Yesterday saw the inaugural one-day conference of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) in its current form. The JLM’s predecessor organisation, Poale Zion, hosted a conference many moons ago, but this was the first time the JLM itself had met in one place.
The JLM has a rapidly growing membership which currently stands at around 2,000. It is to be hoped that, in short order, the JLM’s numbers eclipse the 10,000 who once belonged to Poale Zion. Some 150 JLM members were in attendance yesterday, many of whom had travelled great distances to join Jews and non-Jews alike in showing solidarity with the Movement.
From the start, it was clear this was going to be a special event. In the first of two rousing orations he delivered during the day, the Chair of the JLM, Jeremy Newmark, set the scene when he suggested that those members of Poale Zion who had met all those years ago would probably have been shocked by how little progress had been made since in the cause of protecting Britain’s Jews from discrimination.
A packed schedule ran from 9am-5.30pm, with five separate slots, each of which contained several events to choose from. The events included – to name but a few – training about the Labour Party’s rulebook and disciplinary process, an update on Israeli politics, a history of the Jewish Labour Movement and a number of Q&A panels with some of the many Labour politicians who have been allies to the Jewish Labour Movement.
Labour Vision editor, Cllr Sam Stopp, was a panellist at one of the many events, designed to give an update from the blogosphere about current events in the Labour Party. Sam – who told the audience that he was proud Labour Vision had “an explicitly pro-Zionist editorial line” – spoke alongside LabourList’s Peter Edwards, Progress’s Conor Pope, Open Labour’s Jade Azim, and Gabriel Pogrund of the Sunday Times. The event was chaired by Miriam Mirwitch, the chair of London Young Labour.
It was notable that the conference was attended by a large number of non-Jews, who had come as allies to show solidarity with a minority who have been on the receiving end of horrific anti-Semitic abuse both inside and outside of the Labour Party, at an alarming and increasing rate in recent years.
However, there was no siege mentality here. When, near the end of the proceedings, one lady in the audience began her question by saying that she was a member of Momentum and thought she was probably “very alone” among her Jewish Labour comrades, she was greeted with a round of applause. While there are those who aim to silence members of the Jewish Labour Movement, no such totalitarian instinct is present in the organisation itself.
Harsh words were certainly reserved for one or two Labour Party figures who have shown anything but solidarity with victims of anti-Semitism. Labour shadow minister, Chris Williamson MP, who last week repeated the disgusting lie that allegations of anti-Semitism were being whipped up to achieve factional ends, was roundly rebuked by members and MPs alike. So, too, was the disgraced former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, whose continuing membership of the Labour Party is a source of shame to our movement.
But the JLM intends to take the bigots on and to defeat them. Concluding the conference, Jeremy Newmark once again rallied the Movement and implored those present to press the Labour Party to adopt a rule change at Labour Party conference later this month which would automatically exclude anti-Semites from the party. This is a significantly tougher measure than the suspension currently applied to a number of undesirables, such as Ken Livingstone.
The Jewish Labour Movement is growing all the time. Its rallying call – that Jews and non-Jews alike should never be discriminated against due to their religious or cultural background, least of all in the Labour Party – has the support of thousands of JLM members and, it is to be hoped, the hundreds of thousands of Labour members.
To show solidarity with the JLM, you can join the movement here. You do not have to be Jewish to do so, but you do have to have basic socialist instincts, the like of which have been all too absent from a number of vicious bigots in our midst.
If we rally to the JLM as our ancestors rallied at Cable Street and Holbeck Moor, we will once again drive our enemies into obscurity. But if we fail, the moral integrity of the Labour Party will fade away and be lost, perhaps forever.