1) Ken Livingstone: Ken Livingstone to appear before the Labour Party’s National Constitutional Committee;
2) Labour HQ: Notice of charges and suspension from holding office or representing the Labour Party, General Secretary of the Labour Party Iain McNicol lays out the charge sheet;
3) Ken Livingstone: Witness statements from Jenny Manson, Jonathan Rosenhead, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Walter Wolfgang, Diana Neslen
London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, looks out across London after an interview at his headquarters on London’s South Bank, October 3, 2006. He told Haaretz that more Jews had become conservative as they grew richer. Antisemitic, a true fact, or tactless? Photo by Bloomberg
Ken Livingstone to appear before the Labour Party’s National Constitutional Committee
Press Release from Ken Livingstone
March 28, 2017
On Thursday this week (30 March) Ken Livingstone will be appearing before the Labour Party’s National Constitutional Committee (NCC) to answer the charge that he engaged in conduct ‘grossly detrimental’ to the Party when he publicly defended the Labour Party against charges of anti-Semitism in 2016.
In April 2016 Ken Livingstone conducted a series of radio and TV interviews in which he defended the Labour Party, its Leader Jeremy Corbyn and a Labour MP Naz Shah, against what he believed were false allegations regarding anti-Semitism.
In an interview Ken Livingstone was asked a question relating to the legality of what Hitler did in Germany. Ken briefly responded about events over the years 1932 to 1945. In his remarks he referenced the period when the Nazi government and German Zionists had an agreement (The 1933 Transfer Agreement) over the emigration of Jews to Palestine. This led to his suspension from the party.
It has taken a whole eleven months of suspension before a hearing of the NCC has been mounted.
Ken Livingstone denies breaking any Labour Party rule. Ken Livingstone is not being accused of antisemitism at this week’s Labour Party NCC hearing. However, some of his detractors are trying to smear him as such. Ken Livingstone has been falsely accused of claiming that Hitler was a Zionist – something he neither believes nor would say.
Ken Livingstone is a forthright opponent of antisemitism, having fought against it his entire political career. Both as Leader of the Greater London Council in the 1980s and as London Mayor in the 2000s, Livingstone helped resource the fight against racism and anti-Semitism. He also ensured there was support for Jewish community organisations and cultural events.
In these interviews on radio and TV in April 2016 Ken Livingstone’s principal objective was to defend the Labour Party against false allegations of anti-Semitism. He had no intention to cause offence to anyone and has said he is sorry if his remarks did cause offence.
The Labour Party have refused to holding this hearing in public, despite the request of Ken Livingstone’s lawyers.
Defending Ken Livingstone at the hearing will be the barrister Michael Mansfield QC. Mr Mansfield is President of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and is well known for representing a series of high profile miscarriage of justice cases in the 1980s, and many families over the last 40 years seeking justice for fatalities at the hands of the state, right through to Hillsborough.
Ken Livingstone’s solicitor is Imran Khan, well known for representing the family of Stephen Lawrence.
Five Jewish members of the Labour Party are appearing before the Labour Party NCC hearing, to defend Ken Livingstone.
Ken Livingstone said: ‘I have broken no Labour Party rule. I am being attacked by the right-wing of the Labour Party because I support Palestinian human rights and strongly back our Leader Jeremy Corbyn. There is no real evidence against me so hopefully the Labour panel will dismiss the charge against me. Only a biased and rigged jury could find against me.‘
Former member of Labour’s National Executive Committee Walter Wolfgang, who will be a witness for Ken Livingstone, said:
As a Jewish member of the Labour Party, who escaped Nazi Germany in 1937, I take the issue of anti-Semitism extremely seriously. Ken Livingstone has an outstanding record of fighting against racism and anti-Semitism. This hearing into Ken’s actions is a travesty.‘
Diana Neslen, also a witness for Ken Livingstone, said:
‘I am a British Jew with experience of violent antisemitism against my own family and challenge the lazy assumption that support for Israel and being Jewish are synonymous. In fact it is not helpful for the interests of Jewish people to be identified with the present policies of the State of Israel. And it is profoundly wrong to label as antisemites those who support the Palestinians. I did not find Ken Livingstone’s remarks either offensive or antisemitic.‘
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a further witness for Ken Livingstone said:
‘Ken Livingstone is being pilloried because he is a prominent figure on the left of the Labour Party who has actively defended it from attacks based on false allegations of antisemitism. As a Jewish person who supports Palestinian human rights, I reject the notion that criticism of Israel and Zionism is necessarily antisemitic. Those who allege antisemitism against Ken Livingstone discredit the term. His track record in public office is a clear testament to his commitment to supporting the Jewish community and fighting racism in all its forms, including antisemitism.‘
The Labour Party, labour.org.uk
Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QT
Dear Mr Livingstone
16 February 2016
By letter dated 28 April 2016 you were notified that you were suspended from holding office or representing the Labour Party, and were ineligible to attend Labour Party meetings or seek office or be considered for selection as a candidate, pending the outcome of an internal Party investigation (see Tab1 of the Exhibit Bundle (“the Bundle”) enclosed herewith).
You were interviewed on 16 May 2016 by the Labour Party’s Head of Disputes and Discipline, Katherine Buckingham at which she asked you about the many comments you made in the media, in relation to antisemitism within the Labour Party, and social media posts published by Ms Shah (see Tab 2 of the Bundle).
Following that interview, Ms Buckingham drew up a report (see Tab 3 of the Bundle), recommending that the National Executive Committee (“NEC”) refer your case to a hearing of the National Constitutional Committee (“NCC”) for possible disciplinary action.
On 5 July 2016, the NEC’s Disputes Panel considered Ms Buckingham’s report, and agreed to refer the matter to a hearing of the NCC, pursuant to Chapter 6, clause 1, paragraph 1A of the Labour Party Rule Book 2016 (“the Party Rules”) (see page 3 of Tab 4 of the Bundle).
This letter sets out the charges against you to be considered by the NCC, and includes a summary of the facts and evidence relied on in relation to each of those charges.
1. It is necessary briefly to set out the background to the charges against you. Prior to her election as a Member of Parliament, Ms Shah posted the following material on Face book:
(1) On 29 July 2014 Ms Shah published a post encouraging individuals to vote in a poll run bythe Daily Mirror. The poll asked readers to vote on whether they agreed with Lord Prescott’s view that Israel was committing war crimes in Gaza. Ms Shah commented in her post:
“The Jews are rallying to the poll at the bottom and there are now 87% disagreeing and 13% agreeing.” (see “Post 2″ at page 3 of Tab 5 of the Bundle).
(2) On 5 August 2014 Ms Shah published a post which included the following text beneath a map of the United States of America with the State of Israel superimposed upon it (see Post1″ at page 1 of Tab 5 of the Bundle)
“SOLUTION FOR ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT
RELOCATE ISRAEL INTO UNITED STATES
Israelis are most loved by Americans.
Americans will welcome Israelis with open arms into their homes.
America has plenty of land to accommodate Israel as its 51st state.
Israel can have a real safe Jewish state surrounded by friendly states.
America will no longer have to spend £3 billion tax payer money per year for Israel’s defense. [T]he transportation costs will be less than 3 years of defense spending.
Palestinians will get their land back
Middle East will again be peaceful without foreign interference.
Oil prices will go down, inflation will go down, whole world will be happy. “
Within the above post Ms Shah added an icon of a smiling face, and stated ‘Problem solved’.
In reply to a comment on this post which stated that ‘A more realistic solution might be [a] one state solution where Muslims njews live ad [sic] equal in a democratic state. Similar to South African solution’, Ms Shah commented that the ‘Only problem with that is Israel would need to return all the land and farms it has stolen and give the Palestinians rights which is not possible’. As a result, she indicated that she would lobby the President of the United States (Barack Obama) and the Prime Minister (David Cameron) to adopt the idea (see “Comments on post 1″ at page 2 of Tab 5 of the Bundle).
(3) On 5 September 2014 Ms Shah published a post containing an image of Martin Luther King with the text “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal”, above which she had commented “#APARTHEID ISRAEL” (see “Post 3″ of Tab 5 of the Bundle).
2. The above posts were republished by the Guido Fawkes political blog on Tuesday 26 April 2016. Ms Shah admitted that she was responsible for the posts and stated that she would be making a full apology. On the same day, Ms Shah stepped down as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP.
3. On Wednesday 27 April Ms Shah made a full apology to the House of Commons (see Tab 6 of the Bundle). In that apology, she stated: p2 The Labour Party (( … I hope you will allow me to say that I fully acknowledge that I have made a mistake and I wholeheartedly apologise to this House for the words I used before I became a member. I accept and understand that the words I used caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community and I deeply regret that. Antisemitism is racism, full stop … I truly regret what I did and I hope, I sincerely hope, that this House will accept my profound apology”.
4. This apology was accepted by the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn MP. On 27 April 2016, Ms Shah was suspended from the Labour Party pending further investigation. On 5 July 2016, the suspension was lifted in light ofMs Shah’s apology and her obvious and deep regret caused by her words to the Jewish community.
5. Ms Shah accepted, implicitly in her apology to the House of Commons and expressly in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s “The World At One” programme (see Tab 7 of the Bundle), that the content of her posts was antisemitic.
Relevant Party Rules:
6. I set out below relevant provisions of the Party Rules, which state, as far as material: (1) In relation to the aims and principles of the Labour Party, under Chapter 1 (“Constitutional Rules”):
(a) The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party that seeks to create a community where people live together freely “in the spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respecf’ (chapter 1, clause IV, paragraph 2.A);
(b) The Labour Party works for a society that “delivers people from the tyranny of … prejudice” (chapter 1, clause IV paragraph 2.B). (2) As the administrative authority of the Labour Party, the NBC is responsible for ensuring an equal opportunities policy is in place; that the “Labour Party reflects the communities it serves”; and that ”policies practices and procedures enshrine principles of equalities, inclusion and diversity”. The NBC ((confirms the policy of promoting equality, tackling under representation and not unfairly discriminating against anyone including on the basis of gender, age, race, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability or religious beliefs” (chapter 1, clause VIII, paragraph 3 .N).
(3) Under Chapter 2 (“Membership Rules”):
(a) ((To be and remain eligible for membership, each individual member must: (A) accept and conform to the constitution, programme, principles and policies of the Party” (chapter 2, clause 1, paragraph 6.A);
(b) ((No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party … ” (chapter 2, clause 1, paragraph 8)
(4) The NCC has duties and powers including to determine by hearing or otherwise such disciplinary matters as are presented to it by the officers of the Labour Party on the instructions of the NEC: chapter 1, clause IX, paragraph 2.B. The process for determining such disciplinary matters is set out in Appendix 6 to the Party Rules.
List of Charges:
7. The charge against you is that you engaged in conduct that in the opinion of the NEC was prejudicial and/or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party (chapter 2, clause 1 paragraph
8. The particulars of the charge are set out below.
(i) In media interviews between 28 April 2016 and 30 April 2016 you repeatedly denied that social media posts made by Ms Shah were antisemitic, and repeatedly sought to minimise their offensive/scurrilous nature by stating that they were merely criticism of Israeli policy at a time of conflict with the Palestinians, and by alleging that scrutiny over her conduct was merely an extension of an apparent smear campaign to undermine and disrupt the leadership ofJeremy Corbvn MP.
8. On Thursday 28 April 2016 you appeared on LBC Radio with the presenter Ian Dale (see Tab 8 of the Bundle). You stated that you didn’t think that what Ms Shah had said was antisemitic but was ‘over the top and offensive’. Ms Shah’s posts were a bit of criticism of Israel and Israel’s supporters at a time -let’s not forget this- in that horrendous conflict … “, and that in the context of events in Gaza it was understandable why people go over the top” (emphasis added).
9. You repeated these comments later that day on BBC London. During an interview with the presenter Vanessa Feltz, you stated that the above social media posts made by Ms Shah in 2014 were not antisemitic, but were ‘over the top’ (see Tab·9 of the Bundle), and were made at the time of ‘another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians’ . .
10. You repeated the view that Ms Shah’s remarks were not antisemitic in an interview on the “Daily Politics Show” on the BBC on 28 April2016 (see Tab 10 of the Bundle), and again an in interview with LBC Radio on 30 April2016 (see Tab 12 of the Bundle).
11. In your interview with LBC Radio on 30 April 2016, you said that ‘what this is all about is actually the struggle of the embittered old Blairite MPs to try and get rid of Jeremy Corbyn. They want to whip this issue up.’ You repeated the same point on several further occasions during that interview.
12. It is widely accepted and obvious that Ms Shah’s posts were antisemitic and offensive. Indeed, as stated above, Ms Shah herself accepted that her comments were antisemitic. So, too, did the spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn MP.
13. The references to a “solution”, “transportation”, and “rallying” in relation to the State of Israel use language connected with the atrocities committed against Jewish people in and by Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s, which is deeply offensive. Similarly, comparing modem day Israel to Nazi Germany (see “Post 3″ of Tab 5 of the Bundle) and making express reference to Hitler is deeply offensive, provocative and highly insensitive to the Jewish families who suffered great loss at the hands of Hitler and Nazi Germany. It diminishes the atrocities committed in and by Nazi Germany against the Jewish people, and suggests that the acts of Israel can be equated to those of the regime responsible for the Holocaust.
This contravenes the definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the Labour Party (see the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition at Tab 13 of the Bundle).
14. You have yourself stated that ‘ethnic cleansing of Jews would be antisemitic’ (see Q217 at page 55 of Tab 14 of the Bundle; this tab being the Home Affairs Select Committee Oral Evidence: The Rise of Antisemitism, HC 136 on 14 June 2016). In her posts, Ms Shah was expressly supporting the relocation of Jews from Israel to the United States. Ms Shah was not merely rejecting the Two-State solution to the Israel-Palestine situation (which represents Labour Party policy), something which you have stated that you too support [see Q87 at page 31 of Tab 14 of the Bundle), but was even rejecting the One-State solution.
Ms Shah was not simply using or referencing an academic study which showed that ‘it would be cheaper if all Israel’s Jews moved to America because America spends something like $3 billion a year supporting the Israeli state’ [1.Your words to the Home Affairs Select Committee (see Q98 at page 33 of Tab 14 of the Bundle)] She was advocating that removal and said that she would recommend it to the President of the United States and the British Prime Minister.
[Note from JfJfP postings editor: It was not an academic study. It was a map commissioned by Jewish Professor Norman Finkelstein which Naz Shah copied without attribution. Finkelstein was making an ironic point – given the $millions sent to Israel by the US it would be cheaper to move Israel to the US as the 51st state. Nobody but the JfJfP postings editor bothered to find this out. Why did the Labour Party, with its staff, not make the same effort?
15. Nor was Ms Shah ‘simply saying’ (as you stated to LBC Radio on 28 April2016) that ‘at the – end of the Second World War, that an awful lot of Jewish survivors of the horrors of the Holocaust would much rather have been absorbed into Britain or America, they didn’t particularly want to go to a semi -desert and start growing olive trees’. As was rightly pointed out to you by the interviewer: ‘That’s nothing to do with this argument here’. –
16. That being so, any repeated refusal to recognise the antisemitic nature of those remarks on the part of senior office-holders of the Labour Party is itself likely to prejudice the Party by causing dismay among the Jewish community and indeed Labour supporters and members more generally.
17. As a former Mayor of London, and as an elected member of the NEC repeatedly called upon to represent and speak on behalf of the Labour Party publicly, the very highest standards of ethics and professionalism are expected and required from you. Given the sensitivity of the subject matter, obvious care needed to be taken to appreciate exactly what Ms Shah had posted/written, and to respond to it appropriately. In that context, the following conduct of yours was prejudicial and grossly detrimental to the Labour Party:
(1) Appearing in the public arena, and repeatedly denying the obvious truth that Ms Shah’s posts were antisemitic, which their author herself accepted;
(2) Describing Ms Shah’s statements as doing “some silly things”, as “a bit of criticism of Israel and Israel’s supporters”, and as “understandable”, albeit “over the top”, all of which appear to be attempts to minimise their highly offensive and/or antisemitic nature.
(3) Alleging that scrutiny over Ms Shah’s conduct was merely an extension of an apparent smear campaign to undermine and disrupt the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn MP, when – on its face- her statements were highly offensive and/or antisemitic in nature.
ii) In a media interview on BBC London with Vanessa Feltz on 28 April 2016 you made further comments about Hitler and Zionism, which you have subsequently repeated on a number of occasions.
18. As referred to above, on 28 April 2016 you appeared on a radio broadcast show on BBC Radio London with Vanessa Feltz (see Tab 9 of the Bundle). During that interview, Ms Feltz referred toMs Shah as having ‘talked about relocating Israel to America; about what Hitler did being legal and she talked about the Jews (rallying’. She used the word Jews not Israelis or Israel.’ She then asked you whether ‘You didn’t find that to be antisemitic’.
In response you stated that: “It’s completely over the top but it’s not antisemitic. Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this was before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews. “ (Emphasis added)
19. The comments about Hitler’s “policy” and that he was “supporting” Zionism had no connection to the question that was being asked by Ms Feltz. They did not explain whether or not what Ms Shah had said and done was antisemitic as had been asked of you.
20. Further, you repeated those remarks, or the gist of those remarks, on a number of subsequent occasions, including on 28 April2016 in an interview on “The World at One” (see Tab 11 of the Bundle); and on 30 April 2016 in an interview with LBC Radio (Tab 12 of the Bundle).
21. Many people found those comments to be offensive including those within the Labour Party, in communities the Party seeks to represent and among those who represent the Jewish community (see paragraphs 97, 100-101, 113 and 119 of Tab 15 of the Bundle, the statement of Jeremy Newmark on behalf of the Jewish Labour Movement at Tab 16 of the Bundle, and the witness statement of Gill Campbell at Tab 17 of the Bundle).
22. You deliberately introduced Hitler’s alleged support for Zionism into the discussion with Ms Feltz, in the knowledge that, or reckless as to whether, it would cause offence to members of the Jewish community. As evidence of your longstanding knowledge of the potential for discussion of relations between Hitler and Zionism to cause widespread offence in the Jewish community, see for example the discussion at pp. 221-223 of your autobiography (You Can’t Say That”, Faber and Faber 2011), [p.223]
In so doing, you have acted in a way which is prejudicial and/or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party.
24. Further or alternatively, it should have been clear to you that to state that Hitler ‘supported’ Zionism, particularly in a context where Israeli government policy was criticised, was likely deeply to offend the Jewish community by implying a connection between Nazism and/or Fascism and the existence and/or policies of the State of Israel.
25. In so stating, you have acted in a way which is prejudicial and/or grossly detrimental to the Labour Party. (iii) You have refused to apologise for the comment you made about Hitler’s a support” for Zionism, and have repeatedly attempted to justify it on the grounds of historical accuracy.
26. You have refused to apologise for your remark about Hitler ‘supporting’ Zionism, and indeed have sought to justify it on the basis of its alleged historical accuracy. Your refusal to apologise, and repeated attempts to justify your remark, have further prejudiced and/or caused gross detriment to the Labour Party with the effect of diminishing the aims and principles of the Labour Party as defined above which you agreed to abide by through your membership.
27. In your interview with LBC Radio on 30 April2016 you were repeatedly invited to apologise or express any regret for your comment3 , and you pointedly refused to do so (see Tab 12 of the Bundle).
28. Further, you have sought to justify your remark on the grounds of historical accuracy. You did this inter alia in: (1) Your interview on BBC2 on the “Daily Politics Show” on 28 April2016 (see Tab 10 of the Bundle); (2) Your interview on BBC Radio 4 on “The World at One” on 28 April2016 (see Tab 11 of the Bundle); and (3) Your interview with LBC on 30 April2016 (see Tab 12 of the Bundle).
29. The repeated attempt to justify your comment on the basis that it was historically accurate is prejudicial and/or grossly detrimental to the Party in and of itself.
30. The historical accuracy, or otherwise, of whether Hitler ”was supporting Zionism” in 1932 is not the central issue for these purposes (although, for the avoidance of doubt, it is not accepted that this characterisation is historically accurate. As stated above, to assert that Hitler “supported” Zionism, in a context where Israeli government policy is criticised, is likely to deeply offend the Jewish community by implying a connection between Nazism, Fascism and the State of Israel.
Repeatedly to attempt to justify the comment on the basis of historical accuracy only compounds that offence, by evincing an apparent lack of awareness of, or concern for, the Jewish community’s justified sensitivity at such an implication . Yours sincerely
Statement from Jenny Manson
I understand that Ken Livingstone is accused of being offensive when he publicly defended Naz Shah MP in April 2016. I also understand that he is being accused of being offensive for referring to the Transfer Agreement between the Nazi government and German Zionist Federation in the 1930s.
These actions by Ken were not offensive, nor antisemitic in any way, in my view. I am Jewish and have been a member of the Labour party since 1969. I was Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Hendon North in 1987 and I was a Labour Councillor from 1986 to 1990 on Barnet Council.
I am 68 years old and remain an active Labour member. I am currently a member of Finchley and Golders Green CLP General Committee. My family has personal knowledge of the violent antisemitism in eastern Europe in the twentieth century. My mother came from the Ukraine, which she had to leave in 1919 to escape the pogroms against Jewish people. She lived in Palestine for ten years and then moved to Britain where she settled after marrying Raphael Salaman, a member of a long established Anglo- Jewish family. His mother was prominent in the early Zionist movement in the UK .
In my working life as a Tax Inspector I saw a (very) few instances of anti-Semitism, such as the characterisation of ‘Jewish Accountants’ as accountants who skated close to the edge. I have never witnessed any instances of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Anti-Semitism has to be treated as a serious issue, which is entirely separate from the different views people take on Israel and Zionism.
20 March 2017
* * * * *
Statement from Jonathan Rosenhead
I am a Jewish member of the Labour party, who grew up in a thoroughly Zionist family in Liverpool. Along with my many Jewish friends I did not and do not find Ken Livingstone’s public defence of Naz Shah MP in April 2016 as in any way offensive, or indeed making as any concession to antisemitism. Nor do I consider Ken Livingstone’s comments about the Transfer Agreement between the Nazi regime and European Zionists, though not perhaps expressed as elegantly as they might have been, to be in any way antisemitic or offensive.
Charges of antisemitism need to be assessed against a consensual standard. Antisemitism has been well understood for many generations as to do with hatred of Jews as Jews. The IHRA definition, recently adopted by the UK government, is a seriously flawed attempt to extend the general loathing of the crime of antisemitism to interdict entirely non-racist criticism of Israel. It is deeply unhelpful as a means of combating hostility to Jewish people.
It would be a tragic mistake if the Labour Party were to find Ken Livingstone guilty of conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the Party.
I am an Emeritus Professor of Operational Research at the London School of Economics. My Labour Party involvement extends over many decades, including membership in Sheffield, South Kensington, Hammersmith, and currently in Hackney South and Shoreditch. I have been a GC member in three of these, and was a Labour Party Parliamentary candidate in the 1960’s.
14 March 2017
* * * * *
Statement from Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
I am a 64 year old member of Chingford and Woodford Green Labour Party, brought up in a staunch Labour Jewish household in Manchester. I have no hesitation in stating that the remarks for which Ken Livingstone has been castigated have caused me no offence whatsoever. Nor do I regard comments he made in April 2016 in defence of Naz Shah, or in reference to the relationship between Zionist leaders and the Nazi party in the 1930s, as in any way antisemitic.
As someone of 100 percent Jewish heritage, with many like-minded family members, I cannot accept the current enthusiasm for alleging that criticism of Israel and Zionism is directed at Jews. None of the remarks or actions attributed to Ken Livingstone demonstrate any antisemitic intent or motivation.
I would go further. To allege antisemitism against Ken Livingstone discredits the term. To find him guilty of conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the party on the basis of the charges laid against him would, in my view, bring the party into disrepute among its members and supporters and fair-minded members of the public, especially those from the BAME communities whose cause he has championed over many years.
14 March 2017
* * * * *
Statement by Walter Wolfgang
I am a Jewish member of the Labour Party and was a member of its National Executive Committee from 2006 to 2008. I regard antisemitism as an extremely serious issue. I am 93 years old. I was born in Germany in 1923. My family were persecuted by the Nazis. In 1937, at the age of 13, I left Germany and came to live in Britain. It was the strength of my commitment to Judaism and Jewish ethical values of human equality which caused me to join the Labour Party in 1948.
The Nazis embraced this vile ideology of antisemitism and exterminated six million Jews. Allegations of antisemitism should be made only when people express hostility to Jewish people because they are Jewish. Such allegations should not be made when this is not the case. It is not antisemitic to hold or express views about the government of Israel or about Zionism.
Ken Livingstone has an outstanding record of fighting against racism and antisemitism. Labour’s National Constitutional Committee hearing into Ken’s actions is a travesty. His public defence of Naz Shah MP in April 2016 was not offensive and did not involve him in making any concession to antisemitism.
Ken Livingstone’s remarks in April 2016 about the Transfer Agreement were broadly correct. Hitler was in favour of Jews leaving Germany for Palestine. The agreements reached between the Nazis and some Zionists are simply indisputable facts. Advocacy of Jews leaving for Palestine was made by some Jews who were Zionist, some non-Jews who were anti-Semitic, by some non-Jews who were friendly and some who were indifferent to Jews.
Antisemitism is hostility to Jews because of religion, race or ethnicity. It is nothing else. Many Jews, Zionist and non-Zionist – including myself – disagree with the present policy of the Israeli government. It is evident that Livingstone is being attacked because he supports the Palestinians, and not because he is either offensive or antisemitic. He is not guilty of any conduct detrimental to the Labour Party. His suspension was unjustified. Any further disciplinary action would bring the party into disrepute.
* * * * *
Statement from Diana Neslen
I am a Jewish member of the Labour party. I am 77 years old and have been a member on and off since the 1980s, possibly the 1970s. I am currently a delegate to Ilford South CLP General Committee. I have been an active anti-racist campaigner for many years, having been among other things the Chair of the Redbridge Race Equality and Community Council.
Personally I am very much aware of the nature of extreme antisemitism. My own family has had experience of violent antisemitism. My son was attacked by a member of an antisemitic party. The offender was jailed for three years. While the offender was in prison we were subjected to antisemitic phone calls that included threats from his supporters.
Over the years I have spent a lot of time with people who survived the 1930s/40s crimes of the Nazis and am familiar with the history of 1930s Germany and the Transfer Agreement involving the Nazi government and the Yishuv in Palestine. I consider it important that charges of antisemitism are judged against a clear objective definition of antisemitism.
It is antisemitic to treat all Jews as one cohesive group who all support Israel.
I also believe that antisemitism must be fought alongside all other forms of racism that are on the rise. The threat is from the resurgent Right, not from activists campaigning for Palestinian rights. It is also important to recognise that support for Israel and being Jewish are not synonymous. There are many non-Jews living in Israel. Many Jews identify completely with Israel, even though they do not live there and feel personally offended when Israel is criticised. However there are many Jews in the world that do not identify with Israel and its governments’ policies.
There are many non Jews who identify as Zionists and support Israel. In fact there are many antisemites who support Israel. It is antisemitic to treat all Jews as one cohesive group who all support Israel. In 2013 the Daily Mail used classical dog- whistle themes to attack Ed Miliband, the then Jewish Labour leader. The themes were that his father ‘hated Britain’, was a foreigner and a Marxist. Jews as Jews are often portrayed as foreigners and Marxists, in classical antisemitic attacks, the better to distance them from the body politic.
The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council had little or nothing to say about this. Labour has a responsibility to treat antisemitism very seriously and not abuse the meaning of this vile anti-Jewish ideology by misapplying the term to those who support the Palestinians. So Labour’s attitude to antisemitism should not be determined by organisations within the Jewish community whose loyalty to Israel makes them unable to recognise the difference between angry denunciations of Israel and attacks on Jewish people.
Some of these organisations are also hostile to the Labour Party. For example, the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews called for Jewish people to vote Conservative in the 2015 General Election. I do not believe that Ken Livingstone’s public defence of Naz Shah MP in April 2016 was offensive or that it involved any concession to antisemitism. In fact in spite of her public apology, I do not regard what Naz Shah wrote on her Facebook page as antisemitic.
I also consider that Ken Livingstone’s remarks in April 2016 about the 1933 Transfer Agreement were not in any way antisemitic. They are based on evidence compiled by Edwin Black in the book The Transfer Agreement. It would be a mistake if the Labour Party found Ken Livingstone guilty of conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the Party.’