2019 04 – Stroud Green Branch Forum on Anti-Semitism

For the record

Martha Seale

There is a report in the 2019 March 13th issue of the Jewish Chronicle newspaper about a proposed meeting by the Stroud Green branch of the Labour Party in the borough of Haringey in London to discuss anti-Semitism.

Apparently Stroud Green branch finds that branch meetings leave too little time for in-depth political discussions.  To rectify this situation interested members meet occasionally in a pub to discuss a specific political issue.  To date they have discussed Brexit and knife crime.  Ray Soper the members’ secretary had undertaken to organize the meetings.  A Jewish member of the branch had requested a meeting on anti-Semitism.  The meeting was scheduled to be held on 19th March and, to focus the meeting, Ray Soper had produced a set of questions/topics that he felt might be worth considering.  Here is a copy of the note he sent out about the proposed meeting:

Stroud Green Branch Forum on Anti-Semitism

Draft list of topics for discussion

What is anti-Semitism & what causes it?

  1. What is ‘political anti-Semitism’?
  2. Three things have changed over the past few years: the level of anti-Semitism, awareness of it, and the definition of it. How do these interact?
  3. What does ‘institutional anti-Semitism’ mean?
  4. What does the McPherson principle actually mean? There are very different interpretations of it.
  5. Is anti-Semitism different to other forms of racism? Should it be treated differently? What is happening in Scotland about the definition of hate crime and what can we learn from it?
  6. Is there a link between Israeli military action in Gaza and anti-Semitic hate crime in the UK?
  7. What does ‘self-determination’ mean? Is it anti-Semitic to say that Palestinians have as much right to self-determination as Israelis?
  8. Is it anti-Semitic to say that today Naqba denial is bigger problem than Holocaust denial?
  9. Margaret Hodge recently said that she had personally submitted 200 anti-Semitism cases. But the next day it was revealed that only 20 were labour party members. 20 too many, but does hype help?


Are you an anti-Semite?

  1. What criteria should be used determine anti-Semitism. Should it be strictly the

IHRA definition or is it sufficient to be just really offensive?

  1. Does making an anti-Semitic statement make you ‘an anti-Semite’? Is a pattern of behaviour important?
  2. Does intent matter? Consider people who say “black boys are good dancers”.

Are they racists?

  1. What happens if you replace ‘Jews/Israelis’ in allegedly anti-Semitic comments with another BAME group? Consider the cartoon of Israel transposed to the

USA. Now consider a cartoon of Tottenham or Brixton transposed to Africa as a ‘solution’ to the Tottenham race riots.

  1. Is it ok to joke about Israel? E.g. the Palestinian ‘ambassadors’ quip that then people who know the most about Zionism are the Palestinians, and he had come to the conclusion that God really does favour Israel?
  2. Does denying that the labour party is institutionally anti-Semitic prove that you are anti-Semitic?


The Internet

  1. Hatred seems endemic on the internet. Discussion turns to abuse in an instant. Why?
  2. How do we know who is committing anti-Semitic abuse on the internet?

People assert that much of it is by labour party members but how do they know? (This is intended as a factual question by the way, not a rhetorical one).


How to respond

  1. What type of anti-Semitism deserves what level of sanction (reminder of conduct, suspension, expulsion etc.)?
  2. Do we have any examples of appropriate sanctions?

Rebuilding relations with the ‘mainstream’ Jewish community

  1. What can we do to rebuild trust with the mainstream Jewish community? Is it actually possible?
  2. How can the Labour Party tackle anti-Semitism when many members have not seen it, would not recognise it if they saw it, do not believe that it is rife within the party, and see the current crisis as a campaign to undermine Jeremy or make it impossible to criticise Israel.
  3. What can we learn from the antiracism campaigns of 30 years ago?

The note was sent to all Stroud Green branch members.  It would seem that some members found it offensive and forwarded it to the Jewish Chronicle.  As a result the ward had to cancel the meeting and issue a public apology for any offence given:

Dear Member,

The previously advertised meeting of the branch discussion forum, to take place on Monday 18th or Tuesday 19th March, has been cancelled.

Our intention was to facilitate an informal discussion which could increase awareness and understanding about antisemitism, and a discussion about how we can combat this vile prejudice, but we realise that some of the questions accompanying the notice of the meeting were offensive and insensitive.

We wholeheartedly and sincerely apologise to the Jewish community.

Yours in solidarity,

Stroud Green Branch Labour Party


It is surely a reflection of the times that the Jewish Chronicle can report with evident satisfaction that an informal meeting which might have led to a better understanding of the issue of anti-Semitism had been cancelled.  I suspect the Jewish Chronicle feared that the discussion group would conclude that anti-Semitism was not a significant problem in the Labour Party and that it was just being used as a tool to undermine Corbyn because, under Corbyn, the Labour Party will likely be much more critical of the policies of the Israeli state in the Middle East.