politicians, academics and activists face pressure and punishment in
the U.S. for their opposition to the Israeli occupation and support
for Palestinian rights, including figures such as U.S. Rep. Ilhan
Omar, Angela Davis and Marc Lamont Hill. Meanwhile, a Black woman
political activist has faced similar retribution in Britain for her
outspoken views on racism, Israel and Palestine.
is an anti-racism trainer and the former vice chair of the British
political organization Momentum, which helped propel Jeremy Corbyn to
the leadership of the Labour Party. A Black Jewish woman who was born
in the U.S. and claims dual American and British citizenship, Walker
was expelled from the Labour Party amid claims of anti-Semitism, in
an environment in which she says leftist British political activists
are targeted for supporting Palestinian rights and the BDS (Boycott
Divestment Sanctions) movement against the Israeli occupation.
came under scrutiny for a number of comments
she made, including a Facebook discussion in which she advocated that
Holocaust Memorial Day — which is a remembrance of the victims
of Nazi Germany and subsequent genocides — should be expanded
to include those millions who perished in the trans-Atlantic slave
trade. During an anti-Semitism training, she also questioned the
trainer’s definition of anti-Semitism, saying, “I still
haven’t heard a definition of anti-Semitism that I can work
definition was the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s
(IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism, which includes “claiming
that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”
Critics have blasted the definition, which is promoted by the Israeli
government and lobbying groups, for equating criticism of Israel,
including its apartheid policies, with hatred of Jews. Migrant and
Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups have characterized this
definition as an attempt to silence their voices as part of
coordinated efforts by far-right British extremists who are “being
actively encouraged by President Trump’s racism and
fear-mongering.” Walker also argued that anti-Semitism was not
a major problem in the Labour Party, and that the political party had
a record of anti-racism.
a two-year suspension, Walker was expelled from Labour, in what she
characterizes as a smear campaign and a “Witch
which is also the name of a recently released documentary on her
Atlanta Black Star spoke with Walker on her experiences and activism.
are your thoughts on the weaponization of anti-Semitism to silence
debate on Israel? The Labour party didn’t specifically say you
had made anti-Semitic statements, correct?
They didn’t for a very good reason. Sometimes simplicity tells
you everything. They didn’t do it because they couldn’t,
and they couldn’t because I never said anything anti-Semitic.
What I did do was infuriate the right wing and Zionists, so they had
to find a reason to expel me, and a lot of newspapers support it as
say if you tell a lie long enough it becomes the truth.
partner is Jewish. I have been an anti-racist all my life. I
self-identify as a Black Jew. I don’t need to go to synagogue
to prove my identity. …
we know is there is a building campaign against anti-Zionists. The
victims are Blacks and Jews. Recently Netanyahu announced millions of
shekels to fund anti-BDS groups around the world. The German
parliament is making a law saying BDS is anti-Semitic. It is one step
away from saying any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. The IHRA,
the controversial definition of anti-Semitism, that’s where it
find it extraordinary when the chief proponents are right wing and
racist. You find this strange situation where Trump is an ardent
supporter of Netanyahu. And we know where he stands on Blacks. There
is a difference between being a Zionist and being a Jew. … I
suspect most Zionists are not Jews.
Black activists, politicians and intellectuals targeted for their
criticism of Israeli policies?
you’re a white Jew and want to be accepted as white, then it is
very handy to look at any Black person and say they are different to
us, they are anti-Semites. I also think there is a real fear in
Zionist circles of anti-Zionist Jews finding common cause. They do
not want common cause to be made. There is also some history in the
Black and radical Jewish community, and it is not always a story of
peace and working together. There is also a history where interests
have clashed. I also think the issue for me in terms of being Black
and Jewish is I can’t just see it from just one angle. I can’t.
It’s impossible to look at the Jewish Holocaust and say this is
the worst thing that has happened in history. … I’m not
going to quantify this, and there is a demand on us that we stick to
a particular hierarchy. And if as a Black Jew you step out of the
hierarchy … you are policed.
anti-Zionist Jews are threatened in the Labour Party. There was a
bomb threat when we tried to show the film ‘”Witch Hunt.”
… Nobody in the Labour Party spoke up. … Our group,
Voice for Labour,
we have experienced attacks and assaults from the streets, from the
press, nothing is done. And when you realize that this is not about
race and trying to protect Jews, this about people trying to protect
really happy for Zionists to give their case. I’m an
old-fashioned free speech person. But what’s interesting is
they will not allow free speech. There’s a reason why because
in an open debate they will lose.
can you possibly defend the demolition of homes? How can you actually
defend that as a Jew, I have a right to return to Israel, and yet a
Palestinian whose parents were made refugees, they can’t?
Because it is indefensible. And that’s why they won’t do
have characterized your expulsion from Labour as a witch hunt. Do you
believe your experience represents a turning point in the UK on
Israel? Does it mean BDS is having an impact and the pro-Israel lobby
is getting scared and desperate?
I think it’s both, and as a BDS supporter this shows how
profoundly successful they’ve been. If you look at the
membership of the Labour Party, there’s no doubt where their
sympathies lie. … If you look at the 600,000 members. …
It’s not just BDS that’s been successful, as Israel has
become increasingly racist and authoritarian and using methods that
invoke images of militaristic dictatorship. They have done damage to
their image in the world. … The reason they’re acting
the way they’re doing is they are totally confident in their
support from the establishment, and they should be. … I’ve
met Democrats who are questioning America’s relationship with
Israel. … Any objective view of the billions America is
putting into that country even when it cannot provide its people with
medical care …
Jews and many Jews in America are beginning to turn their backs on
Israel. Twenty years ago those questions [would have been
What are your thoughts on the resignation of Prime Minister Theresa
May, the latest European parliament elections, and Brexit leader
Nigel Farage, who is aligning with European white supremacists and
former Trump advisor Steve Bannon?
bored rigid with Brexit, so we’re in a state of political
paralysis. I don’t celebrate her [May] going, because Boris
Johnson [will likely replace her]. Boris Johnson said Black people
have smaller brains, they are pickaninnies. He’s the modest
English version of Trump. He went to Cambridge and he can read. He’s
economical with the truth and he’s a bigot and a populist. The
Tory party will never do anything but back the U.S. and Netanyahu. …
first time I was called a racist was when Nigel Farage tried to get
elected to Parliament. We had this amazing campaign against him, and
he was upset. This campaign was so effective. And that was the first
time Breitbart picked me up and that was when I was identified by the
are not just far right, they are properly racist governments in
Europe, and they are closely aligned to Netanyahu. How can this be? …
white nationalism and Jewish nationalism as well. [A Jewish
nationalist has] more in common with a white nationalist than an
anti-Zionist Jew. Tommy Robinson [far-right white nationalist
activist with the UK Independence Party] has just dumped two visits
to Israel. Most of those who support him are American.
nationalists say if Israel can have a homeland for themselves, why
can’t whites? There’s a lot in common there. People grow
up with an idea of Jews being oppressed for 2.000 years. Actually,
look at what is happening, and who the allies of the Israeli state
are. That is hard for Jews to take on.
This commentary was originally published by Atlanta Black Star