British Labour Party activist questions Holocaust Remembrance Day, existence of anti-Semitism


(JTA) — A senior activist in Britain’s Labour Party who is close to controversial party leader Jeremy Corbyn questioned why Holocaust Remembrance Day is only about Jews.

Jackie Walker also questioned the need for security at Jewish institutions, suggesting that anti-Semitism is not behind any attacks, during a workshop organized by the Jewish Labour Movement at the annual party conference on how to confront anti-Semitism and engage Jewish voters.

Recordings of her comments were published Wednesday on the Huffington Post.

Walker, a vice chair of Momentum — an organization formed to help Corbyn and Labour win the next national election — was suspended from the party in May for making anti-Semitic remarks. She was later reinstated.

“I was a bit concerned … at your suggestions that the Jewish community is under such threat that they have to use security in all its buildings,” she said during the workshop, according to the Huffington Post.

Walker also told workshop participants that she still had not heard “a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with.”

She later apologized if her comments caused any offense, The Independent reported Wednesday.

“Having been a victim of racism, I would never play down the very real fears the Jewish community have, especially in light of recent attacks in France,” Walker said. “I would never play down the significance of the Shoah. Working with many Jewish comrades, I continue to seek to bring greater awareness of other genocides, which are too often forgotten or minimized. If offense has been caused, it is the last thing I would want to do and I apologize.”

Walker also said “I … utterly condemn anti-Semitism,” pointing to the “handy guide” by a British actor, writer and director, David Schneider, for its definition.

Jeremy Newmark, the chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, called for Walker to resign over the comments.

“To denigrate security provision at Jewish schools, make false claims about the universality of National Holocaust Memorial Day and to challenge recognized definitions of anti-Semitism is provocative, offensive and a stark example of the problem facing the Labour Party today,” Newmark said.

Gideon Falter, chairman of Britain’s Campaign Against Antisemitism, also called for Walker to be expelled from the party and Momentum, and “condemned in the strongest possible terms.”

“Until Labour matches its rhetoric with action, we remain of the view that the Labour Party is not safe for Jews,” he said.

Holocaust Memorial Day does also honor the victims of other genocides and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s website includes information on atrocities in Rwanda and Cambodia, according to the UK Jewish News website.

The Labour Party is poised to take disciplinary action against Walker over the comments, the Jewish News reported, saying she has been told to “show contrition or resign.” The report did not cite any sources.

Corbyn has faced allegations that his pro-Palestinian politics and endorsement of radical anti-Semites has encouraged hate speech against Jews. He been accused of doing too little to curb rampant anti-Semitism among party members and lawmakers, some of whom have been suspended for making racist and anti-Semitic statements on social media and in other public forums.

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