EXCL Jewish groups clash with Labour party over anti-semitism education document

Posted On: 
9th July 2019

Jewish community groups have hit out at Labour over a leaflet aimed at tackling anti-semitism by party members.

Jewish groups protesting against Labour anti-semitism in Parliament Square last year.
PA Images

The five-page document, called 'No Place For Anti-Semitism', has been drawn up by Labour officials as the party steps up its efforts to tackle the problem.

It is expected to be sent to party members soon - as the BBC's Panorama broadcasts a programme which is expected to be highly critical of Labour's attempts to deal with the issue.

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But PoliticsHome has learned that two of the country's leading Jewish organisations have snubbed the publication, claiming the party has failed to consult the community when drawing it up.

One section of the leaflet, headed 'Understanding anti-semitism to defeat it', says: "Anti-semitism is a poison that must be challenged wherever it raises its head.

"Hatred towards Jewish people has no place in our society. This leaflet aims to provide Labour members and supporters with some basic tools to understand anti-semitism so we can defeat it.

"To confront anti-semitism in wider society, we must face up to the unsettling truth that a small number of Labour members hold anti-semitic views and a much larger number don’t recognise anti-semitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories."

The leaflet also contains "a brief history" of anti-semitism over the centuries, as well as guidance on how to identify anti-semitic tropes.

It says: "Labour exists to promote the social liberation of all people. That’s why we are launching a programme to educate our members and empower them to confront oppression, wherever it arises.

"Our first materials will be on anti-semitism, recognising that anti-Jewish bigotry has reared its head within our movement."

Labour general secretary Jennie Formby asked both the Jewish Labour Movement and Jewish Leadership Council to endorse the document, but they have refused.

In an email to Ms Formby, JLM chairman Mike Katz said: "With regard to the leaflet you sent, I'm afraid the party has gone past the point where we have sufficient trust to give our counsel - you'll have to make a judgement on whether the content is up to scratch yourselves.

"Indeed, your request for our input into this educational material comes despite you having making it clear that you do not think JLM should have a role in providing training to the party, by rejecting our earlier offer to train the NEC, NCC and party staff and by seeking alternative providers without any consultation with us.

"If asked, we'll be happy to explain why, given the views of our members and the continued failure by the party to take meaningful and concerted action on anti-Jewish racism, we have declined to offer opinion on this material."

Mr Katz told PoliticsHome: "If they think we are going to mark their overdue homework for them then they have another thing coming."

Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: "We do not support this booklet in any way as it was not produced in partnership or consultation with the mainstream Jewish community or any expert in anti-semitism.

"We have consistently called on the Labour party to work with the community to implement training on anti-semitism. This booklet shows that they have declined to do so."

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “The Labour Party is committed to developing political education to deepen understanding of antisemitism, which is rising in our society and around the world, and to provide members with the tools to identify and call out anti-semitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories.

“The Labour Party has sought to consult Jewish community organisations. Jennie Formby sent a draft leaflet to the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community and Security Trust and the Jewish Labour Movement and asked if they wished to share their views, which would have been welcome.”