Jewish Voice for Labour is shocked to hear of yet another summary suspension of a respected party member who has for years been a powerful voice speaking up for Palestinian rights. Asa Winstanley, a journalist for Electronic Intifada, has done the sort of investigative journalism that our mainstream media to its shame refuses to engage in. He has exposed some of the sleaziest aspects of the campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, including the lies told in an attempt to smear Oxford University Labour Club as antisemitic, and the use of multiple fake social media accounts to send antisemitic messages purporting to come from Labour supporters.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley. Photo: Eectronic Intifada

Especially concerning is that information about Asa’s suspension was leaked to the Press, specifically the Jewish Chronicle, before Asa had seen the email from the Labour Party informing him of his suspension. This is back to the bad old days when Iain McNicol was General Secretary. Jennie Formby needs to find out who is responsible for this serious betrayal of trust, and take appropriate action.

The suspension of Asa Winstanley and a growing number of others appears to mark a return to the policy of summary suspensions, which marked and marred the McNicol regime. This directly contradicts the recommendations of the Chakrabarti Report which Labour says have been accepted. It was in response to that policy of routine suspension that Chakrabarti said that “the presumption should be against interim suspension”. It should only be used when the conduct complained of was of a grave nature, and if there was an immediate risk that the person complained of might do “lasting or irreparable damage to the Party” during the period of the investigation.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that his suspension results from a complaint about a tweet in which Asa remarked on the alignment between the Jewish Labour Movement and the Israeli embassy. He had previously used the phraseThe Jewish Labour Movement acted as a proxy for the Israeli embassy” in an article in April 2018. This is virtually identical to his current tweet. It was not an assertion, or an insult. It was factually based on the evidence of their closeness revealed in the Al Jazeera undercover report The Lobby.

To suggest that a tweet of this kind poses a threat of lasting or irreparable damage to the Party requiring suspension is surely stretching the meaning of words beyond breaking point.

Asa Winstanley’s suspension follows hard on the heels of that of our greatly respected JVL member Councillor Jo Bird – for cracking a typically self-deprecating Jewish joke at a public meeting. It seems that this is now regarded as potentially antisemitic! Antisemitism is a deeply serious matter (unlike Jo’s joke). It has a horrendous history, and should not be trivialised in complaints that the Party now seems to think it must treat as dangerous enough to merit suspension. As we said in JVL’s response to Jo’s suspension

We are Jews who are entirely comfortable in the Labour Party. But we are far from comfortable seeing the terrible history of the Jewish people exploited by those intent upon scuppering the best hope in decades for ordinary and vulnerable members of our society.

Those who oppose the Corbyn project are once again ratcheting up the allegations of antisemitism, and individuals are being picked off for daring to publicly reject the assertion that Labour is rife with antisemitism.  This baseless assertion is cruelly leading to genuine fear for some Jewish people, at the same time as trying to silence their best allies against oppression, discrimination and hatred. JVL supports the necessary and proportionate steps the party is taking to deal fairly with the small amount of antisemitism that does exist among Labour members and supporters. But to be clear – we at JVL, based on our own personal experience as Jewish party members, absolutely refute the assertion that Labour is rife with antisemitism. And we resolutely oppose the use of knee-jerk suspension as a response to complaints, which offers a perverse incentive to those making unfounded allegations.