Jewish Labour Movement chair condemned over Labour antisemitism meeting

Exclusive: Ivor Caplin faces claim he was 'played' by Labour leadership


New Jewish Labour Movement chair Ivor Caplin is at the centre of a furious row after it was revealed he attended a meeting with Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby just one day before controversial guidelines on antisemitism were unanimously agreed by the party’s ruling body.

Mr Caplin and JLM political officer Neil Nerva both met with Ms Formby on Monday for what the Labour general secretary later described as a “very positive and helpful meeting”.

Details of the Labour leadership’s attempt to amend the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism were shared with both JLM officials ahead of the meeting on Tuesday of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee.

The new rules on what Labour now accepts to be antisemitism have serious implications for the scores of outstanding disciplinary cases of alleged antisemitism that have dogged the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

But the JC has learned that Mr Caplin and Mr Nerva have subsequently both faced angry questions from senior figures both within the JLM and from other community organisations over their conduct at Monday’s meeting.

They have both furiously denied suggestions that they “waved through” Labour’s new guidelines on a  “red line communal issue” such as the IHRA definition.

But one angry source insisted: “Effectively those two went into the meeting unprepared, having been pre-warned about how important it was to know what to look out for and what to ask.

“Labour’s attempt to rewrite the IHRA definition is a red line issue for the JLM and for the whole Jewish community.

“But in the aftermath of Monday’s meeting, it just looks like the pair of them have been played.”

When the JC attempted to contact Mr Caplin on Wednesday, he said he was busy in a meeting and suggested that Mr Nerva would speak on his behalf.

Mr Nerva, a Labour councillor in Queens Park, north west London, played down suggestions that he and Mr Caplin had approved the antisemitism guidelines that were shown to them.

He said the meeting with Ms Formby had been an “update meeting” at which the pair were “not able to take away any documents to consult further with colleagues in JLM.”

“It was a meeting to share information and not a negotiating meeting,” added Mr Nerva.

The JC has seen copy of the letter sent by Ms Formby on behalf of the Labour Party on Tuesday to the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Community Security Trust in which she confirmed the “positive” nature of Monday’s meeting and invited representatives of the three organisations to attend a “feedback” meeting on July 17.

The letter also included the new 16-point code of conduct approved by Labour’s NEC at a meeting on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, senior communal figures said they were “hugely concerned” by the new antisemitism guidelines.

Within the new guidelines is the suggestion that there is a need to prove “antisemitic intent” in relation to criticism of the state of Israel along with the suggestion that: “It is not antisemitism to refer to ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zionists’ as part of a considered discussion about the Israeli state.”

In an apparent acknowledgment that it is acceptable to compare the actions of Israel with some of the most repressive regimes in history, the guidelines state: “Discourse about international politics often employs metaphors from examples of historic misconduct. It is not antisemitism to criticise the conduct or policies of the Israeli state by reference to such examples unless there is evidence of antisemitic intent.”

Reacting to the new NEC guidelines, a senior official from one Jewish communal group said: “We don’t accept that the IHRA Working Definition needs to be re-written. But even if we did, the current Labour Party leadership are the last people we would choose to do it.

"It is insulting for them to think they are in a position to tell the Jewish community how to define antisemitism.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a letter sent by JLM’s parliamentary chair Luciana Berger to Ms Formby accused her of ignoring the group’s “three-year engagement on Labour’s antisemitism crisis.”

The letter, which was co-signed by Mr Caplin, said that the new antisemitism definition suggested the work of senior JLM figures such as national secretary Peter Mason on the issue “was ignored”  and called for the Party to “abandon this definition without haste and make clear that is has already adopted and actively using IHRA.”

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