The Guardian has defended its decision not to publish a letter signed by 205 Jewish women. (See full letter published below.)
The letter responded to a Guardian article on March 9: “Just Close Them Down: Margaret Hodge on anti-semitism in Labour’s branches.”
Labour MP for Barking Margaret Hodge has been a long-running opponent of the Labour leader, submitting a vote of no confidence in his leadership in 2016.
Within 24 hours of Hodge’s latest attack on Jeremy Corbyn in the Guardian, 205 Jewish women had signed a letter saying that Hodge’s allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party did not reflect their experiences.
According to the letter “Hodge extends her allegations that Corbyn is an ‘antisemite and racist’ under whom antisemitism ‘has been given permission to come into the mainstream and, like a cancer, is infecting and growing through the Party’.”
“Hodge provides no evidence of such horrific wrongdoing by Corbyn, nor throughout the ‘mainstream’ party. Her own submissions to the Labour Party certainly don’t do the job: General Secretary, Jennie Formby reported that Hodge’s 200 complaints concerned 111 individuals, of whom only 20 were actually Party members.”
The letter complained that Hodge’s allegations were published unchallenged and unchecked by Guardian journalists.
When the Guardian refused to publish the Jewish women’s response, one of them, Naomi Wayne, spoke to the Letters Editor.
She told The London Economic that she explained this was a letter from over 200 women, many with direct connections to the Holocaust complaining that unproven assertions had been published unchecked.
“We receive hundreds of letters a day and unfortunately cannot publish every letter we receive. In our letters page we endeavour to publish a range of responses, viewpoints and topics” Guardian News Media told The London Economic, echoing the response Naomi Wayne got.
A spokesperson also pointed out that in February the paper had published a letter from over 200 Jewish Labour members and supporters, titled “Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is a crucial ally in the fight against antisemitism.”
That letter responded to a report in the Guardian after, according to the letter “a number of implacably anti-Corbyn MPs have left the Labour party alleging a failed “approach to dealing with antisemitism”, with Luciana Berger criticising Labour for becoming “sickeningly institutionally racist”.”
The signatories responded: “We believe that the Labour party under the progressive leadership of Jeremy Corbyn is a crucial ally in the fight against bigotry and reaction. His lifetime record of campaigning for equality and human rights, including consistent support for initiatives against antisemitism, is formidable…
“Labour governments introduced both the anti-racist and human rights legislation of the 20th century and the 2010 Equalities Act.”
Naomi Wayne told The London Economic that she had explained to the Letters Editor that she understood they couldn’t publish each and every letter, but this was a new letter addressing yet another attack by Margaret Hodge with allegations of antisemitism that had remained unchallenged.
She said she has written a formal complaint to the Readers Editor, relying on the Code of Practice the Guardian uses, and was also writing a personal letter to Guardian editor Katharine Viner.
“Mostly the article was old stuff rehashed, and it was characterised by the standard failure to check Hodge’s allegations,” another signatory Julia Bard told The London Economic.
“Margaret Hodge is treated as if she is the voice of the Jewish community. Nobody asks her to give an actual example and back up what she is saying. For hundreds and thousands of us this isn’t our experience at all.
“Over 24 hours we gathered 205 signatures, if we had a week we would have had thousands of signatures. We don’t appreciate Margaret Hodge being able to rewrite our experiences on our behalf unchallenged and when we try to redress the balance our letter isn’t even published.”
The London Economic also contacted Margaret Hodge for an opportunity to respond to the points made in the letter, with no response. The letter is published in full below:
We, all Jewish women, are baffled, hurt and infuriated by your unquestioning coverage of Margaret Hodge’s campaign against Jeremy Corbyn (‘Just Close them down: Margaret Hodge on antisemitism in Labour’s branches’, March 9th). Hodge extends her allegations that Corbyn is an ‘antisemite and racist’ under whom antisemitism ‘has been given permission to come into the mainstream and, like a cancer, is infecting and growing through the Party’.
Hodge provides no evidence of such horrific wrongdoing by Corbyn, nor throughout the ‘mainstream’ party. Her own submissions to the Labour Party certainly don’t do the job: General Secretary, Jennie Formby reported that Hodge’s 200 complaints concerned 111 individuals, of whom only 20 were actually Party members.
Hodge’s demand that the Labour Party close down entire branches for supporting Chris Williamson MP, or for rejecting the IHRA antisemitism document, also passes unexamined.
Yet Williamson presents a legitimate critique; Labour’s response to antisemitism accusations has been unnecessarily defensive, he said, not that it has been ‘too apologetic about antisemitism’ itself. Meanwhile, no mention that the IHRA document has been shredded by two QCs, plus Jewish human rights specialist, Sir Geoffrey Bindman and Jewish retired Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Stephen Sedley.
All signatories to this letter grew up in the Holocaust’s shadow, understanding the need for eternal vigilance against antisemitic resurgence. But we are not victims: we celebrate our Jewishness, especially our diversity and disputatiousness (”two Jews three opinions”) as central to Jewish identity. We are terrified by Margaret Hodge’s attempt to hijack our history and rewrite our identity and by a media seemingly unwilling to investigate, fact check and challenge her allegations.
Main image: Margaret Hodge addresses Institute Of Government (c) Institute Of Government (CC BY 2.0)