‘The wrong kind of Jew’: Labour suspends Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Moshé Machover

“People who claim to care about civil liberties, human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and so on – all those people should be up in arms about what’s been happening to Jeremy Corbyn and his associates in the Labour Party. So far they’re silent. There are so many people who have just ceased to care about truth and facts.

This is very hard to counter when the mainstream media themselves do not show respect for actual truth and actual facts in some cases. The media has totally sidelined and ignored left-wing Jews.

Not only left-wing Jews, eminent Jewish scholars who have written extensively on the subject of antisemitism in the Labour Party, and demonstrated that the definition that is being pushed to define what is ‘antisemitic’ is untrustworthy, faulty, actually dangerous because it conflates being Jewish with being a supporter of Israel; being Jewish with being a Zionist.”

— Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

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On November 25th, Double Down News broadcast an interview with Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, the vice-chair of Chingford and Woodford Green Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and a co-founder of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL). I have embedded the conversation above which is accompanied by a complete transcript that can be read in the addendum below.

A week later Wimborne-Idrissi was suspended alongside constituency chairman Gary Lafley on the pretext that they were in breach of party rules for considering a motion that had challenged the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn.

Clarification: The true reason for the suspensions has since been reported by Jewish Voice for Labour:

Contrary to media reports, our meeting did not debate any motion that contravened General Secretary David Evan’s proscriptions about “competent business” and we do not know the reasons for the suspension of our chair and vice-chair.

We can only assume that it is the content of their speeches that has led to their suspension, both of which are now in the public domain and can be seen on links above.

Click here to view Gary Lefley and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi’s contributions.

And here to read the full JVL article entitled “Chingford & Woodford Green members support suspended CLP officers published on Wednesday 9th December.

Further update: On December 9th, Novara Media’s Michael Walker spoke with Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi about her suspension and what happens next in the disciplinary procedure. They also discussed the reasons behind the foundation and the subsequent demonisation of JVL:

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Meanwhile, another prominent left-wing Jewish Labour activist, Moshé Machover, has also been suspended from the party. Machover was briefly expelled from the Labour Party in autumn 2017 during the time Iain McNicol had been Labour’s General Secretary and in light of the publication of an article by Machover entitled “Anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism” that Labour’s Head of Disputes claimed: “appears to meet the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.” 1 When there was an outcry from Labour members his expulsion was soon after rescinded.

Following his latest suspension, Machover has decided to publish the letter he received on November 30th, “Notice of administrative suspension from membership of the Labour Party” as well as the Covering letter  from the Labour Party Governance and Legal Unit. He writes:

The covering letter says, “The Labour Party’s investigation process operates confidentially. That is vital to ensure fairness to you and the complainant, and to protect the rights of all concerned under the Data Protection Act 2018. We must therefore ask you to ensure that you keep all information and correspondence relating to this investigation private, and that you do not share it with third parties or the media (including social media).”

I disobey the anonymous inquisitors’  instruction, because I believe that these matters are best discussed in public, in the open, not in the secrecy that they desire. I publish, and let them be damned. I am not going to dignify their letter with a direct response, but allow readers of this open letter to make their own judgment.

I will only make here some brief remarks relating to the said attached documents.

1. The documents do not disclose any details of the complainant(s), and I waive my own right to anonymity. However, I have lightly redacted the Notice of Suspension in order to protect the privacy of a couple of individuals’ names and their identifying details. Most names that appear in this document are mentioned within texts that are in the public domain, and hence are already publicly known. However, there are two individuals named on p. 3 of this document that are not mentioned within such a text. They are individuals with whom the inquisitors apparently wish to insinuate that I am associated, and guilty by virtue of this association. One of them, whose name is redacted as xxxx, is known to me as a political adversary, against whose views I have publicly polemicised. The other, whose name is redacted as yyyy, is totally unknown to me; I had never heard of him before reading this document. I disclaim any association with either of them.

2. The long list of 48 inquisitorial questions and insinuations that take up pp. 3–7 of the Notice of Suspension do not contain any specific explicit direct accusation. They are phrased so as to prompt me to incriminate myself, or try to defend myself against what I appear to be implicitly accused of. I refuse to play this game. I literally have no case to answer.

3. This list is followed by ten items of so-called “evidence”. The first two items are intended to suggest an association with xxxx and yyyy. This suggestion is false. The remaining eight items are texts that I have published or co-signed, or quotations form what I said in public. I stand by these utterances. In fact I urge you to read them carefully and make up your mind whether any of them are false or otherwise illegitimate. You may disagree with some of the views I have expressed, but I claim that in pronouncing them I have made legitimate use of my freedom of speech, which includes the right to express controversial views.

He adds:

I Joined the Labour Party in 2016, when it opened its doors to socialists – who are, by definition, anti-imperialists. I regret I am now among the numerous victims of a purge driven by right-wing heresy hunters, bureaucratic enemies of free speech . But at least I can use this occasion to promote the views I have been advocating for many years; in particular, socialist opposition to the Zionist project of colonisation and the Jewish-supremacist regime of the Israeli settler state. For a start, I urge you to read my three articles referred to in Item 7 of the Notice of Suspension. Two of them are available online:

‘Messianic Zionism: The ass and the red heifer (Monthly Review, February 2020).

*  ‘Weaponising “anti-Semitism”’ (Weekly Worker 23 April 2020).

The third article, ‘An immoral dilemma: The trap of Zionist propaganda’ (Journal of Palestine Studies Vol. XLVII, No. 4, Summer 2018 ) can be downlaoded from the link here.

If you wish to pursue these ideas further, you can find many of my articles archived in

The Israeli Occupation Archive and the archive of the Weekly Worker.

I dare to hope that as a growing number of people are exposed to views challenging the lies of the mainstream media and Israeli hasbarah, resistance to oppression and support for the oppressed will gain force.

Click here to find Moshé Machover’s full statement on the Jewish Voice for Labour website.

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Addendum: Full transcript of DDN broadcast featuring Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

Not a proper Jew. The wrong sort of Jew. Self-hating Jew. I was called that for the first time when I was nineteen years old at university where I made a speech in defence of a pro-Palestinian motion – and it was in the Jewish Telegraph, and they front-paged it: This self-hating Jew; she must hate herself when she looks in the mirror. I was nineteen years old.

I have had people phone me up and say ‘we’re going to put you in a wheelchair. We know where you are. We’re outside your door.’ Probably the worst incident was when I was with my sister at a meeting about antisemitism with all Jews on the panel, and people were shouting at us: ‘Kapos, Kapos!’

Kapo was a Jewish inmate of a concentration camp who collaborated with the authorities. We’re talking about people who collaborated in annihilation of their own people. So it’s a pretty bad thing to be called. And it’s Jews calling other Jews: not nice.

As a Jew on the left and who is intensely anti-racist and intensely aware of what antisemitism is, and how dangerous it is, to be called an antisemite oneself is about as low as it gets. It’s a bit like being accused of paedophilia or something. I cannot really think of anything worse.

And it undermines the fight against real antisemitism – this is one of the most frightening things for me [that] people have been weaponising accusations of antisemitism for political ends. The fact that that is going on seriously undermines and endangers our chances of dealing with genuine antisemitism, which is a real threat in our society.

One of the biggest problems we face is the treatment of our community as if it was just one monolithic block. This is a typical trope of all forms of racism.

The Jewish community is not one undifferentiated thing. Its opinions vary, just like every other section of the community. And we find it deeply disturbing that the whole community is treated as one.

A lot of us are anti-Zionists and people need to realise that going back generations Zionism was not the creed followed by all Jews; far from it.

Marek Edelman, leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943, said that Jews should always be with the oppressed and never with the oppressor. And for a section of the population whose history – much that is magical and wonderful, but some much that is to do with persecution – the fact that people with that history should identify with the oppressed setting seems self-evident to us.

And that’s where our support for justice for Palestinians comes in. We are identifying with the oppressed. And for anybody to suggest it is the Israeli state which represents the oppressed in that conflict is pretty short-sighted and misguided.

Jeremy Corbyn was the reason that more than 300,000 new people flocked into the Labour Party at the end of 2015 and soon after. To have someone leading that party who was in solidarity with the oppressed against the oppressor consistently throughout his thirty-plus years as a Member of Parliament was just such a breath of fresh air. Somebody who clearly wanted to transform society. Who really wanted to tackle privilege and inequality in society.

It was hopeful time for us and it was a project that we thought was worth fighting for. And it needed defending because all those people who have a vested interest in putting a negative to everything positive that Jeremy said and did, they were mobilising against him and what he represented.

One of the most ludicrous allegations against Jeremy Corbyn was that he exhibited antisemitism in chairing a meeting in 2010 in Portcullis House where the main speaker was a holocaust survivor from the Netherlands called Hajo Meyer.

I was at that meeting and what Hajo did was to put on the screen comparisons between the treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the treatment of Jews in areas occupied by the Nazis. And there were uncanny and very unnerving similarities between the way these two communities were treated by the occupying powers in each case.

[Hajo Meyer:] I saw in Auschwitz that if a dominant group wants to dehumanise others, as the Nazis wanted to dehumanise me, this dominant group must first be dehumanised in a way themselves by diminishing their empathy due to propaganda and indoctrination in order to be able to be as cruel as some were. But the same holds nowadays for Israel.

The most shocking thing for me is the portrayal of that meeting as somehow despicable because we saw a Holocaust survivor comparing his experiences with what he could see happening to Palestinians.

What was horrifying about that meeting was that there were a bunch of really intolerant, bigoted, aggressive, bullying pro-Israel campaigners in that room, who shouted Hajo down. It went on for a long time and lots of us in the audience were sort of saying to Jeremy: can you please call the authorities to get these people out? They are harassing and intimidating and eighty-plus year old Holocaust survivor.

They meeting was pretty well destroyed by them to be honest. Eventually the authorities did have to be called. It was, by the way, a Holocaust memorial event, which was commemorating other forms of oppression as well: so there were speakers from the traveller communities for example, who we hardly got to hear because Hajo Meyer was interrupted so often by these vociferous hecklers. It was intimidating; it really was – to be there – I remember it vividly.

[HM:] Any criticism on the policies of Israel is hampered and made impossible by the terrible trick and crime of Israeli propaganda that any criticism of the politics of Israel is induced by antisemitic feelings.

So it’s very important that we don’t forget to talk about freedom of speech. We are being no-platformed. We are being cancelled. We are being denied the freedom to express legitimate points of view.

People who claim to care about civil liberties, human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and so on – all those people should be up in arms about what’s been happening to Jeremy Corbyn and his associates in the Labour Party. So far they’re silent. There are so many people who have just ceased to care about truth and facts.

This is very hard to counter when the mainstream media themselves do not show respect for actual truth and actual facts in some cases. The media has totally sidelined and ignored left-wing Jews.

Not only left-wing Jews, eminent Jewish scholars who have written extensively on the subject of antisemitism in the Labour Party, and demonstrated that the definition that is being pushed to define what is ‘antisemitic’ is untrustworthy, faulty, actually dangerous because it conflates being Jewish with being a supporter of Israel; being Jewish with being a Zionist.

One of the most important Jewish academics, who has spoken on this and been ignored, is actually the American academic Kenneth Stern who wrote the original document upon which the IHRA definition is based. And he has said on a number of occasions, in writing, in letters to Congress in The States: I abhor the way this definition which I drafted to assist data collection is being used to suppress free speech.

[Kenneth Stern addressing Congress:] That was not the purpose which it was designed for.

I abhor the way that this is being deployed in universities to prevent people who have a certain view about Palestine and Israel from expressing it.

[KC address continues:] There should be no question that Israel and Palestine – as contentious as that is – should be an ideal subject for getting students to think about: how do you deal with the competing narratives and competing histories; how do you look at identity; how do you look at the equities and so forth; rather than just feed them into if something is said about Israel that’s anti-Zionist, that that’s antisemitism and that ends the matter: it should be the beginning of the questions not the end of it.

Anthony Lerman, former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, has written extensively on this subject. Do you ever hear of these people being called to be interviewed on any mainstream organisation? Never. And all the work that they’ve done is completely ignored.

[KC address continues:] As a college professor, I’m also concerned about Jews that are anti-Zionist, and they’re left out in the cold here and in fact made targets – we have websites that go and hunt them and put dossiers on there. I think this will only encourage that type of activity.

You can have an organisation like the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which was one of the instigators of the Equality and Human Rights Commission [EHRC] report into Labour Party’s handling of complaints of antisemitism, quoted over and over again as if it were a leading authority, whereas in fact it was created in 2014 during the Gaza conflict – and these people are quoted over [and over] again. Type Campaign Against Antisemitism into Google and you will get innumerable media references. Type in Anthony Lerman or Kenneth Stern and you’ll get a few learned dissertations here and there and virtually nothing in the mainstream media.

We look back at the history of oppression and pogroms that my grandparents had to flee [and] came to this country, settling in to a host community where you know that you are not treated as equal – you’re treated a weird and odd and you have a funny accent. Just to become part of that and to join in the resistance against fascist movements – [Battle of] Cable Street, trade unionism: so many Jews were active in the trade union movement; still are.  So many Jews were active (going back to South Africa again) in supporting the ANC. Look at the civil rights movement in America where so many Jews were on the frontline.

So that is our tradition – that’s why we’ve adopted that slogan about being with the oppressed and never with the oppressor, because there are great Jewish traditions that we should be hanging on to – not this lining up with the Establishment; helping to destroy a movement for justice and peace and decency. We know what side we are on. We’re with the people who want justice and peace and decency.

Though there has to be some hope and I think if you look at the situation of young Jews in this country, but particularly in the United States where there’s a great movement called ‘If Not Now’. Those young people are looking askance at the Establishment figures who continue to support injustice and who remain silent in the face of it. And we’re not going to stand for that any longer. In this country too, whether it’s Jewish people or Muslim people or people of no faith, people in the Labour Party, people outside the Labour Party, are going to start to stand up for what is right, and to get themselves organised and mobilised to act.

Because my god we’ve got a covid crisis to fight. We’ve got the planet to save. You know, we’ve got freedom of expression to fight for. And we’ve got Palestinian rights to fight for. So let’s get on with it.

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Additional: Support Labour Activists For Justice

Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) is also involved with group of seven, mostly Jewish, Labour Party members calling themselves Labour Activists For Justice (LA4J) who launched a crowdfund in August in order to take the party to court over its disciplinary processes:

Those involved include an 80-year-old Jewish woman twice accused of antisemitism by the party, a long-standing Jewish trade unionist and a retired Jewish professor. 2

On December 7th, JVL published a statement by Labour Activists For Justice that reads in full:

The Labour party disciplinary process has been condemned by the EHRC as fundamentally unfair to complainants and respondents.  This is not surprising.  Many of us who have had direct experience of the process can vouch for the fact that it is not fit for purpose. It is an opaque process, granting confidentiality to those accusers whose complaints are investigated, while treating the accused as if they were already guilty, and making vague accusations against people without letting them know the case against them or by what standards they are being judged.

It is fundamental to natural justice that an accused should know their accuser (unless there is very good reason for this not to be the case).  This requirement (confirmed by the EHRC) is, however, dispensed with by the Labour Party as a matter of course.  Indeed, the EHRC found that the Labour Party did not even always record the identity of complainant.  The accused is therefore kept in the dark about who the accuser is, or even if there is more than one.  The accused cannot therefore identify whether there might be other motivations for the complaint, including potential factionalism. Since the motives of the accusers cannot be challenged, the accused is denied a full opportunity to respond.

This is just one of the many unfairnesses identified by the EHRC that have pervaded the Party’s disciplinary processes and which still have not been addressed.  Indeed, we have tried valiantly since July to engage with the Labour Party (and others have preceded us) in order to encourage the Party to address the unjust and inequitable nature of their disciplinary processes and the devastating effect it has on the lives and well-being of those the Party chooses to target.

When the Labour Party finally engaged with our legal representatives they rejected all our reasonable submissions out of hand but without providing any adequate explanation.  It was not therefore surprising to discover that the EHRC’s report agreed with our concerns.  It recommended that the current procedure is so unfair that the party must put in place a new fair, transparent, independent process.

The Labour Party has now publicly confirmed that it will implement the recommendations of the EHRC report and will put a new process in place.  But extraordinarily, they have refused to stop the unfair current investigations, suggesting that the Report is not for us: it is for complainants and ‘The Jewish Community’.  This is not only offensive, particularly to those of us who are Jewish, it is also simply wrong.  The Report identifies fundamental unfairness to complainants and respondents irrespective of their ethnic background or religion.  And it completely contradicts the Party’s public statements that it accepts and is currently implementing the EHRC’s recommendations by designing a whole new process for investigations.

The Labour Party cannot continue to act in blatant disregard of the recommendations of the EHRC when it suits them, while saying, in a blaze of publicity, that they accepted those recommendations and would act on them in full.  It is time to hold them to account. We now have no option but to file our claim in court. We hope to file within a matter of weeks.

We are deeply grateful to all those who, because they share our views on this issue, have so generously supported this cause already.  We would not be where we are without you.  We still need your help please, so we are asking again for further donations at this stage to fund court action – not just for ourselves, but for all those who have been targeted and to prevent others in the future from having to suffer the same fate. This should be for the benefit of all Party members, and for all those who believe in the rule of law and fair process.

Thank you. Solidarity.

Click here to read the same statement on the JVL website.

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Additional: Labour Against the Witch-hunt calls for action

On December 1st, Labour Against the Witch-hunt (LAW) issued the following statement and call for action under the title “Starmer and Rayner’s all-out war against the left: How we must organise now” . The opening sections are reprinted in full below:

No unity with the right! Time to organise for a real fight-back! Plan ahead and start organising shadow CLP structures!

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner both spent the ‘International Day of Solidarity with Palestinians’ addressing a meeting of the Zionist Jewish Labour Movement, Starmer used the opportunity to state that Jeremy Corbyn’s factual statement that “the scale of the [antisemitism] problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents” was “just about as bad as you could get”. Clearly, he will do anything to keep Corbyn out of the PLP, if not the party. Angela Rayner helpfully suggested that, “If I have to suspend thousands and thousands of [Labour] members, we will do that.”

They are already doing it, of course:

  • Louise Regan has been suspended from Nottingham East CLP for chairing a slightly controversial meeting.
  • After the key officers of Bristol West CLP were suspended for allowing the CLP to pass a motion in solidarity with Corbyn (the first CLP to do so), the party simply cancelled their forthcoming AGM – which means the CLP is de facto suspended.
  • South Thanet member Christine Tongue has just been expelled for a single Facebook post in which she declared ‘Good Luck’ to Chris Williamson.
  • Even more absurd is the case of Brighton socialist Becky Massey, who was expelled for a similar tweet – after the Board of Deputies’ demanded that the Labour Party act against her (check out Greg Hadfield’s article on this Kafkaesque story).
  • The Wavertree 4 have been suspended (2 now expelled) merely for criticising their MP. The list goes on and on.

And yet, the ‘new’ Momentum and CLPD continue to call on members to propose motions in their branches and CLPs begging the right wing for “unity” and to implement the recommendations of the state-run Equality and Human Rights Commission (which coincide with the Board of Deputies’ demand for an outsourcing of the disciplinary process). Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile, rather than calling on his supporters to take up weapons in this all-out war, pleads for his return to the Parliamentary Labour Party in a bourgeois court, claiming that Starmer reneged on a secret deal that their side-kicks hatched up to get him back into the PLP.

This is not just politically inept – it is also likely to fail. We have seen over the last five years that the right has no interest in ‘unity’ with the left. Despite the Corbyn leadership bending over backwards to appease the Zionists and the right, they continued attacking – and got stronger and stronger in the process, leading to the defeat of Corbyn.

This is the time to really fight back – with any means at our disposal. Here is what you can do now:

1)  Stay in the Labour Party, if you are allowed to and can stomach it. But defy instructions by Evans to keep quiet on the witch-hunt, Corbyn and the EHRC report! Submit motions in solidarity with Corbyn, those suspended and expelled and to express no confidence in Starmer, Rayner and Evans. A number of successful motions have been published by the Labour Left Alliance here. The more CLPs issue motions, the smaller the chance any sanctions will be issued. Email passed resolutions and statements to info@labourleft.org to be included. Below are some tips on how to move a motion and how to deal with a hostile chair.

2)  Invite your suspended and expelled members into your branch and CLP meetings. Solidarity is now more important than ever.

3)   Make plans in case your branch/CLP or its officers should be suspended: Set up a Facebook or WhatsApp group and/or appoint somebody to collate contact details so you can continue to meet and organise outside the party. In other words, start to build CLP shadow structures. We are happy for branches/CLPs and groups of comrades to use our Zoom account, which has capacity for up to 500 people. Email info@labouragainstthewitchhunt.org

4)   Support the setting up of the new “CLP for all those suspended and expelled as part of the witch-hunt against the left”. The first organising meeting will be held on December 15, 6pm – register your interest here.

5) Join organisations that really fight back, particularly the Labour Left Alliance and Labour Against the Witchhunt.

6) Get involved in the Campaign for Free Speech. Come to the Launch Rally with Jackie Walker, Chris Williamson, Craig Murray, Ilan Pappe, Moshe Machover, Leah Levane and many more on December 12, 12noon. More information here. Register here.

Click here to read the full statement by Labour Against the Witch-hunt including instructions on how to move a motion at Labour branch or CLP meetings.

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1 From an article entitled “Israeli-born anti-Zionist expelled from Labour Party, written by Lee Harpin, published in The Jewish Chronicle on October 9, 2017. https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/israeli-born-anti-zionist-expelled-from-labour-party-1.445722

2 From a report entitled “Exclusive: group of Labour members take party to court” published by Skwawkbox on August 14, 2020. https://skwawkbox.org/2020/08/14/exclusive-group-of-labour-members-take-party-to-court/

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