Apparently I’m a stooge of the Israeli government
Owen Jones

Owen, I’m not calling you a “stooge” of anything or anyone, and I respect your desire to honour your friend, and your friend’s father, whom I have no reason to believe are not exemplary people, in their own way. Nevertheless, I question your judgement here.

You say that you will be talking to “people with a variety of different views on Israel and on Palestine, because like any other community British Jews are not a homogenous bloc of people”. I am sure that there will be a variety of views among the people you speak to. Some will be in favour of a two state solution to the present problems, some will be in favour of annexation of the occupied territories. Some will support Israel to the hilt, and some will take a much more critical stance. However, if you are talking to just members of the JLM and their associates, there will be an important element of the community of British Jews who will not be represented. That includes people like me, who are Jewish, but not Zionist. Because of my views, I am precluded from joining the Jewish Labour Movement, despite the fact that I am undoubtedly Jewish, and a member of the Labour Party. You might think that these two qualifications would be adequate for me to be eligible to join any organisation so-named. But actually the JLM’s title is misleading. It was more accurately named when it was known as Poale Zion (Workers of Zion) until 2004. Though the name changed, the organisation’s affiliations did not. It is still an affiliate of the World Zionist Organisation* (whose title, I know, sounds like the product of an antisemitic fantasy, but is nevertheless a real and powerful organisation), and it is still committed to upholding the Jerusalem Programme of that organisation, including affirming “The unity of the Jewish people, its bond to its historic homeland Eretz Yisrael, and the centrality of the State of Israel and Jerusalem, its capital, in the life of the nation” and encouraging “Aliyah (emigration) to Israel from all countries” among Jewish people.

As a Jew who does not support these objectives, and who looks rather to the traditions of the Jewish Socialist Bund, which predates Zionism, I am not welcome to join the JLM. I know, because they have told me so. There is no organisation within the Labour Party for non-Zionist Jews. While I accept that we may be a minority among British Jews, I believe that we are a significant and growing minority, and our ideas are more in tune with the ideals of the Labour Party than those of even the more liberal wing of the JLM.

I hope that you will therefore reconsider your decision to lecture to this exclusive organisation whose support for Israel may sometimes be critical, but is nevertheless fundamental. Give your lecture elsewhere, in honour of whomsoever you choose, and give it to an organisation that will not exclude people on the basis of their rejection of political Zionism.

*Since I wrote this, it has been pointed out that the JLM is not affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation, but “is … an affiliate of the World Labour Zionist Movement and supports the Jerusalem Programme of the WZO [World Zionist Organisation]” . As such, it organises within the WZO and attends its Congress. The distinction between this and formal affiliation seems fairly trivial, but is apparently important to the leadership of the JLM.