UK Labour Party Member Allegedly Called ‘Foreign Agent’ for Opposing Motion Attacking Jewish Advocacy Group
A Labour Party member in east London said he and others were called foreign agents during a party meeting on Monday evening for opposing a resolution condemning the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD), and heard members make “multiple antisemitic tropes.”
Alex Holmes, vice chairperson of the party’s Ilford South branch, said in a tweet on Monday that it had been “the worst Labour party meeting I have ever attended.”
Tonight was the worst Labour party meeting I have ever attended. A member accused me and others of being 'agents of a foreign power' as they proposed a motion attacking the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Me and a Jewish member spoke against the motion, but the motion passed.
— Alex Holmes (@alexcholmes) January 13, 2020
“A member accused me and others of being ‘agents of a foreign power’ as they proposed a motion attacking the Board of Deputies of British Jews,” he recounted. “Me and a Jewish member spoke against the motion, but the motion passed.”
“Their motion claimed that there was ‘no antisemitism in the Labour Party’ and the proposers used multiple antisemitic tropes to make their point that the Board of Deputies is a ‘Tory organisation’ ‘illegally interfering in the Labour leadership contest,'” he added.
The incident came following the recent endorsement by a majority of Labour leadership hopefuls of “10 pledges” put forward by the BoD, the main representative body for British Jews. The initiative seeks to repair ties between the left-wing party and the British Jewish community, which frayed dramatically during the tenure of Labour’s socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn, who led it to a decisive defeat in December’s general elections.
The pledges call on the party to, in part, swiftly resolve outstanding complaints against antisemitism, process those complaints through an “independent provider,” and engage with the Jewish community through mainstream representative groups — “not through fringe organizations and individuals,” an apparent reference to smaller anti-Zionist outfits like Jewish Voice for Labour, which formed in 2017 and has largely rejected claims of institutional antisemitism in the party.
In a later tweet on Tuesday, Holmes said individual comments party members made while presenting the motion on Monday evening seemed “indistinguishable” from the actual proposed text, as no copies of the motion were provided to participants.
According to screenshots shared on Tuesday by Jewish Chronicle reporter Lee Harpin, the motion did not deny antisemitism in Labour, but did call on the party’s candidates to reject “interference” by the BoD and “review any decisions to sign the pledges and urge any candidates that have not thus far signed to reject their demands.”
— lee harpin (@lmharpin) January 14, 2020
“[T]he pledges breach free speech and human rights, and do not include all forms of racism,” the text read. “They do not represent the diversity that exists in our branch of the country as a whole.”
The motion also claimed the BoD “has been consistent in its support for the Conservative party,” making no criticism of Boris Johnson’s “racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic mindset.”
According to Harpin, about 30 people attended the meeting in which the motion passed.
Responding to Holmes’ tweet on Tuesday, the BoD said it is “profoundly saddened to see yet another example of the hatred which has infested parts of Labour.”
“Our sympathies are with those decent, upstanding members of the party who are determined to fight such insidious bigotry,” the group added.