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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour declined to comment.

 

Reinstate Stan Keable!

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Around 30 people attended LAW’s lobby of  Hammersmith and City council’s meeting on July 16. Stan was sacked from his job at the council for saying that the Zionist movement collaborated with the Nazi regime – a well documented if shameful historical fact. 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.

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.

More details on Stan’s case are available here and a model motion is here. As his union is refusing to support him, Stan will have to pay for legal advice himself, which is why we ask you to support his crowdfunding campaign. 

 

 

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”

Mike Cushman: How talking about Zionism can lose you your job

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Mike Cushman reports how Stan Keable (LAW secretary) has been sacked by Hammersmith and Fulham Council for a private conversation when he attended the Jewish Voice for Labour Parliament Square rally on 26 March. This article first appeared on Free Speech on Israel. 

Stan engaged in a discussion with a Zionist during the Parliament Square rally, a conversation that happened to be recorded by the BBC and broadcast. During the one on one discussion Stan talked about the historically undisputed collaboration between the Nazis and the German Zionist leadership. At no time did Stan make any, even remotely, antisemitic.

Hammersmith and Fulham Tory MP Greg Hands circulated the video of the conversation, publicised on Twitter and then referred it to the New Labour Leader of the Council. That letter, which was the first public association of Greg with the Council was made public. This linking of Greg with the Council was the sole basis of the charge of ‘bringing the council into disrepute’. Hands publicised Stan’s link with the Council and then this publicising was, itself, used as the basis for dismissal. An offence that only existed because the complainant had caused it to exist. Continue Reading “Mike Cushman: How talking about Zionism can lose you your job”

Model motion on Anti-Semitism and the witch-hunt of Corbyn supporters 

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1. This branch/CLPs notes that:

1.1. The dramatic increase in suspensions and expulsions of Labour Party members without due process – especially those based on alleged anti-Semitism or “support for other organisations” using rule 2.1.4.B.

1. 2. Despite the growing number of fallacious allegations of anti-Semitism, initiated by a group of anti-Corbyn MPs in cooperation with the mainstream media, the number of cases of anti-Semitism among Labour Party members upheld remains tiny. The overwhelming majority of allegations have been baseless and politically motivated – attempts to purge or muzzle members who are critical of Israeli government policies and actions, particularly pro-Corbyn members on the left of the party.

1.3. The Labour Party has only adopted the preambleof the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. It has not adopted the disputed list of examples, which conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and support for the rights of the Palestinian people.

1.4. Yet we are witnessing members being publicly witch-hunted, suspended and expelled for using the word ‘Zio’; for criticising the ideology of Zionism; for comparing the actions of the state of Israel to those of the Nazis; or for pointing out, as Ken Livingstone did, that in 1933 the Zionist movement and the Nazis signed the Ha’avara agreement (breaking the non-Zionist Jewish-led call for an economic boycott of the Nazi regime). This is a historical fact and no one should be disciplined for alluding to it.

2. This branch/CLP demands that:

2.1. The Labour Party ends the practice of automatic, instant, expulsion or suspension of Labour Party members;

a) that all those summarily expelled or suspended from membership without due process be immediately reinstated;

b) that a member accused of a breach of rule be regarded as innocent until proven guilty and be given all the evidence submitted against them by their accuser

c) that membership rights must not be removed until disciplinary investigations and procedures have been completed;

d) that disciplinary procedures must be time limited. Charges not resolved within three months must be automatically dropped.

2.2. The Labour Party’s “Compliance Unit” should be abolished. Disciplinary decisions should be taken only by elected bodies, not by paid officials.

2.3. The first part of rule 2.1.4.B (‘Exclusions’) should be abolished: it bars from Labour Party membership anybody who “joins and/or supports a political organisation other than an official Labour group or other unit of the party” and has been exclusively used against left-wingers.

 

Another must read: Jonathan Cook on the “anti-Semitism crisis”

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If you force me to choose – and tragically, the mischievious confection of an “anti-semitism crisis” in the Labour party does require me to choose, because it turns racism into a competition between worthier “victims” – Marc Wadsworth, a black activist and the founder of the Anti-Racist Alliance, is a much bigger victim of racism than Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth.

The proof is in the 50 Labour MPs who marched with her to an internal party hearing that they expect will expel Wadsworth. The MPs wanted to give the impression of serving as a bodyguard; in fact, they looked more like a lynch mob.

Wadsworth’s “crime” is his accusation at a meeting to unveil the Chakrabarti report nearly two years ago that Smeeth had been leaking stories to the rightwing press to harm Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

We can argue the facts about whether Wadsworth’s claim is true: whether Smeeth did indeed connive with the anti-Corbyn press. But even if he is wrong, that would not make his allegations anti-semitic.

Furthermore, the accusation itself is hardly far-fetched. The Blairite wing of the parliamentary party, of which Smeeth is very much a part, barely bothers any more to conceal its desire to oust Corbyn from the leadership.

In fact, the Blairites now seem determined to terminally wound not just Corbyn but their own party, as they did at the instigation of the Conservative government last week in a debate on anti-semitism. The opportunistic pummelling of Corbyn, jointly conducted by Labour and Conservative MPs, comes just days before local authority elections that were supposed to be Labour’s chance to seize the initiative from the government.

Smeeth and other Labour MPs have relied on personal anecdotes to argue that anti-semitism is far worse in Labour than any other party, and worse than in British society generally. That is the only possible meaning of the term “crisis”. But the actual statistics give the absolute lie to their claims.

Anti-semitism in Labour is so dire, so endemic, according to Smeeth and her allies, that the party must be eviscerated in public day after day, its energies sapped in the hunt to root out any traces of Jew hatred, and its political programme (and the chances of beating the Tories) set aside until the purges are complete.

But the Wadsworth case illustrates quite how sham the “anti-semitism crisis” is.

His attack on Smeeth was political, not racist. If she took offence, it should have been because she regarded his comments as a political insult, and an untrue one, not a racist insult.

But Smeeth preferred to mischaracterise the attack, not least because she would have been hard pressed to offer a political defence. Instead she weaponised anti-semitism to divert our attention from the real issue at the heart of the spat between herself and Wadsworth. She accused him of promoting “vile conspiracy theories about Jewish people”. Wadsworth pointed out that he did not even know Smeeth was Jewish until she brought the issue into play.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Smeeth believes, because she is Jewish, that any criticism of her is anti-semitic by definition. And she now has 50 MPs on her side, trying to bully Wadsworth out of the party – and by implication, not only him but anyone else who might try to unmask their McCarthyite tactics.

Smeeth, it should be remembered, is not a credible witness in the prosecution of Wadsworth. Unfortunately, I do not enjoy Smeeth’s parliamentary privilege, so I will have to be more circumspect in what I say than Smeeth makes a habit of being. But as I pointed out in an earlier post, at least one of her major claims cannot withstand the most cursory scrutiny, once it is fact-checked.

After her row with Wadsworth she claimed to have been inundated with anti-semitic abuse, some 25,000 messages, most of them on Twitter – though given her own inflated and egocentric ideas about what constitutes anti-semitism, she can hardly be viewed as a competent judge.

But you don’t need to rely on my scepticism. The Community Security Trust, a British Jewish lobby group ever-vigilant about anti-semitism, has discredited her claims too, even if in their case they did so inadvertently. Their study of anti-semitic activity on Twitter for a year-long period that included the few days in which Smeeth was supposedly overwhelmed with abuse found only 15,000 anti-semitic tweets – in a whole year, for the whole of the UK. Smeeth’s self-serving figures simply don’t add up.

But if Labour is now committed to witchhunts, as it seems to be, then it needs pointing out that there are more serious problems of racism in Labour than the current “anti-semitism crisis”?

How about Labour launching an investigation into its “anti-black racism crisis”? It should not be hard to identify. It is being led by the Blairite wing of the party, which has been using anti-semitism as a pretext to hound out of the party black anti-racism activists like Wadsworth and Jackie Walker who support Corbyn, also a lifelong anti-racism activist.

These targets are concerned about racism in all its guises, and about real victims in all their shades of colour. Not opportunists like Smeeth who have hijacked racism narrowly to serve their political cause.

Equally serious is Labour’s real anti-semitism crisis – the one no one talks about. That is being led by an unholy alliance of Labour’s Blairite MPs, rightwing Jewish establishment bodies like the Board of Deputies, and the corporate media to vilify individual Jews and Jewish organisations like Jewish Voice for Labour and Jewdas because they dare to be critical of Israel.

Again unmentioned, Jews are being hounded out of the party on the ridiculous pretext that they are anti-semites – just ask Moshe Machover, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker (black and Jewish!), Glyn Secker, Cyril Chilson and others.

The disturbing implication is that these are not “proper” Jews, that their voices not only don’t count but their arguments are dangerous and must be shunned. And further, that those who “consort” with them, as Corbyn has done, are contaminated and guilty by association.

Ruth Smeeth is not a victim of the Labour party “anti-semitism crisis”, because that crisis does not exist. It is a political construct. There are doubtless examples of anti-semites and other racists who are members of the Labour party, as there are in all walks of life, but there is no crisis.

Real victims of racism suffer because they are isolated, vulnerable and easily vilified. The Labour party should stand with such people. Instead it is allowing privileged MPs and party bureaucrats to promote the demonisation, abuse and persecution of black activists like Marc Wadsworth and anti-Zionist Jews like Cyril Chilson. We are living through a truly shameful period in Labour’s history.

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In solidarity with Marc Wadsworth!

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Great turnout today at the Labour Party expulsion hearing of anti-racism campaigner Marc Wadsworth outside Church House. Credit to Chris Williamson MP who spoke as a witness on behalf of Marc, while Ruth Smeeth MP was ‘accompanied’ into the hearing by a number of right-wing MPs.

Protestors appealed for due process to be applied – which would have to lead to Marc being totally exonerated and reinstated to full membership. He is one of the many victims of the witch-hunt against Jeremy Corbyn supporters. Solidarity, comrade Marc! His hearing is scheduled to last two days.

Click here for a report in The Guardian.

LAW lobby: NEC members sneak in through the back door

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Intrepid opponents of the Labour purge of pro-Corbyn supporters braved freezing weather to be on a lobby of the party’s National Executive Committee today. They included members of Grassroots Black Left, the Labour Representation Committee, Jewish Voice for Labour, Labour Party Marxists and Brighton and Hove Momentum. Organised by Labour Against the Witchhunt (LAW), the high-spirited demo sighted party leader Corbyn, his political advisor Katy Clark and Campaign for Labour Party Democracy secretary Peter Willsman, an NEC member, going into the meeting at Labour’s Southside headquarters in central London. But, mysteriously, despite the people on the lobby being outside the office block an hour before the NEC meeting started, no more members of Labour’s 39-strong ruling body, where the Corbyn-backing Left recently took control, were seen – suggesting they may have slipped into the building from a back entrance to avoid being questioned. The campaigners chanted: “Stop the witch hunts”, “End the suspensions”, and “Implement Chakrabarti now”.

Former Momentum vice-chair Jackie Walker, who has been suspended by Labour for almost two years, said: “We welcome the resignation of general secretary Iain McNicol and his replacement today by Jennie Formby, a Jeremy Corbyn supporter whom LAW has critically supported. Things are definitely changing in the party, but they are not changing fast enough for a lot of members who remain suspended or expelled based on trumped-up or false charges or simply because they are active supporters of Corbyn.”

Grassroots Black Left’s Marc Wadsworth, the veteran anti-racist campaigner suspended by Labour in June 2016 whose expulsion hearing is on April 25, was on the lobby with Walker and Tony Greenstein, who, despite being Jewish, has been expelled on a false charge of anti-semitism. Wadsworth said: “We demand that the recommendations of the 2016 Chakrabarti report in respect of natural justice and due process are implemented without any further delay. The NEC’s failure to so far make the long-overdue changes has brought the party, that prides itself on upholding justice for all, into disrepute. The divisive purge of Jeremy Corbyn supporters has prevented and discouraged new members from getting involved in party life, while costly Labour resources have been wasted in persecuting some of the most energetic and effective campaigners for social change.”

 

Statement on the February 18 expulsion of Tony Greenstein from the Labour Party

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“Labour Against the Witchhunt deplores the politically motivated expulsion from the Labour Party of Tony Greenstein (LAW’s vice-chair). It is a blatant example of how the right-wing who oppose Jeremy Corbyn, the democratically elected Labour leader, have cynically weaponised anti-Semitism to attack his supporters.

Veteran Black, Jewish and other party members have been targeted as part of this witch-hunt. Greenstein is a Jewish anti-racist who has campaigned ceaselessly against the Zionist Israeli government’s appalling treatment of Palestinians and has played a leading role in exposing how children, like jailed Ahed Tamini, have been caught up in this cycle of oppression. He is not Anti-semitic. It is shameful that anti-Semitism has been cynically weaponised by the right-wing to purge Labour of Corbyn supporters, while much more prevalent anti-black racism and, until Jeremy Corbyn spoke out against it, Islamophobia, have been ignored by the party.

We call on the Labour leadership to use its left-wing majority on the party’s ruling National Executive Committee to reinstate Greenstein and stop the witch-hunt; it is an expression of the ongoing civil war in the party that serves no other purpose than to damage the party’s chances of winning the next general election.

The NEC must, without further delay, implement the recommendations of the party’s own Chakrabarti Report recommendations on disciplinary procedure based on natural justice and due process. It is astonishing that almost two years have gone by without these vital changes being brought in so that party members are treated fairly rather than made victims of the purge.”

LAW’s steering committee includes Jackie Walker and Marc Wadsworth, both of whom remain suspended on trumped-up charges of anti-Semitism. Please support Marc’s crowdfunding appeal – he is next in the firing-line. His hearing has been set for April 25 in London – LAW will be supporting him with a protest outside backed by members of Grassroots Black Left, the Indian Workers’ Association and Jewish Voice for Labour.