The pro-Corbyn advocacy group Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) has prompted derision after it told a gathering of union representatives on Tuesday that wanted to support and train workers subjected to “false allegations of antisemitism”.
Activists put forward to lead the training for JVL – set up in 2017 to defend Jeremy Corbyn against allegations of Jew hate – include a member expelled by Labour for backing banned hard-left groups.
Speaking to an audience in the basement of the headquarters of the NEU that included representatives from the NEU, RMT, UCU and Unite, JVL Secretary Glyn Secker said about his group’s proposed antisemitism training: “We can come and do sessions for any group, however small, however big, parents, kids, workers.”
On its websites, JVL say their education sessions will “help you to judge what is and is not antisemitism and how to respond when you encounter it”.
The sessions are described as “a safe space... where our experienced facilitators guide you to express and clarify your views in anti-discriminatory ways, on antisemitism, Israel, Palestine, and Zionism.”
One of the “facilitators” is JVL co-founder Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, who was expelled from the Labour Party in 2022. Other facilitators have also been investigated by Labour on various occasions.
JVL stands in opposition to JLM, which is one of the oldest socialist societies affiliated to the Labour Party and started running educational workshops during the Corbyn era.
A spokesperson for the Jewish Labour Movement told the JC: “The idea that an organisation set up to deny and downplay the extent of antisemitism in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn – and that continues to do so, despite the ECHR’s damning conclusions – can deliver meaningful antisemitism education is a joke. And a poor one at that.”
JLM said it “remains the only organisation recognised and approved by the Labour Party to deliver antisemitism awareness education to the Labour Party. It’s work that is still very much needed and that we’re proud to do”.
JVL say they are guided by “the right[s] of the Palestinians to self-determination”. The group do not mention Jewish self-determination in their principles.
During the trade union meeting, Secker championed JVL’s resources, saying: “We’ve got an education group, we produce materials and educational training sessions on antisemitism.
“If you want to use written material which you can hand out, we can hand out, we can do that as well,” Secker went on.
JVL’s resources include information on Jews, Zionism and Israel. One document states: “Many Jews are not Zionist. The majority of Zionists are not Jewish but fundamentalist Christian Zionists,” but it does not mention that most Jews are Zionists.
Other JVL content includes the assessment: “There have been claims that any comparison between aspects of Israel and features of pre-war Nazi Germany is inherently antisemitic... potent historical events and experiences are always key reference points in political debate. Such comparisons are only antisemitic if they show prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews.”
The event on Tuesday, organised by Stop the War Coalition, came ahead of a so-called “workplace day of action” over the Gaza war on Wednesday. Emma Rose, the National Education Union Vice President, spoke in favour of a workers’ walkout, a remark backed by the RMT, UCU and Unite representatives present.
JVL education group members Tony Booth and Professor Jonathan Rosenhead said in a statement: “We do not do ‘training’ which is how JLM has sometimes characterised its efforts. We help participants to judge what is and what is not antisemitism and how to respond when they encounter it. We are not guided in our sessions by the rights of any people to self-determination and insist on conceptual clarity, accurate reporting and the support of statements by evidence.
“We challenge JLM’s notion that JVL was set up to deny and downplay the extent of antisemitism. JVL was set up because claims of ‘antisemitism’ were increasingly being deployed, not least by JLM, to describe views that were actually criticisms of the state of Israel. Only by limiting the use of this powerful adjective to views and actions that target Jews because they are Jews can society ensure that antisemitism is combatted.
“Should any participants in our educational workshops wish to clarify potentially problematic use of historical analogies by either supporters or opponents of Israel, we would ensure that the discussion was carried out in an open, engaged and entirely non-abusive way. Our guidelines, read out at the start of each workshop, require that participants “treat each other with respect and listen carefully to each other”. These ground rules would, for example, discourage anyone calling the contributions of Jewish Professors of Education in planning and presenting workshops on antisemitism for JVL “a joke and a bad one at that”. We are open for dialogue. It seems as if your spokesperson for JLM is not.”