Jewish Labour Movement
|Formation||1903 as Poale Zion (Great Britain); renamed Jewish Labour Movement in 2004|
National Movement Chair
|Ruth Smeeth MP|
Youth and Student Officers
|Luisa Attfield and Jack Lubner|
National Vice Chairs
|Stephane Savary, Joe Goldberg and Sarah Sackman|
|Poale Zion (Great Britain) (1903–2004)|
The Jewish Labour Movement, known as Poale Zion (Great Britain) from 1903 to 2004, is one of the oldest socialist societies affiliated to the Labour Party in the UK. It is part of the Poale Zion (Labour Zionist) movement, and as such is also affiliated with the World Labour Zionist Movement (the left-wing faction within the World Zionist Organization), has fraternal ties to Hoavodah - Israeli Labour Party (the Labour Party's sister party in the Socialist International and, from 2013, the Progressive Alliance) and has unofficial ties to the Habonim Dror Labour Zionist youth movement. It is affiliated to the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.
It views Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Its aim is to promote "a secure, progressive, just and successful State of Israel". It campaigns against racism generally and seeks to promote a viable peace plan to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. With regard to the latter it upholds the rights of the Palestinian people to live at peace with their neighbours on the basis of a two-state solution.
Aims and membership
The organisation's aim is "To organise and maintain a political movement of Jewish people within the UK Labour Party and the international labour movement".
Membership is open to Jewish people and non-Jewish people. JLM's members are supporters or members of the Labour Party. Members of parties which oppose the Labour Party in elections are ineligible for membership of the Jewish Labour Movement.
Members are expected to share JLM's objects and values, including: "To maintain and promote Labour or Socialist Zionism as the movement for self-determination of the Jewish people within the state of Israel" and "To promote the centrality of Israel in Jewish life and its development on the basis of freedom, social justice and equality for all its citizens".
As Poale Zion
The origins of Poale Zion in Britain were in the Ma'aravi ("Western") Society, formed in London in 1902 by Jewish socialist journalist Kalman Marmor, under the influence of the Eastern European labour Zionist movement led by Marxist theorist Ber Borochov. Branches of Poale Zion were formed in London and Leeds in 1903/04 and 1905 respectively, and in Manchester and Liverpool by 1906. Two branches were formed in London, one by the garment workers union, one by the Independent Cabinet Makers Union. A permanent headquarters was opened in Whitechapel in February 1904, and a nationwide organisation was launched at a conference in Manchester in 1906.
Poale Zion was active in Britain during World War I, under the leadership of J Pomeranz and Morris Meyer, and influential on the British labour movement, including on the drafting (by Sidney Webb and Arthur Henderson) of the Labour Party’s War Aims Memorandum, recognising the "right of return" of Jews to Palestine, a document which preceded the Balfour Declaration by three months. In this period, it published the periodical Jewish Labour Correspondence.
After World War I, Poale Zion published several pamphlets in Yiddish and a Yiddish journal, Undzer Veg. Kaplansky collaborated with the Independent Labour Party in setting up the Vienna International of socialist parties.
In mid-1920, the World Union of Poale Zion in Vienna set up a Poale Zion office in London, led by Shlomo Kaplansky and David Ben-Gurion. The office was in rooms in Petticoat Lane, where Moshe Sharett worked part-time translating Yiddish into English. They built contacts with both Labour and the Independent Labour Party, and succeeded in becoming affiliated to the British Labour Party in 1920 under the name of The Jewish Socialist Labour Party, claiming membership of 3,000, although actual membership was a few hundred. One issue that they tried to influence policy on was the northern border of Palestine which was being decided at the San Remo conference. They hoped that it would be extended as far as the Litani River. They had only limited success in influencing Labour Party Middle East policy and the office closed in March 1921.
By 1928, the World Union of Poale Zion claimed to have 1,000 members in the United Kingdom. World PZ leader Dov Hoz was based in the UK in 1928, and set about reviving and re-organising Poale Zion (Great Britain), including inspiring PZ members to become more active in the mainstream Labour Party. Young Poale Zion was launched in Bethnal Green in 1928, by Sam Dreen.
Poale Zion and Dov Hoz played a crucial role in the 1930 Whitechapel and St Georges by-election, swinging the Jewish vote behind the non-Jewish Labour candidate, James Henry Hall, rather than the Jewish Liberal candidate Barnett Janner.
In the 1940s, Poale Zion (Great Britain) claimed a membership of nearly 2,000.
Before the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, Poale Zion represented the dominant pro-Zionist view within the British Labour Party. However, as the left became increasingly anti-Zionist, relations with the left of the party were increasingly tense. For instance, in April 1983 women members of Poale Zion were prevented from attending an International Women's Day seminar at the Greater London Council's County Hall, and in 1984 efforts were made to force it to disaffiliate from the party.
Leading members of Poale Zion included Maurice Orbach MP; Samuel Fisher, Baron Fisher of Camden; Leo Abse, who set up the Cardiff branch in 1948; Mary Mikardo and Ian Mikardo; Simon Pinner and his son Hayim Pinner, who was president of the youth wing and editor in the 1960s of its paper Jewish Vanguard; the brothers Leslie and Harold Lever (Leslie served as chair); Percy Sassoon Gourgey, the chair 1964–67; Sidney Goldberg, general secretary at the time of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war; and Eric Moonman MP, chair in the 1970s.
As Jewish Labour Movement
Poale Zion (Great Britain) was relaunched as the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) in 2004. There were JLM speakers at the official commemorations of the Battle of Cable Street on its 75th and 80th anniversaries. In the 2015 Labour Party leadership election, JLM nominated Yvette Cooper.
In February 2016, Louise Ellman MP retired as Chair of the Movement, and Hertsmere Labour activist Jeremy Newmark was elected as her successor. Newmark is a former CEO of the UK's Jewish Leadership Council and a former spokesperson for the previous Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. Sarah Sackman and Mike Katz were elected as Vice-Chairs. Sackman stood as Labour's candidate in Finchley and Golders Green in the 2015 general election. Katz was selected as a Labour Party candidate for the GLA in the 2016 London Assembly election. In July 2016, Ella Rose, a former Union of Jewish Students president, was appointed its first director. Newmark and Katz were parliamentary candidates in the 2017 general election, in two seats with significant Jewish populations, Finchley and Golders Green, and Hendon, reducing the Tory majority to 1,600 and 1,000 respectively.
In February 2018, Jeremy Newmark resigned as chair of the JLM, after The Jewish Chronicle published an internal audit report into his conduct while he was CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council. It is alleged that, between 2006 and 2013, he defrauded the council of more than £10,000. The newspaper claimed that the council had covered up his alleged behaviour, and accepted his resignation on the grounds of ill health. Newmark denied any wrongdoing, though he resigned as Chair of the JLM two days later to enable him to respond to the allegations. Later in February, the JLM reported some financial matters to the police for investigation. He was replaced by Ivor Caplin.
In April 2018, the Jewish Labour Movement asked for and received a guarantee of JLM as Labour's only Jewish affiliate, after suggestions that Jewish Voice for Labour might be allowed to affiliate.
In March 2019, Jeremy Corbyn wrote to the JLM noting the “enormous distress” caused by antisemitism and conveying his and the shadow cabinet’s “very strong desire for you to remain a part of our movement”.
In April 2019, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, each announced that they had joined the Jewish Labour Movement. Brown said that he joined to support Jews in light of antisemitism in the Labour Party. "In the last two years," Brown said, "the Labour Party has let the Jewish community and itself down. They should never have allowed legitimate criticism that I share, of the current Israeli government to act as a cover for the demonization of the entire Jewish people." Khan said he had joined "to demonstrate 'support and appreciation'" for British Jews.
Also in April 2019, Mike Katz was elected as National Movement Chair, defeating the incumbent chair Ivor Caplin, and Ruth Smeeth was elected as Parliamentary Chair, in succession to Luciana Berger who left the Labour Party in February 2019. Stephane Savary, Sarah Sackman and Joe Goldberg were elected as Vice-Chairs.
Motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn
In April 2019, the Movement passed a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn over Corbyn's alleged mishandling of anti-Semitism within the party.
Selective support for Labour candidates
In April 2019, Katz said that JLM would be selective in campaigning for Labour candidates in future elections, saying "If you’re backing the leadership and the way they have handled antisemitism – then you are absolutely not going to get our support".
JLM said their members would not campaign for Lisa Forbes in the 2019 Peterborough by-election, saying "to do so would be inconsistent with the views of our members, who have understandably and clearly called for a culture of zero tolerance towards antisemitism in the Labour Party".
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