Updates, 29 September: Jackie Walker tells The Electronic Intifada that she has deactivated her Twitter account, due to a torrent of anti-black racism and denial and questioning of her Jewishness.
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust issued a statement conceding that UK Holocaust Memorial Day commemorates the Holocaust “and subsequent genocides” but not transatlantic slavery.
Anti-racism activist Jackie Walker, who is Jewish and Black, attended the Jewish Labour Movement training session along with other individuals active in the Palestine solidarity movement, including boycott activist Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and London School of Economics professor Jonathan Rosenhead.
Rosenhead told The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday that the group, all of whom were Jewish, were “concerned to understand how the Jewish Labour Movement thought training on anti-Semitism should be carried out, but became aware of serious defects.”
The Electronic Intifada observed the session, which was part of the official program at the Labour Party annual conference in Liverpool.
The group did not heckle or interrupt, but asked questions when invited by the speaker. But others in the room did heckle these Jewish critics of the Jewish Labour Movement.
Walker’s contribution was repeatedly interrupted, in one instance by mocking laughter.
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada by phone on Wednesday, Walker slammed the JLM for apparently leaking a video of the training to right-wing media, as part of an ongoing campaign to have her suspended from the Labour Party for her political views.
Jewish Labour Movement vice chair Mike Katz ran the session. At one point, he claimed that the “standard” definition of anti-Semitism was the “EUMC definition.”
Many in the room immediately objected.
In fact, the 2005 European Union Monitoring Center’s discussion paper on anti-Semitism, which Katz was clearly referring to, has always been controversial.
Critics of the EUMC paper have always said it was not suitable because it conflated anti-Semitism with criticism of Zionism, the ideology of the Israeli state.
It proposed that any claim that the foundation of Israel was a “racist endeavor” was tantamount to anti-Semitism.
Despite never being formally endorsed by the EU agency, the paper has long been promoted by pro-Israel groups, who pressure governments and institutions to adopt it officially.
In 2013, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a major pro-Israel lobby group, finally conceded that the EUMC definition had no official status and had been ditched by the Fundamental Rights Agency, the EUMC’s successor.
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada, Momentum’s Jackie Walker accused the JLM of a potential breach of UK data protection laws.
The Electronic Intifada observed JLM campaigns officer and Labour councillor Adam Langleben filming Walker during the training. The Daily Telegraph published a story on Wednesday attacking Walker, with the apparent intent of having her suspended from the party.
“A number of people made comments in a private training session run by the Jewish Labour Movement,” Walker said. “As we all know, training sessions are intended to be safe spaces where ideas and questions can be explored.”
But the leak and distortions in the media now meant that “anyone who goes to a Labour Party training space has to be careful what they say,” she added.
She accused the Jewish Labour Movement of running a “propaganda space,” where those who dissented from its views supporting Israel were not welcome.
In the training, Walker said: “in terms of Holocaust Day I would also like to say, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day was open to all peoples who have experienced holocaust?”
This statement, and an obviously mistyped tweet that Walker quickly corrected were seized upon as part of what looks like a renewed effort to expel her from the party.
“If they do I’ll fight it,” Walker said of a potential suspension or expulsion.
“In the session, a number of Jewish people, including me, asked for definitions of anti-Semitism,” Walker said. “This is a subject of much debate in the Jewish community.”
Walker pointed to a definition given by UK comedian David Schneider as one she endorsed.
“I would never play down the significance of the Shoah [Holocaust]. Working with many Jewish comrades, I continue to seek to bring greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimized,” Walker said. “If offense has been caused, it is the last thing I would want to do and I apologize.”
LSE professor Jonathan Rosenhead told The Electronic Intifada that Walker, who spoke on panels at a Momentum event during the conference, was “a deeply serious person who impressed the entire audience with her commitment and indeed her balanced perspective which included the treatment of [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] members as well as Jewish members.”
The UK’s government-endorsed Holocaust Memorial Day Trust does recognize other genocides apart from the Nazi Holocaust, although all occurred after the Second World War, and there seems to be no mention of the slave trade.
It is estimated that 12.5 million people were transported out of Africa by transatlantic slave traders, of whom 10.7 million arrived in the American colonies alive.
Walker recently fought off an effort to expel her from the party over comments on Facebook in which she referred to the Atlantic slave trade as an “African holocaust.”
In May, she was cleared of anti-Semitism and the suspension of her Labour membership was lifted.
The Jewish Labour Movement has faced intense criticism from Jewish Labour Party activists over its pro-Israel positions. Its new full-time director worked as an Israeli embassy officer for the last year.
A speech by the the JLM’s Mike Katz was heckled by Jewish Palestine solidarity activists on Tuesday.
Glyn Secker told The Electronic Intifada that he and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi had said: “We’re Jewish, you don’t represent all Jews in the Labour Party.”
- Jackie Walker
- Jeremy Corbyn
- Labour Party
- Jewish Labour Movement
- Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
- Jonathan Rosenhead
- Helen Marks
- Leah Levane
- Glyn Secker
- Jews for Justice for Palestinians
- Graham Bash
- Mike Katz
- European Union Fundamental Rights Agency
- Adam Langleben
- Holocaust Memorial Day