Friday, 29 September 2017

A letter from the Jewish Labour Movement


I did not stand to be Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement to deal with instances of antisemitism in the Labour Party week in, week out. I stood for Chair to revive an almost century old affiliate of Labour, with all the rights and responsibilities that come with that. I took on this role to build a space for the fantastic cadre of young Jewish Labour activists who see the Party as their only political home. Just a few weeks into my three year term, a spate of antisemitic remarks from local CLP officers around the country was followed by events at Oxford University, and finally Ken Livingstone came out of retirement to ensure that antisemitism would continue to dominate the agenda. You know the story that comes after this, it's been well documented across eighteen months of national media coverage that has caused great harm to our Party.

It was at that time that we concluded that the Labour Party's Rule Book was not fit for purpose. Actions against the Party and its election candidates were treated more harshly than hate against each other. All this in the Party of equality and social justice. This week, with your support, JLM changed that. It took a long time, steering rule changes through dozens of local CLPs, the NEC Equalities Sub-Committee, unanimously at Labour's NEC, and eventually passing it with 96% at Party Conference, the supreme decision making body within the Labour Party. I am proud of that achievement.

A lot has been written about Labour Party Conference this week. It is clear that Labour still has a serious problem with antisemitism. From calls at fringe meetings for JLM's expulsion from the Labour Party, to antisemitic tropes being repeated on Conference floor, to the most senior of Labour figures denying antisemitism again and again (yes Ken, Ken and Len, we are talking about you), JLM still has a lot of work to do in ridding the Labour Party of one of the world's oldest hatreds. We will not stop until that work is done.

I'd like to share the other side of Labour Party Conference. The Jewish Labour Movement receiving the Del Singh Award in recognition of our tireless campaigning over the past year, be that against antisemitism in the Labour Party, or for fantastic Labour candidates across the country. The delegates from all sections of the Party who stayed up late into the night writing speeches in favour of our rule change, two of which can be read here. Our two fringes, packed out with people who care about the things we care about, including those who came to hear Lord Dubs speak about the refugee crisis. The women of the Jo Cox Women in Leadership Programme who attended our training session in solidarity after hearing Ella Rose's story of the abuse she has faced within the Party. Welcoming a phenomenal young, female Israel MK at Labour Friends of Israel's Annual Reception. Stav Shaffir is seen as a role model to many of our younger members. And possibly most importantly, the Labour Students who helped JLM's young activist team flyer from 8am to ensure that our rule change passed. They are the future of our Party, and it's in safe hands.

JLM will be taking firm action against the antisemitism we saw this week. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, the rule change has to be firmly implemented and we will be monitoring this closely.

My call to you is this: Stay with us, stand with us, and help us to do what needs to be done. If you are not a member of JLM, join. We are only as strong as our membership base. If you are a member, consider donating, or asking a friend or family member to join. We have been heartened by the nearly 100 new members who have joined this week. Thank you.

JLM's door is always open, and our resolve is as strong as ever. As Jewish people around the world commence Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement this evening, they will recite the famous, ancient Kol Nidre prayer. Like all of the Yom Kippur liturgy, and despite its haunting melody, the theme is one of optimism and hope. The message of Yom Kippur is one of repentance, rectification, re-education, and return. I will be reflecting on how that very message also has resonance within our Party and our politics.

I wish you all an easy fast, Gmar Chatima Tova, and may we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy and healthy year.

In solidarity,

Jeremy Newmark

National Chair
Jewish Labour Movement.

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