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A loss of confidence: the real reason why Momentum removed Jackie Walker

Rooting out anti-semitism on the left should be a duty for all of us and does not contradict solidarity with Palestine. JON LANSMAN argues that the Star got it wrong

YOUR editorial, “Stand up to Witch-Hunt” on Wednesday March 5, was an unwarranted attack on Momentum, Britain’s largest grassroots organisation of the left, which underpinned the campaign that so recently won an increased mandate for Jeremy Corbyn.

Written on the anniversary of Cable Street of all days, it failed to take seriously Jeremy Corbyn’s determination to rooting out the evil of anti-semitism.

It contained a number of factual errors, even larger errors of judgement, made an accusation of “political cowardice and confusion” and did so without speaking to anyone from Momentum.

Your editorial treats the removal or Jackie Walker as vice-chair of Momentum as if it were about the struggle of the Palestinian people for statehood, justice and an end to Israeli occupation. It is not. Nor is it based on any disagreement about definitions of anti-semitism.

It was solely based on a loss of confidence arising from her behaviour that was seen as irresponsible.

Members of the Momentum Steering Group did consider her remarks on Holocaust Memorial Day and on the security of Jewish schools to be ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive though not anti-semitic. Inevitably, many people will also have seen these remarks in the context of earlier comments she had made.

None of these comments were related to Israel or Palestine. They have, however, made Jackie a focus of media attention especially on issues relating to anti-semitism, which should have lead Jackie to consider carefully whether to intervene in such discussions and to show great care if she did so.

The media focus on the issue of anti-semitism has undermined the Labour Party in many ways.

It has made many people reticent to raise issues of Palestinian rights or to make criticisms of Israeli government policy.
But no act of anti-semitism can be ignored.

By commissioning the Chakrabarti report and in his speech at conference, Jeremy Corbyn has made very clear the importance he attaches to the fight against “prejudice and hatred of Jewish people.”

It may be that some false allegations of anti-semitism are made and that those who are hostile to the party have exaggerated the extent of anti-semitism in Labour ranks, but there is anti-semitism on the left and we must root it out.

Unfortunately, the removal of Jackie Walker has revealed the anti-semitism that persists on the left as abuse from some who disagree with the decision is directed at those involved who happen to be Jewish, and even at Jews who were not involved.

There is, fortunately, very broad support for rooting out anti-semitism within the labour movement, just as there is also for promoting the cause of Palestinian rights.

The Morning Star should join with Momentum supporters in both.

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