What does ‘Jewish Voice for Labour’ actually stand for?

September 29, 2017 at 7:50 pm (anti-semitism, Free Speech, israel, Jim D, labour party, palestine, reformism, Unite the union, zionism)


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Describing itself as a “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party”, Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) had its official launch at this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton.

JVL chair is Jenny Manson, described in a JVL press release as “a retired tax inspector”, the Garden Suburb branch chairperson in Finchley and Golders Green CLP, an active supporter of Jews for Palestine, and editor of two books (one of them on consciousness: What It Feels Like To Be Me).

Manson was one of the five Jewish Labour Party members who submitted statements in support of Ken Livingstone in March of this year. According to her statement:

“… These actions by Ken were not offensive, nor anti-Semitic in any way, in my view.

 … In my working life as a Tax Inspector I saw a (very) few instances of anti-Semitism, such as the characterisation of ‘Jewish Accountants’ as accountants who skated close to the edge. I have never witnessed any instances of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

 Anti-Semitism has to be treated as a serious issue, which is entirely separate from the different views people take on Israel and Zionism.”

 The JVL’s brief “Statement of Principles” includes the following:

“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.”

A JVL press release likewise states that the new organisation:

“Rejects attempts to extend the scope of the term ‘antisemitism’ beyond its meaning of bigotry towards Jews, particularly when directed at activities in solidarity with Palestinians such as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.”

In other words, this “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party” will be campaigning in support of the ‘right’ to boycott Jews, and in favour of restricting the definition of antisemitism so as to exclude the most common forms in which contemporary antisemitism manifests itself.

JVL already has the backing of the “Free Speech on Israel” campaign, the “Electronic Intifada” website and Len McCluskey of Unite (who claims never to have encountered anti-Semitism within the labour movement), and Tosh McDonald of Aslef, both of who have taken it upon themselves to affiliate their unions to JVL.

Last Monday at the Labour conference there was a fringe meeting of the so-called ‘Free Speech on Israel’ campaign (prop: Anthony Greenstein esq) at the Friends Meeting House in Brighton.  It was chaired by Jenny Manson.

The Mirror reported on the meeting:

Israeli-American author Miko Peled told a conference fringe meeting Labour members should support the freedom to “discuss every issue, whether it’s the holocaust, yes or no, whether it’s Palestine liberation – the entire spectrum.

And you can listen to the clip here.

Was he – and the Labour members sitting in the room – really suggesting that the historical reality of the Holocaust is a legitimate topic for debate? Did Jenny Manson agree with him? We cannot say, because Ms Manson has made no comment (as far as I’m aware) on the matter.

However, Ms Manson does have a letter in today’s Guardian that takes the paper’s John Crace to task for confusing JVL’s fringe meeting with the ‘Free Speech on Israel’ fringe meeting (understandably, one might think, given Ms Manson’s prominent role at both):

Jewish Voice is not an anti-Zionist group
John Crace, whose contributions are always good value, has got it wrong (Sketch, 27 September). I chaired the meeting of Jewish Voice for Labour he mentions in passing. What he discusses in his sketch is in dispute but, in any event, it happened at an entirely separate meeting – not ours. JVL is not, as he claims, an anti-Zionist group, nor was the Holocaust mentioned, let alone questioned at our hugely popular launch on Monday evening at the Labour party conference, attended by close on 300 people.

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. The sole ideological commitments members make is to broadly support what is contained in our statement of principles. These include a commitment “to strengthen the party in its opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism”. Describing JVL as “anti-Zionist” fundamentally misrepresents us. Our statement of principles makes no mention at all of Zionism. Rather our objective is simply to uphold the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities. I gave an assurance from the chair that, in accordance with our statement of principles, you need hold no position on Zionism – for, against or anything else – to join and work with us.
Jenny Manson
Chair, Jewish Voice for Labour

There are two obvious points to make about this letter:

(1) Anti-Zionism is, in itself, a perfectly respectable ideology, and the Bund has an honourable history (even though the holocaust proved it to be, eventually, on the wrong side of history) so why does the Chair of the anti-Zionist JVL seek to deny the obvious?

(2) Why didn’t Ms Manson take the opportunity to clarify the links between JVL and ‘Free Speech on Israel’, whose meeting she chaired and at which the controversial comments on the holocaust were made?

A much more detailed – and honest – description of the politics of JVL was given in a speech by David Rosenberg, published in today’s Morning Star.

15 Comments

  1. rotzeichen said,

    “In other words, this “network for Jewish members of the Labour Party” will be campaigning in support of the ‘right’ to boycott Jews, and in favour of restricting the definition of antisemitism so as to exclude the most common forms in which contemporary antisemitism manifests itself”.

    This forum once again proves it has to make things up because it doesn’t fit their own agenda. The language above is carefully constructed to mislead what has actually been said.

    Once again denouncing people for supporting the right of Palestinians to live on their own land.

    Are these 10,000 Jews antisemitic as well?

    • Jim Denham said,

      Care to specify what, exactly, is factually incorrect about anything in the post, rotzeichen?

      You are mistaken in saying I (or anyone associated with Shiraz) opposes people “for supporting the right of Palestinians to live on their own land”: we support Palestinian rights and a two state solution.

      Your clip is of the Neturei Karta ultra-othodox sect of religious nutters, who regularly make common cause with antisemites: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neturei_Karta
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nation_of_Islam_and_antisemitism

      • rotzeichen said,

        Take a look at the evidence you provide:

        “In Israel some members also pray at affiliated beit midrash, in Jerusalem’s Meah Shearim neighborhood and in Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet. Neturei Karta states that no official count of the number of members exists.[4] The Jewish Virtual Library puts their numbers at 5,000,[5] while the Anti-Defamation League estimates that fewer than 100 members of the community take part in anti-Israel activism.[1] According to the Anti-Defamation League, members of Neturei Karta have a long history of extremist statements and support for notable anti-Zionists and Islamists.[1]”

        A cursory glance at the demonstration in New York shows the value of the information you provide.

      • Jim Denham said,

        That’s not really an answer, is it, rotzeichen?

        I repeat: care to specify what, exactly, is factually incorrect about anything in the post?

        P.S: more on your beloved Neturei Karta: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/israel-shield/when-neturei-karta-lost-the-torah/2015/02/12/

  2. Stephen Bellamy said,

    Len Mac calls it right. It is not before time there was a leftist Jewish voice in the LP. The JLM is a hard right org closely allied with the hard right of the LP that has attracted the affections of so called leftists like Jimbo and Lansman and Jones. whose ultra Zionist impulses comes before their socialism.

    As LEN says this is a left/right issue,

    • Stephen Bellamy said,

      Essentially Ken has called time. Time for the party to quit being kicked around by the Israeli Embassy. Hopefully Corbyn is listening but I rather doubt it.

      ttps://bookburnersrus.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/if-jeremy-corbyn-is-your-friend-do-you-really-need-enemies/

  3. Stephen Bellamy said,

    • Jim Denham said,

      “Len Mac calls it right”:

      So Chakrabarti’s wrong, eh?

      C’mon Stephen, no need to be coy.

      And when you say “Essentially Ken has called time”, do you mean Livingstone? I thought even out-and-out anti-Semites like you were becoming embarrassed by him.

      • Stephen Bellamy said,

        No I meant Len.

        And as for Shami she is merely promoting the agreed line. She has joined Lansman, Schneider, and Jones in whispering into Corbyn’s ear…………..Just one more little indulgence of them and it will be over, we can move on…….What Len has realised, and probably realised a long time ago, is that it will never be over until, as Howard Jacobson cheerfully admitted, discourse about Israel in the party is fully Israeli embassy friendly. ” We won’t fix this until we have fixed talk about Israel”. That is we have got it explicitly spelt out what may and what may not be said about Israel.Ruth Deech similarly spilt the beans.

        Once you have entered into what Mark Braverman calls the fatal embrace, it is very difficult to extricate yourself.

        The only sane ways of dealing with these people is to ignore them or tell them to fuck off. And if you tell them to fuck off, however politely, they will fuck off believe me. The Quakers are living proof. But the longer you keep feeding them Danegeld the harder it gets.

        Len Mac gets this.Shami is wrong in the sense that she doesn’t get it.

        But Len has defined it correctly. It is a left/right thing.

    • Jim Denham said,

      So pleased you answered, Stephen: so now we all; know it’s a conspiracy by them jew-boys:

      “She has joined Lansman, Schneider, and Jones in whispering into Corbyn’s ear…………..Just one more little indulgence of them and it will be over, we can move on…….”

      • Stephen Bellamy said,

        Do you think so Jim ?

      • Stephen Bellamy said,

        But not withstanding that Jim, given that, as Len says, it is a left/right issue. Which side are you on ?

        The socialists or the Zio union busters?

      • Jim Denham said,

        “Zio union busters?”

        Please explain.

        On second thoughts, don’t bother, you anti-Semitic tosser.

  4. Antisemitism and the misuse of statistics – Daniel Allington said,

    […] serious is the threat of antisemitism in Britain today?’ and published on the website of the controversial Jewish Voice for Labour group. It was written by Alan Maddison, an ‘independent strategist’ and […]

  5. Annmarie Collins said,

    I’m not Jewish, but I am a Labour Member, and I’m really impressed with many of the issues honestly and openly expressed.
    Am I able to join please ?
    Best wishes
    Annmarie

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