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JVL founder plays down abuse of Jewish MPs at meeting with Labour activists

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi also commented on claims made by MPs, and called Stella Creasy ‘an enemy’ of Jeremy Corbyn

    Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi at the 2017 Labour conference (Screengrab: YouTube)
    Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi at the 2017 Labour conference (Screengrab: YouTube)

    A leading member of the Jewish Voice for Labour group has attempted to dismiss the vicious abuse sent to Luciana Berger and other Jewish female MPs as "no proof anybody in the Labour Party is going to punch them in face”.

    Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a founding member of JVL, told an audience of Labour Party members and councillors that she did not wish to see anybody targeted with online abuse - but then added: "I don't know of one Jewish person actually being abused in a Labour Party context face-to-face”.

    Her remarks were made during a meeting in Manchester held on Wednesday evening, in which Ms Wimborne-Idrissi also insisted there was "no evidence" to allow the Labour Party to expel former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and ex-Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker over charges of antisemitism.

    In a meeting that lasted nearly two and a half hours, the JVL media officer, spoke for 30 minutes on the history of the Jewish people, antisemitism, and the impact of Zionism.

    But the inflammatory allegations began as the floor was opened up for questions - most of which came from members of the audience who openly stated their membership of their local Labour Party group.

    Asked about the social media threats made to Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, Ms Wimborne-Idrissi said: "Diane is an example of a black woman who is one of Jeremy Corbyn's staunchest allies who has suffered the most atrocious online abuse.

    "As much as I disagree with Luciana Berger and some of the other women MPs in the Labour Party I do not want to see them subjected to thousands of abusive tweets.

    "But those abusive tweets are not proof that anybody in the Labour Party is going to go and punch them in the face or treat them in any way that we wouldn't expect to be comradely behaviour within the party.

    "Different levels (of abuse) have been deliberately confused. A thousand allegations of people saying things on Twitter - I don't know of one example of a Jewish person actually being abused in a Labour Party context face-to-face."

    Discussing the suspensions of both Mr Livingstone and Ms Walker, the JVL founding member, said: "This is one of those areas where you are not allowed to speak.

    "Basically what Ken has been done for is not actually antisemitism because that could not be proved. 

    "They had no evidence that anything he said was evidence of hostility to Jewish people as Jews.

    "Despite what you read in the press that's not what he's suspended for.

    "He's suspended because he's offended Jewish people who take exception to the way he referred to the Holocaust - to Nazis.

    "Really it's a question of what do we mean by offence in political discourse. Do people have the right not to be offended?

    "It does work both ways. The stuff that has been hurled at people like me for being the wrong kind of Jew - the stuff that's been been hurled at Jackie who is black and Jewish and a life-long anti-racist activist, is absolutely horrendous.

    "With Jackie, I just do not know how they are going to bring an antisemitism tag on her."

    In a further troubling admission, Ms Wimborne-Idrissi appeared to question the validity of the statement made by the Labour MP John Mann in Tuesday's Commons debate on antisemitism in which he suggested his wife had been subjected to rape threats.

    She said: "John Mann was alleged that his wife had been subjected to rape threats - which should have been reported straight to the police, if true. 

    "And if true - I hope it has been."

    But Ms Wimborne-Idrissi lept to the defence of Unite union chief Len McCluskey over his infamous claim that antisemitism was "mood music" with the Labour Party.

    She told the meeting: "Poor old Len McCluskey was abused because he talked about mood music.

    "I think what he was saying was that this idea that there was this horrible undercurrent of antisemitism - that's what he meant about mood music. And he was right about that wasn't he?"

    Revealing her own view of Zionism, she said she believed it to be "a nationalistic creed adopted by some Jews who refused to accept the possibility of Jews ever being properly integrated into non-Jewish society”.

    At one stage during the meeting Ms Wimbourne-Idrissi said she took inspiration from Israelis who had begun as "hardline Zionists" completing military service with the IDF but who later rejected Zionism after realising "in order to be a proper advocate of human rights and justice you have to actually break from it”.

    In another claim, Ms Wimborne-Idrissi suggested it was the the duty of school teachers to "influence discussion" with pupils about the Israel/Palestine conflict.

    She said that in Scotland a "curriculum resource" on the Middle East was "ready to go on the national website.

    "This was provoked by something that happened in Dumfries where news emerged of kids being taught of Palestinians as terrorists - just a whole lesson being taught of Palestinians being characterised in the most appalling and discriminatory way and causing uproar.

    "Some teachers got together and tried to build a resource pack for teachers which would look at both sides, shall we say.

    "It's there and exists and the Zionists, sorry, I mean people who support Israel have had their say, and watered it down a lot. It's less meaningful in my mind, but its just sitting there waiting to go out.

    "I think there's a job for teachers particularly I suppose to influence discussion about the curriculum on the subject."

    Ms Wimborne-Idrissi also responded to a question about suggestions that some of the criticism of George Soros in the recent Hungarian general election amounted to antisemitism.

    While the JVL representative admitted she did have some concerns about some of the material that came from the re-elected Hungarian government in recent months she added: "One of the problems with false allegations of antisemitism… [is that it] starts to mean you can't criticise a Jewish financier ... you can't criticise anyone who is Jewish, which is clearly ridiculous."

    In further conversation at the event at the Friends Meeting House, she attacked Labour MP Stella Creasy as an "enemy” of Jeremy Corbyn "from the very beginning”.

    She also said: "Jewish Voice for Labour is being described as 'hard left', as 'apologists for Holocaust denial', and as 'cover for antisemities'.

    "We all know where that's coming from, I think we all know."

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