Jeremy Corbyn interceded to help rescind the suspension of the anti-Zionist activist filmed this weekend accusing Jews of being "in the gutter” and “crying wolf” about Labour antisemitism.
Glyn Secker, the secretary of the far-left Jewish Voice for Labour group and a senior figure in the Jews for Justice for Palestine organisation for many years, was captured on video telling a crowd that “Jewish leaders here… turn a blind eye to the extreme right, even when their own Zionist Federation embraces the English Defence League, a neo-fascist group banned by Facebook.
“What on earth are Jews doing in the gutter with these rats?”
The Zionist Federation as an organisation has never embraced the English Defence League. As Mr Secker was giving his speech, however, Tony Martin, chairman of the Neo-Nazi National Front, taking part in the same pro-Palestine rally.
In a Twitter comment on May 1, Mr Martin described himself as “anti-Zionist not ‘antisemitic’, just before claiming "Whites do tend to be better than other races and [sic] certain things."
In March, the Sunday Times revealed emails in which two of Mr Corbyn’s closest aides - Seumas Milne, director of strategy and communications, and Andrew Murray - intervened last year after Mr Secker was suspended from the party.
A party official had written concerning Mr Secker’s case: “There are legitimate questions to be asked about someone who has contributed to Palestine Live [a Facebook group filled with antisemitic material], heckled JLM [the Jewish Labour Movement] at conference and posted content saying ‘Jew = Zionist = Israel = Jew’.” Another said: “We would normally suspend with this.”
However, as the Sunday Times uncovered, in March 2018 both Mr Murray and Mr Milne then got involved.
“JC interested in this one”, Mr Murray wrote, identifying Jeremy Corbyn’s interest in the case of Mr Secker. He sought to disparage the potential source of the material concerning Mr Secker, saying: “I don’t know if this came from ‘Labour Against Antisemitism’ but they are well dodgy.”
Mr Milne claimed that “none of the posts can be identified as antisemitic in the terms of the definition we have adopted as a party . . . Several quite clearly relate to political arguments within the Jewish community.”
As a prominent member of JVL, Mr Secker has regularly sought to downplay the seriousness of antisemitism in the Labour party, both in media appearances and speeches to Labour party branches.
In February, for example, he told Labour activists at the Dulwich and West Norwood Labour branch that antisemitism allegations had been "made up in order to discredit the leadership”.
In his speech to a large crowd at the pro-Palestine demonstration outside the BBC on Saturday, Mr Secker described what he referred to as “a fifth column inside the Labour party, 119 Labour Friends of Israel MPs led by Hodge and Watson and the Jewish Labour Movement.”
He went on to extend what he termed a “warning to the Jewish leadership.
“While you foment your campaign of allegations of antisemitism against Corbyn and the left to silence Israel’s critics, while you cry wolf month after month, year after year in the Labour party, and remain blind to the explosion of the far right and Islamophobia, you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
At another pro-Palestine event a few years ago, Mr Corbyn was asked about the “pro-Israel lobby” in the UK.
“There are two lobbies here”, he responded.
“An Israeli government lobby and there is a very strong pro-Israel Zionist lobby. But we’ve just heard an absolutely brilliant speech one moment ago from Glyn Secker from Jews for Justice for Palestine, who read a letter from Dr Mads Gilbert, working in the Shifa hospital in Gaza.
“That is the Jewish tradition that I’m interested in, that’s the Jewish tradition I understand”, Mr Corbyn continued, emphasising the “I’s”.
Want further evidence of @JeremyCorbyn muddying his words when it comes to Zionists and Jews as well as admission of his complete rejection of the vast majority of British and worldwide Jewry? Well here you go…. pic.twitter.com/BSkzNWjM50— The Golem (@TheGolem_) August 24, 2018
A number of prominent left-wing Jews unequivocally condemned Mr Secker’s speech.
Yair Wallach, senior lecturer in Israeli studies at Soas, described it as "dangerous" and "sullying the struggle" of the Palestinians.
Jews as fifth column, gutter and rats, "they, their, them": this language is dangerous. If your aim is to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, and the daily injustice they suffer, you should not sully their struggle with such language. >>— Yair Wallach (@YairWallach) May 12, 2019
Keith Kahn-Harris, the author and lecturer, said that while he was not a supporter of the Zionist Federation, he knew "what it does and does not represent. And the majority of British Zionist Jews are repelled by the far right and have not been tempted by EDL-style cosmetic philosemitism."
The proof of that? There is a small but active cadre of far right Zionist Jews who do have some sympathy with EDL-types - and they absolutely despise mainstream Jewish organisations and see the Zionist Fed as compromised by Liberal Zionists 6/— Keith Kahn-Harris (@KeithKahnHarris) May 12, 2019
Dr Kahn-Harris continued, saying: “What scares me about Secker's speech - even in the supposedly more moderate version circulated by supporters - is how it will be heard by its audience: Most Jews are unredeemable and should be fought like the fash [Fascists]. That message should scare you even if you aren't a Zionist.”