On 4 September, the NEC met to finalise its code of conduct on antisemitism. To coincide with this, Jewish groups, individuals and Labour members organised a protest outside Labour’s London HQ in solidarity with Palestine. Protesters gathered to deliver a statement urging the NEC not to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in full. This is because some examples curtail criticism of the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine.
Members from Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) spoke to The Canary from the protest.
JVL members explained that nearly 400 protesters gathered in solidarity with Palestine. But JVL also told The Canary that members of the UK’s most extremist far-right groups gathered to counter-protest.
A vile ‘Who’s who’ of the far right
Tony Greenstein – a JVL supporter at the protest – told The Canary exactly who was there.
The line-up is like a vile Who’s who? of the far right. Greenstein explained that many present are also “working supporters” of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson). On this protest, many draped themselves in Israeli flags.
Clearly visible (in a blue baseball cap) is Paul Besser. Besser is a well known as an anti-Palestinian activist. He was also Britain First’s “intelligence officer”. Besser has previously promoted far-right ideology with known “anti-Palestinian extremist” Sharon Klaff, who was also present outside the Labour HQ,
Greenstein also saw Jonathan Hoffman, former vice-chair of the Zionist Federation. Hoffman is a notoriously abusive pro-Israel bully. His tactics extended to foul abuse of Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer in 2010.
Although the counter-protest was small, Gemma Sheridan attended. She’s a member of the neo-Nazi Jewish Defence League. This group is banned “as a terrorist group” in the US.
Then there was Ambrosine Shitrit, who has a nasty history of Islamophobia. Greenstein told The Canary that she was also a known supporter of apartheid when she lived in South Africa. And not forgetting Mandy Blumenthal, who’s made no secret of her contempt for Jeremy Corbyn recently. But she’d probably prefer her association with the far right to be a little less public.
The bright side
There was another side to this protest. And it was beautiful.
No matter how hard MPs like Margaret Hodge and Stephen Kinnock claim to ‘speak’ for the entire Jewish community, other pictures from the protest prove this quite simply isn’t true.
But many people have pointed out that the presence of several Orthodox Jews at the protest may go unreported:
Funny, didn't see them on @BBCNews just now. It's almost as if they don't want viewers to know that not all Jewish people think the same.
— Hajo Meyer's Violin (@WarmongerHodges) September 4, 2018
There’s absolutely no suggestion that anyone within the Labour party knew these far-right counter-protestors would show up.
But the fact that their position seems – in essence – in full agreement with Hodge and other anti-Corbyn MPs speaks volumes.
– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
Featured image – and all other images – via Tony Greenstein (used with permission) and Fréa Lockley