Muddying the water: LAW statement on Labour’s new Anti-Semitism Code of Conduct

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LAW Statement, July 9 2018:

Labour’s Anti-Semitism Code of Conduct

The Labour Party’s new Anti-Semitism Code of Conduct, issued last week, was clearly intended to put an end to the campaign of false allegations of anti-Semitism. Instead it has achieved the precise opposite. The Code has been the subject of a fierce attack by Zionist organisations and the mass media. It has also caused confusion amongst our allies, some of whom have welcomed it.

The campaign of false allegations is not driven by a failure to define anti-Semitism but is a politically motivated attack by the Right and supporters of Zionism. The Code will not prevent the weaponisation of anti-Semitism by those whose primary concern is defence of Israel, right or wrong. The expulsion of Tony Greenstein, Marc Wadsworth, Cyril Chilson and others was the product of a deliberate smear campaign aimed at the Corbyn leadership. Those who believe that the Code marks the end of the false anti-Semitism campaign against the Labour Party are sadly mistaken. Continue Reading “Muddying the water: LAW statement on Labour’s new Anti-Semitism Code of Conduct”

Brent Trade Union Council supports Stan Keable

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To: Councillor Stephen Cowan
Leader of the Council
Hammersmith and Fulham Council Labour Group
Room 207
Hammersmith Town Hall
King Street
London
W6 9JU
Dear Brother Stephen Cowan,
Brent Trade Union Council passed the motion below at its meeting on 27 June and this is the letter we resolved to send to you and the Labour Group urging the reinstatement of Stam Keable.
You have sacked Stan for stating in a private discussion that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazi regime – a well-documented historical fact.
On 26 March the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council organised a demonstration in Parliament Square to protest against antisemitism in the Labour Party. Stan was part of a counter-demonstration organised by Jewish Voice for Labour and others. As Stan went around handing out leaflets, he got into a conversation about the Holocaust with a Zionist and explained that it was not only caused by anti-Semitism (it is obvious that this is correct – it began with the extermination of the disabled, for instance). Stan also explained that Zionism held the view that Jews did not belong in the countries of their birth and because of that the Zionist movement had collaborated with the Nazis, who also wanted them out of Germany.
BBC Newsnight editor David Grossman secretly recorded the conversation and the result of this was that the quite innocuous conversation was headlines in papers like The Evening Standardand Jewish Chronicleand the Daily Mail. The next day local Tory MP Greg Hands sent out a tweet demanding action against Stan and he followed this up with a letter to Steve Cowan, leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stan’s employer, demanding action.
David Ben-Gurion, the most prominent founder of the state of Israel and its first Prime Minister, famously said in a speech to Mapai’s central committee on December 9, 1938:
“If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael, then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these children, but also the history of the people of Israel.”
On August 10, 1933 the German Zionist Federation and the Palestinian Jewish Agency signed an economic trade agreement, Ha’avara, with the Nazi state, that helped destroy the Jewish-led international boycott of Nazi Germany.
The allegation contained in Hammersmith and Fulham’s disciplinary investigation was that Stan had breached the Equality Act 2010. It is difficult to believe that trained ‘human resources’ professionals lawyers could come to such a conclusion with legal advice. The suggestion that debating an issue such as Zionism is a breach of the Equality Act is wrong. The introduction to the act is quite clear. Its purpose is:
“to reform and harmonise equality law … to prohibit victimisation in certain circumstances; to require the exercise of certain functions to be with regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and other prohibited conduct … to increase equality of opportunity; to amend the law relating to rights and responsibilities in family relationships; and for connected purposes.”
There is nothing in the act about restricting freedom of speech or disciplining people who have views which are unpopular with Britain’s right wing mass media. The key paragraph in the charges against Stan stated:
“The question as to whether or not Stan Keable’s comments breach the Equalities Act may hinge on an interpretation of what constitutes ‘belief’ under the terms of the act … One of these [protected] characteristics is “religion and belief”. Zionism is not a religion, although it is closely related to Judaism, but it is a belief in the right of the Jewish people to have a nation-state in the ‘Holy Land’, their original homeland. Legal advice, obtained as part of this investigation, states that case law has established that the definition of belief can extend to political beliefs. If Zionism constitutes a ‘belief’ under the terms of the Equality Act then the statements by Stan Keable that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazis and that it accepted that “Jews are not acceptable here” might be deemed to have breached the Equality Act.”
It is nonsense to claim Israel/Palestine is the “original homeland”, back to 135 AD with the crushing of the Bar Kokhba revolt by the Romans when Judea lost its name?  Zionism may be a philosophical belief under section 10 of the Equality Act. But then so is anti-Zionism. However, it is not the protected characteristics of those Stan was arguing with which are relevant, but those of Stan! Stan is not their employer! Just because someone might be classified as having a protected characteristic in certain situations – mainly employment – does not mean that if you disagree with, for example, a gay person you are therefore guilty of discrimination!
‘Protected characteristics’ are not a free-floating cause of action: they are tied to specific acts, such as direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The definition of direct discrimination (section 13.1) says: “(i) A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.”
It should be obvious to anyone – though clearly not to those leading Hammersmith and Fulham’s investigation – that debating a topic in a public space does not infringe his adversaries’ protected characteristics. Put bluntly, debate is not discrimination. No-one is being discriminated against when it is stated that the Nazis and Zionists collaborated. Neither was Stan in any contractual or employment relationship with his adversaries.
However, in suspending and seeking to dismiss Stan, the council is almost certainly breaching the Equality Act, because it is Stan whom they are discriminating against on the grounds of his belief. The failure to understand this simple but obvious point is quite staggering.
The council’s investigation report (paragraph 5.6) stated:
“in attending the counter-demonstration at Westminster on March 26 and in making the comments that subsequently appeared on social media, Mr Keable has failed to avoid any conduct outside of work which may discredit himself and the council.”
In other words, Stan’s offence was, in part at least, attending a demonstration! Under ‘recommendations’ (paragraph 7.1) we get:
“That, in attending a counter- demonstration outside the Houses of Parliament on March 26, 2018, Stan Keable knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views and subsequently proceeded to express views that were in breach of the council’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy and the council’s code of conduct (‘Working with integrity’ and ‘Working with the media’).”
This is an outrageous infringement of Stan’s civil liberties in attending a demonstration. Stan “knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views …”! Stan’s sacking means a mere attendance at a demonstration will be a potential breach of one’s employment contract.
Article 10, ‘Freedom of expression’, states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
Article 11, ‘Freedom of assembly and association’, begins: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” Closely allied to these is article 9 on ‘Freedom of thought, conscience and religion’.
There is little doubt that Stan will win his legal, because not even the most conformist and timid tribunal will accept that attending a demonstration and airing one’s views in public constitute a breach of the Equality Act or one’s contract. H&H Labour Council should now call a halt to these proceedings by reinstating Stan Keable.
Yours Roger Cox – Sec Brent Trade Union Council

 


 

Dear Comrades,

Brent Trade Union Council passed the following motion nem. con. at its meeting on 27 June 2018. We agreed to donate £25.00 to Stan’s legal defence fund and to affiliate to Labour Against the Witchhunt at £25. RMT BTUC delegate Carol Foster was agreed as the BTUC delegate to LAW.

Gerry Downing, Assistant Secretary BTUC

This branch notes with great concern:

  1. the dismissal of Stan Keable by Hammersmith and Fulham Labour Council on 21 April 2018 after 17 years’ service. He was dismissed for allegedly bringing the Council into disrepute by saying, at a demonstration in Parliament Square called by Jewish Voices for Labour, that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazi Party. This was said on 26 March 2018 in a private conversation out of work hours and had no connection with work at all. The conversation was secretly filmed by the BBC reporter David Grossman, who put a 105 second video clip online.
  2. That the Council justified the dismissal by alleging that by attending the JVL demonstration he ‘knowingly increased the possibility of expressing views that were in breach of the Council diversity and inclusion policy’.
  3. This is an attack on the right of this Councils employees to attend demonstrations in a democratic society. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are rights guaranteed in the European Convention of Human Rights.
  4. This dismissal opens up the possibility of more sackings based on political opinion.

We resolve to:

  1. Call on Hammersmith and Fulham Labour Council to reinstate Stan Keable.
  2. Donate to Stan’s defence campaign.
  3. Affiliate to Labour Against the Witchhunt.
  4. Write Unison’s London regional organiser, Steve Terry, to enquire why Unison had not supported Stan in his disciplinary case.
  5. Support the Reinstate Stan Keable! LAW lobby of Hammersmith & Fulham Council meeting on 16 July 17:00 – 19:15 at Hammersmith Town Hall.

 

Suspended by the Labour Party? Read this.

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This Kafkaesque account of his suspension has been published by Ben Timberley on Facebook – we republish it here for all those who are not on FB and to allow easy access. 

BEN TIMBERLEY·WEDNESDAY, 27 JUNE 2018

As you’ll see in the story below, suspended or expelled Labour party members face a gruelling task to prove their innocence or to provide a justifiable context to their alleged ‘crimes’. It is considered ‘normal’ by right-wing party staff and elected officials for party members to be smeared with the label of ‘suspension’ or ‘expulsion’ with all of the social stigma that these labels carry.

Continue Reading “Suspended by the Labour Party? Read this.”

Call for video testimonies!

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LAW is asking comrades who have been victims of the Labour witch-hunt to tell us about their experiences in short video clips: this can help to humanise those suffering from the witch-hunt, show how ridiculous many of the charges are, but will also go some way in helping victimised comrades to overcome their political isolation and collectivise their experience.
 
We want to hear from ALL pro-Corbyn victims of the witch-hunt: not just those on charges of anti-Semitism, but also those victimised by the right for ‘bullying’ and those expelled for their association with other organisations etc.
 
Here are some pointers on how to do it:
 
* We don’t have the capacity to film everybody properly, so we would ask you to film yourself or get a friend or another LAW supporter to do it. Mobile phone quality is perfectly sufficient
* Ideally, the clips should be about 3-4 minutes long, and no longer than 5 minutes
* If you want to stay anonymous, please ask somebody to film you from the back or in a dark room
 
Some pointers for the content:
1. Please state your name and branch/CLP – if you want. It’s perfectly fine to leave out either or both.
2. Describe what you have been suspended for – and when.
3. Describe the process: low points, high points, did you appeal, resign etc.
4. Describe the outcome, if known yet.
5. Describe the reactions of others – supportive, dismissive etc.
6. Describe your feelings: anger, depression, etc.?
 
Files of up to 2GB in size can be uploaded to www.wetransfer.com – please send us an email with the link to your file. We have a LAW Youtube channel where we can upload the clips.

Mr. Lansman comes to Tel Aviv

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“Jeremy Corbyn’s senior ally wants to restrict free speech on Israel” – interesting article on Mondoweiss:

http://mondoweiss.net/2018/06/lansman-corbyns-restrict/

Eminent Jewish figures condemn attempts to silence criticism of Israel

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https://www.jewishvoiceforlabour.org.uk/blog/clarity-not-conflation/

JVL introduction

A media statement from eminent Jewish figures says clarity about what antisemitism is, and what it is not, is essential to effectively combatting age-old prejudices against Jews. Their statement draws on work towards a definition of antisemitism intended to benefit government, political parties, public bodies and NGOs by avoiding the dangers inherent in conflating antisemitism with criticism of Israel.


EMINENT JEWISH FIGURES CONDEMN ATTEMPTS TO SILENCE CRITICISM OF ISRAEL

  • Statement from high profile Jewish figures reflects public concern about conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel

  • Signatories call for clarity in opposing antisemitism in all its forms while protecting the right to address unjust laws and policies of the State of Israel.

  • Moves to assist public bodies, by clarifying what antisemitism is and what it is not, follow Liberty AGM warning of threat to freedom of expression.

June 19, 2018 – A statement from 27 senior Jewish academic and cultural figures says clarity about what antisemitism is, and what it is not, is essential to effectively combatting age-old prejudices against Jews.

The signatories include eminent barrister Sir Geoffrey Bindman, film makers Mike Leigh and Peter Kosminsky, writers Gillian Slovo, Michael Rosen and Susie Orbach, four Fellows of the Royal Society and more than a dozen other leading academics.

They say: “Holocaust denial, the blood libel, conspiracy theories about supposed Jewish power or the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide – all are expressions of antisemitism… Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic unless motivated by anti-Jewish prejudice.”

The statement comes at a time when there is controversy about attempts to prevent criticism of Israel by promoting the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) “Working Definition of Antisemitism“. This was adopted by the UK government in December 2016 along with a set of guidance notes focused on Israel, and widely promoted as a tool for opposing hostility towards Jews.

However, the IHRA definition has been condemned for undermining the freedom to criticise Israel for its displacement of Palestinians and its denial of their rights. A legal opinion from Hugh Tomlinson QC described the document as “unclear and confusing” and having “no legal status or effect.”

Retired Appeal Court judge Sir Stephen Sedley has called it “a protean definition of antisemitism which is open to manipulation and capture”. It has been cited in many cases where public authorities, including universities, have refused to host speakers, cancelled room bookings and called off academic conferences.

Concerns about freedom of speech prompted Liberty, the leading civil liberties organisation in the UK, to pass a resolution condemning the IHRA definition at its Annual General Meeting on May 19. It warned public bodies not to adopt it, because its conflation between antisemitism and criticism of Israel blurred “the previously clear understanding of the nature of antisemitism,” risked “undermining the defences against it” and threatened freedom of expression.

Jewish activists are consulting with leading experts in the field to produce a new definition of antisemitism, designed to avoid these problematic issues for the benefit of government, political parties, NGOs and other public bodies.  This work has contributed to the statement published in the Guardian on June 15 (see full text and signatories below).

It is endorsed by Independent Jewish Voices, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Socialists’ Group and Jewish Voice for Labour.

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

 

1. The statement

There are disturbing signs round the world that age-old prejudices against Jews are reviving once more. We need to be clear in recognising them, and resolute in dealing with them. A precondition for fighting antisemitism effectively is clarity about what it is, and what it is not.

Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice or hostility against us because we are Jews. It is a form of racism. It may be manifested in violence, denial of rights, discriminatory acts, prejudice-based behaviour, verbal or written statements, negative stereotypes or scapegoating.

Holocaust denial, the blood libel, conspiracy theories about supposed Jewish power or the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide – all are expressions of antisemitism.

Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic unless motivated by anti-Jewish prejudice. Examples of this can include:

  • Holding all Jews accountable for the actions of the State of Israel

  • Engaging in conspiracy theories about the State of Israel, that draw upon antisemitic stereotypes about supposed Jewish power.

  • Accusing all Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than to the interests of their own nations.

Criticism of Israel, of its displacement of Palestinians and of its denial of their rights, is not antisemitic

Criticising laws and policies of the State of Israel as racist and as falling under the definition of apartheid is not antisemitic.

Calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel to oppose those policies is not antisemitic.

We call upon all public bodies and other organisations to apply these principles in addressing antisemitism within their own organisations and when challenging it within wider society.

 

2. The signatories

Sir Geoffrey Bindman

Ben Birnberg

Professor D.B.A. Epstein, FRS

Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Professor Harvey Goldstein

Dr Brian Klug

Peter Kosminsky

Mike Leigh

Professor Malcolm Levitt FRS

Professor Moshe Machover

Miriam Margolyes MBE

Susie Orbach

Professor Laurence Pearl FRS

Professor Jacqueline Rose FBA

Professor Steven Rose

Professor Michael Rosen

Professor Douglas Ross FRS

Professor Andrew Samuels

Professor Donald Sassoon

Alexei Sayle

Justin Schlosberg

Professor Lynne Segal

Professor Avi Shlaim

Gillian Slovo

Professor Annabelle Sreberny

Professor John S. Yudkin

Professor Nira Yuval-Davis

 

3. The Liberty resolution

This AGM reiterates:

its abhorrence of antisemitism as a repellent undercurrent which persists across the social and political spectrum; and Liberty’s support for effective measures to combat antisemitism and all other forms of racism;

notes:

the legal Opinion of Hugh Tomlinson QC which states that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ‘Working Definition of Antisemitism’, adopted by the UK government in December 2016, is “unclear and confusing” and “has no legal status or effect”; and that the overriding legal duty of public authorities is to preserve freedom of expression; that the guidance that is attached to the definition conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism, that the definition is being interpreted as saying that to describe Israel as a state practising apartheid, or to call for Boycott or Sanctions to be applied in defence of Palestinian rights, is an inherently antisemitic act that should be prohibited; that the definition is being cited in attempts to deter, obstruct or prevent events that are critical of Israel, or support the legitimate rights of Palestinians;

resolves:

that by blurring the previously clear understanding of the nature of antisemitism, the IHRA definition risks undermining the defences against it; and that the definition’s conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel and legitimate defence of the rights of Palestinians is a threat to freedom of expression. It regrets that some local authorities have already adopted it, calls on those that have done so to apply it with extreme caution, and calls on other public bodies not to adopt the definition

 

ENDS

Reinstate Stan Keable! Model motion for union/Labour/other organisations

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Please delete and amend as necessary

1. This branch/CLP/organisation notes with great concern: 

1.1. the dismissal of Stan Keable by Hammersmith and Fulham Labour council on April 21 2018. After 17 years service as a housing enforcer, he is supposed to have “brought the Council into disrepute”, by saying that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazi regime. He said this on March 26, in a conversation in Parliament Square. This had nothing to do with work. Stan was participating in the Jewish Voice for Labour counter-demonstration in support of Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party, called in opposition to the right-wing ‘Enough is Enough’ demonstration. The conversation was secretly filmed by the BBC’s David Grossman, who put a 105-second video clip online.

1.2. that the Council’s justification for dismissal is based on Stan attending the JVL counter-demonstration, by which he “knowingly increased the possibility of being challenged about his views and subsequently proceeded to express views that were in breach of the council’s equality, diversity and inclusion policy and the council’s code of conduct”.

1.3. that the right to express one’s views and to go on demonstrations are important democratic rights. Freedom of expression and freedom ofassemblyare guaranteed in Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

2. We further note: 

2.1. that Unison has withdrawn its support (except at branch level) because Stan rejected the advice of its regional organiser to plead guilty, which would have meant abandoning the right to demonstrate and to freedom of speech.

3. We believe:

3.1. that Stan’s dismissal is wholly unjust and must be reversed.

3.2. this dismissal extends the McCarthyite witch-hunt against Corbyn supporters in the Labour Party to the area of employment. We fear that Stan’s dismissal could be the first of many political sackings.

4. We resolve to:

4.1. call on Hammersmith & Fulham council to reinstate Stan;

4.2. call on the Unison leadership to support Stan in his fight for reinstatement;

4.3. donate £50/£100/£250 [delete as necessary] to his campaign for reinstatement, and circulate/promote his GoFundMe campaign: www.gofundme.com/ReinstateStanKeable;

4.4. affiliate to Labour Against the Witchhunt [local or regional organisations £25, national organisations £100];

4.5.  sponsor the ‘Reinstate Stan Keable’ lobby of Hammersmith and Fulham Council meeting, Hammersmith Town Hall, King Street W6 9JU, Monday July 16th, from 5pm to 7:15pm (Council meeting starts 7pm).

To be sent to:

Tonbridge and Malling CLP: motion passed on Marc Wadsworth, June 2 2018

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This CLP notes that:  

  • Marc Wadsworth, a leading Black antiracist activist, was expelled from the Labour Party – with no right of appeal – on April 27, 2018, charged with bringing the Party into disrepute;
  • his expulsion followed 22 months of suspension from membership;
  • his expulsion was not for antisemitism, despite continuous prejudicial media coverage falsely accusing him of antisemitic abuse at the media launch of the Chakrabarti Report on June 30, 2016.

This CLP believes:

  • that the party has indeed been brought into disrepute, not by Marc Wadsworth’s non-abusive remark at the Report launch, but by the actions of PLP members publicly denouncing him as an antisemite; by the adherence of the entrenched party bureaucracy to a unaccountable and unelected disciplinary system which was not fit for purpose; and by its failure to put in place a system conforming with principles of natural justice, which should be automatic in any labour movement organisation.

This CLP therefore:  

  • supports Marc Wadsworth’s campaign to clear his name of the antisemitism slur and for reinstatement as a member of the Labour Party;
  • calls on the General Secretary to speedily implement Chakrabarti’s recommendations designed to reform flawed party rules and structures to ensure prompt, fair and transparent handling of disciplinary complaints against members, with right of appeal and including presumption of innocence and fact-based judgements that do not rely on guilt by association