Momentum chief: It’s ‘completely wrong’ to suggest anti-Semitism row created by Zionists

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Limmud 2016

Momentum chief: It’s ‘completely wrong’ to suggest anti-Semitism row created by Zionists

In an exclusive interview with Jewish News, Jon Lansman opens up about Labour anti-Semitism problem, Ken Livingstone and the fate of the party

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Momentum's former chief Jon Lansman  (Photo Credit: Eli Gaventa)
Momentum's former chief Jon Lansman (Photo Credit: Eli Gaventa)

The founder of the grassroots group that helped propel Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership has condemned anti-Israel Jews who blame allegations of anti-Semitism on ‘Zionists” – as he insisted he “can’t see any good reason” why it’s taken so long to determine Ken Livingstone’s fate in the party.

Momentum chief Jon Lansman was speaking to Jewish News after taking part in two panels on his first visit to Limmud, setting out why Jews should support Labour under Corbyn.

While he acknowledged there was a problem of anti-Semitism in the party, he claimed the row had been “exaggerated” and there was a “gap between perception and reality”. But he added: “I think the suggestion that the row about anti-Semitism has been organised by Zionists is completely wrong. Jewish anti-Zionists are entitled to their point of view about Zionism but are not helping Palestinian or themselves in claiming the row is part of a Zionist conspiracy. It is not. To the extent that those things have been exaggerated, which I think they have been, it is by people who are hostile to the Labour Party.”

The report from Shami Chakrabarti was “a start” but “there’s more to do”, he insisted. “Jeremy’s got to show he understands the need for it and I think he’s doing that.” But he added: “One of the things that disappoints me is that the Chakrabarti report made a number of recommendations to improve the procedures – to make them more transparent, make sure they abide by the principles of natural justice – but those haven’t been properly implemented yet.”

Left to right: Momentum chief Jon Lansman, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement Jeremy Newmark and Luke Akehurst, a Labour activist and director of 'We Believe in Israel' (Photo Credit: Eli Gaventa)
Left to right: Momentum chief Jon Lansman, chair of the Jewish Labour Movement Jeremy Newmark and Luke Akehurst, a Labour activist and director of ‘We Believe in Israel’ (Photo Credit: Eli Gaventa)

Lansman condemned Livingstone when he was suspended in April after claiming Hitler supporting Zionism “before he went mad” – but it is not known when his long-term fate will be decided by the party’s constitutional committee. Lansman said “I don’t know why it’s taking so long. I can’t see any particularly good reason for it” but he “trusts” the final judgement will confirm the end of the former mayor’s political career.

On a personal level, he is “concerned and sorry” about revelations concerning anti-Semitism but insisted it didn’t stop his determination to work for a more equal Britain. “To the extent there are cases of anti-Semitism I take that extremely seriously, as does Labour and Jeremy. It was hard for a party that values its history of fighting all forms of racism including anti-Semitism that it had people with anti-Semitic attitudes in the party. That has been a very tough lesson. It surprised and shocked people in the party. I think almost certainly there are more incidences of anti-Semitism in the tory party.”

He expressed hope relations between the party and the Jewish community can be repaired. “In a world where the far right is on the rise in the US and throughout Europe there are many reasons for hoping that we will resolve the strains in the relationship. I think that in the general election very many people will vote for the Labour party because have always shown in the way they voted concern for social justice and equality.”

Lansman said he received a “very welcoming” reception at Limmud. “ I’m sorry I didn’t have time to attend more sessions so I’m planning on going next year,” he added.

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