Jewdas activist compares Zionism to Nazi ideology during 'antisemitism awareness' Labour event

Exclusive: She tells packed branch meeting 'Zionism is a racist ideology'


A left-wing activist from the controversial Jewdas group compared Zionism to Nazi ideology when she gave "antisemitism awareness" to a Labour Party branch meeting.

During her 55-minute speech to the Dulwich and West Norwood Labour branch on Thursday, self-declared "non-Zionist" Annie Cohen also claimed there was "room for discussion" about collaboration between the "Nazi Party and members of the Zionist movement."

Ms Cohen said "Zionism is a racist ideology", adding it was "not possible to have a democratic Jewish state".

She expressed her "frustration" at ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone's repeated interventions on the topic, adding: "I don’t know if I would label Ken Livingstone an antisemite...

"I’ve heard lots of good things about him from an older generation of Jewish activists, which I believe."

Ms Cohen, who said she grew up in a "very liberal" Jewish family in Golders Green, told the packed room of around 80 Labour members: "To make generalised comments about Jews, to make offensive statements about Hitler, who has never been a defender of the Jews, is in my opinion antisemitic – but it doesn’t make you an antisemite.

"It's complicated and I think part of the problem is that in the current climate... we are very quick to jump on people.

"'You are this', 'you are an antisemite', 'you are sexist', 'you are whatever' - shut them down."

Ms Cohen, a 32-year-old mature student and member of the Jewish Socialist Group and Jews For Justice For Palestinians, said it was "indisputable" that "antisemitism within Labour is being employed to attack Corbyn’s leadership and has been since day one, you know, because of his views on Israel."

During Thursday's meeting, where strict instructions were given banning recording, local member Glyn Secker, secretary of the Jewish Voice For Labour group, said that Mr Livingtone's real mistake over his Hitler comments was his failure to quote Nazi Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann.

Mr Secker, who said he was a Jewish ex-member of the Socialist Workers Party  said Eichmann, "who was not very far down from Hitler in the chain of command", organised the controversial 1933 Haavara Agreement, which allowed German Jews to relocate to Palestine.

"That history is there in Yad Vashem in the memorial to the Holocaust in Israel," said Mr Secker. "We need to be clear about that."

Ms Cohen then said: "One of the things that is frustrating about Ken Livingstone from a historical perspective is that there is room for discussion.

"Nazism was at its roots developed out of nationalism and there were, in the early part of the Nazi government, there were conversations between the Nazi government, the Nazi Party and members of the Zionist movement.

"It is documented in Zionist history … where the head of the Jewish National Fund met with a senior Nazi official and they kind of agreed that Jews were not German, Jews were semitic, and therefore in the correct place they should be.

"Lots of conversations happened in this way, but this was happening while Jews are never the people with the power over the situation, before the Holocaust took place."

Insisting she did not understand "what the point is in terms of antisemitism today when this is brought up", Ms Cohen then said: "I would say Zionism in its root form is a nationalist ideology which wants a state that is ethnically based, and is exclusive on that ethnicity."

She said, before the Holocaust, Jewish leaders "wanted to build a Jewish state and saw an opportunity" by encouraging Jewish emigration from Europe.

But Ms Cohen, who said her views on Israel changed after she visited the West Bank with a Palestinian advocacy group aged 22, told the meeting: "At its root, Zionism is a racist ideology and the state of Israel today is pursuing racist policies... 

"I do not believe that it is possible to have a democratic Jewish state in the land of Israel. It's not democratic. 

"What is going on there now is completely unacceptable and abhorrent to me.

"I don’t believe really in, you know – I think the Holocaust was an absolute catastrophe of nationalism.

"I think that should have been the lesson learned out of it. The Holocaust - it should have proven the need for people to tolerate minorities in whatever country they were living in. 

"In my opinion the state of Israel was born because nobody wanted to take in the Jews."

Earlier, Ms Cohen shed light on what she did consider to be antisemitic conduct. 

She raised a photograph of a poster for a Wiener Library exhibition examining Kristallnacht, that was recently defaced with the words 'Free Palestine'.

She also used the example of the Labour councillor who posted a mock Chunakah card featuring three characters dancing in traditional Orthodox Jewish dress.

The Jewdas group, which were founded by Joseph Finlay, made headlines earlier this year when it invited Jeremy Corbyn to its Passover Seder.

The group has been hoping to land further speaking engagements at other Labour CLPs.

But one Labour member who attended last Thursday's event described Ms Cohen's talk as "naive, dangerous and almost child like".

Another member told the JC they would complain to their CLP about Ms Cohen's address.

Dulwich and West Norwood CLP was recently branded a “hostile environment” for Jews who challenge Shoah denial in a complaint filed by a Jewish member, Cathy Ashley who chaired the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

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