Disaffiliate the Jewish Labour Movement from the Labour Party
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Introduction and executive summary
This petition is not about depriving Jewish members of a voice in the Labour Party, it is concerned with, and prompted by, the de facto ideological position of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) vis a vis the policies and activities of the Israeli state. It is argued that the JLM's known affiliation to organisations which support the legal and social policies of the Israeli state resulting in the victimisation and oppression of the Palestinian community is incompatible with its continuing affiliation to the Labour Party, based as it is on principles of inclusiveness and non-discrimination. This petition is therefore about political integrity, and any accusations that it is anti-semitic are rejected ab initio by the author, a member of the Labour Party. For the avoidance of doubt, it should also be clearly understood that the author of this petition does not subscribe to the view that Israel does not have the right to exist, but is however implacably opposed to how the Israeli state has chosen to establish itself.
1 JLM's affiliation of the Labour Party is anachronistic.
The JLM (known as Paole Zion until 2004) was affiliated to the Labour Party in 1920, some twenty-eight years before the declaration of the Israeli State in 1948. It is argued that this is significant insofar as in the intervening years, the Israeli State has assumed a highly contentious political significance due to the way it has developed, not least its continuing settlement programme, subject of numerous UN resolutions. None of this political landscape was present at the time the JLM was affiliated to the Labour Party, and so firstly it is argued that it's continuing affiliation is anachronistic and out of time given current political realities and should quite properly be reviewed. By definition “affiliation” is a privilege not an open ended right.
2. JLM's affiliation with the Israeli Labour Party and the World Zionist Movement are incompatible with its affiliation to the British Labour Party.
The JLM is affiliated to the Israeli Labour Party and the World Zionist Movement. It is argued that this is problematic in terms of JLM's affiliation to the Labour Party, because these bodies hold views and undertake activities which are incompatible with the ideological foundations upon which the British Labour Party is based. So for example the Jewish Labour Party which the JLM refers to as its "sister party", has consistently supported the settlement programmes and otherwise voted for the myriad measures passed into law by the Knesset resulting in a legal and social framework regarded by many informed commentators as reminiscent of the racist apartheid of pre Mandela South Africa, except in this case it is the Palestinian community who are being victimised. The current leader of the Israeli Labour Party Avi Gabbay is on record as stating that he would never enter into a coalition with the Joint List, a Knesset group dominated by parties representing Palestinian citizens. Additionally Gabbay is also on record as stating that he is opposed to even discussing the removal of the most isolated illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank - clearly this would be necessary as a precursor to a two state solution, (current policy of the British Labour Party), irrespective of whether one considers that a realistic proposition or not.
JLM's affiliation to the World Zionist Organisation is also problematic, simply because that body is deeply involved in support and funding for the settlement programme. Via its Settlement Division the WZO is meant to engage in rural development throughout Israel, but it has been identified primarily with funding the building and bolstering of settlements in the occupied territories.
To summarise the foregoing therefore, JLMs self-acknowledged affiliation to, and by definition, support for, the aims and endeavours of these organisations, is incompatible with the beliefs, aims and policies of the British Labour Party. It is argued therefore that JLM’s continuing affiliation to the British Labour Party is inappropriate.
3. The JLMs leadership problem
It is clear when considering the leadership of JLM that this is not an organisation which sees any problems with even the most contentious actions and policies of the Israeli state, when those policies and actions have attracted reasonably justified criticism and condemnation from many other quarters. So for example during and after the 2014 invasion of Gaza by Israel in 2014 (Operation Protective Edge) whilst many condemned both Hamas and Israel, or took issue with Israel's disregard of human rights, the silence from the JLM was deafening. At that time the organisation was led by Louise Ellman MP. Interestingly Mrs Ellman overcame her rhetorical reticence during a recent parliamentary debate, seeking to try and justify the arrest and detention without representation of Palestinian minors by the Israeli military authorities.
Following on from Mrs Ellman's leadership, JLM has been led by Jeremy Newmark. His stewardship ended most recently after he was asked to step down after allegations of fraudulent activity emerged relating to his previous leadership of the Jewish Leadership Council, a matter being investigated by the Charity Commission. Irrespective of the outcome of such an investigation clearly the matter has the potential to bring the Labour Party into disrepute by association.
The manner of its ending aside, Mr Newmark's leadership of JLM has seen the creation of a rival forum for Jewish members of the Labour Party, namely Jewish Voice for Labour which brings into question JLMs claim to be the authentic voice of Jewish members of the Labour Party, including the appropriateness of its right to deliver training about anti-semitism and by extension it's right to be affiliated. This is an important point because there have been well publicised disagreement between JLM and JVL about the use of the AHCR definition of anti-semitism.
Like JLM, JVL is also a self declared non anti-zionist organisation but nevertheless cleary states that it is not anti-semitic to criticise Israel. It is also notable that it was during Mr Newmark's leadership of JLM that allegations of anti-semitism surfaced within a Labour Party with no history of such racist attitudes. Indeed Mr Newmark threatened legal action against the party for not dealing promptly with some historical cases apparently, because, some would argue, finding members guilty of anti-semitism was more important than due process. The issue of anti-semitism and how to deal it was of course addressed by the Chakrabahti Report.
In addition to apparently creating divisions within his own community, some would argue that Mr Newmark’s leadership of the JLM has been characterised by a needless ratcheting up of tension within the Labour Party vis a vis the Israel Palestine debate not least in terms of how members of JLM have conducted themselves on social media – this would include Ella Rose a Director of JLM and former employee of the Israeli Embassy who was caught on film threatening violence against a Labour Party member she didn’t agree with.
Taking all the above into account it is arguable that the political and ideological allegiances of the JLM and its conduct, render it unsuitable for membership of the Labour Party, but this petition argues it is certainly the case that it is inappropriate that the JLM continues to enjoy the privileges of affiliated status - this petition therefore asks the National Executive Committee to withdraw that status. Those reading this account are invited to sign this petition if you feel the arguments presented constitute a reasonable case for disaffiliation and in due course the petition will be formally presented to the NEC.
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