A call to expel Jewish activists from Labour was greeted with cheers at a packed fringe meeting at the party’s conference in Brighton.
Members of the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel were targeted at the meeting today, held by the Free Speech on Israel group, and chaired by leading Jewish anti-Zionist Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi.
Wimborne-Idrissi, who won a standing ovation on Monday morning when, speaking in the international debate, she told Conference: “There is no problem with Jews in the Labour Party”.
Keynote speaker at the meeting was Miko Peled, a Jerusalem-born anti-Zionist who lives in America. His book, The General’s Son, describes his change of heart from growing up in the family of one of Israel’s most decorated soldiers, General Matti Peled.
Today, sporting a large pink Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions badge, Miko Peled and his enthusiastic audience roamed through every anti-Israel trope in the canon, from refusing to call Israel “Israel”, but rather “Palestine”, to concluding his remarks with “We can speak about the Holocaust, yes or no” — as though there were a choice in the matter.
Peled made a series of claims about the spending power of “the Zionists”, including a suggestion that “every person standing for city council in America gets a five star trip to Israel, all expenses paid”. “Billions” had been invested in a campaign to “silence the Palestinian voice”, he said.
Repeatedly calling Israel an “apartheid” state, Peled, whose grandfather was one of the signatories to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, said that the Jewish state was “a racist and colonialist project” whose edifice, he had seen on recent visits, was “crumbling”.
Salma Karmi-Ayoub, the former chair of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, dated the campaign against Palestinians back to the 2001 Durban anti-racism conference in 2001. She said that Israel was “trying to silence the discussion about its legitimacy as a state”.
But it was a call from Michael Kalmanovitz, of the “International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network” for the Jewish Labour Movement and the Labour Friends of Israel to be expelled from the Labour Party which galvanised the crowd. “What are JM and LFI doing in our Party?” he asked. “It’s time we campaigned to kick them out”. A member of the audience complained bitterly that JLM had received an award on Sunday for “best practice,” and, in keeping with other comments made about the right wing of Labour allying itself with the Zionist movement, saId that the JLM leaders had received their award from Labour’s General Secretary Ian McNichol, and that he and JLM should be condemned. Many on the left of the party have attacked Mr McNichol, particularly for his role in suspending perceived anti-Semites from the party.
Jennifer Gerber, director of LFI, said: “It’s. beyond disgraceful that at Labour Party Conference there have been calls to expel LFI an JLM from the party. Supporting the world’s only Jewish state is a mainstream and longstanding Labour position, We hope the Labour Party leadership acts swiftly to condemn those who seek to bully pro-Israel and Jewish members out of the party”.