John McDonnell-backed Labour member says 'only' antisemitism she has seen in party is 'Jews attacking Jews for having wrong attitude on Israel'

Jenny Lennox was speaking at a meeting about the party ditching the Jewish Labour Movement as its antisemitism training provider


A Labour member whom John McDonnell backed to be an MP told Labour members that the "only" antisemitism she had seen in the party was “Jews attacking other Jews for having the wrong attitude on Israel,” just after someone else detailed their own experience of Jew-hate.

Speaking at a meeting of the Walthamstow Labour Party last Monday, Jenny Lennox, the former chair of East Walthamstow local Labour branch, said: The only antisemitism I’ve seen in the Labour party has been in the last few years and has been Jews attacking other Jews for having the wrong attitude on Israel."

She was speaking minutes after a Jewish Labour member had described, in detail, their own experiences of significant antisemitism within Labour.

Ms Lennox said that she was “aware of stuff online I haven’t seen”, but then said she had seen some things online “by people who claim to be Labour members – I can’t say one way or another – they are always challenged.”

She was taking part in a debate on an emergency motion about the news that the party was replacing the Jewish Labour Movement as its provider of antisemitism training for party members.

The proposed motion noted “with concern" that Labour was moving to "other groups without consultation with the JLM".

It resolved to “stand with the Jewish community and Jewish Labour members” and to recognise JLM as “the legitimate representative of the Jewish community in the Labour party.”

A number of those taking in the debate part tried to introduce amendments to the motion. Ms Lennox argued in support of a change in the wording from saying JLM was “the legitimate representative” to “a legitimate representative”.

She added: “This idea that there is one uniform view I find really, really upsetting.”

She said the amendment would be “helpful”, describing herself as feeling “very uncomfortable” at “appalling” examples, “what I’ve seen with my own eyes” of people thinking that “one person constitutes a better Jew than another”.

A member of Jewish Voice for Labour, Roland Rance, also spoke at the meeting, urging people to reject the motion.

He said the JLM was “not an organisation of Jews in the Labour party, it is an organisation of Israel supporters attempting to influence the Labour party.”

Although he did not deny that there were cases of antisemitism in Labour, “as in society”, he described the idea that the party is institutionally antisemitic and that Jeremy Corbyn has unleashed a wave of antisemitism as “false, it’s an attack by the right to undermine the best Left leader that the Labour party has ever had.”

The meeting voted by 31 to five in favour of adopting the motion, with four extensions. The amendment to the motion had previously been defeated by 19 votes to ten.

Last June, the Labour List website revealed that Mr McDonnell was backing Ms Lennox in her attempt to be Labour's Parliamentary candidate for the Chingford and Wood Green seat. She was not ultimately selected. 

Ms Lennox is a former member of the executive of the Labour Representation Committee, a far-left group within the party of which John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, is the honorary president. She left its executive in 2012 and its national committee in 2013.

In December, the LRC released a 39-point statement, included the suggestion that allegations of Jew-hate were "propaganda" from the "ruling class" designed to stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.

It also described “false accusations… intended to weaponise the accusations of antisemitism against Labour".

"Such allegations must be challenged politically”, it said, defending “criticism of Israel, up to and including the argument by many that, as a colonial settler state, it is an intrinsically racist endeavour.”

The IHRA definition of antisemitism includes describing Israel as a racist endeavour among its examples of potential Jew-hate.

Last month, JLM urged Mr McDonnell to use his speech at the event to tell the organisation "that by referring to antisemitism as smears, they are the problem".

JLM urged him to resign as president of the group, saying: "LRC are feeding the problem and unless they change their position of condoning and nurturing this racism in our party then you cannot and should not have anything further to do with them and they also should have no place in the Labour Party."

Mr McDonnell did not respond to either suggestion.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Jenny Lennox was Jewish and a member of the Labour Representation Committee’s national executive, a position she had previously held until 2012.

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