Take Palestine off agenda, says Jewish Labour Movement

A man talks in a Zoom session

Jewish Labour Movement chair Mike Katz training Labour members over Zoom.

The Jewish Labour Movement has been using its new anti-Semitism “training” sessions to suppress debate on Palestine in the UK Labour Party.

Footage of online “training and awareness-raising” sessions shows JLM chair Mike Katz suggesting that party officials should halt discussions on Palestine.

“If you’re setting the agendas, there’s lots of really important international issues going on out there,” he said.

“You don’t have to have motions on Israel-Palestine on your agenda every single month,” he continued, suggesting party meetings instead discuss other issues, including Brexit and the Uyghur Muslim minority in China.

The training sessions are being run by the JLM on behalf of the Labour Party. Recordings were obtained by The Electronic Intifada.

The Jewish Labour Movement is a pro-Israel lobby group with close ties to the Israeli embassy in London.

Labour – under its current right-wing leader Keir Starmer – has handed the JLM and other Israel lobby groups sweeping powers over the party’s membership.

The 10 June webinar via Zoom was targeted at “CLP role holders” – chairs and other elected officials in local groupings of Labour. Such groupings are known as Constituency Labour Parties.

Zoom session slide "discussing Israel and Palestine"

JLM staffer Rebecca Filer claims it’s anti-Semitic to use the word Zionism “as a term of abuse.”

Katz strongly implied that advocacy for Palestinian rights was inherently anti-Semitic, claiming such discussion “inculcates a real kind of loathing in turning up to meetings by the Jewish members.”

That very same day in Hove, near Brighton on England’s south coast, Katz’s desire for censorship had already been fulfilled.

As we reported last month, regional Labour official Scott Horner and Hove CLP chair Kim Bolton ruled a motion calling for sanctions against Israel out of order. The motion was removed from the agenda for a meeting, based on a claim that the discussion could lead to “anti-Semitic behavior.”

Labour’s legal unit wrote us after publication threatening baseless legal action unless our report was censored. We responded that we would not change the article and also published pages from the Hove CLP minutes to back up our reporting further.

Without naming us, Hove MP Peter Kyle (who is an officer for lobby group Labour Friends of Israel) responded to our article the next day claiming that people were “misinterpreting the work of our busy CLP.” But he did not deny the substance of our report.

It is likely that Horner, as Labour’s paid South East regional organizer, had already attended a JLM training session, which would have informed his decision.

“The vast majority of Labour’s party staff have already had this training,” said Greg Burton, a Labour Party director, who introduced the 10 June session, saying the same program was “being rolled out across the organization.”

The training was led by Katz and Rebecca Filer, the JLM’s national organizer.

Palestine is “boring”

Burton said that more than 500 people attended on 10 June, while more than 5,000 had registered for another session the following week. That session – held on 14 June – was reportedly Labour’s largest ever training initiative of any type.

The 14 June session was again led by Katz and Filer. But this time it was introduced by Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner.

Rayner gushed that she had already heard the session so many times “I probably know it off by heart.” She said that by the end of the year the training “will have been offered to over half a million members and staff.”

During a strictly controlled question and answer session, Katz made a very similar claim to the one he had made the previous week. He said that discussions on Israel and Palestine make for “monotonous meetings” and are “quite difficult to handle if you’re a Jewish member.”

Katz suggested that members should be steered away from Palestine to talk about “the huge number of really worrying issues around the globe going on at the moment” such as “the plight of the Uyghurs, [the] Rohingya, [and] what’s happening in Yemen.”

He bemoaned that “the only international issue, indeed the only issue that some CLPs want to discuss is Israel-Palestine.”

He claimed this “puts people off, the endless barrage – and it makes for boring meetings actually.”

Zoom session slide about comparing Zionism to Nazism

JLM staffer Rebecca Filer claims it’s anti-Semitic to make “Nazi comparisons.”

Rebecca Filer, the JLM’s national organizer, spoke the most during both sessions.

Left-wing group Jewish Voice for Labour has published a response to the training.

Jewish Voice for Labour pointed out that one of JLM’s core “values” – as stated in its rule book – is “to promote the centrality of Israel in Jewish life.”

The JLM training makes “no reference to the fact that not all Jews are Zionists.” And it omitted that “the majority of Zionists are not Jews, their numbers boosted by millions of Christian Evangelicals in the US and around the world,” the critique by Jewish Voice for Labour stated.

Jewish Voice for Labour also criticized what it said was Filer and Katz’s “exaggerated view of the ongoing threat that anti-Semitism presents to British Jews.”

Their approach “seemed designed to stir up fear as a way of justifying harsh punitive measures against individuals, rather than using evidence-based debate to challenge ideas.”

The video footage of Filer running the training sessions substantiates the criticisms made by Jewish Voice for Labour.

She claimed that “using Zionism or Zio as a term of abuse” during discussions on Palestine was unnacceptable and anti-Semitic. She also claimed that “comparing Israel to Nazi Germany” is “one of the most hurtful comments that can be made for the Jewish community.”

The Jewish Labour Movement, Mike Katz and Scott Horner did not respond to emails requesting comment.

The group has in the past aggressively refused to comment, responding with copies of a letter written by a lawyer. The implied legal threats against The Electronic Intifada came to nothing.

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What Katz, who advised members of the JLM not to vote Labour, is really saying is take Socialism off the agenda. Socialism is intrinsically anti-racism and is therefore anti-Zionism. The JLM, a Zionist movement which should have no place in the Labour Party, do not want discussions on Socialism which would naturally progress to discussing Zionism and its racism, leading on to Israeli apartheid.

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Thanks, Asa, for this timely report. Apologies if I missed it, but do you have a link to the June 10 JLM webinar? Or is it somehow unavailable for screening by the public? I'd very much like to see for myself how they run this sort of re-education session.

Asa Winstanley's picture

It’s available to members only. We obtained copies via sources.

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I have seen documentary videos with Israeli people talking of their right to Israel, and that the Palestinians have no rights. I have seen highly disturbing footage of Palestinians being forced from their homes so “settlers” can take them over, of Bedouin people being forced from land they have freely and harmlessly used for thousands of years. This is horrific injustice. It cannot be anti-Semitic to state this. In my experience, Jewish people have the same warmth and humour we have, eroded, as with us, the more wealth they acquire. Fair, universal taxation should be to prevent anyone from becoming above others and above the law, in addition to being revenue for social welfare. All people in any country should abide by the same laws, receive the same benefits, have the same access to the law and rights. We will never all be equal, and life would be dull if we were, but social justice leads to tolerance, observance of law, and unity in society. Belligerent lobbyists, particularly those claiming to deal with a.s., might do well to take note. When you constantly portray yourselves as victims, the fascists feign support while breeding division and hatred. You may not like what those who speak openly say, but generally they are not those you should fear.

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When was the Party membership consulted over this? Who made the decision to grant the JLM the right to conduct training? This is imposed by a bureaucratic elite disdainful of the members' views and fully aligned with the ideology of the Israeli State ie racism, apartheid and messianic entitlement. Let's remind ourselves of the bases of the Zionist (descriptive not loaded term - Herzl called himself a Zionist) claim to the whole of Palestine: first, it was given to Abraham by god some three to four thousand years ago. Is that fact or belief? Freedom of belief is absolute, but it does not imply the right to impose your beliefs on anyone else. This is the position of the followers of Herzl: if you question what we believe, not in the sense of denying us the right to our belief, but rather in saying that your beliefs are different, then you are anti-Semitic. That's thought control. That's totalitarian. That's Big Brother and the memory hole. Many people do not believe in god and there is no evidence Abraham existed. The followers of Herzl are free to believe what they like, but they are not free to insist their belief shall be universal or that it grants legal title to land in the twenty first century. Second, the Jews worked the land, made a culture, therefore they have a right to it. When did the first homo sapiens arrive in what is today the ME? The treck out of Africa began about 60,000 years ago. Around that time our ancestors would have been in that region. Does that precedence and the fact they made a culture mean their descendants have a claim to the land? Absurd. But such absurdities are the core of the Zionist case. It pretends to be reasoned and to rest on fact: it sits on belief and circumvents thinking. That Labour falls to its knees before this nonsense, that it complies with shutting out debate of the fate of the Palestinians is testimony to its moral vacuity and intellectual nullity. And it has much blood on its hands and will have more.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

At The Electronic Intifada he is associate editor and co-host of our podcast.