Antisemitism allegations against Tony Greenstein
Statement by Jewish Voice for Labour, 26 November 2017
Jewish Voice for Labour is committed both to challenging any antisemitic incidents or statements we encounter in the Labour Party or elsewhere, and to contesting unwarranted allegations of antisemitism.
We agree with Brian Klug who wrote in The Jewish Chronicle last year: “While antisemitism is monstrous – and, like all forms of racism, should be vigorously dealt with – false accusations of antisemitism are monstrous too.” To be labelled an antisemite is both painful and severely damaging to a person’s reputation and it is not an allegation to be made without clear prima facia evidence. False allegations also risk making correct allegations less credible and place Jews at greater risk.
We have reviewed the bulky dossier of material presented as evidence against Tony Greenstein by the Governance and Legal Unit of the Labour Party. To those of us who have known him for many years as a Jewish socialist and an implacable opponent of racism and antisemitism in any form, it is no surprise to find that the dossier does not offer any remotely persuasive substantiation of claims of antisemitism.
There is undoubtedly evidence of language which we would not want to be associated with. But as Shami Chakrabarti stated in her report, even offensive language on its own is only antisemitic if it is coupled with antisemitic intent. Such intent cannot be demonstrated in Tony Greenstein’s case because it is absent.
There are many critical comments we could make about this disciplinary process. We will limit ourselves to one, the issue of representation. Party members with sufficient financial resources are entitled to instruct a lawyer to represent them. Those who cannot afford one are only allowed to have a ‘silent friend’. This clearly discriminates against less affluent party members and in particular against less affluent and less articulate party members who are denied the support of a knowledgeable friend or colleague to speak on their behalf.
The party should either provide legal representation to all summoned to a disciplinary hearing or allow representation and advocacy from a non-legally qualified acquaintance.