Young progressive Jews quit the Labour Party this week after deciding that the re-election of controversial National Executive Committee member Pete Willsman was the final straw.
On Tuesday morning, a day after Willsman was comfortably re-elected to the party’s ruling body, at least four left-wing Jews resigned their membership, in yet another sign of deteriorating relations between the party and the Jewish community.
Among those leaving was Amos Schonfield, who represents Yachad at the Board of Deputies. He said he had put up with the community’s criticism, but that being a Jewish member of the Labour Party was now “a badge of shame”.
Others leaving included Schonfield’s fellow Yachad activist Noah Libson, trainee lawyer Ella Taylor, and trainee social worker Joe Grabiner.
Willsman apologised after Labour’s last NEC meeting, in which he was recorded ranting about Jews who were “Trump fanatics” and demanding 70 rabbis produce “evidence of widespread anti-Semitism in the Labour Party”. Left-wing grassroots group Momentum subsequently withdrew its support for him.
Tweeting about his decision to leave, Schonfield said: “Being a Jewish member of @UKLabour was once a source of pride for me, but as with many in my position it is now a badge of shame. The election of Pete Willsman, with 70,000+ votes, is the end for me.”
He said those who voted for Willsman “saw hating Jews as secondary to his faction and his politics,” adding: “It has become increasingly clear that both the leadership and the rank-and-file of the Party holds me and fellow Jews in contempt.”
Being a Jewish member of @UKLabour was once a source of pride for me, but as with many in my position it is now a badge of shame. The election of Peter Willsman to the NEC, with 70000+ votes, is the end for me.
— Amos Schonfield • עמוס שנפלד • عموس شونفيلد (@AJSchonfield) September 4, 2018
Taylor said she had been “trolled, marginalised, undermined and mocked” on social media for being Jewish, adding: “It is not just a ‘fringe’ on the left. It is the leadership, the national executive and the likes of Clive Lewis and Angela Rayner…”
(1) Upon hearing the news of Peter Willsman election to the NEC I am withdrawing my membership of the Labour Party.
I have been a member for nearly 8 years – before I could even vote.
— Ella (@EllaTay) September 3, 2018
Libson said: “Peter Willsman’s re-election, coupled with reflecting over the summer, has made me think that being a Labour member isn’t comparable with being a proud Jew, and that is a horrific state of affairs.” He added: “We need a change in attitude from the leadership, or failing that, a change in leadership itself.”
I have given it a lot of thought, and I have left the Labour Party. Peter Willsman's election coupled with reflecting over the summer has made me think that being a Labour member isn't comparable with being a proud Jew, and that is a horrific state of affairs. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/8eFMwMT8Xy
— Noah Libson (@noahslibson) September 4, 2018
Grabiner wrote: “In deciding if (and when) to leave the Labour Party I told myself I’d wait to see if the unambiguous anti-Semite Willsman was re-elected to the NEC. He was. I’m out. Now I’ve got a spare £12 to spend on cream-cheese related products. Result.”
In deciding if (and when) to leave the Labour Party I told myself I'd wait to see if unambiguous antisemite Willsman was reelected to the NEC. He was. I'm out. Now I've got a spare £12 to spend on cream-cheese-related goods. Result.
— Joe Grabiner (@joegrabiner) September 3, 2018