I am a member of the Labour Party, Hampstead and Kilburn CLP.
In early October 2017 I received a letter (dated 3 October) from Sam Matthews, then the Party’s Head of Disputes, expelling me from the Party. The letter contained an insinuation that I had published an ‘antisemitic article’. This smear was not only false, but entirely gratuitous, as the reason given for my expulsion had nothing to do with the content of the article in question. That reason, however, was found to be ineffectual, and my expulsion was rescinded in a letter from the said Sam Matthews, dated 26 October 2017.
I have since then demanded several limes an apology for the ‘antisemitism’ smear; but my demands were ignored.
I now have pleasure in drawing your attention to my article ‘An immoral dilemma: The trap of Zionist propaganda’ (Journal of Palestine Studies Vol. XLVII, No. 4, Summer 2018 ), attached herewith; and to my article ‘Messianic Zionism: The ass and the red heifer’ (Monthly Review, February 2020), available online here; and to my article ‘Weaponising “anti-Semitism”’ (Weekly Worker 23 April 2020), available online here.
Please advise me whether, in your considered opinion, public expression of the views put forward in these articles is compatible with my membership of the Labour Party. If it is not, I would respectfully ask you to point out specifically which of these views are incompatible with LP membership. I wish to add that I am determined to continue advocating these views.
I am writing this as an open letter, because the issues that it involves are not private but of concern to members and supporters of the Party, and indeed to the general public.
Please note that Labour party members have NOT been banned from discussing the IHRA mis-definition of antisemitism!
The phrase “not competent business”, contained in Labour Party general secretary David Evans’s latest email (full text below), is nothing but hot air. It means precisely nothing. Find below scathing response from left wing barrister Duncan Shipley Dalton.
We have been through exactly this before, when Jennie Formby used the formulation to stop branches coming out in support of Chris Williamson. She failed – and dozens of branches and CLP passed motions in support of Chris!
Worst case scenario, the general secretary and/or the NEC might not discuss any motions passed on those issues. But surely, that is not the main point about them anyway.
That point is the need to stand up to the ongoing witch-hunt! Thousands of left-wingers have been smeared, vilified and wrongly hounded as antisemites during the last five years. The futile attempt to appease the right – rather than openly take them on and defeat them politically – has led to the defeat of Corbyn and the left. Surely this is the main lesson we have to learn from the last five years.
Standing by it is not an option. There is little point in staying in the Labour Party under Starmer, if you are not prepared to fight.
Model motions against IHRA are available on our website: http://www.labouragainstthewitchhunt.org/
Response from left-wing barrister Duncan Shipley Dalton
The NEC and therefore the GS has no authority in the rules to dictate what is ‘competent business’ for a CLP to discuss. The only authority is in Chap 1, VIII, 3.E-“The NEC shall from time to time, issue guidance and instructions on the conduct of meetings…” CONDUCT not CONTENTConduct is a noun meaning ‘the manner in which an activity is managed or directed.’ That is not the same as the content or subject the meeting deals with. The NEC can issue guidance on how a meeting can be run/organised but not dictate what motions are competent business.
Secondly, the idea discussing the IHRA will “…undermine Labour’s ability to campaign against any form of racism…” is so absurd as to be in the realms of irrationality. As previously stated the NEC/GS has no authority in the rules to dictate this. If what is being threatened.
is disciplinary punishment for breaching the code of conduct in Appendix 9, this is incorrect. The codes are not part of the rules, they are not directly enforceable. They are considered per Chap 2.I.8/9. Exactly what underlying breach of 2.I.8 occurs if a CLP discusses a motion requesting the NEC to reverse its decision on the IHRA? Is the GS suggesting that such a request “is prejudicial, or in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party” REALLY! The absurdity just piles up at times.
Full text of the email from David Evans:
FAO: CLP secretaries & chairs
As CLPs and branches are now able to meet online, I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on a few pertinent issues. This will ensure that the business your local party is conducting is appropriate, minimises any challenge to its decisions and does not leave the party – locally and nationally – or its officers open to potential legal liabilities. Apologies for the length of this email, but I hope you will agree it covers some very important issues.
NEC nominations – voting procedures
We have received a number of requests for further clarity on the voting systems that are to be used for the nomination of NEC candidates. Nominations should be made by secret ballot, not by a show of hands.
• Where a voting system is specified in your CLPs standing orders, this is the system that should be used to make your nominations;
• Where a voting system is not specified in your CLP standing orders, you should rely on previous custom and practice from your CLP.
We would usually expect that to be either multi-member First Past The Post (‘Approval Voting’ on Choice Voting) or Single Transferable Vote (‘Electoral Reform Society 97 STV’ on Choice Voting). CLPs should not be devising new voting systems of their own.
We advise that wherever possible nominations are taken by email in advance of the meeting to allow the ballot to be set up before the meeting. Any such email nominations would only be valid if the member making the nomination is in attendance at the subsequent meeting. Should there be fewer nominations than, or an equal number to, the total positions available, there is no need to progress to a ballot.
The Labour Party recently agreed a settlement with seven former members of staff who appeared on an edition of the BBC’s Panorama programme, as well as with the journalist who hosted that programme. Those settlements included an unreserved apology and a withdrawal of the allegations previously made by the Party about those individuals. The withdrawal and apology are binding on the party and any motions which seek to undermine or contradict them will create a risk of further legal proceedings for both the national party and local parties. As such, motions relating to these settlements and the circumstances behind them are not competent business for discussion by local parties.
CLP officers have an important responsibility to ensure that they and other members conduct themselves in a respectful and comradely manner. We therefore take this opportunity to reiterate to local Labour Parties and officers that they should be aware of the potential liabilities to them should the allegations that have now been withdrawn by the national party be repeated.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report
On Monday 13 July 2020 the party announced that it had received the EHRC’s draft report into allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. This draft report has been provided to the party by the EHRC on a confidential basis as part of its investigation.
When we are able to provide more information about the EHRC’s report we will do so. Until that time speculation as to the contents of the report is not helpful. It is therefore not competent business for CLPs to discuss.
IHRA definition of antisemitism
We are aware that some CLPs and branches have had motions tabled to “repudiate” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The IHRA definition of antisemitism and its examples was properly adopted by the Labour Party in September 2018. CLPs and branches have no powers to overturn this decision. Furthermore, such motions undermine the Labour Party’s ability to tackle racism. Any such motions are therefore not competent business for CLPs or branches.
As per the previous general secretary’s instruction, any discussion about ongoing disciplinary cases remains prohibited.
This important event discussed how we can fight back against McCarthyite attempts to stifle debate on the issue of Israel/Palestine – and label those unjustly expelled and suspended as ‘unpersons’ who we are not allowed to share platforms with.
No to (self-)censorship! Discuss how we can fight back and mobilise for free speech in the Labour movement and beyond!
Speakers include Norman Finkelstein, Tariq Ali, Chris Williamson, Jackie Walker, Marc Wadsworth, David Miller and Tony Greenstein. Chaired by Tina Werkmann of Labour Against the Witchhunt and Labour Left Alliance.
No, Rebecca Long-Bailey, you SHOULD NOT sign up to the 10 pledges by the ‘Board of Deputies’!
These outrageous demands, pushed by a bunch of Tory-supporting, pro-capitalists, should not just be ignored by any candidate running for the leadership of the Labour Party – but rejected outright as inappropriate interference. Email Rebecca if you think she should change her view urgently: firstname.lastname@example.org
The worst of the 10 pledges are:
Pledge 2: Make the disciplinary process “independent”. Independent of whom? The members? Hand it over to the Jewish Labour Movement or the BoD, perhaps? No, Labour Party members should be judged by their peers only. Governance and Legal (formerly the Compliance Unit) – still staffed by many employees hired by witch-finder general Iain McNicol – should be abolished and replaced with a democratic and transparent body, elected by Labour Party members.
Pledge 3: Handing over confidential details of ongoing disciplinary cases to “Jewish representative bodies” – and they don’t mean the Jewish Voice for Labour, of course, which is referred to as “fringe organisations and invidividuals” in pledge 8.
Pledge 4: A lifetime ban from membership for “repeat offenders, such as Ken Livingstone or Jackie Walker.” Ken Livingstone incidentally resigned; whereas Jackie was not found guilty of anti-Semitism, but “bringing the party into disrepute”. Not that the BoD cares.
Pledge 5: “Any MPs, peers, councillors, members or CLPs who support, campaign or provide a platform for people who have been suspended or expelled in the wake of antisemitic incidents should themselves be suspended from membership.” This is pure censorship that should be rejected by anybody who wants a critical, engaged and thinking membership.
Pledge 7: Handing training on anti-Semitism to the Jewish Labour Movement, a Zionist organisation that has been instrumental in weaponsing the miniscule number of anti-Semitic incidents in order to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the left. They have purposely conflated anti-Zionism (criticism of Israel) with anti-Semitism (hatred of Jews).
While the majority of CLP delegates reject fast-track expulsions and the anti-left smear campaign, the right has the backing of the capitalist media. That, together with a conciliating leadership, gives them the upper hand, writes Peter Manson (this article first appeared in the Weekly Worker of September 26).
In the words of deputy leader Tom Watson, there is “a battle for the future of the Labour Party” going on. However, it is not about “factionalism”, as Watson claims, but the very nature of the party itself.
It goes without saying that as a key part of this battle the right has weaponised anti-Semitism – mainly by ludicrously equating anti-Zionism with “hostility to or prejudice against Jews”, but also by making numerous allegations of anti-Semitism that are just totally false. Take what happened at the Labour conference on September 22.
A suspended Labour member, Pete Gregson, had erected a banner, which featured a cartoon by Carlos Latuff. This portrayed Binyamin Netanyahu piloting a plane marked ‘The Lobby’, firing a “Defamation” missile and shouting “Anti-Semite!” at Jeremy Corbyn as he was speaking about “Palestinian rights”. Various pro-Zionists not only physically attacked the banner, but actually cut it in half – three times (after being quickly repaired), before the perpetrators were eventually apprehended. Even though two days earlier the police had said they could not see anything improper about it, eventually two officers removed the banner. Incredibly, Jeremy Corbyn tweeted soon after: “I’m disgusted that this banner was displayed near our … conference centre. We asked the police to remove it and I’m glad they did. This kind of anti-Semitic poison has no place whatsoever in our society.” Presumably Corbyn had been advised that it was bad PR.
This article first appeared in the Weekly Worker
Pete Willsman is the victim of a well-timed sting – yet his own CLPD comrades will not stand in solidarity with him. Carla Roberts reports
On May 31, Labour Party general secretary Jennie Formby informed other members of the national executive committee that she had put Pete Willsman under “administrative suspension” after having “received a number of complaints, including from NEC members”, about his latest comments”.
Comrade Willsman, who has been serving on the NEC since 1981 (1994 was the only year he was not re-elected), was caught by the Israeli-American author, Tuvia Tenenbom, making a number of unguarded comments on the so-called ‘anti-Semitism crisis’ in the party. Unaware of being recorded, Willsman apparently boasted that he is “Peter. Red Pete. They call me Corbyn’s enforcer”. But that cannot actually be heard in the heavily edited clip that runs for 102 seconds on LBC radio’s website and forms – so far – the only evidence. Here is a full transcript of the clip:
The rich control the papers, the rich control everything else and the rich know he’s going to make them pay taxes [edited gap].
One of these things about anti-Semitism is they’re using that to whip people up – they use anything, any lies. It’s all total lies and they whip it up. [Tenenbom makes positive grunting noises.] I’ll tell you what and this is off the record: it is almost certain who is behind all of this anti-Semitism against Jeremy. Almost certainly it was the Israeli embassy. [Tenenbom encouragingly says, “Really?”] Yes, they caught somebody in the Labour Party it turns out was an agent in the embassy [edited gap].
The people in the Labour Party doing it, they are people who are linked – one of them works indirectly for the Israeli embassy. I wouldn’t want to be bothered to find out, but my guess would be that they’re the ones whipping it up all the time [edited gap].
In The Guardian not long ago we had 69 rabbis, obviously organised by the Israeli embassy, saying anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is widespread and severe. Is 70 out of 600,000 [members] really widespread and severe? Is it widespread and severe? [Tenenbom can be heard murmuring, “No”.] From here [Oxford] to London it is 70 kilometres and 600,000 kilometres is 14 times around the whole world. They’re saying from here to London is widespread and severe compared to 14 times around the whole world. That is the rubbish they’re coming out with.
And that is it. Clearly, nothing Willsman said here is either anti-Semitic or warrants suspension. Unaware that he was being recorded, he might otherwise have been a little more vague when it comes to a number of details. The 69 rabbis, for example, might well have been organised by the Board of Deputies (though there is little doubt that they also have close links to the embassy). Also, we are not quite sure who it is he means who worked “indirectly for the Israeli embassy”. He was probably referring to Ella Rose, who used to work there – pretty directly – as a public affairs officer, before becoming director of the Jewish Labour Movement, which is affiliated to the Labour Party.
Throughout the short clip, Willsman must obviously have referred to the fascinating documentary, The lobby, which has been wilfully ignored by the mainstream media. The documentary revealed the systematic efforts by the Israeli embassy to involve itself in the internal battles in the Labour Party. It also revealed the campaign by the Israeli ministry of strategic affairs to label opponents of Israel as anti-Semites. Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement have quite clearly been acting as the embassy’s ‘political arm in the Labour Party’. Ella Rose is shown in The lobby boasting about JLM’s relationship with Shai Masot: “We work with Shai, we know him very well.” Masot was the Israeli embassy spy forced out of his job (and the UK) after Al Jazeera exposed him plotting to “take down” various politicians.
Naturally, political interference via secret services, embassies, media outlets and many other avenues is widespread and commonplace (the reason we pay our taxes!). But the Israeli government’s campaign to topple Jeremy Corbyn has been particularly blatant and obvious. It is this campaign of interference that should be the subject of an overdue investigation rather than Pete Willsman. And this is what Jeremy Corbyn actually publicly demanded when The lobby was first aired in 2017.
But it is fair to say that the party has gone a bit quiet on the issue. We know why, of course: Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Corbyn and his advisors still seem to believe that they can appease the right, many of whom have close relationships with LFI and the JLM. How else do you explain the proposed appointment of Tony Blair’s buddy, Lord Charlie Falconer, to head up yet another party investigation into anti-Semitism? Luckily for Corbyn, Falconer declined. A few days ago he explained to BBC Radio 4 about how Willsman had “attacked the Jewish embassy”. Is he really suggesting that this is the embassy for all Jews? What a suicidal appointment that would have been!
Michael Moore of the Zionist right
The carefully timed and choreographed ‘expose’ of Willsman should prove to Corbyn once and for all how futile is his ongoing campaign to try and appease the right. Willsman was recorded in January, but Tenenbom (and LBC radio) waited almost six months to publish the audio recording – no doubt so that it could coincide nicely with the pressure building up over a second Brexit referendum, the bad EU election results, the investigation into ‘Labour anti-Semitism’ by the Equality Commission (see below) and the attacks on Labour’s Peterborough by-election candidate, Lisa Forbes. The aim is clear: the Labour right – in cahoots with much of the establishment and the media – want to weaken and isolate Jeremy Corbyn in order to get rid of him. Willsman is – like so many others – nothing but collateral damage.
Contrary to the picture painted in the mainstream media of Tuvia Tenenbom as some kind of respectable and neutral ‘journalist’ who just happened to run into Willsman in a hotel bar (and whose sound engineer just happened to leave a microphone switched on and set to ‘record’), this has more than the whiff of a sting operation about it. Tenenbom, clearly a convinced Zionist, has published a number of books in which he uses exactly this kind of method: he takes on a different persona and secretly films and records people, leading them on and guiding them into making exactly the kind of unguarded comments he was looking for – all in order to prove how anti-Semitism is rife in Germany, Palestine, the USA, etc. He is like a Michael Moore of the Zionist right – but on a much lower level.
Tenenbom told LBC radio: “He [Pete Willsman] is a nice guy, he has a great sense of humour, he’s knowledgeable. But like Jeremy Corbyn – I met Jeremy and he’s also a nice guy, very fatherly – but they suffer from a disease of really hating the Jews.” Tenenbom has also given lectures, in which he explains why “the suffering of Palestinian people is bullshit” (since you ask, he knows that because he got hold of a nicely produced business card by a Palestinian businessman and visited Palestinian shopping malls that sell some luxury goods).
Clearly, this is a man on a mission. Pete Willsman would have done well to at least quickly Google the guy before he sat down with him for a cup of coffee, talking about one of the most sensitive issues in today’s political discourse. Especially as he was once before the victim: in July 2018, an unnamed fellow member of the NEC secretly recorded Willsman when he angrily criticised all those who were responsible for so many false allegations of anti-Semitism in the party – and then outrageously passed the audio to the press. Clearly, that member should have been investigated for bringing the party into disrepute, not Willsman for stating the plain truth.
That episode last year also exposed how far Jon Lansman, founder of Momentum, has moved to the right. Rather than defend his comrade of over 30 years, he dropped him from the slate of recommended candidates for election to the NEC. The fact that comrade Willsman was re-elected nevertheless shows both his popularity and the increasing disillusionment with Momentum among party members. It has been worse than useless in fighting the witch-hunt in the Labour Party – in fact it has been complicit.
Just this week, Lansman was yet again busy conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, when he celebrated the dismissal of George Galloway by Talkradio: “Talkradio is right to sack George Galloway for what he said. Anti-Semitism must be rooted out and rejected by all socialists, alongside all other forms of racism and hate speech.”
We are no fans of Galloway, especially since his idiotic support for the xenophobe and chauvinist, Nigel Farage, and his rightwing Brexit Party. But was his tweet really anti-Semitic? While celebrating Liverpool’s win over Tottenham Hotspurs in the Champions League final, he wrote that there would be “no Israel flags on the cup”. Galloway was referencing the fact that some Spurs fans – who famously identify themselves as the “Yid army” – do indeed carry flags with the blue and white Israeli national emblem on them. Galloway’s tweet exaggerated the scale of the pro-Israel sentiment among Spurs fans – but, in any case, he was referring to Israel, not Jews. With such tweets, Lansman is helping to feed the anti-Corbyn witch-hunt.
As an aside, “Momentum’s most engaged and active members” have just received Lansman’s proposals to “democratise the organisation” (funnily enough, this includes at least one person who has been suspended from Momentum for the last six months, as well as people who assure us that they have not paid their membership fees for the last two years). So exciting times: will we finally see a democratic conference, where members can vote to get rid of Lansman as the owner, leader and all-round puppet-master of the group? Or perhaps we might be given a fair chance to democratically decide a constitution and get rid of the one that Lansman imposed after his coup of January 10 2017? Or, you know, maybe members might be given some say on the kind of campaigns and political priorities we want Momentum to advance? Which surely would be way to the left of what Lansman is doing.
Of course not. Lansman is suggesting three things: (1) to increase the number of regions from three to five; (2) increase the number of directly ‘elected’ people on the leading body from 12 to 20; and (3), our favourite proposal, get rid of the annual ‘elections’ and instead only bother with them every two years. Because, you see, “a relatively high level of resources are diverted into running elections rather than other activities.” That is a classic: increase democracy by decreasing elections. Brilliant.
This last proposal actually seems to be the main reason for the ‘consultation’ (which lasts a staggering seven days, giving the few remaining Momentum groups no time to discuss them). Proposal 1 and 2 are obviously bullshit and will do nothing to democratise anything, but it seems that the annual charade of online elections (where isolated members are asked to choose between candidates of which they know very little) seems to be too burdensome for our Jon. So this is not a proposal to democratise Momentum, but, on the contrary, to make it even less accountable.
A Zionist himself, Lansman has been partly to blame for the scale of the ‘Anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ smear campaign in the Labour Party. It is an outrage that Labour members are being suspended, investigated and expelled for stating the truth: that the so-called anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour Party has been cynically manufactured and carefully directed. Meanwhile, anti-Corbyn MPs, such as Margaret Hodge, Louise Ellman and Tom Watson, insult, disrupt, make bogus accusations and work hand in glove with the capitalist media – with no repercussions. “Those making false charges ought to face disciplinary action and should be held accountable for their actions” – as Labour Against the Witchhunt’s recent statement and model motion on Willsman correctly declares (see page 11).”
However, the opposite is happening. The expulsion of the Blairite plotter, Alistair Campbell, is now being “reviewed” – we fear that his reinstatement is imminent. And that despite the fact that he has openly boasted about voting for the Liberal Democrats, no doubt in order to provoke an action by the party and, of course, the subsequent counter-reaction by Tom Watson et al, who claim to be outraged by this application of Labour’s rules. No such leniency is applied when it comes to the auto-expulsion of (leftwing) members who have merely wished candidates in other parties “good luck”. The double standards applied here are staggering and underline which way the scales in the civil war are still tilting.
Similarly, the Labour Party should call out the investigation by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for what it is: part of the latest move against Corbyn. The complaints were lodged by the Jewish Labour Movement and the so-called Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. Clearly these two organisations have no interest in fighting racism at all: their only purpose is to get rid of a certain Jeremy Corbyn and they have actively plotted against him from day one. The JLM was refounded in 2015 specifically to campaign against Corbyn and Tony Greenstein has described how the CAA has campaigned almost exclusively against Corbyn rather than anti-Semitism or racism.
The EHRC will now investigate “whether the party has unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish”. But, if there has been any unlawful discrimination by Labour against Jewish people, surely it has been against Jewish anti-Zionists. Many of them, as well as black members, are involved in the struggle for Palestinian rights, which explains the disproportionate number of expulsions and suspensions of black and Jewish comrades.
In this context, we are somewhat puzzled by the strategy proposed by a number of black activists, who think that Labour Party members should now swamp the EHRC with examples of anti-black racism. Clearly, that would only give the witch-hunters even more ammunition and lead to the predictable result that the party – and specifically Corbyn – will not just be found guilty of anti-Semitism, but of other forms of racism too. That is not exactly a winning strategy, comrades.
At the heart of the latest move is the news that the overdue trigger ballots – by which sitting Labour MPs are subjected to a possible reselection ballot of members – might finally be implemented after all. We have to say, we remain a little sceptical. Of course, as a reform agreed at last year’s Labour Party conference, it should be implemented. After all, it was only ever a compromise cobbled together with the unions to hold off the far more democratic proposal to re-establish the mandatory reselection of all parliamentary candidates (aka open selection), which would otherwise have gone through.
Still, even this slight reform represents a serious danger to many careerist MPs, who quite rightly fear that the local membership might give them the axe, given half a chance. In particular it is the separation of the trigger ballot into two separate votes that could see sitting MPs being democratically challenged for the first time since 1990. Then, Neil Kinnock abolished mandatory reselection and instead introduced the trigger ballot system, where a total of 33% of all Labour Party branches and affiliated organisations (each branch and affiliate having one vote) had to oppose the sitting MP in order to spark a full selection process between different candidates. Democrat that he is, Tony Blair increased the threshold to 50%.
It is now back at 33%, but, crucially, a full selection process starts when either 33% of a Constituency Labour Party’s branches or 33% of its affiliates say ‘no’ to the sitting MP. This is hugely important, as trade unions and other affiliated organisations have in the past often played a negative role, using their votes to side with the right in holding off more leftwing challengers supported by the CLP’s branches.
But, unless the NEC publishes a timetable and guidelines on how to launch such trigger ballots, nothing can happen. In January, Jennie Formby was commissioned by the NEC to urgently produce such documents – but then Chukka Umunna and his friends split from the party and the leadership got cold feet. “In an attempt to stop further defections, Labour could delay the start of re-election battles,” reported The Guardian in February. It added: “Labour is set to put back the start of the formal MP selection process … which could have led to vast numbers of MPs facing deselection.”
Perhaps it was the hilarious news that Change UK was about to split itself into oblivion that led to the latest reports about the overdue implementation of the trigger ballots being imminent. As we said, while we would obviously welcome such a move, we remain sceptical. After all, it would require Jeremy Corbyn and his allies to finally come out fighting and stop their campaign of appeasing those rightwingers who would probably get the chop by the local membership. And we have yet to see any evidence of that.
Unfortunately, the same goes for Peter Willsman’s own organisation, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy. The CLPD is characterised by its uncritical support for (or, more precisely, total submission to the thinking of) Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, the first sentence of the lead motion to its recent AGM (written, we believe, by Willsman) read, rather creepily: “Full support to the party leader at all times”. That also just about sums up its current attitude to the witch-hunt against its secretary, Pete Willsman: Because Jeremy Corbyn remains tight-lipped and does not come out in support of Willsman, neither does the CLPD.
In fact, the organisation and its leader have been very quiet over the whole witch-hunt. Had it not been for the two secret recordings of Willsman, we would not actually have known where exactly he stands on the issue of the smear campaign. Shortly after Chris Williamson’s suspension, the CLPD published a short, mealy-mouthed defence of the MP – but also distributed the so-called instruction that allegedly bans branches and CLPs from discussing any motions on ongoing disciplinary cases. As Labour Against the Witchhunt has usefully pointed out, there is in fact “no ban” on such motions. “True, they are categorised as “not competent business” (which means they will not be discussed by the NEC), but it is always up to the members of any meeting to decide what they want to discuss.
And every single statement, every public resolution will add to the pressure to get our comrades reinstated – whether the NEC discusses them or not.
However, the CLPD pretends nothing has happened. We are assured that “of course” CLPD members stand in solidarity with Pete. But no public statement has gone out, explaining how their comrade was the victim of a sting, no information has been sent to members – nothing. Unsurprisingly though, behind the scenes all hell has broken loose. We hear that Willsman was urged by other officers to resign as CLPD secretary, though that does not actually seem necessary, as the ridiculous rules of the organisation only allow full Labour members to be members. With his suspension from the party, he was automatically suspended by the CLPD. The chickens have come home to roost …
He was swiftly replaced by Barry Gray and Jake Rubin, with the latter being particularly keen to distance the organisation from Willsman. We have been forwarded an email of Rubin’s, where he argues: “Pete should apologise for his comments and I won’t be advising that CLPD defend them. It is not true that the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is solely the product of Israel.”
Pete Willsman did not actually say that. Remember, on the tape we can only hear a version of his comments that was heavily and purposefully edited. For example, at one point Willsman quite clearly states he is talking about “all of this anti-Semitism against Jeremy”, for which he quite correctly blames “the Israeli embassy” (ie, the Israeli government).
So we are down to this: “One of these things about anti-Semitism is they’re using that to whip people up – they use anything, any lies. It’s all total lies and they whip it up.” You could try and take that apart, bit by bit, to try and work out what exactly he means by “it’s all total lies”. But remember, this is not somebody giving a well-prepared speech for an audience, but somebody speaking out over a cup of coffee with a person pretending to be sympathetic.
But his own comrades are not giving him the benefit of the doubt. With even his leading figures in the CLPD twisting his words and throwing him to the wolves, what chance does Willsman have of a fair trial in front of the party’s skewed disciplinary body?
This is particularly shameful, as comrade Willsman has been a leading figure in the CLPD for close to 50 years and his position on the NEC has kept the group going for much of this time. The CLPD is, shall we say, a little on the inert side – and has, funnily enough, become increasingly so since the election of a certain Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Before that it occasionally posed left, but, as soon as Corbyn was elected, it dropped its key demand for mandatory reselection and has been shadowing his campaign of appeasement.
Apart from proposing a few left-leaning motions to annual conference and publishing the useful (though rather tame) daily voting guide, ‘Yellow pages’, at conference itself, the organisation does very, very little. Its role in the Grassroots Centre Left Alliance (GCLA), which for the last 30 or so years has been recommending soft-left candidates for various internal elections, is diminishing by the day. This latest failure of the CLPD to stand in public solidarity with its leading member will only increase the speed with which the organisation heads towards implosion. That would be a loss.
Jon Lansman, Chair, Momentum
Cc Laura Parker, Momentum National Coordinator
Bcc National Coordinating Group
19 March 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
Timely and spot-on. Will try and get online asap and in paper on Sat.
2) E-mail received from Cliff Cocker (Arts Editor of the Morning Star) Friday, March 1st, 9.17am
Here it is, in print tomorrow. Cheers C
3) Email received from Ben Chacko (editor of the Morning Star) March 1, 1:04pm
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,
“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…”
Their open letter ahead of a conference in Vienna advises against giving Israel immunity for ‘grave and widespread violations of human rights and international law’
Full article here
What it is – and what it is not
This document has been prepared by Jewish Voice for Labour and Free Speech on Israel as a contribution to the Labour Party’s consultation on its Code of Conduct on Antisemitism but has a wider significance. LAW fully supports this excellent contribution to the debate.
You can download this statement here.
There has been extended controversy over the adoption by the Labour Party of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. It has been widely recognised that the wording of that definition is so loose that it requires extensive interpretation if it is to be even potentially helpful for disciplinary purposes.
Our submission is based on an understanding of the nature of antisemitism which we believe avoids the obscurities and ambiguities of the IHRA working definition:
Antisemitism is a form of racism. It consists in prejudice, hostility or hatred towards Jews as Jews. It may take the form of denial of rights; direct, indirect or institutional discrimination; prejudiced-based behaviour; verbal or written statements; or violence. Such manifestations draw on stereotypes – characteristics which all Jews are presumed to share.
We believe that the following comments will be helpful to those drawing up Labour’s disciplinary code, and perhaps more widely.
Implications of taking this view of antisemitism
Racism commonly stereotypes groups as inferior in ways that enable discrimination against them. Such stereotypes function by scapegoating a targeted group, deflecting blame for society’s problems from their real causes. Antisemitic stereotyping has historically been used to dehumanise Jewish people, giving licence to treat them in ways not otherwise acceptable. Use of such stereotypes is unarguably antisemitic conduct.
2. Expressions of antisemitism
Certain words and phrases that refer to Jews in a derogatory way are unquestionably antisemitic. Terms which associate Jews with malevolent social forces clearly fall into this category. Extreme examples are the blood libel (that Jews kill Christian children to use their blood in religious ceremonies), and the claimed existence of a powerful but secret Jewish cabal that controls the world.
Seemingly neutral or positive terms can also be used in antisemitic ways. For example, assertions that Jews are unusually clever or especially ‘good with money’ make the unwarranted assumption that all Jews share similar characteristics. Commonly, there is a negative, antisemitic edge to such views.
Jews, Israelis and Zionists are separate categories that are too frequently conflated by both supporters and critics of Israel. This conflation can be antisemitic. Holding all Jews responsible for the actions of the Israeli government is antisemitic. Many Jews are not Zionist. The majority of Zionists are not Jewish but fundamentalist Christian Zionists. Over 20 percent of Israeli citizens are not Jewish.
4. Political discourse
Free speech is legally protected. Within these legal limits political discourse can be robust and may cause offence. There is no right not to be offended. The fact that some people or groups are offended does not in itself mean that a statement is antisemitic or racist. A statement is only antisemitic if it shows prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews.
The terms ‘Zionism’ and ‘Zionist’ describe a political ideology and its adherents. They are key concepts in the discussion of Israel/Palestine. They are routinely used, approvingly, by supporters of Israel, but critically by campaigners for Palestinian rights, who identify Zionist ideology and the Zionist movement as responsible for Palestinian dispossession. Criticising Zionism or Israel as a state does not constitute criticising Jews as individuals or as a people, and is not evidence of antisemitism.
There have been claims that any comparison between aspects of Israel and features of pre-war Nazi Germany is inherently antisemitic. Similar objections have been raised to likening Israel’s internal practices to those of apartheid South Africa. Drawing such parallels can undoubtedly cause offence; but potent historical events and experiences are always key reference points in political debate. Such comparisons are only antisemitic if they show prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews.
5. Boycott, divestment and sanctions
A common focus for allegations of antisemitism is the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) targeted on Israel. The three elements of BDS are internationally recognized as legitimate and non- violent strategies for securing political change. So advocating for BDS would only be antisemitic if accompanied by evidence that it is motivated not by this purpose but by racially-based hostility towards Jews.
6. When Antisemitism Is Alleged
As with any allegations of racism, accusations of antisemitism must be taken seriously and investigated. But principles of natural justice and due process must be respected and applied: the person accused should be accorded the normal presumption of innocence until the case is resolved. Allegations do not constitute proof.
Antisemitic attitudes may be more or less intense.* Some people are deeply antisemitic, others less so. Yet others whom it would be unreasonable to class as antisemitic may nevertheless hold some attitudes, in dilute form, which will make some Jews uncomfortable. Following a finding of antisemitism there remains a decision to be made about whether discussion and education, rather than a formal disciplinary approach, is more appropriate.
Indirect discrimination could inadvertently occur, where actions have the effect of selectively disadvantaging Jewish people even though no hostile motive towards Jews is present. Once a case of such discrimination comes to light, those responsible should take all reasonable steps possible to eliminate the problem. Unwillingness to take such steps would be evidence of antisemitism.
The systematic murder of millions of Jews (and so many others) is exhaustively documented. It is therefore inconceivable that Holocaust denial or expressions of doubt over its scale could be motivated by genuine investigatory scepticism. The implication of antisemitic intent is, for practical purposes, inescapable.
The understanding of antisemitism on which this analysis is based reaffirms the traditional meaning of the term. This is important in the light of attempts to extend its meaning to apply to criticisms often made of the state of Israel, or to non-violent campaigns such as BDS. A charge of antisemitism carries exceptional moral force because of the negative connotations rightly attaching to the term. It is illegitimate to make such claims to discredit or deter criticism, or to achieve sectional advantage. To do so is to devalue the term.
To be clear: conduct is antisemitic only if it manifests ‘prejudice, hostility or hatred against Jews as Jews’.
The Lobby – A Four-Part Investigation
In the first of a four-part series, Al Jazeera goes undercover inside the Israel Lobby in Britain. We expose a campaign to infiltrate and influence youth groups, including the National Union of Students, whose president faces a smear campaign coordinated by her own deputy and supported by the Israel Embassy.
In part two of The Lobby, our undercover reporter joins a delegation from the Israeli Embassy at last year’s Labour Party Conference. The programme reveals how accusations of anti-Semitism were made against key Labour Party members – and how a former official at the Israeli Embassy was upset when her background was revealed.
In part three of The Lobby, our undercover reporter travels to the Labour Party Conference, revealing how accusations of anti-Semitism by group within Labour targeted Israel critics and saw some investigated.
In part four of The Lobby, the senior political officer at the Israeli Embassy in London discusses a potential plot to ‘take down’ British politicians – including a Minster of State at the Foreign office who supports Palestinian civil rights.
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
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,
probably divide your Mondays
between subsidised yoga and phoning in threats