We write as Jewish members and supporters of the Labour Party in support of Ken Livingstone. We do not find the disciplinary charges brought against him in the name of the NEC to be credible.
Starting in February last year there has been a skilfully delivered campaign to present the Left of the Labour Party as riddled with antisemitism, a charge which we can refute based on many years of accumulated experience. The motivations for this campaign have been widely discussed, and we do not intend to address them here. It is sufficient to say that contesting antisemitism has clearly not been the only or even the main reason for the enthusiasm with which this campaign has been pursued.
To be specific, we do not find Ken Livingstone’s remarks about the Zionist leadership’s involvement in negotiating the ‘Ha’avarah’ (Transfer) agreement with the Nazis in the 1930s in any way antisemitic. This agreement is a historical fact, and it gave vital support to Hitler at a time when his regime was under severe international pressure.
In his interview with Vanessa Feltz in which this remark was made Ken Livingstone was defending Naz Shah from accusations that her social media postings of two years previous were antisemitic. He did not believe this to be so, and neither do we - nor does her subsequent apology make them so. They fall well within the spectrum of reasonable comment on a contentious political issue. (We think it is now well known that the allegedly offensive map she re-tweeted came from a prominent Jewish US academic and activist.) Naz Shah made no expression of hostility to Jews because we are Jews. There is no expression whatsoever of prejudice directed at Jews.
As Jews, we are appalled that such a serious issue as antisemitism is being used in this cynical and manipulative way. It is harmful to Jewish people that false charges of antisemitism are so casually thrown around. The Labour Party should decisively distance itself from this practice.
Over many years the Labour Party in office has contributed consistently to the fight against antisemitism. In particular we pay tribute to the leading role that Ken Livingstone has played in this, both as Leader of the GLC and as Mayor of London.
In sum we believe it would be a travesty if the Labour Party were to find Ken Livingstone guilty of conduct prejudicial or detrimental to the Party. We would urge the Party not to make such a damaging mistake.
Prof. Haim Bresheeth, Hornsey & Wood Green CLP
Ron Cohen, Finchley & Golders Green CLP
Li Doran, Tottenham CLP
Michael Ellman, Islington North CLP
Arye Finkle, Barnet CLP
Murray Glickman, Ilford South CLP
Abe Hayeem, Harrow East CLP
Rosamine Hayeem, Harrow East CLP
Riva Joffe, Holborn and St Pancras CLP
Ann Jungman, Hornsey and Wood Green CLP
David Kaye, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
Marion Kozak, Holborn and St Pancras CLP
Simon Korner, Hackney North CLP
Beverley Krell, Cheadle CLP
Prof. Frank Land, West Devon/Totnes CLP
Ralph Land CBE, Hammersmith & Fulham CLP
Rachel Lever, Hastings & Rye CLP
Susanne Levin, Cities of London & Westminster CLP
Miriam Margolyes OBE, Lambeth CLP
Helen Marks, Liverpool Riverside CLP
Frances Rifkin, Holborn and St Pancras CLP
Steven Mendoza, Twickenham CLP
Glyn Secker, Dulwich and West Norwood CLP
Angie Mindel, Nottingham East CLP
Prof. Mica Nava, Islington North CLP
Leon Rosselson, affiliated Labour Party member via Musicians’ Union
Prof. Donald Sassoon, Islington South and Finsbury CLP
Amanda Sebestyen, Holborn & St Pancras CLP
Sam Semoff, Liverpool Riverside CLP
Prof. Avi Shlaim, Oxford West and Abingdon CLP
Prof. Annabelle Sreberny, Islington North CLP
Sam Weinstein, Hampstead & Kilburn CLP
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