Jewish Voice for Labour & the Politics of Self-Indulgence – Nothing to say on Palestine or Zionism

Jewish Voice for Labour & the Politics of Self-Indulgence – Nothing to say on Palestine or Zionism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Post-Blog

Jews in the Labour Party should oppose Israeli Apartheid not obsess
about identity politics
What is the point of Jewish politics
today?  At the end of the 19th
and beginning of the 20th century, when most British Jews arrived as
refugees from the pogroms of Czarist Russia, Jewish politics had a very
specific dynamic.  They were directed
against the masters of the sweat shops as represented by the formation of some
30 plus Jewish trade unions. 

Jewish politics meant involvement in the
politics of the day.  In 1902 the
proto-fascist British Brothers League, headed by William Evans Gordon, MP for
Stepney, was formed in the East End.  Its
purpose?  To put a stop to Jewish immigration.  Alone among Jewish groups, it was the Zionists
who sympathised with the BBL.  Chaim Weizmann
wrote that 

‘‘‘our people were rather hard on him…. Sir William
Evans-Gordon had no particular anti-Jewish prejudices… He acted as he
thought, according to his best lights and in the most kindly way, in the
interests of his country…. he was sincerely ready to encourage any settlement
of Jews almost anywhere in the British Empire, but he failed to see why the
ghettos of London or Leeds or Whitechapel should be made into a branch of the
ghettos of Warsaw and Pinsk. [Trial and Error, pp. 90-91)

Another ‘friend’
of the Jews was Arthur James Balfour, the Tory Prime Minister who introduced
the Aliens Act of 1905 which restricted Jewish immigration.  In 1917 he sent a letter, the Balfour
Declaration to Lord Rothschild sealing the alliance between the fledgling Zionist
movement and British imperialism. 
Jewish politics
until the second world war were about the fight against poverty and anti-Semitism.  Only the middle and upper classes were
concerned with Zionism.
Today that
has changed.  Virtually no Jews live in
London’s East End.  Their place has been
taken by Bengali immigrants.  Jews are no
longer the main victims of fascism or racism. 
Jews do not experience Police violence, deaths in custody or state
racism.  They do not experience economic discrimination.

Jewish politics have changed out of all
recognition.  Pick up a copy of the Jewish
Chronicle and the main topic of interest revolves around Israel.  Jews today serve the purpose of providing an
alibi for Israel and its policies.  The
standard response to campaigns against Israel or Zionism is the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’. 
Hence why, for two years, even before
Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour Party, the Zionist movement has
waged an anti-Semitism smear campaign.  In August 2015, Corbyn was accused of links with a holocaust denier Paul Eisen.
At the forthcoming Labour Party Conference
the Jewish Labour Movement will seek to move a Rule Change which will mean that
any supporter of Israel can claim to be a ‘victim’ of anti-Semitism if the issue
of Palestine is raised.  

False
accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ have been the principal weapon of the Right in
the Labour Party.  Supporting Austerity or cutting benefits is unattractive
politically.  Even supporting the bombing of Syrians and Yemenis isn’t as appealing
as opposing ‘anti-Semitism’ and defending Israel’s ‘right to exist’. Cloaking
yourself in the mantle of the Holocaust and ‘anti-Semitism’ even though you are
supporting a 50 year old military occupation and the Apartheid State of Israel,
is seen as offering better political dividends.  ‘Anti-Semitism’ is the go
to weapon of choice for Labour’s Right.

Jeremy Newmark – Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement who was captured by Al Jazeera openly working with the Israeli Embassy in its infiltration of the Labour Party

Because
the Jewish Labour Movement claims that they represent all Jews
in the Labour Party no one doubts that an alternative Jewish organisation is
necessary which stands for the principles of anti-racism and support for the
Palestinians.  That is why any Jewish group worth its salt must be primarily
concerned with rebutting the allegation that to support the Palestinians and to
oppose Zionism makes one anti-Semitic.  Jewish
socialists task is to sever the connection between being Jewish and supporting Israel.
Unfortunately Jewish Voices for Labour which
has just been set up doesn’t want to so much challenge the politics of the JLM as
avoid them.  Its founding statement of principles completely
avoids saying anything about the Right’s ‘anti-Semitism’ smear campaign which
has led to the suspension of Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, myself and
others.  Indeed it wants to say as little
as possible about Palestine and Zionism.  This is not accidental.
Jewish Voices for Labour Statement of Principles
Founding member Rachel Lever of Jews 4 Justice 4 Palestinians
explained in an email to
others her role in drafting the JVL’s founding statement.  She wanted a
Jewish group that would explore its own ‘heritage’ and engage in navel gazing.
 A Jewish consciousness raising group for which the whole Palestine/Israel/Zionist
thing was an unnecessary encumbrance.  The
purpose of the new group was:
To
discard the shackles and gather with other Jews to explore, celebrate, critique
etc our heritage at this juncture without the Israel thing, and in the context
of the resurgence and ascendancy in the Labour Party of values that we share in
some part because of our Jewishness.
Having
a Jewish statement that omits Israel and Zionism (in either a positive or a
negative formulation) is implicitly part of the argument that antisemitism and
antizionism needs to be uncoupled from each other….
If
anyone can’t live without the words Israel, Zionism, Palestine, Gaza, BDS (and
why not add Occupation, the Wall, administrative detention, land theft, child
prisoners, war crimes, apartheid, racism, settlements etc etc) then this is not
the organisation for them.
So there we have it.  What Lever calls ‘the Israel thing’ is part of the ‘shackles’ of being Jewish. 
Whilst many Jews are active in rejecting a Zionist movement that has
linked up with Trump, Orban, Bannon and the alt-Right, Lever and co. prefer to
sit around ‘exploring, celebrating,
critiquing etc. their heritage’

Quite what they think they will discover is mind boggling because, as
Sivanandan explained, identity is what you do and who we are not what you think. 
Ian Saville, the Jewish Socialist Group enforcer (& socialist magician!) speaking a year ago at a meeting against the witch hunt with Jackie Walker – today the JSG had to be dragged into issuing any statement regarding Jackie
But to Lever, Amanda Sebastyen and others, Israel and Zionism
is an optional extra. It is a lifestyle choice not a permanent political commitment.
Going on a demonstration is a recreational activity.
The purpose of a Jewish group in the Labour Party is
political or it is nothing.  Zionism deliberately
conflates being Jewish and being Zionist. 
Any Jewish group that claims to be socialist has no choice but to challenge
the JLM and Labour Friends of Israel. It has a political and moral duty to
oppose the actions of those who claim Israel’s war crimes in the name of all Jews. 
It is interesting that Rachel Lever explicitly rejects the second of her four choices that she articulates in her email viz. ‘To spend our lives and energies exposing it [Israel] and campaigning for justice for Palestinians, thus making its negation also an intrinsic part of our identity.’  Most of the ‘non-Zionist’ peace wing of JfJP aren’t so explicit in saying what they really believe so we should be grateful to Rachel.
When asked about Israel’s ‘right to exist’ the response was that JVL was a British group and therefore has no position on any state!
It has been suggested that we should judge JVL more by what
it does than by what its founding principles say.  I disagree. What
confidence can one have in an organisation that dares not speak its mind, that
doesn’t openly state what it believes in and which hides its principles behind
a bushel?  Who does it think it is deceiving?  Surely not the JLM.
 That is dishonest politics.
 
I fully understand why Asa Winstanley of Electronic
Intifada, should welcome the
formation of JVL, as an alternative non-Zionist Jewish group in the Labour
Party. Asa is not alone in wanting to see an alternative to the execrable JLM,
the British wing of the racist Israeli Labour Party, and LFI, which is an
extension of the Israeli Embassy inside the Labour Party.
It is therefore regrettable
that JVL has not only been set up undemocratically but a Founding
Statement of Principles has been issued which is politically disingenuous.
Despite being asked to sign a statement of support for JVL,
I was not invited to its inaugural meeting when a founding statement was
agreed.  Nor were other Jewish anti-Zionists including the International
Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.
It is clear that those who were instrumental in the
formation of this group, in particular Jews
for Justice for Palestinians
 and the Jewish Socialists Group, were
determined that JVL would neither be a democratic nor a campaigning group
inside the Labour Party on the issue of Palestine and Zionism.  In
particular they they did not want it to be seen to oppose the JLM’s Zionist
agenda.  Instead of debating out differences openly, its founders have
used administrative methods to exclude potential critics.
I issued a statement a week ago Some
Comments on the Formation of Jewish Voices for Labour
. which I
sent to members of JVL’s Facebook group. I then applied to join the FB group
and was accepted.  However that didn’t last very long.  Almost
immediately Ian Saville, warned me not to ‘attack’ members of the
Steering Committee and in particular not to ‘disparage the process of
its formation’
.  Clearly democracy isn’t one of JVL’s strong
points.  When I responded to this warning with JVL
– What are they scared of?
 I was removed from the group.
What are the problems with Jewish Voices for Labour

1.      JVL’s formation was
undemocratic, effectively a stitch-up between leading members of JfJP and JSG.
2.      Given that the JLM have been
waging a false-anti-Semitism campaign for nearly two years it is unbelievable
that JVL have nothing to say about this campaign.  On the
JVL FB group, some members of the group were openly calling for support for the
expulsion of Livingstone.
3.      JVL takes no position on giving
concrete support for the Palestinians.  It isn’t necessary to take an
explicitly anti-Zionist position but when the JLM is saying that even to use
the word ‘Zionist’ is abusive it is political cowardice to
avoid the word.  Zionism is the racist ideology and movement that led to
Israel, a Jewish supremacist state.  A state which has reduced Gaza to a
human rights disaster yet Gaza too is not mentioned.
4.      Perhaps the single most
important issue in terms of solidarity is the question of BDS.  JVL
supports the right of others to support BDS however it abstains from supporting
BDS itself.  Nor does it make any mention of the Palestinian Right of Return. 
5.      JVL is Jewish only.  There
is often a good reason for having specific Jewish solidarity groups (e.g. Jews
for boycotting Israeli Goods, JfJP etc.) but in terms of the Labour Party it is
important to have a common front against Zionist reaction and that must include
non-Jews.  Ironically even the JLM accept non-Jews.  It is a
concession to chauvinism to exclude non-Jews from the organisation.
6.      The statement makes no mention
of the Zionist campaign to redefine anti-Semitism, the International
Holocaust Remembrance Alliance
 definition. When the Zionists are
waging campaigns against our very right to campaign on Palestine and smear
Palestinian supporters as ‘anti-Semitic’, to pretend this is not
happening is unreal.
When
the Zionists and the Right explicitly link being Jewish and supporting Israel,
to refuse to mention Israel or Zionism is not some brilliant political
manoeuvre but an act of political cowardice.  The Labour Party is not a
knitting circle.  The idea that the JLM is going to be defeated by this political
sleight of hand is wishful thinking.  The way to ‘decouple’ anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is not by pretending the
debate doesn’t exist but by engaging in it and politically challenging the
supporters of Zionism. 
Email of Rachel Lever and Amanda Sebestyen
Below
is some of the correspondence preceding the setting up of Jewish Voices for
Labour
 

Email
from Rachel Lever re founding of JVL
On 8 Jul 2017, at 20:26, Rachel
Lever wrote:One
of Zionism’s greatest triumphs has been to shackle Jews the world over to
Israel, defined by it either positively or negatively. IHRA is the latest in a
long line of such shackles. Jews
have four choices  1.
To “Love Israel” and make it part of our identity 2.
To spend our lives and energies exposing it and campaigning for justice for
Palestinians, thus making its negation also an intrinsic part of our
identity  3.
To abstain or compromise or have “doubts” which still leaves us marked by
Israel 4.
To discard the shackles and gather with other Jews to explore, celebrate,
critique etc our heritage at this juncture without the Israel thing, and in the
context of the resurgence and ascendancy in the Labour Party of values that we
share in some part because of our Jewishness. There
is in any case no need for yet another Jewish Anti-Z organisation, in or out of
the Labour Party.  There
is however an absolute imperative to deny to the JLM the status of “Labour’s
Jewish voice” and the harm they can do using that monopoly. In practical terms,
omitting Israel may make this alternative Jewish voice more effective and
authentic and deny the JLM their franchise, than if we simply invert their
pro-Israel identity and become anti-Z “usual suspects”….. I
freely confess to having drafted some of the wording of the statement. It is
intended both to help to create something slightly different for which I
believe there is a genuine gap in the market (and which might yield some new
faces and insights), and to stake a claim against the heinous new “definitions”
of antisemitism that explicitly connect Jews to Israel.  Having
a Jewish statement that omits Israel and Zionism (in either a positive or a
negative formulation) is implicitly part of the argument that antisemitism and
antizionism needs to be uncoupled from each other. Needless
to say, membership is entirely voluntary. If anyone can’t live without the
words Israel, Zionism, Palestine, Gaza, BDS (and why not add Occupation, the
Wall, administrative detention, land theft, child prisoners, war crimes,
apartheid, racism, settlements etc etc) then this is not the organisation for
them. Rachel From: Haim
Bresheeth Sent: 09 July 2017 09:27To: Rachel LeverCc: Michael Kalmanovitz; mailings@jfjfp.com; Jonathan
Rosenhead; Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi; Mike Cushman; richard kuper; Amanda
Sebestyen
Subject: Re: FREE SPEECH AND ISRAEL: A CALL TO LABOUR PARTY MEMBERS Interesting,
Rachel. Than
the new organisation is devoted to silencing the debate on Palestine? To
keeping mum on the anti-Semitism lies and slurs? To avoid speaking on the long
list of topic you number? Well,
my my, I thought that was the role of JLM, and it was already doing that rather
well… So JVL will try to replace JLM in making Palestine and the occupation
invisible? Now it is all clear, at last.
Yes,
maybe that is not an organisation I need not consider joining. I am very impressed
by the pride you voice inhaling been at the cradle of its auspicious birth… HaimProf.
Haim Bresheeth
Professorial Research AssociateFaculty
of Arts and Humanities
School of Oriental and African Studies And Director of Camera Obscura Films

On
8 Jul 2017, at 23:09, Amanda Sebestyen wrote:I
think this sums up the role and importance of JVL beautifully, Rachel.

From: Michael
Kalmanovitz Sent: 08 July 2017 11:05To: ‘Haim Bresheeth’; mailings@jfjfp.comCc: ‘Jonathan Rosenhead’; ‘Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi’; ‘Rachel Lever’;
‘Mike Cushman’; ‘richard kuper’; ‘Amanda Sebestyen’Subject: RE: FREE SPEECH AND ISRAEL: A CALL TO LABOUR PARTY MEMBERS Haim Bresheeth said “three
important words have not made their way to this text: Israel, Palestine and
Zionism”. 
 May we add two more to his: “Gaza” – which is
the best known example of Israel’s slaughter of the innocents; and “BDS” – the
massive & growing international non-violent antiracist boycott movement.
Are we to assume therefore that these
will not be central issues of the group that this letter is proposing to
form? 
The Jewish Labour Movement, Labour
Friends of Israel, Progress, & the Israeli embassy have constantly
sought to undermine the most radical & massive movement we have seen in
the Labour Party for many years (as seen on Aljazeera!). This movement, called forth
by the election of Jeremy Corbyn, is the greatest protection for every sector
that is discriminated against. In your text there is no mention of or
commitment to it. The Zionist/right-wing’s weapon of
choice against this movement are manufactured allegations of antisemitism to
manipulate themselves into power in the Labour Party, and undermine Corbyn
& McDonnell. (They were able to deprive us of Ken 

“what is your proposed organisation for?”                       Michael Kalmanovitz

Livingstone’s
considerable electioneering skills during the campaign.)  The election
result has slowed down the Zionists/right-wing. 
Bearing all this in mind, what is your
proposed organisation for? 
If
JVL isn’t opposing what the Israeli occupation is doing to Palestinian people,
promoting BDS, opposing the Zionist/right-wing’s undermining of the new
movement, what else should people organised as Jews within the Labour Party who
are not Zionists be forming an organisation to accomplish?
Surely
JVL will not want to resurrect the antisemitism “discussion”, which is what the
Zionist/right-wing wants, taking the focus off defeating the red Tories
& the blue.

From: Haim Bresheeth
Sent: 29 June 2017 17:20To: mailings@jfjfp.comCc: Michael Kalmanovitz; Jonathan Rosenhead; Naomi
Wimborne-Idrissi; Rachel Lever; Mike Cushman; richard kuper; Amanda Sebestyen
Subject: Re: FREE SPEECH AND ISRAEL: A CALL TO LABOUR PARTY MEMBERS Dear
Jenny Manson, Thank
you for sending me the proposed text for JVL attached below. I have read this
carefully, only to discover that three important words have not made their way
to this text: Israel, Palestine and Zionism… If
we are to have an Jewish progressive alternative to JLM, which I, as ~ member
of the party would love, why can it not outline some differences, and open some
distance between us and them?  Otherwise,
what is the point? From the wording below, most people would not work out why
there needs to be another Jewish grouping in the Labour Party… I hope a group
can be set up of which I would like to be a member! HaimProf.
Haim Bresheeth

Proposal to set up a new Jewish Organisation within
the Labour Party – 
Who We Are
Jewish
Voice for Labour (JVL) is a network for all Jews in the Labour party.
Our
political priorities are universal human rights and dignity; justice for all;
freedom of speech and free-thinking; and democracy in the Labour Party. 
Our
mission is to contribute to making the Labour Party an open, democratic and
tolerant 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 our inspiration from the long history of Jewish involvement in the
socialist and trade-union movement and in antiracist and antifascist struggles
including the civil-rights movement. We stand for rights and justice for Jews
everywhere without wrongs and injustice to other people anywhere.
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 aim to create an
alternative voice on the left for the Jewish values and heritage we can all be
proud of.  
We
will work where appropriate with existing groups concerned with Jewish issues from
an internationalist and anti-racist perspective.
We
will try to arrange a meeting in a couple of weeks time to agree a minimal set
of rules, membership fees and to elect such officers as decided then. We will
aim to launch publicly at the Labour Party conference in September.
Please
add your voice to ours by replying to jewishvoiceforlabour@gmail.com
Signed:
Jenny
Manson, co-convenor
Ian Saville, co-convenor
Julia
Bard
Graham Bash
Pam Blakelock
Mike Cushman
Richard Kuper
Pam Laurance
Rachel Lever
David Rosenberg
Jonathan Rosenhead
Amanda Sebestyen
Glyn Secker
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Of the 8 people who ‘liked’ the decision, at least 3 are Jewish Socialists Group and one, Miriam Yagud is a Green Party member who has called for Livingstone’s expulsion
How my exclusion was announced to the JVL list – no mention of who is excluded still less the reason why.  But as Leah Levane explained there are more important things than democracy.  
A
Warning Message from Ian Saville – Please Desist from Criticism
Hello Tony, I am writing to you as one
of the administrators of the JVL Facebook Group. Whatever your intention, the
effect of your interventions in the group in the short time in which you have
belonged to it are likely to have a negative effect on the functioning and
perception of the group. The group should be a place where people with a
diverse range of opinions can engage in comradely discussion without being
attacked or denigrated. Your posts attacking the steering group (of which I am
not a member) and other people posting on the page seem provocative and divisive,
and have caused concern to other members. If you persist with such posts you
will be removed from the group. It seems also that even before joining the
group you circulated some of its members with unsolicited material attacking
the JVL and disparaging the process of its formation. This has also been a
matter of concern to some who received your message. Please take this as a
warning and desist from this sort of behaviour, as any further instances will
result in you being immediately excluded from the group. 
Yours, Ian Saville

 

 

 

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