A leading Labour activist was heckled at an anti-Semitism meeting on Monday after she wrongly criticised Holocaust Memorial Day for not including non-Jewish genocide victims.
In secret footage obtained by HuffPostUK Jackie Walker also stirred anger as she questioned the need for security at Jewish schools, and said she hadn’t heard an anti-Semitism definition she could “work with”.
To jeers, the Momentum vice-chair said “wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all peoples who’ve experienced Holocaust?”
When told the day was indeed for all post- World War II genocides, she said “in practice it is not circulated and advertised as such.”
Speaking at a Labour conference fringe which was set up to train activists to challenge anti-Semitism, Walker, who is Jewish, also said extra security measures in Jewish schools in the UK were not due to fear of anti-Semitic attacks.
“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.
“I have a grandson, he is a year old. There is security in his nursery and every school has security now. It’s not because I’m frightened or his parents are frightened that he is going to be attacked.”
This was met with heckles from the crowd. One audience member said: “is ISIS going to attack your grandson’s nursery?”
To anger, Walker said also she hadn’t “heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work with.”
Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement Jeremy Newmark said he was “appalled” at Walker’s comments, and called on her to apologise or resign.
“I am appalled that somebody who has already caused great hurt and pain to so many Jewish people by promoting an anti-Semitic myth would come to a training session designed to help Party activists address anti-Semitism and use the occasion to challenge the legitimacy of the training itself”, he said.
“To denigrate security provision at Jewish schools, make false claims about the universality of National Holocaust Memorial Day and to challenge recognised definitions of anti-Semitism 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.”
Karen Pollock the CEO of the Holocaust Educational Trust said Walker had “undermined and belittled” Jews:
“The Holocaust was a defining episode in history where 6 million men, women and children were brutally murdered simply for being Jewish; the very epitome of man’s inhumanity to man.
“Whilst Holocaust Memorial Day rightly and proudly commemorates the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, one has to wonder why Ms Walker takes issue with commemorating the mass extermination of Jews in its own right.
“The deliberate use of term ‘HolocaustS’ - plural - undermines and belittles the distinct nature of the tragedy itself, ignores that genocides are the result of diverse and unique factors, and also deprives the Jewish community of their collective memory.”
At the meeting on Monday the Labour activist denied she was looking to offend people. “I came here with an open mind and I was seeking for information”, she said.
“I’m not saying anything objectionable.”
In a later statement she said the video had been leaked to the press unethically, and that she “utterly condemns antisemitism”:
“A number of people made comments in a private training session run by the Jewish Labour Movement. As we all know, training sessions are intended to be safe spaces where ideas and questions can be explored.
“A film of this session was leaked to the press unethically. I did not raise a question on security in Jewish schools. The trainer raised this issue and I asked for clarification, in particular as all London primary schools, to my knowledge, have security and I did not understand the particular point the trainer was making.
“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.
“In the session, a number of Jewish people, including me, asked for definitions of antisemitism. This is a subject of much debate in the Jewish community. I support David Schneider’s definition and utterly condemn antisemitism.
“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 minimised. If offence has been caused, it is the last thing I would want to do and I apologise.”
In May Walker was readmitted to the Labour party after she was suspended earlier in the month over alleged anti-Semitic comments on Facebook.
In comments on the site she had written about Jews as “chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”.
This comes as a Labour member who heckled a leading figure in the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) during his speech to the party conference says anti-Semitism is being used as a “weapon” to attack Jeremy Corbyn.
On Tuesday, Mike Katz, the national vice chairman of the JLM, was shouted at as he demanded Labour immediate changes be made to party rules to crack down on racism and anti-Semitism.
Jeremy Corbyn has been dogged by allegations he does not take anti-Semitism within Labour seriously. However the Labour leader has said “there is unity in the party in opposing any form anti-Semitism, any form of racism”.