Adam Langleben, JLC's Head of Digital & Stakeholder Engagement reviews Labour Party Conference 2016.
For a conference that could have gone very badly for the Jewish community, it ended being a very good conference.
Prior to the beginning of the conference we were concerned that motions that were directly hostile to the interests of the Jewish Community could have been forward for debate, this never came to pass.
This was avoided due to excellent working between the mainstream communal bodies and Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement - all working well together with friends and allies in positions of power across the party and at every level of it.
We successfully established red lines and committed MPs from all sides of the party to agree to address our concerns, all on record - such as the JLM Rally against Antisemitism which was a fantastic illustration of the support the community have inside of the Labour Party. Shadow Cabinet members such as Clive Lewis were completely clear in their opposition to antisemitism and Israel’s right to exist in peace. The rally provided a space for sympathetic voices from across the spectrum of Labour politics to express solidarity with Jewish community about antisemitism within their ranks.
Labour Friends of Israel held their annual reception, hosting over 500 attendees of conference, welcoming HE Ambassador Mark Regev, Michael Biran MK and Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. The speeches were well received by all present. Mr Corbyn used his speech to make his strongest statement yet in condemning antisemitism and his support for a two state solution to the Middle East Peace Process.
He praised Shimon Peres – who at the time was being reported as being gravely ill - as a “giant of Israeli politics for a very long time. His Nobel Peace Prize was remarkable and a huge achievement and should be the basis on which we strive to bring about a permanent, long-term peace in the whole region, particularly in Israel-Palestine.”
The LFI stall had hundreds of visitors throughout the week and illustrated how vital its work is to ensuring the historic bond between the Labour Party and Israel continues.
CST and the Holocaust Educational Trust hosted a successful joint fringe meeting for intelligent reflection on their “Lessons Learned? Reflections on Antisemitism and the Holocaust”.
Throughout conference, there were attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the mainstream Jewish community and Labour members who define as such. Outside of conference and near fringe meetings, leaflets were handed out with the sole aim of delegitimising the Jewish Labour Movement as a mainstream body representing the bulk of Jewish Labour members.
Due to a proposed rule change motion on antisemitism not being adopted at conference and it being deferred for one year, one of the two Jewish Labour Movement delegates – Mike Katz – spoke on the issue in open session.
Mike Katz subsequently received an overwhelming standing ovation in a packed conference hall. This was despite a small number of heckles from about three anti-zionist Jews in the balcony. It is regrettable that the press decided to pick up on the heckling throughout its reporting – which misrepresented the tone of the speech and mood of the entire conference.
Following the sad death of Shimon Peres, Labour Friends of Israel, with assistance from the Jewish Labour Movement, were able to successfully request a tribute to the former President of Israel on conference floor, including a minute silence in his memory.