UK Labour party branch refuses to condemn synagogue shooting

Northern English branch of UK Labour Party votes down measure to condemn massacre in Pittsburgh synagogue which left 11 dead.

David Rosenberg ,

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

A local branch of the UK Labour Party voted down a symbolic motion to condemn the synagogue mass-shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania last week, the party branch secretary said.

Days after 46-year-old Robert Bowers burst into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and gunned down seven congregants and four guests, Steve Cooke, the secretary of the Labour UK’s Norton West branch in Stockton North in northern England, proposed a motion condemning the massacre.

The proposed motion noted that Bowers had made numerous anti-Semitic statements leading up to the attack, and called for the ‘eradication’ of prejudice.

“We condemn the terrorist attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which killed 11 people and injured several others on 27 October 2018,” the motion read in part.

“We note that the alleged perpetrator of this heinous act is reported to have had a long history of antisemitic views and held a deep hatred for Jewish people.”

But much to Cooke’s surprise, party members rejected the motion, with only two backing the proposal.

According to Cooke, opponents said the motion focused too heavily on anti-Semitism.

“It was said that all the focus was on ‘antisemitism this, antisemitism that’,” Cooke wrote in a Facebook post, “while other types of racism never even got a mention. I pointed out that I had presented a motion about Islamophobia and anti-migrant racism to the CLP in July and then our women's officer Barbara Campbell and myself had organised a counterprotest against a far-right group (mainly members of Anne Marie Waters' For Britain party) that marched in Stockton town centre later that month.”

“They wanted references to antisemitism removed from the Pittsburgh motion, but no demands had been made to make the aforementioned Islamophobia and anti-migrant racism motion more generic or to erase all mention of those specific types of racism when it was debated and then unanimously supported at July's CLP meeting.”

Cooke said the chief of Labour’s Stockton-on-Tees council, Robert Cook, and councilor Steve Nelson were the most vociferous in opposing the measure.

"’Are you seriously going to vote down a motion condemning the Pittsburgh killings?, I asked, ‘Is this for real?’”

"’Yes, I am’, replied comrade Nelson whilst physically pushing away the sheet of paper with the motion on it.”

In response, the Jewish Voice for Labour condemned the local branch’s failure to pass the motion, claiming the refusal to back the measure was the result of “factional games”.

“JVL is horrified that some Labour party members holding responsible elected office appear to be more concerned with their factional games than opposing antisemitism and condemning cold blooded murder.”