LAW Twitter account

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Statement, LAW steering committee

The steering committee of Labour Against the Witchhunt deplores some of the tweets that have been issued in our name. The LAW Twitter account had been used outside of our control. We have only just been informed of the content of some of the tweets and wish to distance LAW from them in the strongest possible terms.

We have now been able to access and delete that Twitter account and set up a new one, with the handle @LAW_witchhunt.

The person responsible for the tweets has offered his resignation, which the steering committee has accepted.

Documentary: The Political Lynching of Jackie Walker

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The world preview of this documentary by Jon Pullman in Liverpool had to be halted after a hoax bomb threat. There are forces that are clearly unhappy about the documentary’s exposure of the right-wing campaign that has led to Jackie’s suspension from the Labour Party. But they have only achieved the opposite: Plenty of people asked us at conference when and how they could see the film! We are therefore part of a major campaign bringing the film and its message to a wide audience:

– The preview will take place before an invited audience at a location in London. Please get in touch if you are interested in attending.

– More information will be widely circulated as part of publicity for a nationwide tour with director Jon Pullman, Jackie Walker and others. Dates and venues to be announced. Again, let us know if you are interested in putting on a showing locally.

– Following the tour, the film will be made available on DVD for use by CLPs, trade unions and other groups.

Campaign for Socialism witch-hunts two members on absurd charges

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The witch-hunt of Labour Party socialists has taken a new disturbing turn in Scotland, with the Campaign for Socialism’s (CfS) executive committee taking the lead. Despite criticisms of the Momentum leadership’s handling of the witch-hunt and their lack of support for its victims, Jon Lansman’s organisation, to date, has preferred to let others do the actual witch-hunting. Not so CfS, Momentum’s counterpart in Scotland. In August, CfS launched its own witch-hunt against two of its members, Sandy McBurney and Colin Deans. The former’s crime was sharing an article in the CfS members Facebook group authored by the Jewish left-wing antizionist writer Robert Cohen titled The Jewish establishment’s ‘War Against Corbyn’ risks bringing real antisemitism to Britain, an article widely shared on social media by the group Jewish Voice for Labour. The latter was accused of antisemitism for stating in the same Facebook group that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Slavs, Communists and Trade Unionists, among others, were murdered alongside Jews during the holocaust. In neither case was any external pressure exerted on the CfS EC to instigate disciplinary proceedings – in fact, both cases appear to have been initiated by the leadership themselves.

At present, CfS has no agreed disciplinary processes or code of conduct. An attempt to pass such a code at the CfS AGM in March failed after members rejected its strange and vague formulations – including, in an inversion of basic democratic principle, the stipulation that local groups are accountable to the CfS EC and that members can be expelled for ‘jeopardising’ CfS’s relationship with the Labour Party, or indeed CfS’s ‘reputation’, whatever that means. Undeterred, the EC decided to de facto adopt the rejected code – though even that was modified on an ad hoc basis as events progressed – and suspended Colin and Sandy at an EC meeting on the 4thof August, appointing a three-person panel and setting disciplinary hearings for September the 15that the Unite offices in Glasgow.

In one of the many contraventions of natural justice, the accused were denied access to the CfS members Facebook group and therefore the evidence of their alleged misdeeds, though it turns out that the offending posts were long deleted. In Sandy’s case, the secretary could not even tell Sandy which website the link was posted from and consistently used the wrong title for the article, claiming it was titled The Jewish War on Corbyn. At no point was there any suggestion that the article itself was antisemitic, the charge related purely to the title and so its misrepresentation is of some significance.

As the 15thapproached, comrades outraged at the ECs blatant contempt for the membership and disregard for basic democratic principles began organising, in the best tradition of the labour movement, for a solidarity demonstration outside the hearings. The demonstrations were to be silent and placards were to include only slogans supportive of the two comrades, with no explicit criticism of CfS. Three days prior to the hearing, the venue was switched ‘due to unforeseen circumstances’ to Govanhill Baths, a community venue in the south of the city. Later that day, the accused received emails informing them that, ‘You will be aware we have now had to cancel two potential venues for your disciplinary panel. The venues in both cases have expressed concern about the nature of the planned protest which you have endorsed, and the effect it could have on others using the building.’ Neither were in fact aware of this, nor – at least in the case of Govanhill Baths – is this true. In truth, the Baths declined to play host to the witch-hunt of two Labour Party socialists on point of principle. The argument that picket lines are intimidating and cause ‘stress and anxiety’ is, of course, a favourite of the right-wing press. In this case, it is absurd given that the silent picket was to show support for two CfS members and had nothing at all to do with the venues.

The comrades were informed that unless they could confirm that the picket would not go ahead – which they could not, given they had not themselves organised it – the hearing would be held in their absence and in secret. The decision of the panel would be ‘based solely on the evidence available’ – which is to say, based on nothing given there was no actual evidence – to which the accused would be allowed to add a written statement.

In the end, a series of questions were sent to both comrades. Both provided written responses: Colin providing sources for his post, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration; Sandy including statements in his defence by Robert Cohen and Jewish Voice for Labour explaining that there was no antisemitic content or intent in respect to the title of the article in question. The questions themselves were leading, rambling, vague and, in some cases, contained basic factual errors – for example, the title of the article shared by Sandy was incorrect yet again. They were reminiscent of the sort of questioning levelled during a workplace disciplinary – with that toxic mix of officiousness, pettiness, ineptitude and self-satisfaction, usually resulting from the knowledge that the outcome is already determined. And sure enough, on September the 19th Sandy and Colin were informed that the panel had unanimously voted for their expulsion from CfS, a decision that had been ratified by the EC. There would be no right of appeal. Both remain full and active members of the Labour Party.

Members of the recently formed Labour Briefing Scotland group have called for an EGM to reject the expulsions and condemn the EC for acting unconstitutionally and well beyond its authority. In a sign of the depths of bureaucratism to which the EC has sunk, despite gathering sufficient signatures from the membership to force an EGM the secretary maintained that no EGM would be held until each signatory had personally emailed him with proof of their membership of CfS. This will be simple enough to arrange but once again demonstrates the EC’s shameless readiness to make the rules up as they go along.

To the outside observer this sorry tale will appear ridiculous and bizarre, largely because it is. There is simply no way that Sandy or Colin – both socialists with a long track record of antiracist activity – have behaved in an antisemitic manner, or that the disciplinary process was anything other than a farce. In fact, the CfS witch-hunt is almost certainly an attempt by the leadership to get rid of two – and presumably this is just the beginning – of their most vocal left-wing critics. CfS has not called a members’ meeting since the AGM in March, despite being required to hold at least four a year, and is increasingly little more than a career network for aspiring Labour movement full-timers. Ordinary members are viewed at best as little more than phone-bank and door-knocking fodder who exist only to support the career aspirations of their leaders, and at worst a liability to be gotten rid of, with no regard to democracy or natural justice. However, with over 1000 members, socialists in CfS should stay and fight back, working to transform the organisation into a democratic, members-led, socialist movement capable of defending Corbyn, fighting for the democratisation of the Labour Party, and winning a Labour government capable of implementing pro-working class reforms at the next general election.

 

Anatomy of a Bomb scare – by Kevin Higgins

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Anatomy of a Bomb scare

for Jacqueline Walker

 

Tasks such as this are typically implemented

on deniable mobile phones,

ordered by a raised eyebrow or nod

fourth or fifth floor

of an unpainted, concrete building,

about which no more can be said because,

for reasons obvious to both

The Guardian and the Daily Star – though they

choose different language to say

so – the security services never comment on

operational matters.

 

It’s the unanimous advice of a committee

of twenty seven former Attorney Generals,

the Chair of the BBC board of governors, and all ex

Archbishops of Canterbury (living and dead)

that for reasons of national well being no record must be kept

of the twitchy eyebrow or official looking

nod of the head in question. Such things are done

by loyal servants of things as they must remain

when sending round Balaclavad policemen

(and women) might prove counterintuitive.

 

On rare occasions some independent maniac

in a top floor flat with hardly any windows

who generally speaking couldn’t organise

a butt rub at a tantric sex party,

to which he’d never be invited anyway,

inspired by the sweaty ravings

of our Twitter bots which unlike Russia’s

don’t exist, miraculously manages to plant a bomb,

and as at Bologna, Dublin, Monaghan

puts a mass of concrete and angle-grinders asunder,

leaves jaw and shin bones separate

from the heads and legs to which they were

until seconds ago attached, there

in the foyer for some rank and file cop

to collect, bag and label;

or drives a box of nine inch nails

into what we consider politically expendable eyeballs

at five hundred kilometres per hour.

Such actions are a bonus

and we welcome their contribution

to our ongoing struggle,

though they’re not officially sanctioned.

 

 

Mostly our task is to convince

people we don’t exist,

except in the minds of pink eyed conspiracists;

to tend the fungus doubt

that the likes of you,

dear victim,

probably divide your Mondays

between subsidised yoga and phoning in threats

against yourself.

 

KEVIN HIGGINS

Bomb threat at Jackie Walker film

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Last night’s film preview of the new documentary, ‘The political
 lynching of Jackie Walker’, had to be stopped a few minutes in.
 After an anonymous phone call (“there are two bombs in the
building that will kill many people”), all 150 visitors had to evacu
ate Blackburn House on police orders. Of course, no bomb was
found. By the time the police gave the all-clear, the staff wanted 
to go home. This hoax is almost certainly part of the campaign
 by pro-Zionist forces to disrupt and intimidate the pro-Palestinian left. But, of course, this kind of cowardly behaviour will only
 increase the feeling of solidarity for Jackie Walker and all the
other victims of the witch-hunt – and interest in the film.

“They can fuck off”. Report of LAW’s first ever fringe meeting at LP conference

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Labour Against the Witchhunt held a successful fringe meeting at the Labour conference. Stan Keable reports

“There can be no greater injustice than anti-racists being accused of racism by racists,” the Scouse comedian Alexie Sayle told LAW’s packed fringe meeting on Sunday night. The potential for a “massive transformation” of the Labour Party and society opened up by “the miracle of Jeremy Corbyn” has overcome Alexei’s longstanding objection to voting. Having grown up in a communist family, he used to say: “Don’t vote, struggle against capitalism”. But, although Jeremy has changed all that, Alexei has not joined the Labour Party. A comedian needs to maintain their independence, he said, to be able to criticise any politician. The witch-hunters can’t expel me because I am not a member, he added, “so they can fuck off!” (The democracy we fight for, of course, includes the right of any Labour member, comedians included, to criticise all Labour leaders.)

Jewish Voice for Labour’s Jo Bird, newly elected four weeks ago as a councillor in Birkenhead, pointed out that she and her comrades had been canvassing for weeks, talking to people about all manner of issues, but “no-one raised the issue of anti-Semitism on the door”. She was appalled by Birkenhead MP Frank Field. He rounded on the rank-and-file party membership within his constituency. He invented accusations of anti-Semitism and bullying. To all those party members falsely suspended and expelled, she said: “You are owed a huge apology. On behalf of the party, I am very, very sorry.”

That moving apology became particularly poignant when 73-year-old Bob Walker, the youngest of the ‘Garston 3’, described how three disabled pensioners were expelled for merely attending a meeting of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition – to discuss socialism. Gerry Tyrell, Tony Lock and Bob were rewarded for their tireless work of knocking on doors and delivering leaflets in all weathers during the 2017 general election campaign by being expelled. They were not told the names of their accusers or the evidence against them. Nor was there any hearing or right of appeal. LAW demands due process before any disciplinary sanction is taken.

Ex-Liverpool councillor Tony Mulhearn called on Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to stand up to the witch-hunters: “No more apologies, no more retreats. When you apologise, you are accepting you did something wrong.” He called out Andrew Marr for the bias he showed that morning while interviewing Corbyn, insistently cross-examining him about anti-Semitism allegations for more than 20 minutes. “Jeremy should have asked Marr who prepares such questions for him”, he said. Moreover, Corbyn should have asked: “Why don’t you show pictures of me on anti-racist demonstrations?” and “Why are Jews who support Jeremy never interviewed?” The smear campaign is “producing fear among Jewish people”, Mulhearn added.

Recalling the “ridiculously long list of charges” he faced in his own expulsion in 1986, comrade Mulhearn reminded us of how that earlier witch-hunt had been politically driven by the “bloated toad” Neil Kinnock. He insisted on getting people expelled regardless of the facts. “A witch-hunt is irrational”, said Tony, “because the decision has already been made”. At that time, John McDonnell had stood firm in his defence, but is now singing a different tune: “We need to be conciliatory, we are a broad church.” As LAW vice-chair Tony Greenstein commented: “Even the broadest church expels atheists. The ‘atheists’ in our party are those who are not, and never have been, socialists.”

Chairperson Annyana Ndukwe of Liverpool LAW and Grassroots Black Left read out a solidarity message from Asa Winstanley of Electronic Intifada, who was unable to join the panel of speakers:

Despite the new leftwing general secretary Labour has, the party bureaucracy is still disciplining members on entirely fallacious pretexts. One comrade in Brighton showed me a letter she received this very month from Labour’s head of complaints, Sophie Goodyear, warning her that several “provocative” tweets she’d allegedly written in 2016 had “caused offence” and that such “abuse” would “not be tolerated” in Labour … One of the three tweets cited was simply the comrade posting the headline and link to my April 2016 article, ‘How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis’ without comment … it seems that at least some in Labour HQ are treating critical journalism like Electronic Intifada as banned publications. (Full text here)

Tony Greenstein, expelled in February 2018, told us how he had also been suspended from the party in 1992 by then general secretary Larry Whitty, now a Lord – “well rewarded for services rendered to the capitalist state”, as comrade Mulhearn put it. Comrade Greenstein emphasised that the witch-hunt is “not about anti-Semitism, it is about removing Corbyn as leader”.

Chris Williamson MP, introduced by comrade Ndukwe as “one of the few MPs who is a true socialist”, confronted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the party, declaring that he often describes Israel as an apartheid state. He compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the fate of the Cherokees in America. Denouncing the “terrible injustice” being done to Jackie Walker, he condemned the way Marc Wadsworth had been “demonised as a bigot” for merely “asking a question at a press conference”.

Comrade Williamson, advocating mandatory reselection, quoted Ed Miliband’s advice: “If we trusted the members more, we would not have made so many mistakes”. And he laid into Neil Kinnock’s view that the party belongs to the MPs, not the members. As for those MPs who object to reselection on the grounds of employment rights: “It ain’t a job, mate! You are elected as a representative of the party and the people who elected you.”

Calling on Corbyn and McDonnell to wake up and confront the rightwing witch-hunters, comrade Williamson said McCarthyism, like all bullying, only stopped when people stood up to it. “The monster is getting bigger. Stop feeding the beast!”


LAW has also been running a number of stalls in Liverpool, organised a successful emergency lobby of the NEC and the showing of Jackie Walker’s ‘The Lynching’ with actress Jo Martin taking over Jackie’s role.

Solidarity message from Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada

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Dear comrades,

I send my solidarity and greetings to the fringe meeting of Labour Against the Witchhunt, and I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to join your panel on Sunday.

While some on the left may continue to delude themselves that the solution to the manufactured ‘Labour antisemitism crisis’ fabrication is to concede to the demands of the right and the Israel lobby by selling out on important principles, LAW is correct to insist that only a strong fight back by the party leadership — still sorely lacking — can put this dishonest and damaging strategy down for good.
Be under no illusions — it is only a matter of time before this dishonest media narrative returns to daily  headlines, as it has this entire summer.
Despite the new left-wing general-secretary Labour has, the party bureaucracy is still disciplining members on entirely fallacious pretexts. One comrade in Brighton showed me a letter she received this very month from from Labour’s Head of Complaints Sophie Goodyear warning her that several “provocative” tweets she’d allegedly written in 2016 had “caused offence” and that such “abuse” would “not be tolerated” in Labour.
What was her “offence”? One of the three tweets cited was simply the comrade posting the headline and link to my April 2016 article, “How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisis” without comment. Another tweet was a *condemnation* of antisemitism! The tweet criticised Chuka Umunna for conflating Zionism with all Jews.
The comrade has thankfully not been suspended — so perhaps that is a small sign of progress thanks to the work of grassroots groups against the witch hunt, such as LAW.
But it seems that at least some in Labour HQ are treating critical journalism like The Electronic Intifada as banned publications. Clearly much work remains to be done.
Asa Winstanley

The Electronic Intifada

Join us at Labour Party conference 2018!

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Are you planning on coming to Liverpool for Labour Party conference? Can you help us out with our intervention? Check out eight key events at conference below.

We are at a crucial moment in the civil war in the party, with the witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn and the left in the party reaching ever new heights. We understand that in addition to their plans to force Corbyn’s hand on Brexit (there is a demo planned on Sunday afternoon) and the ongoing smears around Anti-Semitisn, the right is also planning on sabotaging conference wherever possible. Please check out this article, which also mentions that there are plans to disturb any meetings with Chris Williamson MP.

We therefore have to remain somewhat flexible, but also vigilant. Please do not get drawn into altercations and do not let right-wingers provoke you. We know they will try and they will in all likelihood have somebody with a camera nearby. They will want to make us look like dangerous lunatics – let’s not do them the favour. Try and stay together with at least one other person, so you have a witness and some form of protection. Keep your mobile phone nearby so you can film any incidents – best to have evidence!


What you can do at conference

  • If you are a delegate, please support the rule change on mandatory reselection from International Labour: it wants to do away with the undemocratic trigger ballot entirely and is much more democratic than the fudge apparently proposed by the national executive committee
  • Also, please support the rule change to delete the first part rule 2.1.4.B (‘Exclusions’) proposed by Mid Worcestershire, Rugby, Truro and Falmouth, Bexhill and Battle: it bars from Labour Party membership anybody who “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party” and has exclusively been used against left-wingers
  • Join Labour Against the Witchhunt! Come to see us at our fringe events or stalls outside conference and The World Transformed (1 Great George St, L1), where you can pick up a bunch of our new leaflet to hand out
  • If you can help out, please email info@labouragainstthewitchhunt.org, letting us know if you’re a delegate or visitor (or neither), when you’ll be arriving and when you are leaving – make sure to include your mobile number! Facebook event here.

Eight key LAW events at conference

We are handing out LAW leaflets and badges throughout the event, but here our are key interventions – can you be there? Please note that all of our events are outside the official conference venue, so you don’t need to have a pass for conference to attend. You also do not need to purchase a ticket upfront – just be there early enough to secure your place!

1) Saturday September 22, 6-6.30pm Emergency lobby of pre-conference NEC meeting called by LAW and Open Selection, Pullman Hotel, Kings Dock St, Liverpool L3 4FP. Facebook event here

2) Saturday September 22from 6.30pm Labour rally with Jeremy Corbyn, Pier Head, L1. We need comrades to help hand out our LAW leaflet. Facebook event here

3) Saturday September 22 from 6pm: Rally and briefing session of Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. Friends Meeting House, 22 School Ln, Liverpool L1 3BT. We need comrades to help hand out our leaflet.

4) Sunday September 23, from 8.30am, outside conference. We are greeting delegates and visitors as they arrive, with a little surprise – we need as many comrades as possible to come to this.

5) Sunday September 23, 12noon, ‘People’s Vote’ demonstration, from St George’s Hall to the Pierhead. Left-wing voices should be heard here, too.

6) Sunday September 23, 7pm:
Fringe event at Labour Party Conference:
Labour Against the Witchhunt!
with Chris Williamson MP, comedian Alexei Sayle, Jo Bird (Jewish Voice for Labour), Tony Mulhearn (Liverpool 47) and others
Roddick Rooms, 54 St James Street, Liverpool L1 OAB. Facebook event here

7) Monday September 24, 7.30pm
Jackie Walkers’ The Lynching at Labour Party conference
LAW proudly presents Jackie Walker’s celebrated show, in which Jackie will be played by actress Jo Martin. The venue will be announced closer to the date. Please check this page, the FB event or pick up a leaflet at conference. After the play, there will be a Q&A with Steve Tiller, the director of the play and Jo Bird of Jewish Voice for Labour. Facebook event here 

8) Tuesday September 25, 7pm
World film preview: The Political Lynching of Jackie Walker
Introduction and post-show discussion by Graham Bash (Jewish Voice for Labour) and John Pullman, director of the film.
Blackburne House, Blackburne Place, L8 7PE. 
Facebook event here

Mark Serwotka: “we shouldn’t be frightened of calling it a racist state”

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Excellent contribution by PCS leader Mark Serwotka… article from The Independent

Labour antisemitism row was created by Israel to distract from ‘atrocities’, trade union boss suggests

PCS leader Mark Serwotka claims there is ‘something sinister going on’ behind ‘the most systematic attempt’ to shut down criticism of Israel

The leader of one of Britain’s main trade unions has suggested that Israel created the antisemitism row that has engulfed Labour over the summer.

Mark Serwotka, who leads the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) and is a staunch supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, told a fringe event at the Trades Union Congress conference that the Jewish state could have “created a story that does not exist” in order to distract attention from “atrocities” he said it has committed.

His comments were condemned by antisemitism campaigners, who said Mr Serwotka should resign over the “despicable” claims.

The comments risk reigniting the row over claims of anti-Jewish abuse in Labour, which has died down in recent days after the party’s ruling executive bowed to pressure to adopt an internationally recognised definition of antisemitism.

Speaking at an event organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Mr Sertwoka said he “deplored” antisemitism but claimed accusations against Mr Corbyn were the result of “something sinister going on”.

He told the event in Manchester: “I think it is unfortunate that the Labour Party allowed a lot of this to drag on in a way that actually did not help anybody.”

“In a year when Donald Trump has moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in a year when dozens of Palestinians including children were gunned down – unarmed innocent civilians – by the Israeli military, in a year when the Americans are cutting off aid … isn’t it a vile world when, instead of being on the front foot, denouncing these atrocities, demanding an independent and sovereign state for the Palestinian people, we have had a summer of asking ourselves whether leading Labour movement people are in any way antisemitic?”

He added: “I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I’ll tell you what – one of the best forms of trying to hide from the atrocities that you are committing is to go on the offensive and actually create a story that does not exist for people on this platform, the trade union movement or, I have to say, for the leader of the Labour Party.”

Mr Corbyn has previously called Mr Serwotka his “friend”. The firebrand union leader was expelled by Labour in the 1990s for his membership of a left-wing group and banned from voting in the 2015 leadership contest because the party said he did not “share its aims and values”. He was allowed to rejoin after Mr Corbyn became leader.

Mr Serwotka told trade union members in Manchester there had been “the most systematic attempt to shut down all those advocating justice for the Palestinians in a way that should trouble all those who want to expose injustices”.

He added: “And we fast-forward to this year, and the dominating headline has not been the actions of the Israeli state; it is whether we as a movement have any form of antisemitism in our attitude to Palestinians.”

Euan Philipps, a spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, said: “Mark Serwotka’s speech is a stark illustration of how deeply embedded antisemitism is within the Labour movement.

“To intimate that the Israeli government is somehow responsible for the antisemitism crisis that has torn across the Labour Party this summer is a baseless lie.

He added: “It callously dismisses the serious and legitimate concerns of the Jewish community, while also drawing on antisemitic tropes (including dual loyalty and conspiracy theory) to draw attention from what is a recognised issue of discrimination against Jews across the political left.

“The suggestion that there is a malevolent power manipulating British politics is as absurd as it is offensive.

“With this speech Mr Serwotka has brought the entire TUC into disrepute. It deserves widespread condemnation and we he should resign as general secretary of the PCS.”

Jennifer Gerber, director of Labour Friends of Israel, said: “Mr Serwotka’s comments are despicable. There is a problem of antisemitism in the Labour Party because of antisemites and Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to deal with them, not because of Israel.

“For a general secretary of a major trade union to allude to conspiracy theories and blame Jews for their own persecution shows the extent of the problem we now see on the left.”

British Jews are leaving the country because of antisemitism, claims rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Mr Serwotka also used his speech to pay tribute to Hugh Lanning, a former PSC deputy general secretary who now works for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Speaking at the same event, Mr Lanning said Israel was a “racist state” and claimed the row over antisemitism in Labour had had a “chilling effect”.

He said: “It’s time to speak up and stand up for Palestine. And the situation Mark was describing, which has had this chilling effect across the whole trade union Labour movement.”

To loud applause, he added: “I take the view that if Israel wants to have racist laws, if it wants to have roads that only some people can go on, to have different laws and education systems based on race, we shouldn’t be frightened of calling it a racist state.”

“If it acts and behaves like an apartheid state, we should call it an apartheid state – and not be frightened of doing so.”

Mr Lanning said the row over antisemitism was “an opportunity” to focus people’s attention on Israel.

Calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish state, he told trade union members: “We’ve got to shift the tipping point within the Labour and trade union movement – and you are the shock troops who are able to do this.

“One of the things that’s happened over the summer is that Palestine has been brought into the political agenda probably more than it has been for a long time.

“We can take that as an opportunity … so what the people who wanted to keep us quiet end up doing is making us shout very loudly.”

A PCS spokesperson said: “Mark spoke at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign fringe event at the TUC – an organisation PCS is affiliated to.

“He made the point at the start of the meeting that we need to oppose antisemitism in society and within the labour movement.

“But we should not allow the issue of antisemitism to be used by people who are attempting to silence Palestinian voices as they legitimately struggle for their rights and a sovereign state.”

Labour declined to comment.

 

Open letter: No Jennie Formby, we will not be informers!

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We, the undersigned, are greatly concerned about recent communication from Labour’s General Secretary Jennie Formby aimed at Facebook groups which have ‘Labour Party’ or ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ in their title (the full letter is below).

We are particularly outraged by the following passage which states “posts and conversations with antisemitic or otherwise discriminatory content” should be emailed to “complaints@labour.org.uk with screenshots and links […] if you believe the individual who has posted them may be a Labour member so that this can be investigated by the Party.

As Facebook users, we reject any attempt to make us informers to Labour’s dysfunctional disciplinary processes. Social media and Facebook are effective because they allow the exchange of ideas, even if at times clumsily expressed. Most Facebook groups police themselves adequately, without the assistance of a compliance unit, whose targets to date have almost exclusively been

  • on the left of the Party
  • supporters of Palestinian rights
  • critics of Israel and Zionism
  • and disproportionately black and Jewish

Given the Labour Party’s recent adoption of the ‘working definition’ of anti-Semitism published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which in the words of the Jewish former Court of Appeal judge, Sir Stephen Sedley, is “calculatedly misleading” and the IHRA’s purposeful conflation of criticism of Israel and Zionism with anti-Semitism, we have no confidence that free speech to criticise Israel will be guaranteed, if this approach is accepted across social media.

What constitutes anti-Semitism remains disputed. The traditional definition, as per the Oxford English Dictionary is, “hostility to or prejudice against Jews”. The IHRA definition on the other hand takes up over 500 words, many of which refer to Israel.

For example, John McDonnell stated in a recent interview with Jewish News: “What we’re saying is it’s anti-Semitic to oppose a Jewish state”. We disagree. Opposing a state that systematically, and constitutionally, marginalises and demonises Palestinians while subjecting them to discrimination is by definition a form of apartheid. It is not ant-Semitism to state this fact.

Your letter, as an attempt to make Facebook users responsible for the conduct of other group members, displays the same method used by the media to smear Jeremy Corbyn when he did not speak up against (the very few) people posting nonsense in a group he happened to be a member of.

We believe the ongoing witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters is bringing the party into disrepute. Your email will yet again fan the flames of this toxic climate, leading to ever more malicious and vexatious allegations and complaints.

We believe that open and democratic debate, without fear of being reported, is the best way to educate people and fight prejudice and racism. This new intrusion on free speech can only undermine the extraordinary effectiveness of social media as a tool to support the leader and the left in the party.

We will oppose any attempt to outsource education on anti-Semitism to the Jewish Labour Movement, which is the British wing of the Israeli Labour Party and covertly filmed and leaked a video of Jackie Walker at a closed training event in order to damage the party.

  • We remain determined to eradicate all forms of discrimination from our Party.
  • When we see prejudice or hate, we always speak up.
  • When we see discrimination, we always oppose it.
  • When we are asked to behave unjustly, we always refuse.

SIGN THIS OPEN LETTER HERE.


Full communication from Jennie Formby:

I’m writing to you as I understand that you are an admin or moderator of a Facebook group which refers to the Labour Party or Jeremy Corbyn in its title. Continue Reading “Open letter: No Jennie Formby, we will not be informers!”