not fit to be members of the Labour Party – but what is the solution. Can and will JVL form a viable break-away Labour Party?

  • Allan Howard says:

    The Board of Deputies of British Jews recently wrote to a voluntary organisation that “Jewish Voice for Labour was set up to deny allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party”.

    This accusation is a lie which does not become any more true by dint of repetition.

    Yes, but as we all know, a lie can be ‘transformed’ into a ‘truth’ by means of constant repetition AND by being repeated by a variety of sources. Repetition is a subtle form of brain-washing, and most people are not conscious or aware of the fact that it is happening to them.

  • You might also express some pride as providing a ‘place of solidarity’ for non-jews who wish the jewish community well. In my case I am a Christian priest who is proud to be affiliated with the jewish community via JVL

  • David Townsend says:

    ‘Based on broad socialist, anti-racist and internationalist principles and not afraid to actively support Palestinian rights.’

    it is for these reasons that I, as a non-Jew and now non-member of the Labour Party, am proud to be a supporter of JVL.

  • Diamond says:

    A good explanation of the aims and the purpose of JVL. As a non Jew I joined the movement because I believe in what it stands for. Keep up the good work!

  • Connie Jensen says:

    Thank you for this very clear statement. I am not Jewish but have joined JVL as a supporter, and find your articles clear, decent, logical, and above all, principled and moral. You are helping me not to despair at the current state of politics, and to fight on in the Labour Party for decency and Socialism.

  • Marge says:

    Thank you so much for this articulate and inspiring statement. I suspect many of us will be heartened by it in these very disheartening times.

    I have one quibble with one sentence. I do not think the Board of Deputies represent “mainstream Jewish thinking” from which we are mere “dissenters”, i.e. a fringe group. I believe they represent rightwing political thinking on Jewish issues, which we are opposed to for reasons of justice in both politics and ethics.

  • Jan Brooker says:

    Might have included a little statement of rebuttal of the argument [that I’ve seen several times] that you are made up of non-Jews; i.e. reiterating that JVL has [Jewish] full Members and [non-Jewish] Supporters [of which I am one].

  • Richard Steele says:

    Thanks so much, I have just been charged, tried and disciplined by the Labour Party in absentia for alleged anti semitism, no details supplied and no redress. I am against the actions of Israel against the Palestinians and have said so, apparently according to the Labour Party this is now anti semitism. I wrote to Starmer with my resignation. Needless to say, no reply. It would seem that policy regarding Israel is now formulated by the Board of Deputies.

  • Martyn Meacham says:

    You have my support.

  • Max Cook says:

    You as JVL have kept the TRUTH and NOT the lies put forward by JLM and their good friends the BoD and the Israeli regime.
    Thank you with ALL my thanks as a TRUE democratic socialist and a JC supporter.

  • Marion Leeson says:

    I am from a jewish family but was brought up catholic!! I am proud of my Jewish ancestry and at the same time I am saddened about the treatment of the Palestinians. I believe it is possible to be proud of being of Jewish descent and support the Parstinians. I am glad the group exists.

  • DJ says:

    In these difficult times I salute you for the work you do. In a relatively short period of time JVL has established itself as a strong voice for Jewish socialists in the labour party and beyond. There are many non Jewish members of the Labour movement who support JVL. Claims that JVL is a”fringe group”are nonsense. At this present moment in time joint initiatives with organisations like BLM and PSC would be welcomed. Alongside battling inside the Labour Party we need a healthy dose of extra parliamentary action against injustice. This is what the Tories and the Labour right fear.

  • DJ says:

    Jim Denham is this the best that you can do? You really don’t get it. As a socialist you should exercise yourself about the victims of Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the establishment of a system of apartheid. Do you understand the concept of settler colonialism? What have you to say about the daily bombings in Gaza on the victims of this ethnocratic state?

  • Hazel Davies says:

    It is so good that JVL is there to counteract the disingenuous narrative within and without the Party. You guys give me hope for rationality and honour.

  • Rafi says:

    To fight for justice is to man the barricades for morality.
    But we must stop fixating on our miserable election results and build a new group looking to the future.
    Let’s get younger people involved to ensure our future get rid of the dead wood and build build build.
    Yes we our duty bound to learn from past mistakes, analyse them objectively and honestly, but then get on with it.
    As they say in The Gemorah “ what was was “

  • Alan Sloan says:

    Jim Denham.
    Thanks for the link to your blog. Very interesting, but what does it actually add to the conversation? I’m at a loss to see what there is (of substance) to respond to.

    We all now know that the AS “allegations” are 99.9% bogus. That is not JVLs responsibility, it is on the shoulders of the Media, Balirites and Israeli lobbies.

    Unless you have new evidence that you are holding back on. What is it?

  • stephen mitchell says:

    The State of Israel was killing Palestinians,including women,children and old people long before Hamas and Hezbullar were ever heard of. Perhaps some don’t know about Deir Yassin. Or perhaps they are in denial..

Comments are now closed.