In the seventh and final instalment of his Canterbury speech, Graham Bash explores the challenge facing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party following the extraordinary attack on MP Chris Williamson.
In the seventh and final instalment of his Canterbury speech, Graham Bash explores the challenge facing Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party following the extraordinary attack on MP Chris Williamson.
In the sixth instalment of his Canterbury speech veteran Labour activist Graham Bash explains the reasons behind the rise of Jeremy Corbyn. Graham is speaking following the attack on MP Chris Williamson which he sees as the beginning of another attempted coup against Corbyn.
Veteran Labour activist Graham Bash speaks in the wake of the attack on MP Chris Williamson. Graham, who is Jewish, explains why attacking Israel doesn’t mean you’re antisemitic.
Veteran Labour activist Graham Bash is Jewish. Here he discusses the background to the row over alleged antsemitisn in the Labour Party and why this is important to understanding the extraordinary attack on MP Chris Williamson. This is the fourth instalment in a speech he gave in Canterbury.
This is the third instalment of the speech of veteran Labour activist Graham Bash in Canterbury. In it he questions the antiracism credentials of some vocal figures in the row over antisemitism allegations in the Labour Party following the extraordinary attack on MP Chris Williamson.
Veteran Labour activist Graham Bash looks at the facts behind the reports of antisemitism in the Labour Party. This is the second extract in a speech he made about the attack on Chris Williamson MP.
Veteran Labour activist Graham Bash speaks in Canterbury about the attack on MP Chris Williamson. This is the first extract in his speech.
This is the transcript of a speech given by veteran Labour activist Graham Bash at a fringe meeting of the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Dundee in March 2019.
Comrades, I’m devastated that Chris Williamson has been suspended from the Labour Party. We are in a pivotal moment, at a tipping point.
The witch-hunt against the left has now claimed a leading parliamentary ally of Jeremy Corbyn. We are in the middle of another attempted coup – this time, possibly, a slow one – but it is gathering force, and the false and exaggerated allegations of antisemitism within the party will not stop unless and until Jeremy himself is either toppled or – and this is the immediate aim – taken prisoner by the right of our party. This coup is about re-establishing the primacy of the PLP against the members – and it is a coup supported by sections of the left itself, including the leadership of Momentum.
Chris has been suspended because he is one of the few Labour MPs to speak out against the smears, because he booked a room in Parliament to show the film ‘WitchHunt’ – about the witch-hunt in the party and the struggle of Palestinians for justice – and for what he said at a meeting of Sheffield Momentum. As an act of elementary solidarity I will now repeat those words – so if anyone is recording, turn on now! Speaking of the allegations that the party is overrun by antisemitism, he said, quote,
“The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I have got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion we’ve backed off too much. We’ve given too much ground. We’ve been too apologetic. We’ve done more to address the scourge of antisemitism than any other political party.” Close quotes. My only criticism is that he was stating the bleedin’ obvious!
This speech came after General Secretary Jennie Formby released data about how the party had dealt with these allegations of antisemitism. I quote here from an article in the current issue of Labour Briefing.
“Jennie Formby’s data confirms that the grounds for the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour have indeed been grossly exaggerated, and in some cases fabricated. Over the last ten months there were:
• 1,106 referrals of antisemitism allegations;
• 433 of these had nothing to do with party members, leaving 673 to be investigated;
• 220 of these were dismissed entirely for lack of evidence;
• this left 453 cases;
• 453 is 0.08% of the party’s 540,000 members – that’s about 1/12th of 1%;
• 96 of these resulted in suspensions – that’s 0.01%, or 1/100th of 1% of members;
• there were twelve expulsions – that’s 0.002%, or 1/500th of 1% of members!
• Margaret Hodge MP was informed by Jennie Formby that of the 200 dossiers she had submitted, only 20 were found to be by Labour Party members. In other words, her allegations of antisemitism in the party had been exaggerated tenfold. And single handedly she accounted for approaching one fifth of all referrals.”
Let’s be crystal clear. One case of antisemitism in the party is one too many but to quote from the article again, “This is not a wave, it is not even a ripple.”
In our Thanet and Sandwich Labour Party facebook page, one of our comrades, by no means on the left, said this:
“Gotta hand it to the LP. Every time I think they can’t get any more ridiculous, they manage to surprise me. What seems to be happening now is that it’s being considered antisemitic not just to say antisemitic things yourself, but to disagree with the LP about how accusations of antisemitism in others should be handled. It’s “meta-antisemitism” – the antisemitism that you commit by discussing antisemitism wrongly.”
The charge against Williamson was led by Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader and self-appointed overseer of complaints of antisemitism in the Labour Party. Watson is extremely unconcerned when it comes to racism against black people and Muslims. He went along with all New Labour’s anti-terrorism and Prevent measures.
He also abstained on Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act which introduced the ‘hostile environment policy’ which led to the deportation of hundreds of black people.
And what double standards! Only this Monday Siobhain Mcdonagh MP came out with a familiar trope – and she faces no sanction. Listen to this. When asked if the Labour Party was taking antisemitism seriously, she replied:
“I’m not sure that some people in the Labour Party can, because it’s very much part of their politics – of hard left politics – to be against capitalists, and to see Jewish people as the financers of capital”.
She is suggesting that all or many Labour Party members believe that banks are controlled by Jews, classic Protocols of the Elders of Zion territory. She draws the conclusion that, therefore, Labour’s critique of the financial casino activities that almost crashed the world economy is motivated by antisemitism. She owes the tens and hundreds of thousands of Party members who are campaigning for effective oversight of the banks a speedy and humble apology. Fighting for a fairer society and against inequality and austerity is not a symptom of antisemitism. McDonagh cannot be allowed to silence criticism of capitalism within a socialist party.
And then there’s Dame Margaret Hodge! As Jewish socialist David Rosenburg explained,
“She trivialises the Holocaust. After she went up to Corbyn in a pre-meditated act and called him a “fucking racist and antisemite”, she was reported to the LP by a third party who witnessed it. On receiving a letter to say that she had been reported (standard procedure following a complaint) she said it made her think of her father in Nazi Germany waiting for the knock on the door, thereby comparing the LP which she is privileged to represent, as akin to Nazis. We know all too well the horrific consequences of those who got that knock on the door in Nazi Germany, many of whom ended ultimately in death camps. Is she seriously saying that such consequences were being lined up for her?”
And she capitulated to the BNP. As David explains, she advocated a racist local housing policy in Barking where she was MP since 1994. Quotes “In the early 2000s, Labour supporters were defecting to the BNP. The BNP secured 12 council seats in Barking and Dagenham. Nine of them were in wards in her constituency. She tried to claw back BNP voters not by challenging their ideas but accommodating to them. Her housing policy prioritised “indigenous” needs over “migrants” needs”
Ok, rant part 1 almost over – for the moment
Now let me belatedly introduce myself.
I have been a Labour Party member for 50 years, now in South Thanet CLP. I was a founder of Labour Briefing some 38 years ago, a founder of the Labour Representation Committee, a founder of Labour Against the War. All of these were my way of surviving the New Labour years.
But today I speak in a different capacity – as someone who is Jewish and a proud founder member – and now an officer – of Jewish Voice for Labour. This is an organisation of Jews in the Labour Party which is non-Zionist and does not insist on support for Israel as a condition of membership.
I know what antisemitism is. And I don’t accept lectures on antisemitism from those who have neither experienced it or fought it. I will not exaggerate my experience. I did not suffer discrimination or exclusion in the way that black and Asian people still do. But I did suffer prejudice.
How many times as a child was I told that Hitler should have finished the job and sent the Jews to the gas chambers – I was told that when I was six. I was told that you Jews killed our Jesus and laughed at when I tried to patiently explain that Jesus was a Jewish leader – yes, I was already a political activist at six! How many times have I had to walk out of football grounds when fans of my own team – West Ham – were singing “I never felt more like gassing the Jews”.
My experience of antisemitism -especially when I was young – made me feel an outsider, a feeling I’ve never lost. I also learned lessons from my father about fighting the fascists at Cable Street in East London in the 1930s – how the Jewish East End in alliance with the dockers and other sections of the labour movement, stopped Mosley’s fascist thugs. And these experiences – and learning about the traditions of Jewish socialism – led me into anti-racist struggles, made me a socialist internationalist and, at the age of 19, I joined the Labour Party.
I have been a member of eight different constituency parties and my experience over half a century is that I have rarely encountered any antisemitism in the party. Indeed it has been a safe haven for me, a refuge.
I have come across antisemitism in the party only once – in Hackney North where an idiot came out with antisemitic filth, the secretary called for his eviction from the meeting, it was passed unanimously and he was never seen again.
I am sensitive to antisemitism, I have a sixth sense about it. I know what antisemitism is and I also know what it isn’t.
So what is the problem? There was no problem until the lifelong anti-racist Jeremy Corbyn became leader. His predecessor as leader Ed Miliband was Jewish and the main challenger to Ed was his brother David, also Jewish. Clearly all these antisemites in the party were doing rather a poor job.
Jeremy became leader and it all started. He was a threat – a threat of course to the right wing of the party because he was a socialist, and – because of his pro-Palestinian credentials – a threat to supporters of the state of Israel. JC becomes leader and – all of a sudden – the party has a major problem with antisemitism
The Labour Party is part of society – the best part of society in my opinion – but part of society nonetheless. Of course there are examples of antisemitism in the party but from my experience it is under-represented in the party – just as you would expect, just as the data reveals.
What we have seen is a pincer attack with sections of the right wing joining up with pro-Israel supporters and manufacturing a crisis that largely does not exist. And they do it by conflating antisemitism with anti-Zionism. And a lot of this has been done with the full support of the Jewish Labour Movement – an affiliated organisation of the party that is Zionist in its constitution and supports Israel.
So who are the main victims of this campaign to malign the LP as antisemitic in what has become a witch-hunt?
Firstly Jews, anti-Zionist Jews, such as Moshe Machover, renowned 82 year old Jewish Israeli professor of philosophy, Glyn Secker, secretary of JVL, a lifelong anti-racist – both suspensions lifted within a few days – and my partner Jackie Walker, suspended for two and a half years, with her trial at last fixed for March 26th and 27th and awaiting expulsion.
Secondly black anti-racist activists, such as Marc Wadsworth, expelled and Jackie again. And thirdly, probably the best anti-racist leader this party has ever produced – Ken Livingstone, forced out for daring to examine the history of the Haavara agreement in the 1930s by which some Zionist organisations played a role in breaking the anti-Hitler trade boycott that threatened to bring the new Nazi regime to its knees. And now Chris Williamson.
Why does this witch-hunt matter?
Because it is used to undermine the best leader this party has ever had.
Because it is a diversion from the fight against the Tories and their austerity programme.
Because it is used to conflate antisemitism with anti-Zionism and silence criticism of the state of Israel, and advocacy for Palestinian rights and close down discussion on key historical issues.
Because it separates antisemitism from all other forms of racism and obscures the racism against black and Asians which structurally excludes them from power in society and within our party.
Because it is a slur on my party – our party – which has a proud record of fighting all forms of racism.
Above all, I believe, as someone who has experienced antisemitism, it hinders the fight against antisemitism itself. This is particularly odious – the way false allegations of antisemitism are being used for factional interest. It is an abuse of the memory of all victims of antisemitism and racism – and if we do not put an end to this it will come back to haunt us.
It is argued that to criticise the Jewish state is to attack a fundamental part of Jewish identity. Well it is for some. But what if, like me, it is not part of your identity?
Let me say what happened at the JLM training session at the 2016 Labour Party conference which led to Jackie Walker’s second suspension. It wasn’t Jackie who made the sharpest intervention at this session, it was me. The trainer said it was ok for people to criticise the Israeli government but not acceptable to challenge the legitimacy of the Jewish state.
So I said – and anyone with a hotline to the Compliance Unit – turn your recorder on again – I said that as an internationalist Jew I opposed the Jewish state because under the Law of Return it gave me a greater right to live in Israel than those Palestinians who were evicted, dispossessed and ethnically cleansed. This was not just a criticism of the current right wing extremist government of Israel. It was a criticism of the Jewish state itself as these crimes were committed by the founding fathers of the state who were of course Labour Zionists. Was this, I asked the trainer, in your eyes a legitimate criticism or does this come within your definition of antisemitism?
He could not answer. He could not deal with what was behind my question – that many Jewish socialists cannot support Israel as it is a racist state based on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians – rather than a state for its citizens. Jackie was singled out, not me, though my challenge was greater. I wonder why.
Having witnessed the racist abuse to which she has been subjected – I can only guess.
They have tried to silence us. They have failed. And the level of support for the resolution on Palestine at last year’s conference is testimony to that. The opposition to the state of Israel, support for the BDS boycott movement internationally is growing. And it is growing in the Labour Party too as JVL continues to grow.
So where are we now?
First a sense of perspective. What happened in September 2015 – when Jeremy won the leadership – was a shifting of the tectonic plates.
Remember where we were. Ed Miliband had lost the May 2015 election. New Labour’s knives were out. The candidates to replace him were so awful that some in the LRC and Briefing were even suggesting we support Andy Burnham!
And then at a Campaign Group meeting in Parliament they went through the options for the left. Some unnamed genius suggested Jeremy Corbyn. He was seen as such a no-hoper that sufficient centre and right MPs in the PLP were persuaded to nominate him and with seconds to spare he scraped onto the ballot paper. One of those – Margaret Beckett – later in a moment of regret referred to herself as a moron. She was right.
It was clear to many of us that if JC got on the ballot paper he would be a strong candidate. I remember saying this at a meeting in Ramsgate a couple of days before the close of nominations and was laughed at. But why the change?
In part the morons had forgotten the change in the electoral system for electing the Labour leader passed after Miliband’s Collins review. Now it was one member one vote – no electoral college, no votes for MPs and now votes for registered supporters. It was one member one vote for affiliated trade union members as well. So confident were the right, so dismissive of the left, that they had forgotten the words of Richard Crossman half a century ago that the right keeps control of the Labour Party in two ways – it was the independence of the PLP and the trade union block vote which kept them in power
But it wasn’t just a historical accident that won it for JC.
Something strange was happening in the world outside. In Greece, the rise of Syriza, in Spain, Podemos, and in the United States, Bernie Sanders. The years of stability and had been broken by the economic crisis of 2008.
It is conditions that determine consciousness. Just as the First World War was the precondition for the Russian Revolution, the 1929 Crash the precondition for Hitler’s rise to power, so too – at a lower level no doubt, at least for the moment – the 2008 crash undermined the stability that sustained New Labour and moderate bourgeois governments and brought in its wake the radical movements of the left and populist movements of the right.
Once the morons gave us the opening, it was there for the taking. And we were bold and we seized the moment. Happy memories of putting out our stall on Broadstairs sea front with our applications forms for registered supporters – Vote JC for Labour leader, £3 a vote. And they came and they voted – and the other candidates suddenly had feet of clay.
And a similar thing happened with the general election of 2017 – Jeremy surrounded by a hostile PLP which had tried to mount a coup against him, somehow surviving but looking weak. Then another bold move – the manifesto, far to the left of anything we could have anticipated. For the Many, not the Few! Battle was joined, this time it was the Tories – not New Labour – with feet of clay. The outcome was Jeremy stronger, a Corbyn government in waiting. A minority Tory government – sustained by the DUP – almost broken by the election campaign, in political meltdown. Their manifesto promises are dead. Their Tory, red, white and blue Brexit is dead. A weak Tory government that must replace its leader before the next election.
We had destroyed the argument from all sections of the right that a radical programme is incompatible with electoral success.
When Jeremy won the Labour leadership the odds were always massively against us.
We were fighting:
• the state, with veiled threats by generals to overturn a democratically elected Labour government;
• the media, with relentless attacks and ridicule;
• the Tories;
• the undemocratic structures and rules of the Party, with the right wing dominated Compliance Unit – another party within a party – being used to suspend hundreds of Corbyn supporters;
• and all this in the context of a vote on Brexit that put Labour between a rock and a hard place and the near death of Labour Scotland that would take years to recover from, whoever was Labour leader.
• AND the PLP, shamefully refusing to accept the party’s overwhelming verdict, briefing against Jeremy, forcing a second leadership contest, acting as a party within a party and fearing a Corbyn government more than another Tory government.
Unlike, say, Bernie Sanders in the US, Jeremy had to operate day-to-day in a parliamentary framework, putting together a parliamentary opposition within a hostile PLP. He and John McDonnell were embattled on the front line from the very start.
The only possible way to fight against such powerful opposition forces was to build an anti-establishment insurgency from below.
But this was not the late ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s, when the working class in Britain was powerful – so powerful that Heath called an election in 1974 on the theme of “who rules, the government or the unions”, and lost!
We have suffered decades of defeat since the miners’ strike. Although Jeremy’s victory reflected in part a genuine disaffection from below against austerity and neo-liberalism –part of an international movement, such as in Spain, Greece and the US – at the same time our movement was at a low ebb. That was a key contradiction – between the rise of the most left wing leadership in Labour’s history and the low ebb of class struggle.
Our task was to rebuild the movement, utilising our leadership of the party to help do so. It needed a democratic grassroots movement that would have to try – openly and transparently – to transform the party itself. That insurgency had to be a radical crusade against the establishment and an authentic voice for the dispossessed.
But here was and is the conflict – how to achieve that while at the same time achieving some unity within the PLP and shadow cabinet sufficient to keep the parliamentary opposition on the road. There were two aims – party unity and the building of a radical, democratic grassroots movement. How could the two opposites be reconciled?
And this is the nub of the problem. That tension – exacerbated by the political degeneration and incorporation of Momentum – has now reached a point of separation. I feel for Jeremy – especially after the split by the gang of nine. He has almost impossible choices – fearing another parliamentary split off that could make a general election victory – even against this weak, split, crisis-ridden Tory government – desperately difficult.
And yet – to abandon the radical grassroots movement to the power of the parliamentary party – is to give up in advance on the chance of a lifetime of achieving a radical Labour government.
Our leaders cannot hope to carry out a programme to transform the country without a mass movement behind it – a movement rooted in our communities and, through that, wired into our Constituency Labour Parties.
A Corbyn government that sticks to its guns will face the might of the establishment, probably economic sabotage, a flight of capital – and we need to develop a response, a programme, policies, for a radical Labour government. We need to build from below to sustain a Corbyn government, and where possible, go beyond its excellent but limited manifesto. Or else, lacking programme and base, we will go the way of Syriza, tossed aside by the power of capital, whatever our good intentions.
Have no doubt, the left is on the back foot, but it is not too late to reverse that tide.
Our task is to be both supportive and independent of our leaders – free from their pressures, speaking truth to power.
And to do so, we need to reclaim the same radical spirit and unity that won us the leadership that long three and a half years ago. We need to embody the spirit of those who have fought against oppression, in Jackie Walker’s words, – “black and white, Jew and gentile” – united in the struggle for a better world.
People with disabilities need a stronger voice in local government.
That’s the message from Helen Whitehead who’s standing for Thanet District Council in May.
Helen, from Margate, has Ankylosing Spondylitis and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which means she suffers from severe joint problems and is a part time wheelchair user.
She believes that people with disabilities are often left out of consideration by elected officials and that the only way to change things is for disabled people themselves to get elected.
She said: “If we’re not there we can’t be represented. It’s that simple. The people who can most effectively represent us are those who implicitly understand our life experience, and, frankly, you fight harder if it’s something you’ve personally been through.”
For this reason Helen believes there should be a member of the cabinet in the council with specific responsibility for disability issues — preferably somebody with a disability of their own.
Helen said: “Without disabled people in positions of authority I think it is very, very difficult for our voice to be heard effectively.”
Helen is using social media to publicise the fact that people with disabilities can now get money to help them run in the coming council elections via the EnABLE fund.
Grants are available as part of a government effort to tackle under-representation in local elections. They can be used for campaign expenses such as specialist transport and computer software.
But for people with disabilities, says Helen, money remains a major barrier to running for elected office.
“If you’re disabled you may have some need of government support and unfortunately currently the councillors allowance is counted as income, and can therefore affect benefit entitlements,” Helen said.
“That doesn’t seem a good way to encourage people to run for the council and I will be working on raising this at a national level, as disabled people need parity, equity and inclusion at all levels of governance. I would strongly recommend anyone who feels they have additional needs to stand in the upcoming TDC elections. Until our voices are regularly heard our local issues will remain the same.”
Helen is standing for the Margate Central Ward of Thanet council on May 2. A video of an interview with Helen can be found on https://youtu.be/sROk1-JI8iw
BY NORMAN THOMAS
A few days ago I went to see the first rehearsed reading of a brand new play in London.
It was a packed audience and they lapped it up.
The play is based on a one woman show which has been performed across Britain, in Europe and in the US.
A show which has been highly praised by a string of well known stars of the left including Ken Loach, Mark Thomas and Alexei Sayle.
A show which has now had a film made about it loudly extolled by ace directors Mike Leigh and Peter “Wolf Hall” Kosminsky.
Yet you will not see this play, or this film, reviewed or even discussed in your newspaper, on the television or the radio.
No, not in the Independent, not in the Guardian, not on Channel Four, not on Radio Four.
In the mainstream media — they are nowhere to be seen.
Because this play and this film is about a woman called Jackie Walker.
If you rely on the mainstream media for your knowledge of Walker all you’ll really know of her is that she was suspended from the Labour Party for posts she made on Facebook and comments she made in a video which were, allegedly, antisemitic.
Walker vehemently denies these allegations. And the play and the film about her provide a formidable body of evidence which, I think, comprehensively refutes these allegations.
I should declare an interest at this point.
I am a writer and I helped Jackie create the original one woman show which spawned the play and the film about her.
I first met Jackie during a grassroots campaign to stop Nigel Farage becoming MP for South Thanet in the poverty-stricken coastlands of east Kent.
As part of the campaign I hacked out a piece of no-budget, knockabout satire designed to make fun of Farage and, after losing a member of the cast, desperately asked Jackie, at short notice, to step in.
Ironically the character Jackie played was a woman who had lost her voice. Little did I know that in a couple of years time Jackie would — in the mainstream press at least —indeed become a woman without a voice.
Anyway, that was to come.
No sooner had we helped derail Farage’s attempt to become MP for the area, than the raggle-taggle forces of the left in Thanet found a new cause to fight for — the unlikely quest to get Jeremy Corbyn elected leader of the Labour Party.
Jackie, a long time supporter of Corbyn and John McDonnell, was, of course, in the vanguard of the campaign, and, after Corbyn won by a huge majority, she became vice chair of the new Corbyn supporting Momentum group.
But Jackie’s glory days fighting for a brave new Labour government were short lived. The allegations against her led to her being suspended — twice — and losing her position in Momentum.
The second suspension came about after she was filmed taking part in a training seminar at the 2016 Labour Party conference.
Carefully edited extracts were reported in the press and aired on Channel Four news and this, plus an extemely hostile interview by Cathy Newman, was, I believe, the killer blow for Jackie.
It was also the event which recruited me to her cause.
I was at that fateful training seminar. I heard what she said. I personally experienced the context her words were taken out of. So when I saw what the media made out of them I knew exactly what had happened — Jackie had been stitched up.
She had been made to look antisemitic by quoting comments she made without letting us know what she was commenting about or what she was responding to.
For example, it seemed like she was being disparaging about Holocaust Memorial Day when really she was making a plea for it being more inclusive.
For another example, it seemed like she was questioning the possibility of defining antisemitism when in reality she was questioning a definition that equated criticism of Israel with antisemitism.
And overall her edited words made it seem like she was a lone critical voice in this meeting, when really she was taking part in a fierce debate, with loud and angry voices on both sides of the argument.
But nothing she said then or at any other time that I’ve known Jackie could be said to show even the slightest hint of hatred of Jewish people.
She is simply someone who has been very deliberatedly smeared.
Why they did pick on her?
Because she’s black and Jewish, maybe? (Her mother was born in Jamaica, of Portuguese Jewish heritage, her father was a Jew whose family came to the US from Russia.)
Or was it more because she was a strong supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and a leading member of Momentum?
Well, undoubtedly, because of all those things — but overarchingly, in my view, it was also because she was so vocal.
She was continually active on social media. She was speaking at meetings.
She was prepared to engage, even with the people most bitterly hostile to her. The best example of this was that Labour Party training seminar, run as it was by the strongly pro-Israel Jewish Labour Movement.
Many of her friends thought she was reckless, nuts, to go there.
Jackie was a big target.
Her growing profile on the left made her a valuable trophy to bring down, her outspoken nature all the easier to frame.
But the question remains: why, after reporting almost gleefully on her downfall, did the press, apparently collectively decide to declare Jackie an off limits topic?
The online media gave her some coverage, of course — the Electronic Intifada being one of the most authoritative. But without her own almost nonstop internet output and DIY media activities Jackie would have almost disappeared from public view for the last two years or so.
One reason for the media blackout is the repercussions which hard working journalists can do without.
If journalists write critical things about Israel, they and their editors get bombarded by people trying to undermine their credibility, often implying they are motivated by antisemitism, whether latent or blatant.
Though some will tell you off the record, few journalists will ever go public about this kind of thing.
A notable exception is Robert Fisk, the highly respected correspondent who has covered the conflict in the Middle East since 1976 for the Times and the Independent.
Fisk says he started getting accused of antisemitism when he began covering the activities of the Israeli army in Lebanon.
The Israeli side was simply not prepared to accept that their forces could be involved in the civilian attrocities which Fisk reported and so they branded him antisemitic.
He gives an instructive example of this in his hugely respected book about Lebanon “Pity The Nation”.
In 1982, Fisk writes, a woman from a British pro-Israel organisation asked him why the western press had “fabricated” reports of civilian casualties during the Israeli siege of Beirut.
Fisk replied they hadn’t and told her that “we could not ourselves falsify the number of casualties, making them lower than they actually were, just because the Israelis and their supporters might slander us with smears of antisemitism if we did not.”
This, of course, touches on what many people fear is going on now: that the many enemies of Jeremy Corbyn are using smears and threats of smears to undermine his leadership and attack his strongest supporters like Chris Williamson and Jackie Walker.
I should say some in the Labour Party have gone on the record to disagree with this analysis — most prominently shadow chancellor John McDonnell himself.
McDonnell has said there is no witch hunt going on, and that there is a real problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party — basically a product of the great increase in size of the party.
There’s a logic to this: since there is antisemitism in society as a whole, the bigger the party, the more you’re likely to get.
I’ve come across one example myself.
This was a local chap who genuinely believes in the Jewish conspiracy theory. You know the kind of thing — “they” own the banks, the media, run America, etc etc.
Basically, it’s same kind of thing the Nazis believed, except they preached that the Jews ran the unions and the communists, too.
Such people’s logic is fiendishly simple and dangerously foolish. Jewish people are rich, they say, rich people are capitalists, so Jewish people embody capitalism and need to be dealt with.
You may have come across people with this mindset shouting the odds as antisemitic online trolls — the strange and malignant people who spend their time on social media abusing people in the most disgusting terms for being Jewish.
Some of these trolls will be members of the Labour Party, too, but some will almost certainly be infiltrators, impostors, getting their kicks by being loudly and aggressively antisemitic, while, as they hope, shoving the blame on Labour.
But if they are card carrying members they should, of course, be kicked out with all speed. That would be a great achievement and would enable the Labour leadership to demonstrate that the party is at last dealing with its “antisemitism problem”.
Maybe so — but would it satisfy Corbyn’s enemies inside and outside the party?
Not for a second.
Remember — nobody has accused Jackie Walker or Chris Williamson of being antisemitic trolls or of believing that rich Jews are the root of evil capitalism or any of that disgusting nonsense. The voices calling for their public lynching are never going to be satisfied with a troll cull.
It’s worth pointing out, too, that malicious trolls are widespread on the internet and attack and bully a number of different targets — not just Jewish people. They go after all kinds of politicians, celebrities and almost anyone in the public eye, especially women, and most especially black women.
An Amnesty International study last year found that black women were 84% more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive tweets. And a separate Amnesty study, published the year before, showed that Diane Abbott received almost half (45.14%) of all the abusive tweets sent to female MPs in the run-up to the 2017 general election.
It comes as no surprise, then, to find that Jackie Walker herself, as black and political as they come, has received a constant barrage of abuse from the day back in 2016 when she started campaigning against would-be MP Nigel Farage’s and Farage publicly denounced her.
We’ve heard much in the press about the abuse and bullying MP Luciana Berger has received, allegedly at the hands of members of the Labour Party.
Of the abuse and bullying Jackie has received there has not been one word.
Presumably for the same reason there has been a solid, enduring media blackout of Jackie’s extraordinary artistic attempts to vindicate herself.
And maybe the simple reason at the bottom of all this is that mainstream journalists are just too scared to touch the topic because of what people might say.
To be accused of being a racist is, of course, bad — but what with the Brexiteers and UKIP and the EDL and general anti-foreigner feeling there are far too many people we could maybe accuse of different shades of racism.
Commentators in the media can say the most outrageous things and claim that people who accuse them of being racist are just being “politically” correct.
But to be accused of antisemitism — itself identified historically with Germany, and more topically with France and parts of Eastern Europe — is different.
It means being associated with Holocaust denial, with the gas chambers with Hitler.
In our secular world, where few people worry about hell and the devil any more, these are most horrific things we can possibly imagine.
With this in mind, there is no motivation for a journalist to write about Walker at all — but there is a risk — the risk of being branded antisemitic.
So I believe John McDonnell is wrong.
There IS a witch hunt going on.
Walker and Williamson are only two victims of it. There are many others.
But the biggest victim, potentially, is the Labour Party itself.
Some members will fear to say what they think.
Some, following the classic witch hunt pattern. will actually use the climate of incrimination to try to “get one over” on their rivals.
Many more — demoralised and disillusioned — will leave.
Is there an alternative?
Yes — and it’s the only one — grassroots revolt.