IT’S A SILENCE THAT SPEAKS VOLUMES.
I mean, I hadn’t heard a word, not officially that is, from the Constitutional Unit though, to give them their due, I’d been on holiday two days when the story broke. Might be the eccentricities of our privatised post - but you’d think if The Unit really wanted to contact me, they might have tried to find, among countless emails sent from the Labour Party asking for money and support, a phone or email contact. They haven’t, and obviously didn’t.
And maybe you’d think someone in The Unit would have informed me before the Jewish Chronicle, giving me news of my suspension first so I could (at least in part) be prepared for being unmasked as a racist.
So – how did it happen?
Seems like someone using rules no one seems to know much about got a call from the nice reporter on the Jewish Chronicle, that well-known friend of the British left and beacon in the struggle for equal rights (regardless of colour or creed) across the globe.
And notwithstanding my well known record of fighting racism, my experience as a victim of racism and my ongoing vulnerability (being a black, Jewish activist living in an area with a UKIP council where fascists march the streets regularly not 20 miles away), The Unit took decisive action in defence of anti-racist activists everywhere and suspended me.
So, how has it been since?
Well, quite a trip but I’ve made decisions. I will never apologise for being an Internationalist, for holding all life as precious, for not valorising one genocide, one holocaust, over any other. And if you ask if I think anti-Semitism is a major problem in the Labour Party I would give almost the same response as the one I was suspended for – 'No' but with one amendment: anti-Semitism is not a major problem, the suspension process is.
I’ve been told I should perhaps be careful of what I say. After all, my words have already been twisted, mashed and mangled. Leaving aside the Jewish Chronicle, papers like the Guardian and Mail have accused me of crimes as heinous as supporting the leader of the Labour Party.
Commentators on TV and social media have fallen over themselves to carefully select half sentences and taken out of context quotes to support their own slapdash, anti-Labour, anti the present leadership, rhetoric. People who know nothing of me, and have barely read more than libelous headlines from the Jewish Chronicle (“Labour suspends Momentum supporter who claimed Jews caused an African holocaust”), have decided that I’m just one of many ‘Jew-hating luminaries’ on the left. Their bile is only matched by the sight of our local fascist thug grinning at me on a Facebook post, gloating at what he sees as my ‘sacking from the Labour Party’. Many thanks, Constitutional Unit.
Then there’s the, at times, craven, at other times complicit, response from some that also breeds a silence.
The fear in my CLP is palpable; McCarthyism lives and with the same purpose - the destruction of the left. In this way Israeli propagandists and their fellow travellers, who conscientiously use every minute of their working day and probably more, to uncover racists as rabid as me, are left with a clear run to get on with their dirty work.
But what explanation for this increasing convergence between Zionists, the right of the Labour Party, the Tories and our right wing media? Of course, most want to destabilise and undermine the left - but they’re after much more. Is it coincidence that Sadiq Khan, new London Mayor, full of his new found fame, has already met with the Israeli Ambassador for talks that it is suggested may lead to greater trade links with Israel? And let’s face it, the forces of reaction have succeeded to the point where we find ourselves, even on the left, discussing whether we dare use the term Zionist ever, in any situation, again. Really?!
Can you imagine if we were talking about China in relation to Tibet or… anywhere else in the world. ‘An attack on freedom of speech’ we would protest! ‘Why don’t people speak up?’ And that’s what we should be doing now – all of us, whatever our political allegiance.
We have a Commission into anti-Semitism, but let’s ensure it takes on the concerns of oppressed and under-represented groups in the Party as well, otherwise we may fracture, not unify, sowing the seeds of an alienation with non-Jewish minorities which could cost the Party dear in future. I call on all representatives and individuals from minority groups to contribute to the Commission with enthusiasm and diligence.
As for myself, I will not be silenced.
After all, I’m not just campaigning for me. I will continue to speak against the present process, against the particularity of its attack upon the left. I will continue to speak in defence of all minorities, including Jewish people, wherever I can. I will fight for the ideals of free speech, for the validity of anti-Zionism as a political perspective– ideals which have been a fundamental part of my commitment to the labour movement.
‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, Dylan Thomas said of death, and while suspension from the Labour Party is by no means the end of all things politically or otherwise, in this I take his advice very much to heart.
A STATEMENT FROM MOMENTUM WALTHAM FOREST ON THE SUSPENSION OF DAVID WATSON FROM THE LABOUR PARTY
Momentum condemns the suspension of David Watson from the Labour Party, which was first made known on 6 May by an unnamed Party “spokesperson” in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper.
This is symptomatic of a lack of due process in this case, and the failure to apply the principles of natural justice. Journalists were briefed about the suspension before David was informed. The Labour Party did not post the notice of administrative suspension to David until 9 May, after days of inaccurate and inflammatory media coverage.
David Watson is a longstanding socialist and anti-racist campaigner, well known for his charitable and fundraising work for progressive causes. He has worked with the Anne Frank project on Holocaust awareness and was part of a delegation with Jewish activists to Israel and Palestine. So forthright has he been in challenging anti-Semitism that he has himself been subject to anti-Semitic abuse.
We have seen evidence to suggest that elements within the Labour Party opposed to Jeremy Corbyn generated this campaign against David. When he stated that criticism of Israel was not anti-Semitism, a local Labour member whose abuse of Labour and its leader is incessant, tweeted, “What are you doing about anti-Semites in the Party? This guy is Walthamstow CLP fundraiser”. This started a series of published attacks on various sites based on highly selective quotes trawled from his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The sensationalist article that appeared in the Jewish Chronicle is highly misleading and attributes to David views he has not expressed, including distortion of mainstream media articles posted on his Facebook page.
Momentum condemns the conduct of figures in the local Labour Party including that of an MP who reposted the Jewish Chronicle article implying endorsement and its accuracy.
This happened before any formal notification of suspension or the basis for it was issued. These actions created a presumption of guilt even before any process had taken place. They have associated David with anti-Semitism even though the Labour Party itself had not made any formal allegation of this nature.
David and others' support for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and empathy with oppressed Palestinians is a legitimate activity, as is his support for Israeli socialists and peace activists. There must exist in our Party the freedom to discuss in a comradely manner the Palestine-Israel conflict. We remind Party members that Fatah, the main part of the PLO, is Labour’s sister Party in the Socialist International.
Momentum totally condemns anti-Semitism and supports Jeremy Corbyn's launch of an inquiry led by Shami Chakrabarti. We welcome his robust response to the handful of cases of alleged anti-Semitism and other offensive conduct in our Party.
To fight anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Waltham Forest we need comradely self-criticism, education, and awareness raising of these complex issues.
We oppose a McCarthyite atmosphere being created by some elements within the Party which can undermine such efforts. The UNITE leader Len McCluskey is correct to condemn such actions as “nothing more than a cynical attempt to manipulate anti-Semitism for political aims, because this is all about constantly challenging Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.”
Momentum calls for David’s suspension to be lifted and his case addressed swiftly through a fair and transparent procedure, we are confident that David has no case to answer.
Momentum calls for new rules to be put in place by the Party to govern the handling - and the press briefing - of sensitive disciplinary matters, and for all suspensions to be agreed in advance by NEC members after the person concerned has the right to make representations.
Coordinating Committee, Waltham Forest Momentum
As a Jew (all my life) and Labour Party member (48 years) I am outraged at the way allegations of anti-Semitism have been used to silence legitimate criticism of Israel and undermine Jeremy Corbyn as my party’s leader.
I know what anti-Semitism is. I was brought up to learn how the Jewish East End fought with the dockers against Mosley’s fascists at Cable Street. I was told at school how it was a pity that Hitler didn’t finish off the job of murdering all Jews. And very quickly I learned what it was like to be made to feel an outsider. It was hardly surprising that I started going on anti-fascist demos in my late teens and very soon afterwards joined the Labour Party, which I remain a member of to this day.
I know what anti-Semitism is. Apart from socialist, anti-racist politics, my other love is football. How many times as a West Ham fan have I had to endure my own team’s fans singing “I never felt more like gassing the Jews”? Or being attacked by my team’s own fans for daring to put up a ‘West Ham fans United Against Racism’ banner at Upton Park.
I know what anti-Semitism is - I have a sensitive ear for anti-Semitic comments - and, without doubt, the place I have encountered it least is within the Labour Party. In 48 years, I have encountered anti-Semitism once, perhaps twice, compared to countless episodes outside.
Of course I have encountered deep antipathy to Israel, and its murderous actions to deny justice for Palestinians, but that is what I would expect from a democratic anti-racist party – and these are views shared by me and many other peace loving socialist Jews.
Throughout most of my years in the party, I have worked closely with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. They have always been the first to fight injustice and inequality and from them there has never been a hint of anti-Semitism.
What is happening in the party today is an attempt to cynically use rare examples, and usually false allegations, of anti-Semitism as part of a McCarthyite witchhunt against supporters of Jeremy.
As if to prove the point, the latest victim is my own partner Jackie Walker, of mixed heritage (Afro-Caribbean and Jewish), outrageously suspended from the Labour Party, simply for telling the truth that her Jewish ancestors were involved in financing the Slave Trade, that the African holocaust was even worse than the Jewish holocaust, and that anti-Semitism is not a major problem in Corbyn’s Labour Party.
Jackie has been an anti-racist campaigner all her adult life and was a central figure in Thanet Stand Up To UKIP which played an important role in stopping Farage from getting into Parliament at the last General Election. She is a founder member of the Kent Anti-Racist Network, vice-chair of Momentum and, until her suspension, vice-chair of Thanet South CLP.
I am proud of my heritage and the family traditions that helped my development on the road to being an anti-racist, international socialist. This current witchhunt will not deflect me, or countless thousands like me, from the struggle for justice worldwide and for a socialist Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
* * * * *
'I am writing to you in protest against the outrageous suspension of Jackie Walker from the Labour Party on spurious grounds of anti-Semitism. I call on you to reconsider this action and lift the suspension immediately'.
Please e-mail your protest today to the General Secretary, Iain McNicol
and copy to Ann Black firstname.lastname@example.org (Chair of NEC Disputes Panel) and Jim Kennedy Jim.Kennedy@unitetheunion.org (Chair of NEC Organisation Committe)
Thanks to Graham Bash.
Please sign the petition - https://www.change.org/p/iain-mcnichol-reinstate-jacqueline-walker-to-the-labour-party
Before Ken Livingstone was suspended from the Labour Party Thursday the following letter was aent by the signatories to The Guardian:
We are Jewish members and supporters of the Labour Party and of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, who wish to put our perspective on the “antisemitism” controversy that has been widely debated in the last few weeks.
We do not accept that antisemitism is “rife” in the Labour party. Of the examples that have been repeated in the media, many have been reported inaccurately, some are trivial, and a very few may be genuine examples of antisemitism. The tiny number of cases of real antisemitism need to be dealt with, but we are proud that the Labour Party historically has been in the forefront of the fight against all forms of racism. We, personally, have not experienced any antisemitic prejudice in our dealings with Labour Party colleagues.
We believe these accusations are part of a wider campaign against the Labour leadership, and they have been timed particularly to do damage to the Labour Party and its prospects in elections in the coming week.
As Jews, we are appalled that a serious issue is being used in this cynical and manipulative way, diverting attention from much more widespread examples of Islamaphobia and xenophobia in the Conservative and other parties.
We dissociate ourselves from the misleading attacks on Labour from some members of the Jewish community. We urge others, who may be confused or worried by recent publicity, to be sure that the Labour Party, under its present progressive leadership, is a place where Jews are welcomed in a spirit of equality and solidarity.
Miriam E. David
Professor Stephen Deutsch
Alex J. Goldhill
Charles Shaar Murray
Professor Mica Nava
Dr. Brian Robinson
Jeff Daniel Rollin
Dr. Ian Saville
"Good Afternoon, Mr Corbyn
"I am a member of Bradford East CLP and I have to say that I am ashamed to call myself a member of the Labour Party at the moment!
"I re-joined (having left in disgust at the "New Deal" employment programme) on the back of your successful election as Leader, as I felt that the Party needed a leader that was much more compassionate about the most destitute in British society - the poor, the long-term unemployed, the sick and disabled, the elderly - than previous leaders have been.
"I note that you have suspended Naz Shah MP (Bradford West) for her comments that have been seen by some as Anti-Semitic - comments that have caused a huge outcry amongst the Labour movement, and the country as a whole.
I have to point out that her comments could not have been Anti-Semitic, as they were not discriminatory against Jews. They were, however, Anti-Israel, which many people (including myself) believe has too much of an influence on US (and with it UK) Foreign Policy.
Are you now going to suspend me along with Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah on the basis of my views?
"As you can probably tell, I am very angry about this matter!
"I thank you for your attention, and I look forward to hearing from you.
[Labour party member and site owner adds her signature here - Eileen Kersey]
John Mann pulls BBC stunt, Ken Livingstone suspended from Labour
Friday the Independent writes "Student groups across the UK join growing campaign for unions to ‘disaffiliate’ from NUS."
"The move has come after the election of new NUS National President, Malia Bouattia, divided opinion following allegations of “anti-Semitism” which hit her campaign just last week.
The following is her open letter response which is published online:
Dear undersigned members,
Thank you for bringing this letter to my attention and offering me the opportunity to respond. The letter talks of questions, so I respond first to the only direct question posed in the letter which was “why do you see a large Jewish Society as a problem?” The answer is that I do not now, nor did I five years ago when I contributed to the article cited in your letter, see a large Jewish Society on campus as a problem. I celebrate the ability of people and students of all backgrounds to get together and express their backgrounds and faith openly and positively, and will continue to do so.
I want to be clear that for me to take issue with Zionist politics, is not me taking issue with being Jewish. In fact, Zionist politics are held by people from a variety of different backgrounds and faiths as are anti-Zionist politics. It is a political argument, not one of faith. We should be allowed to disagree on politics without this being a threat to the solidarity of the student movement. Debate and disagreement are vital to any healthy democracy.
You raise two further issues of concern, one of which relates exactly to this point. At the SOAS event mentioned in your letter, I criticised the influence of organisations such as the Henry Jackson Society over policy making in the UK. I described it as promoting neo-con and pro-Zionist policies. In no way did I – or would I – link these positions to Jewish people, but to a particular (non-Jewish) organisation. I am alarmed that you have drawn a link between criticism of Zionist ideologies and anti-Semitism. I am sure many would strongly agree that they are not one and the same and making correlations between faith and politics is both unfair and unrepresentative. These correlations are dangerous and have become the excuse for many racist and fascist attacks up and down the country and in the world, which I am sure we all want to end.
The second concern you raise is about my “relationship” with MPAC and Mr Raza Nadim. I do not have a relationship, in any shape or form, with this organisation or the individual in question. I have always and will continue to respect and uphold NUS' No Platform Policy. I have a public facebook page with nearly 5,000 ‘friends’ on it, many of whom have posted supportive messages to my wall. In all honesty, I was not aware of who Mr Nadim was or his position when he posted to my wall and responded in the same way I would to any post. This certainly does not constitute a relationship or accept an endorsement; it was just a generic response. Since being made aware of his position, I have removed both comments to avoid further doubts.
In my role as the Black Students’ Officer I have a long track record of opposing racism – in all its forms - and actively campaigning against it. I am also an advocate of inter-faith work both inside of our union and beyond. I am open about my own faith, whilst also supporting students of all faiths, because I do believe in creating a cohesive and inclusive society and want to do my best to represent all students.
Therefore, I am deeply concerned that my faith and political views are being misconstrued and used as an opportunity to falsely accuse me of antisemitism, despite my work and dedication to liberation, equality and inclusion saying otherwise.
As president of NUS, I would continue to encourage students to oppose inequality, oppression – including racism – and injustice both at home and abroad. And in doing this, I am happy to be accountable for my views, offer opportunities to discuss them and used that openness and accountability to ensure that I can be representative of the student body as a whole, whilst respecting and encompassing the varied views and opinions held across our movement.
I hope what I have set out above has answered your questions.
Malia Bouattia elected NUS National President at Brighton conference
The letter to Malia is reproduced below:
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