Local Labour Parties must understand Israel, respect Zionism and promote peace

Jeremy Corbyn 

Credit: Jewish News
Jeremy Corbyn Credit: Jewish News

Local Labour Party’s need to understand Israel and respect Zionism – as well as promoting peace.

The decision of Labour’s NEC to adopt the full IHRA definition is welcome – it does not – in anyway, restrict legitimate criticism of Israel – essential given the recent passing of the unhelpful Nation State law and other actions of Netanyahu’s Government, the definition specifically states:  ‘criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.’

Great! But now the branch I represent in Hackney – who had already affiliated to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign – have now agreed to affiliate to Jewish Voice for Labour, the following motion was passed last night:

Jewish Voice For Labour (JVL) provides a progressive alternative to the discredited Jewish Labour Movement – Poale Zion – many of whose members have sought to damage the party.

JVL has become an important rallying point for Jewish members who support the leftward shift in the Labour Party

JVL is committed to speaking up for the rights of Palestinians and criticising Israeli apartheid and the Occupation.

JVL has defended Jeremy Corbyn against a sustained campaign of vilification base on accusations of anti-semitism.

This branch therefore agrees to affiliate to Jewish Voice For Labour.

In responding to it, I explained that the leadership of the Jewish Community is not all right wing as had been suggested – Marie van de Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies, like me, is a supporter of the Jewish Labour Movement; and to say the JLM is ‘discredited’ after more than 500 people attended its’ recent annual conference at which former Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, delivered a tour de force speech, declaring we were fighting for the soul of the Labour Party and that solidarity with the community – and all minority communities – was in the Labour Party’s dna, a key test of our continuing to be an inclusive, egalitarian, tolerant party.

I don’t object to individual members affiliating to JVL – Hackney has the second largest Jewish community in the UK, it’s residents hold a variety of views about Israel.

The debate at Hackney Downs was not acrimonious, though some views concerning Israel were unkind.

Israel’s Arab minority community has the longest life-expectancy in the Middle East,  the country is inclusive, pluralistic with a free press, judiciary and liberal views on gay rights – an issue I challenged the Palestine Solidarity Campaign speaker on when he spoke at the branch.

I do not know enough about JVL to be too critical, however in one blog I read on their site last year, a supporter indicated that Jewish students could stop facing attacks on campus if they stopped being zionists – rather like allowing a Spurs supporter into a ground, as long as he supports Arsenal.  28% of Jewish students have faced antisemitic attacks on social media – we need to support and back them, whatever their views on Zionism.

It is important that actions within the Labour Party are transparent and activists are accountable for their views in the wider community.

Hatred of Israel and support of the BDS predominate in some parts of the Party, there is a lack of understanding of the extraordinary achievements and socialist history of Israel, its’ kibbutzim, Moshavs, Histradut and the progressive welfare policies, medical and scientific inventions and achievements, which are reflected in no other part of the Middle East – and frequently ignored in debates and discussion.

Now is the time the vast majority of Labour voices – Jewish and non-Jewish – ensure that the solidarity Gordon Brown  so eloquently called for is expressed at branch meetings. This is no time to leave the Party, rather it’s time to ‘fight, fight and fight again to save the Party we love’.

Shanah Tovah, whatever you’re political leanings. Let’s hope for a better, more loving and peaceful world, in the year ahead.

About the Author
Michael went to school in Colindale and Edgware, before moving to Clapton, Hackney, he is the second longest serving councillor on Hackney Council, was civic Mayor in 2013/14 and stood in the last two General Elections for Labour in Faversham and Mid Kent.
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