Suspended Labour Party activist Jackie Walker has spoken out against accusations of antisemitism.
Jackie, who is of mixed African and Jewish descent, told Socialist Worker it was time for the left to “draw a line and say, we are not having any more of this”.
Jackie was suspended from Labour last month after comments she made in an online discussion on racism and antisemitism were published by the Jewish Chronicle newspaper. Her remarks, written in February, made comparisons between the Holocaust and the African slave trade.
Jackie said, she was “shocked” to hear of her suspension by the Labour Party’s compliance unit.
She said, “I still don’t know what the charges are against me. I’ve only been informed about that by the Jewish Chronicle.
“If I cannot talk about my Jewish ancestors or my black ancestors without the compliance unit forbidding me to speak, what kind of political world are we entering? It’s extraordinary.”
Jackie has been a long-standing anti-racist campaigner and is the vice chair of Labour left group Momentum.
She said, “To have somebody like me, not only as someone who’s been such a victim of racism, but who has been an active anti-racist campaigner under the most difficult circumstances, basically being accused of being a racist. It’s just phenomenal.
“After I got over those immediate feelings of just wondering what the hell is going on here, I was actually really angry. I was outraged. How dare these people accuse me of racism?”
Jackie was one of a number of Labour Party members accused of antisemitism and suspended in the run-up to last week’s elections.
Labour MPs on the right of the party, as well as the Tories and sections of the press used the suspensions to whip up a furore. They attacked the left for having an “antisemitism problem”.
But Jackie said the right were using the accusations for their own ends.
She said, “I think why this is happening is hugely complicated. I’m sure there are many other Labour Party members who have said very similar things to the kind of things that I’ve said. When you actually read the Facebook post there’s nothing antisemitic in there.
“I presume what’s happened is that these jokers, who seem to be quite strong in their support for the Israeli government, when they were trawling through social media thought they’d struck gold when they realised that I was the vice chair of Momentum.
“So you can’t help but think there is more going on in this than a simple story about racism.”
She added, “I don’t notice these people on the right of the Labour party, the Conservative party, in the media trying to defend the rights of refugees or trying to defend black people and ethnic minorities from the right wing protest groups in Dover. Where are they?
The accusations have given encouragement to racists in Kent
“What’s extraordinary for me is that one of the reasons why this is happening is pressure coming from the Daily Mail and the Telegraph newspapers, whose records in stirring up hatred against minorities is well known.”
Jackie also said that the accusations had given encouragement to racists in Kent.
“This has now opened me out to attacks from the right and proper racists and fascists,” she said.
“So I’ve had some unpleasant posts about me. It’s not very nice to read that kind of thing – for my kids to read that kind of thing.
“The local fascists have been posting on the internet, thinking that I’ve been hung out to dry by the Labour movement.
“It’s breath-taking that somebody in the compliance unit did not think that a black Jewish activist who has been involved so closely in fighting the fascists in Dover, fighting Ukip in Thanet, might be made vulnerable by this kind of thing.”
But Jackie and other activists are organising to stand up to the right’s smears.
She said, “There’s a series of meetings planned. I’ve been invited to a number of meetings across the country. It seems to me that this has sparked off a particular response.
“It’s not that the Labour movement doesn’t have problems with discrimination – it does. It’s part of society in general.
“But the Labour movement has a proud tradition of defending minorities and can hold its head up in this. I do not believe there is a major problem with antisemitism in the Labour party. And I will say that again. I will not apologise for having said that either.
“It’s time for us to actually say we are not going to accept the way that we are being portrayed in this.”