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Holishkes – stuffed cabbage leaves

28 Oct
These were the leftovers for lunch the next day…

For 12 stuffed cabbage leaves


For the sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 tsp tomato purée
Dried oregano
1 bayleaf
Salt and pepper to taste

For the stuffed leaves
1 Savoy cabbage (easier to work with than white cabbage)
100g basmati or other long grain rice
100g brown or green lentils
2 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste


For the sauce

In a medium sized saucepan, gently sauté the chopped onions in the oil until they are soft and transparent but not turning brown.
Add the tinned tomatoes and the tomato purée. Then add a pinch of oregano, a bay leaf and salt and pepper.
Stir, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat. Cook for 10-15 minutes so it starts to thicken, stirring occasionally.
Spread the sauce over the bottom of an ovenproof baking dish that’s approximately 20cm x 30cm and 5cm deep.

For the stuffed cabbage leaves

The leaves
Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil.
Carefully remove 12 outer leaves from the cabbage without tearing them, then cut out about 1.5cm of the thick stem at the bottom of each in a narrow triangle.
When the water is boiling, place 3 leaves at a time in the pan. Using a slotted spoon, remove them after 3 minutes, so they are blanched but not too soft to handle.
Leave them in a pile on a plate to cool.

The stuffing
Wash and check through the lentils to make sure there are no stones.
Boil them in plenty of water (without salt) for about 30 mins or until soft. Drain and leave on one side.
At the same time, wash the rice in a sieve until the water runs clear.
Put the rice into a saucepan and add twice its volume of cold water.
Bring to the boil then put a lid on the pan, turn the heat down low, and cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.
While the rice and lentils are cooking, gently fry the chopped onion and leek in the oil until they are just beginning to brown.
Mix the cooked lentils, rice, onions and leeks in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 2000C/4000F/Gas Mark 6.

To stuff the cabbage leaves
Lay a cabbage leaf on a plate or board with the (cut out) stalk end nearest to you.
Place a heaped tbsp of the rice/lentil mixture in the centre.
Fold the side edges of the leaf over each side of the filling, then carefully roll up the leaf over the filling, starting from the edge nearest you, to make a cigar shape.
Repeat for each leaf.
Arrange the stuffed leaves in a single layer on the tomato sauce base and cover with foil.
Bake in the oven for 25 mins until heated through. Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 10 mins until the holishkes are just tinged with brown.


You can replace the lentils with cashew nuts. Brown them gently in a little olive oil in a frying pan before adding them to the rice.


Restore the Labour whip to Jeremy Corbyn!

17 Feb

This morning, David Rosenberg and I have sent a letter as Jewish Labour Party members to Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner calling for the immediate restoration of the Labour whip to Jeremy Corbyn. On 18th February 2021 it will be three months since it was withdrawn.

Dear Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner

We are Jewish members of Islington North Constituency Labour Party and we are calling for the whip to be restored to our MP, Jeremy Corbyn. Since we moved into the constituency in 1996, he has continuously represented us as a Labour Member of Parliament, winning overwhelming majorities in every election.

We agreed with the conclusion of the National Executive Committee panel, who decided unanimously and on the basis of legal advice to reinstate Jeremy Corbyn on 17th November 2020 after he had been unjustly suspended less than three weeks earlier. So, like many others, including a substantial number of NEC members, we were dismayed by the injustice of withdrawing the whip immediately after his reinstatement to the Labour Party.

We consider ourselves privileged to be represented by such an exemplary constituency MP. Until the whip was removed, Jeremy Corbyn attended every CLP General Meeting unless there was an absolutely unavoidable reason for his absence, and gave the CLP detailed regular reports on all his work, local, regional, national and international.

Unlike so many other Members of Parliament, he is rooted in and committed to serving the people of his constituency. He knows every corner of Islington North and has built constructive relationships with every community in it. This is an area where many individuals and communities are suffering from poverty, discrimination and fear. Jeremy Corbyn is always accessible to his constituents and is tireless in his support of those who are struggling to sustain themselves and their families, to live decent lives and to fulfil their potential in the face of inequality and injustice.

We are both involved in Mutual Aid – two of thousands in Islington who rushed to volunteer as the pandemic struck, to ensure that everyone in our community is cared for. We are proud to reflect this culture of solidarity and kindness which our MP has been so instrumental in establishing in Islington, and we have had his active and consistent support and appreciation throughout this tragic period.

As Jewish Party members, we sympathise strongly with his critique of the political and media commentary on the EHRC report on the Investigation into Antisemitism in the Labour Party. Many other Jewish and non-Jewish Labour Party members have, like us, privately expressed similar responses to the report in the absurd situation where we are forbidden to discuss within Labour Party meetings a report on the Labour Party. As Jews who have been combatting and educating people about antisemitism over decades (including being educators on trips to Auschwitz for trade unionists, students and antiracist activists), it was clear to us that Jeremy Corbyn’s comments confirmed the facts, which were misused by people with factional political agendas and were misreported by the media.

Here is just one of a number of examples of such misuse and misreporting. In February 2019, Margaret Hodge tweeted about having submitted 200 complaints of antisemitism to the Labour Party. Inevitably, the media headlines unquestioningly reproduced her claims. In fact, as the then General Secretary Jennie Formby clarified, the Party had investigated and found that many of those reports were duplicates and actually referred to 111 individuals (not 200), and of those, only 20 were Labour Party members (The Guardian, 12th Feb 2019 The General Secretary published data on all the complaints of antisemitism the Party had received, the actions that were taken and the outcomes. In response, according to the BBC, “Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge tweeted a warning not to trust the figures.” (11th Feb 2019

While we believe strongly that allegations of antisemitism must be treated very seriously, unlike some of those making the complaints, we support the legal principle that accusations need to be supported by evidence in order to be proven.

Furthermore, we resent non-Jews queuing up to tell us how Jews feel,  dictating a single prescribed response to the EHRC report and treating the EHRC as infallible. This is especially concerning given two stark criticisms of the EHRC shortly after its publication. Firstly, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights declared: “We find that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been unable to adequately provide leadership and gain trust in tackling racial inequality in the protection and promotion of human rights.” (p.4 Following this, the EHRC was condemned by women working at the BBC for its report on the Corporation’s gender pay gap ( No one in the Labour party has been threatened with suspension for allowing discussion of these reports.

We know that antisemitism in British society is real and growing on the watch of Conservative governments since 2010. This ranges from prejudice, harassment, conspiracy theories and verbal hostility through to violence and desecration of synagogues, cemeteries and other institutions. But like hundreds of other Jews who we know personally or know of, we challenge the claim that Jews are not safe in the Labour Party. We have always felt safe, welcome and valued within our ward and Constituency Party. In this situation, what does make us feel unsafe is the strong sense that antisemitism is being used instrumentally, for political purposes, and not out of concern for the wellbeing of Jewish people. This instrumentalisation creates confusion about actual antisemitism and undermines attempts to challenge it.

The Jewish community, like all other communities and societies, is diverse, pluralist and embodies conflicting experiences, interests and perspectives. There are several bodies in the Jewish community which claim, falsely, to give a unified voice to this diversity, and they have declared their support for the Party’s summary punishment of Jeremy Corbyn. As many Jewish Labour Party members have said repeatedly since the claims of antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn began (coincidentally, when he was elected as leader of the Party), these institutions do not represent us or our experiences. Indeed, we struggle to understand how they have more right to comment on the internal disciplinary procedures of a Party they neither belong to nor support than Party members like Jeremy Corbyn.

Three months after the the whip was unjustly removed from him, we call for it to be immediately and unconditionally restored. We look forward to continuing to work with our many-times-democratically-elected MP on the crucial issues of human rights and social justice, locally, nationally and globally, to which he has so consistently devoted himself.

Yours sincerely

Julia Bard and David Rosenberg

Members of Islington North CLP

Defend Jeremy Corbyn, defeat racism, build socialism

2 Nov

On Sunday 1st November I spoke on behalf of the Jewish Socialists’ Group at a meeting to defend Jeremy Corbyn and the anti-racist, socialist politics he represents, following his summary suspension from the Labour Party. The meeting had 27,000 live views and was organised by the Radical Alliance. You can watch a recording of the event, which was chaired by Daniel Kebede and included Laura Pidcock, John McDonnell, James Schneider, Nadia Jama, Ian Lavery, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and Andrew Feinstein, among others.

Seeing so many people there to defend Jeremy Corbyn made me hopeful that the left will be strong and determined enough to challenge this injustice, which is not only an attack on him but on everyone who shares his vision of a world in which human lives and human dignity are prioritised above all other considerations.

Here is the speech I gave.

Thanks to the Radical Alliance for organising this meeting. I’m honoured to be here.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group was founded in the 1970s by people who cut their political teeth fighting fascism and poverty in the 1930s. We have inherited their legacy together with the legacy of the Bund, the Jewish Socialist movement in eastern Europe. That movement fought against nationalism and for the rights of all minorities wherever they live in the world. They knew, as we do, that the only secure future for Jewish people is one based on solidarity with the exploited, oppressed and discriminated against and their allies. Jeremy Corbyn is absolutely one of those allies.

In the continuing row about antisemitism in the Labour Party so many non-Jews are turning up on television to tell us how Jewish people feel. I don’t entirely blame them because the institutions the media listen to – the Board of Deputies, the Chief Rabbi and – a recent invention, the Campaign Against Antisemitism – claim to speak on behalf of all of us. But they never have, and they never will.

They are all on the political right – and in the case of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, on the extreme right. They want to stifle dissent from the left, even though it is leftists within the Jewish community who have always been the backbone of the struggle against antisemitism, fascism and all forms of racism.

This fundamental political divide in the community is overlaid by another division, over the centrality of Israel in Jewish life. This has allowed right-wing leaders to drag us away from our natural allies. It has also allowed the pro-Israel non-Jewish right to present themselves as defenders of Jews everywhere.

This Israel-centred politics has had disastrous consequences for Jews in places such as Argentina under the Junta where at least 10% of the Argentinians who were disappeared by the Junta were Jews. The regime that carried that out were using arms supplied by Israel.

Racism and fascism are growing today in India, America, Poland, Brazil, Hungary and the UK, all, coincidentally close allies of Israel and supporters of the Occupation. We have to acknowledge, too, that conspiracy theories and other antisemitic ideas are also surfacing within the left. The last five years in which antisemitism has become so entangled with the right-left battle within the Labour Party has made antisemitism on the left more difficult to challenge. Nevertheless, both Jews and non-Jews have a responsibility to challenge it.

But the principal threat to Jews and other minorities is from those right-wing governments and the movements that derive confidence from them.

So who should we go to for support and solidarity? Institutions that have declared their support for Trump; who refuse to criticise the Tories for their close relationship to fascists across Europe and beyond? Or should we turn to the people who we know are are allies – people like Jeremy who has antiracism and antifascism woven through his political being?

We stand by the words of Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, who survived the war and who remained a Jewish Socialist and anti-nationalist all his life. For me, his motto “Always with the oppressed, never with the oppressors” epitomises Jeremy Corbyn.


Deadly generation game

3 Sep

A marketing device that uses crass assumptions to slice society into “generations” has leached into general conversation, transforming those assumptions into self-evident truths. Building on a long tradition of belittling and ridiculing old people, the right-wing press is full of insulting stereotypes based on age, scapegoating those born in the decade and a half following World War II for ruining life for those who came after them.

We can see why neoliberals who advocated the breakup, privatisation and commodification of public services might want to offload responsibility for the destruction of the economy and people’s lives, but tragically this one-dimensional analysis has gained a following among sections of the left.

Jeremy Corbyn canvassing, talking to young people, December 2019 
© Julia Bard
Challenging generational divisions,
November 2019. Photo: © Julia Bard

Allowing ourselves to be divided along spurious lines is dangerous – and in this pandemic it has proved deadly.

To encourage people to think again, and to challenge ageist hostility, I proposed a motion that my Labour Party branch has passed overwhelmingly and which I hope will be supported by the Constituency Party as a whole.

Here is the motion, followed by the speech I made in proposing it.

Time to Fight Discrimination

Despite the experience, creativity and activism of many older Labour Party members, the Party has not been prominent in challenging discrimination and oppression based on age. Coronavirus has exposed and exacerbated inequalities but the Party has been slow to respond to a particularly deadly form of discrimination.

UK care homes have recorded 19,394 coronavirus deaths – 47% of the official total of  41,486 (both almost certainly underestimates). During the spring peak, old people were triaged out of hospital and into care homes without being tested. Many of them and their carers, disproportionately Black, ethnic minority and migrant workers, lost their lives.

We have known from early on that older people are particularly susceptible to Covid-19. But instead of that triggering extra protection, they were knowingly exposed to the virus. This, together with the straitened situation of care homes before the pandemic, should have been high on the left’s agenda.

However, while campaigning effectively on PPE, furlough payments and tenant protection, the Labour Party seemed paralysed about defending the rights of old people. This enabled the government to pursue a eugenicist policy, downplaying these deaths as “only” affecting “older people with underlying health conditions”.

As schools and workplaces reopen, older people, particularly from poorer and/or minority backgrounds are again disproportionately vulnerable. Many live in multigenerational households, caring for grandchildren, and where working family members will encounter the virus on public transport and workplaces.

Nevertheless, we increasingly hear socialists expressing a simplistic, almost conspiratorial, explanation of inequality, environmental destruction and economic decline as caused by “the older generation” rather than by capitalist structures and interests based on class, which affect all ages in different ways. Routine ridiculing, degradation and blaming of old people in the cultural mainstream and on social media has allowed the government to treat them as collateral damage as they prioritise the economy over lives.

St George’s Ward urges the Labour Party to challenge this ageist hostility. Instead, drawing on its fundamental aims of ending discrimination and oppression, it must actively challenge the pervading culture and ideology of ageism, within as well as beyond the Party.

Proposal speech

One of the things I treasure most about being in this Labour Party branch is the mixture of generations – young adults through to people in their 90s who work collaboratively and in solidarity. This was so striking when we were out canvassing in the last two general elections, but that fruitful way of working is predicated on the fact that we don’t make assumptions about each other based on age or anything else.

Last weekend I heard David Willetts (not my favourite Tory, if we can grade Tories) on Radio 4 giving a generational analysis of the decline in the economy – admitting he has done well at the expense of the young. There are some key ingredients missing from this so-called analysis, most notably class, and I look forward to the day when rich, upper middle class people accept responsibility for impoverishing the working class.

This myth has permeated certain sections of the left, who divide up the world into so-called generations – something that’s usually done for marketing purposes – and stereotyping and blaming one particular age group for having grabbed everything and run off with it at the expense of the young. Like all myths, there’s a strand of truth in this one. My generation who grew up in the three decades after the Second World War did benefit from hard-won but functioning public services and an economy that wasn’t as completely skewed and distorted as it is now.

But you couldn’t grow up in those post-war decades and ignore the devastating impact of class on people’s lives, life chances and life expectancy. This is all being laid bare in this public health crisis but it’s not new. The miners of my generation whose industry, communities and lives were destroyed, the former chemical workers in the North East who are suffering an epidemic of depression, the shipbuilders, textile workers and car workers – they were the majority of baby boomers. They took nothing from anyone, and their children have inherited the devastation that was wreaked by Margaret Thatcher and the governments that followed her, whose politics was not a product of their ages.

There have been failures. Most older people failed to support the students in their struggle against student fees. It is equally true that young people have been pretty absent from the struggle against the privatisation of social care. The point is that neoliberalism – which turns services into commodities and us into customers – affects all of us. What has been striking, amongst other things, about the media in this pandemic, is the absence of the voices of both old people in care home and of children in schools. What we urgently need to understand is that our needs are not in competition but are linked, and the struggles to meet those needs are also linked.

We can see what happens if we don’t link those struggles: it’s deadly. The scandal of deaths of people being cared for in their own homes might turn out to overshadow even the devastation in in care homes. This could only happen in a society that treats human beings as commodities and where the media collude with the government by devaluing, ridiculing and silencing old people, leaving the government free to treat them as collateral damage in the battle to save the economy. And they haven’t even managed to do that!

One thing we can do in the Labour Party is to challenge the ideological devaluation of old people that allows governments of all ages but generally of one class to triage them out of having their needs met and abandoning them to a deadly virus.

Please support this motion.

There is only one way out of the pandemic: to suppress the coronavirus

6 Aug

We can still avert further catastrophic damage to people’s lives, futures and the economy but to do so we need to make an effective challenge to the government’s frighteningly chaotic approach and replace it with an open, evidence-based strategy that the population understands and supports.

The Labour Party needs to fight for the UK to take the approach that has protected the populations of other countries, outlined in this motion that Islington North Constituency Labour Party passed overwhelmingly on 19th August.

You are welcome to use this motion as a model. There’s also a short background document below it with more information for people proposing or supporting the motion.

Model motion

Governments with a policy of eliminating the virus have saved tens of thousands of lives and rescued their economies. A similar policy in the UK is both possible and necessary. New Zealand, South Korea, Iceland, China and Scotland have done everything possible to eliminate the virus. In contrast, the UK, USA, Brazil, India and Russia, whose governments have allowed the virus to circulate, are heading towards economic devastation and continuing high levels of illness and mortality.

We call on the Labour Party to oppose the government’s approach and to adopt a policy of total suppression and elimination of COVID-19.

Instead of attempting to eliminate the virus, the government has tried to keep it within NHS capacity. It has refused to share the claimed scientific evidence for this strategy; hidden or distorted infection and death rates; downplayed the dangers; and ignored public health principles which would have protected the population.

Its failed policy magnifies inequality, endangering people who are older, Black or members of ethnic minorities, disabled, poor, in crowded and shared accommodation, care home residents, or have other medical conditions or suppressed immune systems.

Lifting restrictions while the virus is still circulating widely, imposes increasing limitations, poverty and isolation on these groups while others pick up the pieces of their pre-lockdown lives.

The virus not only kills, it causes long-term disability and after-effects. High numbers of deaths next winter resulting from current government policy are predictable, avoidable and unacceptable.

Instead of speculating on the discovery of a safe, effective vaccine, we need a strategy which aims to eliminate the virus. Suppression of the virus would allow the reopening of the country without fear or danger, and vulnerable groups would no longer face indefinite imprisonment in their homes.

XXX Ward urgently calls on the Labour Party: to adopt the Zero COVID strategy outlined by Independent SAGE, a group of scientists and experts who, unlike the government, share their evidence and deliberations in public; and to work with them to develop a long-term response to the crisis.

Background notes

Governments with a policy of eliminating the virus have saved tens of thousands of lives and rescued their economies. Adopting a similar policy in the UK is not only possible but necessary.

Countries such as New Zealand, South Korea, Iceland, China and Scotland have made every effort to eliminate the virus. In stark and tragic contrast, the UK, USA, Brazil, India and Russia, whose governments have allowed the virus to circulate, are heading towards economic devastation and continuing high levels of illness and mortality.

We urge the Labour Party to oppose the government’s approach, and to adopt and campaign for a policy of total suppression and elimination of COVID-19.

Refusing discussion, debate or evaluation of its approach, the government’s strategy has been to keep the virus at levels that do not overwhelm the capacity of the NHS, but not to attempt to eliminate it.

It has refused to share the claimed scientific evidence for this policy; it has hidden or distorted the infection and death rates; it has silenced discussion or dissent; and it has downplayed the dangers and consequences of its policy. The government ignored proven public health principles which would have protected the population from this deadly and disabling new virus.

This failed policy of attempting to manage low levels of infection without attempting to eliminate it, magnifies inequality. It directly endangers the lives of people who are older, Black or members of ethnic minorities, disabled, poor, living in crowded and shared accommodation, care home residents, or those who have other medical conditions or suppressed immune systems.

Lifting restrictions while the virus is still circulating widely puts all these people in greater danger. They face an impossible choice of going out and risking their lives or suffering increasing restrictions, poverty and isolation, while others – predominantly young, white, healthy and affluent – are able to pick up the pieces of their pre-lockdown lives. Under these conditions, the more freedom some people have, the more restrictions others face.

This is why the Tory strategy of maintaining low levels of infection must be robustly opposed.

The virus causes not only large numbers of deaths but also longterm disability and after-effects in a large (and rising) number of people. A huge number of deaths next winter resulting from current government policy is predictable, avoidable and unacceptable.

No one knows when – or even if – a safe and effective vaccine will be discovered. Instead of speculating and living in hope, we need a strategy which, like those of other countries, aims to eliminate the virus. Suppression of the virus would allow the immediate reopening of the country and workplaces without fear or danger, and would mean that vulnerable groups no longer face indefinite imprisonment in their homes.

We believe that the Labour Party urgently needs to adopt the Zero COVID strategy outlined by Independent SAGE, a group of scientists and experts who, unlike the government, share their evidence and deliberations in public. The Party should work with Independent SAGE to develop a longterm response to the continuing crisis.

Lockdown Challah 

3 Aug

This recipe makes two large loaves. For one large loaf or two small ones, halve the quantities.


Six-stranded challah

400ml (16fl oz) water
960g (2lb) strong white flour
6 level tsp caster sugar
14g dried yeast or 28g fresh yeast
4 level tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil
3 large eggs
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds


Heat the water until it is tepid but not hot, and pour into a bowl.

Add one third of the flour, the sugar and the yeast. Mix until smooth, cover with a teatowel and leave for 20 minutes until it looks frothy.

Add the salt and olive oil. Beat two of the eggs and add them with the remaining flour.

Mix with a spoon and then, if it’s easier, with your hands until it forms a dough. Knead for 10-15 mins until it is smooth.

Form the dough into a ball and place it either in an oiled bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm, or in an oiled polythene bag, loosely fastened, leaving enough room for it to double in size.

You can now either leave it in the fridge overnight to rise slowly, or keep it at room temperature until it has doubled in size – usually 1-2 hours.

If it has been in the fridge, leave it at room temperature for about 30 min after you have taken it out before shaping it.

Knock back the dough (knead it for 2-3 minutes), then divide it into two equal pieces.

Divide each of these into three pieces, form each piece into a ball, then roll them into sausage-shaped strands about 30cm long.

Press the strands firmly together at one end, then plait without leaving gaps,. but without stretching the dough.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Alternatively, you can make a six-strand plait, which looks beautiful and makes a taller loaf. Braiding six strands is very counterintuitive and the best way to learn is to watch a video of it in practice, like this one: How to Braid a Six Strand Loaf.

Place the loaves on baking sheets lined with non-stick baking parchment. Cover them with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove (rise) until the dough springs back when touched with a finger – usually around 30-50 min.

While you are waiting, turn on the oven to 220C (425F, Gas Mark 7).

Beat the remaining egg and brush the loaves with it. Scatter poppy seeds or sesame seeds over the top.

Bake for around 45 min until dark golden brown. Test to see if they are ready by tapping on the base of the loaf. When they are cooked they will sound hollow.

Free thinking

12 Apr

Under lockdown in London, protecting ourselves and each other from our own generation’s virulent plague, four groups co-sponsored a virtual Seder on 9th April 2020, the second night of Passover. The tremendous efforts of three people, Naomi Wayne, Danny Rich and Mike Cushman, with added input from a number of us to the Haggadah and on the night itself, brought about the miracle of more than 200 people from across the world joining each other to share the Jewish tradition of telling the story of the exodus from Egypt of the Hebrew slaves.

I chose to read an excerpt from the the Black American sociologist and civil rights activist, W E B du Bois, who made three visits to Poland including one in 1949 which transformed his understanding of racism and oppression. He wrote:

I have seen something of human upheaval in the world: the scream and shots of a race riot in Atlanta; the marching of the Ku Klux Klan; the threat of the courts and police; the neglect and destruction of human habitation; but nothing in my wildest imagination was equal to what I saw in Warsaw in 1949. … There had been complete, planned and utter destruction. Some streets had been so obliterated that only by using photographs of the past could they tell where the street was. And no one mentioned the total of the dead, the sum of destruction, the story of crippled and insane, the widows and orphans.

… Then, one afternoon, I was taken out to the former ghetto. Here there was not much to see. There was complete and total waste, and a monument. And the monument brought back again the problem of race and religion, which so long had been my own particular and separate problem. Gradually … I rebuilt the story of this extraordinary resistance to oppression and wrong …, with enemies on every side: a resistance which involved death and destruction for hundreds and hundreds of human beings; a deliberate sacrifice in life for a great ideal in the face of the fact that the sacrifice might be completely in vain.

The result of [my] three visits … was not so much clearer understanding of the Jewish problem in the world as … a … more complete understanding of the Negro problem. … [T]he problem of slavery, emancipation, and caste in the United States was no longer … a separate and unique thing as I had so long conceived it. It was not even merely a matter of color and physical and racial characteristics, which was particularly a hard thing for me to learn, since for a lifetime the color line had been a real and efficient cause of misery. It was not merely a matter of religion. I had seen religions of many kinds – I had sat in the Shinto temples of Japan, in the Baptist churches of Georgia, in the Catholic cathedral of Cologne and in Westminster Abbey. No, the race problem in which I was interested cut across lines of color and physique and belief and status and was a matter of cultural patterns, perverted teaching and human hate and prejudice, which … caused endless evil to all men. … [T]he ghetto of Warsaw helped me to emerge … into a broader conception of what the fight against race segregation, religious discrimination and the oppression by wealth had to become if civilization was going to triumph … in the world.

Portobello, Friday the 13th

18 Dec

This poem and the photo are by my sister, Sue Bard, who lives in Portobello, Edinburgh

At 10pm I hear the exit poll

and everything’s in free fall.

All night

the news drifts in and out:

chickens chlorinating in the pool,

untreated 19th Century diseases,

a gated promenade,

the planet melting and burning.

In the still-dark dawn

I walk along the prom

watching the darting dog will o’ the wisps

down where the waves break.

I do my forty lengths

sluicing away the night’s jabber.

Coming back, it is light;

six swans single-file,

children on their way to school

on scooters

and the café is putting its tables out.

Sue Bard 13.12.19.

Love in a cold climate

12 Dec

Two of us from the Jewish Socialists’ Group were part of a convoy of 120 from across the country, going to Calais to deliver supplies to refugees who are trapped there, trying to get to Britain. Their camps have been destroyed, so they are hiding in woods and sleeping rough. Every few days the French police take their few belongings – clothes, sleeping bags, food, tents, tarpaulins – which they need to survive. Today it is freezing but at least it’s dry.

calais 1

Members of our group heading towards the woods where refugees are sleeping rough.

On the coach on the way there, a few of the participants, who ranged from school students to older activists like me, made short, off-the-cuff speeches. This is (approximately) what I said.

People often refer to the Kindertransport as an example of British generosity in welcoming refugees. In fact it epitomises the meanness of the government of the day, which allowed a few thousand children to escape from Nazi persecution on the Continent. The whole operation – from identifying the children, arranging and paying for their journeys, finding families to care for them or other safe places to stay – was organised by voluntary groups like this one going to Calais today. It didn’t cost the British state a penny. And the government only allowed children to come to Britain. Their parents were left to the mercy of the Nazis. And throughout that period, in 1938-39, the mainstream press were running scare stories about being swamped with foreigners.

This attitude to refugees was not a one-off. It is part of a consistent tradition of government hostility to immigrants. The very first anti-immigration legislation was the 1905 Aliens Act. That law was enacted against Jews who were escaping persecution in the Russian Empire. Those people included our grandparents. The Aliens Act established all the principles of British immigration law that are familiar to us today, including the powers to deport people. In the first four years of the Act, hundreds of people were rounded up off the streets and deported back to the Russian Empire, simply for having no visible means of support.

calais 2

The “kitchen” rigged up by a family with two children, aged 7 and 10, who are living in this makeshift shelter with no facilities of any kind except what is provided by organisations like Care 4 Calais and Médecins Sans Frontières

Like everyone here who got up in the dark this morning in freezing temperatures, we’re all wondering how on earth people survive physically and psychologically living in these conditions 24 hours a day. David and I from the JSG have just come back from a trip to Auschwitz organised by Unite Against Fascism. I wouldn’t make crass analogies between that death camp and what’s happening today. But Auschwitz didn’t happen overnight. It was the culmination of creeping authoritarianism that ended with the terrorisation of entire populations who were unable to stop murder on an industrial scale.

Resistance takes lots of forms, and people resisted in many different ways. Sometimes, just surviving the day was an act of resistance. Taking supplies to Calais today, refusing to accept the violence of our government and all the governments of Europe against these people, is also an act of resistance, and I’m very pleased to be part of it.

Care4Calais are doing the most amazing thing there, saving lives and giving support and hope to people who have nothing and no choices. If you want to know more about what they’re doing and how to support them, visit their website at

This trip was jointly organised by Care4Calais and Stand Up to Racism. Thanks to both for everything you’re doing.

Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on terrorism

27 May

This is what Jeremy Corbyn said on 26th May 2017 as the election campaign resumed after the appalling attack on concertgoers in Manchester at the beginning of the week. This speech has been lied about by the malign Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, and others who have neither the integrity nor the intellectual capacity to address what it actually says. Thanks to Another Angry Voice for publishing the whole speech, which is a resource for all of us who, like Jeremy, care about truth and about human beings. I’m making it available on my blog to help it on its way. 

Jeremy Corbyn at the vigil following the Manchester atrocity.

Jeremy Corbyn at the vigil following the Manchester atrocity. Theresa May did not attend and did not send a representative.

“Our whole nation has been united in shock and grief this week as a night out at a concert ended in horrific terror and the brutal slaughter of innocent people enjoying themselves.

When I stood on Albert Square at the vigil in Manchester, there was a mood of unwavering defiance.

The very act of thousands of people coming together sent a powerful message of solidarity and love. It was a profound human impulse to stand together, caring and strong. It was inspiring.

In the past few days, we have all perhaps thought a bit more about our country, our communities and our people.

The people we have lost to atrocious violence or who have suffered grievous injury, so many of them heart-breakingly young.

The people who we ask to protect us and care for us in the emergency services, who yet again did our country proud: the police; firefighters and paramedics; the nurses and doctors; people who never let us down and deserve all the support we can give them.

And the people who did their best to help on that dreadful Monday night – the homeless man who rushed towards the carnage to comfort the dying, the taxi drivers who took the stranded home for free, the local people who offered comfort, and even their homes, to the teenagers who couldn’t find their parents.

They are the people of Manchester. But we know that attacks, such as the one at the Manchester Arena, could have happened anywhere, and that the people in any city, town or village in Britain would have responded in the same way.

It is these people who are the strength and the heart of our society. They are the country we love and the country we seek to serve.

That is the solidarity that defines our United Kingdom. That is the country I meet on the streets every day; the human warmth, the basic decency and kindness.

It is our compassion that defines the Britain I love. And it is compassion that the bereaved families need most of all at this time. To them I say: the whole country reaches out its arms to you and will be here for you not just this week, but in the weeks and years to come.

Terrorists and their atrocious acts of cruelty and depravity will never divide us and will never prevail.

They didn’t in Westminster two months ago. They didn’t when Jo Cox was murdered a year ago. They didn’t in London on 7/7. The awe-inspiring response of the people of Manchester, and their inspirational acts of heroism and kindness, are a living demonstration that they will fail again.

But these vicious and contemptible acts do cause profound pain and suffering, and, among a tiny minority, they are used as an opportunity to try to turn communities against each other.

So let us all be clear, the man who unleashed carnage on Manchester, targeting the young and many young girls in particular, is no more representative of Muslims, than the murderer of Jo Cox spoke for anyone else.

Young people and especially young women must and will be free to enjoy themselves in our society.

I have spent my political life working for peace and human rights, and to bring an end to conflict and devastating wars. That will almost always mean talking to people you profoundly disagree with. That’s what conflict resolution is all about.

But do not doubt my determination to take whatever action is necessary to keep our country safe and to protect our people on our streets, in our towns and cities, at our borders.

There is no question about the seriousness of what we face. Over recent years, the threat of terrorism has continued to grow.

You deserve to know what a Labour Government will do to keep you and your family safe.

Our approach will involve change at home and change abroad.

At home, we will reverse the cuts to our emergency services and police. Once again in Manchester, they have proved to be the best of us.

Austerity has to stop at the A&E ward and at the police station door. We cannot be protected and cared for on the cheap.

There will be more police on the streets under a Labour Government. And if the security services need more resources to keep track of those who wish to murder and maim, then they should get them.

We will also change what we do abroad. Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home.

That assessment in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children. Those terrorists will forever be reviled and implacably held to account for their actions.

But an informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people, that fights rather than fuels terrorism.

Protecting this country requires us to be both strong against terrorism and strong against the causes of terrorism. The blame is with the terrorists, but if we are to protect our people we must be honest about what threatens our security.

Those causes certainly cannot be reduced to foreign policy decisions alone. Over the past fifteen years or so, a sub-culture of often suicidal violence has developed amongst a tiny minority of, mainly young, men, falsely drawing authority from Islamic beliefs and often nurtured in a prison system in urgent need of resources and reform.

And no rationale based on the actions of any government can remotely excuse, or even adequately explain, outrages like this week’s massacre.

But we must be brave enough to admit the war on terror is simply not working. We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.

That’s why I set out Labour’s approach to foreign policy earlier this month. It is focused on strengthening our national security in an increasingly dangerous world.

We must support our Armed Services, Foreign Office and International Development professionals, engaging with the world in a way that reduces conflict and builds peace and security.

Seeing the army on our own streets today is a stark reminder that the current approach has failed.

So, I would like to take a moment to speak to our soldiers on the streets of Britain – You are doing your duty as you have done so many times before.

I want to assure you that, under my leadership, you will only be deployed abroad when there is a clear need and only when there is a plan and you have the resources to do your job to secure an outcome that delivers lasting peace.

That is my commitment to our armed services.

This is my commitment to our country. I want the solidarity, humanity and compassion that we have seen on the streets of Manchester this week to be the values that guide our government. There can be no love of country if there is neglect or disregard for its people.

No government can prevent every terrorist attack. If an individual is determined enough and callous enough, sometimes they will get through.

But the responsibility of government is to minimise that chance, to ensure the police have the resources they need, that our foreign policy reduces rather than increases the threat to this country, and that at home we never surrender the freedoms we have won, and that terrorists are so determined to take away.

Too often government has got it wrong on all three counts and insecurity is growing as a result. Whoever you decide should lead the next government must do better.

Today, we must stand united. United in our communities, united in our values and united in our determination to not let triumph those who would seek to divide us.

So for the rest of this election campaign, we must be out there demonstrating what they would take away: our freedom; our democracy; our support for one another.

Democracy will prevail. We must defend our democratic process, win our arguments by discussion and debate, and stand united against those who would seek to take our rights away, or who would divide us.

Last week, I said that the Labour Party was about bringing our country together.

Today I do not want to make a narrow party political point. Because all of us now need to stand together.

Stand together in memory of those who have lost their lives.

Stand together in solidarity with the city of Manchester.

And – stand together for democracy.

Because when we talk about British values, including tolerance and mutual support, democracy is at the very heart of them.

And our General Election campaigns are the centrepieces of our democracy – the moment all our people get to exercise their sovereign authority over their representatives.

Rallies, debates, campaigning in the marketplaces, knocking on doors, listening to people on the streets, at their workplaces and in their homes – all the arts of peaceful persuasion and discussion – are the stuff of our campaigns.

They all remind us that our government is not chosen at an autocrats’ whim or by religious decree and never cowed by a terrorist’s bomb.

Indeed, carrying on as normal is an act of defiance – democratic defiance – of those who do reject our commitment to democratic freedoms.

But we cannot carry on as though nothing happened in Manchester this week.

So, let the quality of our debate, over the next fortnight, be worthy of the country we are proud to defend. Let’s have our arguments without impugning anyone’s patriotism and without diluting the unity with which we stand against terror.

Together, we will be stronger. Together we can build a Britain worthy of those who died and those who have inspired us all in Manchester this week.”