Guardian publishes letter by 100+ Jews defending Corbyn and Chakrabarti

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods is pleased to have played its part, along with others involved in the Free Speech on Israel network, in generating a letter published in the Guardian on 9 August 2016 under the heading “Shami Chakrabarti’s honour under scrutiny.”

The letter appears over 108 Jewish names including prominent cultural and academic figures. It defends Jeremy Corbyn and Shami Chakrabarti, author of a report on racism in the Labour Party, against attacks suggesting that Corbyn offered Chakrabarti a peerage as a pay off for covering up antisemitism in the party.


Shami Chakrabarti, the former director of Liberty and a lawyer with a well-deserved reputation for integrity, produced a thoughtful and important report on antisemitism and racism in the Labour party at the request of Jeremy Corbyn. It is highly regrettable that they are both now under attack because her inquiry did not find evidence to support allegations of rampant antisemitism in the party.

Such attacks say more about her detractors than they do about Chakrabarti. Their real objections concern her recommendation that the party’s disciplinary processes conform to the principles of natural justice, so that allegations of antisemitism and other forms of racism will be properly investigated, members cannot be suspended without knowing the charges against them, and people are protected against scurrilous and ill-founded allegations.

As Jews whose views are not represented by the chief rabbi, the Board of Deputies of British Jews or the pro-Israel lobbyists of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, we dissociate ourselves from the attacks on Chakrabarti and urge Corbyn to hold firm in implementing the positive recommendations in her report.
George Abendstern
Liane Aukin
Daphna Baram
Julia Bard
Sue Bard
Hannah Basson
Sandi Beecher
Shereen Benjamin
Sarah Benton
Craig Berman
Jo Bird
Rica Bird
Carla Bloom
Jenny Bloom
Louise Bloom
Professor Haim Bresheeth
Elizabeth Carola
Linda Clair
Mike Cushman
Ivor Dembina
Dr Judit Druks
Claudio García Ehrenfeld
Nancy Elan
Mark Elf
Liz Elkind
Deborah Fink
Sylvia Finzi
Louella Frankel Jones
Kenneth Fryde
Tessa van Gelderen
Claire Glasman
Monica Gort
Tony Greenstein
Abe Hayeem
Rosamine Hayeem
Professor Susan Himmelweit
Sue Hughes
Claire Jackson
Dr Vivienne Jackson
Selma James
Riva Joffe
Ann Jungman
Michael Kalmanovitz
Roisin Kalmanovitz
Monash Kessler
Simon Korner
Richard Kuper
David Landau
Pam Laurance
Leah Levane
Rachel Lever
Les Levidow
Susanne Levin
Rosalind Levy
Vivien Lichtenstein
John Lohrenz
Ruth London
Professor Yosefa Loshitzky
Deborah Maccoby
Professor Moshé Machover
Beryl Maizels
Jenny Manson
Miriam Margolyes
Stephen Marks
Martine Miel
Professor Simon Mohun
David Mond
Professor Mica Nava
Chaim Neslen
Diana Neslen
Esther Neslen
Helen Pearson
Rina Picciotto
Frances Rifkin
Roland Rance
Michael Rosen
David Rosenberg
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead
Leon Rosselson
Maureen Rothstein
Michael Sackin
Caroline Salinger
Ben Samuel
Professor Donald Sassoon
Ian Saville
Miriam Scharf
Amanda Sebesteyn
Glyn Secker
Khalil Secker
Sam Semoff
Alexander Seymour
Professor Avi Shlaim
Ray Sirotkin
Dr David Sperlinger
Vanessa Stilwell
Alexandra Trone
Professor Clare Ungerson
Professor Philip Wadler
Margaret Wayne
Naomi Wayne
Sam Weinstein
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Devra Wiseman
Naomi Woodspring
Ben Young
Dr Gillian Yudkin
Professor John S Yudkin
Professor Nira Yuval-Davis


Last weekend more than 40 Jewish members of Labour Party organisations around the UK wrote to MP Chuka Umunna condemning his cynical deployment of antisemitism allegations as part of the witch hunt against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and other supporters of justice for Palestine.

Umunna has not deigned to respond. But the statement put out by Free Speech on Israel, which organised the letter, still merits attention.



  • Umunna accused of “weaponising false accusations of antisemitism”
  • Public grilling of Corbyn part of “internal vendetta”
  • Smear campaign detracts from combatting racism

July 9 – Jewish members of the Labour Party have condemned Chuka Umunna MP for using false allegations of antisemitism to attack Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Momentum group.

In an open letter to the MP for Streatham, a former Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, more than 40 members of party organisations all over the country say:

“We were shocked to witness the cynical manner in which you weaponised false allegations of antisemitism to launch an attack on the leader of the Labour party and on Momentum at the session of the Home Affairs Committee on Monday July 4th.”

They accuse him of pursuing “an internal Labour Party vendetta in a public forum”, cynically drawing attention away from important recommendations, contained in a recently published report by former Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti, on making the party more effective in combatting all forms of racism including antisemitism.

The letter urges Umunna to “concentrate your considerable energy on working to unite the Party so that we can displace this destructive Tory Government as soon as possible.”


Free Speech on Israel (FSOI) is a network of labour movement, Green and trade union activists in the UK, mainly Jewish, who came together in April 2016 to counter attempts by pro-Israel right wingers to brand the campaign for justice for Palestinians as antisemitic.  It broadly supports the conclusions of the Charabarti inquiry into antisemism and other forms of racism, to which it made this submission.

FSOI draws its support from members of the following Jewish groups:

Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP)

Independent Jewish Voices (IJV)

Jewish Socialist Group (JSG)

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN-UK)

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG)

Jewdas/Young Jewish Left


Full text of open letter:


Dear Chuka Umunna,

We write as Jews who are members of the Labour Party. Some of us are also members of Momentum.  We were shocked to witness the cynical manner in which you weaponised false allegations of antisemitism to launch an attack on the leader of the Labour party and on Momentum at the session of the Home Affairs Committee on Monday July 4th.

Some of the comments made at the press conference launching the Chakrabarti inquiry on June 30 by Mr Wadsworth (not a representative of Momentum as you claimed) were rude and unwarranted, however there is no evidence they were motivated by antisemitism. Wadsworth was clearly angry that the Daily Telegraph journalist had shared one of his leaflets with Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. He makes no reference to Ms Smeeth’s religion and asserts he had no knowledge she was Jewish and there is no evidence that this is not true. We have searched assiduously, including scrutinising the video footage of the incident, but have found no evidence of antisemitism, as opposed to incivility, in his words or actions.

The questions about Mr Wadsworth had been asked and answered several times by the time you asked your questions. Quite evidently your questions were not designed to elicit information but to pursue an internal Labour Party vendetta in a public forum. This relentless concentration on a confection designed to damage the Labour Party inhibits proper discussion on an important report into how the Labour Party can be more effective in combatting all forms of racism including antisemitism.

In your questioning you repeatedly employed guilt by association. For instance, you made reference to David Watson’s case. This is still under investigation and, as your legal background should have informed you, the allegations against him currently remain untested and unproven. These are allegations that, had you performed due diligence before asking your questions, you would have known are based on flimsy, if not fabricated, evidence.

We have been quite unable to detect any hint of animosity towards Jews in any of Watson’s social media posts. His critique of Zionism is one that many Jews share, in particular that the political Zionism dominant in Israel today is a racist ideology, both discriminating against Palestinians and stereotyping Jews as incapable of living alongside non-Jews in diverse societies. To then suggest that anyone who shares a platform with Watson is implicitly condoning antisemitism, and further that Jeremy Corbyn is answerable for all events organised by Momentum, is absurd.

You cite the example of the Oxford University Labour Club, and claim that “time and time again in these incidents of activity” in which offence is caused “to and against Jewish people Momentum seems to pop up quite frequently”. Yet Baroness Royall found no evidence of institutional antisemitism in OULC, and reported on at least one case of serious false allegations of antisemitism which had been reported to the police.

We ask you to cease your relentless undermining of the Labour Party. It would be more appropriate for you to concentrate your considerable energy on working to unite the Party so that we can displace this destructive Tory Government as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,


Sue Bard Edinburgh East & Musselburgh
Graham Bash Hackney North
Haim Bresheeth Hornsey & Wood Green
Sylia Cohen Finchley & Golder’s Green
Ruth Conlock Manchester Withington
Judith Cravitz North Islington
Mike Cushman Streatham
Miriam David Islington North
Kenneth Fryde Cambridge
Alex J Goldhill Ealing Central & Acton
Tony Greenstein Brighton Kemptown
Mike Howard Hastings & Rye
Riva Joffe Holborn & St Pancras
Michael Kalmanovitz Hampstead & Kilburn
Shlomit Ferguson Enfield North
Arye Finkle Chipping Barnet
Abe Hayeem Harrow East
Rosamine Hayeem Harrow East
Richard Kuper Holborn & St Pancras.
Frank Land South West Devon
Stephanie Lee Gorton
Leah Levane Hastings & Rye
Rachel Lever Hastings & Rye
Yosefa Loshitzky Hornsey & Wood Green
Kay Manasseh Streatham
Miriam Margolyes Vauxhall
Stephen Marks Oxford
Karen Merkel East Ham
Diana Neslen Ilford South
Dr Brian Robinson Milton Keynes
Denise Robson Gateshead
Jonathan Rosenhead Hackney South & Shoreditch
Rina Rosselson Brent Central
Ian Saville Brent Central
Glyn Secker Dulwich & West Norwood
Sam Semoff Riverside
Roger Silverman West Ham
Vanessa Stilwell Dulwich & West Norwood
Stephen Tiller Hackney South & Shoreditch CLP
Jackie Walker South Thanet
Sam Weinstein Hampstead & Kilburn
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi Chingford & Woodford Green


Labour Jews tell Chakrabarti antisemitism inquiry: supporting Palestine is not anti-Jewish


Labour Jews tell Chakrabarti antisemitism inquiry: supporting Palestine is not anti-Jewish

  • Free speech is at risk from the charge that opposition to Zionism is antisemitic
  • Pro-Israel Jewish organisations do not represent all Jews
  • Antisemitism must be confronted alongside Islamophobia and other forms of racism
  • False allegations are being used as a weapon against Corbyn supporters

June 24 – Jewish Labour Party members and supporters have hit back against pro-Israel lobbyists alleging antisemitism in the party, telling an inquiry established by party leader Jeremy Corbyn that free speech is under threat from attempts to make criticism of Israel a “thought crime”.

Free Speech on Israel (FSOI), a Jewish-led network of labour, green and trade union activists, was set up in April to counter attempts by pro-Israel right wingers to brand the campaign for justice for Palestinians as anti-Jewish. 

“It is imperative that criticism of Israel and indeed the Zionist project do not become thought crimes,” said Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, lead author of the FSOI submission to the inquiry, which is due to report at the end of June.

He said the inquiry, headed by former Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, “is an opportunity to put to rest the moral panic that has been whipped up by some opponents of Corbyn’s Labour Party and to ensure that freedom of speech on an important and contentious issue is not undermined.”

The FSOI submission states that pro-Israel bodies such as the Board of Deputies (BoD) of British Jews, Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) do not represent the entire Jewish community as they claim.

The network disputes those organisations’ assertion that Zionism – the political ideology underpinning the Israeli state – is intrinsic to Judaism and Jewish identity.

Other Jewish organisations making similar arguments in submissions to the inquiry include Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), Jewish Socialists Group (JSG) and the International  Jewish Antizionist Network (IJAN), as well as an ad hoc group of 97 Jewish members of the Labour party who have proposed creation of a new, inclusive Jewish Labour organization.


For more information contact:



Here are the main points made by Free Speech on Israel in its submission to the Chakrabarti inquiry. We also draw on a submission proposing formation of a new inclusive Jewish Labour organization, as well as submissions from the Jewish Socialist Group, Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the International Jewish AntiZionist Network-UK, and many individuals. All can be viewed here.


  1. Antisemitism is Hostility towards Jews as Jews, in which they are perceived as something other than what they are,” according to a widely accepted definition from Dr Brian Klug, an authority on the subject. Refs: FSOI submission5 Defining antisemitism; JfJfP submission p.11 Defining Antisemitism


  1. Robust criticism of the Israeli state and its founding ideology, even if expressed in ways upsetting to some Zionists, does not amount to antisemitism. Alleging that it does threatens free speech on the Israel-Palestine question. Refs: FSOI submission1 Free Speech; IJV submission p.1-3 Executive Summary


  1. Suggesting that all Jews share one ideology – Zionism – and are uniformly loyal to the State of Israel is itself antisemitic. Not all Jews are Zionists, many Zionists are not Jews, pro-Israel organisations do not represent all Jews. Refs: FSOI submission3 Jews in Britain, p.5 Antisemitism and AntiZionism; JSG submission p2 Zionism –contested political ideology, not a religious imperative; p.4 Antisemitism and Antizionism; p.6 Voices and representation within Britain’s Jewish community



  1. Virtually all of the complaints directed at the Labour Party are about attitudes to Israel, not about Jews. We are seeing a purge of pro-Palestine activists who are supporters of democratically elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. Refs: FSOI submission4 The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party; IJAN-UK submission p.1; JSG submission p.8/9 Evaluating charges of antisemitism; JfJfP submission p.4 Allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party


  1. Antisemitism is one among many forms of prejudice that must be fought. It is less virulent today than the Islamophobia and hatred of migrants and Roma people promoted by the Far Right and made respectable by some mainstream politicians. Refs: JSG Submission4 Antisemitism in Britain; IJAN-UK submission p.2


  1. The so-called EUMC (European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia) definition of antisemitism, promoted by the BoD, JLM, Zionist Federation, Campaign against Antisemitism and other pro-Israel lobbyists, has never been adopted by any official EU body. Refs: FSOI submission6 Antisemitism and Anti-Zionism; JfJfP submission p.6/7 Related ‘framing’ issues
  2. Zionism is responsible for Palestinian dispossession over several generations. Almost every Palestinian is anti-Zionist for entirely understandable reasons. There is nothing antisemitic about this. Refs: FSOI submission2 Context; JSG submission p.5; IJV submission p.8 The New Antisemitism


  1. If expressions of support for Palestine unintentionally stray into antisemitic territory, the answer is education, not expulsion. Refs: JSG submission5 & p.8 Evaluating charges of antisemitism; JfJfP submission p.15/16 Judaism and Zionism; JfJfP submission p.14 Providing Guidelines



  1. The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) – an openly Zionist organization – is not a fit body to educate others on antisemitism. Its proposed changes to party rules make false charges of antisemitism more likely, disregard victims of real antisemitism, and spread fear of being accused of antisemitism, stifling debate about Israel-Palestine. Refs: FSOI submission10 False allegations of antisemitism; Proposal for a new, inclusive Jewish Labour organisation; JSG submission p.8.


  1. It is not sufficient for someone Jewish to say they are offended by a statement for it to be judged antisemitic. This is a distortion of guidance from the Macpherson inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. A victim’s perception must be taken into account when investigating an alleged hate crime, but it cannot determine in advance, without reference to objective criteria, that a hate crime was committed. Refs: FSOI submission12 The Macpherson Report; JfJfP submission p.12 The Macpherson Principle


  1. Allegations of antisemitism cannot be used to ban certain political arguments about the nature or origins of the state of Israel, or the tactics – such as boycott – that Palestinians choose to campaign for an end to the injustices committed against them. Refs: FSOI submission9 Boycott and ‘singling out’ as hate speech; JfJfP submission p.14 Providing Guidelines





Jews we can be proud of – Rabbi Lerner celebrates Mohammad Ali, UK Jews defend Labour Party against antisemitism charges

On June 10, two dramatically different settings saw progressive Jews demonstrating their adherence to universal human values of justice and compassion – a Rabbi standing up for Palestinian rights at Muhammad Ali’s memorial service in Louisville, Kentucky, and Jewish activists making the case for Palestinian solidarity in the UK Labour Party – under threat from allegations of antisemitism.

Members of the main Jewish groups  working for justice for Palestine combined forces with non-Jewish comrades to offer incontrovertible testimony to the Shami Chakrabarti inquiry  – the Labour Party is not rife with antisemitism; Zionism is a political ideology which must be open to question; it is not intrinsic to Judaism or Jewish identity; criticism of Israel, support for Palestinians and the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions are not forms of anti-Jewish racism; not all Jews are Zionists; not all Zionists are Jews! Read the submission from Free Speech on Israel – the Jewish-led network set up to counter attempts by pro-Israel right wingers to brand the campaign for justice for Palestinians as antisemitic.

Free Speech on Israel also reported the oration by Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, speaking for liberal and progressive Jews to huge applause (and reluctant clapping from Bill Clinton) from thousands of mourners for Mohammad Ali.

Lerner  said: “We know what is like to be demeaned and to have a few people who act against the highest visions of our tradition to then be identified as the value of the entire tradition which is why we… liberal and progressive Jews have called upon the United States to stand up to the part of the Israeli government that is oppressing Palestinians, that we as Jews recognise… that everyone is equally precious and that means Palestinians as well as all the other people on the planet.”

He also condemned the mass incarceration of African Americans by “racist police and racist judges.”



Britain’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, ‘attacks the Labour party by launching a defence of Zionism which turns it from a political ideology (that can be supported or opposed) into a religion that is beyond question. We British Jews reject this categorically.’

This letter was submitted to the Guardian after a earlier version was rejected by the Daily Telegraph, despite multiple signatures including those of Mike Leigh, Michael Rosen and Miriam Margolyes. It is one of the first public initiatives of a new network supported by J-BIG and members of other pro-Palestinian Jewish organisations – Free Speech on Israel.)

Anti-Zionism does not equate to antisemitism

Guardian, 10 May 2016

In his Daily Telegraph article on which you report (Chief rabbi: Labour has severe problem with antisemitism,, 4 May), Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the antisemitism crisis engulfing Labour had “lifted the lid” on bigotry.

He joins in the sensationalist allegations of antisemitism in the Labour party, where the headlines’ decibel level is in inverse proportion to the evidence supporting them. Ignoring the more serious anti-Muslim racism in electoral politics, Rabbi Mirvis attacks the Labour party by launching a defence of Zionism which turns it from a political ideology (that can be supported or opposed) into a religion that is beyond question. We British Jews reject this categorically.

Mirvis attacks as “antisemitic” those who separate Judaism from Zionism. Yet most Jews who perished in the Holocaust were indifferent to Zionism and many opposed it. In the last municipal elections in Europe’s largest Jewish community, in Poland, just before the second world war, Poland’s Jews voted overwhelmingly for the secular, anti-Zionist, socialists of the Bund, while Zionist parties got derisory votes. Is Rabbi Mirvis recasting those victims of the Holocaust posthumously as enemies of Judaism and therefore as antisemites?
George Abendstern
Seymour Alexander
Julia Bard
Sue Bard
Graham Bash
Craig Berman
Rica Bird
Haim Bresheeth
Elizabeth Carola
Linda Clair
Jim Cohen
Norman Crane
Wendy Crane
Judith Cravitz
Mike Cushman
Ivor Dembina
Stephen Deutsch
Mark Elf
Thomas Eisner
Nancy Elan
Liz Elkind
Pia Feig
Deborah Fink
Kenny Fryde
Carolyn Gelenter
Claire Glasman
Sarah Glynn
David Gordon
Helen Gordon
May Gordon
Tony Greenstein
Jan Hardy
Abe Hayeem
Rosamine Hayeem
Marion Hersh
Lorraine Huddle
Selma James
Riva Joffe
Michael Kalmanovitz
Roisin Kalmanovitz
Richard Kuper
Pam Laurance
Leah Levane
Mike Leigh
Rachel Lever
Rosalind Levy
Les Levidow
Susanne Levin
Barrie Levine
Sue Lieberman
Yosefa Loshitzky
Ruth London
Catherine Lyons
Moshe Machover
Henry Maitles
Beryl Maizels
Miriam Margolyes
Helen Marks
John McArdle
Martine Miel
Mica Nava
Diana Neslen
Esther Neslen
Susan Pashkoff
Juliet Peston
Roland Rance
Frances Rifkin
Leon Rosselson
Michael Rosen
David Rosenberg
Jonathan Rosenhead
Maureen Rothstein
Ian Saville
Alexei Sayle
Amanda Sebesteyn
Glyn Secker
Suzanne Senior
Roger Silverman
Vanessa Stilwell
Inbar Tamari
David Turner
Philip Wadler
Jackie Walker
Naomi Wayne
Sam Weinstein
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Ben Young
Aliya Yule




Jewish labour and trade union activists, members of a range of groups campaigning in solidarity with the people of Palestine, have produced a statement intended for use in the fightback against the witch hunt targeting the pro-Palestinian Left in the Labour Party. 

Labour movement and human rights organisations, including PSC branches, can use it to generate informed debate and send a message to the political establishment that we will not allow campaigners for justice for Palestine to be smeared with allegations of antisemitism.

As the Jewish Socialist Group has stated on its website:

“A very small number of such cases seem to be real instances of antisemitism. Others represent genuine criticism of Israeli policy and support for Palestinian rights, but expressed in clumsy and ambiguous language, which may unknowingly cross a line into antisemitism. Further cases are simply forthright expressions of support for Palestinian rights, which condemn Israeli government policy and aspects of Zionist ideology, and have nothing whatsoever to do with antisemitism. “                            


We are witnessing a wave of hysteria over claims that the Labour Party is rife with antisemitism and has a “problem with Jews.” We know this is not true. But there is indeed a problem.  It is a problem with people – Jewish and otherwise, inside and outside the party –  who wield antisemitism allegations as a stick to beat the Corbyn leadership, regardless of the damage caused.

Jeremy Corbyn and others have done their best to respond, rightly asserting their impeccable anti-racist credentials, treating specific allegations of antisemitism seriously, investigating them and taking appropriate measures. This is no more and no less than should happen with allegations of racism or discrimination of any kind.

But this has not satisfied those sections of the pro-Israel lobby orchestrating the attacks.

They have targeted Malia Bouattia, the first Muslim woman to be elected president of the National Union of Students, on the thinnest of pretexts and despite her consistently principled stance. Another victim has been Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) founder member and lifelong anti-racist Tony Greenstein, suspended from the Labour Party without even being informed of the charges against him. Now Naz Shah MP has been suspended on the basis of a few inappropriate social media posts which she evidently regrets – swiftly followed by Ken Livingstone because of his ill-chosen remarks in defending her.

Make no mistake – this campaign of vilification is intended to undermine Labour’s new leaders, because of their commendable record of supporting justice for Palestine. The wider aim is to crush support for the solidarity movement which is working to achieve for Palestinians basic rights that are endorsed by international legal bodies.

As Labour and Trade Union activists, we need to resist this witch hunt and assert the right to campaign in solidarity with all oppressed people, including Palestinians.

We urge labour movement organisations to:

 – Reiterate our strong commitment to combating all forms of racism and to defending those who are subjected to it. We actively oppose Islamophobia, prejudice against migrants and racism against ethnic and religious minorities, including anti-Jewish racism.

 – Reject the suggestion that questioning the Zionist ideology of the Israeli state and its supporters – both Jews and non-Jews – entails antisemitic prejudice. On the contrary, campaigning to end the injustices inflicted by Israel on the Palestinian people is in the very best traditions of the British Labour movement.

– Urge the Labour Party establishment to

  • listen to the many Jews who are outraged by the lie that Jews are not safe in the Labour Party;
  • cease victimising those who work for justice for Palestine;
  • adhere to fair practice and transparency when investigating charges against members;
  • call to order Labour Party members who bring the party into disrepute by spreading calumnies about widespread antisemitism in the party.

Antisemitism smear campaign – our fightback begins

Jewish groups in solidarity with Palestine are getting together with other activists to fight back against the Zionist-led smear campaign alleging that questioning the state of Israel is antisemitic.

One result has been publication in the Independent Online of a letter with mainly Jewish signatories under the following headline:

First Muslim woman to lead UK’s students welcomed by Jewish community

Why has the new National Union of Students (NUS) President been targeted by “anti-Semitism” accusations, without any evidence? As a consistent opponent of all forms of racism including anti-Semitism, Malia Bouattia opposes Israel’s racist, illegal occupation of Palestine and supports effective campaigns to end it.

Her accusers have cited her negative comment about the University of Birmingham as “a Zionist outpost”, which is a political category like any other – and so irrelevant to religion or anti-Semitism. Indeed, the false equation ‘Jewish = Zionist’ comes from Israel’s supporters, not from the Palestine solidarity movement.

Malia Bouattia’s election as the first Muslim woman to head the NUS should be celebrated for bringing together resistance to class, racial, religious, gender and neocolonial oppression. Instead, she has been subjected to attacks that mirror those made against the Labour Party since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader.

Israel is no longer believed when denying responsibility for its crimes against Palestinians, so now its supporters resort to silencing opposition to those crimes with blanket allegations of anti-Semitism. In both the NUS and Labour Party, the right wing loses its control over an organisation and then attempts to destabilise it, regardless of the damage done.

As mainly Jewish signatories, we congratulate Malia on her election.

Mike Cushman, Tony Greenstein, Deborah Fink, Les Levidow, Jenny Hardacre, Eleanor Kilroy, Richard Kuper, Leah Levane, Rachel Lever, Helen Marks, Jonathan Rosenhead, Ian Saville, Amanda Sebestyen, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi 

Two further letters from members of J-BIG appeared in the Guardian.

The comment by the president of Birmingham University Jewish Society that “when someone attacks Zionism they’re indirectly attacking Judaism as a religion, because the two go hand in hand” (Jewish students call for apology from head of NUS for ‘past rhetoric’, 22 April) makes a totally invalid equation. Zionism is a political project that indeed has the support of many Jews and some, particularly evangelical, Christians. But it has to be recognised as a political project and therefore must be open to criticism and opposition by both Jews and others. It cannot be regarded as beyond reproach. Such an approach would place it in a position similar to Communism within China: a state shibboleth that you risk prison to criticise.

It is also a mistake to believe that we cannot criticise Judaism as a religion. All religions must be open to scrutiny if they buttress patriarchy, homophobia, gross inequality, child exploitation or racism – as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and all others have been known to do.

Mike Cushman
Convenor, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods

The election of the first black woman as president of the NUS should be a matter for celebration, not recrimination. The fact that she is a secular, anti-racist Muslim should be an extra cause for joy.

It is a matter of regret that some Jewish students have put themselves alongside the tabloid press in their attacks on Malia Bouattia. I say some Jewish students, because those who are not Zionists or supporters of the Israeli state will not have signed their open letter.

Newspapers like the Mail and Express, which campaigned against the admittance of Jewish refugees in the 1930s, are now to the fore in attacking Malia. Their reasons are just as specious as when they were attacking the Jewish radicals of the East End in the last century. Malia stands, though she may not realise it, in the tradition of Rudolph Rocker, Aron Lieberman and the Jewish anarchists.

Malia has nothing to apologise for. Zionism is a political not a racial or ethnic category. That is why Jews have always been in the forefront of opposing this racist ideology. Her reference to Birmingham University being a “Zionist outpost” is no different than if someone was to refer to Sussex University as a radical or socialist outpost.

Let us hope that the Guardian can find it in it to welcome her election rather than joining in with the tabloid hue and cry.
Tony Greenstein