jewish family hackney credit kafka4prez via flickr

Hackney is home to more than 20,000 Charedi Orthodox Jews

A Hackney Labour meeting descended into “uproar” after a party activist spoke out, making a connection between Zionism and Nazism.

A motion was put forward at a Labour Party branch meeting of Cazenove and Springfield wards earlier this month, declaring that opposition to the Jewish state is not the same as antisemitism.

The proposer of the motion is said to have then drawn a comparison between Zionism and Nazism, and was accused of conflating the two.

Rabbi Abraham Pinter, a member of Hackney’s Orthodox Jewish community and a former Labour councillor, said the incident heightened his concerns about antisemitism in the Labour party.

Rabbi Pinter told the Hackney Citizen: “I found this hugely upsetting. I acted out of character and started shouting at the proposer.

“The chair then went on to apologise to the member who made this outrageous analogy for the interruption.

“I was so upset and very traumatised. I was physically sick when I came home.”

“I didn’t feel like I was getting much support from other members – although I did [later] get a few supportive calls from members of the party.”

Hackney Labour party declined to reveal to the Hackney Citizen the identities of the proposer of the motion and the chair of the meeting.

Rabbi Pinter said: “I don’t want to target anybody in particular or encourage disciplinary action.

“I wanted to raise that the issue needs to be addressed in principle. It’s an issue for the whole party.”

‘Provocative’

The motion, which was put forward at the meeting on 12 May, stated:

“Since the Labour Party cannot function without rational debate, we affirm that: The rejection of the ideology of Zionism cannot be conflated with or regarded as being antisemitism; Non-racist protests against actions of the Jewish State of Israel cannot accurately be described as manifestations of antisemitism.”

Rabbi Pinter said using the term ‘Jewish State’ was provocative. “Why use that term if you don’t want to be provocative? Normally you would just say Israel,” he said.

Cllr Michael Desmond, one of the Labour councillors for Hackney Downs ward said: “Unfortunately while putting forward that motion it was implied that Zionism had a connection to Nazism. This led to a bit of a melee and the chair brought the meeting to order.

“After the uproar died down I and many others got involved to say it was completely unacceptable and inappropriate.

“The person seconding the motion withdrew his support so essentially it didn’t reach a conclusion and the matter was withdrawn.”

Susan Fajana-Thomas, the chair of Hackney North Labour party, said an investigation has been launched into the incident.

“We have been briefed about the meeting and we are trying to establish exactly what happened.

“We have processes in place for dealing with racism and if our investigation turns up anything we will deal with it as a constituency Labour party,” she said.

However Ms Fajana-Thomas said they had not received any formal complaints.

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