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Is there really anti-Semitism in the Labour party? (Have your say)

Momentum vice chair Jackie Walker says Labour anti-Semitism row is 'exaggerated' to undermine Jeremy Corbyn

The Mirror reports: 
The group's Jackie Walker won cheers for her comments at a public meeting - where she sparked a row with one of Labour's top Jewish campaigners

Labour's anti-Semitism row is being "exaggerated" as part of a bid to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and "silence" his supporters, a top figure in Momentum said tonight.

The Corbyn-backing group's vice-chair Jackie Walker won cheers for her comments at a public debate - where she sparked a row with one of Labour's top Jewish campaigners.

Ms Walker faced criticism at the meeting - held at The World Transformed, Momentum's 'alternative' to the Labour party conference in Liverpool - from Jeremy Newmark.

The Jewish Labour Movement chairman told her one Jewish activist he knew had been told: "You are responsible for the slave trade."

And he said Jeremy Corbyn set up Labour's anti-Semitism probe this summer himself, adding: "You want to criticise someone for over-egging it? Perhaps you should criticise him."

But Ms Walker, who was suspended then readmitted to Labour over a comment about Jews being "chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade", insisted claims of anti-Semitism were being "weaponized" for political ends.

The meeting was called to debate whether Labour had an anti-Semitism problem.

Ms Walker said there was "little if any hard evidence" of a widespread problem and the furore meant other oppressed groups including black people had become "invisible".

She read her speech from a script to stop the "rapidly, anxiously anti-Corbyn" media from twisting her words and said both she and Momentum's chair were Jewish.

She said: "All racism is abhorrent and I'm not saying anti-Semitism does not exist in the Labour Party . The Labour Party, after all, is simply a reflection of society.

"But I am saying that claims of its significance are being exaggerated for political purposes.

"And this has been done at the huge cost to our movement, to our communities and to many individual people in and outside of our party."

To a loud burst of applause, she said: "Anti-Semitism is no more special than any other form of racism."

She continued: "All racism's have their own characteristics and histories.

"All Holocaust denial, whether it is the denial of the Jewish or African Holocaust, is a blasphemy against humanity.

"So what purpose do these allegations of anti-Semitism have? Why is it happening and who is paying the ultimate cost?

"It seems to me there is little if any hard evidence that the Labour Party has a major problem with anti-Semitism - though there is, as [Shami] Chakrabarti says [in her report], and occasionally toxic atmosphere.

"The most fundamental aim of such allegations, I suggest, is to undermine Jeremy, silence his supporters and ensure any chance of an alternative to the neo-liberal diet of cutting services and taxes that has been dished up to us as politics until Jeremy got the leadership never actually gets to our table as voters.

Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) chairman Mr Newmark said it was right to say anti-Semitism was no worse or better than other racism.

And he agreed it was not the same as anti-Zionism, saying the most strident debates about Israel could be found around a Jewish dinner table on a Friday night.

But anti-Semitism was "distinct" as a form of racism, he said, because of its link to neo-Nazism.

The "once historic natural alliance" between Labour and Jews could "dissipate, dilute, disappear", he warned, adding: "There's no conspiracy to silence legitimate criticism [of Israel]."

He said Ms Walker had "perpetuated that allegation on social media" of a link between Jewish ancestors, including her own, and the slave trade.

He added: "I don't say for a moment say the intention was there to promote anti-Semitism. I don't for a moment say the intention was there to create hurt, pain or anguish."

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