Chessum’s inexcusable response – a reply by Jackie Walker

This article by Momentum national Steering Committee member Jackie Walker is a reply to a statement written by fellow SC member Michael Chessum on why he voted to remove her as the committee’s Vice Chair.

For an article arguing against Jackie’s removal by Pete Firmin, which was published in the second print edition of The Clarion, see here.

I would prefer not to be writing this. However, Michael Chessum, Momentum Steering Committee Treasurer, has published a libellous report on the website of the ‘unofficial magazine of Momentum,’ The Clarion [note from Clarion editors: in fact we describe ourselves as “an unofficial magazine by Momentum activists”, and do not claim to be a “magazine of Momentum”].

Chessum begins his article with a strange comment: “The fact that the Steering Committee was meeting on Monday was communicated to the Guardian (as it happens, by mistake and as a result of a misunderstanding) before I knew about it.” If Chessum knows details of the leak, considering I requested a Momentum enquiry (which I believe he voted against), he should inform me, and the Steering Committee immediately. If Chessum is not saying this, I have no idea what this paragraph means.

Chessum continues: “there is a case that we should challenge a narrative that takes criticism of Israeli policy as antisemitism (a narrative which certainly exists), even if doing so would cause a few bad headlines. But that is not what Walker was doing.”

Again Chessum reveals his ignorance – this time of Israel’s response to leading figures supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and supporting Palestinians. Take for example the recent words of Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked who accused the BDS movement of wanting to “wipe the Jewish nation off the face of the Earth” and of being “deeply rooted in antisemitism.”

Then of course there are the huge sums spent in covert actions by agents of the Israeli state to undermine BDS activists across the world. I ask, does Chessum and his co-thinkers live in another political world? A world where nothing of what the Israeli government say about their response to BDS exists? (See here.)

Opinion is one thing, ignorance another, but Chessum then goes on to state downright tailor-made lies, some of which even the mainstream media haven’t regurgitated. “…she was reported saying that Jewish schools may well not need police protection.” I have never said this. I demand to see Chessum’s evidence for this quote. There follows further lies as Chessum quotes me saying, “Holocaust Memorial Day should focus on other genocides as well.” No – what I said was, “wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust Day could be open to all peoples who’ve experienced Holocaust.”

Many people know my particular concern is for the acknowledgement of the African Holocaust, something I have campaigned and spoken on widely, most recently at Slavery Remembrance Day in Trafalgar Square this year. You may disagree that genocides before the Nazis should be commemorated on HMD, but it is a reasonable position supported by many people.

Chessum goes on to claim I said, “there was no definition of antisemitism that she could agree with”. Another lie. The transcript of the training meeting reads me as saying, “Can I just say, you know, I came here, as I did the meeting yesterday, with an open mind and I was seeking for information. And I still haven’t heard a definition of antisemitism that I can work with.” This was AFTER a number of others had asked the trainer for his working definition – which the trainer appeared reluctant to give. I am clear about a definition of antisemitism – hatred of Jews for being Jews.

Finally Chessum reaches back 6 months to justify his actions by misquoting my comments on the slave trade, another strategy popularised by the mainstream media who he appears to base his decision making on. Claiming reference to my facebook posting he quotes, “that Jews (including her ancestors) were the ‘chief financiers’ of the slave trade (which is plainly untrue),” leaving out the word “many” at the start of the quote and omitting any mention of the more detailed statement on this comment published by Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

Instead, like the mainstream media and the right who want to keep antisemitism and the Labour Party co-joined, Chessum goes out of his way to quote in part – the part that most suits his purpose. He does this without acknowledging that there was a full investigation where I was found to have no case to answer.

Chessum continues: “When the news broke, rather than consulting colleagues and handling the issue strategically, she went on national TV.” This is a particularly outrageous considering Chessum is fully aware of a complaint I made to the SC just after my demotion, a complaint I asked to be forwarded to the NC (on a vote, the SC refused my request).

The Jewish Labour Movement began to tweet about my comments on Wednesday morning. Almost immediately a ‘senior member’ of Momentum briefed the press, in particular a Guardian journalist, Joan Eglot – a reporter who has particularly close links with the leadership of Momentum. Interestingly those tweets have since disappeared, though screenshots were taken.

This was followed by articles, on line and in paper, which said, “The Guardian understands her removal from the post is likely to be confirmed when the committee meets on Monday. A spokesperson for the left wing grassroots movement ….. confirmed members wanted her to go.” I, the Steering Committee, and the public were informed by the Guardian of the date and outcome of the Monday meeting. Outrageous.

Included in this article were comments by Manuel Cortes, Gen Sec of the TSSA, threatening to remove Momentum from TSSA premises if I were not removed. This all occurred before I agreed to do the CH4 interview.

On that day, and before the CH4 interview, with witnesses, I repeatedly attempted to get in touch with ‘senior figures in Momentum’. No one responded and no one, throughout this period, got in touch – until after the CH4 interview. I was thrown to the wolves.

As for the comments on antisemitism and the AWL, yet again Chessum’s lack of knowledge speaks volumes. I would remind him that Jeremy Corbyn has also been called an antisemite, as have the AWL.

In relation to how the whole issue of the antisemitism witchhunt has been dealt with, the historical association between the AWL and the myth of left ‘new’ antisemitism which Chessum raises, much has been written elsewhere, I will not repeat it now save to say that perhaps Chessum should look more closely at the history of so called ‘new antisemitism’.

Again, I ask Chessum, or anyone else, to show evidence of his claims. I refer Chessum, The Clarion and members of the Steering Committee to the many eyewitness account and the transcript: see here.

It is extraordinary that members of the Momentum Steering Committee, almost all of whom have been victims of slurs and libel, who have seen the leadership we support called terrorists and worse by the mainstream media, asked for no evidence, from me, or anyone else present at the training session, before delivering their verdict.

The question then becomes, why did Chessum feel such a pressing need to construct and publish this obnoxious, fabricated narrative? I can only think of one reason; pressure from the membership – the Steering Committee response to me was, and remains, indefensible.

A critical issue here is that not only does Chessum appear to accept and repeats lies, he constructs them while refusing to recognise this as an attempt to smear Labour, Corbyn and his supporters as antisemitic.

Indeed, despite trying to minimise the seriousness of the Steering Committee’s actions, and excuse his decision to side with those attacking me, he in fact supports all the ‘reported’ allegations and puts the responsibility and blame on one individual – me.

If Chessum believes what he writes here, he has been craven and dishonest in supporting my continued membership of the Steering Committee. But with dishonesty and a rather desperate attempt at self- justification, Chessum joins the witchhunters while acting out support for me in an attempt to save face.

This does not excuse Chessum’s article or his actions. Chessum’s article is inexcusable, should be removed and a full apology be published for the libellous statements.

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