MP must defend Israel free speech

I went to see Jackie Walker’s one-woman show, the Lynching, at the Whitstable Labour Club last week.

Jackie Walker, in case you’ve forgotten, was the Vice-Chair of Momentum, the organisation created to support Jeremy Corbyn, before she was accused of anti-Semitism and suspended from the Labour Party.

The show is obviously still in its developmental stage, and a bit clunky in places, but there were some excellent bits. One in particular stood out: a small questionnaire she handed out during the interval.

It asked three questions: 1) If I criticise a Jewish person, am I anti-Semitic? 2) If I question the legality of Israel to exist am I anti-Semitic? 3) What do you think is meant by anti-Semitism?

I answered “no” to the first question, “no” to the second question and “racial discrimination against Jews” to the third.

Jackie pointed out that how we understand the answers depends upon the context. If the questions were asked of an anti-Semite, then the same answers I gave would, indeed, be anti-Semitic.

I think that was a really clever and subtle point, and it is in this context that the criticisms against Jackie Walker can be understood.

What was most important to me was the opportunity to hear first hand the words of someone who has been hounded so relentlessly in the press, so I was rather astonished to hear that there were voices being raised within the Constituency Labour Party at the fact that the show was allowed to go ahead at all.

Pardon? I thought we believed in free speech? Not so it seems. Or not when there is a slim majority to defend.

Here is Rosie Duffield’s response:

“I could really have done without all this within my first few weeks in an all-consuming new job where my priority is helping desperate, struggling constituents with their asthma-causing mouldy flats or grandparents who’ve been on trolleys in hospital corridors for more than a day.”

To which I reply: well that’s your job Rosie, it’s what you’re paid to do.

Meanwhile it is our job, as concerned citizens, to try to get as close to the truth as possible. Hearing both sides of an argument is the first step in that process.

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From The Whitstable Gazette 27/07/17

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