Jewish left-wingers slam Labour leadership candidates’ alliance with controversial Board of Deputies

Rebecca Long-Bailey and Keir Starmer
Ed Sykes

All five candidates for Labour leader have backed a highly controversial list of demands from the right-wing Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD). And Jewish left-wingers have led the outrage among Labour supporters over this decision.

As Jewish Canary editor Emily Apple writes, “there are elements of these pledges that can only be described as chilling”. In particular, she says the BoD’s demands essentially mean Labour “must ignore socialist Jews” and “Jews who don’t support the actions of the Israeli state”. 

“Contemptuous”

The co-chairs of Jewish Voice for Labour have responded by stressing that:

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Endorsing the BoD pledges will be interpreted by the bulk of members as contemptuous of the independence of the party

They also highlighted the negative impact the endorsement could have on party independence, “natural justice and due process”, and “data protection obligations”. And they said the BoD:

is asking that you disregard the views of Jews with whom they disagree, singling out Jewish Voice for Labour even though it represents significant numbers of Jewish members of the Labour Party. We remind you that the Board does not represent all Jews. Most significantly it does not represent many thousands in the fast-growing Charedi community, most of whom do not believe that the Labour Party is riddled with antisemitism and have put on record their alarm at the suggestion that it is.

“Pro-Israel advocacy”

The Jewish Dissident Blogspot spoke out too. It insisted that the “BoD certainly doesn’t have anything to do with socialism” and that:

the BoD, if it represents anything at all aside from a self-selecting ‘Jewish establishment’, actually represents far less than half of all Jews in the UK. But it does represent – effectively, aggressively and remorselessly – that section of the Jewish community which identifies more or less uncritically with the Israeli state.

Indeed, earlier this month the BoD condemned a Welsh council for describing Israeli actions in the occupied West Bank as “a war crime”. This is despite human rights groups consistently saying Israel’s actions amount to war crimes.

Jewish activist Tony Greenstein, meanwhile, called the BoD a “pro-Israel advocacy group” which had “never fought anti-Semitism”. And he added that:

If the Board of Deputies were seriously concerned about anti-Semitism then instead of profusely welcoming Boris Johnson as Prime Minister (‘We have had a long and positive relationship with Mr Johnson’) they would have queried his comments in 72 Virgins about Jews controlling the media, as well as other racist comments.

Other Jewish Labour supporters expressed their anger online:

The right’s weaponisation of antisemitism allegations

Antisemitism is unacceptable and disgusting. That’s why anti-racist peaceprize winner and outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has fought against antisemitic hatred all his life. But despite taking strong action to stamp out the small amount of racism in the party, Corbyn (along with his supporters) has faced constant right-wing smears which weaponised and amplified allegations of antisemitism to undermine his public popularity.

Today, a key tactic of the pro-Israel right is to weaponise antisemitism to attack left-wing allies of the occupied Palestinian people. But prominent Jewish left-wingers have consistently opposed this propaganda campaign. Even before Corbyn became Labour leader, Noam Chomsky highlighted how some politicians in Israel had been using antisemitism allegations to smear Jewish and non-Jewish critics of the Israeli state for decades.

The hatred of Corbyn in pro-Israel circles is clear. A former BoD president, for instance, said in 2019 “we should sacrifice him”. A former spokesperson for the highly controversial Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), meanwhile, bragged in 2018 about “weaponising” antisemitism to get rid of Corbyn. And after the 2019 election loss for Corbyn, a prominent CAA campaigner released a video celebrating that “the beast is slain”, saying:

We did it. By word and deed, by protest and tweet, by our spies and intel, by our fab celebrities… We won.

Don’t stop resisting

Unfortunately, it now seems that many people – including Jewish left-wingers – are preparing to dump Labour over the leadership candidates’ alliance with the BoD. But they could leave a powerful parting statement. Because when the ballots arrive, they could simply write ‘none of the above’ over the candidates’ names. That would send a clear message that, even if the aspiring leaders won’t stand up for socialist, internationalist ethics, grassroots activists will.

Featured image via Chris McAndrew and Chris McAndrew

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    1. Regarding the context of such an extraordinary demand from the BOD it doesn’t bode well for our Jewish brothers and sisters or any faith group for that matter insisting similar, does it, for a ‘church’ attractively garnering converts in their thronging numbers? Who wants to join a griping, whinging congregation? With these periodic outputs from said quarters one can’t help suspecting orchestrated lobbying is at play so regular are the ‘proclamations’. As we know, and, as with His Holiness The Pope or His Grace The Arch Bishop of Canterbury or any faith leaders the BOD do in no way represent the whole panoply of the faith do they? Off the top ones head about 30% isn’t it? I mean – when you think about so many petulant interjections it’s getting to be a case of harassment or bullying from the BOD. ‘Calm down dears’. It’ll all be right-as-rain tomorrow.

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