New Jewish group in Labour Party backs right to BDS

Jewish members of the Labour Party have founded a new group. Jewish Voice for Labour will launch at the UK main opposition party’s conference in Brighton next month.

The new initiative presents a challenge to an existing Israel lobby group that positions itself as the representative of Jewish members of Labour.

“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 new group said.

Jewish Voice for Labour’s founding document upholds “the right of supporters of justice for Palestinians to engage in solidarity activities, such as boycott, divestment and sanctions,” or BDS.

It adds that it opposes “attempts to widen the definition of anti-Semitism beyond its meaning of hostility towards or discrimination against Jews as Jews.”

This has been a key goal of the Jewish Labour Movement, an existing Israel lobby group within the Labour Party, that has sought to advance Israel’s agenda of delegitimizing BDS activism by equating criticism of Israel and its Zionist state ideology with anti-Semitism.

Jewish Voice for Labour criticizes the Jewish Labour Movement for its promotion of Israel. Unlike the JLM, Jewish Voice for Labour says it “does not make promoting the centrality of Israel to Jewish life a condition of membership.”

Celebrate and debate

Jewish Voice for Labour’s chair is Jenny Manson, a former Labour councillor and parliamentary candidate. A retired tax inspector, she is a long-standing member of the Labour Party in Finchley and Golders Green, an area of North London with a large Jewish population.

It is also the constituency where Jewish Labour Movement chair Jeremy Newmark stood as a candidate for parliament in June’s general election. He failed to win the seat back from the ruling Conservative Party.

Manson said the new group Jewish Voice for Labour would “provide a much-needed forum for Jews who want to celebrate and debate the long and proud history of Jewish involvement in socialist and trade-union activism.”

She said they “invite everyone of Jewish heritage in the Labour Party to join us in continuing these great traditions.”

Israel lobby’s voice

The existing Jewish Labour Movement is a group run by an Israel lobbyist, which works closely with the Israeli embassy in London. It was at the forefront of the campaign against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn last year, claiming the party under him was a cesspit of anti-Semitism.

The Jewish Labour Movement is affiliated to the UK Labour Party and says it “supports” the Israeli Labor Party. It is also a part of the World Zionist Organization – one of four key “national institutions” in Israel which aim to foster Jewish settlement on Palestinian land.

Although an older organization, the Jewish Labour Movement was moribund until the beginning of 2016. It was then taken over by longstanding Israel lobbyist Jeremy Newmark, who became its chair in February 2016.

Former Israeli embassy officer Ella Rose was then hired as its first director in August of that year.

A former president of the Israeli-government-funded Union of Jewish Students, Rose was later investigated by the Labour Party after being caught on camera wishing her enemies would “die in a hole.”

The footage was part of an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera into the Israel lobby’s influence on UK political parties.

It also showed Newmark working closely with Israeli ambassador Mark Regev during a closed door meeting at the Labour Party conference.

Newmark has a history of making false accusations of anti-Jewish bigotry as part of his efforts to silence and discredit the UK Palestine solidarity movement.

Implicit support for settlements

Newmark’s Jewish Labour Movement says that it supports the World Zionist Organization’s Jerusalem Program, which states as one of its goals: “Settling the country as an expression of practical Zionism.” The program defines “the country” as “Eretz Yisrael” – a term Zionists use to designate the whole of historic Palestine, including the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The use of this phrase, as well as a small map icon showing an outline of the whole of historic Palestine plus Syria’s Golan Heights on the Jerusalem Program web page, makes it clear that Newmark’s group implicitly endorses Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights are illegal under international law.

These institutional commitments undermine public claims by Newmark to oppose “the occupation” in line with Labour Party policy.

Earlier this year, Newmark was also reportedly responsible for the watering down of Labour’s general election manifesto on the issue of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Last September, Newmark claimed to The Electronic Intifada that his group participates in the World Zionist Organization to “oppose settlements and to speak out against the occupation.”

The World Zionist Organization receives tens of millions of dollars from the Israeli government to found and develop Israeli settlements, including in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights.

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Comments

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Let's hope this new group can make positive changes to Labour, esp. break the stranglehold of JLM, which is nothing more than an ultra-conservative Zionist organisation dressed up as Labour "progressives". It is time Zionism as a racist mindset in that part of Labour is stamped out, for good.

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There is light at the end of the tunnel !
Good news for the Labor Party in the UK .I have always said that the change must come from within .
Oppression is what it is , oppression, and has nothing to do with antisemitism .

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I predict that this new formation will rapidly outstrip in membership the rancid Labour Friends of Israel. This is exactly the sort of announcement that prompts the question, "Why did it take so long?" Anti-Zionist and progressive Jews will now have a strong voice within the party, one that can't be silenced. Hats off to the founders.

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Brilliant - it's this kind of thing that keeps me in the Labour Party. The support of Labours right wing for Israel is an immoral disgrace.

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I disagree with Asa's optimism

JVL has been formed on the basis of avoiding all but the most general references 2 Palestine. Nowhere does it mention Zionism in its founding statement and a number of us were excluded from its inaugural meeting. I have just been removed from its Facebook group 4 raising these concerns.

Yes it supports the right of people 2 campaign around BDS but it does NOT itself support BDS.

You can read my statement here https://drive.google.com/file/...

I sent an Open Letter to my fellow member of Jews 4 Boycotting Israeli Goods, Naomi Wimborne Iddrissi, the salient part of which reads:

Naomi

I am surprised that you too have gone along with what amounts to the effective dropping by JVL of any commitment to oppose the JLM on the question of Zionism or solidarity with the Palestinians. Rachel Lever, 'freely confess(es) to having drafted' part of the JVL statement and she seriously believes that dropping any reference to Israel or Zionism will somehow 'uncouple' the connection between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

Presumably the JLM will be so impressed by this sleight of hand that they too will drop their campaign to conflate the 2. In practice you have therefore abandoned any meaningful campaign against against the IHRA still less against the JLM as the overseas representative of the Israeli Labour Party. You will challenge them over whether they represent all Jews in the LP but you won't challenge the reason why they make this claim.

In Rachel's words, the purpose of the JVL is to:
''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.'

I am sure that the Palestinians will be impressed that you have decided to explore your Jewish heritage

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I am not Jewish, and have never voted Labour. I live in Kidderminster, UK and our local MP Mark Garnier is a "Conservative Friend of Israel". There is a "Labour Friend of Israel" and Liberal and UKIP sections friendly to Israel. They All go on Free Trips to Israel and receive Donations from Zionist Front bodies in London. When Jeremy Corbyn asked for fair does for Palestinians, he was accused of Anti Semitism and Villified by the UK Press and the BBC. Maybe now BDS will be mentioned.

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I submitted a comment 2 days ago, when it didn't appear I submitted another thinking maybe the first had disappeared into the ether. Yesterday the first comment appeared and now it has disappeared. Why?.

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Why Tony Greenstein do you want to be the "only anti-Zionist in the village"? The Labour movement is about solidarity and collectivity not about a search for martyrdom. Put away your ego and get behind this first step initiative.

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Less of the ad hominems and a little bit more attention to what I said. I am not the only 'aZ in the village' who is objecting to the fact that th is group believes it will win wider support by jetissoning any anti-Zionist politics. Indeed it doesn't mention Zionism in its principles. It doesn't mention the Right of Return. It doesnt even mention the false antisemitism witch hunt in teh LP. According to one of those who drew up its founding statement it has decided that the best way to avoid the linkage between Jews and Zionism is by founding a group that does nothing about the 'Israel thing'

This belief that if you water down what you say to the point of making yourself incoherent and having nothing much to say about Israel that you will attract people is wrong. Confining yourself to human rights violations and saying nothing about the particular racist character of the state. Or as people say, using the language of universal rights and human rights etc. Problem is there are many human rights struggles and the Palestinians are by no means the worst off but the situation of a settler colonial state and an apartheid regime are unique.

The belief that if you hide what you stand for and pretend that you are not what you are that you will fool people into supporting you is what lies behind the 'strategy' of this group. I do not predict a long or happy future for it because it has nowhere to go and it doesn't appear to know where it is going.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.