Written by Jonathan Hoffman
Jackie Walker is the former Vice-Chair of Britain’s far-left group Momentum who was suspended from the Labour Party due to accusations of antisemitism. In the Sunday Observer (sister publication of the Guardian), Alexei Sayle lauded Walker’s play “The Lynching”, a theatrical attempt to justify and explain the views that made her controversial.
Here’s the full review by Sayle, an author, comedian and anti-Israel activist.
Jackie Walker: The Lynching. Theatro Technis, London NW1
Jackie Walker was a Labour activist campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn. Then she was accused of antisemitism, suspended from her party, abused and demonised on TV and the internet. This was her presenting her side of the story. First, there was a whole security rigmarole you had to go through to get tickets for this show, since pro-Israeli activists were trying to disrupt it. This was very exciting but I was still expecting to find little enjoyment in the show itself, seeing it more as an act of political duty. However, it turned out to be a great night. Jackie possesses a lovely singing voice and the honed acting skills of a veteran performer, plus the tragic story of her Jewish civil rights campaigner father and her black Jamaican mother, who was wrongly confined to a mental institution in the US, is worth a show in itself. Jackie is also very funny and frank about her own bolshy nature. Usually, when you hear after a play, before you can escape, somebody announces: “There will now be a discussion about the issues raised in this show” and your heart sinks but in this case the talk afterwards was almost as good as the performance.
I saw it too (at SOAS on 13 September – before the performance that Sayle saw at Theatro Technis in London) and I really don’t recognise Sayle’s description.
Sayle refers to ‘the tragic story of her Jewish civil rights campaigner father’. Walker claims in the play that her father was called Jack Cohen, an American Jewish jeweller. Odd that in her autobiography there is nothing about him (though an article in the Guardian in 2008 does mention him).
There is a mock trial in the play where Walker’s mother defends her. She suggests that Jackie is accused of saying “There’s no such thing as antisemitism” (of course she was never accused of that) and of hating Jews (this was also never an accusation).
Walker has stated that ‘Jews were the chief financiers of the slave and sugar trade’.
In the play Jackie defends this as talking about her ancestors: Portuguese Jews who had fled and married into her mother’s family. Again – oddly – there is nothing in her book about this.
The play also features a trope known as the Livingstone Formulation (the charge that Jews cynically use false charges of antisemitism to silence debate about Israel):
“If you attack Israel, they say you are an anti-Semite … we must be free to criticise any political ideology that advances the right of one people over another. And that includes Zionism”
And of course the accusation that those who accuse Walker of antisemitism “are really trying to destabilise Corbyn………..”
In the post-show discussion at SOAS, Walker suggested that the Jewish Chronicle newspaper was in cahoots with the compliance department of the Labour Party (the unit which deals with disciplinary issues, including accusations of antisemitism) – a nasty innuendo about Jewish power in UK politics.
But her nastiest comment in the post-show discussion at SOAS was this:
“Those people who write in the Jewish Chronicle, who do the harassing, those people, they are not the friends of the Left, they are what I call protofascists … One thing I know, the same people who are Jewish essentialists are the same sort of people who are white nationalists – and they are all our enemy.“
Sayle of course has form ……………
He has also compared Israel to a prolific sex offender
He is a Patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
And (like Walker) he believes that antisemitism in the Labour Party is “fabricated”.
They deserve each other don’t they…
PS…UK based journalist Jenni Frazer also seems to disagree with Sayle’s assessment of the play: