Labour is an open and inclusive party
28 March, 2019
• WE wholeheartedly endorse the sentiments in the letter from the executive officers of the Holborn & St Pancras Labour Party, (We stand in solidarity with the Jewish community, March 14): “standing in solidarity with the Jewish community against anti-Semitism wherever it is found” and “wholeheartedly welcome[ing] Jewish members [as] an open and inclusive party”.
As Jewish members of the same local constituency party, we believe that this is precisely what the party nationally is now doing, since the effective implementation of the Chakrabarti report began with the appointment of the new general secretary Jennie Formby.
But, unlike the executive, we do not see evidence of a “culture in which anti-Semitism has been allowed to spread”. Nor do we see the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), an affiliated society of the Labour Party, as the sole and exclusive voice of Jewish members of the Labour Party. It isn’t.
Self-defined minority groups in the Labour Party are generally open to all in the relevant category. Labour Party Irish Society is open to all people of Irish heritage and anyone with an interest in Irish affairs; BAME Labour similarly to those who identify as BAME.
But JLM is not open to all Jews – only to those sharing its aims, to “maintain and promote Labour or Socialist Zionism as the movement for self-determination of the Jewish people within the state of Israel”, and a belief in ‘the centrality of Israel in Jewish life’.
So membership of the JLM is not an option for Labour Party Jews with other views of Zionism or Israel. It does not speak for us.
It is this anomaly that led to the formation of Jewish Voice for Labour in 2016, now well-embedded locally.
Early in March Labour committed to a university course on anti-Semitism, devised by Birkbeck, University of London, and the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism.
This was, as Jennie Formby said, to “ensure that everybody now is educated around the issues of anti-Semitism in a way maybe we haven’t been good enough in the past.”
We urge the local party to invite the Pears institute (based in our constituency) to propose some activities for us in Holborn & St Pancras.
We see this as part of a constructive process; initiating a series of open discussions – in our party and in the wider community – on anti-Semitism and how we can work together more effectively against it, as against all forms of racism.