The Jewish Labour Movement harassed Labour and trade union activists at the party’s conference in 2017, The Electronic Intifada can reveal.
The group’s then chairperson Jeremy Newmark verbally attacked and repeatedly filmed Labour councilor Nikki McDonald and two of her female friends.
The same day, her husband Tosh McDonald, a union leader, was also photographed by two young activists on the conference floor.
All had been applauding a Palestine campaigner’s speech to the conference, and some had been wearing lanyards adorned with the Palestinian flag.
Newmark continued to film the three later in the day, despite being told to stop by conference stewards.
“It was awful. It made me feel really uncomfortable,” Nikki McDonald told The Electronic Intifada. She said Newmark’s actions had constituted “harassment.”
“I’m not a delicate little flower but … he was really, really quite frightening,” she said. “I was actually quite shaken,” she recounted.
McDonald said that she and her two friends – activists from train drivers union ASLEF – had been loudly cheering left-wing Jewish activist Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi when Newmark began filming them.
McDonald said that ahead of the conference, the ongoing campaign to misrepresent Labour as an anti-Semitic party had intimidated her and her friends and left them “really fearful.” She said she had been “absolutely dreading the conference” – so Wimborne-Idrissi’s interventions had come as a breath of fresh air.
“We were so relieved that we could actually talk about Palestine without feeling that somebody would jump on you,” she said.
Newmark was part of a group of around 20 mostly young activists sitting nearby, McDonald said.
The Jewish Labour Movement is a group that works closely with the Israeli embassy in London.
The Electronic Intifada put McDonald’s account of events at conference to Jeremy Newmark, without naming her.
Newmark responded in an email, “Perhaps you might explain exactly where and when this is supposed to have happened?”
After being told it took place in 2017, Newmark asked for “proper details of these allegations” – while also stating that he wholly denied them.
When asked if he had filmed people against their will when finding them “deeply offensive” at Labour Party conference on more than one occasion, he claimed to have “no such habit.”
The Jewish Labour Movement did not respond to a request for comment.
Wimborne-Idrissi, a Jewish Voice for Labour leader, and veteran Palestine solidarity activist, had been contributing to a debate on a rule change which focused on allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour. You can watch her speech in the video below.Later that day, Newmark took to the TV studios to attack Wimborne-Idrissi and her left-wing Jewish comrades. At a fringe meeting, he even accused her of anti-Semitism in her speech, calling for the party to “take action” against her.
“Newmark’s intimidation of pro-Palestine delegates to conference was a warning sign of what was to come,” Wimborne Idrissi told The Electronic Intifada this week.
“Barely two years on, his pro-Israel friends have succeeded in making it virtually impossible for members to call for justice for Palestinians without being condemned as anti-Semites, while undermining the necessary work of uniting all vulnerable minority groups in opposition to real and rising racist threats,” she said.
Since Palestine solidarity campaigner Jeremy Corbyn was elected party leader in September 2015, the Jewish Labour Movement has been a leading force in driving the false narrative that Labour is “institutionally anti-Semitic.”
But Wimborne-Idrissi and other left-wing Jewish activists have argued that, while there is a real need to challenge anti-Semitism, its prevalence in the party has been wildly exaggerated for political purposes.
While Wimborne-Idrissi was speaking, McDonald says, she looked to her side and noticed “this chap with his phone out and he’s filming me.”
She recalled that she asked “Why are you filming me?” He replied, “Because I find you deeply offensive.”
She had not known who the man was at the time, but later noted his name from his conference badge.
After the first incident, McDonald and her friends went to complain to conference stewards, she told The Electronic Intifada. They later informed McDonald that they had told Newmark not to repeat his actions.
Later they came across Newmark again, who proceeded to film them once more.
McDonald and her friends then went to conference officials to complain, but no action was taken. They “weren’t in the least bit interested,” she said. “It never got official.”
Around the same time, Nikki’s husband Tosh was also targeted by mysterious activists with their phones out.
Tosh McDonald, then the president of ASLEF, told The Electronic Intifada that two young women “started taking photos of us if we clapped.” Tosh McDonald was there as part of the ASLEF delegation.
Nikki McDonald thinks it possible they might have been targeted because they had both attended the launch of Jewish Voice for Labour the previous evening.
At that meeting, Tosh had publicly announced he would recommend to his union that they affiliate to the new group.
Earlier in 2017, Tosh had been attacked for using part of his speech at a Spanish civil war memorial event to express solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.
A Zionist activist walked out of the event, objecting that McDonald had made comparisons “with other struggles … such as apartheid in South Africa … [and] the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians.”
Jeremy Newmark has long been a leading figure in the UK’s Israel lobby. In recent years, he has reinvented himself as a right-wing Labour Party activist.
At an Israel lobby conference in 2011, Newmark encouraged the audience to join their local political parties and trade unions to “become a voice for Israel” and fight against “Israel’s deteriorating position.”A video from the conference, obtained by The Electronic Intifada, was deleted by organizers from YouTube. You can watch it above.
As Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Finchley and Golders Green, Newmark narrowly failed to capture the North London seat from the ruling Conservatives in June 2017’s general election. A few months later, however, he was elected a Labour councilor, after a local by-election in October.
Fraud investigation dropped
Last month, the Jewish Chronicle reported that police had shelved a fraud investigation into Newmark.
The paper reported that more than $146,000 in Jewish Leadership Council funds from around the time Newmark was chief executive of that pro-Israel group “could not be accounted for.”
But police dropped the case after forensic accountants found their work “seriously hampered” by missing documents.
Newmark denies any wrongdoing. “No evidence was provided that any evidence was removed or destroyed” by him, he told the Jewish Chronicle.
The Jewish Labour Movement, founded in 2004, was revived in September 2015, the same month Jeremy Corbyn was first elected leader.
This was done in order to “battle” the new left-wing, Palestine campaigning leader, a transcript of an undercover recording obtained by The Electronic Intifada last month shows.
As part of this effort, Newmark hired a new staff member, recruiting her out of the Israeli embassy.
In another secret transcript, obtained by The Electronic Intifada last year, former director Ella Rose admitted that her group worked in close coordination with the Israeli embassy and its agents.
“We work with Shai, we know him very well,” she told an undercover journalist in 2016.
“National security issue”
Shai Masot was exposed by the Al Jazeera undercover investigation in 2017, after a plot with a civil servant to “take down” Alan Duncan – a senior Conservative government minister deemed critical of Israel.
When the Mail on Sunday previewed some of the film’s contents in a front page story, the Labour Party initially called for an inquiry into “the extent of this improper interference in our democratic politics by other states.”
Shadow Foreign Minister Emily Thornberry even described the affair as “a national security issue.”
But later, after the full film was broadcast, it became clear that the bulk of the Al Jazeera documentary focused on Masot’s interference in Labour. Thornberry and the rest of the Labour leadership went silent on the issue.
Nothing substantial was done by political leaders to investigate this “national security issue.”
Masot was thrown under the bus by his boss, ambassador Mark Regev, who downplayed the role of his “senior political officer.”
The Jewish Labour Movement has previously refused to comment, accusing The Electronic Intifada of “wild conspiracy theories.”
It has also responded to requests for comment with empty legal threats.