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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIGN THIS OPEN LETTER HERE.


Full communication from Jennie Formby:

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

On the case of David Watson: Open letter to the NEC, Compliance Unit and Constitutional Committee

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To the NEC, Compliance Unit and Constitutional Committee

Sisters and Brothers

23 January 2018

We have waited for 19 months for the Chakrabarti Enquiry’s recommendations to be put into practice, and give our party the fair disciplinary procedures it needs and deserves. We hope that the NEC will make a start today by clearing David Watson of unfounded charges and letting him return to Walthamstow where he was a valued officer.

We have seen so many good comrades across the Labour Party suspended on the basis of anonymous accusations, and still waiting to be reinstated. There have been waves of factional purges which are shameful in a democratic party. First members were accused of being Green, then trade union militants, then antisemites and then transphobic. Accusations seem to have come down most heavily on people of colour, thus further excluding them from our party which we say that we want to reflect the society we live in. Continue Reading “On the case of David Watson: Open letter to the NEC, Compliance Unit and Constitutional Committee”