A British journalist is facing censorship for criticising Apartheid Israel

Asa Winstanley, a powerful voice speaking up for Palestinian rights since 2004

JVL Introduction

In an extraordinarily petty, vindictive and undemocratic move the Labour Party has revoked Asa Winstanley’s press pass to attend the forthcoming Party Conference. The Canary reports.

Earlier reports in the Electronic Intifada: Labour Party revokes Electronic Intifada press pass and Labour’s poor excuses for revoking Asa Winstanley’s press pass

This article was originally published by The Canary on Tue 20 Aug 2019. Read the original here.

A British journalist is facing censorship for criticising Apartheid Israel

The Labour Party has revoked a leading pro-Palestinian journalist’s press pass for this year’s conference. Asa Winstanley is a powerful and longstanding critic of the Israeli state’s actions in occupied Palestine.

An “anti-democratic decision

Winstanley has been “a powerful voice speaking up for Palestinian rights” since 2004 and also “worked in the occupied West Bank until 2007”. He’s now associate editor for “the award-winning Palestinian news site” the Electronic Intifada. As such, his work offers a powerful critique of the apartheid Israeli state.

In July, Labour Press approved Winstanley’s application to cover its annual conference in September. Yet he then received a further email stating: “Your application has not been approved”. Winstanley told The Canary:

It’s a sad state of affairs that somebody in the Labour bureaucracy has made the anti-democratic decision to ban me reporting from inside Labour conference. They have not even given a reason for their decision, or had the honesty to admit that this was a revocation of my press pass, and not a failed application. The initial email from Labour Conference Services makes clear that I passed all police checks and vetting by the team.

Electronic Intifada stated

This amounts to a revocation of an approved press pass without cause, and an undemocratic attack on media freedom…

[It] appears to be part of an ongoing effort by factions within the party’s bureaucracy to silence critics of how it has handled largely bogus accusations of anti-Semitism targeting the left, supporters of Palestinian rights and prominent Black and Jewish members.

“A political decision”

Winstanley also told The Canary that “somebody in Labour” has “made a political decision” to revoke his pass. He continued:

This came days after a report by the government funded CST that The Electronic Intifada is ‘the single most popular website’ for reporting on the Labour anti-Semitism witch hunt against supporters of Palestinian rights.

The Community Security Trust (CST) is a charity, initially set up to protect “British Jews from antisemitism and related threats”. On 4 August, it published a report called Engine of Hate: the online networks behind the Labour Party’s antisemitism crisis. This report stated:

the single most popular website for article shares about the subject of antisemitism, the Labour Party and Israel/Palestine was Electronic Intifada, a radical anti-Zionist website which has consistently promoted the idea that allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party are false, and are part of a smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn that is orchestrated by the Israeli government.

It also noted that Electronic Intifada “generated nearly four times the online engagement than the Guardian did” in reporting on this issue.

“Smear, attack, defame and censor”

The ongoing row over antisemitism in the Labour Party has led to increased criticism and smears against many pro-Palestinian activists who also support Jeremy Corbyn. And as Winstanley said of this latest situation:

I have reported on Labour conference every year since 2015, and from inside the conference itself in 2016 and 2018. The Israel lobby groups who oppose our reporting never factually refute it, they just smear, attack, defame and censor.

The establishment media is adding to this pattern. In June, an edition of Panorama caused many complaints about accuracy and imbalanced reporting. The CST report followed not long afterwards, and as The Canary reported, the Guardian, for example, didn’t challenge any of its accusations. Many of these were also against Jewish people. In 2011, Winstanley uncovered evidence that suggested:

the CST works behind the scenes with an assertively pro-Israel agenda not stated in its charitable remit. There are also serious questions over the CST’s links to the government of Israel and, allegedly, to its intelligence services.

“Undemocratic and dangerous”

A Labour Party press spokesperson told The Canary it’s understood that:

Asa Winstanley is currently suspended from the Labour Party. Like any member who is suspended, when he was suspended he was informed that suspension means that he cannot attend any Party meetings including Annual Conference. Another Electronic Intifada journalist has been accredited.

Ali Abunimah, the Electronic Intifada‘s co-founder and editor, told The Canary that although he also understands Winstanley can’t attend Labour Party meetings, his application for media accreditation was approved in July. He also pointed out that this was four months after Labour started its investigation, so it was fully aware of the situation. Abunimah continued:

Regardless of his status, he’s not attending conference as a Labour member. He remains a professional, accredited journalist and that’s the capacity he applied to attend in. It’s undemocratic and dangerous for nameless officials to interfere with your work as a journalist. Is Labour saying that it has the power to decide whether or not people can do the jobs that they have in good standing?

Abunimah also said:

It was only after the defamatory CCT report that they denied they had approved his pass in the first place. It stated that Electronic Intifada’s reporting has been the most widely circulated and influential. Yet the CST cannot point to any factual errors, and that is because it’s absolutely solid.

Comments (14)

  • Jacob Ecclestone says:

    The fact that JVL is publicising this matter is greatly to your credit.

    If the facts are as reported by the Canary, this is a shocking attempt by the Labour Party to silence (censor?) a journalist. The excuse offered by the party for withdrawing Mr Winstanley’s press accreditation – that his membership of the Labour Party has been suspended and therefore he cannot attend any Labour Party meetings – would be laughable were it not such a serious matter. Does the Labour Party now require all accredited journalists to be members of the Party in good standing? That seems rather improbable

    Thirty years ago, when I was the Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, we challenged Mrs Thatcher’s ban on the live broadcasting of interviews with members of Sinn Fein. We fought the case though the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords before referring the matter to the European Court of Human Rights. The ban was lifted.

    The attempt to silence Sinn Fein was an appalling attack on freedom of speech. I very much hope that the NUJ will be equally outraged by the Labour Party’s attempt to restrict Asa Winstanley’s ability to report the party conference. If political parties in the UK are going to start a process of political vetting, then we can kiss freedom of speech goodbye. I hope all other journalists planning to attend and report on the conference will
    recognise what is at stake here and show some basic solidarity.

    Mr Winstanley’s offence, it would seem, has been to offend those who cannot tolerate freedom of speech on Israel. The leadership of the Labour Party should give this matter their close attention.

  • Si Denbigh says:

    There needs to be transparency and an accounting of who exactly within the machinery had a hand in this

  • I am a proud solidarity member of JVL and I am blown away by your energy and morality. But having said why do you allow yourselves to be constantly on the back foot ? I was at the AGM and very proud to me there amongst such good people but all I ever heard was how to react to accusations from the Zionists. Sometimes it is necessary to go on the attack. And you should attack LFI not JLM. Why ? Because most supporters of LFI are not Jews. LFI condones the violent racism that occurred in 1948 and is on record as opposing a Palestinian Right of Return.
    So long as we remain on the defensive these outrageous injustices will continue. The solution isn’t so much to defend Asa Winstanley as to attack the racism of Margaret Hodge, Tom.Watson, Emily Thornberry and Jess Phillips. An attack upon his accusers is the very best way to help Asa Winstanley. And by the way we should also ask why the CST gets so much money while the defence of Mosques is left solely to the Islamic community.
    Racism against Jews is totally disgusting but so equally is racism against Palestinians. Why do we only hear about anti semitism ?

  • Valerie Knight says:

    Maybe someone doesnt want the party conference to become the focus of retaliation by the Israeli govt!!!!

  • Angela McEvoy says:

    I am appalled. For the Labour Party to revoke this Journalist Press Pass is not acceptable. I am an admirer of Mr Winstanley’s work. The Electric Intifada regularly reports on the plight of the Palestinians
    Also refutes the smears of Antisemitism against Jeremy Corbyn and highlights the inconsistencies and reason for the defamation. To deny his Freedom of Speech would be a stain on the Labour Party principles and values.
    I am not a Party Member, but please appeal to Jennie Formby and Ian Lavery and reverse this unfair decision.

  • Mary Davies says:

    I am disgusted with this attack on free speech, Who has made this reactionary decision?

  • John says:

    The Labour Party is steadily catching up with Orwell’s 1984.
    Now, we begin to see the emergence of a Thought Police.
    This entire idiotic and crazy lunacy all needs to stop.
    Even Joe McCarthy was brought down eventually.
    When will the same happen in the Labour Party?
    As for attaching any significance to the propaganda of CST?
    I have never ever believed one single word they have ever said.
    They are just another business, creating fake fear for real money.

  • Paul Browne says:

    Preventing a Journalist from doing his job is just disgraceful. Labour need to reinstate his credentials immediately.

  • Chris O’Connor says:

    Let him report

  • Helen Bell says:

    I joined the party weeks ago, paid my subs, got my welcome pack. Out of the blue a letter arrives saying my membership was revoked because I support Corbyn against AS troublemakers. No one knows why this has happened and has not been reported to the CLP. This needs to be investigated thoroughly as there appears tbe backhanded tactics being used to keep Corbyn supporters away from the party.

  • Janet Crosley says:

    We must support press freedom. How come I feel the need to say that in a Labour Party context.
    Some powerfull people should not be in the LP. Who are they? Come clean.

  • Michel Trainer says:

    This is so depressing. Does the Labour party take any account of the views of the JVL?

  • Linda Edmondson says:

    to Helen Bell:
    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by anything relating to Labour and AS by now, but the revocation of your membership is extraordinary, as well as outrageous. Would you be willing to copy the letter from the membership dept, in case there are any clues to why someone decided to expel you as soon as you actually became a member? Along with Asa Winstanley’s revoked press card and the withdrawal by Greenbelt of an invitation to Leah Levane to participate, something really unpleasant is going on, even (as we’d hoped) after Jennie Formby’s reforms to the secretariat. Does anyone have a clue as to who is pushing this?

  • Peter Wolpe says:

    Web editor – We have attempted to email this correspondent about his comment, but the email address it purports to come from is not accepting a reply. If he sends us a viable e-address he will get a response to his comment

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