The Jewish Labour Movement’s decision to invite a series of controversial party figures to speak at a rally against antisemitism has been attacked by supporters who claim it will make the group “a laughing stock”.
Activists called for Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, MP Naz Shah, and Baroness Chakrabarti to be barred from the event after months of outrage over Labour’s response to the Jew-hate crisis.
The proposed line-up for the event prompted anger from moderate JLM supporters, with some threatening to resign if the rally goes ahead as planned.
Unveiling the list of speakers, Jeremy Newmark, JLM chair, said he hoped it would be a “healing and unifying moment” for the party.
But one senior Jewish Labour figure said: “Some members will have to consider our positions. The issue is a lack of confidence in the judgement of JLM after this.”
The rally is due to take place on the first evening of Labour’s annual conference in Liverpool on Sunday week, September 25.
The event against “antisemitism and racism” will take place at a pub near the main conference venue and has been backed by affiliate groups, including representatives of the Sikh and LGBT communities.
MPs who have been critical of Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the antisemitism crisis were not informed they would be sharing a platform with hard-left figures, the JC understands.
On Monday Mr McDonnell shared a platform at the TUC conference in Brighton with Jackie Walker, who was temporarily suspended from Labour earlier this year for claiming Jews were the “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”.
He told the event MPs had urged him not to attend alongside Ms Walker, but “my response is to be here”. She told the meeting antisemitism was present “only on the margins of the party”.
One leading Jewish Labour supporter said of the rally plans: “JLM will look like a laughing stock. This is going to give legitimacy to their views. It could have been organised by Jeremy Corbyn. There is a lot of concern. It’s a bad strategy.
“We have to have red lines. We have to be clear where we stand as a community. I understand we have to engage, but why are JLM playing this game? We are all for unity, but people’s words must match their deeds.”
Activists also clashed online. One wrote on Facebook: “How can you have a man as a speaker at a JLM event supposedly opposing antisemitism who still appears on platforms - and defends - a woman who claims that Jews were behind slavery?”
Others were more cautious. One Jewish figure in Parliament said it was important the event was “diverse”.
“There are genuinely good people across the party and they should be heard. I have reservations about John McDonnell, but I hope his message addresses the issue more seriously than saying it is a fringe section of the party,” the source said.
Jonathan Arkush, Board of Deputies president, said: “Given all the furore around Labour and antisemitism in recent months, we congratulate the JLM on bringing together all sections of the party to oppose the scourge of Jew hatred.
“Ultimately, however, it will be actions, not words, on which the party will be judged.”
Mr Newmark said: "The Shadow Chancellor was invited a while ago before his apparent defence of Jackie Walker and in light of his call for zero tolerance on antisemitism and support for our rule change proposals.
"He must explain his defence of Walker which is inconsistent with his call for zero tolerance. This raises serious questions. Our members expect him to explain himself.
"We are sensitive to the range of views that have been expressed. Many of our members feel it important that they now have the opportunity to challenge him on this directly in person."