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Jackie Walker (activist)

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Jackie Walker
Jacqueline Walker

(1954-04-10) 10 April 1954 (age 64)
Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, United States
ResidenceBroadstairs, Kent, England
Alma materGoldsmiths College
OccupationTeacher, writer, anti-racism activist, charity worker
Years active1981–present
Notable work
Pilgrim State, The Lynching
Home townDeptford, London, England
TitleVice-Chair of Momentum
TermSeptember 2015 – October 2016
SuccessorCecile Wright
Political partyLabour (1981–present; suspended 2016)
Partner(s)Graham Bash
Parent(s)Jack Cohen (father)
Dorothy Brown (mother)

Jacqueline Walker (born 10 April 1954) is a British black Jewish political activist and writer. She has been an anti-racism trainer and charity worker. She is the author of her family memoir, Pilgrim State, and co-author and performer of the one-woman show, The Lynching. She has held the roles of Vice-Chair of South Thanet Constituency Labour Party and Vice-Chair of Momentum.


Walker has described her family background in both her family memoir and show.

Walker describes herself as being of mixed Jewish and African descent.[1] According to Walker, her mother, Dorothy Brown, as a black Jamaican Sephardi Jew[2] who was descended partly from a Portuguese Jew who came to the West Indies during the days of Christopher Columbus and a female slave, who converted to Judaism on marriage.[3] Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1915, she won a scholarship to study medicine in the United States, where she married and had a daughter, giving up her studies. In 1949, she was committed temporarily to a mental institution, where was on occasion held in isolation, placed in a straitjacket and subjected to ECT treatment, by her husband, who was seeking to end the relationship. Her eldest daughter was put into care and was ultimately fostered while her second child was returned to her on her release. Later, her mother attempted to retrieve her elder daughter but without success.[4][5] Released, and active in the civil rights movement, she met Walker's Ashkenazi Jewis father, Jack Cohen, whose family fled anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Empire around 1918 and came to New York, where he became a jeweller.[6][7][8][9]

Walker was born in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City in 1954. In 1956, her mother, with Walker and her step brother, were deported to Jamaica, which Walker attributes to McCarthyism.[7] There, racial discrimination barred her mother from many jobs, and she had to leave her children with relatives for months while she travelled looking for work.[5] In 1959, Walker’s mother, with her children, moved to London.[7] Her mother suffered from periods of severe depression since her 30s, as well as physical illness in later life. Family life was characterised by abject poverty, cramped, squalid and chaotic living conditions and continual racist attacks, despite her mother’s best efforts: as a result, Walker and her step brothers spent time in care homes or with foster families. She was the only black child in her primary school and suffered from racial bullying both at school and when in care. When Walker was 11, she witnessed the sudden death of her mother at the age of 50, after which Walker lived in care homes and was then permanently fostered.[9][5]


Walker was in the National Youth Theatre but, as she thought that as a black person she would get few roles, went instead to Goldsmiths College and trained to become a teacher.[5][9][7] In her first year, she married and had a baby, returning to her studies when her baby was six weeks old.[5] She worked as a teacher at a pupil referral unit for emotionally and behaviourally disturbed young people.[10]

Walker completed an M. Phil, which examined the development of identity in the work of Black British writers. Having completed two Arvon Foundation writing courses, she was awarded an Arts Council England grant to complete her family memoir Pilgrim State,[11][12] published by Sceptre in April 2006. It was placed on the reading list of the social worker training course at Brunel University London, where Walker gave bi weekly lectures and was a member of the committee for social work training.[5]

She has been an anti-racist trainer and charity worker and has a long record of anti-racist activism and as a political activist.[5][13] She has contributed to educational materials and written training manuals on anti-racism.

The Labour Party

Walker joined the Labour Party in 1981.[9] She was elected Vice-Chair of South Thanet Constituency Labour Party and played a leading role in the campaign there to prevent the election of the UKIP leader Nigel Farage in the 2015 general election.[14] She was elected to Momentum's Steering Committee, becoming its Vice-Chair in September 2015 and is a member of Jewish Voice for Labour.[15][16]

First investigation

In Walker's Facebook account, a private (i.e. not visible to the general public) discussion from February 2016 was recorded in which a friend of Walker had raised the question of 'the debt' owed to the Jews because of the Holocaust. In the discussion, Walker had responded:

Oh yes – and I hope you feel the same towards the African holocaust? My ancestors were involved in both – on all sides as I'm sure you know, millions more Africans were killed in the African holocaust and their oppression continues today on a global scale in a way it doesn't for Jews... and many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade which is of course why there were so many early synagogues in the Caribbean. So who are victims and what does it mean? We are victims and perpetrators to some extent through choice. And having been a victim does not give you a right to be a perpetrator.[17]

Her private comments were “uncovered” by the Israel Advocacy Movement[18] which, it says, aims “to counter British hostility to Israel.”[19] The Jewish Chronicle then published her comments in May 2016 and notified the Labour Party about them.[20] Following this, she was suspended by the Labour Party, pending investigation. The Chair of Momentum, Jon Lansman, addressing the criticism of Walker, referred to "a 'lynch mob' whose interest in combatting racism is highly selective".[21] The investigation and accompanying suspension concluded after a few weeks with the decision that not to proceed with disciplinary action.[14]

In response to her critics, Walker said:

Yes, I wrote 'many Jews (my ancestors too) were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade'. These words, taken out of context in the way the media did, of course do not reflect my position. I was writing to someone who knew the context of my comments. Had he felt the need to pick me up on what I had written I would have rephrased – perhaps to 'Jews (my ancestors too) were among those who financed the sugar and slave trade and at the particular time/in the particular area I'm talking about they played an important part.' ... [My claim] has never been that Jews played a disproportionate role in the Atlantic Slave Trade, merely that, as historians such as Arnold Wiznitzer noted, at a certain economic point, in specific regions where my ancestors lived, Jews played a dominant role 'as financiers of the sugar industry, as brokers and exporters of sugar, and as suppliers of Negro slaves on credit.'[22]

Dave Rich has argued that Walker's comments are reminiscent of the Nation of Islam's anti-Semitic views on the role of Jews in the slave trade.[23] Walker's response has been that 'the Nation of Islam is an antisemitic group which seeks to set Jewish and Black people against each other. Any examination of my work, my writing, my life, would make clear my opposition to this ideology.'[24]

Second investigation

During the September 2016 Labour Party Conference, Walker attended a training session on antisemitism for party members held by the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).[25] Her remarks at the meeting led to her second investigation by the party.

Jewish school security

Jeremy Newmark, the chair of the JLM, said after the meeting that Walker had acted “to denigrate security provision at Jewish schools” when, at the meeting, she said “I was a bit concerned by your suggestion that the Jewish community is under such threat that it has to use security in all its buildings. 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.” After the meeting, she said “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.”[25]

Definition of antisemitism

In the session, there was a discussion on the definition of antisemitism set out by the JLM, which included examples relating to Israel and which has been the subject of debate within the Labour Party. Walker said, in relation to the discussion, and speaking as an anti-racism trainer, “I still haven’t heard a definition of antisemitism I can work with”. Jeremy Newmark said that “I am appalled that somebody…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".[25]

Holocaust Memorial Day

At the event, Walker queried what she saw as the limited scope of Holocaust Memorial Day, saying: 'Wouldn't it be wonderful if Holocaust Memorial Day was open to all peoples who've experienced holocaust.' When others shouted that it did include other genocides, she responded “In practice, it’s not actually circulated and advertised as such.”[25] Later, in an interview, she asked why Holocaust Memorial Day only concerns genocides committed since the 1940s, thereby excluding 'the African holocaust' during the slave trade.[26] She has also said, following the meeting, “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.”[25]


A number of prominent left-wing activists have defended Walker, including film director Ken Loach, who said she should be allowed to play a significant role in the party,[27] and Noam Chomsky who said "I wholeheartedly support the right of anyone to criticise Israel without being branded antisemitic. That goes in particular for Jackie Walker."[28]


Facing a threat of losing their funding from the TSSA trades union, Momentum removed Walker as Vice-Chair, while retaining her as a Steering Committee member, with the Committee stating that, although it "does not regard any of the comments she appears to have made, taken individually, to be antisemitic, ... the Committee does consider her remarks on Holocaust Memorial Day and on security of Jewish schools to be ill-informed, ill-judged and offensive. In such circumstances, the Committee feels that Jackie should have done more to explain herself to mitigate the upset caused."[29] The Committee stated that "Jackie should not be expelled from the Labour party."[30][31]

Later that month, Walker was suspended from the Labour Party pending investigation, for a second time, with Labour's National Executive Committee referring her case to the party's National Constitutional Committee.[15]

Walker's party disciplinary hearing in relation to the investigation is scheduled for 26 March 2019.[32]

Talk, show and films

In March 2017, Glasgow Friends of Israel and Labour Against Antisemitism sought unsuccessfully to prevent her speaking on Palestine: Free Speech And Israel's "Black Ops" at Dundee University. A similar event at Aberdeen University was cancelled after the invitation to speak was withdrawn. Labour Against Anti-Semitism described her talk as "part of an increasing normalisation of anti-Semitic hate speech that has to be confronted and eliminated" and that it "threatens the safety of Jewish students" and therefore the university was "failing in its duty of care". Walker responded that there was a difference between being pro-Palestine and anti-Zionist, and anti-Semitic, and that she and her partner were Jewish.[33][34]

Walker also performed in a one-woman show about her experience, The Lynching,[7] which she wrote in collaboration with Norman Thomas and premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2017.[3] The Board of Deputies of British Jews wrote to Edinburgh Council to express their concern that the show was being mounted on council owned facilities. They informed the council of the allegations made against Walker and that these allegations had resulted in her suspension from the Labour Party and the loss of her Vice-Chair role with Momentum. Walker interpreted this as an attempt to prevent the show going ahead.[35][36][37][38]

Walker was extensively interviewed in the The Lobby, the 2017 TV series by Al Jazeera about some of the pro-Israel organizations and individuals active in the United Kingdom.

In September 2018, the Jewish Voice for Labour sponsored a premiere of the documentary film The Political Lynching of Jackie Walker which was to have been presented while the Labour Party Conference was being held nearby. The audience of 200 people had to be evacuated after a bomb threat.[39][40] In a statement, Jewish Voice for Labour said the film "is an incisive and chilling exposé of attempts to silence critics of Israel, in particular those who support the socialist project of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. It connects the global struggle against racism and the far right with the Palestinian cause."[41]

Another film, on the accusations of antisemitism against Walker and others following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party, entitled Witch Hunt, premiered in Broadstairs on 3 February 2019.[42] In the same month, the Board of Deputies of British Jews complained to the Labour Party about Chris Williamson MP, for booking a room to enable the showing of the film in Parliament. A Labour spokeswoman said of Williamson's action: "It's completely inappropriate to book a room for an event about an individual who is suspended from the party and subject to ongoing disciplinary procedures.”[43][44] The screening was cancelled, which the film's promoters said was due to intimidation.[45]

Other organisations

Walker is a founding member of the Kent Anti-Racist Network and Labour Against the Witch Hunt.[46][47] She is also a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.[48] In February 2019, she was elected to the board of the Labour Representation Committee.[49]

Personal life

Walker has both American and British citizenship.[11]

While she was brought up as a Catholic for at least some of her childhood,[50] she has self-identified as Jewish, saying, in 2016, "I certainly wouldn't call myself an anti-Semite. I'm Jewish and my partner is Jewish."[51] This is disputed by those who assert that being a Jew requires matrilineal descent or a conversion process under the supervision of a rabbi.[52]

She has an elder sister, an elder brother and a younger brother.[5] She has three children.

In 2010, Walker moved from London to Broadstairs,[13] Kent[15] where she lives with her partner and editor of Labour Briefing, Graham Bash.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Kerstein, Benjamin (6 August 2017). "Far-Left Activist Jackie Walker Gets Standing Ovation for Antisemitic Play". Algemeiner Journal. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Who's behind the momentous sacking of Jackie Walker?". Camden New Journal. Camden. 7 October 2016. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  3. ^ a b Levitt, Lee (6 August 2017). "Jackie Walker in Edinburgh: cheers and a standing ovation". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  4. ^ Arnold, Sue (14 November 2008). "Pilgrim State". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Carpenter, Louise (13 April 2008). "Who are you calling a bad mother?". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  6. ^ Rampen, Julia (17 July 2017). "Former Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker plans one-woman Edinburgh Fringe show". New Statesman. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e Hyland, Bernadette (25 January 2017). "Theatre Review Pointed polemic from suspended Labour activist". Morning Star. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  8. ^ Gulliver, John (7 November 2017). "Jackie Walker, the ghost, says we must be free to speak". The Islington Tribune. Derry. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d Peled, Daniella (5 October 2017). "Why I Found a London Play Framing Jews as a KKK-style Lynch Mob Strangely Touching". Haaretz. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  10. ^ Harris, John (16 April 2016). "Interview: Jacqueline Walker". Hong Kong: Time Out. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  11. ^ a b Harris, John (16 April 2016). "Interview: Jacqueline Walker". Time Out. Hong Kong. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  12. ^ "author Jacqueline Walker". Blake Friedmann. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  13. ^ a b Harris, John (16 April 2016). "Inside Momentum: 'The idea that we're all rulebook-thumping Trotskyites is silly'". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  14. ^ a b Mortimer, Caroline (28 May 2016). "Anti-Semitism row: Momentum organiser Jackie Walker readmitted to Labour party following racism allegations". The Independent. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  15. ^ a b c Greenstein, Tony (3 January 2017). "The lynching of Jackie Walker". openDemocracy. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  16. ^ "Final Announcement: The Hives & More". Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  17. ^ Richard Kuper, 'Jackie-Walker-Responds-To-Accusations-Of-Antisemitism', Jews for Justice for Palestine Blog (5 September 2016)
  18. ^ Dysch, Marcus (4 May 2016). "Labour suspends Momentum supporter who claimed Jews caused 'an African holocaust'". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 26 Feb 2019.
  19. ^ "About". Israel Advocacy Movement. Retrieved 26 Feb 2016.
  20. ^ Dysch, Marcus (4 May 2016). "Labour suspends Momentum supporter who claimed Jews caused 'an African holocaust'". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 26 Feb 2019.
  21. ^ "A frenzied witch-hunt is not the way to combat antisemitism or any form of racism". Left Futures. 9 May 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  22. ^ 'Jackie-Walker-Responds-To-Accusations-Of-Antisemitism' citing: Arnold Wiznitzer in Jews in Colonial Brazil, quoted in Jane Gerber, ed., The Jews in the Caribbean (The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2014), p51.
  23. ^ Rich,The Left's Jewish Problem (2016), Conclusion
  24. ^ Kuper, Richard (5 September 2016). "Jackie Walker Responds to Accusations of Antisemitism". Labour against the witch-hunt. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  25. ^ a b c d e Elgot, Jessica (28 September 2016). "Momentum vice-chair under pressure to resign over antisemitism row". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  26. ^ "Momentum have dismissed vice-chair, Jackie Walker, following her comments on anti-Semitism and Holocaust Memorial Day". Channel 4 News. 4 October 2016. Retrieved 3 January 2019 – via Twitter.
  27. ^ a b Harpin, Lee (17 September 2017). "Ken Loach says Jackie Walker should have 'significant' role in Labour". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  28. ^ Sugarman, Daniel (14 June 2017). "Jackie Walker compares her Labour suspension for alleged antisemitism to a 'lynching'". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  29. ^ Stone, Jon (30 September 2016). "Momentum set to sack vice-chair Jackie Walker after Holocaust Memorial Day comments". The Independent. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  30. ^ Cowburn, Ashley (3 October 2016). "Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker removed from position over Holocaust comments". The Independent. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  31. ^ A Statement from Momentum's Steering Committee, (3 October 2016)
  32. ^ Winstanley, Asa (5 February 2019). "Labour expulsion hearing set for anti-Zionist Jackie Walker". The Electronic Intifada. Electronic Intifada. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  33. ^ Sneddon, Ciaran (19 March 2017). "Controversial Momentum figure Jackie Walker to address Dundee University audience despite anti-semitic allegations". ”The Courier”. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  34. ^ Vidinova, Nadia (30 March 2017). "Jackie Walker lecture at Dundee University goes ahead despite "hate speech" claims". ”The Courier”. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  35. ^ Dysch, Marcus (4 August 2017). "Jackie Walker claims Board of Deputies tried to shut down her Edinburgh show". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  36. ^ "Jackie Walker accuses Jewish leaders of trying to shut down Fringe show". The Times of Israel. 4 August 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  37. ^ "Controversial British activist says Jewish group tried to shut down her one-woman show". The Jerusalem Post. 4 August 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  38. ^ "Controversial British activist says top Jewish group tried to shut down her one-woman show". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 4 August 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  39. ^ Thomas, Joe; Kirkham, Jenny (25 September 2018). "Labour party conference highlights: The essential details of the event in Liverpool". Liverpool Echo. Liverpool. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  40. ^ Rawlinson, Kevin (25 September 2018). "Jewish event at Labour conference abandoned after bomb scare". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  41. ^ "Jewish Voice for Labour film screening evacuated after bomb threat". Morning Star. 26 September 2018. Retrieved 15 November 2018.
  42. ^ "Witch Hunt Film Screening". KentOnline. Retrieved 26 Feb 2019.
  43. ^ Doherty, Rosa (26 Feb 2019). "MP Chris Williamson accused of 'trolling Jewish community' by hosting Jackie Walker film in Parliament". "The Jewish Chronicle". Retrieved 26 Feb 2019.
  44. ^ Walker, Peter (26 Feb 2019). "Labour MP faces party censure over antisemitism film". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 Feb 2019.
  45. ^ Mason, Rowena (27 Feb 2019). "Corbyn set for clash with Watson over MP's antisemitism remarks". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 Feb 2019.
  46. ^ Francis, Pauldate=4 May 2016. "Leading Labour activist Jacqueline Walker, of Thanet Momentum, suspended over comments about the Holocaust". Kent Online. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  47. ^ Harper, Lee (3 Oct 2018). "Jeremy Corbyn-backing lawyer severs ties with group that calls Labour antisemitism 'witch hunt'". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 20 Feb 2019.
  48. ^ Walker, Jackie (14 January 2017). "Opposition to a Jewish state is a legitimate position". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  49. ^ Devlin, Kate (14 February 2019). "Leftwingers appoint Jackie Walker, activist suspended over antisemitism claims". The Times. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  50. ^ Jackie Walker. Pilgrim State. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  51. ^ "Momentum vice-chair sacked after anti-Semitism row". BBC. 3 October 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  52. ^ Hoffman, Jonathan (24 May 2017). "My question to Jackie Walker: Setting the record straight". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 27 November 2018.

External links

Party political offices
New title Vice-Chair of Momentum
Succeeded by
Cecile Wright