Almost a year to the day after the publication of Baroness Chakrabarti’s inquiry into “antisemitism and other forms of racism” in the Labour Party, a book and documentary on the report and its failings are due to be released.
They reveal that individuals who submitted evidence to the investigation claim they were ignored by the peer, leaving them feeling “foolish” and “abandoned”.
Whitewashed will be screened on Monday, with the book launch taking place at the same time. The book documents 17 submissions on antisemitism, mostly from Labour members, to Baroness Chakrabarti’s probe.
Following the publication of her findings on June 30 last year, it emerged that Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, had nominated Ms Chakrabarti, the former director of Liberty, for elevation to the House of Lords.
The Board of Deputies subsequently described her report and its aftermath as “a whitewash-for-peerages scandal”.
Judith Ornstein, the driving force behind the book and 35-minute film, said she became determined to act after watching footage of John Mann berating Ken Livingstone after the former London Mayor made his comments on Hitler and Zionism.
She said: “When the Chakrabarti Report came out, I became aware of one or two personal submissions floating around on social media. So I asked people if they would like to share their submissions with me.
“I thought they would serve as a historical archive for people to share. Then it gradually grew and I got a bit more ambitious.
“First I thought of a book and then I thought, ‘well, let’s do a film as well’.”
The documentary, made by J-TV, the Jewish YouTube channel, features many of the people whose evidence Mrs Ornstein collected.
Owen Power is a deaf, gay, Jewish Labour supporter and equality campaigner. In the film he explains: “The Labour Party speaks to me as the vanguard for equality, justice and fairness. But in recent times there’s been an alarming emergence of antisemitism within my party, which seemed to be unchecked.
“Initially I was overjoyed when Shami announced she was carrying out an inquiry, as to me she personifies justice and fairness. But the outcome of the inquiry was a disaster… Shami mainly glossed over everything and came up with a pseudo-academic report, which ignored what Jewish people were saying.
“So at the moment, unless this is checked, and the party rids itself of antisemitism, I and many others just feel abandoned.”
Dr Lesley Klaff, a senior law lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, told film-makers: “We never got an acknowledgement when we sent the submission in.
“There was no evidence in Baroness Chakrabarti’s recommendations that it had been considered at all, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t read.
“The first reaction was ‘why did we bother, why did any of us bother?’
“We all took it seriously and we all acted in good faith. I felt as though in a way I’d maybe wasted my time, and felt a little bit foolish.”
Dr David Hirsh, who has been a Labour member for 30 years, narrated the documentary. He told the JC he thought most of those who provided individual submissions “felt we were pretty well completely ignored”.
Launching her probe in May last year, Baroness Chakrabarti invited evidence from individuals as well as groups.
But no individual submissions were acknowledged when she published her report.
Oliver Anisfeld, J-TV’s executive producer, said he hoped people watching the documentary “come away with an understanding about how to stop antisemitism, and to see how it manifests on the hard left as anti-Zionism.
“Part of the film is talking about what Zionism actually means, and for people to understand that it’s not a barbaric, colonialist ideology.”
Mrs Ornstein said she wanted readers and viewers to understand that “the people of the left who consider themselves to be caring, and actually have strong anti-racist credentials, recognise the antisemitism that is swastikas on the wall, but they do not understand the antisemitism that manifests itself when people talk about bringing an end to the state of Israel”.