Walker told The Electronic Intifada on Friday that she had been suspended from the UK Labour Party pending investigation, for allegedly “bringing the party into disrepute.”
Walker said she would fight the suspension.
Momentum is a left-wing group established in the wake of Corbyn’s victory as Labour leader last year, attempting to capitalize on the wave of popular support generated in the campaign.
Walker’s removal as vice chair has led to an, at times acrimonious, division within the pro-Corbyn left.
The controversy seems to be an unwelcome distraction for Momentum leaders. It came just as the group was starting to get something of a breakthrough in mainstream media coverage, with Corbyn’s landslide re-election as Labour Party leader last month.
In a statement to The Electronic Intifada on Monday night, a Momentum spokesperson described comments Walker was reported to have made at a Labour Party training session last week as “ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive” and said that “Jackie should have done more to explain herself.”
But Momentum also said that it “does not regard any of the comments she appears to have made, taken individually, to be anti-Semitic.”
Although the Momentum steering committee voted 7 to 3 to remove Walker as vice chair, “she remains a member of Momentum and its steering committee.”
Speaking exclusively to The Electronic Intifada on Monday night, Walker said she would continue to participate in Momentum. She sent her “thanks for the overwhelming support I have had and continue to have” from Momentum members.
Although some members had told Walker they would leave the group in protest, she asked them “not to resign from Momentum but to stay on and become active in their groups to ensure the continued development of properly democratic structures in our movement.”
In a fast-moving series of events, comments Walker made at a training run by pro-Israel group the Jewish Labour Movement at the party conference last week were leaked to the right-wing Daily Telegraph.
The JLM’s new director Ella Rose was hired straight from a position at the Israeli embassy in August.
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada during the conference, JLM chair Jeremy Newmark denied receiving any funding from the Israeli state.
The Electronic Intifada watched at the training as JLM officer and Barnet councillor Adam Langleben filmed Walker’s comments.
The Momentum leadership in its statement Monday night said that “the leak is unacceptable and undermines much needed political education.”
Walker was last to speak out of a group of anti- and non-Zionist Jews at the training. The group challenged a controversial anti-Semitism definition promoted by JLM vice chair Mike Katz, who led the session.
Katz claimed the “EUMC definition” was the “standard.” Critics have long slammed the 2005 European Union Monitoring Center’s discussion paper on anti-Semitism for conflating anti-Semitism with criticism of Zionism, the ideology of the Israeli state.
The definition was never officially adopted by any EU body and was eventually ditched by the EUMC’s successor agency.
Walker said she “hadn’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism she could work with” during the training.
Walker also 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?”
Shorn of context and added to a previous conversation leaked by a pro-Israel group from Walker’s Facebook page in May, the comments from the JLM training have led to the current media storm against her.
Walker had written in February that the transatlantic slave trade had been an “African holocaust” and that “many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade.”
Walker has since elaborated that the comments applied only to “a certain economic point, in specific regions where my ancestors lived.”
Although she made the original comments in what she says was a private conversation among friends, unknown to her, her Facebook privacy settings at the time meant the comments were publicly visible.
Without investigation, the Labour Party suspended Walker as soon as “the JC brought her comments to the party’s attention,” the paper boasted.
But after an outcry from supportive Labour members, Walker’s suspension was lifted at the end of May.
Party officials wrote to her saying she had no case to answer and she was readmitted, to the dismay of the JLM, which claimed she was an anti-Semite.
Walker has since then been active in speaking out against the “witch hunt” of left-wing and pro-Palestinian Labour Party activists. This video of Walker was filmed at the Free Speech on Israel meeting at the Labour Party conference last week.
Walker’s local Momentum group has spoken out in support of her. The Electronic Intifada understands that there are divisions on the issue even among left-wing union leaders supportive of Momentum.
On Monday night, Momentum leaders held a three-hour meeting at the headquarters of the TSSA transport workers union, which supports Momentum. In the end they voted to remove Walker as vice chair, but to keep her on Momentum’s steering committee.
Activists from Free Speech on Israel protested outside as the Momentum leadership met, calling for them to support Walker.
The network of mostly Jewish anti-Zionists has campaigned to end the ongoing witch hunt of Labour Party members critical of Israel.
Free Speech on Israel activists who were in the training session along with Walker wrote that “Jackie had every right to question the JLM’s definition of anti-Semitism.”
They added that “the way Jackie has been treated demonstrates the unfitness of the JLM to deliver training on anti-Semitism. It is an organization committed to one, contested strand of Jewish labour tradition to the exclusion of any other; it relies on a definition of anti-Semitism that conflates Jewish identity with Zionism.”
A letter from Jewish members and supporters of Momentum in The Guardian on Wednesday says that “Momentum’s grassroots members overwhelmingly support Jackie.”