Labour set to reject role for JVL in antisemitism education training

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Labour set to reject role for JVL in antisemitism education training

Jewish Labour Movement to continue providing training for Labour members, MPs and trade unionists, despite Forde Report's call for engagement with controversial Jewish Voice for Labour group

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

JVL banner can be seen at a small demonstration outside Labour HQ as groups such as Labour Against The Witch-hunt are banned
JVL banner can be seen at a small demonstration outside Labour HQ as groups such as Labour Against The Witch-hunt are banned

The fringe Jewish Voice For Labour (JVL) group’s attempt to play a more active role in Labour Party training sessions in recognising antisemitism is set to rebuffed, Jewish News has learned.

JVL, who were formed to defend Jeremy Corbyn against allegations of antisemitism in Labour, had hoped to capitalise on the publication of last week’s Forde Report, which suggested engagement with the group.

But Jewish News understands that the Labour leadership will stress that training sessions on the issue being must continue to be delivered by the affiliated Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) organisation.

JLM have carried out training sessions for the past year, as a result of the recommendations contained in the earlier EHRC report into Labour antisemitism, with an action plan that has been fully adopted by the party.

Last week’s report, in which the QC Martin Forde looked into the background to the leaking of a report into antisemitism that attempted to blame factional in-fighting, rather than Corbyn’s leadership, for the crisis, sparked anger within some sections of the Jewish community with its positive reference of JVL.

One section of the report recognised “the key role of JLM as a longstanding affiliate of the Party and welcome the impetus they have provided in setting up antisemitism education.”

The QC led report then added “we are disappointed that there has been a refusal to engage at all with Jewish Voice for Labour’s proposals for antisemitism education and that CLPs are, we are told, not even allowed to enlist their help.”

It sparked fears that JVL, who were set up to deny the extent of antisemitism under Corbyn, and who condemned Labour’s adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Jewish racism, with all examples, were set to play an increased role in training sessions in the future.

JVL activists also played a prominent role in demonstrations outside Labour’s London headquarters against the decision to ban groups deemed to have downplayed or denied antisemitism in the party.

But Jewish News has learned that at the September meeting of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC), all recommendations made by the Forde Report, on areas such as bullying, racism and combating factionalism within the party, will be discussed.

But the reference to JVL was not included as a recommendation in the Forde Report, so there will be no discussion over a further role for the controversial group in relation to antisemitism education in the party.

Senior Labour sources confirm that officials from JVL have repeatedly written to both Keir Starmer, and the party’s general secretary urging them to allow the group to become involved with antisemitism education.

But both Starmer and Evans responded to JVL by informing them that their failure to accept the recommendations of the EHRC’s action plan to tackle antisemitism in the party, along with the group’s failure to accept the IHRA definition of antisemitism, meant they could play no role in the party.

JVL have also attempted to persuade the EHRC and QC Forde that they should have allowed to be involved with Labour’s training.

On Monday, two of JVL’s “professors of education” – Prof Tony Booth and Prof Miriam David – attempted to capitalise on the Report, with a letter published by the Guardian newspaper in which they wrote:”We look forward to engaging with others about how we can heed the urgings of the report to improve education about antisemitism and all other forms of discrimination.”

But one Jewish Labour source said senior figures in Keir Starmer were well aware that JVL represented a “minority” and “much criticised viewpoint” that conflicted with mainstream UK Jewry.

JVL’s chair Jenny Manson told Jewish News:” JVL officers have all suffered antisemitism ourselves and almost all of us have immediate family who faced extinction in the holocaust or in the pogroms of the last century.

“It is extraordinary to suggest we would ever ‘deny’ antisemitism.

“We have never at any time denied that there was some antisemitism in the Labour Party. But we have been very concerned at gross exaggerations of its prevalence.”

In response to the Forde Report, she added:” We have always argued, now backed up by the Forde Report, that adopting a ‘zero tolerance’ approach is not the way to deal with it.

“Although disciplinary action and expulsions may be appropriate in extreme cases, a meaningful educational and awareness-building programme is likely to be more effective.

“The existing top-down didactic training provided by the Jewish Labour Movement is, as Forde makes clear, not ‘in accordance with best practice’.”

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