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JEWISH campaigners backed calls today for the Labour Party leadership to urgently address its “brutal” and “unjust” treatment of a pro-Palestinian Jewish group within the party.
Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) said that Labour’s “malevolent machine,” against the left has been “very painful” for Jewish activists accused of anti-semitism for supporting Palestinian rights.
The group was responding to a letter sent by former shadow chancellor John McDonnell to Labour leader Keir Starmer and general secretary David Evans last week.
In it, he said the treatment of JVL members by Labour had been “disregarding, disrespectful, at times uncaring, even brutal, and, some have argued, has amounted to discrimination.”
He claimed that the recent Forde report into allegations of bullying, racism and sexism within Labour, published last month, showed that the party had “abused” disciplinary processes for “factional purposes,” including to target members of JVL.
Mr McDonnell noted that there had been a disproportionate number of JVL members suspended, expelled and disciplined.
Out of 54 Jewish members of the party subjected to disciplinary proceedings, 47 belonged to JVL, he said, adding that JVL were 35 times more likely to face investigations than other members of the party.
Mr McDonnell said the Forde report also shows failures in the party’s disciplinary processes, demonstrating that JVL members who faced punishments should have them rescinded or given the right to have their cases reviewed under a reformed procedure.
He called on Sir Keir to “urgently address” the “injustice meted out to JVL and its members.”
JVL was formed in 2017 when Jeremy Corbyn was Labour leader with aims including standing up for the “rights and justice for Jewish people everywhere, and against wrongs and injustice to Palestinians and other oppressed people anywhere.”
JVL said yesterday it welcomed Mr McDonnell’s bid to pressure Sir Keir to act on the findings of Martin Forde QC’s inquiry into the contents and leaking of an internal Labour dossier in 2020.
The shocking report found that senior Labour staff had “covertly” diverted funds towards “largely anti-Corbyn MPs” and concluded that there was an “undoubted overt and underlying racism and sexism apparent in some of the content of the WhatsApp messages between the party’s most senior staff.”
JVL co-founder Mike Cushman told the Star: “It has been very painful for so many of our Jewish members to be accused of anti-semitism merely for believing that the current Israeli state is oppressing Palestinians and breaking international law and human rights conventions on a daily basis — or just for questioning what the party calls its successful anti-racism campaign.
“It is worse when these accusations are made and left hanging for months or even years.
“Forde doesn’t tell us if this is because of incompetence or from a deliberate policy of hurt and humiliation. Either is unacceptable.”
Mr McDonnell’s letter refers to three cases which he says highlight the “harsh brutality” of the treatment against JVL members. They include Michael Howard, whose family had fled the pogroms in Lithuania and Poland and who was suspended after 40 years of party membership on the basis of anonymous anti-semitism allegations.
Mr Howard died last November after an appeal against his suspension was ignored, Mr McDonnell said. “It’s hard to appreciate fully the distressing impact this type of allegation can have on a member of the Jewish community and a lifelong socialist like Mike,” he said.
Mr Cushman said the party’s failure to acknowledge Mr Howard’s appeal or his death “should be beyond belief.
“Such callous behaviour added greatly to the distress of his family at their difficult time,” he said.
Labour said in response to Mr McDonnell’s letter: “We’re proud of the changes that have been made under Keir Starmer and David Evans’s leadership but there is no room for complacency so we will always look at ways to improve our culture and practice to support all protected characteristics.”
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