Caving in to the witch-hunt
The targeting of Jackie Walker is a disgrace, writes Tony Greenstein
When Jackie Walker, the vice-chair (until October 3) of Momentum, was suspended from Labour Party membership in May of this year, Owen Jones posted this on his Facebook page:
the suspension of Jacqueline Walker - a black activist of Jewish heritage, and a proud anti-racist campaigner - has no justification. As requested, please email this: “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 ...”
On a side note, I have known Jackie’s partner, Graham Bash, for many years: he is a socialist Jewish activist with decades of political involvement. The idea that he or she is anti-Semitic is just beyond ludicrous.
Jackie, you might recall, was suspended as a result of a private discussion on Facebook with an Israeli Zionist friend about her mixed Jewish-black inheritance, including Jewish financiers of the slave trade. It was a complex, personal conversation, which the Israel Advocacy Movement, having hacked into her page, used to suggest that Jackie believed that the main financiers of the slave trade were Jewish. The IAM is an Israeli-sponsored propaganda group. Jackie was, like anti-apartheid campaigners before her, the victim of a state-sponsored sting.
When Jackie was reinstated, she was subjected to a continuous form of race-baiting from the Jewish Labour Movement and other Zionist groups. The campaign began to take on a life of its own after John McDonnell spoke on the same platform, despite pressure from the Zionists, at the Labour Representation Committee fringe meeting in Brighton at the TUC Conference on May 12. Two days later the chair of the pro-Zionist Jewish Labour Movement, Jeremy Newmark, called on McDonnell to “explain his defence of Walker, which is inconsistent with his call for zero tolerance [of anti-Semitism]. This raises serious questions.”1
Newmark was a witness in the employment tribunal case of Fraser v University College Union2 and his evidence was described by judge Anthony Snelson as “preposterous”, “extraordinarily arrogant, but also disturbing”, as well as downright untrue. In that case Newmark had been attempting to brand the UCU as anti-Semitic because it had adopted a policy of boycotting Israel. The Zionists claimed that Israel was integral to a Jewish identity.
As readers may know, at last week’s Labour Party conference Jackie Walker was among those who attended a spurious ‘training event’ on anti-Semitism, which was run by the JLM. At this event Jackie made the unremarkable observation that there is no standard definition of anti-Semitism, despite the untruthful assertion of the JLM that the “international definition” is the European Union Monitoring Committee’s ‘working definition on anti-Semitism’, which conflates criticism of Israel, and comparison between Israel and the Nazis, with anti-Semitism.
Jackie had also made the unremarkable claim that Holocaust Memorial Day excluded or relegated to the margins other holocausts. For this Jackie was branded ‘anti-Semitic’. After the baying of the rightwing press, along with Owen Jones, Jon Lansman, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty and Christine Shawcroft, Labour’s witch-hunters were provided with a ready-made excuse for suspending Jackie Walker for a second time.
Then, at a three-hour meeting on October 3 at the headquarters of the TSSA union, Jackie was removed as vice-chair of Momentum despite the overwhelming support she has received from the rank and file of that organisation. The vote was 7-3.
The eight elected members of Momentum’s steering committee are Jon Lansman (chair), Jackie herself, who was not present, Michael Chessum (treasurer), Christine Shawcroft, Marshajane Thompson, Jill Mountford, Sam Wheeler and Cecile Wright. In addition there are two union representatives: Matt Wrack of the FBU and Sam Tarry of TSSA.
Those voting to remove Jackie included Lansman, the AWL’s Mountford and co-thinker Chessum, together with Shawcroft, who is a member of the ‘other’ Labour Briefing, which split acrimoniously in 2012. Matt Wrack is known to have voted to support Jackie. Lansman, who personally ‘owns’ Momentum as its sole director, made good use of the AWL members and supporters to ensure the witch-hunting resolution was passed. The irony, of course, is that it was only a few weeks ago that Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith condemned the “anti-Semitism” of the AWL Labour “entryists” - the group’s support for a witch-hunt on the same grounds is a combination of deviant political psychology, naked sectarianism and pungent chauvinism.
In a statement issued afterwards it was confirmed that Jackie Walker remains a member of the Momentum steering committee. The statement was full of weasel words, accepting that nothing Jackie had said “taken individually” was anti-Semitic (with perhaps the implication that, taken as a whole, her comments might be interpreted that way). But her comments were nonetheless “ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive”.
These are, of course, wholly subjective comments - and could be used rather aptly to describe Momentum’s own statement.
What Jackie said about Holocaust Memorial Day not including all other holocausts, in particular those affecting Africans, is simply true. As 26 Jewish members or supporters of Momentum wrote, in a letter to The Guardian,3 no less than Yehuda Bauer, professor of holocaust studies at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem (albeit an extremely mediocre historian), argued, in a debate with the late Dr Sybil Milton, senior historian at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, that “the Nazis only attempted to annihilate one people, the Jews: Roma were not Jews, therefore there was no need to murder all of them.” According to Bauer, “the holocaust is very much a unique case”.4 This is an article of faith for Zionism.
To Zionism the holocaust was a Jewish-only affair, from which the gypsies and disabled are excluded. The late Elie Wiesel said that to compare the sufferings of others with Jews was a “betrayal of Jewish history”.5 And Lucy Dawidowicz, a well known holocaust historian and rightwing Zionist, held that “subsuming Jewish losses under a universal or ecumenical classification is to effectively justify anti-Semitism”.6 The truth may be uncomfortable, but it is not anti-Semitic.
Telling the truth, however, according to Lansman’s weasel words, is “ill-judged and offensive”. If Lansman and the six who voted with him possessed anything resembling an intellect, they would appreciate that the right to offend and be ‘offensive’ is the very essence of free speech. Those who curtail their language for the sake of not ‘giving offence’ are being dishonest.
As for Jackie’s comment that there is no standard definition of anti-Semitism, that is simply a matter of fact. As we wrote in our letter to Lansman,
Jackie Walker was also right to question the JLM’s assertion that the EUMC’s working definition of anti-Semitism was the standard definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism. This is simply dishonest. In 2013, this definition was scrapped by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, as The Times of Israel reported, “The European Union’s agency for combating racism dropped its definition for anti-Semitism … ‘We are not aware of any official definition [of anti-Semitism],’ Blanca Tapia of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency told JTA on Tuesday.”7
Far from Jackie being “ill-informed”, it was Lansman and company who were guilty of that sin - although, since we had been assured by Momentum national organiser James Schneider that all members of the steering committee would be made aware of our letter, perhaps the seven are guilty of something worse than being ill-informed: employing linguistic subterfuge to cover their dishonesty.
What is most outrageous about the statement is that, although it called for Jackie not to be expelled from Labour, it did not demand the lifting of her suspension. In practice even the token call for Jackie not to be expelled has to be seen in the light of the steering committee’s decision to remove her as vice-chair - which will definitely be taken by the right as giving a green light for her expulsion.
And, of course, the AWL, because of its support for Zionism, Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement, has gone along with the witch-hunt, despite being targeted itself. As such, AWL members have behaved as political scabs, giving de facto support to her expulsion - this from a so-called Trotskyist organisation. Momentum supporters throughout the country should certainly draw the conclusion that AWL members cannot be trusted to fight against the witch-hunt and their Campaign Against the Purge is a self-serving organisation devoted primarily to saving their own skins. It should be avoided like the plague.
Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of the fitting up of Jackie Walker - because in reality when she went to the JLM’s training event at Labour Party conference she was walking into a honey trap - is that the whole affair was secretly filmed and the video footage was immediately handed to the media. What kind of ‘training event’ is it that passes film of an event to the media in order that they can attack the participants for what they have said? Only someone like Jeremy Newmark, who is the political equivalent of a semi-house-trained polecat, would do such a thing.
The very fact that the JLM had been allowed to run a ‘training event’ on anti-Semitism when it is a racist organisation itself, which makes a speciality of accusing anti-Zionists of ‘anti-Semitism’, is outrageous. Having the JLM run an anti-racist course is like having a serial wife-batterer placed in charge of a women’s refuge, or putting Nick Griffin of the BNP in charge of a course on multiculturalism.
All that Lansman’s statement could manage in this regard was an expression of “concern” - not condemnation - for the fact that “footage of a training session was leaked to the press”.The reason for this mild criticism - the JLM is not mentioned by name - was that it “undermines much needed political education”.As if a ‘training session’ on anti-Semitism by the JLM had anything to do with “political education”.
This sordid statement of Lansman and company talks about “applying the principles” of the Chakrabarti report. In fact the report is quite good on the question of anti-racism training. Anti-racist groups such as the Institute of Race Relations have repeatedly criticised ‘racism awareness training’ for the police as more a means of getting to know the enemy better than combating racism within the force. Chakrabarti states:
On reflection, and having gauged the range of feelings within the party, 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.
Before the meeting we heard that Ronnie Draper, president of the Bakers Union, who was himself suspended by Iain McNicol, the Labour Party’s general secretary, in the run-up to the leadership vote, had come out against the removal of Jackie, as had Matt Wrack. This led some of us to think that Momentum might be reconsidering its decision, but it is clear that Lansman has invested too much in appeasing the right to back down now.
Lansman had previously rejected calls to elect a new Labour deputy leader, thus giving his support to Tom Watson, and he has also opposed moves for Constituency Labour Parties to deselect members the Parliamentary Labour Party right wing. It is clear that Lansman’s ‘strategy’ - if one can call it that - is one of naked appeasement of the right and a determination that Momentum will be kept in check as a stage army, which will not be allowed to develop a life of its own or become a genuinely democratic organisation.
It is essential that Momentum members do not resign, as many are threatening to because of the machinations of Lansman. Instead we should organise to ensure that, despite the wishes of Lansman, Momentum becomes the property of its members rather than a self-selected elite. The major campaign now within Momentum must be for the democratisation of the organisation. Its national conference should be brought forward from next February. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that in future the steering committee is directly elected, or at least the officers are directly elected by Momentum conference itself.
Lansman made it clear in the run-up to the removal of Jackie Walker that he was in the business of appeasing the Jewish Labour Movement. This group is the British branch of the Israeli Labor Party. Its new director, Ella Rose, comes directly from the Israeli embassy, while Newmark has openly said it would be “rather odd” to suggest that the organisation should have “no contact with the embassy”.8Most people consider that working with the Israeli embassy is very odd. The JLM is effectively an emanation of the Israeli state within the Labour Party. This is an anomalous situation that cannot be allowed to continue - one may as well give the CIA special rights of representation at conference. The JLM does not represent Jewish members of the Labour Party, but only the most rightwing Zionist members.
On October 3 members of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and Free Speech on Israel picketed the headquarters of TSSA, where Momentum was meeting and we understand that this seriously rattled the steering committee. Being forced to face the membership is not something that property developer Jon Lansman finds at all attractive or appealing.
This whole episode smacks of treachery. For months now Zionist organisations have been out to get Jackie. She has been subjected to unbelievable amounts of racist abuse on Twitter and elsewhere. I have previously described what was happening to her as a form of political lynching.9 Some Zionists have openly proclaimed that because she is black Jackie could not be Jewish. And, rather than condemning such vile outbursts, Newmark gave them the green light.
Now it would appear that Jon Lansman and the majority of the Momentum steering committee, including the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, have also endorsed this racist filth.
3. www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/oct/04/jackie-walker-ruling-betrays-momentum-members. See also the letter from 16 Jewish members of the Labour Party to Lansman: http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/letter-from-jewish-members-of-labour.html.
4. Y Bauer and S Milton, ‘Gypsies and the holocaust’ The History Teacher Vol 25, August 1992.
5. E Wiesel Against silence London 1986, Vol 3, p146.
6. L Dawidowicz The holocaust and the historian Cambridge, Mass 1981, p17.