Bury Momentum letter to Jon Lansman: “Your unsubstantiated remarks can only give succour to Labour’s enemies”

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Jon Lansman, Chair, Momentum
Cc Laura Parker, Momentum National Coordinator
Bcc National Coordinating Group

19 March 2019

Jon,

As officers of Bury Momentum we are writing to express our dismay and anger at your recent comments on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme of 25 February when you said Labour had “a major problem with anti-Semitism” and that it was “now obvious we have a much larger number of people with hardcore anti-Semitic opinions…” Such sweeping and unsubstantiated remarks – making no mention of the findings so far on this by Labour General Secretary Jennie Formby nor to the Party’s robust disciplinary process – can only give succour to the Labour Party’s enemies.

Bury Momentum discussed the latest developments in the attacks on Corbyn and the Partyat its recent meeting on Monday 11 March, including the suspension of Chris Williamson MP. Our members asked us to write to you and Momentum nationally expressing our unanimous support for Chris, our disappointment at Momentum’s failure to speak up for him and our feelings of let-down at your damaging comments to the media.

Part of Bury Momentum’s catchment area includes the second largest Jewish community in the country and in our two Bury CLPs your remarks are being used by our opponents to smear Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Left and Bury Momentum. It frankly beggars belief that the leader of Momentum can do such a disservice to its members’ campaigning efforts against austerity and our support for the Labour Manifesto, especially at such a critical time.

We call on you and National Momentum to defend Labour’s proud record as a democratic, anti-racist Party, stand in solidarity with Chris Williamson and other socialists who are being attacked, and apologise to Momentum members for demoralising and demobilising them by making unproven public statements. We expect your support.

There is NO BAN on moving motions in support of Chris Williamson MP!

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We have been contacted by dozens of people in the last few days, so we have put together this detailed article to assure you that there is NO BAN on moving motions in support of Chris Williamson in your branch/CLP – despite what you might have read in the media or been told by a regional official. But you should go into your meeting well prepared. Please find detailed guidelines below.

Remember, Chris did not say anything anti-Semitic: He was suspended merely for questioning if the party had responded correctly to the charge of being institutionally anti-Semitic! If we allow this suspension to stand – or even turn into an expulsion – this will not only be a great injustice to Chris, but to all of us!

Chris has been the only MP who has stood up for all those who have been witch-hunted on false or exaggerated allegations of anti-Semitism or ‘bringing the party into disrepute’. With his immensely popular ‘Democracy Roadshow’ he brought hope to many members that the party could be radically and democratically transformed to act in the interests of the many, not the few. That is why he has become a target.

He has stood up for us – now let’s stand up for him!


Why it’s not a ban

1.) There is some dispute if this is actually newly distributed communication or if it has been taken from an old email that was then re-distributed by an overly eager London regional officer. This would certainly explain why nobody seems to have seen the actual email from Jennie Forby (instead, it’s always the same brief snippet) and why many CLPs and branches have not received this communication.

2.) But in any case, it’s certainly not an instruction – and it’s not a ban! This becomes even clearer from a recent email that an employee at Labour HQ sent in reply to a CLP member asking for advice on motion regards Chris: “Unfortunately this motion is not deemed competent business as it relates to an ongoing disciplinary matter. As you will appreciate for reasons both of confidentiality and law, we are unable to discuss individual disciplinary cases.”  All this email says is that ‘Labour HQ will not deal with your resolution.’ It clearly does not state that branches/CLPs are not allowed to discuss the motion. Quite clearly though, there is room for interpretation in the HQ’s stance on this issue, which reflects of course the struggles that are currently going on in the party.

3.) Also, once a case has been in the public domain as much as Chris’ has, it cannot in any way be considered as a “confidential” issue and is therefore clearly “competent business” for branches and CLPs to discuss.

4.) It is always up to the members of any meeting to decide what they want to discuss. All Labour Party meetings are entitled to discuss any issues they choose. Your resolution might not be “discussed by the NEC” (how many of them do?), but it will certainly be published on our website and elsewhere.

5.) Remember, every single statement and resolution will add to the pressure to get Chris reinstated. His case is absolutely crucial in the ongoing fight for the soul of the Labour Party. If he were to be expelled, that would be a massive defeat not just for Chris, but also the whole Corbyn project. It would be a huge victory for the right-wingers now so neatly assembled in Tom Watson’s ‘Future Britain’.

But if we can get Chris reinstated, this would give the left in the party a major boost – and it might help us in our fight to finally get natural justice and due process implemented in the party’s disciplinary process. And, of course, to get one of our few allies in the Parliamentary Labour Party back on board!


How to move a motion in support of Chris

Make sure to send us any resolutions and statements so that others can take courage and inspiration from them. We have collated all successful resolutions and statements here. Some model motions are available here.

1.) Ideally, submit as a ‘normal’ motion. They have to be submitted to the secretary of your Labour Party branch in writing 14 days before a meeting (unless it says something different in your local standing orders). Normal motions have to go through a branch first before they can be presented to the CLP – though please note that this is not the case with emergency motions.

2.) Emergency motions can be submitted anytime before the meeting of your branch or CLP (but as soon as feasible) – again, in writing to your secretary. The rule states that emergency business “may be accepted by the majority of the meeting on the recommendation of the Chair, who shall interpret the term ’emergency’ in a bona fide manner”. That means your chair has a lot of power and can “recommend” not to accept your motion. Please note that your chair cannot refuseto even table the motion (this is against the rules, though of course many try to do it nevertheless).

3.) If your chair rules against accepting the emergency motion (or refuses to put it on the agenda), you can try to overturn the decision:

  • Firstly, you will need to raise a point of order, which must be heard. Then you need to explain why in your view the matter is indeed an emergency (for example, “because it only just happened”). Do not yet talk about the context of the motion, only why it is an emergency. Get somebody to call “seconded” straight away.
  • If 2/3 of eligible members at the meeting vote in favour of your challenge, the motion must be heard.
  • You can then move the motion to the meeting. If a simple majority votes in favour of the motion, it is passed and becomes the agreed resolution.

4.) Always bring enough copies of your emergency motion and hand them out before the meeting – that will make it very difficult for the chair to try and stop your motion from even being tabled. You should also try and get as many people as possible behind the motion beforethe meeting so that they are prepared to back you up. And print out the relevant bits from the rule book, just in case!

Reference for further info on these rules: model procedural rules (pages 67 and 68) in the Labour Party rule book 2018

Feel free to get in touch if you need some more detailed advice. Good luck! And please keep us updated!

Just say no to Jewish Labour Movement’s motion!

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We understand that the Jewish Labour Movement is pushing for the motion below to be discussed and voted through by all CLPs. It might appear harmless, but the devil is very much in the detail. The motion urges support for a deeply dishonest letter of solidarity with the JLM, which “recognises JLM, who have been affiliated with the Labour Party for 99 years, as the legitimate and long-standing representative of Jews in the Labour Party.”

This is clearly an attempt to undermine the excellent work that our comrades in Jewish Voice for Labour are doing. Just like Israel claims to be the homeland of all Jews, so the JLM claims to the homeland of all Jews in the Labour Party. Both claims are palpably untrue. JLM very much organises pro-Zionists, but none of the many thousands of secular and anti-Zionist Jews.

The ‘letter of solidarity’ also states: “We know Labour has let our Jewish supporters and members down by failing to eradicate the anti-Semitism in our ranks”.

No, we do not know that, actually. We know, however, that the JLM has been doing everything in its power to weaponise false and exaggerated charges of anti-Semitism in order to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.

We also know that the JLM was revived in 2015 – explicitly in order to battle Jeremy Corbyn. You don’t have to be Jewish to join the JLM – you don’t even have to be a member of the Labour Party. This is why anti-Corbyn campaigners like Adam Langleben – who left the party last year and has vowed to campaign against Labour– can hold a leading position as campaign officer. The JLM’s leaders (among them Ella Rose, Louise Ellman, Mike Katz and, until recently, the disgraced Jeremy Newmark) are virulently anti-Corbyn and helped to organise the March 26 2018 ‘Enough is enough’ demonstration outside parliament.

We also know that the JLM is an openly Zionist grouping with close links to the Israeli embassy (watch The Lobby for proof). The JLM is affiliated to the World Zionist Organisation and the sister party of the racist Labor Party of Israel (whose leader Isaac Herzog quite openly stated that “we are not Arab lovers”).

We call on all Labour Party members to not only vote down this motion, but try and get their CLP affiliated to Jewish Voice for Labour and Labour Against the Witchhunt.

This is the text of the motion:

“Motion to welcome the Jewish Labour Movement’s decision to remain affiliated to the Labour Party

This CLP:

– Welcomes the decision of the Jewish Labour Movement earlier in March to remain affiliated to the Labour Party. For almost 100 years, JLM has been an integral part of the Labour movement. We recognise that this was a difficult decision for JLM, given recent cases of anti-Semitism within the party. However, we strongly welcome their decision to affiliate, hope that they continue to feel able to do so, and commit to fighting alongside JLM to drive anti-Semites out the Labour Party.

– Calls on Edinburgh Labour councillors to sign the letter of solidarity with JLM. Already over 150 councillors have signed the letter of solidarity, coming from all wings and traditions within the Labour movement. We also call on MSPs, the MP, and parliamentary candidates covering our constituency to sign the letter of solidarity.

– Commits to standing alongside JLM in the fight to ensure anti-Semitism is driven from the Labour Party, and to rebuilding trust among British Jews that the Labour Party welcomes them, respects them, and will stand up for them when they suffer racist attacks. We call on all parts of the party – local, Scottish and UK, elected and official – to step up the fight against anti-Semitism within Labour.”

 

 

Camden Momentum calls for the removal of Jon Lansman from Momentum

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Camden Momentum resolution – re Jon Lansman. Passed overwhelmingly, 10 March 2019

At this time when Labour MPs who don’t agree with the Labour manifesto are leaving the party, Jon Lansman has made contentious and inappropriate remarks about antisemitism, effectively siding with those who have made unfounded allegations against the party, its members and its leadership:

– In the Evening Standard (front page, headline, 25 Feb) he is quoted as saying that “Labour has a major problem” with antisemitism;

He recently said that it was a matter of time before the Derby North MP, Chris Williamson, “does something which results in a complaint being made which will then have to be investigated”, legitimising his subsequent suspension

– that “the most influential antisemitism-deniers, unfortunately, are Jewish anti-Zionists

– and that “[JVL] is an organisation which is not just tiny but has no real connection with the Jewish community at all.”

Momentum was created out of the movement for Jeremy Corbyn to be elected as leader, to elect a Labour government, and to act as a bridge between the Party and the movement.

Jon Lansman’s remarks have undermined both Momentum and the Labour Party.

Camden Momentum therefore calls on the NCG (National Co-ordinating Group) to remove Jon Lansman from the chair of Momentum.

In solidarity with Asa Winstanley, the latest victim of the witchhunt

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Labour Against the Witchhunt condems the suspension of Asa Winstanley, a journalist and associate editor of Electronic Intifada. Asa learnt this from a story in the Jewish Chronicle, which stated that he had been suspended for calling the Jewish Labour Movement a “proxy for the Israeli Embassy”.

The disciplinary measures against Asa Winstanley are a full frontal attack on freedom of speech. Asa has written a number of well-researched articles showing how the ‘anti-Semitism campaign’ in the Labour Party has been manufactured by pro-Zionist groups (for example, How Israel lobby manufactured UK Labour Party’s anti-Semitism crisisand Jewish Labour Movement was refounded to fight Corbyn).

The last two weeks have seen a worrying acceleration of the witch-hunt against pro-Corbyn members. It seems that general secretary Jennie Formby has reinstated automatic suspensions over the most minor accusations:

  • Councillor Stuart Porthouse, former mayor of Sunderland, was suspended for sharing an interview with George Galloway on Sky News.
  • Sean McCallum, mayoral candidate in Mansfield, has been suspended on the basis of two tweets questioning the origins of a meme that Naz Shah MP had posted.
  • Jo Bird, a Jewish councillor in the Wirral was suspended for telling jokes.
  • And Chris Williamson MP has been suspended for daring to question the party’s tactics over the campaign to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

None of the above are under investigation for anything remotely anti-Semitic.It has become an offence merely to question the very assertion that there is widespread anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. What we are now seeing is Orwellian. As Asa Winstanley said at a recent meeting: “They’re trying to defeat the man by demoralising, splitting and defeating the left movement supporting him.”

This campaign is, at the heart of it, a campaign to delegitimise any criticism of Israel and its racist policies towards non-Jews. As an outspoken supporter of the rights of the Palestinians, Jeremy Corbyn is an unreliable ally when it comes to the strategically important alliance of Britain with the USA and Israel. They will do anything to get rid of him as leader of the Labour Party. This campaign to paint his supporters as anti-Semites is an integral part of it.

We are outraged that once again, the compliance unit has leaked details of Labour’s disciplinary processes to the Jewish Chronicle and the press before the person themselves has been notified. This is in clear violation of the General Data Protection Regulations and is illegal. The compliance unit should be shut down. It is not fit for purpose.

We condemn the suspension of Jo Bird and the appointment of Lord Falconer

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UPDATE: Jo Bird’s suspension was lifted on March 15, though apparently she was given a ‘warning’ – for telling jokes!

Labour Against the Witchhunt unreservedly condemns the suspension from the Labour Party of Jewish councillor for Bromborough Jo Bird. At a Justice4Marc meeting last year in Manchester (in solidarity with Marc Wadsworth) she made a light-hearted comment, stating: “Jewish Voice For Labour is calling for disciplinary hearings to be paused until a due process has been established, based on principles of natural justice. What I call Jew process”.

Clearly, the context of that quote shows that her joke was not anti-Semitic at all – but the exact opposite.

Coming so soon after the suspension of Chris Williamson MP on equally baseless grounds, we are concerned that the small positive reforms of the disciplinary process introduced by general secretary Jennie Formby have been rolled back. We are seeing the return of automatic suspensions, even before an investigation has started. And again, they are used almost exclusively against left-wing supporters of Corbyn. Tom Watson, Margaret Hodge, Joan Ryan and Louise Ellman on the other hand get away with insulting and undermining Jeremy Corbyn and the party without any consequence. This is clearly not a fair process.

We are also greatly concerned with the plan to appoint Lord Falconer to “re-investigate” cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. As an ally of Tony Blair, a member of his war cabinet and the lawyer whose legal advice helped to break up the National Union of Mineworkers, we believe he is most certainly not the right man for the job. His interview in the Sunday Times shows that he is also far from impartial on this issue: “The most frightening thing is the profound and almost universal sense within the Jewish community that the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn are anti-Semitic. They feel they are not safe … because the potential prime minister and the main opposition party are anti-Semitic.”

This is nonsense. Firstly, there is no hegemonic “Jewish community”. There are pro-Zionist Jews and there anti- or non-Zionist Jews – those like Jo Bird, Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein and the thousands organised in groups like Jewish Voice for Labour, Jewish Socialist Group etc. They certainly do not feel “unsafe” in the Labour Party. It is a story spun by the right-wing in the Labour Party, in cahoots with non-Labour organisations like the Board of Deputies and the Israeli embassy – who are united in their desire to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

We believe these recent, bad decisions of the Labour leadership are the direct consequence of the formation of the so-called The Independent Group. Eager to stop any more right-wingers from splitting from the party, the leadership is bending over backwards once more. We are even hearing that the reformed trigger ballots are being put on hold to avoid any challenges to sitting MPs –despite the fact that this policy was agreed at Labour Party conference 2018.  But the last three and a half years show: Appeasement does not work. Every time the leadership takes a step back, the right makes two steps forward.

As Ken Loach, one of LAW’s sponsors said: “If it looks like a witch hunt and behaves like a witch hunt – it may well be just that. This is intolerable and must end now.”

Kevin Higgins’ poem, censored by the Morning Star

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Listening Exercise
after John McDonnell

When you paint hatred on my garden wall
and front door, I will read your words
with great interest.

When you try to burn my house down
I will listen to what the flames are saying.

Every lie you tell against me
I’ll help you spread
by earnestly, and in detail, answering your questions
about it over and over again.

When you burst through my living room door
with a chainsaw intended for me,
I’ll pour you a nice cup of tea
and say: let’s talk about this.

When the tumours come for me
I’ll know their opinion must be taken
absolutely on board.

And when the beetles and bacilli
begin to consume me,
I’ll realise I’ve long seen
their point of view.

Kevin Higgins

On Thursday, Kevin Higgins’ poem ‘Listening Exercise’ (above) – concerning the ‘massive listening exercise’ called for by UK Shadow chancellor John McDonnell amid accusations of antisemitism against the British Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn – was published on Broadsheet, on the UK based site Culture Matters, and online in The Morning Star newspaper.

It was also to appear in the Morning Star‘s print edition last Saturday.

Before some high level politics intervened.

1) E-mail received from Cliff Cocker (Arts Editor of the Morning Star) Thursday, February 28.

Hi Kevin

Timely and spot-on. Will try and get online asap and in paper on Sat.

Cheers

Cliff

2) E-mail received from Cliff Cocker (Arts Editor of the Morning Star) Friday, March 1st, 9.17am

Hi Kevin

Here it is, in print tomorrow. Cheers C

3) Email received from Ben Chacko (editor of the Morning Star) March 1, 1:04pm

Dear Kevin,

I’m afraid I’ve pulled this poem because things are on a knife-edge in the shadow cabinet and at the moment our friends there advise exacerbating divisions would make things worse.

I do appreciate the poem and the many biting poems that you have written for us, but the sensitivities right now mean publishing it in the Morning Star would in our view feed the divisions that the right are trying to exploit.

That doesn’t mean we will stop fighting back against bogus accusations and we will be continuing a robust defence of Chris Williamson and attacks on the so-called Independent Group, but we just feel targeting John in this way now is not the right approach for us.

I hope you aren’t too angry that this time I want to hold back and that you are OK with continuing to publish poetry in the paper.

Solidarity and all the best,

Ben Chacko

Kevin says:

“It is great to know that my poems are being read by member’s of Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet. This poem was intended as friendly advice for Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, albeit that it is satirically delivered, as is my way.

I understand the pressures people are under at the moment, and am in no way angry at the editors of The Morning Star for the action they felt they had to take here. I plan to continue published poems in The Morning Star, as I have since they asked me for my satire on Tony Blair in 2015.

I do stand over the poem which I wrote while eating lunch last Friday week in the Arabica Coffee Shop on Dominick Street, immediately before one of my poetry workshops at Galway Arts Centre…”

Kevin Higgins

Support Chris Williamson: Seven things you can do

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  1. Use either of these draft motions  in your Labour Party branch/CLP. If successful, please send it to Jennie Formby and to LAW, so that we can publish it alongside other statements and resolutions here. Please note: We hear that in some branches and CLPs, the chair prevented the meeting from discussing motions in support of Chris, because of apparent recent advice by Labour HQ. Please note that there is NO BAN on discussing motions in support of Chris. We are dealing with the confusion on this matter in detail here. This is LAW’s statement on Chris’ suspension.
  2. Sign our petition demanding Chris’ reinstatement – and share it far and wide. There is another, simple one doing the rounds ‘Don’t Expel Chris Williamson’ and a good Open Letter to Jennie Formby from Labour Party members. Tony Greenstein has also produced a petition and there is another supportable petition online. Sign them all!
  3. If you’re on Twitter, use #IStandWithChrisWilliamson
  4. Put on a showing of ‘The Witchhunt’ documentary with Jackie Walker in your locality to better understand the background to this decision.
  5. Email Jennie Formby to protest against this decision.
  6. Join our March 26 protest party at the expulsion hearing of Jackie Walker (details to be confirmed, Facebook event here). Should Chris still be suspended, we will of course use the opportunity to demand his reinstatement.
  7. The first badge we’ve seen in solidarity with Chris is available here.

Sign the open letter: Reinstate Chris Williamson MP!

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SIGN THE PETITION HERE 

Open letter: Reinstate Chris Williamson MP!

We, the undersigned, believe that the suspension of Chris Williamson MP is an outrage.

The allegation that Chris is downplaying anti-Semitism is totally unfounded. His comments, made at a Momentum meeting in Sheffield, were taken out of context in a deliberate attempt to ruin the reputation of both Chris Williamson and Jeremy Corbyn.

He actually said: “The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I have got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic… We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any other party.”

His comments are clearly neither anti-Semitic, nor denying the existence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (or wider society). But he has quite rightly pointed to the fact that there has also been a political campaign to “weaponise” accusations of anti-Semitism.

Chris is a target because he is one of the very few Labour MPs who have openly stood up to the witch-hunt of Corbyn supporters and because he has campaigned tirelessly for the much-needed democratisation of the party.

Despite the departure of Iain McNicol as general secretary, the witch-hunt of left-leaning party members continues. The main target of this campaign is, of course, Jeremy Corbyn himself. But thousands of Labour Party members have been investigated, suspended and expelled, often on spurious grounds. Like Chris Willamson, they are the collateral damage in this campaign to ‘get’ Corbyn.

We call on the Labour Party to immediately reinstate Chris Williamson MP and to apologise to him!

SIGN THE PETITION HERE 

Model Motions: Reinstate Chris Williamson MP!

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THERE IS NO BAN! We hear that in a number of branches and CLPs, the chair has prevented the meeting from discussing motions in support of Chris, because of apparent recent advice by Labour HQ. We have produced detailed guidelines on this issue here.


Model motion 1

Don’t expel Chris Williamson MP from the Labour Party

This Meeting:
1. Notes the personal statement from Chris Williamson (February 27, published in full below).
2. Is opposed to all forms of anti-Semitism and racism.
3. Does not believe Chris Williamson MP should be expelled from the Labour Party.

APPENDIX/NOTE: Chris Williamson’s personal message.

The Labour Party is an anti-racist party. It is the only party that has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with religious and ethnic minorities in their decades-long fight against racism, discrimination and prejudice in the United Kingdom.

On a personal level, I have been an anti-racist all my life. As a former member of the Anti-Nazi League. I participated in direct action to confront foul anti-Semites in the streets. I reject racism ethically and morally. It has no place in the Labour Party or in our country.

It pains me greatly, therefore, that anyone should believe that it is my intention to minimise the cancerous and pernicious nature of anti-Semitism.

I deeply regret, and apologise for, my recent choice of words when speaking about how the Labour Party has responded to the ongoing fight against anti-Semitism inside of our party. I was trying to stress how much the party has done to tackle anti-Semitism.

Our movement can never be “too apologetic” about racism within our ranks. Whilst it is true that there have been very few cases of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party – something I believe is often forgotten when discussing this issue – it is also true that those few are too many.

It is precisely because of our party’s historic struggle against racism that we have taken it upon ourselves to strengthen our rules, to improve our disciplinary procedures and to redouble our efforts to take on anti-Semites. We have held ourselves to a higher standard than any other political party when it comes to anti-racism – and rightly so.

I am therefore sorry for how I chose to express myself on this issue within our party. This is a fight that I want to be an ally in.

In future, I will take it upon myself to be more considered in my remarks. and ensure they reflect the Labour Party’s unswerving and unfaltering commitment to anti-racism and the fight against anti-Semitism.


Model motion 2

This Constituency Labour Party notes with great concern the suspension of Chris Williamson MP for Derby North.

  • The allegation that Chris is downplaying anti-Semitism is totally unfounded. His comments, made at a Momentum meeting in Sheffield, were taken out of context in a deliberate attempt to ruin both the reputation of Chris Williamson MP and Jeremy Corbyn.
  • Chris Williamson MP actually said: “The party that has done more to stand up to racism is now being demonised as a racist, bigoted party. I have got to say, I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we’ve backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we’ve been too apologetic… We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any other party.”
  • His comments are clearly neither anti-Semitic, nor denying the existence of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party (as in wider society). But he does quite rightly point to the fact that there has also been a political campaign to “weaponise” accusations of anti-Semitism.
  • Chris is a target because he is one of the very few Labour MPs who have openly stood up to the witch-hunt of Corbyn supporters and because he has campaigned tirelessly for the much-needed democratisation of the party.
  • Despite the departure of Iain McNicol as general secretary, the witch-hunt of left-leaning party members continues. The main target of this campaign is, of course, Jeremy Corbyn himself. But thousands of Labour Party members have been investigated, suspended and expelled, often on spurious grounds. Like Chris Williamson, they are the collateral damage in this campaign to ‘get’ Corbyn.

This Constituency Labour Party therefore moves to:

  • Write to Jennie Formby, the general secretary, and the National Executive Committee with a copy of this motion and demanding that Chris is reinstated immediately. (jennie_formby@labour.org.uk) 
  • Write a letter of support to Chris Williamson MP (chris.williamson.mp@parliament.uk)
  • Invite Chris Williamson to a local rally/meeting in support of his reinstatement
  • Support the key aims of Labour Against the Witchhunt: 1) An end to automatic suspensions and expulsions. 2) Rejection of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, which conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and support for the rights of the Palestinian people. 3) Abolition of Labour’s ‘compliance unit.’ (http://www.labouragainstthewitchhunt.org/contact/)
  • Affiliate to Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW) at the soonest possible opportunity and include a statement of support for LAW on this CLP’s social media channels and website. (Cost £25 pa)
  • Campaign to reverse the NEC’s decision to adopt the disputed ‘definition of anti-Semitism’ published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)
  • Work to arrange a local screening of the “The Witchhunt” documentary https://witchhuntfilm.org)

Model motion 3

This branch/CLP notes with concern the use of the term (as attributed in the media to a Labour spokesman) “downplaying” anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

We believe that of course the Labour Party should combat all forms of racism.

However, accusations of “downplaying” anti-Semitism (or worse placing it on a par with anti-Semitism itself) have the potential to inhibit the freedom of all Labour Party members to discuss the issues relating to racism in the Party. They should for example be able to:

  • Challenge the assertion that the Labour Party is institutionally anti-Semitic. This has been repeated so many times that it has become established fact, despite the conclusions of the Chakrabati report and an all-party Home Affairs Select Committee that anti-Semitism and other types of racism are not endemic within Labour
  • Question whether the characterisation of the Labour Party as a racist organisation is fair or even in some cases politically motivated
  • Judge based on the data the extent of antisemitism in the Labour Party and whether the Party’s procedures and actions are effective and proportionate
  • Discuss whether the Party’s adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is appropriate
  • Speak out on cases of injustice within the Labour Party
  • Resist any curbs on legitimate freedom of speech and any move towards a culture of denunciation

This branch/CLP  therefore moves to:

  • Write to Jennie Formby (Labour Party General Secretary) and Shami Chakrabarti (Shadow Attorney General) with a copy of this motion
  • Submit this motion to local Constituency Labour Parties as necessary

Solidarity with Chris Williamson MP

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The suspension of Chris Williamson MP is an absolute disgrace. We stand in full solidarity with Chris, who must be cleared as soon as possible by Labour’s “investigation” – though judging by how Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, Tony Greenstein, Ken Livingstone and many, many more Corbyn supporters have been thrown under the bus, we have very little confidence that he will receive a fair one.

He is the latest victim of the witch-hunt by the right in the party whose main target is, of course, Jeremy Corbyn himself.

Jeremy Corbyn recently said: “Chris Williamson is a very good, very effective Labour MP. He’s a very strong anti-racist campaigner. He is not anti-Semitic.” Corbyn was right. He should finally stand up and tell people like Jon Lansman and John McDonnell to stop joining in the witch-hunt – but support the thousands of left-wingers who have been investigated, suspended and expelled, many of them on false accusations of anti-Semitism.

This campaign to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism will only get worse, the closer we get to a general election. Trying to appease the right clearly does not work. If you fight, you might loose – but if you don’t fight, you have already lost.

GMB should restore Peter Gregson’s full membership rights

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Labour Against the Witchhunt calls on the GMB union to restore Peter Gregson’s full membership rights.

Peter is clearly not anti-Semitic: he does not harbour hostility, prejudice, hatred or ill-intent towards Jewish people as Jews. He is a campaigner for Palestinian rights, against the racist ideology of Zionism and the apartheid system and practices of Israel.

We reject the International Holocaust Memorial Alliance’s unnecessarily complex, imprecise and self-contradictory definition of anti-Semitism, which has been adopted by both the Labour Party and the GMB and which conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.

The investigation into Peter arose because he organised a petition– using the clumsy and obscure IHRA wording – that “the existence of Israel is a racist endeavour”.

Clearly, the Israeli state is inherently racist. Under its July 2018 Nation-State Law, Israel is defined as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” and Palestinian citizens are explicitly declared not to have any national rights. In the West Bank and Gaza – territories occupied since 1967 – while Jewish settlers enjoy full democratic rights as Israeli citizens, Palestinians live under military rule with no democratic rights, because they are not Jewish.

Although Peter’s petition is a good idea, challenging the IHRA definition, we cannot support it. Firstly, we disagree with some of its wording – eg, before it adopted the full IHRA definition on September 4, the Labour Party did not allow “full freedom of speech on Israel”. On the contrary, the witch-hunt was in full flow long before that. Secondly, some of the formulations in Peter’s supporting documents internalise the racism of Zionist ideology, failing to distinguish clearly between the Zionist movement and the Jewish population, and attributing a non-existent collective political identity to “the Jews”, eg, “the Jews have so much leverage here [in the UK]”.

We also disagree with Peter’s original formulation,  “Israel exaggerates the Holocaust for political ends”. After discussions with LAW members he clarified that he did not mean to deny the scale and the horror of the mass slaughter of Jewish people, but that he tried to echo the view of Norman Finkelstein, who in his seminal work ‘The Holocaust Industry’ outlined how the Zionist lobby and the Israeli government have weaponised the Holocaust for their own political ends.

We believe frank debate and discussion is much better to counter wrong ideas or, as in this case, clumsy formulations. Except in the most extreme circumstances, disciplinary sanctions should not be applied until due process has been concluded. Where low level sectionalist, nationalistic, xenophobic or racist ideas, including anti-Semitic ideas, are found in the workers’ movement, they are best countered by open discussion, patient education, inculcation of elementary class consciousness and by encouraging participation in joint struggles. The slogan ‘zero tolerance’ is ill-conceived and counterproductive.

The witch-hunt against Corbyn and the Labour left is part of the huge, unprecedented campaign over recent years to equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism – hatched, crafted and skilfully promoted by the US right, the Israeli government and the UK establishment, designed to delegitimise criticism of Israel and to prepare public opinion for another imperialist war in the Middle East, after the disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq.

 

The slow coup against Jeremy Corbyn

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Position agreed unanimously at LAW’s conference on February 2 2019

  1. Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader on September 12 2015 was a body blow to the rightwing. It opened up the possibility of thoroughgoing democratisation and transformation of the Labour Party into a genuine party of the working class that would commit itself to fighting for global socialism.
  2. Corbyn’s longstanding record of backing strikes, opposing austerity and anti-war campaigning makes him totally unacceptable to Britain’s establishment. Above all Corbyn is considered a threat to the strategic alliance with the United States, symbolised by his critical attitude towards Israel and his solidarity with the Palestinians.
  3. The US has a particular interest in controlling the Middle East because of its oil and geopolitical position. That means shoring up the thoroughly corrupt Saudi Arabian regime and the barely disguised military dictatorship in Egypt. However, the most reliable strategic asset the US possesses in the Middle East is Israel. Israel’s ongoing settler-colonialism is inevitably opposed and bitterly resented by the Palestinian natives and the wider Arab nation. Consequently, the most important political question is security. The majority of the Israeli-Jewish population enthusiastically supports the country’s alliance with the US.
  4. The war of attrition against Corbyn as Labour leader, carried out by an alliance of the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the Party bureaucracy, the Israeli state, the pro-Israel lobby and the mainstream media, began even before he was elected. Corbyn was portrayed as a terrorist sympathiser, a security risk and an all-round danger to society.
  5. Thousands of socialists and leftwingers were investigated, suspended and expelled under former general secretary Iain McNicol. The charges leveled against these comrades were often trivial. Many were found guilty of supporting unaffiliated political groups. There was much talk of dangerous ‘reds under the beds’.
  6. However, the most potent weapon in the hands of Corbyn’s enemies proved to be false accusations of anti-Semitism. Anti-Zionism was equated with anti-Semitism. This approach worked not least because Corbyn and his allies allowed it to. Rather than standing up to the right and exposing the baselessness of allegations that the Labour Party is riddled with anti-Semitism, Corbyn chose to appease the Labour right and the Zionist lobby.
  7. The investigation run by Shami Chakrabarti was supposed to put an end to the allegations, but it was only a new stage. Every time Corbyn and his allies conceded a demand, every time they took a step back, the right wing and Zionist lobby were further emboldened. This culminated in the NEC’s adoption of the much-criticised International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism and all eleven of its illustrations (including the one which labels as anti-Semitic the description of Israel as a “racist endeavour”). But the IHRA definition conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism.

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Why LAW opposes the IHRA ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism

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“It is designed to allow any criticism of the actions of the state of Israel to be dismissed as ‘anti-Semitism’”

As agreed unanimously at LAW’s conference on February 2 2019

This conference rejects the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism in its entirety.

We note that:

  1. The IHRA ‘definition’ reads:
    “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
  2. This definition was originally published, together with its 11 examples, in 2005 on the website of the European Union’s European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC), although it was never adopted by that body. But after heavy criticism, it was removed by the EUMC’s successor body, the Fundamental Rights Agency, in November 2013.
  3. In May 2016, it was resurrected and adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, a group of 32 countries. But, far from being the “internationally recognised definition”,  according to IHRA the definition has been adopted by only 10 countries: the UK, Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Austria, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Germany, the Netherlands and, of course, Israel.
  4. On December 12 2016, the UK Tory government was the first of the IHRA countries to endorse the IHRA definition. Shamefully, on the very same day the Labour Party endorsed the definition, albeit without its 11 examples. The European Parliament’s May 29 2017 acceptance of the IHRA definition was spearheaded by the Austrian government, in particular the far-right Freedom Party, one of the two coalition partners.
  5. The definition is by the IHRA’s own admission not legally binding.
  6. Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee, who first drafted the definition, has statedthat the original idea for it arose from Dina Porat of Tel Aviv’s Kantor Centre.

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