A statement from the Labour Party Socialist Network on Jackie Walker and Momentum

The Labour Party Socialist Network is opposed to the suspension of Jackie Walker from the Labour Party and is opposed to the moves from sections of the Momentum leadership to remove her from her position as Vice-Chair of Momentum.

The calls for her removal clearly originated with those who have their own anti-Corbyn, anti-Momentum agenda. It is pushed by those who want to stop any critical discussion about the role of the Israeli government in its treatment of the Palestinians.

Supporters of Israeli policies towards the Palestinians want to curtail any such criticism by equating it with anti-Semitism, by equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Such criticism does not equate.

It should not be forgotten that the issue arose because someone has released a film of the discussion at what everyone present thought would be a private meeting of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) in which there could be open and honest engagement on potentially controversial subjects. Those responsible have deliberately manipulated their recording to manufacture maximum embarrassment for Momentum and Corbyn and hostility towards Jackie Walker.

A careful viewing of the film clip shared on the Huffington Post reveals that there is no basis for the accusation that Jackie said anything at the meeting that was anti-Semitic. We do not believe that she is anti-Semitic.

We cannot agree with those on the left who have rushed to condemn her comments as being anti-Semitic and have called for her to be removed as Vice-Chair of Momentum on that basis, instead of confronting these unfounded allegations.

Initially, some in the leadership of Momentum, without first notifying Jackie of their intentions, went to the press to call for her removal as Vice Chair. There has still been no formal notification to the Steering Committee that it will meet this coming Monday to discuss the issue.

Now, apparently, those seeking to remove Jackie have said that there is to be no disciplinary action taken against her within Momentum.

Presumably this is because it is accepted that she did not say anything that could be considered anti-Semitic. If this is so, then why is there a continued determination to remove her as Vice-Chair? It can only be to appease her accusers. But they will not be appeased. They will want more.

Why has she been suspended (again) by the Labour Party? The Labour Party’s right-wing Compliance Unit has clearly been encouraged by the stance taken by sections of Momentum’s leadership.

Do those calling for Jackie’s removal not understand that this is a political attack on the left; an attempt to undermine Momentum? If Jackie is removed today those who have initiated this attack will be back for another target tomorrow, and another the day after.

Whatever one’s views on Jackie’s comments at the JLM event, she should be defended against these attacks. We must protect free speech and the right to be critical. There is no place for hatred or hostility towards Jews within the Labour Party or anywhere else. But honest criticism of political positions or clumsy questioning do not constitute such.

The controversial issues of Israeli policy, of Zionism, of Israeli-Palestinian relations and of the rights of the Palestinian people are extremely contested in society and especially in the Labour movement. If we are to make any headway on these or any other subjects we must ensure that we protect open, honest, rational and critical but comradely discussion.