A senior activist in the UK Labour Party, who is close to recently reelected leader Jeremy Corbyn and was previously suspended for anti-Semitic remarks, sparked controversy again this week by saying that the national day to honor the victims of the Holocaust should not be solely about Jews.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Remembrance Day was open to all people who’ve experienced holocaust?” Jackie Walker on Monday told a training session on how to confront anti-Semitism and engage Jewish voters. Her recorded comments appeared Wednesday on the Huffington Post.
When attendees at the session — which was organized by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) at the annual party conference in Liverpool — told her that the day did in fact include non-Jewish victims, Walker said that “in practice it is not circulated and advertised as such.”
She told attendees that she had come “seeking information,” and that she still had not heard “a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with.”
She also questioned the need for security at Jewish institutions, implying that attacks against them were not caused by anti-Semitism.
“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, according to the Huffington Post.
Walker, a vice chair of Momentum — an organization aimed at helping Corbyn and Labour to win the next elections — suggested that there was a “Catch-22” situation whereby people who denied being anti-Semitic opened themselves to being accused of anti-Semitism.
Jeremy Newmark, the chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, called for Walker to resign over the comments, the Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday.
He said: “I am appalled that somebody who has already caused great hurt and pain to so many Jewish people by promoting an antisemitic myth would come to a training session designed to help Party activists address antisemitism and use the occasion to challenge the legitimacy of the training itself.”
“To denigrate security provision at Jewish schools, make false claims about the universality of National Holocaust Memorial Day and to challenge recognised definitions of antisemitism is provocative, offensive and a stark example of the problem facing the Labour party today.
“As Vice Chair of Momentum, Jackie Walker has consistently failed to demonstrate any sensitivity to the impact of her words and actions upon the Jewish community. She must now consider her position, show some sensitivity and contrition or resign.”
Walker, who says both she and her partner have Jewish ancestors, was suspended and then reinstated in May after comments she made on Facebook. Taking part in a discussion with another Facebook poster, Walker said that her own ancestors were involved in the Jewish and African genocides “on all sides.”
On Sunday, Walker claimed accusations of anti-Semitism were being “exaggerated” and “weaponized” to undermine Corbyn.
JLM national vice chair Mike Katz was heckled as he told the conference there had been an increase in anti-Semitism and backed tougher party rules to deal with anti-Semitic incidents.
Corbyn has faced allegations that he has not done enough to counter hate speech directed against Jews.