Questions on antisemitism and Israel off limits at McDonnell event

Attendees have been banned from asking questions about antisemitism or Israel at an event with John McDonnell tonight in support of a member of the far-left JVL group.

Audience members have been told which specific issues they are allowed to ask questions at an event John McDonnell is due to address tonight, with antisemitism and Israel not included.

The event is in support of Jenny Manson, Chair of Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL), who is seeking selection as the Labour candidate for the seat of Finchley and Golders Green. The JVL are a controversial group whose members have been accused of holocaust revisionism and denying the extent of antisemitism. They have given platforms in the past to figures like Tony Greenstein, who was expelled from the Labour Party after repeatedly using the antisemitic slur “zio” and accusing Jewish MP Louise Ellman of “supporting Israeli child abuse.”

Manson herself has previously appeared to deny seeing antisemitism in either the Labour Party or Britain, telling the Jewish Chronicle in June:

“I think if we had very solid information that said there was antisemitism in the country and in the Labour party then it should be very big story. There might be very serious evidence. But I haven’t seen any of it.”

She also gave testimony in support of Ken Livingstone at the former Mayor of London’s disciplinary hearing. She reportedly told the panel that it was “true” that Hitler supported Zionism, that Naz Shah’s Facebook post suggesting relocating Israel to the USA was “quite funny.” She also called for more freedom of speech on “Israel and the Jews.”

An email seen by The Red Roar was sent to those who had signed up to attend tonight’s event on Monday, telling attendees which issues to ask questions on, with antisemitism and the Israel-Palestine conflict not included. The email read:

“The facilitator will only be able to allow questions on the topics discussed on stage or additional related topics. We might be able to make some exceptions, but in general the event is meant to cover a variety of domestic Labour policy issues directly related to the economy, the financial crash, resulting austerity measures, housing, poverty, the justice system, privatisation and nationalisation, taxation / government revenue, social care provision, etc. If these topics are of no interest to you then we don’t want you to come all the way and feel disappointed.”

McDonnell has faced criticism for his decision to support Manson’s campaign, but has defended his appearance, telling Politics Home, “Jenny is a good friend and I am fulfilling a longstanding commitment I gave her to offer her my support in seeking selection as a candidate.”

The event attracted further controversy after journalists were initially denied entry to the event, including The Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle, although the organisers have now performed a U-turn on the issue. This morning it also emerged that several people with “Jewish-sounding names” have had their tickets for the event cancelled, according to senior member of the Jewish Labour Movement, Adam Langleben. Human rights barrister, Adam Wagner, has suggested the cancellation of tickets could be a breach of equality law.

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