Labour shadow minister backs 'antisemitism is Israeli smear' candidate for party election

West Ham MP Lyn Brown has recommended former Militant activist Roger Silverman to Labour members


A Labour shadow minister has urged members of her local party to back a hardline anti-Zionist activist who accused the “Israeli diplomatic service” of being behind an antisemitism “smear campaign” against Jeremy Corbyn.

West Ham MP Lyn Brown,  the current Shadow Minister for Prisons and Probation, emailed her local party to declare her support for Roger Silverman - a member of the fringe Jewish Voice for Labour organisation - as their candidate in the National Executive Committee (NEC) elections.

Mr Silverman once wrote: “The charge that the Labour Party and specifically Jeremy Corbyn are soft on antisemitism is outrageous. It is the latest and most bizarre of a series of monstrous smears by the right-wing establishment.

He added: “I wouldn’t blame the Israeli diplomatic service for promoting such accusations; it is their job to use every means at their disposal to avoid the election of a British government sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. In this case the smear campaign has been taken up by the British establishment.”

Despite Mr Silverman’s record, Ms Brown wrote to West Ham Constituency Labour Party on September 15 saying: “I’m sure it will not have escaped your attention there are two candidates for the NEC from here in Newham."  One of these inlcuded  Mr Silverman.

She continued:"I passionately believe in a broad-church Labour Party and hope these comrades won’t mind me pointing out their candidacies encapsulate that truth.”

Ms Brown later added: “I am hopeful that this week’s GC will nominate our boys (!).”

Mr Silverman was suspended by Labour in 2016 in an investigation that looked into his involvement with the far-left Militant organisation as well as comments he had made on social media about the direction of the party,  but was reinstated under Mr Corbyn.

He subsequently became an outspoken activist for JVL, and defended the former Labour MP Chris Williamson against allegations of antisemitism.

While Mr Silverman has refused to call for the destruction of Israel, he has openly declared his belief that Zionism is “racism”. In April 2016 he wrote: “Zionism today is one of the most virulent manifestations of racism.”

Mr Silverman had himself confirmed his membership of Militant in a series of article he published online.

Launching his campaign to stand as an NEC candidate, he criticised the direction of the party under Sir Keir Starmer, adding: ”A strong showing for the left in this election will show that we’re still a force to be reckoned with.”

A spokesperson for Ms Brown, the MP for the East London seat since 2005, told the JC:"Lyn was not aware of any complaints about Roger Silverman and wrote the email in an inclusive way to support members of her local party.

"She would never support anyone who holds antisemitic views."

The following statement by Roger Silverman was added on 15 December 2020:

I am grateful to the editor of the Jewish Chronicle for finally allowing me a right of reply to this article. It was published following my nomination as a candidate in elections to Labour's National Executive Committee, and it was clearly timed to prejudice the outcome of this election. In all fairness I should have been contacted for comment before publication.  

The article describes me as "a hardline anti-Zionist activist". The implication that I am in principle opposed to the existence of the state of Israel is untrue. I have argued consistently for a democratic secular state in which all communities – Jewish, Muslim and Christian – live in harmony.  

The article's reference to my having been "suspended by Labour in 2016" is misleading. My brief administrative suspension from the party was lifted unconditionally following a satisfactory telephone interview. The assertion that my suspension was based on “an investigation that looked into [my] involvement with the far-left Militant organisation" is incorrect; the simplest research could have proved that I broke decisively with Militant almost thirty years ago. Likewise, the statement that I "was reinstated under Mr Corbyn" gives the groundless impression that I was readmitted only through preferential patronage.   

My grandparents fled to Britain from pogroms in Eastern Europe, and one of them was the victim of an anti-Semitic murder in Liverpool soon after his arrival. As chair of the British section of the World Jewish Congress in 1940, my father Sydney Silverman MP was among the first in the world to provide documentary evidence warning of the impending Nazi holocaust (see his entry in Wikipedia), and as a Labour MP he campaigned vigorously against the policies of his own postwar Labour government in sinking the ships carrying Jewish concentration camp survivors across the Mediterranean to Palestine. His record was officially honoured by the Israeli government on his death in 1968. I consider my family background a relevant factor which should have been mentioned in your article. 



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