Political rule #1: Never criticize Jews.
Jackie Walker has been removed from her position as vice chair of Momentum following widespread criticism of her comments about antisemitism and Holocaust Memorial Day.
A statement from Momentum’s steering committee said Walker, a Kent-based activist, had been stripped of her role following a vote at a meeting on Monday evening.
But a statement from the committee said she was not deemed to have made any antisemitic comments and remained a member of Momentum and the steering committee.
The statement also condemned as “unacceptable” that a video of Walker making her contentious comments was given to the press, and argued that she should not be expelled from the Labour party.
Walker had previously been suspended from the party after she wrote about Jewish people as “financiers of the sugar and slave trade”, but was then reinstated.
Then last week, during Momentum’s inaugural gathering-meets-festival. which ran in parallel to the official Labour conference in Liverpool, Walker was heavily criticised by the head of the Jewish Labour Movement for arguing that the problem of antisemitism in the party had been deliberately exaggerated to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, who is backed by the grassroots campaign group.
Later in the week, footage emerged of Walker criticising Holocaust Memorial Day at a Labour party antisemitism training session and taking issue with the definition of antisemitism.
“In terms of Holocaust Day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day was open to all people who experienced Holocaust?” Walker was heard telling organisers at the event. Holocaust Memorial Day is intended to commemorate all victims of the Nazi Holocaust and other genocides, including the atrocities in Bosnia and Rwanda.
Walker said that was not how she viewed the event. “In practice, it’s not actually circulated and advertised as such,” she said. “I was looking for information and I still haven’t heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with.”
At the same event Walker questioned why Jewish schools needed particular security to protect themselves from possible attack.
In the wake of the comments, and criticism of them, Walker was again suspended by Labour and Momentum’s steering committee met to consider her fate. A statement on Monday said she had been removed as vice chair by a vote of seven to three.
Walker’s comments around the Labour conference and in TV interviews at the time “and by not understanding concern caused by her statements, have led the steering committee to view her behaviour as irresponsible and lose confidence in her as vice chair,” the statement said.
It continued: “Having read reports of what Jackie Walker is alleged to have said, listened to the leaked video and heard Jackie’s version of events, the committee does not regard any of the comments she appears to have made, taken individually, to be antisemitic.
“However, the committee does consider her remarks on Holocaust Memorial Day and on security of Jewish schools to be ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive. In such circumstances, the committee feels that Jackie should have done more to explain herself to mitigate the upset caused and should have been careful about statements on this and related subjects, whatever her record as an anti-racist, which the committee applauds.”
Momentum was “concerned” that footage of the training session was passed to the press, the statement said, adding: “The leak is unacceptable and undermines much needed political education.”
It finished: “On the basis of the evidence the committee has seen, Jackie should not be expelled from the Labour party.”
Published on May 21, 2016
Afshin Rattansi goes underground with Jackie Walker from British grassroots activist group Momentum, who gives her first international exclusive TV interview since being suspended for alleged anti-Semitism by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.