Labour members revolt against antisemitism training

EXCLUSIVE: Facebook messages reveal antisemitism and conspiracy theories in response to invitation to training sessions


LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 25: In this photo illustration the Social networking site Facebook is displayed on a laptop screen on March 25, 2009 in London, England. The British government has made proposals which would force Social networking websites such as Facebook to pass on details of users, friends and contacts to help fight terrorism. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Labour members are mounting a Facebook revolt against the party’s plans for EHRC antisemitism training, a cache of messages leaked to the JC reveals.

Hundreds of comments peppered with antisemitism, conspiracy theories and foul language greeted an invitation from Labour general secretary David Evans to take part in the training.

At the same time, a joint statement by exiled Labour members accused the Jewish Labour Movement – which is running the sessions – of being a propaganda tool for Israel.

It called on members to boycott the sessions, despite antisemitism training being mandated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) following its damning report into anti-Jewish racism within Labour.

Labour has confirmed to the JC that the sessions are part of its action plan, drawn up after the EHRC ruled that Labour had broken equality laws.  

It branded the boycott call “absurd and offensive” and said it was proud of the training being delivered by JLM.

However, Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS) warned that the messages exposed the scale of the challenge Keir Starmer still faced, warning that his “zero tolerance” pledge was beginning to look like a “box ticking exercise”.

Opening the conversation, one member said they had received an e-mail from the general secretary about antisemitism training.

“I think it might be good to go and challenge any nonsense,” the member wrote. “What do you think?”

Many of the respondents feared the sessions would be recorded and used to expel them.

One member warned: “Depends, is it a safe space or will you feature in a covert video recording, get taped saying anything not liked then expelled?”

Another responded: “Nowhere is a safe space anymore.”

Another replied: “It is a TRAP... ignore it.” 

Several others repeated the warning, citing the case of former Labour member Jackie Walker, who was expelled following comments she made during an antisemitism training session, in which she criticised Holocaust Memorial Day for only commemorating Jewish victims.

One member warned: “Don’t go. They will film you and ruin you like they did with Jackie Walker.”

One member urged those attending to record the session themselves. “Then there is proof of what you actually said as opposed to the doctored version to make you appear guilty,” the member said.

Others suggested the online training would be muted and would be a series of “lectures not discussion”. Any questions or challenges would be “pre-arranged”, the member claimed.

Another worried they would “blow (their) stack” in the session, but feared that refusing to attend would be “another way of accusing us of being antisemitic”.

Much of the anger was directed at the leadership, with one member accusing Mr Evans of turning the party into a “hostile environment” while another accused the leadership of “bloody tyranny”.

Writing on the thread, one member complained that the leadership was treating CLP officers like “naughty children”.

However, other members directed their anger at the JLM, which one member called a “shower of s**t” and another branded a “far right cabal which supports an apartheid state”.

One said he was holding onto his Labour membership to vote for Sir Keir Starmer’s successor “because the political grim reaper is already approaching”.

He added: “Anything from and/or delivered by JLM will not be worth attending but is likely to be toxic given the fact they are an Israeli embassy front.”

A commenter who said his membership was up for renewal this month asserted it “simply cannot be denied” that Israel is an “apartheid state”. He went on to accuse JLM boss Mike Katz of being a “supporter of this racist state”.

“He and JLM should be shown the red card as soon as possible,” he said, calling for conference to debate revoking the organisation’s affiliation.

One member said she intended to write her letter of resignation this week.

“The LP have gone full on white supremacy,” she said.

Another said the training gave members the chance to “confront JLM” about “its role in smearing Corbyn, especially as the ERHC (sic) report found that the LP wasn’t institutionally antisemitic”.

He added: “The Red Tories have weaponised antisemitism at the behest of the Zionist lobby ie Board of Deputies and JLM whilst the media are either complicit or have been cowed by the Zionist lobby.”

He claimed that the sessions would be used to “stop any criticism of the racist apartheid state of Israel”.

The texts also revealed the extent to which members still deny or downplay antisemitism within the party.

One member called the training a “Zionist propaganda stunt”. 

Another wrote that it was a matter of “official parliamentary records than antisemitism in the Labour Party is far less than in the country as a whole”.

“Why are Labour members being singled out for training to remove a smear they never earned?

“Are we expected to approve settler colonialism and occupation as part of the deal to earn Zionist approval? Not going to happen.”

Another wrote that Labour would be better served investigating the “weaponising of antisemitism by the centre right of the party”.

Euan Philipps, spokesman for LAAS, said: “Many of the comments posted on social media were themselves highly antisemitic and require further investigation by the Labour Party – hopefully leading to member expulsions.

“That party members still feel emboldened to make racist comments in public shows there is a lot of work still to be done to embed a zero tolerance culture in Labour and make the party electorally acceptable again.

“Meeting the recommendations of the EHRC has begun to look like a box-ticking exercise and unless Keir Starmer enforces a zero tolerance position on antisemitism across the board, in actions not words, it will become meaningless.”

A Labour spokesman said: “We’re proud that JLM has agreed to deliver our training, in line with our EHRC action plan. It is one of our longest standing socialist societies and their trainers are fair and well informed.

“It is absurd and offensive to call for a boycott of training about antisemitism, the forms it takes, the hurt it causes and how we can all work together to tackle it.”

In a joint statement, Corbyn loyalist groups urged members to boycott the upcoming training sessions.

Labour Against the Witch Hunt, the Labour Campaign for Free Speech, the Labour Left Alliance and the Labour in Exile Network urged members instead to hold their own sessions to discuss the difference between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

The joint statement said: “JLM (is) a pro-Israel organisation that is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation, whose stated mission is ‘settling the land’.”

It added: “In has close links to the Israeli embassy... It has been doing everything in its power to weaponise false and exaggerated charges of anti-semitism in order to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.”

A spokesperson for JLM said: “The Jewish Labour Movement has been affiliated to the Labour Party for over 100 years. We have supported the party in good times and bad. Any member engaging in antisemitic conspiracy theories alleging that JLM or our members have dual loyalties are simply engaging in age old antisemitic tropes reminiscent of the far right.

"These comments have no place in the Labour Party and we are sure that the Party will take appropriate action against those engaging in them. Membership of the Labour Party is a privilege and not a right.

"The Labour Party was found by the country’s equality watchdog to have committed unlawful acts towards its Jewish members. It doesn’t get much more serious than this. Rightly and in line with their legal obligations, the Party have been working with the EHRC, JLM as a primary complainant and other Jewish community stakeholders to remedy the major cultural problems highlighted by the watchdog.

"Training is one part of this and our peer-led education conveys the anti-Jewish racism experienced by the vast majority of British Jews. We are proud of this project and we know the vast majority of Labour members will appreciate learning and understanding this historic prejudice and how it manifests in 21st century Britain, in wider society, and within our own Labour movement.”

An earlier version of this story referred to the messages as being on WhatsApp, they were on Facebook

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