Momentum founder Jon Lansman sought to set out red lines of good faith at the JLM conference on Sunday by telling his audience that he had come “to express solidarity with all Jews in the Labour Party”, particularly those Jewish women who had suffered antisemitism.
But only hours after his appearance he was involved in a bitter Twitter row with Progress director Richard Angell, who accused Mr Lansman of “throwing Jeremy Corbyn under a bus” because of a throwaway joke the Moment activist had made about the Labour leader’s “commitment to lifelong learning”.
Mr Lansman had been responding to questions about education and training in relation to antisemitism and said that this was the way to deal with the issue. He said: “I think there’s always a place for education and training in everyone’s lives”. Later, in what he said was a lighthearted comment, at which the audience laughed, Mr Lansman said “Jeremy has a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning”.
But Mr Lansman accused Mr Angell of conflating the two remarks and presenting them as though he had suggested that Mr Corbyn required education on antisemitism. In an angry tweet directed at Mr Angell, he said: “This is what I said. Your versions are lies, distortion and fake news in your factional battle. (((Not the way to fight Antisemitism))).”
During his panel appearance, Mr Lansman, easily the main attraction for the audience, said he had been very struck by the absence of blue-and-white [Israeli] flags at the first “Dayenu” demonstration held by the Jewish community. This, he believed, “showed that there was no contradiction between fighting antisemitism and supporting Palestinian rights. There is no contradiction between fighting for the end of the occupation and the right of Israel to be a safe place of refuge should we ever need it”.
Fellow-panellist Stephanie Lloyd, deputy director of Progress, spent time shaking her head as Mr Lansman attempted to explain why he had not initially condemned NEC member Pete Willsman over his remarks about “Jewish Trump fanatics” and questioning the background of the “70 rabbis” who had attacked antisemitism in the party.
Ms Lloyd said: “I am not prepared to sit by while Labour slips into a cesspit of hate”.
But Mr Lansman appeared unable to explain why it was acceptable for Mr Willsman to have rejected the option of education and training on antisemitism.
Later, Dame Louise Ellman expressed astonishment that members of Frank Field’s constituency party had rejected training from the Jewish Labour Movement on the grounds of the JLM’s alleged links with Israel and ISIS.