Formby: Don’t use antisemitic language when raising ‘injustices’ of Palestinians
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Labour conferenceGen Sec's warning

Formby: Don’t use antisemitic language when raising ‘injustices’ of Palestinians

Labour's general secretary urges members to use appropriate language when supporting Palestine to not cross over into antisemitism

Gen Sec Jennie Formby
Gen Sec Jennie Formby

Labour general secretary Jennie Formby has insisted members must be free to raise the “terrible injustices” faced by Palestinians but warned against anti-Semitic language.

Speaking at the party’s conference in Liverpool, the senior party official acknowledged headlines on anti-Semitism have made for “very hard reading” but said Labour has made “significant progress” in dealing with it.

Ms Formby told delegates: “There is of course no place for anti-Semitism anywhere in our movement or in our society, and we will always take action where it’s identified.

“Our party is nothing if we don’t stand united against oppression and in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters. Equally, we recognise the most frequent complaints arise when issues of Israel and Palestine are discussed.

“So we must ensure our members have the tools and language to be able to debate those vitally important issues. We will not allow the voices of Palestinian people to be silenced and members must be able to speak out about the terrible injustices that they face.

“But freedom of expression does not mean freedom to be anti-Semitic, and it’s our responsibility to ensure members understand what is and is not acceptable.”

Ms Formby said more detailed “political education and training materials” will be developed in the coming months to help tackle all forms of racism, including Islamophobia.

She added: “Something the Tories have failed to tackle in their party, yet they dare to try to take the moral high ground.

“We must never forget that the Tories are the party that has so shamefully betrayed the Windrush generation again and again and again. We’re better than that.”

Ms Formby also made a plea for unity after further criticising the Conservative Party’s record in Government.

She went on: “We have got absolute responsibility to unite to beat this callous and cruel Government, and that means setting an example from the top down, all of us – whether we’re senior officials, MPs, councillors or our huge army of members on the ground.

“We must stand united together and united behind our leader, Jeremy Corbyn.”

Labour MPs lined up to criticise Jeremy Corbyn and union chiefs for failing to properly address anti-Semitism within the movement at a packed rally on the conference fringe.

Dame Louise Ellman told the Jewish Labour Movement meeting it was “disgraceful” that the row was still going on and hit out at the “sinister” actions of trade union chiefs.

She said: “Len McCluskey, the powerful general secretary of Unite who spoke about the Jewish community showing ‘truculent hostility’ – truculent hostility when we speak up against anti-Semitism being displayed against us, what’s that from a major trade union leader?”

She also highlighted PCS chief Mark Serwotka’s suggestion that Israel was behind the anti-Semitism row.

“For major trade union leaders to not only smear the Jewish community and Jewish people for speaking out against anti-Semitism but then trying to blame them for it, I think we are entering into very dangerous waters,” she said.

“They are playing with fire and I call on them to withdraw those appalling statements.”

Ian Austin told the rally: “Let’s have no more of this offensive nonsense that people like me are only complaining about these issues to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, that it has been weaponised to undermine him.”

He added: “The truth about Jeremy is that he is much angrier with the people complaining about anti-Semitism than he is with the people responsible for it.”

Mr Corbyn has got to “stop thinking he is the victim in all of this and he has got to properly explain and apologise for his role and responsibility in the development of this crisis”, the Dudley MP said.

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