Is Labour’s Jon Lansman capitulating to the Israel lobby?

Momentum leader Jon Lansman is set to speak at the JLM conference along with hard-line anti-Corbyn figures including Louise Ellman, Ruth Smeeth and Luciana Berger (click here to view uncropped). (JLM)

The founder of the UK Labour campaign group Momentum is to speak at an event organized by an Israeli embassy proxy next month.

The Jewish Labour Movement announced on Tuesday that Jon Lansman would be among the speakers at their conference next month.

Lansman told The Electronic Intifada that although he is not a member, “I agreed to speak at the JLM conference some time ago and it does not affect my support for the text of the agreed Labour code of conduct” against anti-Semitism.

The JLM has been adamantly opposed to the new code, demanding it be revised to include a definition of anti-Semitism which would prohibit important criticisms of Israel.

The lineup of speakers announced by JLM also includes several of party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s most hard-line opponents.

These include Margaret Hodge, the lawmaker who reportedly defamed Corbyn last month as a “fucking anti-Semite and racist” and right-wing Labour stalwart Wes Streeting.

Hodge was briefly investigated by the party’s disciplinary structures before the action was dropped – reportedly under threat by a faction of Labour lawmakers that they would break away from the party.

The announcements come amid a report that Lansman is preparing to do a U-turn on Labour’s code of conduct against anti-Semitism.

The code adopts the controversial IHRA “working definition” of anti-Semitism, along with most of its “examples” of anti-Semitism.

But it has rejected the provision which claims that defining Israel as “a racist endeavor” is anti-Semitism.

The “gold standard”?

The “working definition” has been used to suppress Palestinian and solidarity groups’ criticisms of Israel all over the UK. The document, in various guises, has been actively promoted by Israel and its associated lobby groups around the world for years.

Last month, writing in The Guardian, Lansman defended the new code of conduct as “the new gold standard” in fighting anti-Semitism.

He wrote that on a recent trip to present-day Israel, “those I met, Jewish as well as Palestinian citizens of Israel, spoke about racist state policies, not just in relation to the occupation and settlements, but also within Israel itself.”

He said that the IHRA example should not be allowed to “deny other oppressed groups their right to speak about their own oppression.”

Organizations “which claim to speak for the diverse Jewish community” did not have “the credibility to criticize a political party’s robust, thorough and far-reaching code of conduct,” Lansman argued.

But now, amid an escalating campaign by right-wing and pro-Israel forces within Labour against the code of conduct, Lansman appears to be capitulating.

Capitulation

The Jewish News reported on Wednesday that “Lansman has for weeks been lobbying Labour’s leadership to adopt the international definition [sic] of anti-Semitism with all its examples.”

The pro-Israel paper claimed that, “sources close to the Momentum founder told Jewish News that he ‘regretted’ the fact Jeremy Corbyn’s [recent] Guardian article ‘lacked a firm commitment’ to include all 11 [IHRA] examples in the party’s code of conduct.”

Although Lansman’s email to The Electronic Intifada stated that his appearance at the JLM event “does not affect my support” for the code of conduct, he did not respond to a follow-up question asking about the Jewish News report.

Lansman’s appearance at the conference appears to be regarded by the JLM as something of a coup, with its Twitter account on Thursday saying it was a sign that Momentum – an ostensibly left-wing group – had something “in common” with corporate Blairite faction Progress and two other right-wing Labour groups.

The Jewish Labour Movement emerged in February 2016 as a leading force in the Israeli campaign of psychological warfare against the Labour Party and its then-new leader Jeremy Corbyn – a veteran Palestine solidarity activist.

As The Electronic Intifada revealed in April, the JLM has acted as a proxy for the Israeli embassy, running an official Israeli delegation to the Labour Party conference in 2016.

Its director Ella Rose is a former Israeli embassy officer, who privately admitted that she and JLM worked closely with Israeli embassy spy Shai Masot.

Masot was expelled from the UK in 2017, after an Al Jazeera investigation revealed he had plotted to “take down” lawmakers and ministers deemed critical of Israel.

The Electronic Intifada put all this to Lansman, but he did not directly address any of it, defending the JLM as “a legitimate part of the Labour Party.”

He wrote that “the vast majority” of JLM “are opposed to the occupation” and that “if we are going to succeed in creating a Palestinian state, we need to win over a significant section of the Jewish community both in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora.”

Democratic pressure?

Jackie Walker, a Momentum vice chair until Lansman fell out with her, told The Electronic Intifada that Lansman’s position “comes as no surprise.”

“Jon Lansman long made it clear to me that his long term goal was the bring the left into accord with the Jewish Labour Movement.”

She said that the “announcement that he will be representing Momentum on a JLM platform, like his visit to Israel, has gone ahead without any discussion with the membership, or the body which supposedly represents members views,” the National Coordinating Group.

She said that “Momentum members as well as others, must urgently consider how to bring some democratic pressure to resist changes to the recently accepted Labour Party IHRA code.”

As well as being the leader of Momentum, Lansman is an influential member of Labour’s ruling national executive and is running for re-election next month.

Lansman’s JLM appearance fits into a key goal of the lobby groups that work in close association with the Israeli government to embrace “soft critics” of Israel as a way to drive a wedge into the Palestine solidarity movement and the left.

The JLM appears to be a key part of this strategy, having previously embraced ostensibly left-wing Guardian columnist Owen Jones last year.

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British working people have waited so long for a principled Labour leadership that would mount a genuine opposition to the Tories, unlike the 'Tory-lite' centrism of 'New Labour'. Now, for the first time in a long time, there's a real chance that such a genuine principled leadership could take power. It is intolerable therefore that those working on behalf of a foreign government should seek to sabotage such a chance. They must not and will not succeed.

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Absolutely. We can't be hijacked by these despicable people to further bolster the Zionist regime in its relentless abuse and subjugation of Palestinians. We don't want another pseudo Tory government that would enthusiastically follow Trump and his henchmen into committing more mayhem when they decide to bomb the next country on the list, and we all know where that is.

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JC is the best leader of the Labour Party we have ever had... He has principles and is calm and kind in the face of monstrous accusations and allegations... We have to consider Israel's appalling treatment of Palestinians... We also have to follow the money, particularly the completely unfair distribution of global wealth... The fact that 8 Billionaires own the equivalent wealth of 3.6 Billion people on earth (nearly 50%), needs investigating, understanding and rectifying... I personally do not believe that this should be a conflict of interest for any true Labour Party member... For the record I don't even believe by investigating this single fact that it would be detrimental to Israel or Jewish People in general... But what is harmful are these continuous pockets of rebellion and faux discrimination... We have only to look at the contradictions across parties around real racist comments... Pull yourselves together... Your actions are a disgrace and belittle the effects of racism everywhere

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Lansman is a zionist and Owen Jones is a sheepdog. They've both caused damage to JC and the real left.

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Lansman once again throws allies under the bus and supports the slander of other Jewish people like Jackie,Tony,Glyn, and others and he's a shameful leader who is only interested in his own power because he doesn't even want to do Politics 101 which is getting Corbyn supporters in power and doing deselection of those adamantly opposed to his socialist reforms and anti-imperialism abroad. Get him out.

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They're called, "..important criticisms of Israel." because that is what they are. Israel is a State.. not a religion. If there are "..important criticisms of Israel." then they should be stated, loudly and clearly.. until Israel clears the need to criticise.. preferably by changing its actions.

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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.